Kjersti Long has started her music career at an early age. She was nine years old when she wrote her first song “Rollercoaster” as it was about her personal struggles with anxiety. Kjersti also released her first album Stronger Than You Think I Am a year after she headlined The Bitter End in New York City.
At that time, the future was bright for her and it still is. The talented singer also headlined many iconic venues across the united states such as The Apollo Theater, The Velour, House of Blues, The Delancy, and The Stone Pony. It would take a massive amount of years to headline those world famous venues, but she did it.
With the support of her family, friends, and fans, Kjersti will go very far in this industry. Her passion really shines through her music and her great personality. Kjersti Long also has hobbies outside of music such as horseback riding and reading books. As the time goes by, Kjersti will have plenty of stories to tell through her music and social media.
Her new single “Not Your Princess” tells a unique story and Kjersti Long explains it all on this exclusive interview. Also to note, there are two versions of this song. One is pop themed, and the other is rock themed. Kjersti also goes over the decision to produce two versions of “Not Your Princess” as well.
The Walking Dead’s 10th season has finally concluded earlier this week. The Whisperer War has taken a toll on each community and now that it is over, what is coming next is bigger than what we seen before. One central character during this arc has had a journey.
That journey started tragic, and ended with a satisfying victory. That character is Carol and Melissa McBride is here to talk all about the season 10 finale!
I first have to bring up that masterful scene at the cliff. When you watched it for yourself, What went through your mind?
MM: “When I watched that scene, I was screaming in my head for Carol to walk back and away from the end of that cliff. I was also thinking that Carol has been through all of the trauma that Alpha put her through. You would have to be in a really dark place in your mind at that moment just like Carol was because she had all of this guilt, anger, and sadness that was building up inside her mind and she really thought the best way to heal from that, is to get away from everyone forever. But I am happy that Lydia saved her because Carol saved Lydia from a similar situation back at the season nine finale. The last thing that was on my mind, is that the post production did an outstanding job with the effects when the walkers were walking off the cliff because I did not see the finale until it aired.”
The moment that really stood out for me is when Lydia saved Carol when she was near the edge. You and Cassidy Mclincy worked together during this season, and it really came full circle during that scene. What can you say about how impactful that moment was with the both of you?
MM: “I love working with Cassady McClincy. The dynamic between us when we are ready to act our scenes out is great. We both knew that it would be an emotional scene when we read it on the script. But acting it out is really different. The part when Lydia threw Alpha’s mask away signifies that the era of The Whisperers is totally over and that we can peacefully move on. So I can say that scene did really impacted us and I believe that there will be a lot of fans that will relate to that scene and hug Lydia and Carol shared.”
Do you feel that Carol is finally relieved that Alpha and The Whisperers are over?
MM: “Oh yes! She is relieved that they are all gone. I feel that Carol was releaved the moment her and Daryl talked about New Mexico. What we seen with Lydia and Carol, was them two grieving and sharing each other’s pain while fully accepting eachother. What we then seen with Carol and Daryl, is a huge healing band-aid that they can both share when they hugged eachother.”
At the end of “A Certain Doom”, we were introduced to The Commonwealth soldiers. How do you think that Carol will fit in The Commonwealth if she goes there?
MM: “I am not sure if she can fit there. But I hope that Carol can. There is a lot about the final season that I cannot say for now, but The Commonwealth is going to be a challenege for most of the characters and you will find out how their lives will change. I do love the way those soldiers look though” (laughs).
The news broke that Daryl and Carol will be getting a spinoff series in 2023. Although it is not named yet, what would you name the show?
MM: “I would name it The Walking Dead: Ride with Daryl and Carol (laughs). But I have a few more names in my head. This spinoff has been in the works for quite a while. You can also see a few hints that the series was happening back in season 9, and early into season 10 of The Walking Dead. This is something we are both looking forward to!”
Aliyah Royale plays as Iris on The Walking Dead: World Beyond. Iris is the sister of hope and these two have a great bond with eachother that we will see when World Beyond debuts in a matter of weeks. During my set visit tour, I got a chance to speak with Aliyah Royale about her role on World Beyond and her love of The Walking Dead in this exclusive set tour interview.
Aliyah on being casted on The Walking Dead: World Beyond
Aliyah: “It was absolutely insane. Wednesday I got this call to go in this room super early in the day. At the same night when I was with my friends at Benihana’s and I get a call to be in New York tomorrow. I tested for it that day with Alexa, and I was in New York for 12 hours max. And on Saturday morning, me and my mom were heading to the movies. My agent called me while we were in the car at the parking lot. He told me that I got the part and My mom was clearly the first person I told.”
“It was so crazy because we both told eachother that we were going to the movie and to also remain calm. But we were there jittery and we could not stop moving. We then decided to leave and go to the cheesecake factory to talk about this. It was so exciting and I got to share it with my mom.”
Do you remember what movie it was? And did anyone in the theater notice that you were very excited?
Aliyah: “It was Stuber. We sat there for the first two minutes and I could not stop moving or pay attention to this movie. There were people looking around in that theater like ‘who the hell is this’, ‘who won’t stop talking, and ‘who won’t stop shaking the whole theater with her legs.’ I do have to watch Stuber at some point.”
Aliyah on describing Iris Bennett
Aliyah: “I like to describe her as a really good friend. She is very sweet, loyal, and a giver. Iris is ready to do anything for anyone at anytime and she does not need to know you. For example, the first time she meets another character, everyone else is asking ‘who the hell is this guy’ and Iris gives him a snack after she asks him if he is hungry. I like that about her because she always gives people the benefit of the doubt.”
Does Iris have a weapon of choice?
Aliyah: “Yes! her name is shilo. I am the only character that named their weapon. My favorite character on the main show is Negan and he has Lucille. So I wanted to name my weapon because of that. Shilo isa pole with a triceratops horn attached on the top of the pole. It belonged to Elton at first and he wanted to make the weapon cooler. And then Shilo was born!”
Has the name of Iris’ weapon made it to the show?
Aliyah: “It has not made the show, but it has made it to the crew which I am very happy about. Like when they hand me the weapon in the props area, they know that it is mines because I have the weapon’s name on a card where it is placed. Shilo is also the same name of my husky I had when I was eight years old. I associate both of them with the same level of coolness.”
How long have you been a fan of The Walking Dead?
Aliyah: “I would say ten years ago, but I was very young. I was too young to watch it at the time, but my brothers love the show. I became obsessed with The Walking Dead because of my brothers. My brothers also still do not believe I am on the show. They are in denial even after I told them. But I technically have no proof to show them because I can’t share any pictures at the moment (laughs).”
What kind of conflicts will we see Iris go through?
Aliyah: “I think one of the biggest conflicts Iris has, is making hard choices. She is trying to find the line between putting everyone in danger vs. doing the best she can to find her father. Her and her sister went on a journey to their father. During that journey, Iris has been put in situations that potentinally put people in danger that nobody expected to be in. If someone gets hurt, she does not want them to be left behind. She wants to make sure that none of the people that she brought with her on this journey serve the conciquences because of her decisions.”
Nicolas Cantu plays as Elton on The Walking Dead: World Beyond. Elton is the youngest of the group of main characters and he is interested in observing everything that is outside the walls of the community. But there is more to Elton than his bright personality and Nicolas Cantu is here to talk about the character.
Myself and other journalists got a chance to speak with Nicolas Cantu during the set tour of The Walking Dead: World Beyond and here are some of the highlights of the interview I will share. Also to note, Nicolas was accompanied by his mother and dog as these interviews took place.
Nicolas on his audition on the show and his initinal reaction
Nicolas: “When I saw the audition and it said ‘TWD3’ (at the time), my mind flipped out. Then I realized that it had nothing to do with the main show. So I had to play this character, but they could not spoil anything of the story elements. So it was a very weird audition to do that. But then I did the audition and I thought it went well. Then I got the callback and I thought that things were getting closer. A month later, I got the call that I will be joining the cast and I jumped on my couch. I was so estatic! It was so crazy.”
Nicolas on his character Elton
Nicolas: ” Elton is a very analitical, 14 year old boy. He is an old soul and is obsessed with this discovery with the world around him. He grew up in this fortified community and he has done all of this study behind the walls. Now it is time to get visceral with this study. Elton’s quest is to go out to the world and seeing how nature and these ’empties’ have affected the way people live outside of these walls. He is obsessed with discovery.”
Why are the walkers on this show called empties?
Nicolas: “In the main show, there is no zombie media so you could not call them zombies. In different parts of the world, people call them different things. We call them empties because they are empty inside. They are a shell of a person now. That is what I think of the thought process is. They are very distinct from the walkers on the main show. They are very affected by the enviornment and you can see how nature has taken both physical places and the bodies of these people.”
Nicolas on if Elton has a weapon of choice
Nicolas: “Elton’s weapon is karate, the knowledge of martial-arts, and his brain. Instead of actively going out to fight these empties, he knows that it is way more effictive and efficent to try to deter them or not engage at all. Every second you are fighting an empty, you also have every second of dying. If he ever comes face to face in a grim situation, he would rather deflect than try to completly demolish the threat.”
Does Elton have a special connection with anyone in the group?
Nicolas: “Elton is an orphan child in the community and he has not had a family in a long time. He and Silas get close together in the pilot. He also gets close with the girls of the group. Elton is building this family that he has not had in a long time. It is a very special thing for him and it is what he cherish the most.”
How does everyone that is younger find out about the empties?
Nicolas: “From inside the university, there are people doing research on the world out there. Elton would read books in the library to study up on what people know and documented on the outside. There are also clases to try to fight these empties. When the time comes, you would know what to strike, what to target, and what to avoid. They do know a lot about it. They have not seen these horrors first hand, but they know of them. The empties lurk outside and the security dispatch them like it is nothing.”
The Walking Dead World Beyond, The second spinoff in The Walking Dead’s long running franchise is set to debut in a matter of weeks. The show will focus on a younger group of individuals that are seeing the world outside of their community for the first time.
One of the main characters of the series is Hope. Hope is played by Alexa Mansour and Alexa had a lot to say about the character during my set tour on The Walking Dead: World Beyond. I will have to add a disclaimer, that I can only give highlights of this interview as there are a few questions that was answered about the current episode that was being filmed that I cannot share at this moment.
Alexa on getting casted on World Beyond
Alexa: “I hadn’t gotten a job in such a long time. I know a lot of people can’t say this but I was ready to quit. I was going on three auditions a day for months. So when you keep hearing, ‘She’s great, but she’s not right for the role,’ you’re kind of like, all right, I need to do something else. But I auditioned for this role back in April. My mom drove me to the audition because I had a long night before the audition day. She is waiting for me inside and I go inside and do my audition, and I remember that I had a band shirt on that belonged to my sister. The shirt had a drawing on it and it is probably something that I have not worn to an audition. So I put it inside out and I went in that audition with the tag sticking outside of my shirt. And I walked out and I looked at mom and told her that I screwed up and that there was no way they were calling me back. Flashforward to June and I got a call for a meeting with Scott Gimple and Matt. I went there, and I saw a bunch of actors that used to watch on television in the waiting room. The second I walked in, I thought that there is no way that this is going to happen. I spent about three hours talking with Scott and Matt. After the meeting, I called my agent and I told him that if I do not get this, I am done. Got a call a week later, and I was told that I was going to be tested for the pilot. They wanted to make sure I was edgy to do it. After the test which was the last part of the audition, I had another audition and I aced it. Then, I was flown to New York to meet with Aliyah Royale , who plays as Iris. Then the night before the 4th of July, I found out that I got the part. The first thing I said is “yay, I can fix my windshield!”
What was the drawing on the shirt?
Alexa: “It had a penis on it (laughs). But it was a band shirt and I can’t remember the name of the band. Before I walked into that audition, I remembered that the character is 16 years old and I can not walk in there with this showing (laughs).”
How can you describe Hope in your own way?
Alexa: “Hope is such an angsty teen that does not give a s*** about anything or anyone. Hope does not think that she will live very long and she wants to have fun and do whatever she wants. Then she has to face a serious task with her sister and she gets her act together to do that. She is going through a lot of stuff that she does not want to show on the outside.”
How old is Hope when the apoclapse happens?
Alexa: “I want to say about 10 years old when Hope was watching everything happened. And Hope had to grow up knowing everything that she has seen when she was younger.”
Alexa on Hope and Iris’ bond as sisters
Alexa: “Their bond is unbreakable. They love eachother to death. Iris is the responsible one and Hope would be the one to make booze in her dorm.”
Alexa on her life changing now since she is part of The Walking Dead Universe
Alexa: “It’s one of those things where you can’t believe it until you see it. That also comes with people stopping you or knowing your name. That’s one thing, I have a lot of people know my name recently and I am not used to that. When we went to New York Comic Con, AMC had everything arranged for us. The hotels, the drivers, and all that stuff. I went to get lunch across the street and I walk back to my hotel and I never seen these people in my life. They were saying how much they are happy to have me back. I look at them like ‘how do you know my name’ (laughs). How do you know what I look like. So if someone came up to the street, Iwould probably freak out!”
If there was a real apoclapse, where would you go and what would be your weapon of choice?
Alexa: “I would go back to my house that I grew up in Los Angeles. It is completly gated with trees all the way up. No one can see or hear you. It was built in the early 1940’s and there is a bomb shelter underneath. My weapon of choice would be Daryl’s crossbow because you would not have to make contact with whoever you are aiming at. I wanted to go with a gun at first, but I was told that it would attract more of them to me.
Doyou have a dream crossover character that your character would like to meet?
Alexa: “Yes! Daryl and Carol. I look at Carol and I would look at the epitome of a strong female character and I love her. And Daryl, I have a big crush on him to be honest!”
Did everyone in the community grew up there or were some of them transfered there as time went by?
Alexa: “From what I know, we all grew up there. I know that every character has a different story on how they ended up there. Iris and Hope grew up there. Huck has a long story of what she went through which I do not know 100% of what she went through. Felix was taken in by our dad. He was part of our family when we got there and he is like the big brother to us. Elton grew up there. Silas was brought in.”
What is your favorite episode you have been part of so far?
Alexa: “I do not remember the number, but it is called ‘Blades of Glory’ It was one of the hardest episodes we had to shoot because it was very hot out there and we were wearing jackets and there is a huge fire that we had to pass. It is the most emotionally and physically taxing episode. In the trailer, you can see a little of that episode. After watching that, it makes it all worth it. Even though it was the hardest, it is my favorite.”
The Walking Dead: World Beyond premieres on October 4th, 2020
Kailynn Heide is a graphic designer based out of Minnesota. She is known for her work of The Walking Dead related print designs. Ever since she started her profession, her work was universally revieved positive in the community of The Walking Dead, and even some of the talent of the show as well. I recently got the chance to intervew Kailynn as we talked about that, along with her passion for graphic design, and getting to know more about Kailynn in this exclusive interview.
First, I would like to get to know more about you and I believe your fans and supporters would love to hear your story too. Where did you grow up? And what were some of your earliest childhood memories?
KH: “Of course! I grew up in Pillager, which is a very small town in central Minnesota (the population is around 500 people)! One of my earliest memories growing up was losing my first tooth. I was in preschool at the time and we were all hanging out on the playground. I remember telling the teacher I had lost my tooth and I couldn’t find it. After some searching, we miraculously found it amongst the wood chips and it was placed into a small bag so I could bring it home and show my family!”
What were some early goals you wanted to accomplish before you decided to do graphic design?
KH: “Before I applied to the graphic design program, I wanted to familiarize myself with the field. To prepare, I was using apps and free programs on my family’s computer to develop my skills. I was also working on building my social media presence by sharing my edits/designs on Instagram and Twitter. I was a shy kid growing up, so I also began to work on my interpersonal skills. I firmly believe my self-confidence improved greatly once I discovered the TWD fandom. It was a relief to finally find people who I could be myself around and who shared a common interest.”
Was there any point that graphic design was challenging if you recall?
KH: “At my community college, the graphic design and videography programs were actually merged together. Because of that, my fellow graphic design classmates and I were required to take a few videography classes and vice versa. Although I did learn some new skills, I did find those classes to be somewhat strenuous. I have huge respect for anyone who works in that field because I learned firsthand just how much work goes into filming, editing and rendering any and all types of video.”
I have seen your work and I am amazed at how much effort you put into it. The fans also love your work too. How did it feel for you when your work started to get noticed in this way?
KH: “Thank you! To this day, the love and support I receive for my artwork blows me away. When I first discovered The Walking Dead and began making fan art to display my love for the show, I was stunned to see the amount of people who were showing interest in this hobby of mine I had only recently discovered. It wasn’t long before I realized this was something I wanted to do long-term.”
A lot of your work is based on The Walking Dead. When did you first hear of the series and was The Walking Dead your first choice on doing commissions for fans?
KH: “Unfortunately, I didn’t discover the series until season six. My favorite YouTuber had the episode “East” playing in the background of one of her videos and it caught my attention. I watched the episode that same night and immediately became hooked. I ended up binge-watching all six seasons within about three weeks after that. The first episode I actually watched live was the dreaded premiere of season seven. In regards to commissions, it wasn’t until this year that I really had anyone show any interest in wanting one. Because most of my followers are from the TWD fandom, I haven’t been surprised that a majority of the commissions are based on the show. I personally find the TWD commissions easier to do, only because I’m so familiar with the show and it’s characters.”
What is your favorite episode of the show, and your least favorite?
KH: “My favorite episode of the show would have to be “The Same Boat” from season six. My favorite character has always been Maggie and being able to see her and Carol’s badassery on full display was so satisfying to watch. It’s hard to choose my least favorite episode, but if I had to, it would probably be “Swear” from season seven. The episode just wasn’t very interesting to me.”
My favorite pieces of your work are the World Beyond and Jaws tributes. Do you have any personal favorites?
KH: “Oooh nice choices! My personal favorites would have to be the Lucille Lineup and Whiskey Cavalier tribute posters. Both were big hits in the fandoms and I am so unbelievably appreciative of all the love I received for those designs.”
What is your thought process when you select particular scenes on the show for you to work on your projects?
KH: “Before the commissions started flowing in, most of my pieces were based on my own personal favorite episodes and scenes from the show. Because my work is done in a minimalist style, I have to be careful with which scenes I choose and how I create the design so as to not make it too busy to the point of the design becoming unrecognizable.”
If any, have any of the cast or crew seen your work? If they did, what did they say?
KH: “You know it! The number of cast and crew members has grown quite long over the past few years, but there have been a few reactions that have stuck with me more than others. The first was when I was able to meet Lauren Cohan at a convention back in 2017. I was lucky enough to have her sign some artwork I had done of Glenn and Maggie. When I first handed it to her, I could see she had become overcome with emotion and was speechless for a few moments. She actually ended up taking her phone out of her bag and taking a picture of it to send to Steven Yeun! Another incredible reaction I received was from Ryan Hurst just last year. Angela Kang had reposted my minimalist tribute to The Whisperers on her Instagram and Ryan had seen her post and ended up reposting the design to his own page and following me on Instagram and Twitter. I made a deal with him that I would bring him a print of the design at a convention in Atlanta later that week. To make a long story short, he now owns a 24×36 poster of that design!”
In the future, which franchise would you like to produce prints of and what would be your first print of that selected franchise?
KH: “I’ve had a few requests to design posters for the Marvel franchise as well as for Star Wars and Breaking Bad. If I had to choose, the idea of doing a poster for Breaking Bad is something I’d be more interested in. I’ve never watched the series myself, but the vibe and tone of that show would definitely be something I could easily translate into a minimalist design.”
What advice can you give to upcoming graphic designers that would want to do something similar to you?
KH: “Always be yourself. It’s easy to compare yourself to others, but try to remember it’s not a competition. There is only one you.”
Within the next few years, would you like to see yourself in either this industry, or in a path that is not related to graphic design and art?
KH: “I currently define myself as working part-time as an artist and part-time as a service advocate at my retail job. My dream would be to travel the country and sell my artwork at fan conventions across the United States. However, as of right now, I feel good with where I’m at and how far I’ve come within the past few years!”
You can follow Kailynn and check out her online store at the links below.
Mattea Conforti has made a name for herself within the last few years appearing in major television shows and movies such as Power, Gotham, The Olie and Moon show, and most recently, Frozen II as Young Elsa. Her acting career is really shining at an early age and Mattea has a bright future. Mattea also stars as Millie Manx, the daughter of Charlie Manx on NOS4A2 and here to talk about season 2 of NOS4A2 is Mattea Conforti in this exclusive interview.
Before we begin, how have you been doing since the pandemic started?
Mattea: “Well, things have been definitely kind of shaky from the beginning You know, figuring out what you’re going to do in your free time now that most of the world has been shut down. But, you know, me and my family, we’ve been working on making the best of what we have and we’re pretty grateful for all that we have considering our options right now.“
What do you miss the most before your area shut down?
Mattea: “I really miss acting and doing big shows. Now I think I never really realized how much I loved to do it until now because, once you realize that you have something and it’s gone for a little bit, you miss it a lot.”
You played as the younger version of Elsa on Frozen II and you were also part of the Broadway Play of Frozen as well. Since everyone knew that you were part of the broadway, how often did you have to hide that you were also part of the second film from your friends and classmates?
Mattea: “I wouldn’t say that long, but definitely quite some time just because it was so confidential. It was going to be a very big Disney film. So probably like about like a year, which isn’t really that bad. But it’s still hard to keep such a big secret from everybody. And I don’t really think anybody figured it out. If they did, they probably didn’t tell me just because, they weren’t allowed to say anything because they knew that they respected that. But I think we did a pretty good job of hiding it from everybody.”
From being on Frozen II and the Frozen Broadway Play which was targetedtowards children, to being Millie Manx on NOS4A2 which is targeted for the older demographic, was it a hard transition for you to go from this character on Frozen, to being Millie Manx on NOS4A2?
Mattea: “It’s definitely a hard transition going from cutesy, innocent young princess, to Millie Manx who is hardcore, mature, and tough. But the emotions for both of them are definitely the same, in my opinion. They’re both very loyal and loving and they’re caring characters. When I usually talk to my friends about Millie Manx, they would be like ‘I would never see you as that kind of person’ just because I know in my life, people don’t really associate me with like like gory, danger, and hardcore. But they wouldn’t really expect me to be doing all that stuff.”
So far from what I am seeing, I like the second season of NOS4A2. What can fans expect for the rest of the season?
Mattea: “There’s definitely some moments in the show that I never really had to do before, especially in season two. The horror intensity level goes up so much and even to not just emotionally, but also physically for all the characters including Millie Manx. But without giving too much away, there’s definitely more dangerous adventures and crazy experiences that I get to do the season.”
The first time you seen Christmas Land, did you think for a second that thiscould actually be a real place to visit for a second?
Mattea: “It’s different to see it in the warehouse where we were filming and from the big screen because, you see a couple of blocks with letters on them and some fake snow. And then you look on TV and it looks like a huge village of all these demon children. So I never expected that all of that NOS4A2 magic can make it look so real.“
Who did you like to work with the most on NOS4A2?
Mattea: “I was working with all of the people that played all the characters on the show because they all have such different acting approaches and they all have different experiences in acting and they all have done different shows. So just see how all of them work well with each other and see how they can bring their own elements to the table. It’s I think that’s the best part of being part of the show. So I love working with everyone! Also, I remember when I used to do school on set and we had a tutor, I would always dread going from scene to scene, then go to school right after because I wanted to do was just film and do my scenes. But I remember Zachary Quinto would kind of like help me with my schoolwork. We would talk out the books I was reading in English or he would kind of motivate me to go do my homework.”
The dynamic between Millie and Charlie are some of my favorite parts of the season so far, because Millie misses her dad and it is very relatable. How much how much input did you had when it came to the development of your scenes with Zachary?
Mattea: “Well, it’s hard to use my own input to play Mallie Manx just because my life and her life is just so different. But the relationship between her and her father I would say, is definitely the same and differing between me and my father just because we both love them so much. And Millie loved her father so much. And we both do anything just to, like, make them happy or to make them proud. But it’s different just because Millie Manx and her father connect on like a gory and a dangerous level. But me and my father, we can connect, you know, realistically like a loving way. You can definitely see that the relationship between them gets more emotionally intense.And Millie is going to discover a lot more about Charlie’s past and where she came from. So there’s definitely going to be a lot more intense moments between them.
Before you got your role as Millie Manx, have you read the NOS4A2 novel to study the character and the source material?
Mattea: “I have not read it. I think I definitely would have been more scared to read it and it is a severally, very big book. My mom actually read it and she said it was a little bit similar to that. So it’s a lot similar to the show. So I could kind of go back and forth on that.”
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The Nerdist Book Club series has launched not too long ago on Nerdist’s YouTube channel by the key people at Nerdist. It started with a simple idea that turned into a weekly series as it is more than reading a book and reacting to it as Rachel Heine, Maude Garrett, and Hector Navarro bring in their unique personalities on the stream each week with their own spin on the books. Of the three, I recently got the chance to speak with Rachel Heine (Editor-in-Cheif) as we talked about her upbringing, joining Nerdist, her future goals, and much more in this exclusive interview.
I would like to start off with getting to know more about you. Where in Los Angeles did you grow up?
I grew up a little bit all over Los Angeles, between my mom and my dad: Beverly Grove, Atwater, Laurel Canyon, Venice, Westwood, and Santa Monica.
What were some goals that you set for yourself when you were transitioning from high school to college?
My main goal was to attend a school where I could study literature and writing. I was a pretty voracious reader, and wanted to become a novelist! I still would like to finish a novel one day, but I feel extremely fortunate to have found a job and career I’m passionate about.
You have received your degree in creative writing years ago prior to joining Nerdist. Which college did you attend and what were your favorite memories attending college?
I received a BA in Literature/Creative Writing the College of Creative Studies at UC Santa Barbara. We had to apply separately with materials relevant to our major — essays and short stories in my case. Classes were quite small and intimate, had no pre-requisites to take upper level courses, and you could sort of mold your major to your specific interests.
Studying abroad in Rome my junior year was honestly a life-changing experience for me. Not only did I get to explore the ruins and underground frescos of the city, I learned so much about myself and my writing. Also, the food.
As a writer myself, I like the television shows and films that I review. Whether they are good or not, it is sometimes hard to also criticize a not so good episode or movie. Do you feel the same way when it comes to either writing a review, or watching a show or movie that you like?
Great question. Personally, I have no trouble separating criticism with my enjoyment of pop culture. It’s actually what interests me the most. Analyzing, critiquing, and dissecting stories is why I got my degree in Literature, and why I love working at Nerdist. You can absolutely enjoy or appreciate a show, movie, or book while addressing its flaws. They’re not mutually exclusive!
Speaking of movies, what was the last movie that you watched before the pandemic began and what will be the first movie in the theaters that you would like to watch once the pandemic is over?
The last movie I watched is theaters before the pandemic was The Invisible Man, by Leigh Whannel. I was absolutely blown away. Horror is one of the original avenues to view dark, psychological topics. The Invisible Man shines a light on the realities of domestic abuse and gaslighting, AND kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time.
As for post-stay at home movies, Dune is at the top of my list. We’re currently reading Frank Herbert’s Dune for Nerdist Book Club (my first time) and I cannot wait to see what Denis Villeneuveand this incredible cast do with the lore and themes of such a classic novel.
Yourself, Maude Garrett, and Hector Navarro are hosts of the current Nerdist Book Club series back in April and it has been successful! What led to the three of you to make the Book Club a series and were there initial plans of the series before the current pandemic happened?
Maude, Hector, and I actually hosted a previous version of Nerdist Book Club on a former streaming service, which ran from 2016-2019. It’s truly the highlight of my week, and I am thrilled that we were able to bring it back at a time when we all need more connection. The Nerdist Book Club community is so thoughtful, so fun and supported, and I hope we can keep making this show for years to come!
One thing I like about the series is that it is more than just talking about a book to your viewers as it also showcases all of your fun personalities during the livestreams. Especially the recent episode (Dune Part 2) as well because of how organic all of your expressions are. How much pre-planning of your streams do the three of you do before you all begin?
We have an amazing production team who map out talking points for us to reference (which is incredibly helpful for Dune’s extensive list of terms and characters). But they always encourage us to use that as a framework, and let the conversation (spice?) flow. Reading along with Maude, Hector, and our incredible community always leads to ideas and interpretations that none of us would have come up with on our own. And our own personal experiences contribute to how a book resonates with us – which is just really fun to do every week!
I would like to see an episode where you all discuss the Game of Thrones book series if it is possible. I would also like to know what are some. future episodes that are currently on the schedule?
You are not the first to bring up Game of Thrones! It’s definitely on the table. We always go to our audience to source recommendations for our next book, and also host community polls so they can get final say. We’ve previously covered ever book in the Harry Potter series (a different book every other month), and I would love to cover the second book in His Dark Materials, The Subtle Knife.
The news of almost every comic convention being cancelled or moved to a different date has really affected my media schedule and I know for sure that it affected your schedule as well. Were you looking forward and to going to this year’s show? And any good memories from SDCC?
First and foremost, I feel for the fans and creators who are missing out on such an amazing experience this year – but I’m glad that everyone is being smart and safe. I’m definitely sad to miss this year, as I’ve worked Comic-Con for Nerdist the past 6 years in a row. My favorite part of any convention or festival is always seeing friends, colleagues, and fans so we can nerd out about all the announcements and trailers. I’m also bummed we aren’t able to host another Nerdist House, where we take over a venue in San Diego for interviews, live shows, meet & greets, and parties. But we’re also working on ways to connect with our audience virtually, to keep that convention spirit alive.
My final question, is what do you want to accomplish within the next few years?
Honestly, working for Nerdist has been such a defining experience for me and my career. My colleagues across the company, but especially the editorial team I lead, are so brilliant and funny and talented. I want to see Nerdist continue to grow and be an inclusive space for the insightful, irreverent, intelligent fans of pop culture out there. I’m in it for the long haul!
Follow me on Instagram and Twitter @julianexcalibur for more content. Contact me at email@example.com
The newest character to grace our screens on The Walking Dead is Juanita Sanchez, but she wants to be known as “The Princess.” Her cool personality, and her look has won over the fans of The Walking Dead community including myself. But behind The Princess’ pink coat, goggles, and heavy machine gun, is Paola Lazaro as she has many credits to her name such as Wu-Tang: An American Saga, Lethal Weapon, and SMILF. Now it is time for you to get to know more about her in this exclusive interview!
I would like to get to know more about you. What was your upbringing like with your parents and your two brothers? And what were some of your early career goals?
PL: “When I was a kid back in Puerto Rico, I used to write poetry. I would say around like seven years old. Then my mom used to make me perform it for the family on the weekends when they would come for dinner and stuff like that. I have always been writing and performing in a way. And I always knew that’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to be an astronaunt, but then I saw Apollo 13 and that vomit scene in the spacecraft and then I realized right there that I do not want to be an astronaut. I always wanted to perform!”
You have graduated from Columbia University with your master’s degree in play writing. How big of an accomplishment was this for you?
PL: “I never thought that I would graduate high school. I never thought that I would really be too much of anything because of the things that were told to me when I was a kid. So to able to have done all of those things is a blessing, but school and degrees is not what defines us. But the fact that I was able push through what was told to me that I couldn’t do. For me, it’s huge and it is the fire that keeps me going every day. Columbia University, is (laughs) Columbia University!”
Last fall, it was announced at New York Comic Con that you will play as The Princess. Do you remember how you prepared your audition for the role?
PL: “Oh yeah, I will never forget that. I did not leave my house for two weeks. I pretty much self-quarantined for this role. I had the script with me in the bathtub, next to me in my bed when I slept, and the couch. I had it everywhere. I just did not leave my house and kept studying. Something in me was like ‘I know this character. I’ve lived certain things that she’s lived. I can do this.’ I then went in for the audition, and did what I did, and it was awesome.”
The comic book series of The Walking Dead releases their covers three months in advance before the issue is on the shelves. The first time I have seen her on the cover at the time, I thought that she looked straight from the 1980’s. How did you react when you seen her on the cover of that issue (#171) and her scenes in that issue?
PL: “Oh I flipped out and I was so excited! I really bugged out and I just started screaming and jumping up and down. I was like ‘she’s so cool’ and I was very pumped to bring this comic book character to life on the television show!”
Did you include your own personality traits to The Princess since she has a great personality that shines very well on this episode?
PL: “Absolutely! The Princess is very similar to me, and to when I was a kid. All of this energy that I didn’t know where to put it and all this all this love for the world that I didn’t know how to convey along with all of this excitement and toughness and defensive mechanisms, is very similar to me.”
The Princess had to take a detour with Ezekiel, Yumiko, and Eugene to the minefield during this episode. How quickly have you bonded with Khary Payton, Josh McDermitt, and Elanor Matsuura? And what can you tell me about the day that episode was shot?
PL: “It was very awesome because the night before we shot anything, They all took me out to dinner. In fact, the whole cast took me out to dinner the night before to welcome me so that way, I didn’t feel like I was there to shoot twenty scenes and go. This connection that we had established that night I cherish in my heart and we’re so supportive of eachother. There is a true team there. Iv’e learned a lot from Khary, Josh, and Elanor and we support eachother. We are down to rehearse in between takes and scenes. Anybody that needs anything, or if we have to run some stuff down, and they are like ‘lets do it.’ Everyone is into it and I am thankful to have come in with them into this establish world. Now on the minefield, the first time it exploded, I jumped into Khary and Josh’s arms and cursed in spanish. It was hilarious and we broke out laughing so we had to reshoot it.”
Do you know how many times you all reshot that scene?
PL: “We shot it twice! We did good after we stopped laughing.”
One thing I was looking forwared to in the comics is The Princess meeting Negan. Since the comic book series finished last year, it might be possible to do this on screen. What do you think of the idea of The Princess and Negan in the same scene talking with eachother?
PL: “That would be exciting. That will be fun because, god knows what they would do together. I’m scared for the world and I’m scared for the apocalyptic world when these two people meet. They’re both pretty out there and they might get excited about eachother. Who knows what will happen to the world, but I hope that they do meet! I’ve watched Jeffrey Dean Morgan on the show and it would be great to work with him to bring these two characters together on the screen!”
Follow me on Instagram and Twitter @julianexcalibur for more content. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
We have seen Carol go through a lot of trauma on this season of The Walking Dead and her quest for revenge against Alpha has not only lead Alpha to a satisfying death, but it also lead to Carol making decisions that might affect her in the long run. With Carol questioning herself in her thoughts if she should have killed her in this episode, Melissa McBride breaks down everything between Carol and Alpha during this season of The Walking Dead along with a few more treats for the fans!
First, I would like to say that I have been a fan of your work on The Walking Dead for years. Before we get to The Walking Dead, how have you been doing since the COVID-19 crisis began and what are you doing to keep yourself occupied?
MM: “Thank you Julian! I appreciate the words from you. But I have been putting air in the tires (laughs). There has been online courses available and that’s been kind of fun. I have been also doing a lot of painting, and some things around the house. I have also been checking in on people and making sure everyone is okay.”
The dynamic between Carol and Alpha has been a highlight for the current season since it started. Would you like to break down how you and Samantha Morton develop that dynamic?
MM: “I don’t know if we went out of our way to do anything. I know that we were both looking forward to the time when Alpha and Carol casme face to face, but we did not talk about anything. The whole circumstance of the story created that dynamic and we finally came face to face. And then we came face to face later in the season with her at my feet looking at me (laughs).”
The community of The Walking Dead is divided on whether if Carol deserves the blame on putting everyone in danger this season during her quest to get revenge on Alpha. What is your response to this and do you agree that Carol deserves the blame?
MM: “Well I certainly think she bears responsibility for the way some things went down in her efforts to seek vengeance. I have to say yes, that she should take responsibility for the things that she put everyone else through and she knows it too. When I was watching as a viewer, I felt the same way to be honest!”
This episode marks the first time that you and Jeffrey Dean Morgan worked together in a full length scene. Have you always wanted to work with Jeffrey Dean Morgan since his debut?And also, why did Carol not hold up her end of the bargan yet with the deal she made with Negan?
MM: “I’ve always wanted to and I could not wait to have a scene with him. Although, I was glad that I was not in the scene where Negan was introduced with everybody was on their knees. I was always looking forward to working with him and having a scene with him so curious if and when it would come and what it would be like, and never did I think it would be this storyline. And to answer your other question, she asked him ‘what took him so long’ and everything going through her head, she got what she wanted, but really? Because it came with such a price. And all the things happened while she was trying to get to Alpha. And she had to think about what she wanted to do about that. And he was free and Alpha’s head was on a spike for everyone to see and Carol is now thinking ‘I gotta go, I got stuff to think about’ (Laughs).”
How has Carol impacted you personally over the years?
MM: “She has impacted me in so many ways. And just me even having the opportunity to play the character has been amazing and full of it’s own challenges. But to play this character from the beginning, and I was so hoping that if she remained on the show, that we would see an evolution to strength in which I’m really happy to see. Also, The way that the fans relate to this character and in part to me, has been a source inspiration for them in many ways is probably the greatest feeling. And the different aspects of Carol has been really fun for me to play. It’s been pretty amazing.”
Carol and Alpha had those scenes on this episode where Alpha has been taunting her about Sophia, Henry, and more people from her past. What do you believe was her state of mind at that time from when those hallucinations of Alpha began in the episode, until when she freed herself from the fallen debris?
MM: “I think it really was that all of this was coming to the surface and with her ramblings and rumbling through her subconscious about the damage done. And when the damage is done, it also means the losses that came with it. Alpha said something insteresting too ‘you chose me because I was the one to get it done’ and Carol is thinking ‘what do you mean by getting it done’. I liked the questions that this episode asked and these answers exhibited in Carol’s behavior and her actions even though we don’t necessarily hear the answers. But I think there’s more to explore in that subconscious. And I liked that Carol did eventually decide to go back to Alexandria. But at the end, she fought for her life. Alpha kept saying ‘what did you want’ and Carol wanted to either be alone or not. I still think that there is more that Carol wants.”
Danai’s last episode was the episode before this one and I know that you miss her a lot. What have you learned the most from Danai?
MM: “I’ve learned so much from her. She is such a well-rounded, very compelling, dynamic, multilayered person. She is very funny especially in the morning and she’s such a professional. Danai is also very focused, which I admire a great deal because , I have a very little focus and I am sort of all over the place. But when we shoot, she is very focused on her lines, and her actions in those scenes. She is also very encouraging and a inspiring person especially since there are girls all over the world that look up to her. I love her and I miss her!”
I wanted to bring up Norman Reedus. You and him filmed an episode of Ride With Norman Reedus in Scotland. Did you have fun traveling with him over there?
MM: “I am happy that you asked that! I had so much fun on that episode. That is one of the top of my favorite memories. Another one of those things is that I never thought it would be on a road trip with a Norman in Scotland, or anywhere for that matter. It was very fun and we seen so many things and places that we never seen before. I love spending time with him. He is such an adventurer and fun to be around. We had a lot of good laughs and it was very special to me. There were also people over there that reconized us from The Walking Dead and I was happy to see them as well. I would love to go back one day.”
The news broke last week that the season 10 finale has been delayed to later this year. Without giving too much away, what can we expect from you on the finale?
MM: “It’s going to be a really good finale and we are going to give everyone something really good to look forward to because, I know the finale is amazing. There was a lot of work done on that when we shot it last fall. But it will be something that people will remember and look forward to in the next season as well so I am grateful for the work that we have done. I am also going to binge watch the current season during this unexpected break that we have because I think that this season is amazing and I want to watch it all over again!”
Follow me on Instagram and Twitter @julianexcalibur for more content. Contact me at email@example.com