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Dr. Teasel Muir-Harmony talks Neil Armstrong’s iconic first steps on moon

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The Natural Aristocrat spoke with Dr. Teasel Muir-Harmony about the legacy of Neil Armstrong’s iconic first steps on the moon.

Dr. Teasel Muir-Harmony told The Natural Aristocrat about why the Apollo 11 moon landing meant so much to so many, the unifying once-in-a-lifetime television broadcast, and the Politics of Space Flight during the era. Muir-Harmony’s quote about NASA’s reputation painted a fascinating picture on its own. “It’s hard to imagine any other government agency where people wear their T-shirts, just because they’re so excited about the work that they do.” During our interview, Muir-Harmony discussed how important the mission was to foreign relations and how ‘that’s often forgotten today.’

As the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum Space History Department Curator and Artifacts Expert, Muir-Harmony has an excellent vantage point toward current public reception of space flight. Particularly by youth, who she said are captivated by the idea. Dr. Teasel Muir-Harmony mentioned once meeting legendary astronaut Neil Armstrong, who asked about her research while she was a bit starstruck… Or you could say, moonstruck!

Smithsonian Channel will be airing a six-part series called Apollo’s Moon Shot starting tonight (6/16) in anticipation of the 50th anniversary of the moon landing on July 20, 2019.

Watch the interview video above or read the full transcript below!

Interview with Dr. Teasel Muir-Harmony


The Natural Aristocrat [Nir Regev]: How do you feel space education has changed over the years? Do you think kids today have lost any interest in space compared to the 50s? I’m really curious about your thoughts after asking the Armstrong brothers about it.

Dr. Teasel Muir-Harmony: Well, I think there is an immense interest for space exploration today! If you look back 50 years, kids were very captivated by the Apollo program. But working at the [Smithsonian] Air and Space Museum, I see millions of visitors coming every year and enthusiasm for space exploration really hasn’t waned. It’s there! The sheer numbers alone, the kids in particular seem really captivated by spaceflight.

Did you ever want to be an astronaut yourself?

No! I never wanted to be an astronaut. I’m afraid of heights and claustrophobic so, I always wanted to be a historian of Astronomy and Space Exploration. I’m exactly what I want to be!

I’m surprised you’re afraid of heights!

Yes, I… I don’t think I could have gone into the command module on top of a Saturn V rocket. I’m not that brave! (laughs)

What does it mean to you to be a part of this moment? To be attached to this special moment frozen in time for people across the world alongside Neil Armstrong’s own sons. You’re now a part of its preserved legacy.

I feel extraordinarily lucky, I came to this topic at a perfect moment. I’ve had the opportunity to speak to many of the astronauts who were involved in the program. As well as people who worked on all different dimensions of Project Apollo including Public Diplomacy, which is my particular area of research. I just feel Extremely lucky that I’ve had the opportunity to speak to so many people who were involved first hand.

How do you feel about the general population’s perception of NASA these days? There have been some tragedies in the past (The Challenger and Columbia). Do you feel overall, NASA’s legacy has been rejuvenated and come back in the public eye?

I think if you just walk down the street, you get a sense of how NASA has maintained a lot of enthusiasm among the general public. You see people wearing NASA paraphernalia all the time who do not work for NASA. I think that’s quite a sign. It’s hard to imagine any other government agency where people wear their T-shirts, just because they’re so excited about the work that they do.

Did you get your own NASA T-shirt from Urban Outfitters?

That’s true, I feel like they’re all over! You see them everywhere and it always reminds me that there is a lot of public interest in space exploration and what NASA does.

What were your studies like back at MIT? How do you feel you’ve changed since then? If you have changed…

(laughs) Well, I think I’ve had the opportunity to broaden my understanding of Project Apollo. In Graduate School, I really focused on the role of Apollo within Public Diplomacy and Foreign Relations and sort of as a form of soft power. Being at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum has given me the opportunity to focus on many other dimensions in the history of space flight and also what resonates with people today.

I’m curious since you’ve written about ‘The Politics of Space Flight,’ can you elaborate more on the what is encompassed in that phrase? I have a pretty good idea of what you mean by it but I’m very interested to hear it from the original source.

I tell everyone, go and listen to Kennedy’s original speech when he proposed Project Apollo. He really made it very clear, that he was motivated by soft power and the potential of space flight to effect National Security interests and National power. He said, ‘If we are to win the battle that is going around the world between freedom and tyranny, dramatic achievements in space should made it clear. As should the Sputnik in 1957.’ I can’t do the Kennedy accent! (laughs) But it’s about winning hearts and minds, it’s about political alignment.

It’s very much a Cold War program and Kennedy was motivated to demonstrate U.S. Technological Capability, Managerial Capability. Spaceflight was sort of the measuring stick National power and prestige at that moment in time, and he recognized that. It was an extremely important program when it comes to foreign relations. I think often we forget that today. But that is what motivated Kennedy and that was essential to why the nation at one point, invested over four percent of the federal budget in space flight.

My final question… Some day, someone will likely walk on Mars. It could be through NASA or SpaceX or something else altogether. How do you think it’ll compare to the moon and that iconic first step?

I think it’ll be an entirely different experience, and resonate with people in a different way as well. When Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, space exploration was still relatively brand new. The first human that was launched into space was in 1961 and then he [Neil Armstrong] was taking those first steps in 1969. So it was a brand new field, and it’s also important to remember the role of television. People at that time were just getting television sets in their house on a large scale.

By the end of the 1960s there were televisions across America, but the first lunar landing was the first live global television broadcast. That’s an important part of that mission that explains how we remember that moment in history. It enabled the whole world to follow something in unison. That was new at that time, and I don’t know how we recreate something new like that. So I think when humans go to Mars, people are going to be excited for different reasons!

Thank you Dr. Teasel!

Thanks!

Be sure to follow Dr. Teasel Muir-Harmony on Twitter at @teaselmuir for her latest updates!

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tomandandy’s Tom Hajdu reflects on ‘The Strangers’ soundtrack (Interview)

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The Strangers (2008) Film - Liv Tyler as Kristen McKay, Scott Speedman as James Hoyt, Laura Margolis as Pin-Up Girl, Kip Weeks as Man in Mask, and Gemma Ward as Dollface in The Strangers - Photo Credit: Universal Studios
Photo Credit: Universal Studios / Universal Pictures

tomandandy’s Tom Hajdu reflected back with The Natural Aristocrat on The Strangers’ one of a kind isolating soundtrack, a milestone in the horror genre. A blend of stillness & suspense, preying on the inherent human fear of sounds that go bump in the night.

Nowhere to hide, no place to run. Fight or flight mode in the dead of night, tomandandy’s The Strangers soundtrack in the spotlight. Composer Tom Hajdu, one-half of the musician duo behind production powerhouse tomandandy (along with Andy Milburn), spoke to The Natural Aristocrat® about the inspiration of a score that tapped into the most primal of senses. Fear. Dread. Confusion. Terror. Ensnaring the audience’s collective body in a state of alarm from opening to curtain call. An exercise of dark minimalism, where every last detail is meant to send a physical message both actively and to the subconscious.

A soliloquy without words made of cello, layering the calm before the storm. The Strangers and its soundtrack is one of the horror genre’s first-rate examples of synergy, sound perfectly enhancing the picture to great effect. The soft pillowy tones of tracks like “Apology” gently causing viewers to let their guard down… Before snatching their perceived safety of home right out from under them.

The Strangers Artwork by Nir Regev / The Natural Aristocrat® – Based on Photo Still by Universal Studios / Universal Pictures – Liv Tyler as Kristen McKay, Scott Speedman as James Hoyt, Laura Margolis as Pin-Up Girl, Kip Weeks as Man in Mask, and Gemma Ward as Dollface in The Strangers

Interview with Tom Hajdu of tomandandy on The Strangers

The Natural Aristocrat [Nir Regev]: What was the inspiration for The Strangers’ minimalistic, lonely ambience woven with moments of wild panic? The soundtrack felt reminiscent of composer Bernard Hermann’s work on Psycho, in terms of calmly soothing over the audience before a sudden burst of distilled terror.

tomandandy’s Tom Hajdu: The inspiration behind soundtrack for The Strangers had to do with two things: One, with perspective. A lot of the sounds that are louder in terms of volume or more prominent are actually soft sounds that are very closely miked. Like a Cello playing very, very softly but it’s actually quite loud. Relative to say a distorted, loud electric guitar which is actually very soft in the background. So, it’s playing with these types of perspectives that are non-traditional or unexpected.

The other one was this idea that a lot of the music is really in the silence and try to punctuate that silent space in slightly more thoughtful ways, rather than just try to fill the acoustic space. It was really leveraging ambience and silence as a big piece of the soundtrack. We certainly have a great admiration & respect for Bernard Herrmann’s work!

The Strangers Artwork by Nir Regev / The Natural Aristocrat® based on Photo Still by Universal Studios / Universal Pictures – THE STRANGERS, from left: Gemma Ward as Dollface, Kip Weeks as Man in Mask, Laura Margolis as Pin-Up Girl.

For me, the pinnacle track of The Strangers is “3 AM Knock” because of its foreboding stillness building into this crescendo ring of fear. It really feels like you’re stranded in the middle of nowhere at dusk with this stampeding dread from all sides. Not knowing what lies beyond the great unknown. What went into crafting that track?

I think it’s also the case that the film silence was a new kind of perspective on horror films. That gave us an opportunity to try and create a slightly different context for music. There was an opportunity there to try to create some slightly innovative approaches to the way in which the music was made.

On that “Opening” track for The Strangers, there’s an eerie, almost 60s era-Alien saucer sound around the middle of the track (1:05). Was that intentional? A subtle metaphor to an alien, home invader so-to-speak.

Yeah, there was a lot of intentionality in mixing strange sounds with familiar sounds! It was a combination of analog, synthetic, and ambient sounds, along with silence, put together in unusual ways. To create combinations that are not necessarily traditional in that respect, or expected.

The Strangers Artwork by Nir Regev / The Natural Aristocrat® based on Photo Still by Universal Studios / Universal Pictures – Kip Weeks as Man in Mask in The Strangers

What instruments were used for The Strangers track “Angry”? It has a unique, screeching buildup to it.

Most of those sounds were made with cello, on process, and electric guitar.

What was the process like when tomandandy were developing The Strangers soundtrack? Was there a clear vision of what you wanted to accomplish immediately or did you experiment?

A lot of it was sitting in a dark room. Looking at the picture, the arc of the film, it goes from subdued & quiet to intensely loud. We were trying to figure out ways to make as little music as possible and rather have the music be part of the larger audio space.

Whether it’s the sound of an engine, the sound of an old record player skipping, or nature itself outside. That’s all part of the audio soundscape for the film. We wanted to take everything into consideration. A less is more situation. I feel (Director) Bryan Bertino’s vision for The Strangers was very successful.

The Strangers Artwork by Nir Regev / The Natural Aristocrat® based on Photo Still by Universal Studios / Universal Pictures – Kip Weeks as Man in Mask in The Strangers

Director Brian Bertino once described a real life, childhood event inspiring the film’s iconic door knocking opening scene. Did tomandandy utilize any kind of similar personal experiences or memories while composing The Strangers’ soundtrack?

I feel composing for me is certainly a combination of all our experiences. We never lose anything, we take everything with us. Combining everything from emerging technologies to primal and visceral experiences.

We try to be open & available to the way the world is unfolding and the way it’s informed our lives over the years. I don’t think we try to filter anything if at all possible, everything is part of our palette.

The Strangers Artwork by Nir Regev / The Natural Aristocrat® based on Photo Still by Rogue Pictures – THE STRANGERS, from left: Kip Weeks as Man in Mask and Liv Tyler as Kristen McKay

The soundtrack for ‘The Monster‘, another horror film by Director/Writer Bryan Bertino, evokes some Strangers nostalgia. Haunting piano was added on tracks like “Drink” and “Outside” which changed the tone in a noticeable way. What was it like to work on The Monster?

I think The Monster is similarly, a more modern way of looking at horror. We changed the instrumentation on there to combine classic horror scoring with some modern instrumentation and style.

What influenced the Resident Evil: Retribution soundtrack? In particular, the track “Flying Through the Air” which felt like an inspired fusion of electronic music and classical asian violin as its soundscape.

Yeah I feel with regards to the Resident Evil franchise, at that time we were trying to establish a sound for the brand. Which I think we managed to do! Once we established a style, I guess you could call it a language, we could create lots of different types of music within it. That track (“Flying Through the Air”) has that influence to some degree but it’s all couched in the sound of Resident Evil at that point.

Does tomandandy receive film scripts prior to creating soundtracks or more of a general theme and guideline of what the movie will be?

Yes, we often get the scripts before production has begun and speak to the producers & director about the musical direction before they’ve started shooting. There’s been times where we’ve worked on projects after they’ve been shot and edited as well. We’re comfortable working in either way. Usually directors like having those conversations very early on.

The Strangers Artwork by Nir Regev / The Natural Aristocrat® based on Photo Still by Rogue Pictures – THE STRANGERS, from left: Kip Weeks as Man in Mask and Liv Tyler as Kristen McKay

Are you ever asked to make adjustments mid-way or generally once the soundtrack is complete, it’s final?

Oh sure! I mean each project has its own life cycle in a way. Its own character in the way that it unfolds. We’re just very happy to be part of that process. It’s an organic process and so where we start is often not where we end up. I think that’s true for projects as a whole, they kind of take a life of their own and emerge to become what they were ultimately meant to be.

There’s a quote by Nintendo’s Shigeru Miyamoto, creator of the iconic Super Mario Bros. series, that, “A delayed game is eventually good, a bad game is bad forever.” Does this notion apply to music and its creative process as well in your opinion? As in, when you’re composing a track and something is just not working… Do you believe in trashing it and starting fresh? Or that if you engage with a track long enough, it’ll eventually become good?

Absolutely, I’m a big fan of the Brian Eno oblique strategy cards, which are cards you can use whenever you’re having a creative block. But I’m also a big fan of just starting from scratch, sometimes it’s good not to be precious about things.

It’s good to be receptive to the possibility of a creative spark because it can really come at any time. It takes a lot of hard work to orchestrate something, to get it just right. But also often times, it’s also useful to just try something new!

The Strangers Artwork by Nir Regev / The Natural Aristocrat® based on Photo Still by Universal Studios / Universal Pictures – THE STRANGERS, from left: Liv Tyler as Kristen McKay and Laura Margolis as Pin-Up Girl.

How does the collaboration process work with Andy [Milburn]? Are you usually in the studio at the same time these days?

It really depends, we’re very flexible because we’ve been working together for so long! Both of us have fairly broad skill sets and so it really depends on the project. We can both be in the same room or not in the same room. We can both be working on the same track or we can both be working on different tracks. It’s really project specific and context specific, also. It gives us a lot of flexibility to work on all kinds of projects and approach them in creative ways that can produce different aesthetic results.

What is tomandandy currently working on?

We’re currently waiting for a couple of projects to be green-lit, actually. There’s a number of projects where we’re just waiting for the signal… But at the moment we’re kind of in Coronavirus mode. I’m optimistic that things will open up soon, at least from what I’ve been told. Different productions in Canada and Australia for example, are being discussed. It’ll be interesting to see how things unfold as the pandemic subsides hopefully in the future.

Has there been a project that stood out to tomandandy as a favorite over the years?

You know, that’s a tough question because each project really has a life of its own. They have different qualities. The Strangers was certainly a wonderful and powerful experience. We’ve worked with Directors like Johannes Roberts on both 47 Meters Down films, Bryan Bertino (The Strangers) of course, Mark Pellington (The Mothman Prophecies), Jacob Estes (Mean Creek), Roger Avery (Killing Zoe) over time.

So, I’m not sure I could single out one as the very best but a lot of them could be really life changing experiences. Sometimes we’d go to the set for example and were asked to be more involved and sometimes less involved. What we’ve learned over time is to make the most of each of these projects and help to work in collaboration with the rest of the crew to make the project as best it can really be.

Artwork by Nir Regev / The Natural Aristocrat® based on Photo Still by Rogue Pictures – THE STRANGERS, from left: Kip Weeks as Man in Mask and Scott Speedman as James Hoyt.

Does critical reception of a soundtrack, good or bad, affect your own perception or interpretation of your work?

Great critical reception is a wonderful thing to have! But I don’t think our feelings are hurt if we don’t get it. There’s a lot of music and media that’s always floating in the ether, so not everybody can be acknowledged all the time. I don’t think we necessarily require the acknowledgement but we appreciate it. I feel where we have been fortunate is the feedback from artists, musicians, and directors who are familiar with our work. We really, consistently try to make the best music that we can for any project that we’re involved in.

Thanks Tom!

Thank you!

[fwds3dcov preset_id=”18″ playlist_id=”0″]

[fwdmsp preset_id=”Modern MP3 Player” playlist_id=”tomandandy”]

Follow tomandandy on Social Media:

Visit tomandandy.com and follow tomandandy on Soundcloud, YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter for their latest release updates!

Be sure to check out author J. Blake Fichera’s book Scored to Death: Conversations with Some of Horror’s Greatest Composers which features an earlier interview with tomandandy’s Tom Hajdu.

Read more interviews with the industry’s top talent in The Natural Aristocrat®’s Interview Articles section.

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Katie McGuinness talks Snowpiercer’s Josie Wellstead (Interview)

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Katie McGuinness as Josie Wellstead and Daveed Diggs as Andre Layton on TNT's Snowpiercer TV Series - Season 1 Episode 6 "Trouble Comes Sideways" - Photo Credit: Justina Mintz
Photo Credit: Justina Mintz

Katie McGuinness spoke to The Natural Aristocrat about Snowpiercer’s Tailie heroine, Josie Wellstead, and the show’s allegorical, Orwellian representation of class divide.

Josie Wellstead’s resilience in the face of certain demise is at the heart of Snowpiercer’s revolution. Her sacrifice acting as a powder keg to Layton moving forward with an uprising against a rigged system. One that had lost its humanity long ago, entrenching its population with zero social mobility or basic rights. Stripping away and commodifying even the fundamental human right to day light, the sun, exclusively to those with means.

Snowpiercer star Katie McGuinness discussed the experience of bringing Josie Wellstead to life on-screen, the final tussle between Josie & Melanie Cavill, and the resonating theme of class division on the series with The Natural Aristocrat®.

This interview contains spoilers for TNT’s Snowpiercer.

The Natural Aristocrat [Nir Regev]: How surprised were you when you received the script for your final scene on Snowpiercer? I mean, I’m sure there could be flashbacks with Josie but still. What was it like having that last showdown fight with Melanie Cavill?

Katie McGuinness: I was excited! I’m really glad that those two characters have that kind of face-off. It’s a really satisfying end to the series. It’s good to go out with a bang, right?

There’s a line Layton says in Episode 8, “We need to make the train work for all of us!” Do you feel what’s made Snowpiercer so topical and universally relatable for any time period is its Orwellian allegory to class division?

Yeah, when I first saw the film, I was really struck about it being an allegory for class division. It’s sort of what humans naturally create for themselves anyway, wherever they are. There’s always some kind of system we try to live by and put into place. Of course, it also brings up that feeling of “Look what can happen!” under a microscope.

It’s a distilled version of what lots of people can relate to feeling… But it also shows the capability of humans to survive and adapt. To find pockets of light and love and joy even in the most extreme of circumstances. And for me personally as well, I think it’s that nothing is clearcut or straightforward. You can see that with Melanie.

From Josie’s point of view, Melanie’s dangerous and threatens her people. But at the same time, from Melanie’s side of it, you can see the difficult decisions she has to make. Decisions, she doesn’t necessarily like making. So, I like that that it deals with the gray areas of humanity. No one is good or bad, no one is right or wrong, or perfect. Everyone holds all of that, and we’re all trying to sort of muddle along.

Jonathan Walker as Big John and Katie McGuinness as Josie Wellstead on TNT’s Snowpiercer TV Series – Season 1 Episode 3 “Access Is Power” – Photo Credit: Justina Mintz

If Josie & Layton had been offered the same kind of deal as Pike, with Miles’ wellbeing and even seeing him being further incentive… Is there any chance she would have accepted it and lived with the decision? Family over all, so-to-speak. Or is there no circumstance in which Josie betrays the Tail and the revolution?

I think with anything bigger in scale like a revolution, it always starts from a personal place. Josie’s able to really galvanize behind the idea of a revolution and change. Yes of course, partly because of her own fears, her own need to be useful, and to hang onto the people & the family that she’s made. She’s already lost everything else in the world and sacrificed so much. But Josie has such a strong, fiery sense of justice as well and doing right by people. She can’t bear the abuse of that.

So, there’s just no question in my mind, that if Josie had been put in the same position as Pike, she would have never have done it. She would definitely never believe that Layton would either. That’s the thing that really links them. It’s why they’re these great warrior leaders together. They both have that strong, ingrained, primal sense of justice.

When Tailies get a taste of real food as opposed to their fly-filled protein bars, it looks like instant euphoria on their faces. Especially Pike eating the chocolate cake. What did you personally imagine eating when you were first passed a meal in that ‘diner’ by a former Tailie?

Yeah, I didn’t imagine eating something like delicious or anything! I think it’s more kind of the weirdness of it. There’s a really strange sensation in your mouth like if you’ve ever been ailing and you’re just on liquids or something. It just feels odd. Like that x 1000! (laughs) Kind of like all your taste buds sort of exploded.

It was more like a feeling of, “I’m not sure I can keep this down” rather than “Oh my God! This is so delicious!” I think that probably comes a bit afterwards, once your body realizes it’s alright to eat solid, normal stuff again.

Do you generally utilize emotional recall or consider yourself a method actor in any way?

I mean, not specifically. I do. Of course, it’s helpful to put yourself in a situation where you remember feeling a certain way or some situation that you can relate to the scene… But also I try and use different ways of working because it can be tempting to find something that works and get stuck in it. And I’m interested in sort of stretching my muscles as much as I can in that way. So, I don’t think about it that much when I’m actually filming.

I feel like for me, I want to give myself the freedom because surprising things can happen. You can think that something is upsetting & sad and that you might you might feel upset by it… But actually in the moment, you could end up laughing because humans are idiosyncratic. You don’t always react to things that way you think you might.

I do pull in emotional recall sometimes and I try to do other stuff. I really like working physically, I quite often listen to music or distract myself with something else, completely not having to do with the scene before I go into it. There’s a lot of different ways in I think, and the interesting thing is to keep trying stuff out.

It’s interesting you mentioned music because my mind immediately went to the scene where Old Ivan requests to listen to Sergei Rachmaninoff’s “Piano Concerto No. 2”… Then proceeds to hang himself. Josie’s facial expression right after really stands out. How do you reflect on that brutal scene?

Yeah, it was… It was brutal and just at the beginning as well. I was helped by the surroundings of course because the Tail’s carriage is quite small. We were shooting in the summer, it was really hot, and it’s easy to feel kind of crushed and oppressed in that environment. So, that kind of all added to it.

Snowpiercer Series Premiere – “First, the Weather Changed” – Pictured (from left to right) Mark Margolis as Old Ivan, Daveed Diggs as Andre Layton, and Katie McGuinness as Josie Wellstead – Ep 101 – BTS Photography – 8/20/18 – Photo Credit: Justina Mintz

The building sense of that was around me… But at the same time also, I think that anyone who’s experienced loss in their life and especially if you’ve experienced anyone committing suicide then… That’s a really brutal thing to happen. I’ve had experience of that in my life with people I’ve known who’ve taken their life. So, it kind of wasn’t too far a stretch to embrace the despair of it.

Snowpiercer Series Premiere – Katie McGuinness as Josie Wellstead – Ep 101 – “First, the Weather Changed” – BTS Photography – 8/20/18 – Photo Credit: Justina Mintz

There’s a moment where Josie walks down a corridor, disguised as Third Class, and Miles is walking from the opposite side with his teacher. Josie’s pretty much frozen in silence, desperately wanting to say something but not allowing herself to. I was wondering what you drew on as inspiration to express the subtitles of that scene?

I think it’s partly that feeling when you’re on a mission to get something done, and you’re thinking about the practicalities of something. In that scene, I had to get to Astrid, I had to give her the information, I had to get back quickly. There’s a time pressure on it all.

You’re thinking in terms of those small steps of what practically do I need to do. I was focused in that way, so it felt like a massive splash of cold water. You know, when you catch someone out of the corner of your eye who you think already died. Suddenly you’re like, “Oh my God is that them?” And the world flips around for a second.

It’s one of those moments where I felt as Josie, I’d been really focused on the mission & the plan, and seeing Miles was like this stark reminder of what it was really all about. A bit of a free fall moment of, “Oh my God!” and remembering the loss of it.

Katie McGuinness as Josie Wellstead on TNT’s Snowpiercer TV Series – Season 1 Episode 7 “The Universe Is Indifferent” – BTS Photography (11/14/18) – Photo Credit: Jesse Giddings

Why do you feel Josie was so quick to trust Zarah Ferami after recovering Layton from the Drawers? You almost get the impression Josie knew something had reignited between Layton & Zarah but it doesn’t impact her decision. Is it just pure desperation?

I think there’s some hope in it. Of course, she’s backed into a corner and has to make a decision. But she also knows how much Zarah & Layton meant to each other. Perhaps, at that point, she suspects that they still do… Josie felt Zarah would stay true to her roots and where she came from. She just has to take the risk and believe that it will all be okay.

Maybe, knowing how much Zarah & Layton meant to each other, Josie sort of doesn’t want to give him up. But deep down, she knows that’s the only person that can help him.

Snowpiercer – Season 1 Episode 6 – “Trouble Comes Sideways” – Pictured from left to right: Karin Konoval as Dr. Pelton, Daveed Diggs as Andre Layton, and Katie McGuinness as Josie Wellstead –
Ep 106 – 11/2/18 – Photo Credit: Justina Mintz

The Wilford Industries logo represents a post-modern Corporatocracy, a dictatorship-like autocrat, oppression and yet a lone symbol of survival all in one. After all, no one lives without the ‘eternal engine.’ What do you think Josie feels when seeing that symbolic ‘W’ everywhere? Is it a bittersweet relationship?

I think it’s really complicated. With anything like that, any system set up by humans often has really good intentions when they start. If you think about The Beach or Lord of the Flies or that documentary, Wild Wild Country. Which is about Osho, a guru that came from India to America. It started off with amazing intentions and it turned into this huge beast of a thing that you wouldn’t expect it to. So, I think It’s difficult because you’re reliant on Wilford’s train and you know there’s good in it… And also, you have no choice! (laughs) But at the same time it’s destructive as well.

I think that Wilford logo holds both those things at the same time. That’s why it implodes on itself because there’s such restriction in it. But you can’t fight too hard against it. It’s a bit of a mess. Josie does see it as dangerous, restrictive, unjust, and cruel, for sure. She’s lived in the back where she’s seen the worst of the worst, of the worst. It’s particularly difficult to be seeing that stuff but also knowing that you’re reliant on the system as well. I think that’s kind of where the tension lies.

Episode 3, “Access is Power”, has an intro that delves into the commodification of everything on Snowpiercer. How do you feel about the concept of sunlight itself becoming a commodity that only First Class passengers get to experience?

I feel like it’s not too many steps removed from stuff that’s going now. I know it’s an extreme example of it but the idea that a company today can own a tomato seed and only certain people can grow those crops, it’s just… Everything seems to be kind of going that way in the western world. It’s frightening! Of course, it is ridiculous to think that only certain people get to see the sun… But is it really miles away from what’s going on? (laughs)

Snowpiercer Series Premiere – Katie McGuinness as Josie Wellstead and Daveed Diggs as Andre Layton – Ep 101 – “First, the Weather Changed” – BTS Photography – 8/20/18 – Photo Credit: Justina Mintz

Do you think Snowpiercer fans might get a scene down the line where we learn more about Josie’s past and how she came to be Miles’ Tailie mother?

I don’t know but I would love that! That would be nice… (laughs) They did touch on their past really briefly in the first episode when it’s revealed that Miles’ mother died while getting on the train. And so, Josie & Layton took Miles on to become his surrogate parents.

Thanks Katie!

Thank you!

Follow Katie McGuinness on Social Media:

– Be sure to follow Katie McGuinness on Instagram at @yeahkatiemcguinness!

Katie McGuinness Headshot – Photo Credit: Pip

Did You Know?

– Katie McGuinness was nominated alongside her co-stars in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt for a 2016 BTVA Video Game Voice Acting Award – ‘Best Vocal Ensemble in a Video Game’. Katie voiced the role of Keira.

Katie McGuinness Headshot – Photo Credit: Katie McGuinness

Be sure to Read/Watch:

Snowpiercer: Jennifer Connelly lets hair down for first time as Melanie Cavill

TNT’s Snowpiercer: 10 Examples of Socioeconomic Class Divide

Snowpiercer Episode 4 Review: Murder & Betrayal make great TV

Jennifer Connelly talks Acting, not looking back to replicate past works (Interview)

Relive Josie Wellstead’s journey by purchasing Snowpiercer Season 1 on Amazon! Remember to watch Snowpiercer’s Season 1 Finale on TNT or via fuboTV live this Sunday, July 12th with a double-header (two episodes) starting at 9 pm EST.

Check out more Snowpiercer coverage on The Natural Aristocrat® over in the Snowpiercer articles section!

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Interviews

Hannah Emily Anderson talks The Purge’s Jenna Betancourt (Interview)

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THE PURGE -- "What Is America?" Episode 101 -- Pictured: Hannah Anderson as Jenna -- (Photo by: Patti Perret/USA Network)
Photo Credit: Patti Perret/USA Network

Hannah Emily Anderson spoke to The Natural Aristocrat about The Purge’s elegant Jenna Betancourt, Jigsaw, upcoming film The Curse of Audrey Earnshaw, and the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on the acting industry.

The Purge’s ember haired First Lady, Hannah Emily Anderson, portrayed the courtly yet troubled Jenna Betancourt on the inaugural season of the TV series adaption. A naive optimist at heart, well meaning, and distracted by a volcanic love triangle. Jenna turned a blind eye to the true cost of doing business for too long… Until it came literally knocking on her front door.

Hannah Emily Anderson as Jenna Betancourt, Lee Tergesen as Joe Owens, and Colin Woodell as Rick Betancourt – GIF via USA Network

Few TV scenes have aged as well and stayed as culturally relevant, as Joe’s “guilty by association” verdict of Jenna during her husband’s mock trial in Season 1’s Finale. The Natural Aristocrat reflected on one of horror’s most criminally underrated scenes with Hannah Emily Anderson, jolting back into the fierce, edge of your seat intensity.

A visually stunning set piece that demands your full, undivided attention. One that sparks immediate panic and fear in any language, even if there wasn’t a single line of dialogue. Survival mode. A universal diorama even for those with no prior interest in the genre. Leaving you wondering, ‘What would I do in the same situation?’

This interview contains spoilers for The Purge TV Series and Saw film franchise.

THE PURGE — “Release the Beast” Episode 104 — Pictured: Hannah Anderson as Jenna — (Photo by: Patti Perret/USA Network)

The Natural Aristocrat [Nir Regev]: Have you been worried as an actress about the professional implications of the Coronavirus? Do you feel there’s pressure to work in a less than optimal health environment due to Acting being an ultra competitive industry? As in, “If I don’t do it, someone else will take my job.”

Hannah Emily Anderson: Yes, definitely! There’s just no precedent for this. Our industry is a giant machine that waits for no one, and I’m a little worried we’re all jumping back in before we’re really ready. I wouldn’t be surprised if we had another shutdown, though I’d like to be optimistic. It definitely makes me think twice about what i’m auditioning for. It has to be worth the risk.

On the other side of the coin, however, isolation has been a chance for me to sit back and take stalk of what’s really important in my life. So actually, though I’ve missed it, it’s been a blessing in disguise to put acting on the back burner for a bit.

The scene in The Purge’s first season in which Joe Owens gives Jenna Betancourt a pistol and a choice: Shoot her husband Rick dead or both of them (and her unborn child) perish, while simultaneously holding a gun to Jenna’s head, is one of the most underrated pieces of horror cinematography. What was it like shooting that moment?

AGREED! I remember needing a couple runs at it to really get the momentum and intensity going, so at the start there was a bit of panic that I wouldn’t be able to find it. But once we hit on it, it was SO satisfying and exhilarating. Colin Woodell and Lee Tergesen were right there with me. We made it as real as we could for ourselves, and everything else faded away. We were in our precious little acting bubble. Those are the best moments.

THE PURGE — “A Nation Reborn” Episode 110 — Pictured: (l-r) Hannah Anderson as Jenna, Lee Tergesen as Joe — (Photo by: Alfonso Bresciani/USA Network)

Joe originally judges Jenna to be ‘guilty by association’, despite knowing nothing of her husband’s business dealings with him. The concept of ‘guilt by association’ has perhaps, never been more culturally relevant than now. Was it actually forward thinking by The Purge all along?

I think one of the coolest elements of The Purge is that it’s always been politically relevant. A big part of this show to me was the commentary on class, race, and power. If you’re white, if you have money- or even if you don’t- if you’re on the “right” side politically, you have power. The Purge night is an opportunity for those in power to abuse it, get rid of those they deem beneath them, to further their own political agenda, and to pat each other on the back for getting away with it. The satisfaction of the show for me is the retaliation.

I remember being asked back then if we could see The Purge becoming a real thing. We all said-under the current “leaders”-absolutely. I think the scariest thing is that The Purge already exists in a way, but it’s not just one night, it’s every day, and it’s more subtle. It starts with discrimination and ends with police killing innocent BIPOC. And it’s taken a lot of us a long time to see what’s really happening.

THE PURGE — “Rise Up” Episode 105 — Pictured: (l-r) Hannah Anderson as Jenna, Colin Woodell as Rick — (Photo by: Patti Perret/USA Network)

Do you partake in emotional recall or method acting often when crafting a character?

I usually start a project from a more intellectual, analytical place and then I’ll pull from my own memories and feeling. It doesn’t have to be a real memory either. Often, scenarios I’ve imagined can be far more powerful.

In a 2017 Jigsaw film interview, while complimenting the franchise as meticulously detailed & smart, you made a lighthearted joke. “Whoever came up with this premise is messed up!” Do you feel there’s some truth to art imitating life in this respect? Does that thought ever impact your own creative process in portraying a character?

I think it’s eerily true that art imitates life. The characters on The Purge are consumed by fear and death. With Jenna, she has NO idea what’s going to happen at the beginning of her story: there’s an innocence there. Halfway through filming, my mom died (after a two year battle with cancer) and I felt like the lines between me and Jenna became very blurred at that point.

All of Jenna’s feelings became MY feelings and vice versa. Death was suddenly so real for me and I was then consumed by it. I remember looking at footage from the first episode while we were still filming and thinking-I’m not that person anymore. It was so surreal.

Jenna’s earlier breakup with Lila Stanton similarly forced her into making a choice. Despite being a relatively indecisive character on the series… There’s no hesitation when Jenna stabs Lila or pulls the trigger on Rick in the Season 1 Finale. What do you attribute to this dynamic when push comes to shove?

At the end of the day, it’s about survival. Survive at all costs. Protect her unborn child at all costs. In those fight or flight situations, something more powerful and immediate takes over.

THE PURGE — “The Forgotten” Episode 106 — Pictured: (l-r) Hannah Anderson as Jenna, Colin Woodell as Rick — (Photo by: Patti Perret/USA Network)

Jenna comments, “I think the moment we decided to take money from the devil, whatever the reason. We opened the door to this.” Do you feel the best of intentions inevitably become stained due to being preyed upon by those with means? As in, the Dreamer vs the Investor.

It depends on the people involved. It depends on the investor. Relating this to the film industry: I think creatives-aka the dreamers-come up against this idea a lot. It’s a strange world where art and business collide. We’re different breeds entirely. Actors, writers, are floating around with our hearts on our sleeves looking for big business to care what we have to say and help give us a voice.

I think sometimes the best idea or the best person for a job can get lost in the mix. Whoever has the money has the control and usually gets the final say and that can be really unfortunate. BUT, when I look at people like Bill and Melinda Gates, for example, I’m filled with hope and optimism. They’re the dreamers AND the investors. They use their power for good, they make s**t happen.

Does Karma always have a way of finding a return address?

I sure f**king hope so!

THE PURGE — “Rise Up” Episode 105 — Pictured: (l-r) Hannah Anderson as Jenna, Colin Woodell as Rick — (Photo by: Patti Perret/USA Network)

Were you expecting to be in The Purge’s second season or potentially make a return in a now-cancelled Season 3?

I had originally signed on for five seasons but knew there was no guarantee and that it might become an anthology series. I was hopeful, but at the end of season one I really didn’t see where our story lines could go. It felt like the end. Plus, I couldn’t imagine doing it without my Colin Woodell and Lili Simmons!

Would you be open to a cameo as Eleanor Bonneville in the upcoming Saw sequel, Spiral?

To work with Chris Rock? Hell yeah. Sign me up.

What can you tell us about the character of Bridget Dwyer in your upcoming film, The Curse of Audrey Earnshaw?

She’s a solemn and devout Irish mother and wife who’s overtaken by grief and descends into madness. So… basically a romantic comedy.

Will The Curse of Audrey Earnshaw still be released on its original release date, October 6, 2020? Considering film & television production has understandably slowed to a crawl all over Hollywood.

Unfortunately I’m not sure on this one! I know it’s premiering at a couple festivals but I’m not sure I can talk about that yet 🙂

Thanks Hannah!

Thank you!

Follow Hannah Emily Anderson on Social Media:

Hannah Emily Anderson Headshot – Photo Credit: AnneMarie-Baribeau

– Follow Hannah Emily Anderson on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook!

– Get the latest updates about Hannah Emily Anderson’s latest film, The Curse of Audrey Earnshaw on Twitter! The film is set for a world premiere at the Fantasia International Film Festival, (* a virtual film festival this year) running from August 20, 2020 through September 2, 2020.

– Relive Jenna Betancourt’s journey with The Purge Season 1 Blu-ray on Amazon!

Read & watch more exclusive interviews with The Purge’s cast:

Joel Allen talks The Purge’s Ben Gardner, Intense Scenes (Interview)

Mary K. DeVault talks Ms. Lorelei’s Corner on The Purge (Interview)

Rochelle Aytes talks The Purge’s big mystery, acting life (Interview)

Check out in-depth coverage of The Purge TV Series in The Purge articles section!

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