Interview with actress Linette Beaumont (THE PROWLER)

linette Beaumont 1.jpgLinette Beaumont was the winner of “Best Performance” in her short film THE PROWLER at the April 2017 Horror/Thriller Film Festival. It was an honor to chat with her about her role and what’s next for the talented actress:

Matthew Toffolo: Describe your character? How was the process in executing this performance?

Linette Beaumont: Eva is a tormented character, who is struggling with heart break after her husband has had an affair and left her. Eva is unable to let go and finds herself in a very dark place, manipulating her daughter into being instrumental in something that will change their lives forever.

As an actor I believe I have a responsibility to the character that I am playing, it’s my job to tell my characters story without judgement.

I tried to do that, and to be as honest to Eva (my character) as I could, and act exactly what was on the page.

How did you become attached to this project?

Tim Kent ( the director ) and I had worked together beforehand at Pinewood Studios. We discussed the possibility of doing a film together.

Tim introduced me to Daniella Gonella (our wonderful producer) at DG Productions. We then all had a meeting in Soho London with the very talented writer Matthew Arlidge, who had worked in television for many years and had written for one of my favorite BBC drama series Silent Witness. Matthew had also recently launched his bestselling crime debut Eeny Meeny. He agreed to write a short film specifically for me which I was delighted about and very flattered.

We then worked extremely hard to make it happen.

Coincidentally, James Friend BSC, (director of photography) BAFTA award winning, Rillington Place, who had just shot Matthew’s episodes of Silent Witness agreed to shoot the film.
An amazing team.

How would you describe your short film in two words!

Psychological thriller!

What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?

Time restraints were challenging. We used very high-end cameras and lens from Movitech at Pinewood Studios. The end result is fantastic, but when you use such high-end equipment things move very slowly. It takes 3-4 people to move everything. Also the interiors were shot in a cottage, so it was very tight for space.

Also Christmas! Kate Plantin CDG (casting director) who was amazing, was phoning agents to confirm actors when they had closed for Christmas, it was crazy.

And Budget, you never have enough money!

What were your initial reactions when watching the Toronto audience talking about your film in the feedback video?

Of course as an actor, I was very happy to hear they liked the acting! I smiled at the comment regarding the ‘leaves on the trees’ we shot the film during winter, just after Christmas, and we did have leaves on the trees!

Feedback is great, and it’s important. I think it is always very interesting to hear feedback from people, industry and non industry professionals.

I think film is an observer of life. Everybody loves to watch a film. But we all feel so differently about what we see when we watch a film. It was interesting listening to what they had to say, how an idea resonated, or how the film made them feel. For me film making is magic, full of twists and turns, highs and lows, to quote the film director Danny Boyle, ‘to be a filmmaker, you have to be relentless. You have to be psychotic in your desire to do something and keep working. People always like the easy route. You can’t, you have to push very hard to get something unusual, something different to stand out.’


What film have you seen the most in your life?

Very difficult question as I have films for different moods! But I would say these films are in my top ten of most watched.

The Godfather and Deer Hunter, Star Wars. Street Car Named Desire and Annie Hall, Some Like It Hot, Singing in the rain. Cinderella, and the Fox and the Hound.

What song have you listened to the most times in your life?

Clair de Lune- Debussy its the first thing I learnt on the piano, and reminds me of so much. But I also love Stevie Wonder.

What is next for you? A new film?

Yes I’m working with writer-director Daniel Yost (co-writer Drugstore Cowboy) co-writing and playing the lead role in Melody’s Tune, a project where I will play both the negligent mother of a homeless nine-year-old and the girl’s imaginary good mother. “ I can’t wait!


Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 20-50 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto, and Los Angeles at least 2 times a month. Go to for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

Interview with Actor/Director Samantha Neyland (WHEN STRANGERS TOUCH YOUR HAIR)

samanthaneyland.jpgSamantha Neyland co-directed and starred in the short film “When Strangers Touch Your Hair”, which was showcased at the Los Angeles FEEDBACK Film Festival in December 2016. The film received rave reviews from the audience. It was an honor to chat with her about the film and what’s next for the beautiful and talented artist:

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Samantha Neyland: I made this film as a way to work through the insecurities I had always lived with but until 2016 was too afraid to talk about.

MT: From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this film?

SN: From start to finish, it only took six weeks. The initial idea was scary and I knew if I didn’t march forward at full speed it would never get done.

MT: How would you describe your short film in two words!?

SN: Honestly Real

MT: What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?

SN: Casting! I ended up having to re-cast one of the roles a week before and another role the night before!

MT: What were your initial reactions when watching the Los Angeles audience talking about your film in the feedback video?

SN: I loved the comments that were made. This film was made with the intention of getting people to think and talk about something that is so often forgotten.

MT: How did you come up with the idea for this short film?

SN: This film was based on true events that had happened very recently and were still very much fresh in my mind at the time.

MT: What film have you seen the most in your life?

SN: Probably Finding Nemo. I was so obsessed with that movie as a kid and I know I’ve seen it at least 100 times.

MT: What is next for you? A new film?

SN: My roommate and I are actually working on a script right now that we hope to shoot early 2017. It’s the complete opposite of When Strangers Touch Your Hair: a comedy, 100% made up, and over-the-top characters. That’s what makes it fun!



Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 20-50 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto, and Los Angeles at least 2 times a month. Go to for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

Interview with Veteran Actor Michael Flynn (The Actors Workshop)

Michael_Flynn.jpgActing was Michael Flynn’s second choice. Playing second base for the NY Yankees was his first. He soon learned that the Yankees would never come calling – then came the acting bug. An active Mormon, Michael served his mission in France with Mitt Romney of all people!

It was a pleasure chatting with Michael about his acting career and his new job as an acting teacher.

Matthew Toffolo: Tell us about the The Actors Workshop

Michael Flynn: I started the Actors Workshop a few years ago because I enjoy working with actors. It was also my impression that a lot of actors with whom I was working we’re making some fundamental mistakes. Again, just my impression.

As I started working with actors I got a great deal of positive feedback. So I took my workshop to the next level and opened my own studio in Salt Lake City.

MT: What makes a great acting teacher?

MF: Wow. A great acting teacher? I think that is akin to asking what makes a great painter? A great teacher? Great singer?

I suppose, In my opinion, passion plays into it. Let me say upfront that I would never classify myself as a great acting teacher. I have my own methods. I am very passionate about the process. But I also believe that each actor should find his or her own mentor. His or her own teacher.

I don’t believe that there is one great acting teaching method out there. There are many methods that work for many actors. But through it all, I do believe that a great acting teacher needs to have passion for the process, have a great deal of appreciation and affection for the actors who join him or her in the studio.

MT: What should an actor look for in an acting teacher?

MF: Find a teacher or mentor who inspires them. Who is honest with them. Someone who understands the business on a profound level. Someone who can discuss agents, Unions, and someone who has a very specific approach to working with actors.

An actor should find a teacher who is willing to be brutally honest with him. I think one of the advantages of having an acting coach or mentor is that through the process of working with the coach an actor can determine if he or she is really cut out for this business.

It is important to remember that the entertainment business does not need you. It does not need me. Movies will be made regardless of any one person’s involvement. The movie business does not need us. It is doing just fine without us. Speaking on an individual basis of course.

So then the question becomes does the individual actor need the movie business? And is that particular actor qualified to work in the movie business? Does he or she have the talent to compete? A lot of these questions can be answered by finding the right acting teacher.

MT: What film, besides the ones you’ve worked on, have you seen the most in your life?

MF: I must say that I don’t watch a lot of movies over and over again. I have of course seen quite a few films many, many times. I think the film that I most enjoy going back and watching again and again is William Goldman’s The Lion in Winter. I believe it came out in 1968. Starring Peter O’Toole and Katharine Hepburn. It is one of Anthony Hopkins earliest films. A brilliant script. Brilliant acting. Great story based somewhat loosely on history. O’Toole and Hepburn were up for Oscars. Hepburn won. Check it out.

MT: What has been your most favorite role that you have played?

MF: My favorite role. Well… I come from a stage background and I must say that my favorite roles have been on stage. I have been very fortunate to play some iconic rules in musical theater. Arthur in Camelot. John Adams in 1776. Harold Hill in The Music Man. Those are some of my favorites. In film, as I look back, the first film I did left an impression. Footloose. Enjoyed working with Kevin Bacon, but I especially loved working with the fabulous director Herb Ross. Funny story from Footloose. I played a cop and was accompanied by another cop in a scene where we pulled Bacon out of his VW Bug and gave him a bad time. The other cop, Russ McGinn, was about 6’ 7”. I’m only 5’ 8”. Herb kept getting our names mixed up. Finally started calling us by our correct name. During a break I saw two strips of white tape on the side of the camera. “Russ – tall”. “Michael – less tall”. I got a kick out of that.

MT: What type of role would you like to play that you haven’t played in yet?

MF: For some reason, that I cannot quite understand, I would like to play a general or commanding officer in a war film. I was scheduled to play the role of George Patton in a film. The film was put on hold and has never come to fruition. I loved the script and the story and character. That would’ve been a blast. Another role on my bucket list is to conduct a fabulous orchestra/choir.

MT: I direct screenplay table readings every single week and meet and work with over 300-400 actors every given year. I’ve learned a lot about actors and I feel that the great ones have learned how to stay in their lane. What I mean by that is any successful actor is good at doing one or two things and they keep doing the same roles over and over – but the camera lens, makeup, genre, and story tones just change. So it appears to the audience that they are doing something distinctly different, but in reality they are just staying in their lane. The ones who try to have too much range, eventually fail. Overall, would you agree or disagree with my assessment? Especially for young actors? Get better at what you’re really good at and stop trying to be/do something you’re not.

MF: Yes, for the most part I really agree with that. I’m a firm believer, and I teach this in my workshop, that every role we are asked to play is inside of us somewhere. So, we draw on our own personal experiences for any role that we are asked to play.

I also tell actors that they are going to be hired to be them. I look them square in the eyes and say you are going to be hired to be you. Not someone else. You simply need to find the character inside of you. And let the character out. Let that aspect of you come to the surface.

I remind actors that we have all said, after doing something that seemed completely out of character for us, that whatever you did that you did not like, whatever you did that seemed hurtful to someone, hurtful to yourself, whatever negative thing you did about which you are really embarrassed or sorry – you have to understand that that is you. We sometimes say after doing something really stupid or hurtful or mean “Wow that’s not me”. Actually, it is you. You did it. Nobody forced you to do it. You did it. It was your choice.

I love the word “choice”. I use it all the time when working with actors. I will often say make a different choice. But I think it’s important to understand that all of our choices come from within us. So yes, I believe that an actor should really understand his or her own talents. Who he or she really is. I like the quote of Ryan Gosling: “All my characters are me… I relate to these characters because aspects of their personality are like me. And I just turn up the part of myself that are them and turn down the parts that aren’t”.

MT: What advice do you have for an actor who has out grown their agent and must try to seek new representation?

MF: I recently switched agents. I had been with my previous agent for quite a long time. I was very good friends with my agent. But, I felt that I needed to be handled by someone else. So I went to an agency that I thought was more professional. One that would further my career. I would say if you feel like you have outgrown your agent just be honest about it. Be upfront about it. It would probably be helpful to have the confidence that you can actually get another agent before you leave your current agent; sort of like having another job lined up before you quit your current job.

MT: What advice do you have for an actor who is just starting out? Do as much work as you can no matter how low-budget or sketchy it seems?

MF: Sure, I tell actors go do a play. Go do a low budget independent film. Do a student film. Do whatever you can to hone your skills. But I also tell actors who are just starting out, make sure this is the business for you! Because this business is not for everybody.

And there are many, many talented actors who will never work in this business. For a variety of reasons. Maybe they don’t know how to audition. Maybe they’re really good but just not good enough. So when an actor is just starting out I always tell them the first thing you should figure out is if you like this business and does this business like you?

The entertainment field is like anything else. It looks different from the inside than it does from the outside. And once you jump in the pool and get a good look at it from the inside you may discover that it’s not really for you. And of course, it is better to find that out early on rather than later on.

MT: What is your secret to being a working actor for so many years?

MF: My secret? Persistence. I never gave up. And I am not saying in any way shape or form that I have realized all my dreams and aspirations in the entertainment field. No. There’re still many things I hope to accomplish. And I do not feel like I have had some sort of stellar career. I have managed to support myself and enjoy the bumpy, up-and-down ride.

It hasn’t always been easy. But, I think the real secret is you have to be passionate about it. And you flat out cannot give up. Some actors go into it with a ”backup plan”. My philosophy has always been that if you have a backup plan your backup plan will end up being your life. If there’s something on which you can fall back eventually you will fall back.

But if you don’t have a backup plan, if you just throw yourself in the deep end you have to learn to swim. And remember if you don’t have talent, if you don’t have the gift, the magic, the drive, you probably won’t make it in this business. And that’s okay. Like I said earlier, this business does not need you. It will do just fine without you. The real question is, do you need this business?


Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 10-20 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto on the last Thursday of every single month. Go to for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

Interview with Stunt Double Olga Wilhelmine (10 Cloverfield Lane)

Making her home in New Orleans, Olga Wilhelmine is a singer/songwriter turned actress turned stunt performer. Jumping out of planes brought her to her new career (see below). In the last year she has stunt doubled for actresses Haley Bennett and Mary Elizabeth Winstead in two of the most highly anticipated films of 2016.

For more info, go to her website:

olgaMatthew Toffolo: Are you an actress who also does stunts, or a stunt performer who also acts?

Olga Wilhelmine: I am an actress who does stunts, or I’d say it started out that way for sure. A lot of times depending on where camera is, you have to do your own stunts and this is of course also depending on what the stunt is, but it is certainly a big factor.

MT: You were the stunt double for Mary Elizabeth Winstead in the upcoming film 10 Cloverfield Lane. Tell us about your experiences working on that film? From complicated to simple tasks, what was your role as stunt double on the film?

OW: I was Mary’s stand-in, photo double and stunt double on 10 Cloverfield Lane so I was there every day with her on set. We filmed about 7 weeks in New Orleans mainly on a sound stage bunker set which was kept dark and lots of smoke, dust and special effects that add to the bunker feel. Being in the dark all day was a bit harrowing especially in the beginning and we really felt like we were in a bunker. As with all films I’ve experienced, waiting is the hardest part. There are so many factors that go into each camera shot and set up and those factors add up in time. Once camera rolls it goes fairly quickly, the set up is the longest part and the re-set after a take can also take time. Mary is a really wonderful and natural actress and very gracious. I actually learned a lot from her and she was brave and did a lot of the physical work herself because the camera was on her face. After a few takes it can wear you down, so she put up with a lot. There is a camera close up of her face in a gas mask which was a heavy and awkward camera rig set up she had to wear. I tested it out for the camera people several times and at one point and it on for an hour! It was heavy awkward and difficult to move with and certainly hurt after a while and she wore this rig too to film those scenes. I have so much respect to her and I did my best to help her wherever I could, which is part of what you do as a double.

MT: You also worked on the upcoming film “The Magnificent Seven”. How was working on that set and what stunts did you perform?

OW: I was doubling the actress Haley Bennett and had a shooting scene (imagine that in a western!). There was a lot of sitting and waiting on this film as it was filmed on location and lots of factors went into it; weather, horses, actors, background actors, camera set ups and resets…although I did meet quite a few people and spent time with some of the other actors. One day several of us had other auditions for other projects, so we used the downtime to help tape each other. That was fun actually!

MT: You’ve also done a lot of stand in work. What exactly does that job entail?

OW: A stand-in takes the place of the actor doing the camera set up and lighting. As I mentioned above that can take a long time depending on the shot and how many components there are. For example, you might have to remove a wall or two, re-dress the set, lay track for the dolly, light the scene and then rehearse the action or blocking with camera movements. I did a lot of this on 10 Cloverfield Lane and they also used me as a photo double, so they would roll camera and I’d do the take in Mary’s place. She was carrying the film entirely, so they used me to help with that as it is a lot of work for one person to do alone—it’s actually not possible without wearing the actor out. In some cases you may have several people fill in, but in this case is was just her and I handling the bulk of it.

When I first started out in film in New Orleans, I was hired to stand-in for Melissa Leo on Treme which was in incredible experience for several seasons. I learned a lot from her and learned a lot about lighting and cameras. Following that I had a tremendous experience standing in for several male actors on Django Unchained. It’s unusual to have females stand in for males, usually not done, but Quentin decided to have fun with Bob Richardson and hired me after I played violin for a party the production had one night. I wore men’s clothing and high heels in some cases, and we had a lot of fun laughing about that. Some of those set ups would take quite a long time but we had a blast, listening to music and plenty of joking around.

MT: How did you get into the stunt game? Did you take an extensive course(s)? How much time do you spend weekly working on your craft?

OW: This is something I recently wrote about for an article for Parachutist Magazine link here:

Through skydiving I got into stunt work as not many actresses jump out of planes, so it illustrates the ability to focus and perform under extreme pressure and that is impressive to people. There is of course a physical element to skydiving and you learn how to maneuver your body in the air and control your terminal speed, along with canopy piloting to reach the ground. Most people don’t know, is that skydiving is immensely psychological in that it all comes down to your mental headspace. The calmer you are, the better the dive, the more successful you are. One minute can become a very long time by slowing down your thoughts and streamlining your focus.

I met some stunt guys who upon discovering I was a skydiver, encouraged me to get into stunt work. Both stunts and jumping are continuous learning experience and I have gotten comfortable in the space of “not knowing what’s next” just going with it and trusting myself, that I will know what to do and I will be able to perform.

MT: What’s it like being a female in the “boys” club of the stunt performers on set?

OW: I grew up sort of a tom boy, so I was always around boys. I played plenty of sports and was on a ski team, but I was also a musician, composer, singer and writer and actress so I had a lot of other areas of talent and skill. I am quite comfortable around the guys, although now I’m all grown up and a bit more girlie, but I find they are easy going for the most part an easy to get a long with. I suppose one of the challenges is that is is hard to break into stunts and “the club” if you will, and so that can be difficult for women. But that seems to be the case in whatever business you get into, honestly. Don’t even get me started on the music business!!

MT: Have you had any minor or major injuries working as a stunt performer?

OW: Thankfully not (knock on wood). Bruises and scrapes and sore muscles though…

MT: What’s the biggest high risk stunt you’ve performed to date?

OW: I’d say jumping out of planes is my biggest high risk and I do that for fun! There are different kinds of stunts at different risk levels. Certain people are better at certain things than others and I very much respect people who do the things I cannot. For example, I know nothing about car crashes and car stunts. There are experts in that area and I would defer to them as it is a special skill.

MT: Do you have a stunt that you love to perform in a movie that you haven’t performed yet?

OW: I’d like to skydive in a movie!!

MT: What film, besides the ones you’ve worked on, have you seen the most in your life?

OW: Star Wars – A New Hope is my favorite and I’ve seen it a million times, it never gets old.

Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 10-20 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto on the last Thursday of every single month. Go to for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

Interview with Actor James Wallis (Shakespeare BASH’d)

I first met James Wallis 5 years ago when he performed at one of our Screenplay Festival events when we were working at the National Film Board of Canada. Right away you could tell he was an actor on the rise as he always served the story he was performing in while also bringing an original and unique take. That is something that is very rare to see in an actor.

I was happy to sit down with James as he’s preparing to play Hamlet at the Monarch Tavern in downtown Toronto, Canada from February 2-7 2016. Go to for more information.

James also serves as the Artistic Director for the successful theatre company Shakespeare BASH’d.

shakespeare_basdh Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you and your team to start the Shakespeare BASH’d company?

James Wallis: For me I was interested in doing Shakespeare’s plays very simply, with a bare bones approach to the work and making sure that the plays are accessible, fun, and clear. I also felt that I knew a ton of great actors who were not getting the opportunity to do great work with Shakespeare and I wanted to give them that chance.

It’s grown over the years, of course, but it’s always been about the work. The plays and the text and the actor. It’s a simple relationship that the stage highlights very well.

Matthew: You’re set to play HAMLET in your upcoming production. The who’s who of actors have performed the role. The list is too long to name. What makes you want to tackle this iconic role?

James: It’s a great chance, especially with the company that I have with me on this Hamlet. It’s a generous part, by that I mean it gives you a lot of text to experience and play with. He’s a hard character, of course, because of the depth of his emotional life but also because Shakespeare has made the character very ambiguous. He doesn’t give you a clear answer to any question, which is lovely and an amazing opportunity for any actor.

Matthew: How do you make your performance of HAMLET unique?

James: I’m striving for clarity. What is Hamlet saying? And what is he trying to do to the other characters in the play and/or the audience?

Also I don’t think that many short, stout, funny men have played Hamlet and I wonder why. At times, he’s very funny and at times he’s very emotional. Regardless, he’s working through everything. Trying to decide what to do. I don’t think he wants to hurt anyone but circumstances don’t allow him to be passive.

Matthew: What actor(s) would you love to perform with as you move forward in your career?

I would love to work with Graham Abbey or Jonathan Goad. I have admired their work for many years. They are fantastic Shakespeare actors. Also, I would love to work with Maev Beatty again, she’s amazing.

In a dream world, probably somebody like Gary Oldman or Ian McKellen.

Matthew: You’ve performed at our screenplay festival a few times and there was an exchange between the two of us way back in 2011 that I’ll always remember. You performed in a supporting role in a TV Pilot reading and the actor assigned to the lead role had a lot of trouble. It was a tough role and I was chatting with you, your agent, and the rest of the cast afterwards about it. I was in mid-sentence and all of a sudden you interrupted me and stated “I would of nailed that role without an issue!” I was taken aback because you weren’t arrogant or cocky about it, but just confident and so assured of your ability. I believed you right away. I told myself that I should keep an eye on this guy James Wallis. Do you remember this exchange? And as an actor what’s the difference between confidence and arrogance?

James: I don’t remember that specifically, but I wouldn’t put that past me ever to do that. I always say that as artists (whatever your discipline) you need a thick skin. As an actor, you are constantly rejected and that’s part of the business. You need that thick skin to know that you have the ability to do whatever is asked of you. That’s very important, emotionally, it will keep you rolling.

To me, confidence is knowing that you can do it. Arrogance is thinking you’re entitled to it. There’s a difference and it’s about what you bring to the table. You can be confident and collaborative. Arrogance is something about you and only you.

Matthew: What movie have you seen the most in your life?

James: That’s a tough one. Shawshank Redemption probably. Or Father of the Bride, the Steve Martin version. I love that freakin’ movie.

Matthew: What’s the key difference between working on stage to working on film/TV?

James: Theatre is more about the rehearsal period. Your building something very specific that needs to be alive every night. Film is more immediate and you need to be ready to go at the drop of a hat. Film is also more technical. Eye line, movement of head and such.

Of course, film is much smaller but with that comes a determined specificity.

Both are fun. I’ve done more theatre but film is always a treat.

Matthew: Do you have an acting mentor?

James: I love working with Ian Watson, he’s a Shakespeare teacher. He’s taught me a lot about everything to do with Shakespeare.

Matthew: Where did you grow up and why did you decide to become an actor?

James: I grew up in Newmarket. It started simply: I liked this girl who was in the musical, so I decided to join up to spend more time with her. From there I just fell in love with the theatre. I liked the people, I liked how hard the work was and I liked what theatre could accomplish.

Matthew: Besides acting, what else are you passionate about?

James: Theatre in general. I also am very interested in reading and non fiction books. Plus documentaries. I would love to do one one day. I also love and am very passionate about beer.

Matthew: What is the next Shakespeare role/play that you will tackle?

James: I’m going to be assistant directing Macbeth at the Stratford Festival this coming season, so that’s where I’m off to after Hamlet. Shakespeare BASH’d is also beginning our next season with our final production at the Toronto Fringe Festival at the Victory Café. We are doing The Comedy of Errors, which will be in July. I will have a small role in that but from there we have a lot of thoughts about what is next. I would say that I want to play Richard III at some point.

Matthew: What have you learned the most being an Artistic Director for your Theatre company?

James: It takes hard work and endless patience. You need to love what you do and know why you are doing it. Plus, you need people who will work hard with you. I have an amazing group of people who help me, especially my wife Julia, who works harder than I do.

Matthew: Where do you see your company growing in the next 5 years?

James: I hope to start doing plays from Shakespeare’s contemporaries. I would love to do repertory, with two plays by Shakespeare at once. I would also like to be doing Shakespeare in schools, teaching kids the possibilities of Shakespeare on stage..

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you and your team to start the Shakespeare BASH’d company?

James Wallis: For me I was interested in doing Shakespeare’s plays very simply, with a bare bones approach to the work and making sure that the plays are accessible, fun, and clear. I also felt that I knew a ton of great actors who were not getting the opportunity to do great work with Shakespeare and I wanted to give them that chance.

It’s grown over the years, of course, but it’s always been about the work. The plays and the text and the actor. It’s a simple relationship that the stage highlights very well.


Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 10-20 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Fesival held in downtown Toronto on the last Thursday of every single month. Go to for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

Interview with actor Charley Scalies (The Wire, The Sopranos)


I recently chatted with veteran actor Charley Scalies on his career and where he’s headed next. Trivia question: How many actors have appeared in both The Wire and The Sopranos? (answer at bottom of interview)

Matthew Toffolo: You have acted on two iconic shows – The Wire and The Sopranos. How does it feel to know that your performances will be watched for generations to come?

Charlie Scalies: Humbling, very humbling. But the thing that really makes me smile is knowing my great grandkids, and beyond, will get to see what Poppi looked and sounded like.

Matthew: You worked on Season 2 of The Wire. A terrific season about the world of Unions and the decline of the middle-class in our society. It’s personally my favorite season. Did you expect The Wire to be so iconic even 13 years after you filmed your season?

Charlie: During filming, we hoped it would be nominated for an Emmy, especially when one reviewer said he couldn’t catch any of us acting. Highest praise. As for the “stevedores”, we had no doubt since we all hung out together just like a brotherhood on the docks. But David Simon, the show’s creator, felt its ratings were not high enough to even be considered. Of course, he was right.

Not until later, when the show was called out as being one of the ten best written TV shows of all time, did we came to realize that we might have been a part of a show that would not only be watched, over and over, but studied.

In 2014, I received an invitation from my alma mater, St. Joseph’s University, to speak to members of the Richard Johnson Center for Anti-Violence about my experiences on the series. I was gob-smacked to learn they were studying “The Wire” for its sociological implications!

Matthew: The Sopranos was already established as one of the greatest TV shows of all-time when you appeared in Tony’s dream in season 5 as Coach Molinaro. I’ve talked to a few actors who’ve appeared on the show and all of them have said how intense the set was, albeit in a good way. How many days did you work on the show and what do you remember most about those days?

Charlie: I appeared in only one scene in the “Test Dream” episode. It was just James (Jim) Gandolfini and me. The finished version lasts about 3 ½ minutes. We began at noon and wrapped at midnight. I believe there were around 8 to 10 different set-ups which, alone, would account for 5 to 6 hours. (Acting for film/TV is about 85% waiting, 14% eating and 1% working.) I wouldn’t describe the set as intense but it was very business-like, as is the norm based on my experience.

When Jim arrived on set, we ran lines. Usually, actors simply recite them; they don’t act them. I do not. I try to give it the same read as I do when cameras are rolling. Since I had the first line, I bellowed “I know you’re there Soprano! Well come on! You’re gonna do it, do it!” Jim was a bit startled but then smiled. If there was any tension or doubt in his mind, it must have been dispelled.

We didn’t read the whole scene. I don’t recall why. I approached him privately and asked if he had the opportunity to read all of it. He had not. Without comment, I pointed to his final line which, in my opinion, was beyond lame. He thanked me and had it changed. (I don’t think I am permitted to tell you what it was.)

When we were finished, I asked for a photo and he graciously consented.

That smile is the real guy. I like to believe that his last thought was one of sadness that his young son had to witness his father’s death.

Matthew: What is your best memory of working with James Gandolfini?

Charlie: First a little background. The Coach was Tony’s high school football coach: the only man, beside his father, that Tony both feared and respected. In the dream, the Coach represents Tony’s conscience and he is coming to silence it.

Though this may be trite, I don’t know how to put it any better. He gave me everything I needed and I tried to do the same. When he first appeared in my doorway, it was Tony Soprano, not Jim Gandolfini. And I wasn’t Charley Scalies, I was Coach Molinaro. I spoke to him as I would my own son and he answered accordingly. At no time did I feel either of us was acting. It was that easy. He was a pro and I like to think I am, too.

As an aside, I did learn a valuable lesson, much to my embarrassment.

I had a line “You had all the perquisites to be a leader on the field of sport.” What I should have done –other than keep my trap shut – was to point to the word “perquisites” and asked “Is that right?” No. Mr. English Major had to show off his language acumen with, “That’s not the right word. It should be “prerequisites”. The response came back, “The word is correct. Remember whose dream this is.”

Tail between the legs moments are quite effective at bowing one’s head.

Matthew: You jumped back into the acting world 20 years after working a “regular job”. What regular job did you work?

Charlie: I was Director of Sales and Contracts Management covering several divisions of a conglomerate and left to form my own consulting firm.

Matthew: What motivated you to get back into the acting world after so long?

Charlie: During my high school and college years, while South Philly was producing the likes of Frankie Avalon, Bobby Rydell, Chubby Checker and Fabian, a friend and I formed the stand-up comedy act and played every Beef and Beer we could find. Like every other comedy duo of the time, we patterned our act after Martin and Lewis. Dr. Stephen R. Covey, author of “The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People”, would call that “Benchmarking Best Practices”. Einstein would call it research. We called it stealing.

I also got involved in some high school and college productions until, between sophomore and junior years at St. Joes, I was struck by lightning.


I met Angeline, a dark haired beauty from North Philly and, within a matter of weeks, the nesting instinct kicked in. Shortly after graduation, I took a “real job”, married my Angeline, and together we set out to happily create and raise five children. In the meantime, the spot went out and the curtain came down on my acting “career”. At the time, I didn’t know it was only Act One.

Act Two. Fast forward to 1991. Because I purposefully limited the range of my consulting to my immediate area, I was no longer required to travel so I was home every night: not a long trip – my office was adjacent to the family room. The extra time allowed me to go back to some theater work. It ranged from parish shows to community theater to dinner theater. I was Nicely Johnson in Guys and Dolls, Billy Flynn in Chicago and my favorite, The Cowardly Lion in Wizard of Oz, where we got to perform the original movie score before 400 Hispanic children, between the ages of 5 and 9, none of whom could speak English. It was the greatest, most responsive audience of my life. After the show, we went among them – in costume – and they squealed and climbed all over us. The Tin Man said, “If I die now, I’d be fulfilled” I said, “Me too, but I hope God isn’t listening.”

I also got to bring my Angeline on stage where we performed a two person, one act play called, “American Coffee” by Victor Bumbalo. She was petrified but did a marvelous job!

How did I get her to consent? Simple, I said “I have changed hundreds of diapers, the least you can do is act with me.” I learned guilt from my mother.

Act Three. Tony Scipione was a high school and college classmate and a groom at our wedding. Tony was an even bigger Broadway “freak” than I. Shortly after Tony married Dianne, they decided to move to New York so he could pursue an acting career. Almost thirty years later they returned to Philly where Tony and a partner, Rodney Robb, founded “The Actor’s Center”. When I visited, I told him about my community theater dalliances. What followed was pretty much like this.

“Why don’t you turn pro?”

“I don’t know how to do that.”

”I’ll cast you in a few of our shows. Rodney’s wife, Edie, is a Talent Manager. She’ll see you, she’ll love you, she’ll send you on additions.”

And that is how it began.

Matthew: You have 5 kids. What’s the secret to being a good father?

Charlie: 1. Love their mother.

2. Spend as much time with them as you possibly can. Your work may come first but your hobbies come last.

3. Teach them to respect themselves and others and to work hard for what they want.

4. Listen to them. Don’t be their judge or their critic, be their teacher. Loudly applaud every success. Correct them quietly and privately. Hug them – a lot.

5. Your job as a father is to ultimately make them self-sufficient, i.e. not need you. When you hear, “Don’t worry about this Pop, I got it” and you believe them, you can be pretty sure your job is over.

Matthew: What haven’t you accomplished yet that you need to accomplish in the TV/movie world?

Charlie: I have written the story that I wanted to write. When I read it, and I often do, it makes me remember, smile and laugh – yes at my own jokes. That one is for me, my soul. If it doesn’t get produced, that’s OK. Joe Stefano knows I did it.

From a business perspective, I would like someone with expertise in the business and with adequate funds to turn it into a producible film. One of those folks might spark to the story and decide it needs wholesale changes. I am a business person at heart and I always bow to the one who puts his/her money on the line.

Matthew: If you could work with one director that you haven’t worked with yet, who would that be?

Charlie: That’s tough. I had the privilege of working with Terry Gilliam, who gave me the best direction I ever received. “I want you to act strange, but I don’t know that that means.”

And working with Barry Levinson was akin to getting a PhD in comedic acting.

Since you probably guessed I love comedy and larger than life characters who get to say outrageous things, I’d have to go with Danny DeVito (or Penny Marshall as a very close second)

Matthew: Who is your personal favorite actor of all-time?

Charlie: That’s like asking, “Who is your favorite child?” While I tell each of my five children that he/she is my favorite, you’re probably not going to let me get away with that here.

As a movie/TV fan I have many. But as an actor, there is only one: an actor who can read a line in ways I could never imagine. Christopher Walken. And I never caught him acting.

Matthew: What advice do you have for actors trying to make it in the industry?

Don’t expect that what happened to me will also happen to you.

Charlie: Treat it like your job, your business. Full time. No screwing around. Otherwise, it’s just a hobby.

Plan. Do. Check, Adjust.

· Make a plan with financial needs, goals and a timetable (with the help of your manager or agent).

· Follow the plan (Do it)- Toughen your skin. You are going to hear NO a lot more than YES

· Check/measure your progress against your timetable

· Adjust your Plan if you are not on target to achieve your goals

Break a leg

Trivia question answer: 6 (actors John Doman, Michael K. Williams, J.D. Williams, Brian Anthony Wilson, Joey Perillo, and CHARLEY SCALIES)