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This is the best way to experience Off Camera- When you get the app, you can instantly subscribe to Off Camera, or buy single issues a la carte. The Off Camera app is a beautifully designed hybrid magazine with the entire television version of Off Camera contained within it, available for any tablet or mobile device.

This e-magazine has all the images and extra content available in the physical version of the Off Camera magazine, plus enhanced HD video streaming so you can enjoy Off Camera your way.

After downloading the app, you will find Off Camera in your Apple newsstand folder. You can play steaming HD video straight from the pages of the app, making this experience truly multi-media.

Off Camera subscriptions available:
Single Issue/episode: (non-subscription): $2.99
6 month subscription: (11 issues/episodes): $27.99
1 year subscription: (22 issues/episodes): $49.99

Available in the Apple App Store and on Amazon:

If you’re an actor who’s signed on to share scenes with Michael Shannon, you’ve got yourself a bit of a dilemma. On one hand, you can count on people watching; on the other, you can be pretty certain they won’t be watching you. To be fair, nothing could be further from Shannon’s intent; co-stars and directors routinely praise his generosity and dedication to the success of any project he’s in. It’s just that the guy is – inherently, chronically and helplessly – riveting.

Evidence of this seemingly hypnotic power came to light most publicly with his fairly small role in Revolutionary Road. Variety wrote, “The pic’s startling supporting turn comes from Michael Shannon, who’s mesmerizing as the clinically insane son of local realtor and busybody… When Shannon is onscreen, it’s impossible to watch anyone else.” In that instance, “anyone else” included Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet. Or take 99 Homes, which Time magazine called “a showcase for Shannon, who magnetizes all eyes, like a cobra in the corner.”

Those are just two in a canon of some of the most consistently beaming reviews an actor could ever hope to paste in his scrapbook, though Shannon doesn’t seem like the kind of guy to keep one. If he did, it would be encyclopedic, as he’s piled up over 50 award nominations and an impressive number of wins over a career that comprises at least 100 film, TV and stage credits. So why is he not a household name? Hard to say, unless actors have to become “stars” to claim any permanency in our memory banks.

What’s more confounding is that Shannon never planned to be an actor. He was a troubled, late-blooming kid who floundered in school and only defaulted to drama to get out of sports. He left school at 16 and with no formal training, was on stage in a year, TV the year after, and in Groundhog Day the year after that. Shannon tried working with an acting coach only once in his career, and said it was the worst audition he ever had.

With fate apparently having done the heavy lifting, an impressive range of directors were quick to capitalize, including Michael Bay, Cameron Crowe, Oliver Stone, Peter Bogdanovich, Sydney Lumet, and even Tom Ford. As did HBO, casting him as Boardwalk Empire’s repressed G-man Nelson Van Alden. But no one has taken better advantage of Shannon’s facile embodiment of complex characters than Jeff Nichols, who directed him in Take Shelter, Midnight Special, and Shotgun Stories. Nichols has said, “Shannon makes me a better writer. He certainly makes me a better director. I wanted [Midnight Special] to be a very lean screenplay in terms of narrative and exposition, and if you’re writing that part for Mike, he’s going to be able to fill those spaces with all the subtext that you don’t want to have to write about. He can carry all of that on his face, and that makes him a very powerful tool for a writer/director like me.”

What more directors need to take advantage of is Shannon’s range, which seems to be hiding in plain sight. He’s known for playing menacing, angry, possibly crazy guys whose ability to keep it all just beneath the surface keeps us in their thrall – quiet bears you do not want to poke. While he plays them subtly and brilliantly, he also made a surprisingly good low-key romantic lead in Frank & Lola. His comic chops are most evident on the stage, where he still spends as much time as possible. Look no further than his portrayal of showbiz huckster Felix Artifex in the comedy Mistakes Were Made, a role he’s reprised several times to wildly enthusiastic crowds and ticket sales. The New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood said Shannon shouldered the part “with a full arsenal of gifts: a subdued but strong natural presence, a voice rich in grit and capable of imbuing Felix’s wheedling and needling with a variety of emotional colors, a keen understanding of how pathos can feed comedy and vice versa.” Roger Ebert put it more succinctly: “His performance in Mistakes Were Made was one of the most amazing I have ever seen.” Given that it’s a one-man play, it may also be the only performance in which Shannon risked being upstaged.

For all the taut wiring that sparks below his surface, Shannon says he’s learned to relax a bit more these days, and that approach has made him a better actor. Besides begging the question whether it’s possible for him to be any better, it also demonstrates a broad interpretation of the word “relax”. He already has eight projects in the works for next year, including Horse Soldiers, a Special Forces drama with Chris Hemsworth, and Signature Move, which he’s executive producing. He admits he may have a small problem turning down a great script. All the better for us. Maybe Shannon wasn’t looking to become an actor, but sometimes fate just gets things right.

This is the best way to experience Off Camera- When you get the app, you can instantly subscribe to Off Camera, or buy single issues a la carte. The Off Camera app is a beautifully designed hybrid magazine with the entire television version of Off Camera contained within it, available for any tablet or mobile device.

This e-magazine has all the images and extra content available in the physical version of the Off Camera magazine, plus enhanced HD video streaming so you can enjoy Off Camera your way.

After downloading the app, you will find Off Camera in your Apple newsstand folder. You can play steaming HD video straight from the pages of the app, making this experience truly multi-media.

Off Camera subscriptions available:
Single Issue/episode: (non-subscription): $2.99
6 month subscription: (11 issues/episodes): $27.99
1 year subscription: (22 issues/episodes): $49.99

Available in the Apple App Store and on Amazon:

A bit of geek trivia: Halt and Catch Fire (HCF) was an early computer command that caused the machine to run as fast as possible. The AMC show of the same name has had similar effect on Mackenzie Davis, accelerating her career and causing the actress to catch fire (the good kind) herself. Despite the fine early indie film work that constitutes her still-young career, playing the volatile personal computing prodigy Cameron Howe on Halt and Catch Fire brought her to wide attention in 2014. It widened further when the network made the critically praised season-two decision to focus on the relationship of its female protagonists.

Another bit of trivia (or is it irony?):  Davis actually became aware of the role while helping a now-former boyfriend run lines for his audition for the show. But what’s really fascinating about Halt is that it takes place in the 1980s, foreshadowing startup mania as well as the plight of smart women dealing with sexism and finding their voice in the tech world. It lets us go back in time and watch Silicon Valley evolve – and in many respects, sadly, stay the same. What’s also interesting is how Davis’ role echoes her own spirit, ambition and experience in the industry.

Acting was always Davis’ plan, and she was eager to leave Vancouver, BC and get going. Her parents insisted on an education first, a demand she says she doesn’t regret, as her degrees in English Lit and gender studies lend valuable perspective – and a distinct point of view – to her work. She started out in modeling but found she hated it, in no small part for the expectation to be pretty all the time. She started booking some stage work, and while acting at NYC’s Neighborhood Playhouse, she was discovered by Drake Doremus, who cast her in her first feature, Breathe In.

As she began getting parts in indies and shorts, she ran into the dilemma facing most young actresses in Hollywood: the roles you need to take to build your career often still play to gender stereotypes. She’s confronted her fair share of “surprise” nude scenes that somehow weren’t included in the scripts she auditioned with.  But she’s managed to stretch those tropes, even in films that put her on the edge of them. The Hollywood Reporter gave her props for holding her own against “movie-girlfriend default settings” in That Awkward Moment. Other movies, like this year’s brilliantly entertaining Always Shine allow her to comment on them while ostensibly acting in a thriller. Davis and Caitlin FitzGerald play two friends, both actresses, finding differing degrees of success. One is resigned to roles that reflect the industry’s narrow definition of femininity; the other refuses any part that smells of simpering or victimhood. (Guess who’s more successful, and which role is Davis’.) IndieWire said, “Davis and FitzGerald communicate each emotion perfectly. Between the genre and the size of the film, these are the types of roles that don’t generally get recognized during awards season, but they’ll likely be among the year’s best performances.”

Still other movies have Davis playing directly against female stereotype. Los Angeles Times praised The Martian’s adroit casting of Davis in one of its many nerdy roles, an eagle-eyed satellite image viewer. In describing the roles she seeks, Davis has said, “I want to play active people who can solve problems, not people who have things thrust in their lap and need somebody to solve their problems for them.” Though the part was a small one, it wound up fulfilling her biggest acting dream since…ever. The Martian director Ridley Scott also helmed Blade Runner, Davis’ favorite movie of all time. When she heard he was planning a sequel, well… Of course she’d have to kill you if she told you anything about Blade Runner 2049, but suffice it to say she’s in it.

The ever-restless Davis doesn’t like not working, which we doubt is something she’ll have to worry about anytime soon (though she was a terrific waitress, if you’re not too picky about health codes). In addition to Blade Runner 2049, she’s wrapped the haunting, still-to-be-released Memory Box and is filming 2017’s Tully with Charlize Theron. All while not halting Halt.

 We’re watching Halt and Catch Fire because it’s a story very much still being written.  We’re watching Davis because hers is, too – and just as intriguing.

This is the best way to experience Off Camera- When you get the app, you can instantly subscribe to Off Camera, or buy single issues a la carte. The Off Camera app is a beautifully designed hybrid magazine with the entire television version of Off Camera contained within it, available for any tablet or mobile device.

This e-magazine has all the images and extra content available in the physical version of the Off Camera magazine, plus enhanced HD video streaming so you can enjoy Off Camera your way.

After downloading the app, you will find Off Camera in your Apple newsstand folder. You can play steaming HD video straight from the pages of the app, making this experience truly multi-media.

Off Camera subscriptions available:
Single Issue/episode: (non-subscription): $2.99
6 month subscription: (11 issues/episodes): $27.99
1 year subscription: (22 issues/episodes): $49.99

Available in the Apple App Store and on Amazon:

Getting in with the right high school crowd isn’t necessarily a prerequisite to an acting career, but if that crowd includes pals like Emilio Estevez, Charlie Sheen, Robert Downey, Jr., and Sean Penn, it doesn’t hurt. Nor does an almost farcically handsome exterior. Rob Lowe saw Oliver! when he was eight, and for no clear reason he can recall, knew then he wanted to be an actor. So when auditions for Francis Ford Coppola’s The Outsiders became virtually a Santa Monica High extra curricular activity, and Lowe was cast as Sodapop Curtis, his career (along with quite a few others’) got an enviable start.

It continued just as enviably (and quickly) with roles in Oxford Blues, St. Elmo’s Fire and About Last Night. Here’s where we probably need to acknowledge the impossibly handsome elephant in the room. In its review of Saint Elmo’s Fire, The New York Times noted, “In the case of Rob Lowe, whose irresponsible pretty boy becomes the film’s central figure, a matinee-idol future is assured, and perhaps something more…”

But when your living depends on your ability to disappear into other people, the looks that perhaps opened some doors can also make them really hard to squeeze through. Consider his audition (yes, he had to audition) for the role of Sam Seaborn in the Aaron Sorkin-penned The West Wing. It was a part Lowe, a true political junkie, wanted more than anything.  Sorkin was determined not to cast him. With Martin Sheen already part of what was supposed to be an ensemble show, he thought adding another handsome “movie star” would throw it off balance. “Then [Rob] read the first of three scenes he’d prepared,” Sorkin told The Hollywood Reporter. “I don’t remember the second or the third because he’d already gotten the part one page into the first, and I was already thinking of stories for a character who has no idea he looks like Rob Lowe.” Lowe’s 37-year CV (and six Golden Globe nominations) would argue that keen artistic instincts might be at play here, too.

So is fearlessness. He’s taken on some risky biopics (JFK in Killing Kennedy, alleged murderer Drew Peterson in Untouchable) and maybe his bravest role yet: Rob Lowe, in one of Comedy Central’s most popular celebrity roasts to date. The real core of his success seems to be a hard-earned personal grace, and a sense of humor we suspect has been there all along. Winking at his looks and the role they’ve played in his career is where he shines, and where we most love to watch him. He can play narcissists, jerks and even naïve optimists whose utter lack of self-awareness only makes us like them more. His turn as Chris Traeger on Parks and Recreation is one example, but the one we wish we’d seen more of is The Grinder, his recently cancelled Fox show.

It was frustrating for Lowe, because he produced it and played its lead Dean Sanderson, an actor who once starred as a lawyer on a TV show and begins fake-lawyering with his actual-lawyer brother. It’s frustrating for fans, not just because it’s Lowe at his best, but because for network TV, it was clever, original stuff. Thirty years after speculating Lowe might perhaps have “something more” to offer, The New York Times said of The Grinder: “You can’t overstate how essential Mr. Lowe is, and how well the character is pitched to his abilities. Mr. Lowe gives Dean a well-meaning sweetness…But any other person, man or woman, is bound to be a supporting player in Dean’s Life of Dean. In this comedy, he’s both the star and the joke, funny because it’s true: For man-children like them, of whatever age, there will always be a second act.”

True of the show, and true of Lowe. Quick, sharp and a surprisingly good writer, he’s penned two books – Stories I Only Tell My Friends and Love Life – that make obvious his talent for setting a scene and finding moments that touch us all (just read his Love Life musings on his eldest son’s leaving for college).  He’s returned to series TV in Code Black and is returning (in a way) to the Capitol as the producer of reality series Potomac Fever, which chronicles the lives of young adults in Washington, D.C.

With as much as he’s done to date, we think Lowe’s holding out on us. This guy has a more to offer as an artist and a producer. Lowe himself told Vulture, “If I’m engaged and inspired and learning something and contributing above and beyond just standing on a mark and wearing makeup, I can do that forever.” We hope he does.

This is the best way to experience Off Camera- When you get the app, you can instantly subscribe to Off Camera, or buy single issues a la carte. The Off Camera app is a beautifully designed hybrid magazine with the entire television version of Off Camera contained within it, available for any tablet or mobile device.

This e-magazine has all the images and extra content available in the physical version of the Off Camera magazine, plus enhanced HD video streaming so you can enjoy Off Camera your way.

After downloading the app, you will find Off Camera in your Apple newsstand folder. You can play steaming HD video straight from the pages of the app, making this experience truly multi-media.

Off Camera subscriptions available:
Single Issue/episode: (non-subscription): $2.99
6 month subscription: (11 issues/episodes): $27.99
1 year subscription: (22 issues/episodes): $49.99

Available in the Apple App Store and on Amazon:

As Luke Cage, Mike Colter’s most notable superpower is his impenetrable, bulletproof skin. As Mike Colter, it may just be his impenetrable, bullet-proof equanimity. Which doesn’t sound nearly as cool, but it’s likely to be just as useful as he prepares to be the most insanely popular new star in the Marvel universe. Colter first donned the crime-fighting mantle in 2015 as the co-star/love interest in Netflix’s Jessica Jones; in September, he took on his own solo series, Luke Cage. It means Colter also takes on worldwide recognition, hype and, given Netflix’s binge-inducing full season releases, an insane schedule.

Colter once told Heed magazine, “You go about your business and try to do whatever you were doing before, because as quickly as you have been appreciated and recognized, you can’t allow that influence who you are.”

Colter’s cool in the face of it all is more impressive when you consider the series arrives with an extra helping of subtext. Luke Cage is Marvel’s first African-American lead in a title series or movie since the company rejiggered its Hollywood playbook in 2008. The character first appeared in printed comics as a jive-talking, open-shirt-wearing, Harlem-defending crime fighter in 1972, so any new translation is bound to be fraught. The fact that he enters 2016 in a hoodie – and bulletproof, when so many young black men aren’t – carries a whole other layer of significance.

Wisely, Colter keeps the pressure in perspective. Also to Heed: “It is not like you have a great year and then all of sudden you have arrived. You are as good as the last project. To me, staying in the business is the definition of success. You can’t control the roller coaster.”  So where does he come by the cool head? Maybe it was the years of struggle and patience it took to build his career. Or maybe being a powerfully built 6’3” Rutgers acting MFA whose breakout came as a boxer in Clint Eastwood’s Million Dollar Baby just makes you harder to ruffle in the first place. Actually, Colter admits that breakout froze him for a while. Reluctant to be typecast, he turned down the athlete roles that started coming in, not sure what to do. But he drew confidence from the memory of transforming himself into a blues singer overnight to audition for a production of A Soldier’s Play (he was the only contender who didn’t know how to play the guitar). He got the role of CJ Memphis, and has said the play’s success made him realize he could do more than what people assume from his surface.

And so he has, in films like Salt, Men In Black 3 and Zero Dark Thirty. He’s also built up an impressive 14-year television CV on shows like Ringer, American Horror Story, and most notably as Lemond Bishop in The Good Wife. It would’ve been easy for him to play a powerful, threatening drug kingpin almost by just standing there. Instead, he chose to show us Bishop in more subtle, fuller dimension – take away the heroin, and he’s just a single dad and businessman with an interest in politics.

To say he’s calm is not to say he’s unmotivated. He uses every memory of being told he couldn’t do something as motivation to prove he can. After all, Colter was voted “Most Ambitious” as a high school senior. It’s just that his aspirations don’t run to superstardom. He is not looking for bigger parts, but characters “with a certain amount of intelligence and mental acuity,” and quality projects with people he wants to work with.

So whatever the Marvel universe has in store for his career, he’s ready. And despite the social implications, Colter reminds people Luke Cage is also just a great action yarn. Yes, with an imperfect crime fighter whose biggest struggle is to be a better person. Proof that any heroes among us are just as likely to be wearing a hoodie as a pair of yellow boots.

This is the best way to experience Off Camera- When you get the app, you can instantly subscribe to Off Camera, or buy single issues a la carte. The Off Camera app is a beautifully designed hybrid magazine with the entire television version of Off Camera contained within it, available for any tablet or mobile device.

This e-magazine has all the images and extra content available in the physical version of the Off Camera magazine, plus enhanced HD video streaming so you can enjoy Off Camera your way.

After downloading the app, you will find Off Camera in your Apple newsstand folder. You can play steaming HD video straight from the pages of the app, making this experience truly multi-media.

Off Camera subscriptions available:
Single Issue/episode: (non-subscription): $2.99
6 month subscription: (11 issues/episodes): $27.99
1 year subscription: (22 issues/episodes): $49.99

Available in the Apple App Store and on Amazon:

Sometimes your calling finds you before you even know you had one. As a kid, Thandie Newton was studying dance at England’s Tring Park School for the Performing Arts  with no idea of acting. On a break, she went to an on-campus audition for the 1991 Australian film Flirting. They needed an “African girl” and she was the only one in the school. So there you have it – kind of. The director told her the audition was horrible (what do you want from a 16-year-old novice?), but if he was lacking in the sensitivity department, you can’t deny his eye for raw talent.

Newton went on to study social anthropology at Cambridge but landed back in front of a camera four years later with Tom Cruise in Interview with the Vampire. More hints of that talent – and an emerging gift for nuance – surfaced in her performance as slave/ mistress Sally Hemings in Jefferson In Paris the following year, but full-blown proof came with her searing performance as a mentally disabled woman in Jonathan Demme’s horror drama Beloved. If an actor’s stock in trade is control of her own instrument, maybe the rarer skill is letting it go. In his review of the film, Roger Ebert mused, “Thandie Newton does an interesting thing with her performance. She inhabits her body as if she doesn’t have the operating instructions. She walks unsteadily. She picks up things as if she doesn’t quite command her grasp. She talks like a child. And indeed inside this young woman there is a child…”

Newton was becoming recognized for the unusual combination that she is: An artist with leading lady beauty and the rap sheet of a character actress. Perhaps the social anthropology homework helped, too. Newton is at her best inhabiting roles and stories that reflect our world and the people in it for what they are, or better put, for what they aren’t: black and white. If you require our source material for that thesis, go back and watch The Pursuit of Happyness, Crash, The Slap, For Colored Girls and W. Even films that didn’t flip critics’ thumbs to the upright position couldn’t stamp out her charisma. The New York Times didn’t love the mega-budget Mission Impossible: II, but said Newton “displayed enough warmth to bring life to a laminated corpse, at least in the scenes she was in.” Regardless of role, she’s never just “the girl.” She never could be; Newton is too outspoken and concerned with issues like women’s rights, racism and sexual abuse to avoid taking roles that underline them.

For someone whose charisma is almost impossible to stamp out, her most interesting role to date might be in HBO’s Westworld, a serialized version of the 1973 Michael Crichton film. She plays an Old West madam who also happens to be a robot. She’s also set to star as the guest lead (make that guest lead villain) in the next series of the hit BBC drama Line of Duty. She also recently signed on to an untitled dark comedy for Amazon, joining the intriguing company of David Oyelowo, Charlize Theron, Joel Edgerton and Amanda Seyfried.

If Newton stumbled on her calling accidentally, it wasn’t without some spark of predestination. In a much-covered 2011 TED talk, she recalled struggling to find herself as a bi-racial child growing up in two distinct cultures. But that very sense of “otherness” is essential to anyone who has to understand others for a living. And for anyone who also hopes that living serves a higher purpose. “You are her. You are her, and she is you,” she told Vanity Fair. “It makes me feel quite emotional. That’s how we are going to figure out things in the world, and I mean it.” We loved talking to her, and we mean it.

This is the best way to experience Off Camera- When you get the app, you can instantly subscribe to Off Camera, or buy single issues a la carte. The Off Camera app is a beautifully designed hybrid magazine with the entire television version of Off Camera contained within it, available for any tablet or mobile device.

This e-magazine has all the images and extra content available in the physical version of the Off Camera magazine, plus enhanced HD video streaming so you can enjoy Off Camera your way.

After downloading the app, you will find Off Camera in your Apple newsstand folder. You can play steaming HD video straight from the pages of the app, making this experience truly multi-media.

Off Camera subscriptions available:
Single Issue/episode: (non-subscription): $2.99
6 month subscription: (11 issues/episodes): $27.99
1 year subscription: (22 issues/episodes): $49.99

Available in the Apple App Store and on Amazon:

Our talk with Mark Duplass will take you about an hour to absorb, and we sincerely hope you will. But say you only have about seven minutes, 13 seconds, and access to YouTube. Watch his 2003 short This Is John and you’ll have the CliffsNotes on who he is as a filmmaker: A genius at distilling our most towering personal fears, frustrations and joys into one seemingly inconsequential or silly event. The simple task of recording an outgoing phone message becomes a study of existential loneliness and self-doubt. The cold fingers-on-your-neck sensation comes when you realize you know exactly how he’s feeling.

Another early Duplass trademark? The entire cost of the wholly improvised film was about three bucks. Duplass, along with his brother and producing partner Jay, became known for making studies of the human condition that masquerade as movies; and for making movies that fit whatever budget, props and actors were available.

Two years later, Mark wrote, produced and acted in his debut feature, The Puffy Chair, which The New York Times called “a scruffy little miracle of truthfulness.” It was a true Duplass production – highly personal, built around a couple of props they already owned, and featuring mostly their friends, who mostly improvised the dialogue. Though it was seen by just 25,000 people in theaters after screening at Sundance, Mark and Jay suddenly found themselves fielding calls from well-established actors who wanted to be in their next indie. Stars like Ed Helms, Jonah Hill and John C. Reilly were fine swapping trailers for couch surfing in exchange for a collaborative, improvisational experience that used their talents beyond saying a line and hitting a mark.

Major studios got interested, too. As the movies and the budgets got bigger, Mark and his brother sometimes struggled to walk the line between commercial filmmaking and the subdued, human and outright weird aesthetic that set their work apart in the first place. It’s a creative POV that feels as much a part of who he is as what he does, and therefore to be valued above any potential box office take. And they largely succeeded in maintaining that sensibility. “What’s intriguing about Cyrus,” wrote Roger Ebert of Duplass’ 2010 feature about an overgrown kid with creepy mommy issues, “is the way it sort of sits back and observes an emotional train wreck as it develops. The movie doesn’t eagerly jump from one payoff to another, but attunes itself to nuance, body language and the habitual politeness with which we try to overlook social embarrassment.”

Jeff, Who Lives at Home, The Do-Deca-Pentathlon and Creep followed in quick succession, all bigger, all largely well reviewed. And all great for a Duplass, a guy who wants beyond little else just to make films that people see. Even so, he realized his and Jay’s approach is not the stuff of which blockbusters are made. Enter the golden age of TV, embodied in this instance by Netflix. It’s a platform made for an artist seeking creative freedom in getting niche projects to a significant number of people who are actually looking for something different, and Duplass has taken full advantage of it. The guys at Netflix are no dummies, either. “[Mark and Jay] are singularly the most informed and instinctive filmmakers and businessmen in the industry,” says Ted Sarandos, Netflix’s chief content officer. “They know how to get a film made, and they know how to get it seen.” Probably why they now have a four film production deal with the company, and why Mark has become somewhat of a fairy godmother to countless up-and-comers he now helps. Consequence of Sound wrote in 2015, “The simple fact that with all of his success, [Mark] still pushes tiny projects… is proof that he may be independent film’s most valuable asset.”

Amid all this, it’s easy to forget that on top of all the writing, producing, directing and mentoring, Duplass is a fine actor, earning praise for his performances in many of his own films, as well as others’, including Safety Not Guaranteed, Zero Dark Thirty, The Lazarus Effect, and TV series like The League and The Mindy Project. Not bad for a guy who early on almost quit in despair of ever becoming a filmmaker. Yet he’s said his questions about happiness and why it can be so hard to achieve is a theme he continues to explore in his work. Just our two cents, but maybe it’s as simple as doing what you love. And proving time and again that whether they cost three bucks or $10 million, great stories are always worth telling.

This is the best way to experience Off Camera- When you get the app, you can instantly subscribe to Off Camera, or buy single issues a la carte. The Off Camera app is a beautifully designed hybrid magazine with the entire television version of Off Camera contained within it, available for any tablet or mobile device.

This e-magazine has all the images and extra content available in the physical version of the Off Camera magazine, plus enhanced HD video streaming so you can enjoy Off Camera your way.

After downloading the app, you will find Off Camera in your Apple newsstand folder. You can play steaming HD video straight from the pages of the app, making this experience truly multi-media.

Off Camera subscriptions available:
Single Issue/episode: (non-subscription): $2.99
6 month subscription: (11 issues/episodes): $27.99
1 year subscription: (22 issues/episodes): $49.99

Available in the Apple App Store and on Amazon:

Casting aside some of the loftier descriptive flourishes that often surround the art, acting is essentially the job of pretending to be someone else. Taken a step further by Ewan McGregor, a reigning overachiever in that arena, “I should pretend to be different people all the time. They must never fall into the same category. If I was worried about my image, or if I was always playing somebody who saves hostages from airplanes, I wouldn’t be in this business at all.”

Maybe that 1998 comment to Interview magazine offered some reassurance (or at least a response) to industry watchers like fan and film critic Barry Norman, who did worry a bit about McGregor’s image, or at least his tendency to hop between roles large and small, plucking characters from a jumbo sized variety pack of humanity—heroes, anti-heroes, song-and-dance men, scoundrels, reprobates and dandies—too many of which Norman feared were underwritten for his talents: “If he wants to be a star he hasn’t quite gone about it the right way.” But maybe McGregor didn’t want to be a star as much as he just wanted to be an actor.

Under the spell of the classic films he absorbed as a weekend matinée regular while growing up in Crieff, Scotland, and inspired by an uncle who appeared in the first three Star Wars films, McGregor petitioned his local rep theater for work (he eventually got it, as a stagehand/extra) and later joined the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London and secured his first starring TV role on the UK series Lipstick On Your Collar within a year. Within a couple more came Trainspotting, a perfect example of the perfect storm that occurs when the right project and the right role find exactly the right actor. The film soars, and in the process reveals an actor at his best. Harry Ford summed it up nicely for Ford On Film: “Ewan McGregor as Mark Renton takes a fairly unpleasant, often backstabbing and conniving man and turns him into your lovable, witty best friend. His dialogue is sharp; he’s believable, with the right edge of unpleasantness to make him feel like an average human.” McGregor’s work in Danny Boyle’s huge small film launched a career that’s averaged three to four films every year since.

Looking at even a small sampling of them (Velvet Goldmine, Star Wars, Moulin Rouge!, Big Fish, I Love You, Phillip Morris, The Ghostwriter, Young Adam, The Impossible, and Miles Ahead, for instance) you find leads and supporting roles of all ilks. What you won’t find is sameness, unless you look at the acting itself. All McGregor’s performances are among the most unlabored and unguarded you’ll find. He plays straight and gay, outcasts, open-hearted romantics and con men with no more effort than is needed. In fact, you sometimes sense a barely perceptible conspiratorial wink to the audience—aren’t we having great fun in this tale?

Another consistency: Colleagues from projects across the board cite him as an upbeat, generous and supportive collaborator. That praise comes from people like Danny Boyle, renowned theater director Michael Grandage and Nicole Kidman, and not McGregor himself. We clarify because he did just star opposite himself in Last Days in the Desert (as Jesus and Satan) and is set to do so again next year in FX’s Fargo (as Minnesota Parking Lot King Emmit Stussy and his less successful brother Ray).

If he ever slacks off to the tune of, say, two projects a year, it’s usually to risk a bracing shot of live theater, singing in a Disney musical, or a body- and soul-jarring motorbike circumnavigation of the globe, visiting UNICEF programs along the way. He also seems undaunted by the tricky business of sequels, soon revisiting his breakout role with T2, the long-awaited follow up to Trainspotting. So what does scare him? Philip Roth. Despite being completely intimidated by the feat, he chose the author’s Pulitzer-winning American Pastoral as his directorial debut, and also stars in it for good measure.

None of which really answers the question of which box to check for McGregor—leading man or character actor? As long as we get to keep watching, we don’t really care. In fact, we hope we never find out.

This is the best way to experience Off Camera- When you get the app, you can instantly subscribe to Off Camera, or buy single issues a la carte. The Off Camera app is a beautifully designed hybrid magazine with the entire television version of Off Camera contained within it, available for any tablet or mobile device.

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Whether they crackle around us like lightning or tiptoe past us unremarked, defining moments happen to us all. They can happen at any time, but for Nick Offerman, we’re guessing one of the first occurred in a fourth grade vocabulary exercise when his teacher defined the word nonconformist: “It’s somebody who, whatever everybody is doing, they do the opposite.” In a 2015 interview with The Believer, Offerman recalled raising his hand and saying, “Mrs. Christiansen, I would like to be a nonconformist.”

That’s a tough profession around these parts (these parts being Hollywood), where folks tend to look sideways at strangers who don’t fit in. But if you have some talent, they’ll find you a type. Ironically, Offerman’s early film and TV career is a roll call of burly authority figures: one sergeant, two sheriffs, two deputy chiefs, a couple of special agents, a colonel and at least five police officers of various sorts, if the Wikipedia tally is correct. So how did he finally come to embody Ron Swanson, Parks and Recreation’s ultimate oddball contrarian?

Let’s back up a bit. Offerman grew up in the Midwest heartland in a church-going, solid values family with a dad who could fix almost anything. Besides woodworking and canoeing, Offerman’s chief hobby as an altar boy was maintaining a stoic facade while trying to crack up his cousin in the front pew – likely another defining moment for an actor now known for stealing scenes with just the raise of an eyebrow. Ice cream runs to town with an uncle who played forbidden Zappa on the radio first opened his eyes to a world beyond Minooka, Illinois. A less illicit drive with a girlfriend to the University of Urbana-Champaign for a dance audition led to another revelation: you could actually study plays and acting. A trail of influential Chicago theater groups and sawdust followed, Offerman occasionally trading his stage carpentry skills for roles at Steppenwolf or The Goodman.

A move west brought another revelation: L.A.’s theater scene did not rival Chicago’s. Staying true to who he knew he was as an artist wasn’t easy. In testing for pilots, he repeatedly heard, “He’s a little weird, he’s a little too interesting, he’s a little too intense.” But Offerman, always more oak than willow, stayed the course. After reconnecting with underground theater and co-starring on Comedy Central’s American Body Shop, the casting buzz was, “We found this great guy, he’s so weird and intense and interesting…” Oh, Hollywood, you crazy mixed-up kid.

After trying repeatedly to cast him in The Office (it never quite worked out), the show’s producers offered him Parks and Recreation. He played his manly, mustachioed individualism for laughs, which were all the funnier for their complete lack of irony. You got the feeling Ron Swanson would eat DIY hipsters for breakfast, if he didn’t prefer a nice steak instead.

Anyone who wonders what’s next for Offerman hasn’t been keeping up. He’s since appeared on FX’s Fargo, and stars with Michael Keaton in The Founder. He has at least three film projects in the works: The Hero (with Sam Elliott), Infinity Baby (with wife Megan Mullally) and Jeff Baena’s dark comedy The Little Hours. He builds boats and maintains a no-joke woodworking shop, plays music and still does some standup and theater when he can. He’s also written two books and has just published another, Good Clean Fun. After chatting with Mr. Offerman, we’ve arrived at a philosophy of our own: Happy is the man who can entertain others. Happier still is the man who can entertain himself. Happiest of all is the lucky bastard who can do both.

This is the best way to experience Off Camera- When you get the app, you can instantly subscribe to Off Camera, or buy single issues a la carte. The Off Camera app is a beautifully designed hybrid magazine with the entire television version of Off Camera contained within it, available for any tablet or mobile device.

This e-magazine has all the images and extra content available in the physical version of the Off Camera magazine, plus enhanced HD video streaming so you can enjoy Off Camera your way.

After downloading the app, you will find Off Camera in your Apple newsstand folder. You can play steaming HD video straight from the pages of the app, making this experience truly multi-media.

Off Camera subscriptions available:
Single Issue/episode: (non-subscription): $2.99
6 month subscription: (11 issues/episodes): $27.99
1 year subscription: (22 issues/episodes): $49.99

Available in the Apple App Store and on Amazon:

What do you make of a free-thinking young Londoner who loses her famous father at age five, demands to enter Freudian psychoanalysis at nine and wins the W.H. Smith Young Writers Award (twice) while still in high school? A poet? A professor? A mess? Oh, right—an actress. One that British journalist Victoria Coren calls “whip-clever and very charming.”

That Kate Beckinsale possessed screen-worthy beauty was obvious; but her fate was more likely determined by circumstance and her active imagination. Her father Richard was a much-beloved actor in the U.K., and her mother was also an actress who eventually re-married to a TV director. In considering career options, Beckinsale didn’t have to look around much to decide that her parents seemed to be having a lot more fun in their jobs than most other kids’ parents, and booking several British TV roles before she was out of her teens provided no evidence to the contrary.

While studying French and Russian at Oxford, Beckinsale did four films, most notably Kenneth Branagh’s big-screen adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing. The extra-curricular activities finally proved too much ado for her schedule, and she dropped out to pursue acting full time. The pleading letter she wrote to fight for her first post-Oxford role as orphaned socialite Flora Poste in the well-received Cold Comfort Farm proved worth any effort (and potential restraining orders) involved. The Los Angeles Times wrote, “Beckinsale is yet another of those effortlessly skilled British beauties who light up the screen. Her Flora has such charm and poise and such utter fearlessness that no do-gooder could be more disarming.”

While reviews aren’t the paint box you want to use for a full picture of any actor’s talents, more than a few highlight Beckinsale’s early and singular ability to connect contemporary audiences to period-piece heroines. The Independent described her performance in ITV’s adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma as “the most enduring modern performance” of the role. From The New York Times on The Golden Bowl: “As Ms. Beckinsale’s Maggie metamorphoses from a victim into a steely survivor who takes control of her circumstances and makes the necessary sacrifices, each beat registers precisely.” Variety recently underlined the point its write-up on 2016’s Love & Friendship. “Lady Susan is an altogether more slippery creation, and Beckinsale, coolly imbibing one of the most satisfying screen roles of her career, lends the character an edge of ironic self-appreciation. When she deadpans a line like ‘Facts are horrid things’…it’s hard not to sense the character giving the audience the subtlest of winks from beneath her broad-brimmed hats and expensive furs.”

Sprinkled among the hats and furs were wider-ranging roles in films like The Last Days of Disco, Brokedown Palace, Pearl Harbor, Serendipity and Scorsese’s The Aviator. To ensure she wasn’t corset-holed, she also took on action films, an effort she admits may have been an overreaction. In taking on Total Recall and the Underworld series, she says, “I was so anxious to not pigeonhole myself that I ended up pigeonholing myself in the place that was furthest outside my comfort zone.” If Underworld makes more use of latex and explosions than layers and expression, well, there are worse ways to earn a global box office return of $458.2 million than being a gorgeous ass-kicking vampire.

If there’s any common thread woven through her cinematic CV, it’s the edge and subtle humor she brings to even her most serious roles. She has the emotional intelligence of someone who can at once deeply feel the grab bag of experience life hands us, and ponder it from a philosophical remove. If she’s found some of that intelligence to be hard-won, she nevertheless brings it to bear in portraying the kind of layered, complex characters we see around us every day, but all too infrequently on screen. Carry on, Ms. Beckinsale, carry on.

This is the best way to experience Off Camera- When you get the app, you can instantly subscribe to Off Camera, or buy single issues a la carte. The Off Camera app is a beautifully designed hybrid magazine with the entire television version of Off Camera contained within it, available for any tablet or mobile device.

This e-magazine has all the images and extra content available in the physical version of the Off Camera magazine, plus enhanced HD video streaming so you can enjoy Off Camera your way.

After downloading the app, you will find Off Camera in your Apple newsstand folder. You can play steaming HD video straight from the pages of the app, making this experience truly multi-media.

Off Camera subscriptions available:
Single Issue/episode: (non-subscription): $2.99
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1 year subscription: (22 issues/episodes): $49.99

Available in the Apple App Store and on Amazon:

Much has been made–justifiably so–about the anemic diversity represented in film and television, most problematically when roles originally written for people of color are rewritten for white actors. So consider if you will the concept of a 5’ 4” woman of Indian descent writing and playing the part of a famously strapping white male actor – in 2002, no less. The off-Broadway play (that would be Matt & Ben, in case you were wondering) hardly seems like the breakout opportunity of a lifetime for anyone. But Vera Mindy Chokalingam, 23 years old and barely out of college at the time, is about as un-anyone as they come.

Matt & Ben was named one of Time magazine’s “Top Ten Theatrical Events of the Year,” and its co-writer/co-star (better known these days as Mindy Kaling) praised by The New York Times for her fine, deadpan sense of the absurd and the vicious. As fateful showbiz stories often go, in the audience one night was producer Greg Daniels, who was working on an American adaptation of The Office. He hired Kaling as a writer-performer on the show. Make that the only female writer on a staff of eight, and soon its most prolific. “Your average writer, when they get really good, I know how they got it,” Daniels told The New York Times. “I can see the steps. But I love how with Mindy, I don’t see how she does it.”

We have a speculation or two. Kaling grew up on Fawlty Towers and Saturday Night Live, and says she realized pretty early on that the only thing she really liked doing was writing dialogue. Listening to the characters on her shows, you get the feeling that there’s so much rapid-fire conversation looping in her head that it’s all she can do to keep up; no wonder Kelly Kapoor, Mindy Lahiri and their co-workers seem to spring fully formed like mini-Athenas from the crowded forehead of a comic Zeus. It also spills over into books (Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? And Other Concerns and Why Not Me?) and a Twitter feed as random and entertaining as it is followed – by more than 7.5 million fans.

Kaling’s on-screen alter egos are at once reflections and antipodes of Kaling herself. They love and feed on the pop-culture they send up. They’re unapologetically self-involved and superficial, proof that Kaling has no problem being the target of her own gimlet-eyed humor. In its review of The Mindy Project’s first episode, The A.V. Club wrote, “What’s most intriguing about this project is just how harsh it is about its lead character, who is certainly not without flaws… Kaling has her eye on doing something more ambitious than the standard TV claptrap.” Say what you want about her characters, they are not clichés. Ambitious, demanding, egocentric, romantically messed up, yes, but not anything you’d find among the seven standard Hollywood-issue female roles she barbecued in a 2011 New Yorker piece. Which gives us high expectations for what she’ll do with her role in Sandra Bullock’s all-female remake of Ocean’s Eleven. High hopes, too, given how sorely comedy needs what she does.

It is funny how the honesty we love in bold female characters can still unsettle us in the women who play them. And maybe that’s why there remain many who are reluctant to make waves. Kaling is not among them. Talking to her, you sense an entitlement, but it’s one of privilege earned – through talent, risk, constantly proving one’s place at the table, and mostly, very hard work.

“I feel I can go head-to-head with the best white, male comedy writers out there,” Kaling has said. (And if you can convince an audience you’re Ben Affleck, why wouldn’t you?) Though she’s more than proven her point, let’s hope she’ll never stop making it.

This is the best way to experience Off Camera- When you get the app, you can instantly subscribe to Off Camera, or buy single issues a la carte. The Off Camera app is a beautifully designed hybrid magazine with the entire television version of Off Camera contained within it, available for any tablet or mobile device.

This e-magazine has all the images and extra content available in the physical version of the Off Camera magazine, plus enhanced HD video streaming so you can enjoy Off Camera your way.

After downloading the app, you will find Off Camera in your Apple newsstand folder. You can play steaming HD video straight from the pages of the app, making this experience truly multi-media.

Off Camera subscriptions available:
Single Issue/episode: (non-subscription): $2.99
6 month subscription: (11 issues/episodes): $27.99
1 year subscription: (22 issues/episodes): $49.99

Available in the Apple App Store and on Amazon:

Maybe Vince Vaughn didn’t fully understand the scope of the telemarketing job he took to earn some money back in the early days, but from the vantage of 45 or so movies hence, you could argue he missed his calling—it’s easy to picture the saps he bulldozed into sending an orphan to the local rodeo. To be fair, he wasn’t aware that neither the orphans nor the rodeo really existed, but Vaughn’s marauding, motor-mouthed rhetoric did fuel the best and most memorable moments in films like Old School, Wedding Crashers and Made. His observational rants brought dimension to broad comedies in the form of characters we watched to see what they would say as much as we watched to see what they would do. He took the thoughts most of us keep well out of reach of our tongues and gave them voice in coercive comedic soliloquy. In fact, they spawned an addition to the film review lexicon: Vaughnese.

As fun as it is to imagine, the telemarketing career never had much chance to take off. Vaughn, who did some musical theater as a kid (along with basketball, baseball and football), decided at 17 to be actor. After booking a car commercial at 18, he moved from Buffalo Grove, Ill. to L.A. to make it happen. Shortly thereafter, he appeared in various and sundry TV series and after-school specials, as well as the film Rudy, where he struck up a friendship with fellow aspiring actor Jon Favreau. A couple years later, they decided to quit waiting for the phone to ring and made a small independent called Swingers. You never know which decisions are the fateful ones.

Interspersed with the blockbusters that followed were films that made use of Vaughn’s nuanced ability to shade humor with a certain undefined menace that goes beyond what comes standard with a burly 6’5” physique. (Though Gus Van Sant admits stature was a factor in casting him in his remake of Psycho; Vaughn scared the bejesus out of Van Sant’s assistant just by walking into the office for a meeting.). At the beginning of their careers, most actors choose the roles that are most likely to get them bigger parts, but Vaughn’s work in films like Made, Return to Paradise and Clay Pigeons demonstrate an uncommon disregard for painting himself in varying shades of unlikability. While some of those roles earned him praise—in its review of Return to Paradise, The New York Times said, “As Sheriff, Mr. Vaughn projects a deep-seated skepticism and chilliness that give the story its suspense.”—they didn’t necessarily rock the box office. So cue up the comedies, most of which were hits, but some of which were less than satisfying, including to Vaughn himself. This seems to have prompted more instinctive, personal choices of late. It’s also prompted entertainment writers to coin yet another term in his honor: Vaughnaissance.

Call it what you will, it appears to be going well. Of Vaughn’s performance in the HBO series True Detective, The AV Club wrote, “More than any other character, Frank Semyon reveals the numbness of rejecting his true self, and the vitality that returns when he embraces it…Frank sparks with vitality.” And some intriguing films are in the works: In The Archbishop and the Antichrist, he’ll play a murderer opposite Forest Whitaker’s Archbishop Desmond Tutu. He also stars in Mel Gibson’s WWII drama Hacksaw Ridge, and the prison-riot drama Brawl in Cell Block 99.

But here we have to confess ourselves Vaughnaissance-deniers; he’s never stopped turning out interesting work. It’s just that his on-screen career tends to overshadow projects like his live Wild West Comedy Show and Pursuit of the Truth, a televised competition that funded the passion projects of documentary filmmakers. And there’s his own Netflix doc Art of Conflict, a vivid and moving chronicle of the violent history captured in the street murals of Northern Ireland.

As an artist, Vaughn obviously has much to say, and we loved talking to him. So while we don’t expect he’ll be cold calling us at dinnertime anytime soon, we hope he’ll keep in touch.

This is the best way to experience Off Camera- When you get the app, you can instantly subscribe to Off Camera, or buy single issues a la carte. The Off Camera app is a beautifully designed hybrid magazine with the entire television version of Off Camera contained within it, available for any tablet or mobile device.

This e-magazine has all the images and extra content available in the physical version of the Off Camera magazine, plus enhanced HD video streaming so you can enjoy Off Camera your way.

After downloading the app, you will find Off Camera in your Apple newsstand folder. You can play steaming HD video straight from the pages of the app, making this experience truly multi-media.

Off Camera subscriptions available:
Single Issue/episode: (non-subscription): $2.99
6 month subscription: (11 issues/episodes): $27.99
1 year subscription: (22 issues/episodes): $49.99

Available in the Apple App Store and on Amazon:

We all love a good Hollywood success story: The struggling young actor who takes any part and every waiter job he can get to pay the bills until finally it happens—the Breakout. The long-sought role that confers household-name status, ensures a future in the business, and defines him as an artist. Adam Scott probably would’ve been fine with that version, but life, as it does, took him down a decidedly different path to success. As a young actor, Scott cobbled together various and sundry jobs, episodic TV appearances (Boy Meets World, ER, Party of Five), and not-destined-for-Sundance movies to keep things going until finally… Well, suffice it to say some breakouts can sneak up on you so slowly as to be indiscernible to the naked eye.

By the time Step Brothers and Parks and Recreation rolled around, he was one of the more recognizable faces on screen. But if one singular role never came along to define him, sheer numbers did the job, and he has proven himself to be an incredibly versatile actor in the process.

Scott is the son of two teachers, but a trifecta of movies aimed squarely at his adolescence—Lost Boys, Stand By Me, Dead Poet’s Society—was all he needed to be convinced he wanted to act. It was an ambition he held close to his chest in high school to avoid the dreaded “drama geek” label, until he graduated and entered L.A.’s prestigious American Academy of Dramatic Arts.

His plan was to be Ethan Hawke, something he laughs about now, as he does at his tie-dye-and-earring wardrobe phase (hey man, he liked The Dead), donning a fake penis for The Overnight, and loving every bloody moment of making the 2010 gorefest Piranha 3-D. Odd, then, that he’s never considered himself funny. If he’s overlooked that axiom about the funniest people being those who can laugh at themselves, maybe he’d agree that at the very least, they demonstrate an innate sympathy for characters they play, regardless of their absurdity or jerkiness.

Patiently toiling along in guest spots and film shorts, he took a big leap up the comedy ladder in 2008, playing the successful but sulfurous younger brother Derek in Step Brothers. It was intimidating, but a chance to hone his improv chops in the company of comic geniuses Will Ferrell and Adam McKay. After that, things started to pick up steam. In 2009, basically screwing around in a friend’s backyard, he wound up making the pilot for Party Down, which became a cult classic, with Scott playing the role of an ex-actor caterer who’s one big commercial sunk his career down the Pigeonhole of No Return. A year and two audition attempts later, Scott landed the role of the earnest accountant Ben Wyatt on Parks and Recreation and wound up staying for the rest of its run.

Though the comedies kept coming (Hot Tub Time Machine 2, BacheloretteA.C.O.D.), the business did a rare thing: it lifted the yellow do-not-cross tape and invited him over to less overt films that demanded more shaded performances, including his critically acclaimed turn as a bitter construction worker with serious case of misogyny in The Vicious Kind. As Caleb Sinclaire, he wasn’t goofy, adorably square or dimwitted. Instead, per a review in The New York Times, he was “…a flailing, emoting bundle of contradictions whom Mr. Scott [made] eminently watchable.”

In 2015, he joined Johnny Depp, Kevin Bacon and Benedict Cumberbatch in the ensemble cast of Black Mass, the American biographical crime drama that followed the career of the infamous Irish-American mobster Whitey Bulger. A quick scan of upcoming projects shows no end to the tape-crossing. First up is this fall’s My Blind Brother, in which he walks the fine line of portraying a rather unlikable disabled person. There’s Netflix’s The Most Hated Woman in America, based on a true story about an atheist’s fight to overturn prayer in public schools, and his X-Files spoof Ghosted with The Office alum Craig Robinson. He recently signed on to star with Zoey Deutch and Kathryn Hahn in the coming-of-age feature Flower, and for good measure, he’s optioned Chuck Klosterman’s novel Downtown Owl.

He’s a humble guy, and talking to him, you get the feeling that despite the expanded profile, he’d still get a kick out of being Phillip the Coffee Boy or doing Krampus 6. Maybe the real Hollywood story here is that if you love what you do, and keep at it, you eventually get really good at it. Scott has said he’s happy his more recent roles are characters that show you can still evolve as an adult. In Scott’s case, they’ve more than proven you can evolve as an actor as well. And the more gradually, the better, since, as Scott says, your best work is always right around the corner.

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