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Exclusive PAIR OF KINGS Geno Segers Interview, Mason Mikula

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I spoke with GENO SEGERS about PAIR OF KINGS, THE LION KING, his time on the set of WHITE COLLAR with Garret Dillahunt, his foundation HOLD IT ON THE ROAD and so much more.  One of the first things that took me by surprise about Geno was his voice.  I knew that he had a deep voice and I have watched him in “Pair of Kings” but to actually hear his voice on the phone, it took me a few minutes to adjust and I felt like Smurfette in comparison.  His voice is incredible and I can certainly see why, along with his other talents, that it helped him land the role as Mufasa in “The Lion King.”  It was a pleasure speaking with Geno.  He is a very sweet and polite man that spends his time helping children make the right decisions that will help them get the most out of life.  Don’t miss him in PAIR OF KINGS on DISNEY XD.

Lena:  WOW! What a voice.  How many people have asked you to record their voicemail messages (laughing)?

Geno Segers:  All the time!  I get that all the time.  In fact, if I had a dime for every time someone asked me to record their greeting I probably wouldn’t have to work.  “Hi, this is Lena’s phone and leave a message and if not you will have to answer to this voice.”

Lena:  Yeah, really who would mess with that?   (Of course, I was laughing and ruined the message but how sweet is Geno?)

Geno Segers:  I don’t know.  I don’t hear it the way you guys hear it.  To me it sounds like a normal voice.  I sound like I talk normal.  I don’t hear it the way you do.

Lena:  Well, it is very nice.

Geno Segers:  Well, I am very flattered.

Lena:  You have quite an interesting background between all of your academic and athletic achievements.

Geno Segers:  I come from a pretty standard American athletic background.  I was All-American in high school and All-State in high school wrestling and football. I just played as many sports as I could and I got a scholarship to Western Carolina where I realized that I had to work in class as well as on the field.  It was a trying time but I got through it and I got better at it and ended up getting a degree in engineering from Western Carolina.  I wasn’t finished with my athletic career so I pursued the NFL and I didn’t quite fit the bill.  I wasn’t big enough, tall enough or strong enough so I decided to play rugby instead because it was so close to football.  I made the American Patriot Rugby Team and represented the country in Canada against teams like Wales, Ireland, South Africa and Australia.  I went over for the Rugby Sevens Tournament in Sydney Australia and I played there for a while and then I went to New Zealand to play for a team called the Richmond Rovers.  I played with them for a few years and we won a national title so I decided to move on to other minority events.  Minority sports like wrestling and full contact wrestling.  I won a national championship in New Zealand in the heavyweight class.  My background was really all sports.  I did some other minority sports too, a little sumo wrestling, cliff diving and full contact wrestling in Thailand.  I just really decided that I’ve come to the end of my athletic career and I decided to go into business for myself.  In doing so, I met up with some guys who were very intrigued by my voice and they made suggestions for me to go and try to do some radio.  Long story short, that led me to an audition for Disney’s “The Lion King.”  I got on-stage  and found out I loved it and the fact that I was performing in front of so many people with no one chasing me and trying to hurt me, that was a really positive thing.  I decided to try and make a career out of it.  I left Australia and went to China and did “The Lion King” in China.  I left China and went to America and did the West Coast tour.  That show ends and then I went to go and try my hand at Broadway for three years.  I went from Broadway to television.  I had my first pilot audition, which was for “Pair of Kings.”  I have had really good first experiences with things.  This show that I’m on right now is a really good show.  It’s an excellent cast to work with, very professional and we have a good time but when it’s time to get things done we do.  That brings me to now, which is our second season of “Pair of Kings.”

Lena:  You also taught high school algebra?

Geno Segers:  Yes, I was a high school teacher for a while.  I taught algebra and physics in North Carolina.  I taught there for about a year.  I started out as a substitute teacher and they needed someone to take over for a teacher that was leaving and because my background was math and science it was a pretty easy fit.

Lena:  I bet your students never gave you a hard time.

Geno Segers:  Oh, you would be surprised.  They know what they can and can’t get away with.  You can’t even look at a kid wrong now which I think is a travesty on our educational system.  There are no repercussions to actions taken.  Where are the boundaries?  There are none.  I had a really good experience with most of my students.  There are always one or two kids that really just give you a hard time.  The majority of the kids just wanted to do the best that they could.

Lena:  You started in the chorus and then moved up to a leading role in “The Lion King.” How much training did you undergo in order to bring Mufasa to life?

Geno Segers:   I really had to take the bull by the horns on that because once you are in that professional realm they assume that you come equipped with the knowledge and the ability to do the job.  I had no idea how to read sheet music or where Middle C was on the piano so I got myself a book on music theory and taught myself the way around the keyboard and the scales.  I would also grab people, when I could and get them to show me different techniques on how to keep my voice healthy.  I think the biggest issue for people who sing everyday is vocal health so I needed someone to show me how to warm-up and cool-down my voice so that there would be no potential injuries around the corner.  As far as formal training, I didn’t go to school for singing or acting.

Lena:  It was beneficial for you to start in a smaller role because you were able to work up and then watch how people did it.

Geno Segers:   Absolutely.  I wouldn’t change the way that it came about because it did give me time to learn music and be comfortable onstage being myself because in all honesty, Mufasa and I are very similar so I didn’t really have to pretend to be Mufasa.   I just had to be really comfortable onstage.

Lena:  And be comfortable performing live in front of a ton of people, I don’t know how you guys do it.

Geno Segers:   It takes a minute to get that idea in your head and really just let go and make it happen.  Once you get there it becomes second nature.  It’s a real buzz.  It’s never the same.  People say how can you do the same performance over and over again but oh no, it’s never the same.   The audience reacts differently and the person you’re acting with might say it a little differently which would put a different take on it.  You might say it in a way that you’ve never said it before.  It’s really tricky.

Lena:  Are you more at home on the stage or do you prefer film and television work?

Geno Segers:   Oh wow, I really like stage for the immediate reaction and response but as far as getting it the way you want it and telling the story in its best light, I think television and movies offer that a lot better.   As close as they are in terms of medium they are very different in terms of acting, delivery and how you approach the theme, they are very different.  With television, you have special effects, green screens, camera angles, trick angles, there are all kinds of things that you can do.

Lena:  You don’t have that immediate audience reaction.

Geno Segers:   Exactly, it comes out in the end with all the reviews and the ratings.  It just takes some time to get that immediate feedback but with live audiences, you get that immediate feedback as soon as you take your bow.

Lena:  What did you enjoy the most about the time you spent in Australia?

Geno Segers:   Honestly, Australians are very outdoor and adventurous people.  As many malls as we have, they have parks and recreation facilities and things to do just everywhere.  You might see a ninety year old man jogging every morning.  It’s unreal how active they are and how active they stay throughout their lives.  I enjoyed their active lifestyle and having the freedom to go out and do things.  You could go anywhere and there would be a track that you could go and run on.  Every neighborhood had parks where you could go and sit and read and throw Frisbees.  Everywhere you went in Australia there was something to do outside.

Lena:  It’s not really like that here.

Geno Segers:   Especially, in L.A.  You can’t find a track to run on.  There are places like Griffin Park and places in Burbank where you can go hiking up in the mountains and I think that is amazing.  It has its own special charm.  L.A. has a different type of charm, it’s a different kind of outdoor life and it has the beach, as well.  There are things that you can do but the hard part in L.A. is getting there.

Lena:  Yes, I have heard about the L.A. traffic (laughing).

Geno Segers:   Yes, you have to drive an hour and a half to get anywhere in L.A.  It’s just crazy.  Where are you at?

Lena:   Rhode Island (unfortunately).

Geno Segers:   Alright, then you have a good train system and you really don’t need a car in Rhode Island, do you?

Lena:  Yeah, you do.

Geno Segers:   I love Manhattan for not having to have a car.  I think Manhattan is the greatest city in the world.

Lena:  Yes, I love New York.

Geno Segers:   Oh God, yes!  I mean, I like being in L.A., don’t get me wrong but in terms of driving and getting around, I think New York is the best.

Lena:  Are you going to Comic-Con this year?

Geno Segers:   I certainly hope so.  I won’t be dressing up but I would love to go.

Lena:  I’m covering it this year, so I’m excited.   I’m looking forward to going to San Diego.

Geno Segers:   Oh really, well we will see you there.

Lena:  Any plans to go back on tour with “The Lion King”?

Geno Segers:   Well you know, honestly I don’t think so.  I would love to do a stand-in show for six weeks of a limited engagement.  I would love the opportunity.

Lena:  I have to see it sometime.

Geno Segers:   I would love for you to see it, too.  I would love for you to see Mason be Mufasa.  It would be really cool.

Lena:  Yes, I love the makeup and the costumes.

Geno Segers:   Oh my goodness, I could send you a picture right now that would make you fall over.  I have a photo of me and the female ensemble and they are all around me, the king lion or the alpha lion is the only lion that can mate with the pride, so the alpha lion is surrounded by his pride.  It is a beautiful picture.

Lena:  Alright, I’m looking forward to seeing it.

Lena:  You played Aimes’ bodyguard in “White Collar.”  I told Garret Dillahunt (Aimes from “White Collar”) that I would be speaking with you and he said that you are a great guy and to say “hi” to you for him.

Geno Segers:   Oh man, I’ve been trying to contact him back and forth because he is so busy.  He’s a million miles an hour and I am hoping to catch up with him sometime this year, just to hang out and have a drink.  He’s just so busy, so when you talk to him, tell him I said “what’s up.”

Lena:  (Laughing) He’s on twitter.

Geno Segers:   Exactly, every time I log on it’s like he’s gone.  The guy is working his brains out.

Lena:  Yes, I sent Garret a message on twitter to tell him that I would be speaking with you and he said, “The Lion King” and that you were a great guy.  Garret is so nice.

Geno Segers:   (Laughing) Yeah, I’ve got to get at Garret, man.

Lena:  Do you watch “Raising Hope”?  I love that show.

Geno Segers:   You know I have not had a chance to.  I’m so busy but I saw the previews of it and I knew this guy was going to crack sooner or later and now he’s a series regular.

Lena:  Oh, the show is so funny.  In the season finale, Garret’s character Burt had a spitting contest with an alpaca.  The alpaca was just spitting on his face and he was spitting back.  It was crazy.

Geno Segers:   (Laughing) Oh my God!

Lena:  If you watch one episode, make it the finale.  It is hilarious.

Lena:  What was it like working with Garret and the cast of “White Collar”?

Geno Segers:   He was the guy that basically confirmed it for me.  He confirmed a few things for me that I was doing the right thing.  He has such a way, he’s so subtle and profound and the same time.  I did learn a lot from him.  I learned how to treat people on the set from Garret and he doesn’t even know it.  He spoke to everyone and everyone knew his name.  He was polite to everybody.  He came up to me and said to me, “Hi, my name is Garret and I understand you are playing my bodyguard.  Do you mind if I hang out close to you just to get a feel for how we move and how you move?”  Literally, the whole time I was on-set he was right there with me as though I was his bodyguard.

Lena:  So he was in character, that’s awesome.

Geno Segers:    Yeah, he was working it and I thought, “Damn, this guy is good.” He then asked me if I had a business card.  I said I do and my business card just basically has my name on it, Geno and then on the back it has my email address and my phone number.  He said, “That’s an interesting card.  You are a good looking guy why don’t you have your picture on it?”  I said, “Oh man, I don’t know, I really don’t feel comfortable putting my picture on a business card”.  He said, “Why not, you are a good looking guy and everybody has their picture on their card, why don’t you?”  I said, “I don’t know, I just don’t feel comfortable and I don’t know if it gives off the right message.”  You know what he said, “It makes you limited, doesn’t it?  It makes you that kind of actor, doesn’t it?  You are only going to go so far in the business.”  He was testing me the whole time.  He was trying to see if I would crack and fall under his direction, so when I stayed true to my own opinion, he knew I wasn’t going to be swayed by his position.  I didn’t know who Garret was and it was my first guest star appearance on a TV show.  I really liked the guy.  I learned so much from him in three short days of taping.  He’s a good man and just a great guy.  He’s going to go so far.  He’s the kind of guy that talks to everyone and gets along well with everyone.  He leaves an impression.  He leaves an indelible mark and he left one on me.  I’m taking that with me.

Lena:  I love hearing those stories.  I love it when actors are so nice to other actors.

Geno Segers:    I’m telling you, he didn’t have to say anything to me.  He didn’t have to say a word to me and honestly most of the other actors didn’t say anything to me.  Most of the other actors really didn’t have time for me.  It was different with Garret, he was just that guy.  In all honesty, I want to be that guy.  I want to be like that.  I want to be the guy people say hey, “Geno is that guy.  He’s the guy that you can go and talk to.”  The crew, everybody understood who he (Garret) was and they understood his comedy and his comedic timing and they really appreciated him.  That’s the guy that I want to be and it is all because of Garret.

Lena:  Do you do any singing on the set of “Pair of Kings”?

Geno Segers:    No, they haven’t had me do any singing on the set but I would love to.  It may happen eventually but it hasn’t happened yet.  I hope that it eventually does.

Lena:  I know several shows have cast members that sing frequently on-set; Matt Bomer and Tim DeKay from “White Collar” are known for that.

Geno Segers:    In fact, would love to do a “Glee” episode with a 70’s theme and do my Barry White.  I would love to do that, man.

Lena:  There you go.  You are all set for that one.

Geno Segers:    Yeah, I’m ready.  Barry White is my mentor and that one vocal quality that I shoot for.

Lena:  Right now you are working on “Pair of Kings” on Disney XD.  What is it like on the set?

Geno Segers:    It’s the first set that I’ve actually worked on as a series regular and there is no drama on the set.  Everybody loves everybody.  I’ve got my crew, production staff, network production staff and the cast, all the way from craft services to the prop guy, to the garden guy, the greens guy, we all get along so well.  It’s just a really good team that they put together here.  We understand it and appreciate it.  I don’t know how much I appreciate it because I have not been on a set where it hasn’t been like this.  This is my first time being on a set like this.  It’s my first set period.  I’m going to cherish every moment and enjoy the good vibes and the really good energy on the set.

Lena:  You get a lot of bodyguard roles.

Geno Segers:    Yeah, that’s just the way it is.  I don’t imagine that they would look at me as the guy next door just yet.  (Laughing)

Lena:  Well, you have the build for it and the on-screen good looks, so it works.  You make a good looking bodyguard.

Geno Segers:    Oh, you are making me blush now.

Lena:  Can you talk about Mason and what he goes through trying to keep the kings out of trouble?

Geno Segers:    Well, Mason is very protective and he is also very superstitious and basically there is this legend about these twin kings and so Mason is the only convinced that these twin kings are Boomer (Larramie Doc Shaw) and Brady (Mitchel Musso).  Mason is really convinced in such a way that he is not trying to force them down the road of legendary status but he is expecting them to react and be the legends that he believes they are.  No one else believes that Boomer and Brady are the legendary kings.  Mason is not only trying to convince everyone else that they are the kings but also the boys.  He has a big task ahead of him and not only does he protect them but he also guides them down the road of life.  The gist of the story really when you break it down is two boys growing up with responsibilities, shunning their responsibilities in some ways and living up to it in others.  When it comes to the end of every story you’ll see that they come to the conclusion that being together and working together is better than trying to work individually and understanding that people are different.  And understanding that sometimes things aren’t going to work out they way you expect them to.  There is that moral, moral compass that guides the story each and every episode and is vital to the life of a boy growing up.  It’s vital that you understand that people are different.  It’s important to understand that things aren’t always going to work out your way.  It’s important that you understand that life is going to knock you down.  It’s not the mistakes that you make in life that basically shape and mold you; it’s learning from those mistakes, it’s how you come out the other end.  It makes you build the character in you and makes you who you are.  That’s the beauty in the artistry of telling stories, is that it takes us through this arch.  That’s basically what Mason is doing; he’s navigating these boys through the minefield of life.

Lena:  What is it like working on a show geared towards younger audiences?

Geno Segers:    It’s tricky because on twitter all the youngsters want me to follow them and I can’t follow them because they can direct message me and I don’t want any of the messages to be private.  I want all my messages to be public.  Anything they send me I want it to be public.  Anything I send them I want it to be public.  I’m not going to send them anything crazy and out of the way but I can’t guarantee that they are not going to send me something crazy and out of the way, you know.

Lena:  Oh, I know.

Geno Segers:    I have to be careful with that and I’ve been very careful with kids because I’ve worked with kids on “The Lion King”.  You have to be very careful when you are on the road and the responsibility of these kids falls on all of us.  If I am walking down the hall and a kid walks by alone, I want to know where his chaperone is.   We are all responsible for these kids so on twitter all my little ten, twelve and thirteen year old twitter followers, I am responsible for them.  They are literally in my care and what I say can affect them so I have to make sure that I am saying all the right things and make sure that they are not saying anything to me that can’t been seen by everyone.

Lena:  Does your experience as a teacher help you relate to the audience and fellow cast members?

Geno Segers:    Absolutely because in everything that I do I am trying to teach kids to do something positive.  I have a foundation called Hold it on the Road.  My foundation has been around the world talking to kids about opportunities, taking advantage of opportunities and what you can do with an opportunity, good, bad or indifferent.  It’s really just to try to help them make better decisions now to impact their futures tomorrow or to get them down the road to success and productivity.  Hold it on the road is a Southern euphemism which means, be careful when you make that decision.   No matter what it is that I’m doing, whether it’s teaching algebra or physics, which are basically problems and solutions or problem solving skills or talking to kids on Hold it on the Road conventions;  I am helping them solve problems or helping them make better decisions.  Just by making better decisions you impact your future tomorrow.  If you make the decision to get completely inebriated at a party, how is it going to affect you tomorrow?  Teenage pregnancy is huge so if you get drunk tonight and end up pregnant tomorrow, that decision to drink impacts your future adversely.  And heaven forbid if you contract some disease because there are other issues that come along with that.  There are a number of things and bad decisions that kids are making that most of and the time and energy or efforts are from resources for kids that have already made that decision, the at risk kids that are already down the road or the resources are put towards the kids that are already making all the right decisions, they are excelling they are doing a great job.  There is nothing or very little for kids who I like to say for lack of a better term, in the middle of the road.  Going back to holding it on the road, it is easier to keep a car on the road then to pull one out of a ditch.  You can pull one out of a ditch but it is going to take a little more work.  Why wait until the car is in the ditch to make any effort to get it on the road.  Let’s keep the cars on the road.  Let’s keep our kids on the road to productivity and success.

Lena:  My readers wanted me to ask you, what are a few of the qualities that you admire the most about women?

Geno Segers:    Understanding, compassionate and forgiving.  The expectation of perfection is set up to fail because no one is perfect and no one is going to be flawless.  I’m not perfect.

Lena:  Who is!

Geno Segers:    I’m not going to put that expectation onto anyone.  The qualities that I admire are the ones that I work very hard to emulate.

Lena:  What does the future hold for you, any new projects that you can talk about?

Geno Segers:    There are a couple of things that are going on.  I’m looking at going to France to shoot a TV show, basically for the first two weeks of July.  I can’t say the name of it right now but it is a separate project.  It’s kind of adventurous so that is about all I can give you for teasers.

Lena:  Do you speak French?

Geno Segers:    A little but I get around.  I know enough and I understand it better than I can speak it.  It’s tricky but I am learning all the time.  I’m working on it.

Lena:  Is that all you have coming up or want to talk about?

Geno Segers:    Yeah, I think you’ve covered it all and you did a very good job.

Lena:  Oh, thank you.  You are very easy to speak with.  Some people are difficult to interview because they don’t have a lot to say.

Geno Segers:    Yeah, I talk too much sometimes and I need to just shut up (laughing).

Lena:  As long as you don’t let it get you into trouble you are all set (laughing).  Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me.

Geno Segers:    Thank you for having me.

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