Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Actor Spotlight: Rick Dalton, Sheriff Rick Dalton

Rick Dalton as Sheriff Dalton
If we were to look you up on a dating profile, what would your bio read?

Well, my OkCupid bio goes: I'm pretty creative, and have learned to organize it. I consider myself to be a pretty good deal. Never boring. I make my friends laugh a lot. I'm the diametric opposite of banal. I'm all heart, to a fault. I'm passionate about many things. I find it extremely difficult to fill out a self-summary honestly without sounding like a tool.

Tell us about your character in this season, in the same format.

I'm in law enforcement, but I'm not the stereotypical heavy-handed jerk. I have a passion for my work, and enjoy helping people, but when I'm off duty, I'm just like anyone, except more interesting and exciting. I have a ton of things to offer, if you just get to know me. I'm full of surprises and always thinking. Let's go find adventure together, if you dare.

How did watching season one impact your performance in season two?

Season one was a crash course for me in acting-for-camera. I had to learn. I'm OK with much of what I did in the first season, but not all of it. Seeing my acting in season one made me redouble my efforts in season two to just be as believable as possible, which, when I say it, sounds like it's probably a truism. My acting technique is a simple one: Try really hard not to look or sound fake. I've learned a good deal, but I still feel really new at acting, which I actually am. Especially around experienced actors who have done countless plays and roles, like Christine, Denis, Brent, Ben, or Erik. They aren't just believable in their roles, they're interesting, which is where one strives to end up. You can see their character's past, and hear tons of dialog that they're not actually saying in their faces and movements. You can know what they're thinking, on multiple levels, with just a look. Why just yesterday, I saw the brand new episode thirteen, and for a moment, it was just Cathy Counts and me on the screen. It made me feel like a big shot. Such an honor. I don't think her and I ended up having any lengthy exchanges in season two and three, but if we did, I would've had to step up my game big time. I'm not slamming myself, but you can feel when you're acting with someone who knows what the hell they're doing. I can do angry, mean, intimidating, evil, insane, and cocky, but there's a whole spectrum of dramatic acting that I've never even tried. I keep getting cast as imposing or intense figures, and I like that just fine, it's very comfortable, but I have yet to see how I'd fare playing a character who's 180 degrees different from my natural state.

What projects are you currently working on or have you been working on since Ragged Isle wrapped shooting?

I am currently in post-production of my directorial debut feature film, "Between Heaven and Earth." I'm extremely proud of it, and can't wait to present it to the world.

What is your favorite behind-the-scenes moment during the production of Ragged Isle?

Unfortunately, my favorite behind the scenes moment involves details that would give away an exciting plot twist that's coming up! I'd really love to tell you about the experience, perhaps ask me again after the episode airs. Gotta keep those Ragged Isle secrets! For now, I guess I'll just tell you in private.

What is your favorite thing(s) about your character?

His courage and tenacity. His huge heart.

What do you and your character have in common?

We're both well versed in firearms. We both like to be left alone while on the computer. We both have intuition that edges into precognition. We can both sing.

What do you and your character have least in common?

I think the Sheriff is braver than I am. Some of the things he runs into on the island would have me fleeing in terror. And he dares to lean in for the kiss, whereas I have to be clubbed over the head. Also, he owns and maintains a motor vehicle, while I just own a bicycle.

If you could play any other character on Ragged Isle who would it be and why?

I wouldn't have minded taking a crack at Harrison Shaw or Vance Trundle, because I can do intimidating and mysterious, but I can't imagine anyone more perfect for those roles than Todd and Denis. The casting matches in Ragged Isle are scarily dead-on. Not to blow my own horn, but I'm perfect for the role of the sheriff, even I can see that on the screen. If I weren't me, and I saw that guy as the sheriff, I would be very interested to see what he's gonna do next, so I know the character works.

We’re not sure who survives the second and third seasons of Ragged Isle... any last words just in case your character doesn’t make it?

Last words? As me, or the sheriff? Fans have been repeatedly warned not to get too attached to anyone on Ragged Isle, which is of course impossible with such endearing characters. If it were the sheriff's last words, maybe he'd say something like: “Get Vicki out of here!” If it were my last words, I'd say: "Pleeeeease....Don't kill me!"

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Episode Thirteen... and behind-the-scenes writer's commentary

"Ragged Isle" episode thirteen, "Drowning Man," is up.  Check it out, and when you're done, read on for a behind-the-scenes writer's commentary.

Have you watched it?  Because there will spoilers in the rest of this post, for this episode and everything that came before.  Fair warning

You know what my favorite thing about this episode is?  I got to take a power drill and drill a hole in Sebastian Carlsen.  Hell, yes!

(Okay, maybe that's not my favorite thing.  But it's pretty damned awesome.)

This episode endured a number of rewrites, many due to logistical concerns, though all the changes ultimately benefited the show, I think.  (One of the rewrites -- of season two as a whole -- actually conjured this episode into existence.  More on that in a moment.)

For example, as scripted, the first scene, between Paul, Eric, and Louis, originally took place in a big office that had belonged to Louis's mentor, Harrison Shaw (played in season one by Todd Manter), the idea being that Louis would look very small behind Shaw's enormous desk, which he has inherited.  But we couldn't secure a decent office location (or a big enough desk), and the scene was moved outside, which I believe works much better.  First of all it looks great, showing off once again Maine's beautiful outdoors.  Plus it puts Paul and Eric in an environment in which they're pretty comfortable (but Louis isn't), and it gives us another glimpse of the island blockade, reminding us of this season's raised stakes.  There's some nice work from all three actors in this scene.

The second scene, between Rose and Julie, originally took place in the grocery store.  But we had too many scenes set in the grocery store, which had to remain open while we were shooting, and we just couldn't cover them all in the limited time we had available.  So the scene was moved to Rose's kitchen, and it ends up being a much more intimate setting for Julie and Rose to discuss Julie's interrogation.  I'm in love with all of the acting in this episode.  Beth Saufler and Amie Marzen serve up a nice snapshot of the intimacy between Rose and Julie, as well as some barriers that still exist between them.

The autopsy scene never changed locations, but there was a lot of back-and-forth about what exactly the audience would see.  Barry really wanted us to have a "Twin Peaks moment," like when Agent Cooper stuck the tweezers deep beneath a dead Laura Palmer's fingernail to retrieve a clue.  For our scene, Barry envisioned a close-up of oversized cotton swab being slowly pulled from a hole in a victim's chest.  (We even discussed -- at length -- just how much blood and other bodily goo should be clinging to the swab as it is pulled out.)  I did some research into tests for drowning, and came up with the diatom test, which compares bacteria found in the victim's lung to bacteria found in the local water supply.  The lung isn't usually reached with a power drill of course, but I figured that on an island without a lab, locked down and with few available facilities, the doctor would have to improvise a bit.  This may be wildly unsound, but I'm keen on the effect of the drill and the cotton swab.  And let me tell you something, that drill was fun to wield.  Our special effects wizard, Eric Anderson, rigged up a rubber torso, and poor Sebastian had to crouch at the end of the table, leaning his head way back to complete the illusion.  There was a Styrofoam cup full of fake blood directly beneath the spot I had to drill (and dip the swab).  I hope we achieved the "ick" factor we were going for without being too stomach-churning.

This sequence also features the first face-to-face encounter between Sheriff Dalton and Agent Thorne (something that fans have been anticipating since the season began), and it does not disappoint.  The sheriff's great line, "Control the lobsters, control the world!" came directly from the mind of Rick Dalton, and I love love love the way he delivers it.  We also get to meet the great Cathy Counts as Ragged Isle resident doctor Gail Monroe.  We'll see more of her.

In this episode, we see more of Vicki's investigation, as she digs up old archived Ragged Isle Star articles—which I like to imagine were scanned somewhat haphazardly over the years by Vance Trundle, who probably didn't catalog or cross-reference his work very thoroughly.  So Vicki's search for relevant stories probably amounts to sifting through tons and tons of fine sand in the hopes of turning up the occasional gold nugget.  Which is the definition of good journalism, come to think of it.  We'll see more of the fruits of her investigation very soon.

If you freeze-frame on Vicki's computer screen, you might be able to read the text of the two articles  Vicki has pulled up -- one an archived story from 1937 about the death of a factory heiress, and one a contemporary story Vicki's working on about the island lobstering ban.  The first one's a clue, obviously, more of Vicki's investigation into what exactly's going on.

Again, I love the acting in this scene, as the tension just rises and rises.  Oh, and  Vance's line, "You're a good man, sister," is a direct lift from "The Maltese Falcon" -- a little present for people who love that movie (as I do).

After season one aired, the decision was made to split the already written ten-episode second season into two separate seasons of six episodes apiece, which meant writing two new episodes and tearing apart all of the existing episodes, and pasting them back together in ways that made sense.  Episode thirteen was one of the "new" episodes (though it contains scenes that had been in earlier drafts of season two).  After my first pass on the episode, it was running a bit short, but I realized we didn't have enough Madame Clelia in this season.  So I added the scene on the street, which is a nice showcase for Kathryn Coccyx and further illustrates how divided the island has become.  It's a nice showcase for Louis too, as he takes control of a situation in a way we haven't seen before.

In case it hasn't become obvious by now, the title of every episode of "Ragged Isle" is also the title of a U2 song.  I'm particularly fond of how well this title, "Drowning Man," fits with this episode, which features Louis drowning in his new responsibilities, Sebastian apparently dead by drowning, and Vance Trundle drowning in a sea of Homeland Security questions.  Each of these characters is, in his own way, the drowning man of the title.

I like the camera perspective we get at the beginning of the interrogation scene, which gives a different flavor from the Julie interrogation scene of the last episode.  Still, Agent Thorne continues to prove her badassery.  Her cold stare at Vance Trundle after he attempts to cut the interview short is a joy to behold.

The interrogation scene and the evidence room were both shot at the Baxter Memorial Library in Gorham, Maine (where we shot the library scene in episode six last season).  They were unbelievably gracious and generous letting us use their facility, and the payoff for us is an incredibly cool-looking, authentic set.  We are so grateful to them.

That's actor Benjamin Row as the agent who answers the phone in the evidence room when Thorne is looking for Griggs.  Ben was one of the people who showed up when we put out a call for extras to play agents.  And then he kept showing up, helping out in about a thousand different ways.  Whenever we needed an agent extra, Ben was there.  Whenever we needed something else, Ben was there.  He became such a fixture on the set that we started giving him lines.  "You've got Murphy," and his mispronunciation of "Katsarakis" last week.

Ben's also a stage actor, and during a recent run of "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)," he wore his Ragged Isle t-shirt every night on stage.  He is a "Ragged Isle" hero.  Thanks, Ben!

Have I covered everybody?  Probably not.  But I want to say again that all the actors in this episode brought their A-game, and Barry brought his A-game to shooting and cutting it.

And the music!  Again:  So, so good.

I love this episode.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Latest "Isle Talk" now with a give away!

"Actress of the week" Amie E. Marzen and Barry Dodd talk about their work in episode twelve of Ragged Isle and set up the very first giveaway of season 2!  All you have to do is leave a comment over at youtube on episode twelve and you'll be in the running for a pretty cool prize!  What's the prize?  You'll just have to watch and see.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Hi there Ragged Isle blog followers,

Julie Kats-kar-kakis, Cadillackiss, Katsinabasket, Katsarakis, or you know, Amie... here to chat up episode 12... an episode I've been DYING to talk about... wait, wrong word choice, don't want Barry getting the idea of killing my character.... um... really looking forward to talking about for awhile now, but you know, couldn't due to the whole Ragged Isle secrecy pact.  Before you read the blog below, please watch the episode as I have some spoilers in here and things that just plumb wouldn't make sense if you didn't watch it.

Anyhoo, episode 12 is a really exciting one for Julie's character.  This was a shoot I was looking forward to and talked with Barry about quite a bit.  In season one Julie comes in and out in little bits and it's really exciting that audiences are getting to see her a bit more and learn more about her... and of course her not-so-secret favorite... Deputy Dan. <3  In season one, Barry mentioned that Julie had a past, he didn't say what exactly. ... but geesh, what a rap sheet!  In talking with Barry and developing Julie's character a bit more, it seemed to me that Julie would be CRUSHED to have Dan find out about her past that she's been trying so hard to leave behind.  He is, after all, part of that new perfect image she's been building.  So Barry was cool enough to add a little extra moment where Julie sees Dan through the window and can't quite look him in the eye. I really love this moment for the two and the look that Dan (Erik Moody) gives Julie through the glass literally makes me "aww" out loud each time. Will Dan still love Julie if she's flawed... and worse yet, a former convict? He is the epitome of by-the-book local law after all!

This scene was shot at the Gorham Public Library just before it opened one morning, so we were on a pretty tight schedule to keep things moving.  There were quite a few scenes to get through in a short window.  And that morning as we arrived on set Karen and Barry made the decision that the lines in the lobby area where Dan and Julie are waiting for her to be called should all be flip flopped.  So every line Julie was supposed to say was now Dan's and vice versa, and then it flipped back when Dan asked about Rose. Originally it was Dan comforting Julie who was worried about being interrogated, instead we get to see a softer side of Dan and his concern for his gal and Julie's brave front prevails... until the all-too-familiar interrogation room reminds her of her less behaved days and her perfect persona gets smashed to bits with one small manilla folder full of secrets.  I like the last minute flip flop, what do you think?

One of my favorite parts of this episode is when agent Ben Row comes out to call Julie in.  Literally there could have been five minutes of bloopers, ad libbing and improvisation here with Julie's awesome last name.  (One day I will search out the real Katsarakises that inspired Greg to name Julie and hopefully get a t-shirt from their family reunion. I'll have to add that to my bucket list.) But Ben's subtle "uh huh", also makes me choke and laugh each time I see it, such a little moment, but so fun.

Agent Thorne, played beautifully by Kathryn Perry, is super scary and intense.  I'm pretty sure her piercing eyes have X-ray vision.  She's scary without seeming over the top, kind of when you're a kid and you're scared of a teacher or parent because of "the look" they can give- Thorne's got that down.  We did the interrogation scene a few times a couple of different ways, which was really a fun acting challenge. I could have done that all day and probably tried to make that happen.  Barry had us do a: happy "alls well/ keep up the front" Julie, scared Julie, prison Julie, angry Julie, and lastly, a crying Julie.  Prison Julie was probably my favorite- I'm dying to play a REAL badass I guess and it's so NOT what you'd expect for the over-perky bubbly overachiever we've seen of Julie so far.  It's not what she'd like Dan to see, certainly.  I really am glad that we didn't rush this scene and that Barry let me try a few different ways to act it out, it was fun.   Thanks B.

A funny bit about "crying Julie".  Ok, so to prep I took a few minutes and put some headphones on and listened to some songs that ALWAYS, without fail, make me cry.  I'm sure everyone has a few songs like that, right? Anyway, so I'm listening and trying to become sad, which is tough on the Ragged Isle set because generally there's a lot of fun and kidding around and keeping things light.  I was just about ready to go and went to the bathroom to go splash some water on my face and really lock in on the sad.  I crossed the library, knocked. on. the. door -  and went in.... and totally walked in on some postal worker, um... going to the bathroom.  Yup.  There goes my sad place, flushed down the toilet with... ok you get the idea.  Anyway, so I bolted into the other bathroom, (after knocking extra excessively and hard, cracking the door and half peeking to MAKE SURE this one was vacant) and then completely lost it.

Dear Mr. Postal Worker Guy who delivers to the Gorham Libary,

I'm really sorry about bothering you at such a delicate time. I really am.  Please know I wasn't laughing at you, I was embarrassed and it was awkward and please, please please, lock the door next time... or at least when someone knocks say SOMETHING. Anything! It doesn't have to be funny or clever or even a word... just give people a heads up that the bathroom is occupado and we'll leave you alone, ok?  I'm really, realllllllllllly sorry and will never be able to un-see or forget you.

Truly sorry,
Julie Katsarakis

So yeah, I didn't get crying Julie to where I wanted at that exact moment.... and had to take a few more moments to try to get that one done, but it came out well in the editing and I am really proud of the whole rollercoaster episode, including the saucy moments with Ian and Meghan or Paul and Vicki (Paulki).  Ow ow! As Ian puts it, episode 12 has 100% more kissing! Haha.... and shh, I'll let you know a little secret.... there is more kissing by the time Ragged Isle ends.... but I'm not saying who! Maybe it's a whole kiss fest and we all kiss... this is a soap opera!...  I'm not sure, we'll all have to watch and see.

Hope you enjoyed the episode! Thanks for your support!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Episode Twelve... and behind-the-scenes writer's commentary

"Ragged Isle" episode twelve, "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For," is up.  Check it out, and when you're done, read on for a behind-the-scenes writer's commentary.

Are you done? OK, there will spoilers in the rest of the post, for this episode and everything that came before.

One early idea was for there to be parallel investigations into what has happened on the island -- an "official" one that doesn't consider a supernatural explanation, and an unofficial one that does.  What emerged in writing season two were actually three investigations.  The official one is now being led by Homeland Security Agent Allison Thorne, who's being assisted by Deputy Dan, who last season was assisting Sheriff Dalton, who this season seems to have shifted the focus of his investigation to include the possibility of the supernatural.  Somewhere in between are Vicki and Paul, who are willing to go wherever the evidence leads.  It will be fun to watch these investigations ping-pong off each other as this season (not to mention next season) progresses.  And the lucky audience will be privy to what everybody uncovers, even if the different investigators don't share with each other.

So, Deputy Dan's unanswered question to Julie about Rose:  That's interesting, no?  When we were shooting the lobster festival massacre two summers ago, Barry somewhat spontaneously asked actress Beth Saufler (who plays Rose) to whisper in the ear of Amie E Marzen (who plays Julie).  "What's she whispering?" I asked him, which, as the head writer, I thought was a fair question.  Barry grinned mischievously and said, "I dunno.  But it's always cool to have people whispering."  When the episode aired in May, 2011, I don't think anybody had any idea what Rose was supposed to be whispering, but Barry was right.  It was cool.

So, when it came time to rewrite season two, that whisper was on my mind.  Julie's account to Deputy Dan is what I came up with.  What do you think?  And what do you think it means?  How did Rose know something bad was about to happen?  Feel free to speculate in the comments section.

The interrogation scene between Julie Katsarakis and Agent Thorne boasts terrific acting from both actresses and features a reveal that's been a long, long time coming:  the secret sordid history of Julie Katsarakis.  We've had that one in our back pocket from the very beginning (yes, Amie too), and it's been a delight watching Amie's performance as the always-upbeat Julie, knowing that there was more to that character than meets the eye.  I believe Barry had Amie play the scene many wildly different ways, then cut various takes together for a jarring, unsettling effect.  Very cool, dude.

While I was writing episodes this season, one note I had for my character (Dr. Hoffman) is that he and Sheriff Dalton should each consider the other man his sidekick.  I imagined Dr. Hoffman thinking of himself as a fearless investigator, poking into strange and mysterious goings-on around Maine, and the sheriff would be his local guide on the island.  Meanwhile, Sheriff Dalton would see himself as the lead investigator on the case, with Dr. Hoffman brought on as an outside consultant.

I still think this is a funny idea, but there are a couple of problems:  1) I don't think I ever managed to fully execute the idea on the page, and 2) Rick Dalton is such an impressive, imposing figure (in real life and on the screen), it's hard to imagine anyone thinking of him as just a sidekick.  However, I think there are still traces of the idea to be found in this episode.  Like Hoffman's skepticism at Madame Clelia's, or his taking over the questioning of Gus Hendershot at the grocery store.  It's not much, but there are hints that each man secretly thinks he's in charge.  I just wish I'd been able to push it further.

The CDC identification I flash for Gus was created by co-writer/poster-designer/bean-can-maker/graphics-guru/all-around-swell-guy Jacob Lear.  Fun fact:  He spelled Brian Hoffman's first name, "Brain."  Ha!

During shooting of the first season, I was notorious for knowing every single line by heart, and for gently (I hope) correcting actors when they strayed too far from the path.  I wasn't on set behind the camera as much this season, and when I was in front of the camera, I was usually more focused on my lines than anyone else's, but Rick tells me that in the scene outside Madame Clelia's, I was silently mouthing his lines along with him.  He said the effect was somewhat disconcerting, but I had no idea I had been doing it.  It wasn't caught on camera in that scene, and I hope to God I didn't do it on camera anywhere else.  I can just imagine Barry pulling his hair out trying to cut together a scene without revealing my Rain Man-like capacity for / obsession with knowing everyone else's lines.

OK, enough from the writer/actor.  Here are some stray observations from a fan:

1) Man, does Barry Dodd know how to shoot (and cut) a scene or what?  That kiss between Vicky and Paul is epic!  The acting, the lighting, the music -- everything.  Holy cow!

2) And the tail-end of that scene, the very last second, when the wind blows Vicki's hair out of her face, and then we get a matching cut of the sheriff sweeping Madame Clelia's curtains aside?  Nicely done, Barry.

3) It's always great to see Kathryn Coccyx as Madame Clelia.  She just bring something special to the role.  And yes, that's her house (with minimal set decoration) standing in for Madame Clelia's home.

4) Farewell, Sebastian Carlsen (a.k.a. Sea Bass), played by Sebastian Carlsen (a.k.a. Sea Bass).  Thanks for being on the island with us.  Sorry we had to kill you.