Thursday, September 4, 2014

The Identical, Interview with Blake Rayne and Erin Cottrell
I recently had the opportunity to interview Blake Rayne and Erin Cottrell, stars of the new movie The Identical.  Blake Rayne a former Elvis impersonator was discovered prior to being cast in this film.  He plays the part of Ryan Wade the identical twin of popular performer and singer Drexel Hemsley.  While a newcomer Rayne (aka Ryan Pelton) does a terrific job in this role, in fact, as mentioned in my review, while this actor looks, sounds like and performs much like Elvis, Elvis would be envious over  Rayne's own abilities.

An unexpected pleasure in the brief time I had during the interview was the presence of Erin Cottrell.  Erin is noted for the many roles she has been in, most prominently The Hallmark series featuring the books of Janet Oke.  Cotrell plays the part of girlfriend, and ultimate wife of Ryan Wade in the movie, Jenny O'Brien, she also serves as narrator of the film as if the story is being told through her eyes.

I had the opportunity to interview both of these individuals prior to seeing the film and the following is a transcript of our conversation.

Mike Furches, (MF):  Erin I had the opportunity to interview Michael Landon JR some time ago and I know you have done some work with him.

Erin Cottrell, (EC):  Yeah I have, he is a great guy.

MF:  Janet Oke was also one that years ago encouraged me in some of my own writings.  What was your work like with the two of them in the past?

www.thevirtualpew.comEC:  Oh the work was fantastic although I really only met Janette once and that was at an awards show where she was lovely and so so kind. Now Michael Landon JR. I have done several friends with.  He was the producer and director and he was great, really really great. Especially so because when I came into work with him on the Love Comes Softly series I had just finished the Little House on the Prairie mini-series. He had mixed feelings about ABC redoing his fathers series and his legacy but he was incredibly gracious and a lovely human. He was a great guy to work for and super encouraging and was interested in doing all of the Love Comes Softly shows. I had only signed on for two but he said to get Erin in as many of them as possible so I was very grateful for him.

MF - Blake can you tell us about how you got this role?  Your background is really quite unique and if not mistaken this is your first feature film?  Tell us some about how you got the role and what life has been like for you after this?

Blake Rayne, (BR): Well its really quite interesting. I have a band and we were rehearsing in a rehearsal studio in Nashville. As coincidence would have it, the Executive Producer Yochanan Marcellino was visiting and walked in as he was looking for a place to work on some of the music for the film. That's how we ran into each other. To make a long story short, he called me into a couple of meetings and he sat me down one day and said, "I've got a film and I'm interested in casting you in the lead role but I don't know if you can act but we're going to find out." So I did a couple of screen tests and what not and that was a great experience for me across the board.

As far as how it's changed my life, I wouldn't say it's really changed it at all. I am looking forward to being more involved in film projects down the line but I'll always be involved in music.  I enjoy playing music, performing music writing music and I just hope I'll be able to call myself an actor as well.  So I have been very blessed and very lucky.

MF: One of the things I noticed on your Facebook page is I couldn't help but notice you have been involved in some race car circuit lately, ARCA races and all.  How did you get involved in that?

www.thevirtualpew.comBR: A lot of it has been a part of the promotion of the movie. One of the companies has been supportive of The Identical.  They have four cars and one of the owners of one of the cars is Zaxby's Corporation and if you are from the South you'll know.  I have been a race fan all of my life, through the  Richard Petty Driving Experience and more. So its really been exciting to be involved with the guys involved in Motor Sports. To be with the drivers, pit crews and what not.  To go to the races, helping promote the movie, singing the National Anthem and so forth. That's the kind of situation where you don't have to pay me to be involved in any of that, it is for sure just a lot of fun. I have really enjoyed it, all of the guys, the drivers and everyone else has just been fabulous. I am out there and a total geek when it comes to stuff like this. I am just trying to learn everything, talk up the owner of the motorsports company, trying to force them to let me drive, and it's just all been a lot of fun man. (laughter through later part of Blake's comments.)

MF: I have a question where I want to be a little sensitive in how I ask it, but while I haven't seen the film yet, there seems to be a Christian or Spiritual theme in the movie from what I have seen and read.  Does that scare you at all?  I think the truth of it is that at least in my opinion is there are a lot of Christian films that have come out that are horrible. While this one seems to have a quality cast, and parts of it look good, does the association and thoughts from the public regarding "Christian" movies bother you at all?

EC: I'll go first on that one.  It really doesn't bother me because I honestly feel that first and foremost, this is a family film about families, but not just about families, but for families. It's about family and its about music. So I feel like that is the overarching theme.  It's that and there are redemptive qualities. It's also about following your dreams and that's beautiful. I feel like positioning of the religious element is so important to the character. Ray Liotta is a minister so it has some themes but I don't think the audience is being preached to.  People will understand the religious aspects because they will realize the people in the movie are religious.  I don't think they are specifically trying to proselytize to the audience. Because of that, I'm not worried at all. I think the movie is lovely and just because they are doing things that are faith based and family friendly it will be a warm welcome audience of those people. That's really fantastic so one certainly doesn't want to shy away from that. I think the movie will reach far more people than just the religious based audience. I think it is so relateable that there is really nothing to worry about.

www.mosaicwichita.comMF: Blake, your thoughts?

BR: You know Erin said it very well. I think the thing to remember is this isn't a faith based movie, it is a faith friendly movie.  That is something to differentiate. If you sit back and look at this razy world, that is a question that that has value, that's why I think this is a great question. It doesn't matter what religion you are talking about, what is a part of all religions? Love, love, is a part of those religions. So it's a movie about love, is it a religious movie?  Not necessarily. I think that in this movie it is safe to say, these characters, just like in any movie, it is tough to have a movie where the characters don't follow some type of religion. In this one, one of the main characters is a preacher, trying to make his son follow his path of becoming a pastor. So yeah, the elements are going to be in there but the movie itself is not about that.  What the movie is about in my opinion is the relationship between a father and a son and that conflict is there, it is about how they come together, about following your own dreams, following your path in life and staying true to it despite diversity. There are times that even a parent may want you to do what they want instead of doing what you want. People need to follow their heart. That's what the movie is about to me. I don't really think there is anything in there that will offend others, it is a good movie and families are going to enjoy it. One doesn't have to be of a religious mindset to go to the theater and watch this movie, but if you are of a religious mindset, maybe you pull out specific maybe based on your own ideology. That's great but if you are going to just watch a good movie, you're still going to enjoy it. That's what I think.

MF: Can you give a brief response of what it was like to play alongside two incredible actors like Ray Liotta or Ashley Judd?

BR: From my standpoint, being a first time actor, it was just amazing. I didn't know what to expect from such big names. You just don't know what to expect. I can truthfully say that Ray Liotta, Ashley Judd, Seth Green, Erin Cottrell, (Erin breaks in laughing as Blake continues) everyone of them showed support of me and were so helpful with me being a first time actor. I certainly owe so much to them and just give them all the credit as they were just amazing.
EC: Yeah, Ray and Ashley were great. Ashley was just so incredibly kind to me. There was one night she couldn't use her Grand Ole Opry Tickets so she gave them to me. So I got the Judd family seats to the Grand Ole Opry. She was just super generous and very kind.  Ray was also fantastic and super focused. He was inspiring to work with and what he did with his character.  He was so committed and I just loved working with them and Seth Green. They were all so kind and like everything we did was so good. I had a great experience.

MF: Last comment, Blake, it was a year ago this month when I was with my sister in law at her bed along with my wife when my sister in law died of ALS.  I know you have done the Ice Bucket Challenge and I just wanted to say thank you. Now make sure you follow through to have Ashley Judd to take the challenge.

BR: I know I challenged her, I don't even know if she has seen the challenge but I am going to follow through to make sure she gets the challenge. I'll definitely talk to her.

MF: Thanks Erin and Blake for your time I really appreciate it.

BR: Thank you Mike we really enjoyed it.

EC: Same for me Mike, have a great day. 

The following is a clip from the movie The Identical.  It features the character of Ryan Wade singing to his girlfriend Jenny.  To see the video, click on the video below, if there is trouble, click on the following link:

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