Interview: Tyler Alvarez on ‘American Vandal’ & ‘Orange Is The New Black’

From the streets of the Bronx to the steps of Hollywood, 20-year-old TYLER ALVAREZ has positioned himself as the ‘one to watch’ as he stars in the lead role of hit Netflix series ‘American Vandal’ for a second season. The show is a true crime satire that explores the aftermath of a costly high school prank. The new season of ‘American Vandal’ – which has just launched on Netflix – is being praised by critics for its subtle humor and engrossing plot, citing Tyler’s performance as having an incredible sense of authenticity. Tyler recently also had a role in another acclaimed Netflix show, as fan-favorite Benny Mendoza in ‘Orange Is The New Black’.

AC: What was it like growing up in the Bronx?

TYLER ALVAREZ: I felt a real sense of community when I lived there. I hung out with all the kids on the block and was a real “stoop kid”. We would play kickball in the street during the day, and manhunt at night.

Where do you feel most at home now, in New York or Los Angeles?

LA. I have created such a fun and exciting life for myself that all really takes place here. NY is my home and will always be at my core. However, it’s tough being away from family for such long periods of time. Definitely miss the sense of family being in NY and the free food that comes along with it. But my hearts in LA.

Tyler Alvarez

What do you think fans can expect from this new season of ‘American Vandal’?

In season two, we see Peter and Sam solving a new crime at St. Bernadine Catholic high school where the Turd burglar is terrorizing the students, tainting the cafeteria lemonade causing everyone to poop uncontrollably. The stakes of this crime are way higher than anything we have done before. It is by far Peter’s most challenging case to date.

With your role in ‘Orange Is The New Black’, you work alongside some more mature actors. Who would you say that you learn from the most?

I have learned the most from Selenis [Leyva] who plays my mom on the show. What I’ve picked up on, is how active her and the rest of the cast’s imaginations are. As if it was taffy that they had been pulling at for years. Also, the constant grace and humility that the ‘Orange Is The New Black’ cast demonstrates daily. One of the stars helped me carry my lunch back to my dressing room one time, because of course I had over dosed at the crafty table, and it was a simple gesture, but it meant a lot to me being such a such a small fish in this big sea that is ‘Orange Is The New Black’. Everyone really made me feel comfortable from day one on that set.

Tyler Alvarez

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

That anything is attainable. No matter who you are or what circumstances lie in your way. If you have confidence in yourself, you will succeed. Sometimes I have to remind myself of that.

Comparing both ‘Orange Is The New Black’ and ‘American Vandal’ – is the vibe on the sets completely different?

They are the same but different. Creative, family like cast. The topics we are tackling are especially different. On ‘American Vandal,’ we are satirizing a lot of serious topics, but we’re laughing at ourselves at the same time, so there is a certain levity that comes along with that. The topics that ‘Orange Is The New Black’ tackles are a lot more sensitive, so there is a lot more respect in the air that creates the environment for actors to bring these kinds of stories to life. But ‘American Vandal’ is my home.

Tyler Alvarez

How much can you tell us about your upcoming film ‘The Pretenders’?

I play Doug, a kid in college who wants to be an artist. He goes on a journey of self-discovery while facing college life and the social constraints of the 80s. For this role I was able to really transform physically. Transforming is by far one my favorite parts of the process. I hope people recognize me!

What was it like being directed by James Franco?

James is a real actor’s director and has a lot of passion in everything he does. While filming ‘The Pretenders,’ he would host a screening of a French Noir film every night after wrap so that we all really got a sense of what we were going after, since there are a lot of homages to French Noir films. He really adds inspiration to a working experience.

Tyler Alvarez

QUICK QUESTIONS WITH TYLER ALVAREZ

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

Oh god. Hot sauce and eggos. I don’t recommend it, actually maybe I do.

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

I can’t tell you about it because of the Non-Disclosure Agreement.

Is there a sport you wish you could play?

Heck no. I’ll stay inside in the AC, thank you very much! [laughs]

Are you supporting a football team?

Giants

Do you have a philosophy?

Don’t sweat the small stuff because it’s all small stuff (I’m not very good at it though).

What’s the last film you watched?

The Seven Five

If you had one superpower, what would it be?

Fly

What’s the last photograph you took?

A cave from my vacation in Greece.

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

Flying cars

Tyler Alvarez

TYLER ALVAREZ’S SPOTIFY PLAYLIST

PHOTOGRAPHY: LESLIE ALEJANDRO

INTERVIEW: ADAM CROOKES

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Interview: Antonio Jaramillo – The Art That Found The Man

ANTONIO JARAMILLO didn’t know he wanted to be an actor, but now after more than a decade in Hollywood – he has guest starred in some of the most popular shows on television from ‘The Mentalist’ to ‘Arrested Development’ to ‘Outlaw’.

The Mexican-born actor is currently starring in the ‘Sons Of Anarchy’ spin-off ‘Mayans MC’ on FX Network, a two-wheel tale set only a few years after the events of the original series. Antonio is part of an ensemble that includes acting giants like Edward James Olmos. 

AC: When did you realize that you wanted to become an actor?

ANTONIO: Honestly, I never thought that I would become an actor; but I did! And I am so grateful for it because it has given me a sense of self, a profession, and a wonderful life! Art found me and it saved me. When I stumbled upon the great plays of Anton Chekhov, Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams, Clifford Odets, David Mamet and so many others; I was hooked!

You’ve guest starred in some of the biggest shows on television, what has it been like to finally land a leading role?

Well, I am extremely happy to be a part of the cast of FX’s ‘Sons Of Anarchy’ spin-off show ‘Mayans MC’! Not sure I would describe the role as a lead because the show is an ensemble type of show with a bunch of great actors but I do hope that Michael ‘Riz’ Ariza becomes one of the fan favorites!

Tell us about ‘Mayans MC’, how does it differ from ‘Sons Of Anarchy’?

All of you fans of ‘Sons Of Anarchy’ know exactly what to expect from Kurt Sutter! Well, expect that and then multiply it by one-hundred and then add some fresh jalapeños on top of that and that is what ‘Mayans MC’ will be sexy, cool and badass!

How does your character ‘Riz’ fit into the story?

Michael “Riz” Ariza is the secretary in the club which means he keeps an eye on all the green that comes in and oversees all the green that goes out and tracks whatever is spent on covering expenses and the costs of running our biz!

Do you own a motorcycle yourself?

I don’t personally have one right now but I am seriously considering getting one. Although, I’m not sure how often I would get to ride it because I have to go get my baby girl from school three days out of the week. So it’s much easier to jump in my jeep! But man, I do enjoy riding my Harley on set!

If you did, how would it be customized?

I love the Street King which is the same type of bike my character rides on the show or the new Fat Bob is pretty hot too.

Do you have any funny stories from on-set?

There are so many funny stories! I think we have too much fun on set. They have to constantly tell us to shut up and focus or as Kurt likes to say “don’t fuck it up”.

Is it true that you train wild animals?

I do train wild animals at home! I also have these huge stuffed animals – a white polar bear and a lion and I like to get them to do tricks but they never do. But I do keep them pretty quiet!

You’ve been working in Hollywood for almost fifteen years now, what’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

I don’t recall any particular advice that I have been given, but I work in the theatre a lot and I enjoy watching my peers do their thing! Especially the older, seasoned actors. You can learn so much if you truly observe and keep your mouth shut. Although, I do love the Winston Churchill quote – “if you are going through hell, keep going”.

PHOTOGRAPHY: STORM SANTOS

INTERVIEW: ADAM CROOKES

STYLING: CASSY MEIER (Some pieces also provided by V22LA)

GROOMING: EMILY ZEMPEL

LOCATION: V22LA

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Interview: Michael Goi on Cinematography for ‘American Horror Story’

MICHAEL GOI takes us behind the camera as we explore what life is like as a cinematographer for television. Michael is known for being a longtime collaborator with Ryan Murphy – working on both the cinematography and directing for major TV shows like ‘American Horror Story’, ‘Glee’ and ‘Scream Queens’. 

Over the course of the past decade, Michael has won and been nominated for various Primetime Emmy Awards. He also wrote and directed the dramatic feature film ‘Megan Is Missing’ and is currently directing a supernatural horror film ‘Mary’ starring Oscar-winner Gary Oldman.

AC: How would you describe your directing style?

MICHAEL: I make a shot list for the entire movie or episode during prep. The shot list is to remind me what the important story and character elements are. It helps me read the script if I break it down into shots.When I actually start shooting, I never look at the shot list. At that point, I don’t have to. The important things are in my head.

I work quickly. You never hear me say “That was great! Let’s shoot another one.” If it was great, why shoot another one? If I loved the performance on a take, I ask the crew if everyone was good on their end with the technical side.

I always have the scene edited in my head, so that when I film an angle, I know what part of the scene it will be used for. I feel that when you shoot every single angle in every shot size possible, the scene lacks the kind of design needed to be more than just a bunch of shots edited together.

How do you approach working with actors on-set?

When you work with the caliber of actors that I do, you need to say very little. When an actor says “I got it” – I stop talking – because anything you say after that will only muddle the concept the actor has.

I always direct by standing right next to the camera. That way I can immediately speak to them in a conversational level of voice when giving them direction.

‘American Horror Story’ has just made the shift from shooting on film to digital – where do cinematographers currently stand in their choice between the two? 

The cost difference between shooting on film or digital video has become smaller, and I think we’re entering a period where cinematographers can once again choose which medium best suits the efficiency and artistry of the project. The kinds of looks I created on film for the first five seasons of ‘American Horror Story’ were a part of the visual lexicon of those seasons the same as Nelson Cragg’s use of digital video in season six of ‘American Horror Story’ was integral to the style of that season.

Can you explain some of the differences creatively between Episodic directing and directing a standalone film?

When you direct an episode of an existing show, the visual style and characterizations are relatively set. You still have some room to expand on the look and play with the characters as long as it doesn’t start to seem like a different show. When I directed the ‘Pretty Little Liars’ episode “Hit And Run, Run, Run” – I asked for a couple of wider lenses than the show normally carried. The cinematographer – Larry Reibman – was very open to trying new things, and we did some very dynamic compositions which increased the tension between characters because you could see more of them in the same frame at the same time.

On a feature film, the director has more say about the creative aspects of the project, both visually and dramatically. ‘American Horror Story’ was very different because we encouraged directors to constantly come up with things that the show had never done before.

Just looking back over the many seasons of ‘American Horror Story’ – when do you think there was the most dramatic aesthetic shift?

Every season, things have changed in major ways. “Murder House” had a very stately, moody elegance, “Asylum” had a whacked-out, nightmarish, monochromatic feel, “Coven” had a glowing air of magic and mystery, “Freak Show” had an antique look of decay and decadence, “Hotel” had a noir-ish, suffocating, insular atmosphere, and “Roanoke” had the air of reality television. We tried to make a different show every season using the same cast. I think it’s one of the most innovative programs on television.

INTERVIEW: ADAM CROOKES

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EUROS LYN takes us behind the camera as we explore what life is like as a TV director. Euros is known for directing some of the most popular British drama in recent years from ‘Sherlock’ and ‘Doctor Who’ to ‘Black Mirror’ and ‘Broadchurch’.

Over the course of the past decade, Euros has won and been nominated for various BAFTA Television Awards. Alongside his work in the UK, the Welsh director has also worked on FOX’s ‘Gracepoint’ and Netflix’s ‘Daredevil’ – directing multiple episodes.

AC: To what extent does a director have to compromise on their own creative style with episodic TV directing?

EUROS: Historically in TV, the writer is king. I think that’s changing a little; TV commissioners are hungry for (brilliantly written) shows that also have more authored direction. There’s a big difference between being the lead director on a show where you’re making all the key creative decisions about tone, style, casting etc and being an episodic director further down the line where you inherit those decisions. Creatively, a director must always give their all, but the parameters within which you work are stricter when you join later in the season.

Would that frustrate directors who haven’t worked in TV before?

The rules are pretty clear. When you direct a later episode it’s possible to have an incredibly satisfying creative experience – as long as you go into it with your eyes open.

Is there a difference in the pace of filming an American production compared to a British one?

The Americans are much better resourced but have less time. US shows have ten days of prep, in the UK we have several weeks. Shooting time is similar. Editing in the States is crazy – four days in the cutting room before they boot you out. In the UK we have many weeks and the director stays on to picture-lock, which I think makes the work better.

How do you go about preparing for a new project?

At the start of pre-production I’ll create a blueprint in consultation with my [Director of Photography], Production Designer and other [Department Heads] which is shared with everyone on the production. With so much drama being made, being innovative and distinctive is essential. If you want to create something that breaks with convention you need to communicate clearly with your crew so they can best deliver your vision. I try and be as organised as I can when I’m in production with shotlists and storyboards for action or VFX – I want every minute of the shooting day to be used to create good work.

Do you have a particular way of working with your actors on-set?

I want actors to be as unburdened by the industrial processes of film-making as possible so they can be free to do their best work. The more ownership I can give them over their work, the better – less direction is always more.

What will buzz around your head on the night before a shoot?

Will the film in my head be the film I make.

As a director, what are you still trying to learn?

When something’s worked in the past (e.g. how to shoot a piece of action, or how a piece of music sits on a scene) it’s easy to try to replicate that, because I know it works. I’m always kicking myself to take a risk and try something new. It doesn’t always work, but I always learn something.

Across all the projects you’ve worked on, which has taught you the most about the craft of directing?

Early on I worked with a terrific [Director of Photography] called Ray Orton who was extremely patient with my lack of experience and taught me a huge amount about visual storytelling. I’m very grateful to him.

Looking to the future, what are your ambitions as a director in terms of projects?

I’d love to be directing TV and films till the day I drop dead.

INTERVIEW: ADAM CROOKES

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Interview: Elarica Johnson on ‘A Discovery Of Witches’

ELARICA JOHNSON is an unmissable actress – having appeared in some of the most talked about productions of the past few years.

Her big-screen break came when she featured in ‘Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince’ (2009). She then later starred in the BBC One television series ‘Srike’ based on JK Rowling’s trilogy of novels published under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith. Elarica was seen last year alongside Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford in the much-anticipated ‘Blade Runner 2049’, then just a few months later appeared in ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’.

Elarica’s range of exciting projects has extended further this year, with roles in ‘How To Talk To Girls At Parties’ and ‘A Discovery Of Witches’.

‘A Discovery of Witches’ is a contemporary love story set against the backdrop of Oxford academic life, but in a world where a handful of witches, vampires and daemons live and work unseen amongst humans, hiding in plain sight. Elarica stars alongside Teresa Palmer and Matthew Goode in what is set to be Sky’s tent-pole drama for this Autumn.

AC: You’ve had roles in a huge range of films – from indies to blockbusters. Which directors have you particularly enjoyed working with?

ELARICA: I’ve felt really lucky to work with such brilliant directors along the way. I would say working with Denis Villeneuve (‘Blade Runner 2049’) was amazing, but totally nerve-wracking at the same time. He’s so great at what he does, that it puts everyone at ease on the day, although being a big fan of his work and being quite in awe of it I was a little nervous. Oliver Frampton (‘The Forgotten’) played a big part in what I would call my ‘actors transition’; the moment I decided what kind of actress I wanted to be. He definitely gave me space and confidence to make choices.

It’s also meant that you’ve worked alongside some really big names – who have you been starstruck by?

Star struck always makes me think of cartoon characters being dazed after being hit on the head! I’m yet to feel that way, but I must say that it felt extra special working alongside Ryan Gosling and having a little boogie with Nicole Kidman between takes.

Tell us about ‘A Discovery Of Witches’. How did you get involved in the project?

‘A Discovery Of Witches’ is a fabulous trilogy about Vampires, Witches and Daemons. I think I knew from the first meeting that I wanted it. Juliette Durand was everything I had hoped for in a character so being cast in the role was such an achievement.

How does your character fit into the story?

Juliette is one of the oldest vampires. She has a romantic history with fellow vampire Matthew. At the hands of Gerbert, an old and powerful vampire Juliette is taught to crave Matthew Clairmont with a mission to collect secrets from him and possibly kill him as Gerbert also trains her to be an assassin.

Have you read the novel that it’s based on?

I’m currently reading it now! There is a difference in tone I’ve noticed, but very enjoyable.

Are you a big reader?

I’ve always been more stuck on film, but a good book to pick up on my travels is nice. Before ‘A Discovery Of Witches’ I read a book called ‘Dark Night of the Soul’ – I would really recommend this one. Super good for the soul!

Do you believe in the supernatural?

Yes indeed. There are definitely things we don’t know about and I’m the type that’s happy not to know for now!

Everyone seems to have an app idea at the moment – what’s yours?

A place just for girls to swap or buy outfits. Instagram lets everyone know what you have worn and most of my friends never wear those dresses or outfits again. I’d definitely swap!

‘A Discovery of Witches’ will be available on Sky One and streaming service NOW TV from Friday 14th September

INTERVIEW: ADAM CROOKES

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