Interview: Hugh Coles shares funny stories from behind ‘The Festival’

Hugh Coles

HUGH COLES has an incredibly exciting few months ahead of him.

The young actor who recently graduated from the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art – is about to star in ‘The Festival’ – a hilarious new comedy flick from the creators of ‘The Inbetweeners’.

It has also been announced that this Autumn, Hugh will star in the upcoming BBC comedy series, ‘Defending The Guilty’ opposite Will Sharpe.

We had a chat with Hugh about his upcoming comedy projects, as he recalls some funny stories from on-set.

AC: You’ve only recently graduated from LAMDA – how long had you been studying there for?

HUGH: I finished LAMDA in July last year, I was on the two year post-grad course which I joined straight from the University of Leeds in 2015. So I’m brand new.

What does studying there look like?

If I told you what went on behind those closed doors on the Talgarth Road, I’d have to kill you. But what I can say is that there is a host of teachers and professionals in there who are absolutely on top of their game – there is simply no better drama school in the world. There, I said it. Don’t ‘@’ me.

From the things I’ve heard about ‘The Festival’, it sounds like it’s going to be hilarious – how much can you say about it? Being made by the same people as ‘The Inbetweeners’ – can we expect a similar style of humour?

Yeah I think it’s going to be great. Iain Morris and Joe Thomas are a brilliant team, as everyone saw with ‘The Inbetweeners’. So to get the chance to work alongside them was a privilege. Also to walk onto set and see Claudia O’Doherty and Jermaine Clement was a bit crazy. These comedians who I’ve looked up to for ages – who I’ve seen at the Fringe and in ‘Flight of the Conchords’. I was just like, “wow. I’ve got to really try to not be rubbish here…” 

I did walk onto set one day to see a props master pumping fake wee through a prosthetic rubber willy. “No no, it has to be more yellow”, so that’s all the spoilers I’m giving.

I think if it’s close to being as funny to watch as it was to shoot – we’ll be onto a winner. Also FYI – Hammed Animashaun is an absolute dreamboat. Learn that name. You’ll need it.

Hugh Coles

Can you recall any funny stories from your time on-set?

Filming at Camp Bestival was an experience. I don’t think you realise it when you go to a festival – but there’s this weird kind of twilight zone around 4-6pm when everything turns from: acoustic bands, kids, facepaint and fairground rides – to beers, house music, and bottled water.

So me and Lizzy Connolly (another drop-dead legend) were out filming in that – totally sober. And this guy strolls into shot with a crate of 24 Fosters cradled in one arm, and the 25th battered can in his right and starts swaying about and singing at the camera.

I tap him on the shoulder and say “look – sorry mate we’re trying to film”. And he turns around, takes one look at me in my wine red chinos and hunting jacket and yells “EY EYY POSH BOY!” and staggers off into the tents. I don’t know if he knew what was going on, but I hope he’s okay.

What’s the worst joke you’ve ever heard?

The worst joke I’ve ever heard – is my Mum’s favorite joke. How does an Eskimo build his house? Ig-loos it together!

Hugh Coles

Later on in the year you’ll begin filming for a very different comedy ‘Defending The Guilty’ – what have you learnt about the world of Barristers?

The world of the Barrister and the courts of law are totally alien to me, thank god. But looking into the training and the arduous process that you have to go through to become a Barrister in the first place is mad.

As a defendant you meet with your lawyer and discuss the finer points of your case i.e. did you put that cat in the wheelie-bin or not. Then maybe a day or two before your case is heard – you meet your assigned barrister who looks at your case notes and goes: “Great. Thanks very much”. From then on your life is in their hands. This person you have only just met (and only knows about you from your case notes) will be fighting your corner in a court of law. And they aren’t always saints when the doors to the Barristers chambers is closed.

Everyone seems to have an app idea at the moment – what would yours be?

I quite like playing Basketball in my spare time, but I’m terrible, like properly – Phillip Seymour Hoffman in ‘Along Came Polly’ – terrible. 

And usually – everyone else on the court is pretty good. They’re like the guys in the center of your local ice rink who brought their own flashy skates and I’m clinging to the side in a pair of rentals. Anyway, it’s always embarrassing to have them watch me miss again and again.

So I’d love an app that said where all the empty basketball courts were in London – so I could go on my own and miss the basket in peace.

Hugh Coles

PHOTOGRAPHY: JAKE TURNEY

INTERVIEW: ADAM CROOKES

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Interview: Thomas Barbusca talks about his new film ‘Searching’

THOMAS BARBUSCA landed his first leading role last year in the TV sitcom ‘The Mick’, after many guest appearances and recurring roles on shows like ‘Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp’, ‘Grey’s Anatomy’, ‘American Horror Story’ and ‘Preacher’.

Now, Thomas is about to be seen in what looks set to be the psychological thriller of the summer – ‘Searching’, alongside John Cho and Debra Messing.

As Thomas Barbusca’s profile continues to rise, we had a quick chat with him to talk about all-things ‘Searching’.

AC: Tell us about your role in ‘Searching’.

THOMAS: I’m excited for everyone to see this movie. People will be blown away by this film. It’s produced and directed by Aneesh Chaganty who I did my very first short film with. It’s an innovative movie with so many twists and turns it will definitely keep you on the edge of your seat.

‘Searching’ is a thriller that’s staged entirely through computer screens. How did this change the way you acted?

It didn’t really change my acting but going into it I knew I had to keep it “real”. Given the computer screen perspective, everything has a more realistic feel in general. It’s all very in the moment when you see it which is how it would be if you were really talking to someone screen to screen.

The film is getting a lot of praise. Why do you think the film is appealing to audience so much?

Right off the back, it’s different than what you normally see. The whole idea of being shot entirely through computer screens had not been done before and I think when the film premiered at Sundance it was a bit of a surprise how it all worked and came together.

‘Searching’ is Aneesh Chaganty’s first feature film. What was it like working with him?

It was great. My first short film was directed by Aneesh and when he called me to be apart of this movie I jumped at the chance to work with him again. He’s a great director and has such an easy going vibe.

How do you find auditioning?

Auditioning is just being prepared and doing the best you can. If I don’t get a role, I don’t take it personally. I’ve been pretty lucky lately and I don’t audition as much as I used to. I get a call and a script and if I’m interested in the project I do it.

You’ve starred in ‘The Mick’ – do you have any funny stories from set?

Everyday there was a funny story. We were always laughing and playing around. I think one of the funniest was when I grabbed a lollipop from craft services in between scenes and when we had to get back on set, Kaitlin told me my tongue was blue and we had to like scrub my tongue and delay filming. Kaitlin never let me live it down and took pictures of my blue tongue and put it on social media.

Who was the last person you were starstruck by?

I am not super starstruck by anyone but maybe if I met Leonardo DiCaprio I would be totally starstruck.

Which actors do you look up to?

I would have to say Leonardo DiCaprio again – I really love the way his career has gone. I definitely would love to emulate his career. He’s done it all.

What’s on your music playlist at the moment?

Steve Lacy.

Being of Italian descent, have you been spending any time in Italy recently?

I would love to go in a trip to Italy very soon.

Is there one particular thing that you’re most excited about for the future?

I’m just excited right now about finishing the film ‘Big Time Adolescence’ – with Machine Gun Kelly and Pete Davidson and then I’m jumping into another project.

PHOTOGRAPHY: BENNY HADDAD

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Interview: Jenn Lyon on ‘Claws’

JENN LYON is giving us all the laughs both on and off-screen.

We’re now in the second season of the hilarious TNT comedy ‘Claws’ – in which Jenn has a leading role alongside the brilliant ensemble of Niecy Nash, Carrie Preston and Judy Reyes.

She has also starred in FX’s ‘Justified’ and ‘Saint George’. We had a chat with Jenn Lyon about all-things ‘Claws’.

AC: Claws’ has a great ensemble of women who we’ve seen on so many other great shows. Coming into this, who were you already a fan of?

JENN: I knew Niecy [Nash] from ‘Reno 911!’ ‘Soul Man’, Judy [Reyes] from ‘Scrubs’, and Carrie [Preston] from ‘The Good Wife’. I didn’t know Rooch’s acting work, but I thought she was a badass. I was nervous to meet everyone, not to mention the roster of men we had. I was thrilled to get to work with actors of this caliber.

What can we be expecting from this new season?

Listen, I am surprised every time I get a new script! Your guess is as good as mine.

Have you got any funny stories from your time on-set?

We laugh and play so much! We have fake talk shows, we invent items and pretend to pitch them on Shark Tank, we send each other awful pictures in serious moments; just general jack-ass-ery every day.

You’re a big advocate of women in Hollywood. How much progress do you think has been made in the past year?

I think great strides have been made, but we are just getting started. It is past time for parity and representation.

Across a lot of network shows, we’re seeing more and more actors have a go at directing episodes of their shows. Would that ever be something you’d take up?

I don’t know! I have written and directed my fair share of sketch comedy and theatre, but never film and TV. I think I prefer acting and producing in that medium.

QUICK QUESTIONS WITH JENN LYON

What’s the strangest food combo you’ve ever had?

Cauliflower and strawberry jam.

Everyone has a cool app idea, what’s yours?

An app that generates cool app ideas so I’m ready for this question next time.

What’s on your music playlist at the moment?

A shit ton of hip hop – both current and old school.

Is there a sport you wish you could play?

Pole vault.

Do you have a philosophy?

Shit, was I supposed to? I’ll get one.

What’s the last film you watched?

The Trayvon Documentary on HBO

If you had one superpower, what would it be?

It’s a tie between being able to transport myself anywhere instantly, the super power to end suffering, or the power to have cold Diet Pepsi shoot out of my pointer finger whenever I want.

What’s the last photograph you took?

A screenshot of a dumb looking dog meme to send to Carrie [Preston].

Is there thing in particular that you’re really excited about for the future?

I’m excited for voting in November.

The season two finale of ‘Claws’ airs August 12th on TNT

PHOTOGRAPHY: VALENTINA SOCCI

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Interview: Jessica Keenan Wynn in ‘Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again’

Jessica Keenan Wynn Photoshoot 2018

JESSICA KEENAN WYNN is starring in the summer musical that will get you dancing on your feet and filled with nostalgia – ‘Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again’.

In the film, Jessica portrays a younger version of  Christine Baranski’s character Tanya Chesham-Leigh. Jessica stars alongside Lily James and Alexa Davies.

Jessica was born and raised in Los Angeles and comes from the Wynn family acting dynasty. She is a descendant of television and film acting legend Ed Wynn, 30s and 40s film star Keenan Wynn and silent film star Frank Keenan. She currently resides in New York where she is starring in the Broadway musical ‘Beautiful’.

We talk to Jessica about all things ‘Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again’.

AC: You’re a descendant of Ed Wynn who had an incredible prominence as an Actor in the 1930s and 40s. How influential do you think your family history has been in your own career choice?

JESSICA: I suppose I never grew out of playing pretend. When I was little, old movies, MGM musicals, and award shows were viewed in rotation. I was introduced to my grandparents with movies like Alice in Wonderland, Mary Poppins and For Me and My Gal. Obviously, I felt incredibly connected to the medium and one that allowed me to forge a relationship with family I had never met. Through performing, I was creating connective tissue with them and a posthumous bond. I developed a deep passion to carry on my family’s legacy. In the beginning it was daunting to walk in the massive footprints of my grandparents (all great great, great, and grand of them). Now I am so proud to wear that name and feel like I can properly stand among them with elation and adoration.

Do you think that this history has informed how you’ve approached working on this business?

Absolutely. The quality I admired so much about my grandfather, Keenan Wynn, was his desire to not only do good work, but to work! It wasn’t about being #1 on the call sheet or the leading man in a picture. It boiled down to flexing as many muscles within his talent as he could. His library of work has had a tremendous influence on my desire to play as many different parts as wonderfully different as possible.

Jessica Keenan Wynn

What was your first introduction to ‘Mamma Mia’?

I saw the first national touring production of Mamma Mia in Los Angeles with my mom. I bought the soundtrack and was an immediate fan of the show, and thus of ABBA. The best part about being introduced to their music through the production were the stories of people a generation ahead of me who grew up listening to ABBA. One generation was developing a new sense memory to their songs and the other reveling in the nostalgia of their music. They broke Musical barriers and thrive to this day for a reason. There’s truly nothing quite like their magical reach.

In this sequel, you portray a younger version of Christine Baranski’s character – how did you go about preparing for that?

I have always been a massive fan of Christine’s work. Her talent has influenced me for years and years. This woman carries herself with such poise, grace, professionalism and care. She is as profound on camera as she is off. It was the greatest joy to go back and watch her films to try and capture her essence. She commands a room with her smile, her charm and her wit. Ever sense I put young Tanya on, I can’t seem to shake her off and I’m perfectly fine with that.

Jessica Keenan Wynn

The film really does have an all-star cast. Was there anyone that you were particularly starstruck by?

Cher. Meryl. Cher. Meryl. Cher. Meryl. Need I say more? Meryl was exuberant and warm. I was so familiar with her work that it felt like reuniting with an old friend. Is that how superfans are born? Ek! Cher is a legend. I was too afraid to talk to her because I just wanted to watch her work. It’s horrifying meeting your idols, but also the dreamiest of scenarios. She’s truly one of the greatest artists of our time. I have to add, I was honestly struck by the sheer love the young cast developed for each other. I love the 5 of them so deeply it’s soul reaching. I have no doubt that the bond we created will last for the rest of our lives. 

Can you recall any particular funny stories from on-set?

One of my favorite memories on set was adlibbing with Alexa, who plays Young Rosie, at the end of a scene that takes place at the Taverna in Greece. Our brilliant director/writer, Ol Parker, wrote some hilarious lines to close the scene and then allowed us to play. If you give Alexa and I an inch, we will take a football field. We proceeded to bark varying adlibs at each other until we had the crew peeing their pants with laughter. If you can tell, it was the most remarkable set to be on. It really was a great big family.

Jessica Keenan Wynn

Do you have a favorite ABBA song?

I’m now a huge fan of “Andante Andante.” Lily James sings a stunning rendition of it in the film. But the song I sing in the shower most would have to be “The Name of The Game.” I love how the melody builds. Once again, Lily hits it out of the park with her version in the film. I can’t wait to listen to it on repeat!

Having grown up in LA, how are you finding New York life?

NY is the largest duality I’ve ever encountered. It’s intense, invigorating, chaotic, graceful, brutal, effortless, beautiful, harrowing and home. I do miss having my feet in grass and listening to the ocean on the coast of CA, but NYC teaches you so much about your limits and when to test them. I grew up in Los Angeles, but I found myself in New York. 

Do you see Broadway as one of the unique challenges that New York has to offer?

Absolutely. Broadway was the ultimate dream. I still pinch myself when I arrive at the theatre every night. With any dream comes a lot of discipline. Doing 8 shows a week is no easy feat. Relationships and friendships can suffer. Self care takes over and self love must be present. It is the most rewarding and most demanding experience I’ve ever had to endure.  But I’ve never had a family like the Broadway community. It’s truly the most accepting group of lovely artists I can imagine.

‘Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again’ is in cinemas now

PHOTOGRAPHY: IRA L. BLACK

INTERVIEW: ADAM CROOKES

HAIR: NATE ROSENKRANZ

MAKEUP: JOSEE LEDUC

STYLING: ASHLEY PRUITT

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Interview: Sonya Cassidy on AMC’s ‘Lodge 49’, ‘Humans’ & ‘The Woman In White’

Sonya Cassidy Photoshoot 2018

SONYA CASSIDY is landing roles in some of the most intriguing and unique TV shows of the year.

Sonya recently completely filming ‘Lodge 49′ – a major new AMC drama series in which she has a lead role. Set in Long Beach, California, the series centers on a young male ex-surfer (Wyatt Russell), who joins a fraternal lodge after his father’s death.

Sonya is currently starring in BBC One’s adaptation of Wilkie Collins’ classic gothic novel ‘The Woman In White’ alongside Jessie Buckley, Olivia Vinnal and Dougray Scott.

But Sonya is undoubtedly best known for her role in AMC’s sci-fi BAFTA-nominated series ‘Humans’. We had a quick conversation with Sonya Cassidy about all of her projects.

AC: You most recently starred in ‘The Woman In White’ – how did you land that role?

SONYA: I’d worked with Carl (Tibbetts) on ‘Humans’ the year before and he called me in to audition.

Did you read the novel after being cast?

I did and enjoyed it very much. I think we captured the suspense of the novel well, coupled with the beauty that people long for in a period drama. Northern Ireland provides that in abundance. I loved filming there.

Are you a fan of mystery novels?

I confess it’s not an avenue of literature I know. Until I read Woman in White for this job the mystery genre was very much that for me. I’ll happily delve into more though. Perhaps once I’ve gone through the pile of books I have at home.

Tell us about the character you play and how they fit into the story.

Madam Fosco is married to the charismatic, manipulative Count Fosco. On the run from his native Italy, the Fosco’s come to England to stay with their friend, Sir Percival, who’s in the cunning process of marrying a young woman solely for her fortune. I wanted to show Madam Fosco’s quiet, determination. Her agency, despite the era. Rather than reclining upon a chaise longue, quivering beneath her corset and swooning! at her husband’s goings on, she embraces the role of elusive partner in crime in a formidable way. Mainly in the preparation of toxic tea. Beware the sound of a cup and saucer if Madam is around.

Sonya Cassidy Photoshoot 2018

Your role in ‘Humans’ couldn’t be any more different. Do you have an opinion on AI and robots?

I do. Though I hold my hands up, I don’t have much tech in my life (that I’ve direct control of). In fact by modern standards I’m practically Victorian. My phone use is minimal, I’m not on FB, rarely tweet, I don’t own a laptop and I now write letters to friends and family when I’m away. Instead of email. And postcards. Of course. Who doesn’t love one of those?

AI is an incredible accomplishment of our time and I am in awe of those working for us and our planet within that realm. But there’s difference between the AI we interact with on a regular basis- lets say ‘Daily Tech’- and innovation in areas like science, medicine, the environment- ‘Big Picture Tech’. They have different motivations and to be aware of that is important I think. Cathy O’Neil’s book ‘Weapons of Math Destruction’ was a revelation to me and I highly recommend it. Her focus is algorithms, how they’re crafted and used. That’s something that should be grabbing our attention. It’s a far more pressing worry than sci-fi inspired, sentient robots. AI has become so woven into our lives, with things like social media, we can’t imagine a world without it. Already. I’m of a generation (born in 1887) that remembers not having a mobile phone, facebook etc. When I want to, I disconnect. I can find fulfilment in things totally unrelated. My concern is for those growing up knowing no different, who can’t disconnect. Those studying for work that may not even be available when they leave school. Balance is important. I think a lessening of Daily Tech would be no bad thing. The world will not implode. We also need better education as to AI’s impact on our lives and how to incorporate healthy habits alongside it. Not be so frequently dazzled with exciting sounding gadgets and apps from a small number at the helm, reluctant to divulge info about these things we “must have”, while they’re probably profiting. Transparency and accountability is vital for the future of our relationship with AI and each other. In the meantime, it’s totally fine not to be connected to everything. all. the. time. Again, the world will not implode.

Everyone seems to have an app idea at the moment – what would yours be?

[Laughs] Okay. At risk of sounding like a hypocrite based on my previous answer – I’d create an app that shares cultural habits and unique ways of life from countries all around the world. Each day/week you’d get sent info about a different nation to your own. It could be the holidays they celebrate and why, their cuisine, their music, cherished customs. You’d learn about somewhere new. See a place from a different perspective. Perhaps consider going there? When we travel we bring something back with us. Hopefully. This could provide a small window into those places which feel far off, but need not be unknown.

Sonya Cassidy Photoshoot 2018

You’ve also just been cast in a leading role in AMC’s ‘Lodge 49’ – have you worked on an American production before?

I’ve been in shows that have aired in the States, but this is my first US production.

You play the role of Liz Dudley, she is described as smart, fiercely independent and deeply cynical. Can you tell us a little bit about her?

What struck me with Liz is a character who I really liked from the get-go and who isn’t ticking any convenient boxes for a Female Character. Liz, like the show, defies easy categorization. Yes she’s smart, but still makes stupid decisions. She’s independent, but become lonely with it. She’s cynical and, I think, a refreshing realist. She works hard waiting tables but won’t/cannot focus that energy into her long term prospects. She’s not manicured for entertainment. There’s a ‘dirt’ under her finger nails and that’s part of what drew me to her and the project. I also think the more women we see on screen with that the better. We all have it. You want to hang out with the characters in ‘Lodge 49’ because they’re imperfect, but trying really hard. That proves hilarious and heart wrenching in equal measure.

Sonya Cassidy Photoshoot 2018

With the series being set in California – from your time there, what are some of the best places to visit?

The show is set in Long Beach which I really enjoyed spending time in. The view as you drive over the Vincent Thomas Bridge at sunset, looking out over sprawling yet perfectly ordered docks with beaches beyond- it never got old for me. Griffith Park and Observatory for views of LA and the universe. Runyon Canyon seems to be the go-to for an inner city view but Baldwin Heights gets my vote. Museum of Jurassic Technology- don’t google it, just go. Topanga makes you feel like you’re in a different time, gone by. It’s beautiful. As a Brit I happily indulged in the World Series last year. Catching a game at Dodger Stadium is good fun. The Getty museums… So much! Being a Londoner I’m used to walking everywhere, so I found LA quite overwhelming to begin with. It’s vast and seemingly unknowable. To counter this I did in a car what I’d do on foot. I just drove around and explored different neighbourhoods. Some are even walkable! Worry not, Europeans venturing to the West Coast! I’m aware this method of exploration will sound absurd to an Angeleno, but I recommend it. It helped get LA under my skin and appreciate how much it has to offer beyond what people know it for.

PHOTOGRAPHY: JOSEPH SINCLAIR

INTERVIEW: ADAM CROOKES

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Interview: Disney’s Meg Donnelly talks ‘Zombies’ & ‘American Housewife’

Interview: Milo Manheim on role in Disney’s ‘Zombies’