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Exclusive Interview with Actress Carollani Sandberg

Photo Credit: Ryan West
Photo Credit: Ryan West

Actress and assistant director Carollani Sandberg has been involved in a plethora of projects since making her debut in 2009. After guest-starring on the hit series Leverage, she landed roles in the films Half Empty, Break, Touchy-Feely and Lucky Them. Then, in 2014, she was cast as Jenna in the short film Together Forever, which told the story of the engagement of lesbian couple Jenna and Robin. The project became a massive Internet hit, resulting in a second film Brides to Be that is currently available now for download on various online platforms, including iTunes, YouTube, Red and Fios by Verizon.

Additionally, Sandberg recently guest-starred on Syfy’s Z Nation and is preparing for the release of her highly-anticipated film Second Nature, which premieres at the Napa Valley Film Festival on November 10, 2016. I had the pleasure of chatting with Sandberg about her role on Z Nation, her experience working on Second Nature and her love for young adult fiction. Check it out below!

When you were first introduced to your character Anderson, what was your first impression of her?

I immediately was super pumped. She’s powerful. All the women in “Z Nation” tend to be badass but she’s next level. With her background as a drill sergeant and the Upcycling skills, she’s kind of next-level apocalypse prepared (laughs). So I thought that was really cool. I liked how important she was to Murphy. She knows that she has these important skills and she’s able to use that in order to get what she needs in this world.

In what ways would you say that you’re like her and how are you different?

I, like Anderson, am very tenacious; when I’ve got a goal, I’m going to do everything that I can to achieve that goal. I also like playing with weapons (laughs). In seriousness, I think she has that outward, tough exterior but I believe she’s more sensitive inside than she lets on—she’s been through trauma in this world just the same as everybody else. She protects herself with the badassery that she has, and I think that I might be a little bit of the same.

Is her backstory one that is already pretty set in stone by the writers or is it one that develops as the season goes along?

If they have a backstory for her, I was not privy to it, so I made up my own. (laughs) I went back and gave her a history and gave her all of these horrible events to draw from in those moments with Murphy and the crew.

Could you share a bit of the backstory that you invented for her?

Sure! So, I decided that she actually met her wife while they were both drill instructors in the Army, before “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was turned over. So, they were secret and, because of that, she’s learned to keep her cards pretty close to her chest. Even after “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was overturned and they were able to live openly, she’s still a very private person. And when the apocalypse and everything went crazy, they stuck together and were doing very well. But, then they fell in with a group of people that they thought they could trust and they were double-crossed. And Anderson was going to be killed by them, but Lindsey—that’s the name I gave her wife—stepped in the way and took the bullet and was killed instead. So, Anderson has been on the run since that moment and heard about Murphy, which is when she headed to Murphytown.

What was it about Murphy that you think Anderson was drawn to?

She’s heard rumors that he can make people immune to zombies—I mean, that’s the ultimate tool in a zombie apocalypse, right? If you’re immune to zombies, what do you have to fear? I guess humans…(laughs). But, if you’re immune to zombies and other humans aren’t, even then, you’ve got the advantage. So, that prospect became very, very attractive to her and she wanted to go and see what was up with it.

Were you a fan of the show before you joined it?

Yeah! I’ve been watching since day one, and I’ve been auditioning since day one, since they were auditioning principals. So, I’ve been watching the entire time; a lot of my friends have been on the show, so it’s been fun to watch. I think it’s just getting better and better.

What can fans expect from the rest of this season?

As far as Anderson is concerned, I’m afraid that we’ve seen all that we’ve seen for her in season three and that’s entirely my fault. They wanted me back, but I had the audacity to trip and fall and break three out of four limbs, and have surgery on two of them, so I was laid up and could not go back for more episodes. Actually, my first thought when I fell was “Nooooooo!” and I tried to convince them that I can act, that I just couldn’t move, so it was shocking that they didn’t have me back under those conditions, right? But Anderson is alive and well in “Z Nation” somewhere, and now she’s immune to zombies, so I imagine that she’s going to do very well. I hope that we see her back in season four. The little bug that I’m trying to put in everybody’s ear is that she should hook up with Addy in season four. (laughs).

What was your favorite scene to film in “Welcome to Murphytown”?

My favorite scene was the feast scene. They didn’t show the whole breadth of what we shot, of course, but it was so fun. These characters have been through trials and tribulations—they haven’t had any kind of luxuries in so long—and then they lay out this beautiful platter of food that was literally beautiful food for us. Strawberries and this huge platter of steaks, all this stuff, and we shot a few takes with the wide lens when we were all reaching for the food. We all kept grabbing little pieces of steak from this ring around these big steaks, and I was like “Can I just grab one of these big t-bones?” because why wouldn’t I? (laughs) So, I could not grab my fork fast enough. And I love the shot that they got of me eating it because it’s like two pieces of steak stuck together, but it was perfect because it was so much fun. 

You have a film coming out soon called “Second Nature.” What did you enjoy the most about working on that project?

There were a few things. One was that this was the first time that I was put up out of town. We were shooting on location in Allensford, Washington, so that was a fun, new experience for me. Also, working with Sam Huntington was just incredible. He’s really funny and a generous scene partner. And Collette Wolfe was great. It was just a really, really great group of people. It was fun to work with them, and the town of Allensford really welcomed us. It was a great time.

What messages do you hope that viewers take away from it?

I hope that viewers, first of all, just laugh and enjoy the film. But, while they are enjoying themselves, I hope that they are able to see the way that we force gender norms onto each other, and how it can be destructive to everybody involved.

You were also a part of the massively successful online short film “Together Forever,” which branched into “Brides to Be.” Did you foresee that short film and the subsequent film being that successful?

Not at all! We were just making some short films in the Midwest and just put them online when they were done and submitted them to the film festivals, and hoped that we’d maybe get a couple thousand people watching them, and it just took off. “Together Forever” has, I think, reached 2.5 million views, so that was cool. And my favorite part of that was that, as you probably know, Internet comments can be very scary and destructive, but the comments on “Together Forever” as so overwhelmingly positive and that warms my heart so much. And making “Brides to Be” on the tail end of “Together Forever” was really cool because we knew that we had an audience, so it was great to be able to deliver something that we knew people wanted to see.

Can we expect another installment in the future?

I don’t know! The writer-director couple who did “Brides to Be” are in Paris right now for a film festival that’s screening “Brides to Be,” and they keep posting all these photos. We keep making jokes like “Oh, that looks like a great location for the next Jenna and Robin film!” (laughs) So, we keep talking about it, but I know that they have a few projects in their queue that they want to get done before they do anything else with Jenna and Robin.

How do you hope that “Brides to Be” encourages more representation on film and television?

Well, I think that any time that people who don’t see themselves represented on screen a lot of the time, it’s a transformative experience. With “Brides to Be,” I know that we showed something that I haven’t seen represented on screen before. Just by doing that, I think it encourages anybody else who might have an inkling like “Hey, I have a story. Why not see my story represented on screen?” So then they think “Oh, I can do it too.” I mean, we’re just a little, indie film-making operation, so if we can do it, you can do it. The more people that feel empowered to share their own stories, then we’ve truly created democratic media.

What books, movies, TV shows, etc. bring out the nerd in you?

I’m currently reading the “Harry Potter” play; I like to reread that series every once in a while. I’m a nerd for young adult fiction, honestly. My favorite author is Matthew Quick. Like, I’m a little embarrassed by how much of my book collection is for young adults. (laughs) But I fell in love with young adult novels when I was a teen and just can’t quit them.

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