Tag Archives: game of thrones

End of an Era: Nate’s Top 20 TV Shows of the Decade

It has been an amazing decade for television! Not only that but in the last ten years we have seen a giant shift from the casual week-to-week entertainment factor of cable TV towards serious arthouse long form storytelling, major production value on the small screen and a much celebrated golden age of serialized television. There have been dozens upon dozens of beautifully crafted, innovative, imaginative and affecting pieces of work produced and here are my twenty personal favourite!

20. The Big Lez Show (2012/YouTube)

This one is something else. Essentially a simplistic piece quite literally animated on Microsoft Paint, it highlights the profane, raucous and often meditative adventures of Big Lez, his stoner Sasquatch buddies and many others. Australian humour adds an offbeat quality and there’s never a shortage of bizarre comedic set pieces, hysterical character interaction and a sense of WTF-ness that permeates the whole thing.

19. Justified (2010/FX)

You’d never believe that such a legendary, Kentucky fried aesthetic could be distilled from one Elmore Leonard short story, but this thing is a feast. Timothy Olyphant scores big as brittle Federal Marshal Raylan Givens, venturing back to his rural roots for six glorious seasons of pulpy, star studded, densely verbose modern western intrigue.

18. Goliath (2018/Amazon Prime)

Billy Bob Thornton does a career best turn in this surreal LA noir about a disgraced ex super-lawyer on the skids and forced to take on near suicidal class action lawsuits. Cue mystery, political corruption, glossy California decadence and a sense of ramshackle family within his tight knit crew. It’s a fantastic, high powered thriller and intense character study with top caliber guest actors and a feel for California and the surrounding area that draws you right in.

17. Ray Donovan (2013/Showtime)

Part Grand Theft Auto, part L.A. Confidential with a healthy dose of contemporary pop culture, this is a fantastic cross section and often satire of gritty underworld Hollywood through the eyes of Liev Schreiber’s Ray, a Boston bred tough guy with the polish of L.A. who acts as fixer, muscle, often romantic partner and secret agent of sorts to the elites of media and sports industries. There’s morality plays, fierce examinations of Shakespearean loyalty and betrayal, stinging dark humour, farcical sensibilities, dastardly villains and a lot of pathos packed into this still continuing epic.

16. Shameless (2011/Showtime)

Life for a lower middle class Chicago family is hilariously documented in this candid, raunchy, heartfelt and chaotic framework full of fantastic performances, chief among them William H. Macy as their perpetually drunk patriarch and the lovely Emmy Rossum as his brave, fierce and resilient daughter. There’s never a shortage of hijinks, severely R rated shenanigans or berserk subplots around, plus along the way you get a good sense for each family member and their woes, joys and personal struggles.

15. Game Of Thrones (2011/HBO)

I do have issues with this show, namely pacing, tone and the fucking rush job of a last season thanks to those two writers. However, this is a gargantuan fantasy epic that changed the landscape of television forever and has an infinity of gorgeously mounted set pieces, complex character dynamics and yes, dragons.

14. Stranger Things (2016/Netflix)

Neon, 80’s nostalgia, Amblin vibes, Stephen King atmosphere and yesteryear pop culture abound. This show is now an international phenomenon and rightfully so but it legit has the quality and heart to back up the hype, particularly in the near perfect first season.

13. Homecoming (2018/Amazon Prime)

Julia Roberts uncovers a deeply planted conspiracy amongst the ex military patients she’s hired to provide counselling for in this baroque, moody noir that only arrives in thirty minute episodes but somehow seems much denser. Melancholy, burnished and stocked with musical tracks lifted right from classic Hollywood films, this is one captivating piece of storytelling.

12. The Alienist (2018/TNT)

This dark, macabre tale sees a psychiatric pioneer (Daniel Bruhl), a crime scene illustrator (Luke Evans) and the first woman in the New York police department (Dakota Fanning) on the hunt for a terrifying, ever elusive serial killer near the turn of the century. It’s slick, intelligent, unexpected and not watered down whatsoever, leading to one of the starkest and most brutal yet captivating portraits of history I’ve ever seen onscreen.

11. The Terror (2018/AMC)

This inclusion goes for season one, which in its own is a thing of magisterial beauty, terror and primal existentialism. An elemental fiction reworking of a real life naval disappearance in the arctic, this story is best binged in one rainy day to absorb character, incident and the cold atmosphere of such a remote series of events.

10. Fargo (2014/FX)

I’ve been flayed for holding this opinion before but for me this tv adaptation outdoes the Coen brothers’ original film itself. A near biblical trio of seasons that begins with the icy Minnesota black comedy crime aesthetic and ascends at times to something daring and esoteric, this breaks both the mould it was forged in and that of television itself. Plus you get to briefly see Bruce Campbell play Ronald Reagan and if that ain’t worth the time capsule then I just don’t know what is.

9. Letterkenny (2016/CraveTV)

Rural Ontario seems like an odd setting for one of the snappiest, smartly written and hysterical comedies this decade has seen but there you go. Basically just the humdrum misadventures of a town with 5,000 population and no shortage of mayhem, this is television like no other and you really have to just crush like five episodes, immerse yourself in the mile a minute dialogue and jokes to experience the magic. Pitter patter.

8. Happy! (2017/SyFy)

Disgraced, alcoholic ex cop turned hitman Nick Sax (Christopher Meloni in a career best) and his daughter’s imaginary friend Happy the flying unicorn (Patton Oswalt) hunt down all kinds of freaks, weirdos, perverts, contract killers and arch villains on Christmas Eve to find a bunch of kidnapped children. That description says nothing though, only through viewing this can you appreciate how ballsy, subversive and deeply fucked up this story really is. Not for the faint of heart, but anyone with a love of whacked out dark humour and unconventional storytelling will get a royal kick.

7. Hannibal (2013/NBC)

I’ll admit I wasn’t super pumped when I heard that NBC was doing a Hannibal rendition, as they’re kind of a vanilla cable show runner. But creator Bryant Fuller churned out something spectacularly atmospheric, unbelievably artistic and so not what you’d expect to see. Mads Mikkelsen makes a chilling, low key and almost ethereal Dr. Lekter, Hugh Dancy a haunted, empathetic Will Graham and there’s an eclectically rounded cast of guest stars including Laurence Fishburne, Kacey Rohl, Eddie Izzard, Michael Pitt, Katherine Isabelle, Lance Henriksen and more.

6. Westworld (2016/HBO)

The advent of artificial intelligence blends with humanity’s deepest desires and eventually something more profound in this complex, operatic, gorgeously mounted science fiction epic. It’s a tricky beast and a labyrinthine (literally and figuratively) experience to process but stick with it and the resulting effect is mesmerizing.

5. Maniac (2018/Netflix)

Jonah Hill and Emma Stone headline this psychological fantasy that’s kinda tough to pin down. A clandestine drug trial in a casette futurism setting leads to personal revelations, social satire and the kind of episodic time travel multidimensional storytelling that I live for. Brilliant stuff.

4. The Haunting Of Hill House (2018/Netflix)

Stephen King called this a work of genius, and I too share that sentiment. This is old school spook horror done beautifully, with powerful performances, psychological depth, harrowing scares both ghostly and wrought from human nature and characters that forge a strong place in your heart with each passing episode.

3. The OA (2016/Netflix)

I’m still so choked that Netflix cancelled this after only two seasons yet they keep tired, mediocre garbage like Riverdale and 13 Reasons Why limping on long past their shelf life. I’ll quit being bitter now but you’ll see what a gem this is after five minutes of the pilot. Rich storytelling, groundbreaking conceptual design and ideas that don’t only think outside the box but defy dimensional existence. One day someone will pick this up for continuation but until then please check out the two masterful first seasons.

2. True Detective (2014/HBO)

A southern gothic conspiracy folk horror, an inky, fatalistic LA noir and a bleak ozark family saga. So far. The first season kicks off with Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson in the darkest heart of Louisiana and while it’s my favourite part of this anthology so far, all three chapters cast their respective spell wonderfully.

1. Twin Peaks: The Return (2017/Showtime)

David Lynch delivers not only a dazzling, appropriately perplexing and ever mysterious follow up to his initial series but a personal filmmaking magnum opus. He and his team changed the face of television once in the early 90’s and with this stunning piece of originality, horror, musical performance, surrealism, coffee, cherry pie and inter-dimensional travel… they pull it off again.

Thanks for reading and tune in lots in the coming decade for much more!!

-Nate Hill

Commanding the White Walkers, orphaning Bruce Wayne and more- A chat with actor Richard Brake: An interview by Nate Hill

  
Very excited to bring you my latest interview, with actor Richard Brake! Richard has a legendary career, appearing as the fearsome Night’s King in Game Of Thrones, the murderous criminal Joe Chill in Batman Begins, and in countless films and shows including Ridley Scott’s The Counselor, Hannibal Rising, Rob Zombie’s Halloween II and the upcoming 31, Doom, Spy, Kingsman: The Secret Service, Water For Elephants, Death Machine, The Numbers Station, Ray Donovan, Peaky Blinders, and more. Please enjoy!
Nate: You were born in Wales. Are you purely of Welsh background, and when did you make your way to America? Was acting something you always wanted to do, or did it find you by happenstance? Did you attend any acting schools?
Richard: I’m Welsh through and through. My parents are Welsh and my grandfathers worked in the coal mines. But we moved to America when I was young. I grew up all over, mostly down south. But we came back to Britian a lot and lived there for a while when I was a teenager.  
I wanted to be a writer. I started writing stories when I was very young. When I was 17 I started writing plays, short plays, heavily influenced by Edward Albee. I went to a small high school in Ohio, and one evening I was sitting outside with my best friend when a girl came over and begged us to audition for the school Play. It seemed they didn’t have enough boys auditioning and it was a big cast. Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. My friend and I sort of reluctantly agreed to audition and we got cast as the judges. After a few rehearsals I was hooked. I loved the collaborative nature of it all, rehearsing, playing, all of it. I actually loved that more than the performances. I remember walking back to my dormitory with my friend after one of the rehearsals and saying to him “this is what I want to do for the rest of my life.” I’ve been lucky to see that come true.  
I went to Duke University and studied English and Drama. I did a lot of theatre there, then studied in New York at the Michael Checkov Studio with an amazing actor Beatrice Straight. I knew I wasn’t very good, or at least as good as I wanted to be. So I went to England and Studied at a Mountview Drama school for three years. I was incredibly lucky that they had just hired a Russian teacher named Sam Kogan. He was a genius. An amazing teacher. 
Nate: You have a very distinct style and energy that lends itself to playing larger than life, comic book style characters. Did you mean to take this avenue, or did those types of roles just happen to find you because of your style? 
Richard: I think that just comes from the writing of those particular projects. It lends itself to a certain extreme expression. And I am willing to be extreme if it works for the piece.  
Nate: What does life look like for you besides acting? Hobbies, interests, family? What lines of work did you find yourself in before the industry?
 The usual, waiting tables, telephone sales, all kinds of jobs to make a few dollars. 
 I have two great kids, an ex wife I get on with, and a girlfriend. That keeps me busy!! If I get a chance I play a bit of guitar, badly. I also practice Ashtanga yoga. I’ve been doing that for a long time, almost daily. It keeps me sane in this insane business.  
Nate: I watched an interview with you once where you mentioned that having an active imagination is important in the craft. Would you care to elaborate on that? Does it stem from your training or is this a quality you’ve unearthed in your own exploration of the work?

Richard: Active imagination was a term coined by Sam Kogan. Before I studied with Sam, if I was working on a character, I often saw the character in my imagination as if he was in the third person. I’ll give an example of what I mean, that’s probably the best thing to do. Let’s say my character needs to find out where the money is hidden. He’s a bad guy, a drug dealer. He’s captured the person who knows and tied him to a chair and now he’s torturing him. It’s a lot of money and he wants it so he can quit drug dealing and live on a remote island with the woman he loves.  

 An actor needs to have an objective (Sam called them “purposes”) to motivate his action. That’s a pretty basic acting tenant. You hear that all the time as a young actor. “What’s your character’s objective. What does he want?” So in this case, I want the guy to tell me where the money is. In passive imagination I see my self in the third person standing over the guy as he blurts out the location of the money. In active imagination I see it all through my eyes, feel the temperature of the room, the smell of his sweat, ect. My character has a long term objective of being on the island, peacefully enjoying life with my girlfriend. So in passive imagination, I see myself sitting on a chair in the sun drinking a mai tai, while my girlfriend rubs suntan lotion on herself. It’s like watching a movie. It’s all in the third person. In active imagination, I can feel the chair under me, the heat of the sun, the smell of the lotion, the taste of the mai tai. I see it all through my eyes, rather than watching it outside of myself. It is far more effective to prepare for a role using active imagination than passive. Passive just causes bad acting, because it doesn’t really motivate. Active imagination motivates. It get’s those objectives into the actor’s being not just his head.  
Nate: Game Of Thrones: you made quite an impression as the Night’s King. How were you approached to play the role? How much of you was make up and how much was cgi? How was the battle of hardhome scene for you? Mainly cgi or a lot of practical?

Richard: I auditioned.  
Very little CGI. I was in the make up chair for close to 6 hours. Then a couple of hours to get it off. The contact lenses were massive, as big as you can put in a human eye. Torture. But worth it. I loved the episode and playing the character. I’m very proud of it. It’s an amazing show that has resonated with so many people.   
Unfortunately, I wasn’t available for Season 6. I had a long contractual commitment on The Bastard Executioner. I was very sad about that as I love the show and being a part of it.  
Nate: Another iconic, yet smaller role- Joe Chill, from Batman Begins. How was that experience for you?

Richard: Great. I loved working with Nolan. He is so assured. Great director. And I was a huge Batman fan as a kid, so it was a dream come true to play the guy who killed his parents. Hahahaha, that’s a pretty weird dream, come to think of it, but there you go.  
Nate: You mentioned before on Twitter that your favourite role you have done is Doom Head from Rob Zombie’s upcoming film 31. Why was that? And what can we expect from the film, and from your work in it?  

Richard: I saw the film at Sundance and it rocks! Rob Zombie is a genius. He’s so creative, generous, inspiring. I can’t say enough good things about him. He has this incredible ability to bring out the very best in everyone who works with him. It’s a real gift, and it shows on screen. I can’t wait for people to see it.  
Nate: A film I really enjoyed you in was Good Day For It, with Robert Patrick and Lance Henriksen. Was that an enjoyable experience?
Richard: We had fun. We shot it on a super low budget in the Poconos for 2 weeks or so. We all stayed in this off season ski lodge. All I remember is laughing all the time. Lance is a very funny guy.  
Nate: You appeared in Death Machine in a central role pretty early in your career, with it a lot of previous credits? How did were you cast in that?

Richard: As always, I auditioned. I think I was 27 years old. I was probably a little too young in truth to play the President of an Arms Corporation, but I got it. I was so thrilled to work with Brad Dourif. He’s so focused and very generous. I was young and nervous and he was very kind to me.  
Nate: Besides 31, are there any other projects you are excited for and would like to mention?

Richard: I’m in the new season of Peaky Blinders. It’s going to be the best season yet. It was one of the bests things I’ve read, and the director, Tim, did a great job. I think it comes out in early May. I’m filming Ray Donovan at the moment. It’s also incredibly well written, acted and directed. Two great shows to be a part of. I’m also hoping to shoot a film my friend Jeff Daniel Phillips wrote later this year. He stars in 31 too. It’s a psychological horror we would like to film in Wales. We are raising the money, etc now. I play a reclusive Goth Rocker from the 80’s. Things get pretty crazy and dark when a young woman comes to visit.  
Nate: Thank you so much for your time, Richard, it has been an honour!