By Ginger Parker
Fans of online television, you have some big things in the works to get excited about! Jonathan Robbins, the creator of Asset, Clutch and Out With Dad has a new ‘Vengance Cinema’ project on the horizon that is sure to pique our interests in a both sultry and gritty fashions.
The new series LACED AND LOADED is a spin-off, or rather adaptation, of some characters we met in the very successful series Clutch. L&L follows a gang of female vigilantes who are out to protect the hard-working women of the Red Light District. Some of these women are fighting for their lives, as a group of menacing human traffickers are trying to sell them as exclusive sex slaves. But Raven, a dominatrix and former madam of her own house, is out to make sure these women are only working by choice.
I got a chance to join the filmmakers on-set in late January. I ventured about an hour out of my Los Angeles comfort zone, down some desolate roads to an abandoned animal shelter. Signs for filming led me to a large, graffiti-ridden room filled with smoke and kennels where I saw two beaten girls bound to one of the kennels. They were shooting an intense scene where the girls were being threatened at gun point by a behemoth, bag-of-bowling-balls-type “bad guy.” One of the girls, Cyd, managed to keep her cool even under duress. Just then, the thugs’ threats were interrupted by gun fire. This was my eerie introduction into L&L’s world. I grabbed a copy of the script; I had to know more. This is a very promising sign of a must-see series. And this isn’t the first great series to come from these filmmakers.
Series creator Jonathan Robbins is a big part of a consistently-creating group of filmmakers from Toronto. Jeff Siniawsky (of WebVee Guide) told me that people lovingly joke about how you can’t make a web-series in Canada without Jonathan being involved. He is well known as a writer, director, actor (currently in a commercial with Canadian hero Wayne Gretzky), cinematographer, editor and all-around great dude. Jonathan is also developing a reputation for taking his cast and crew on some fun travels around the world.
During the production of Asset the cast and crew filmed in Prague, and this new series brought the gang to Los Angeles for some very specific reasons. As Jonathan began writing and delving deeper into her character, he began to envision Raven as Latina, and perhaps a little more experienced than she was originally depicted. Now it doesn’t take a genius to guess that searching for a Latina lead actress in Toronto, especially on a fairly tight budget, may not yield the best results. This led the filmmakers to the City of Angels. Traveling to book locations, casting, and shooting in a matter of days is enough stress to make some stomachs turn. But it ended up being quite a successful decision.
“We had over 700 actresses submit for the role of Raven and 1700 submit for the role of Cyd. It was a massive pro to come to LA. Couldn’t have been more of a pro. We got the chance to get in the room with so many amazingly talented actors,” said Jonathan. “We knew coming to LA would give us access to Latina talent that have a level of experience that is difficult to attain in Toronto, especially with the budgets we’re at. We knew we could find the perfect people for these roles.”
They, of course, could not see all of the people who submitted for these roles, but they still spent multiple hours whittling down the staggering amount of submissions to the final group of actors they would have in to audition. Not only were they looking for the perfect leads for their series, they also needed to find people whom could travel well, since the series will be shot in Toronto, and with whom they could enjoy long days on set.
The group in the casting room was made up of: Jonathan; Jeff Burns, co-producer and Super Geeked-Up host; Tonya Dodds, one of the leads from Asset and casting assistant for L&L; Matthew “where Clutch is Matthew will be” Carvery, co-creator and lead of Clutch and associate producer of L&L; and Jeff Sinasac of Clutch and Asset, who also helped to cast L&L. To say they were pleased with the results of their audition is a massive understatement. After a stellar performance of the material, and a special shared moment over a love for Star Wars, one actress became the clear choice for the lead role of Raven: Sara Montez (Criminal Minds, Retrospect).
Sarah Montez as Raven
While on set for the trailer, I caught Sara as she was having some fierce make-up applied and got the chance to pick her brain a little about the role and the series. Raven was formerly played by Alexandra Elle in Clutch and already has a substantial storyline.
WVG: Do you have any apprehension about playing a character that already exists?
Sara: It’s a little interesting. I like to think that it’s an honor to expand upon someone’s work. Take what they have created, what the audience may already be associated with, and shed more light. Try to draw them in in a unique way.
WVG: This role comes with A LOT of sexual overtones. Without getting too personal, how do you feel about playing a dominatrix?
Sara (laughing): I like being in charge anyways, so… I’m very assertive about how I feel all the time.
WVG: So your character is tough, and she gets to use some weapons. Did you have any experience with that?
Sara: I got really good at skeet shooting. An ex of mine was really into it. At one point, I could throw my own (clay) pigeons and shoot them down.
WVG: How do you feel about possibly traveling with the whole crew?
Sara: Who would not be excited to?! I’m just getting the chance to meet everyone here, and I’m really enjoying the vibe and the excitement they bring. Also, the fact that Laced and Loaded is coming off another project that is closely related is really fun. To have the opportunity to explore deeper into a character is an actor’s dream.
Shortly after, I got to witness Sara doing just that with Matthew Carvery: delving in deeper to what makes Raven and this series tick. Matthew explained, “[Raven] is tired of the bullshit. She’s tired of her clients mistreating her and mistreating the other girls, so she decides to take matters into her own hands. The police aren’t doing anything. In fact, they’re probably part of the problem, so the only way she sees to stop the problem is to pick up guns and fight them herself.”
Although Raven is the series lead, there are some other heavily explored characters that are original to this series. Cyd- who was previously tied to the kennel- played by Mayra Leal (Machete, Casting Couch, Getting Schooled), and Damien, the gargantuan thug played by Ski Carr (Faster, The Bannen Way, Wild Things 2) are sure to have some dark plot lines of their own. Some other noteworthy cameos are made by Ed Robinson (producer/star of Pairings) and Robb Padgett (a composer/actor from a number of series), who both appear as Damian’s “back-up” thugs. And it was Nicole Wright (director and producer of Progress) who was tied to the kennels with Cyd.
The trailer for Laced and Loaded will be on Vengeance Cinema’s YouTube page at the beginning of March 2016 and shooting for the full season is scheduled for later in 2016. L&L will also be cut and pitched as a TV pilot that Jonathan and his crew plan to ever-so-nicely release on the internet first. Be sure to subscribe to Vengeance Cinema’s page; Laced and Loaded is sure to be a scary, sexy series that you won’t want to miss!