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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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Film

P.J. Soles talks Candy Corn, acting career, her life, Princess Leia audition

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P.J. Soles as Marcy Taylor in Candy Corn - Photo Credit: Epic Pictures
Photo Credit: Epic Pictures

P.J. Soles is back as Marcy Taylor in new retro-themed horror, Candy Corn, and spoke to The Natural Aristocrat about the film, her life as an actress and everything in-between.

The Natural Aristocrat [Nir Regev]: There was a time in your life when you stepped away from acting. What brought you back to the horror film genre and ultimately playing Marcy Taylor in Candy Corn?  

P.J. Soles: I was happy to do the fan conventions, which are wonderful, and spend time with my grandkids. I didn’t want to really work in movies anymore. I felt the conventions kept me connected to that part of my life. I was also busy doing other things, always toying with the idea of writing my autobiography… It’s just so hard to get going on a project about yourself! The first one to approach me for Candy Corn was actually Director Josh Hasty. He just made it sound so appealing and I liked him, we had a really nice conversation on the phone. But I laid it out! I said, “You know, I don’t work that great, I’m getting old, I might forget my lines!” It takes a lot of energy to pull it together. For me, making the moment real, being realistic on screen, and presenting a character that’s not you, not myself is important to me. But Josh convinced me! 

What struck me first about Candy Corn was the beautiful cinematography. I always look at that, then I look at the characters and everybody was just painted amazingly.  A great cast of characters! I liked the story and setting in the ’70s. I thought Director Josh Hasty was going for that retro look, which is appealing to me because it’s kind of familiar. [laughs] In terms of special effects, I thought they were beautifully done… If you can assign the word ‘beautiful’ to a ‘terrible’ special effect like someone’s spine getting ripped out.  You can say they’re realistic! [laughs]

So, Candy Corn was the first ‘Yes!’ but I actually filmed it in December. I did Hanukkah first, then Killer Therapy, which is actually going to have a screening this October. There’s been no press about it, they’re keeping it on the down-low. In the horror community these days, they wanna keep things kind of quiet until the project has been fully edited, music added, and really pulled together.

When I was watching Candy Corn, there seemed to be a relationship in the air between Marcy and Sheriff Sam Bramford. Thus, I was anticipating some kind of interaction between Marcy and the Sheriff’s son, the lead antagonist as well. It felt like a natural fit. How do you feel about that?  

Oh yeah, that would have been great! Well, it can’t happen in the sequel, if there is one. I live, he doesn’t! [laughs]

It’s nice to be in a horror movie and not get killed, right?

That’s actually my guiding principle now! I’m happy to play in any movie, I just don’t want to get killed. Not too many lines and no death scenes, that’s what I tell my agent! [laughs

I recall an interview with VH1, where you mentioned wanting to ‘milk your death’ scene (as Lynda van der Klok) in Halloween for as long as possible to get screen time. Do you feel that’s what it takes as an actor to get time out there?

It’s your swan song. When you do that last scene on set, they say, “That’s a wrap on P.J. thank you,” and I don’t want that moment to come! (laughs) When I was going out of frame in Halloween, I suddenly realized I’m not going to be on screen anymore… So, I just kept doing the choked noises till John (Carpenter) yelled Cut!

Speaking of that era… You did a commercial for Pizza Hut Tacos back in 1979, how do you reflect back on that?

(laughs) Oh my God! You know what’s so funny about that? The shirt that I wear in that commercial is also the same pink-and-white stripped shirt that I wore in some of the promos we shot for Halloween. The promos were taken back at the casting offices by Kim Gottlieb and I had that very shirt on! Obviously, one of my favorite shirts. When I first saw that commercial I was like, “Oh my gosh, that’s the shirt in all the Halloween stills!” 

I actually don’t eat beef and never have since I was a kid and heard beef comes from cows. Which made me sad. Every time I took a bite in the commercial I had to spit it out. There is a spit bucket for those of us who don’t eat what we’re advertising! (laughs)

That incident that happened on the set of Carrie, where you ruptured your ear drum… As an actress, did you have any regrets about doing the role at the time because of that? Obviously, it did lead you to getting a role in Halloween so things more than worked out. Do you have any permanent hearing loss from what happened on Carrie

What? (laughs) Just kidding! It was so painful… It was unbelievably painful to rupture my ear drum which was caused by a fire hose that the fire marshal said is not a good idea to use. Especially, (Carrie Director) Brian [De Palma] wanted it to bat my head around back and forth. So, Dick Ziker, the stunt coordinator, said, “Oh man, that fire hose!” It was an accident for sure but it went full force and I literally just blacked out, went down and slid down the bleachers. The grips came running and picked me up. It was the most intense pain I’ve ever felt besides childbirth! 

For six months, I went to the doctor and I got workman’s comp, they put drops in my ear. I can hear better than ever! I do have a little scar tissue there and I have go to my ENT from time to time but it didn’t leave any lasting problem. I’m definitely totally happy that I did the movie! Probably, would have rethought the firehose in retrospect. But it all worked out okay. 

It’s a good effect and talking about the last time you see me on the screen now, that was actually my swan scene on the film. I didn’t come back to the set after that. When you see me wince in that scene, that’s actually the pain, the initial pain of the ear drum. So, it’s kind of strange but these things happen.

Are you surprised how things work out, that John Carpenter noticed you for the way you said “Totally” in Carrie? I was even half expecting you to say it in Candy Corn!

Yeah, we talked about it but that would have been too much! (laughs) People expect me to say, “Merry Christmas, Totally!” now! It’s become my trademark! I wear the red hat in Carrie, I say “Totally!” in Halloween, and I have that awesome wardrobe in Rock‘n’ Roll High School. #1 fan of The Ramones. 

I told John  [Carpenter] and Debra [Hill] that I was going to push it and try to say it every time I spoke, and if it gets annoying to let me know. But they never did. I’ve never made an accurate count actually. But a group of college boys told me at a convention that they have a drinking game where they take a shot every time I say “Totally” and they’ve never seen the end of the movie! I said, “I didn’t say it that many times!” (laughs) I think the real number is eleven someone told me but it seems like more than that.

P.J. Soles Headshot – Photo Credit: P.J. Soles

Would you consider a role in a reboot of Rock ‘n’ Roll High School

Reboot? When is that happening?! (laughs) I don’t know, depends who’s making it. Years ago, Howard Stern wanted to do it. But I think that was 30 years ago. (laughs) Maybe a sequel? What happened to all of us. Can you even find another band these days like The Ramones? I don’t think so! God, I wish! Don’t you wish? Where are the new Rolling Stones and The Eagles, where is this generation’s music? Come on guys! I’m waiting for it!

In the VH1 interview above, you mention not being a fan of The Ramones’ music until you met them. How come?

Well, no because I’d never heard them.

How did that happen?!

Well it was 1979, and I was listening to The Eagles, Jackson Browne, and Joni Mitchell all those people at the time. The Ramones weren’t on the radar yet in California. Maybe in New York which is probably why Allan Arkush, the Director, knew about them. But they were just starting, they were just coming aboard the scene, definitely well known in the CBGBs and all that in New York but not in Los Angeles. So, when Allan gave me a cassette and I put it in, I just really didn’t relate to it and I didn’t know what it was… But I said, “Alright, I’m their #1 fan!” (laughs)

It took me I would say, probably ten weeks to two years to really hear their music and understand what it was. Now, it’s just so commonplace and amazing! I really love The Ramones! 

What happened at that Star Wars audition for Princess Leia with George Lucas?

We weren’t told what movies they were casting, we were just told there would be two directors at that time. This was back around in 1975. They weren’t really that known yet. I mean I think Brian De Palma had done a couple of movies but he wasn’t really an established director yet, at least not in the mainstream. Probably, again in New York City. So, I walked in, I had my red hat on! I had just moved to L.A. two weeks prior from Manhattan, where I had lived for five years and wanted to get into movies. I was living at the Magic Hotel in Hollywood, and my modeling agency sent me up on this audition.

Brian just looked at me and then looked at George and said I’ll put it on my list. Then he said, “Next audition bring your hat!” Then there were three subsequent auditions after that with the whole cast that actually ended up being in the movie. I don’t think he picked one person in all those three subsequent casting sessions and screen tests that didn’t end up in the movie. So, he had a very good eye I think for casting. A year later, we found out it was for Star Wars. But even then, it wasn’t what it was today. Star Wars took a while to catch on too at the time.


Was that the one role you wish you got?

No! Oh my gosh, I love my Norma! She wasn’t even in Stephen King’s book, there was no Norma in the Carrie book. But Brian De Palma had put the one line in, ‘Thanks a lot Carrie, ‘ when she blew the volleyball game in the beginning. I really was only on for a week. But after he saw the dailies for that… I had rainbow pins on my hat and I hit Sissy [Spacek] over the head with my hat.

The pins got stuck in her hair and I just yanked it out. So, it just looked so nasty! I apologized to Sissy but she said, “No, this is going to look great!” Brian laughed and thought it was so funny. He said she’s on for the rest of the shoot. I’m going to pair her up with Nancy Allen, the two of them are going to be my my little bad girls. [laughs] So, that was awesome! 

You mentioned wanting to work on your autobiography earlier. What are some parts of your past that you’d like to be part of it?

I went overseas for all of my childhood. My father was from Holland and my mother was from Englewood, New Jersey and they met in Germany after the war. Her first husband was killed and she went over there to help with the rebuilding as a secretary. My dad was helping Jews escape Holland and he was captured and put in a Nazi work camp. He was released by the American army and brought to the same base as my mother and so they met. 

It took a whole lot of circumstance for me to be brought into the world! I was born in Germany and then my dad got a job with a company where he had to open up branch offices for around the world. We moved to Morocco, Venezuela (Maracaibo) where I spent six years, and then Brussels in Belgium. 

I went to a high school in the International School of Brussels and learned French and Spanish. I was really on a writing and language track rather than an acting thing. Although, I had always acted in a lot of the school productions but it wasn’t something I thought was even possible. I hadn’t watched a lot of movies growing up.

I went to Briarcliffe College in New York state in the summer between my Freshman and Sophomore year, where I was going to transfer to Georgetown University in Washington. 

My roommate was from the city and I stayed with her for the summer because my parents had transferred to Istanbul, Turkey. I happened to come across The Actors Studio and there was a sign, ‘We’ll trade running spotlight for auditing classes,’ so I ran a spotlight on Joanna Miles and Scott Glenn that whole summer. I met a guy who happened to be Joshua White of The Joshua Light Show.


He told me, “Girls, on the catwalk probably shouldn’t be wearing short dresses!” [laughs] He convinced me to quit college and get serious about acting, and start acting, so he got me an agent. I did commercials, I was on a soap opera and it got everything Rolling. But when I think of my autobiography, I’d start with my life as a child because I think that was enough of a life… Without anything else afterwards. But then on top of that there was this wonderful acting career! 

Catch P.J. Soles as Marcy Taylor in Candy Corn out now on Blu-ray, Digital, and VOD! Be sure to check out more interviews on The Natural Aristocrat!

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Heidi Mae opens up on Instagram competition, truth of reality TV

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Photo Credit: Heidi Mae
Photo Credit: Heidi Mae

Instagram’s champagne haired influencer Heidi Mae spoke to The Natural Aristocrat about the art of taking the perfect photo and why she’ll never do reality TV again.

The Natural Aristocrat [Nir Regev]: Do you feel there’s a need to go the extra mile on Instagram these days because of competition rising exponentially all the time?

Heidi Mae: You know, that’s something I’ve thought about a lot… I don’t know if it’s going the extra mile, so much as it would be finding your own voice. I don’t want to create things just to get engagement, which is always sort of the trap. “Oh, I want to get more engagement, so I’ll post something that will get more engagement!” That can really make you suffer artistically. So, I’ve been focusing on creating stuff that I resonate with and trying to be more honest with people. 

This year, I started opening up about some mental health issues that I’ve had, and advocating mental health awareness. I don’t need to have a million followers. But what I would like is to have is a positive impact on whoever sees what I create.

Photo Credit: Heidi Mae

I feel your Adobe Lightroom “Vibrant Life” Presets give your photos an artistic, personal touch other Instagram influencers lack. Something beyond the usual filters everyone already uses. This desert photo comes to mind with the purple/pink hued sky and synthwave cover-esque sun. What made you experiment with Lightroom originally?

I love photography, I’m a big photography nerd! (laughs) I just love the way light plays on things. I’ve had a camera since I was like 18, way back in the MySpace days! When I take a picture, a lot of times, I want to reflect a feeling and create an emotion when people look at it. For me, a huge part of that is editing the tones, colors, and shadows to where each picture creates an emotion and has a feeling to it. You know, instead of just going straight from the camera.

Photo Credit: Heidi Mae

The biggest difference for me is just the fact that I feel much happier, and I enjoy the pictures a lot more when I look at them. I feel proud of them and that they will reflect what I was trying to capture. I read this quote once that said, ‘A picture is how a camera sees the world and the edit on the photo is how the photographer sees the world.’ It resonated a lot with me. 

Photo Credit: Heidi Mae

When I edit a photo and change the colors and shadows or put something like the sun in it, that’s how I felt in that moment. That’s how I experienced that moment in time when I took the photo.

I’ve read you already started singing at the age of two! Longtime fans have obviously heard your voice on the cosplay parodies on YouTube. Did you want to be a vocalist in a band growing up?

(laughs) Yeah! When I was younger, I wanted to be a singer or an actress or a Russian Supermodel! Not even taking into account that I wasn’t Russian. (laughs)  I grew up around music. My dad was a one man band and played every instrument. 

Photo Credit: Heidi Mae

My family had a traveling theatre show that we did at events and traveled around six to nine months out of the year, non-consecutively. So, it would be like six weeks at a time, eight weeks at a time. Always home for winter! The older I got, the more photography and travel became what I was passionate about making.


According to The Houston Herald, you and your siblings used to go to Texas County Library for the WiFi to upload those YouTube parodies. As the internet wasn’t strong enough countryside where you lived. Do you still have to do that?

(laughs) Not anymore! A couple years ago, the phone carriers here started offering unlimited data which they didn’t before. I mean they did at the very beginning and then they stopped. I switched carriers, so I could actually use the data at my house. When I used to upload a video or wanted to look something up, my cell phone reception and internet was so slow that it would take hours! I remember one time I wanted to upload one of the parodies, it took like a day and a half.

Photo Credit: Heidi Mae

You mentioned wanting to be an actress earlier. Many of your Instagram fans remember you being featured on season 6 of ABC’s Wife Swap. How did that opportunity arise and would you do something like that again? 

That opportunity arose because of my family’s theatre show,The CaboodlestoppersI don’t… I don’t think that I would do reality TV again. The reason is because I learned the hard way that reality TV is a story that the producers want to tell. And they will ‘accomplish’ that story by whatever means necessary. You do not know going into it what story they want to tell, until you’re in the middle of it… You know what? I would not do reality TV again! (laughs)

I see fans commenting on it on your Instagram all the time still!

Yes, yes. (laughs) There are actually quite a few moments involving me on that show that are absolutely not true! They used some copy and paste audio in an episode to make it seem true. There’s actually a conversation I had where they chopped up what I said, and then just didn’t show me talking when I said it. So, you can’t tell that’s not what I said. I’d actually had a boyfriend before, my family had a home that was 74 acres but that didn’t fit the story they were trying to tell. ‘So, let’s just not say that!’ (laughs)

Photo Credit: Heidi Mae

What are some of your style inspirations, fashion wise?

I follow Revolve because I really like a lot of their looks. It’s an online clothing company and they have designers there that create really unique things. A lot of my fashion actually evolves because of photography. A couple of years ago, maybe 4 years ago, all I ever wore was like black and gray. All the time! Then as I started doing photography more as my social media started taking off… I started noticing that the colors of black and gray don’t translate to the mood of an image very well.

Photo Credit: Heidi Mae

If I’m on this beautiful expanse of land and I’m wearing all black, it doesn’t lend itself to the feeling I wanted to create in the photos. So, I started steering more towards lighter colors and more romantic looks. And I started noticing, “Oh, I really like this!”  The clothing lends itself to the images much more to where everything felt complete in the picture versus say at opposition with each other.

Photo Credit: Heidi Mae

How vital do you feel wigs are to your YouTube videos? Do you prefer to do your hair naturally if you can?

I definitely prefer to do my hair naturally. It’s so much more comfortable that way! (laughs) Especially, when I did some Harley Quinn looks for Suicide Squad, the wig was in pigtails and it was such a nightmare. Because you’re pulling the hair up but you’re glueing it to your scalp so it’s always like trying to peel away from your skin. It was horrible! 

So, I definitely prefer to use my real hair with the exception if it’s like a crazy color. I definitely don’t want to dye my hair green, so I’ll use a wig for it! (laughs) So, any extreme colors or if I really feel like it will lend itself to the image well, I’ll use a wig.

I recall you mentioned the process of glueing that Harley Quinn wig on during a fan Q & A video. Speaking of that Q & A video, it’s been about two years now since it was posted… Are you ever going to do a followup? 

(laughs) That’s a very good question! Yes, I’m going to! Filming more video blogs has been on my to-do list. I’m much more proficient at photography than I am at video. So, recently I’ve been pushing myself more to do more videos. Like the Instagram videos that I’ve been posting recently. It’s sort of like, “Okay, let’s get out of your comfort zone and push yourself a little bit!” Instead of just like sticking with what I’m comfortable with. Which can kind of be a human tendency at times.

What has the experience of your YouTube cosplay parodies going viral taught you?

I think what it taught me is if you set your mind to something and you try hard enough then you can make it happen. It might sound cliche but it’s true. Those parodies were the result of quite a few months of research, planning, and creating the costumes. I think the Suicide Squad one took about a year, including writing and recording. 

It definitely taught me if I want something bad enough, and I work hard enough at it, I can find a way! Even if it’s not exactly what I originally set out to do. It can be a little different. I can still achieve that end goal!

My last question, going back to that fan Q & A… Two years later, do you still listen to the Backstreet Boys?

(laughs) Yeah! Funny you should ask that! I just went on like a three week road trip with my mom to California, and we found this 2000 through 2019 Pop Hits Playlist. Backstreet Boys are definitely on it, and there’s definitely singing along in the car!

Thanks Heidi!

Thank you!

Photo Credit: Heidi Mae

Follow and subscribe to Heidi Mae on Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter. Read up on Heidi’s latest adventures blogging at her official website.

Be sure to check out Heidi’s custom Adobe Lightroom “Vibrant Life” Presets to bring the magic to your own photos! 

Check out more Fashion and Style coverage on The Natural Aristocrat!

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Luke Baines talks broken relationships inspiring A Dark Place

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A Dark Place - Pictured: Luke Baines as Alex - Photo Credit: Gravitas Ventures, a Red Arrow Studios company
Photo Credit: Gravitas Ventures, a Red Arrow Studios company

Luke Baines spoke to The Natural Aristocrat about drawing from broken relationships as inspiration for Alex in A Dark Place and healing from the process.

This interview contains spoilers to the film, A Dark Place.

The Natural Aristocrat [Nir Regev]: A Dark Place really felt like a story grounded in revenge. What did it feel like when you read the script?

Luke Baines: I think it’s interesting because I’ve played a lot of dark characters, so I was reading it more about a guy who was trapped in an uncomfortable situation. It didn’t feel you know, classically the bad guy, that I’ve played before. He really felt like someone who was struggling to be good and to have his life on track. That’s what I found most interesting about it. I love the fact that it is so grounded in reality and really focuses on human relationships and human dynamics. 

There was a key line Alex says in the film when he’s giddy about potentially getting a job and his girlfriend turns it around on him. “When did you start hating me?” It was powerful.

Thanks! That was literally the only line I came up with on the spot! (laughs)

What inspired that line out of you? Since it wasn’t in the script as you say.

I guess it’s one of those things where I just felt that at the moment. We were having this argument and she just kept coming at me and it’s something that we had worked on with Chris [Pinero]. Before we had shot that scene, Jazlyn, Chris, and me did the whole scene through just on subtext. That was something  that came out. This idea that Alex was always going to be on a bad foot with her. He was never going to be able to win.

There was really nothing Alex could do that would ever be good for her because at this point he’d just caused so much damage. That’s really what I felt like he wanted to say to her. That it was never going to be good enough, is it? “When did you start hating me?” I think that’s so important to a relationship because sometimes things happen in life that are never going to change. Sometimes, in a relationship you just can’t take it back. You can do all the work but the other person is just never going to forget it. There’s really no way back once a person decides they want out of a relationship. 

It feels like, especially from talking to my friends, that women really work ahead when it comes to relationships. They’re usually one step ahead of the guy. That’s kind of where that line came from.

Why do you feel Alex didn’t murder Theresa [Jazlyn Yoder] after he kidnapped her? Did Theresa tell Alex she was pregnant with his child? Since that was not shown on screen, it seems open to the viewer’s interpretation.

I just don’t think that’s who he is. Obviously, he is a murderer because he killed someone. But that seemed more like a crime of passion.  I think that the reason that he killed Mike Miller’s character (Keith) is because he was so thrown by what he heard, that he acted out in that way. All the hatred was directed towards him. I think that that’s something that we do in normal life. When something happens, I think we focus on one person and take it out on them. And I think once Alex had done that, he really regretted it. That’s why nothing happened and Alex didn’t actually kill or seriously harm his girlfriend.

A Dark Place – Pictured: Luke Baines as Alex – Photo Credit: Gravitas Ventures, a Red Arrow Studios company

When Alex has that moment after he killed Keith and says, ‘I’m going to turn myself in!’ Was that just to fool Shawn into helping him with the body? Or was he really considering turning himself in?

I think in Alex’s head, he always knew that suicide was probably going to be the end game. That he had explored the idea before. It wasn’t just the relationship. It was where he was in his life, not being able to get a job, feeling like a failure. The only thing that really was keeping him going on was his girlfriend and the idea of having a child. Getting to start a new life and create something else. When those pieces started falling away, that’s when Alex made the choice. So, I don’t think that he was manipulating his friends.

That section with Alex’s mom, was she supposed to have Alzheimers? It seemed that way when she asked Alex the same question about his girlfriend twice.

Yeah, I think so. We talked about the fact that she was teetering on the edge of some kind of memory loss and some kind of disassociation.

Chris [Pinero] told me he knew you were right for the role the moment he saw your audition. How did you prepare for the audition? Anything different than usual?

You know, interestingly this was one of the first auditions that I properly trusted myself with. Really because I thought I had no chance, the character was written a lot older than I’ve ever played. I was like I don’t know if they’re even going to take me seriously. I remember reading it and just thinking well if I was given the role, this is what I would do that. I played it exactly on my instincts that I got from reading the character descriptions and the actual script itself. And I I very much played that, as opposed to going into a room and trying to give someone what they wanted.

When it comes to number of takes, do you believe in reshooting a scene until you get it right? Stanley Kubrick The Shining style. Or do you prefer the pressure of knowing you only have a certain amount of takes and that’s it?

It’s interesting and it’s something that I’ve actually been working on recently. I do a show called Shadowhunters and on that you’re doing a lot more takes. I would say on average on Shadowhunters, you’re doing about 30 takes because of the different setups. So you do about five or six takes per setup and you have about four setups. On A Dark Place, we were doing one or two takes per setup so it was very, very different. 

What’s interesting about it though, was when you go from something like doing an indie film to doing a big production, a Disney show, where you get more takes… Is that when I first started doing that show, I would get all my good takes out in the first couple of shots. And then I get to two and a half hours, three hours later where we’re still doing the same thing and I have to keep doing it… Keeping up that momentum was really really difficult for me. 

It’s something I have to get good at and find different triggers to keep on going. Find new places to explore. So, I don’t know if there is one that is better. Maybe, an option C. Where I get a little bit more time but I’m not doing a ton of takes. (laughs)

A Dark Place – Pictured: Luke Baines as Alex – Photo Credit: Gravitas Ventures, a Red Arrow Studios company
What was it like shooting that scene in A Dark Place with the hammer?

It was intense and I really dug up some real stuff that I’ve been through. Which was interesting because I never really get a chance to do that normally. A lot of the stuff I’ve done has been very imagination based. 

When you use sense memory to emotionally recall traumatizing experiences, does it become weaker over time? Or is the impact always the same for you?

Yeah, for me it does. I lean more towards imagination based acting when I do it because I find that never gets stale. For me, I think acting sometimes is like therapy and when you use those memories you heal them a little bit. This film was definitely that for me. This is the kind of relationship stuff that I healed by doing this film. I just don’t think that they have the same triggers that they used to, that they would have now.

Were you disappointed your character got killed because you can’t really be in a sequel?

(laughs) I think that from a personal perspective sure! But Alex needed to go through that. So no.

What did it mean to you to get nominated for Best TV Villain at the 2019 Teen Choice Awards?

You know it’s interesting, It’s so lovely to think that so many fans of Shadowhunters spent the time to go online and tweet, and vote like they did. I find that really, really endearing, flattering and lovely! But at the same time, it’s like you know, awards are very weird. I don’t think that just because I got the nomination, I was necessarily one of the best villains on TV last year. It just happened to be, that I was lucky enough to be on a show that had a very passionate fanbase. I’m really grateful for that!

Thank you Luke!

Thank you! 

A Dark Place is available now on Amazon, iTunes, Blu-ray, DVD and On Demand. The film is distributed in the U.S. by Gravitas Ventures, a Red Arrow Studios company.

A Dark Place was named Best Thriller at the Manhattan Film Festival (2018), won Best Editing and Best Supporting Actor at the Hoboken International Film Festival (2018) and was the recipient of an Award of Excellence from the Accolade Global Film Competition (2018).

Be sure to check out our interview with Director/Writer Christopher Pinero on A Dark Place. read and watch more Interviews with talents across the Entertainment industry by The Natural Aristocrat!


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