Interview with Stephen Amell, Alexander Ludwig and Mary McCormack of “Heels” on Starz by Suzanne 6/21/23
This was a fun press day for the great family wrestling drama. First, there was a roundtable with Amell and Ludwig (and other members of the press). There’s a transcript below for that. Then I had a short, one-on-one video interview with Mary McCormack. I really love the actors in this show. They’re not only incredibly talented, and in great shape, but they couldn’t have been nicer. Check out the show because it’s worth watching.
Mary McCormack “Willie Day”
Question: Both your characters go on quite emotional journeys this season, so can you sort of maybe tease where they’re at, relationship-wise, as brothers, what that’s like this season for the two of you?
Stephen: Okay, I think, I was gonna say this in a previous interview, and then I we ran out of time, but, for Jack, I think it’s become a little bit less about worrying about Ace or worrying about Staci or worrying about Thomas or the DWL. He’s more focusing on handling his own business and taking accountability for his actions and the way that he’s behaved since his father killed himself, which has been, I think, well intentioned, but misguided, and has hurt people. So, this is very much about him, just not trying to wave a magic wand and make everything better with everyone all at once, but just taking accountability for his actions, specifically with Ace and Staci, and just saying, “Look, this, this is me; this is what happened. Here I am, hat in hand. I’m sorry. What do I do?” which is a fun thing to play, humility. You know, who knew?
Alexander: Ace is trying to pick up the pieces, you know, he’s still a complete mess after what happened. There’s a huge rift between the brothers. This show has been so much about, it’s not just a wrestling show. It’s about family, and it’s about identity, and Ace is trying to find his identity in the ring and outside of the ring. What I love about this season so much is not only do the women lead the charge, and you get to see that on a whole other front, which is, I think, really exciting with this backdrop, but you get to see the inklings of what this could be with Jack and Ace. You know, how big this actually could be, and a road has finally caved to the kind of national sensation or promotion this actually could be, which it is exactly.
Question: Alexander, you kind of spoke on it a little bit, but Ace really goes through a real revelation this season. Can you talk about how his view and aspect on the situations pertaining to the DWL and the FWD change and lead him towards a different path, I think, one of clarity this season?
Alexander: Yeah, that’s a really well said. Thanks for the question. I think that, you know, again, this show has also been about mental health, and that’s becoming a big conversation in sports in general. And Ace is dealing with his own version of that. He’s been traumatized for years, and I think that his outlook needs to change on his life and on himself, because he feels abandoned by his father. And this is the first time you see Ace fully step into a role that he never, ever wanted to step into, both as a as a performer, but also as a human being, a role that he never thought that he could step into. I think towards the end of this season, you really start to see him, perhaps, become more of the man he was always destined to become. To me, what’s always been excited about this show is where it could go. In success, I think, I always had the feeling as an actor, that Ace and Jack have, you know, as these small town wrestling promotion guys, like, this could build out to something really beautiful, and that’s the hope for both of them.
Suzanne: I enjoyed the screeners I saw… I thought the show’s even better this season than last season. Everything’s all very exciting. Since you two are the stars of the show (if there’s such a thing as stars in an ensemble show), do you have any input into the writing of your characters or the show as it’s going on? Do they let you do that?
Stephen: I’d say that Mike O’Malley and Michael Waldron are both very, very collaborative, collaborative people. That being said, you know, Mike will come to me for some general questions about like, you know, what would be a cool idea, but it’s very much the macro of it all, the micro, all the details. Boy, when we get a script, and we sit down for a table read, what gets said at that table read or what ends up on television are pretty much the exact same thing.
Alexander: Which is quite rare. I’ve been lucky. I’ve only got to work with really collaborative people in general, and Mike is certainly one of those people, but there isn’t much that you would change. They, of course, they talk to you about your characters, but it’s like, it’s also beautifully on the page. I’m just like, this just seems the way it should be. Of course, when scenes come up, things happen, and you go, “I want to say this instead of that,” or whatever, of course. You know, that’s a day by day basis. But we have an incredible team with us on this show, and I’m grateful for it.
Question: It’s obvious that this is a labor of love from every cast member in this show. What does it mean, each of you personally, to be back for a second season?
Stephen: Second season is the toughest season to get. Well, I guess, like actually getting something off the ground and getting to shoot it in the first place, probably, technically is more challenging, but bridging that gap from a first to a second season. You know, I don’t know, it just it seems to always be where the show takes off, where you you have some time under your belt to see what works. You also have the real benefit of audience interaction and seeing what pops for people and what doesn’t. So, you know, I’ve been very fortunate. This is the second time I’ve gotten a second season, and I hope that very shortly [for] the second time that I get a third.
Alexander: Yeah, I mean, it’s very humbling. When I first read this script, and I think I speak for Stephen as well, like, there’s not a lot of shows like this, and there’s not a lot of shows that are made like this, and that’s what drew us to it. We’re like, “When will we ever get a chance to do something like this and tell this kind of a story,” for hopefully, you know, six years plus. And it’s so far and few between. You know, back in the day, this would have been the kind of movie that would have made me want to be an actor, and now it’s TV shows, right? And I just, I love everything about this. I love that it’s flawed characters. I love that it’s a world I’m not super familiar with and that I’ve fallen in love with simultaneously.
Question: I was wondering how Ace and Jack feel about Crystal this season, and how her actions in the finale move the story forward?
Stephen: Well, I mean, for Jack, we’re dealing with the immediate aftermath of this. And it’s like, is it a big sea-change? Or have we just, you know, do we just call an audible and we’re gonna put everything back to where it was the next day? I think what we discover for Jack, is that while you appreciate what Crystal did, he may not see it as the big sea-change that audience members or fans or she might have seen it as. So, that’s a point of contention in the early part of the season.
Alexander: I think, for Ace, it was the nail in his in his coffin of what used to be. So, for him, he’s just constantly taking punches, and he’s and he’s throwing them wildly, but kind of not really focusing on on what the next step should be. And I think that the second season, you see Ace kind of come to terms with who he’s always been destined to become.
Question: So, you mentioned that they’re flawed characters, and this is for both of you, but you made me think, what has your character taught you about yourself since you’ve been on this journey?
Alexander: I have to say, you know, I’ve gone through my own demons, and I think that’s probably why I loved Ace so much is that I wouldn’t say I’ve learned a lot from him, but I would say that I’ve had to go on my own journey that he’s had to go on before him. So, actually, I would say, Ace can probably learn a lot from me. So that, to me, was something I loved about that character, was that I’ve dealt with my own versions of substance abuse and whatnot. And, you know, when you go to rehab, for example, you’re doing three years of therapy in fifty days, right? And you get really, really into why there are certain things that are driving you to become the human being you’re becoming. So, it wasn’t that I’m learning from Ace, it’s that I’m understanding Ace, and that’s why I loved him, is that I understood that underneath these child like temper tantrums that he throws and these irrational outbursts, there is a child crying for help. And the saddest thing about it is that only he can save himself from it. There’s nobody else who can do it for him. He’s looking for all this external validation, when in actuality, the only thing that is ever going to save him is himself and coming to terms with himself and his father’s suicide. So, to me, I thought Ace was such a beautiful character, because you love to love him, and you love to hate him.
Question: What about you, Stephen?
Stephen: It’s really, really simple. Pride comes before the fall. I’m dealing with this situation in my own life personally, right now, where a good friend of mine that I trust a lot is saying to me, “You have to take the emotion out of it.” Like, that’s impossible. He’s like, “No, it’s not. You have to take the emotion out of it, because the goal should be the outcome.” And that’s something that, you know, Jack is put in this position right now, where throughout the course of this season, he has to eat shit, multiple times. Not get shit on, like, Alexander, but each shit. And it’s like, well, listen, you have to eat it one way or the other. So, do you want to do with a smile on your face, or do you want to kick and scream the entire way? And that’s just been because he lets his emotions get in the way, and he’s prideful. So, I’m trying to learn that lesson to just not be that way personally, and I’m learning a lot watching how how things mess up for Jack. Yeah, it’s proven to be the right way to go about things.
Question: For Stephen, so, I know we’ve kind of talked about Jack and Ace’s dynamic, but I want to talk about Jack and Staci’s relationship, because at the end of season one, it’s very strained, as Jack continues to put the DWL over his family. What can we expect throughout season two? Will we get to see Jack put the real work into that relationship and winning her back, or will that sort of fall on the back-burner and happen off scene?
Stephen: No, we come to a resolution with Jack and Staci in the early part of the season. Then, I think their relationship gets into a great place, which I was very happy about, because I think that the the troubled marriage or, you know, the conceit of like the nagging spouse, be the husband or the wife, it’s not tired – well, it’s a little tired, I think, personally. So, I thought it’d be fun, and I think Mike thought it’d be fun too, to examine, like, a relationship where, look, these guys love each other, but life isn’t perfect, but here’s what they’re gonna do. And this is the important thing, is they’re going to show up one another, and they’re going to be honest with one another about everything, about the big things, the little things, not just the Kleenex and trying to destroy Ace’s life, but like, you know, were you on time for work today? Or were you five minutes late? You could say you’re on time, but no, you say you’re five minutes late, honestly, about everything. And, in that sense, too, I’ve been learning from Jack, because that’s an important thing, being honest, just even about little things, especially about the little things.
Suzanne: I know that you guys were both really fit before you did this show, but did you have to add on extra workouts in order to play people who are basically running around in their underwear quite often?
Alexander: It wasn’t as much of an aesthetic thing, just like looking good and tight as opposed to literally being able to withstand what’s asked of us physically. So like, when we weren’t filming, we were literally in the gym with our stunt team, training specific ways to be able to withstand what we had to do. And I’m talking like, you know, it’s nothing compared to what these actual guys do in real life, but it is really, really tough on your body, and it’s something that Stephen and I can’t fake. It’s like, we have to do it. So, when you see somebody doing a backflip off the top turnbuckle that’s something I have to be able to do. Or you see Stephen doing a suplex it’s something he has to be able to do, and they don’t want us to get injured. So, that’s the most important thing.
Stephen: Yeah, like, there’s no way around it. It’s not like taking a flat back bump gets easier in the same way that like if you start weight training a bunch, the pads of your hands, like you’re gonna get all these blisters. The blisters don’t go away, they callus. And when you learning how to bump in the ring and stuff like that, it doesn’t get easier. You just get used to it. It’s like a cold plunge; it doesn’t get easier. You just get used to it. And I wouldn’t say that we added anything, but what we did and what the production did, which was very, very helpful, is we just said, “Listen, if we’re going to be playing wrestlers on TV, then we need to look like wrestlers on TV, and in order to do that, we need to be in wrestler shape and have wrestler bodies, which come in many shapes and forms and sizes.” But they did a great job of building us a gymnasium, building us a program, and then enforcing it and making it part of our schedules, so that it’s not our responsibility to find the motivation on a Thursday when we’re not working to get to the gym at 10 o’clock. No, it’s on the schedule. We have to go. We’re contractually obligated. But we just go.
About “Heels” Season Two
Proofread and Edited by Brenda