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Interview: Lydia Hull Talks SAF3

Young women contemplating where they fit into society and seeking to find their true passion in life can be a difficult process for them, but if they truly believe in their dreams, they’re destined to succeed. That’s certainly the case with firefighter Lily Maddox, one of the main characters on the syndicated American action drama television series, ‘SAF3,’ as well as the actress who plays her, Lydia Hull. Many of the people in Lily’s life try to deter her from her dream career, saying she’s not strong enough, but she’s brave enough to prove her talents on the job. After appearing in minor roles in such action thrillers as ‘Escape Plan’ and ‘Broken City,’ the passionate and relatable actress also showcased her captivating determination to make a career in her chosen field, much like her character on the show, which is one of her first major roles.

‘SAF3,’ which is set to air its season one finale on Saturday afternoon on the CW, follows an elite division of the Malibu Fire Department consisting of the best officers in their respective field of sea, air and fire. The specialists are the heroes who answer the most challenging calls, and collaborate, coordinate and initiate daring rescues in the most dangerous venues to save human life.

One of the officers in the SAF3 department is Lily a Los Angeles resident who decided to become a firefighter after her father, who was a firefighter, tragically lost his life battling the blaze of the famous South Canyon fire on Stone King Mountain. Lily was only ten at the time of his death, but it was then she knew she would dedicate her life to following in his footsteps. However, when she first signed up for the Fire Academy, everyone doubted her ability to survive in the program, and said she wasn’t strong enough. But Lily knew that her strength that came from a deep desire in her heart far surpasses her physical strength.

Hull generously took the time recently to sit down in a New York City hotel to talk about filming ‘SAF3.’ Among other things, the actress discussed how she drawn to the role of Lily because not only is she a strong female role model as a firefighter, but also someone who would be willing to help others in her personal life; how she would be interested in returning to film a second season of the series if it’s picked up again, as she enjoys playing Lily; and how she thinks ‘SAF3’ is a positive show that’s ideal for the whole family to watch together, as it focuses on teamwork and friendship, and helping each other through hard times.

ShockYa (SY): You portray Lily Maddox, a Los Angeles firefighter, in the action drama series, ‘SAF3.’ What initially drew you to the character of Lily, and the series overall?

Lydia Hull (LH): Lily’s a really cool character because she’s a strong female and role model-type of character. She’s a firefighter, and is really good at her job. She’s also smart and fearless when it comes to work.

But when it comes to her personal life, she’s a total sweetheart, and everyone’s best friend. She’s the type of person who would do anything for anyone. All of those things were really attractive about her.

I also liked that the role has action. The show’s also from the creators of ‘Baywatch,’ which is one of the most successful television shows ever. So that was all exciting

SY: You auditioned for the part of Lily after meeting Tanquil Collins and Greg Bonann, the creators of the series. What was the audition process like overall? Did previously knowing Tanquil and Greg make the audition process easier for you?

LH: Yes, I had known other people from the show for a few years, and the creators about a year before the show actually began filming. So obviously that helps. In this industry, any foot in the door you can get helps develop relationships organically and naturally. That’s better than going in cold. Sometimes it can be a little awkward and hard to get that edge.

The creators are really nice people, and I found out about the show they were doing. I let them know I was really interested, and kept asking and going after it. I ultimately got to audition for them, and play Lily.

SY: Since the series focuses on specialists who collaborate, coordinate and initiate daring rescues in the most dangerous venues to save human life, did you do any research when you signed on to star as Lily, to help get into her mindset? Was there anything about the character you could relate to?

LH: I feel like as far as the who of who Lily is, she was easy to relate to. That helped with the duality of the character, including how she’s strong in certain aspects, and then maybe vulnerable in other aspects. I think that’s really real.

As far as the research, I was worried about being true to being a firefighter and a paramedic. I asked people who are in those professions questions. I also trusted that when we were filming that I could ask the people on the set questions, like what’s the appropriate way to do things. I did the best that I could in the time frame we had. Hopefully, going forward, I’ll keep getting better.

SY: Were there paramedics and firefighters on the set as you were filming, who you could ask questions?

LH: We didn’t have firefighters, but there was always a set medic. I did ask him frequently, “What would the appropriate step of action be as I was approaching the victim?” He would tell me, and that was very helpful.

SY: While Lily is a firefighter with the elite division, do work to make her relatable to audiences who watch the show? What type of message do you hope audiences take away from the show?

LH: I feel like it’s a really positive show, and focuses on teamwork and friendship, and helping each other through hard times. So there’s the hero aspect of it. That helps the show be appropriate for all ages, and that’s where I feel our show is different from a lot of other shows. Hopefully we have something in there for everyone to appreciate.

SY: With so many acclaimed, but very mature, shows on television now, why do you feel it’s important to have family-oriented series like ‘SAF3?’

LH: I think it’s exactly what you just said. There are a lot of fabulous shows that I love, and I’m grateful they’re on. But some of them are not appropriate for a younger audience. But in addition to these fabulous shows, there are some that aren’t so great. There are a lot of ridiculous things that are out there that don’t send a great message.

But this show celebrates people who are hard-working, and want to help other people. There’s a place in the market for everything, and I’m not knocking anyone’s show. But I’m glad ours is there to be that show that can be positive.

SY: Speaking of the fact that the show is about friends and family bonding, what are your working relationships with your co-stars like on the set? Did you bond with the rest of the cast, which includes Dolph Lundgren and J. R. Martinez?

LH: Yes, and I think it’s in part because we were filming on location in South Africa. Since it’s so far away, we were all removed from our own support networks. So I think that brought us together even closer together. I’m so grateful that was the case. I have developed some genuine friendships from the show.

SY: Did you have an opportunity to rehearse with your co-stars before you actually shot each episode?

LH: We didn’t have the chance to rehearse before the show started. But when we were there, we would film Monday through Friday. We would then have table reads on Saturday mornings. We filmed really quickly; we filmed 20 episodes in five months. So there wasn’t as much time as we would have liked to have to perfect it and get it all in there. But there was a little rehearsal time.

SY: Like you mentioned earlier, ‘SAF3’ originated in the United States and is set in California, but it’s filmed in such South African locations such as Cape Town and Camps Bay Beach. What has the experience of filming the show in South Africa been like overall?

LH: It was crazy. I’m originally from the Midwest-I grew up in Kansas. But I’ve been in Los Angeles for years. When I first heard about the show, we were supposed to film in North Carolina. Then when we first found out it was going to South Africa, it was a little scary for me, since it’s so far.

But Cape Town looks a lot like Malibu. The beaches look similar, and there are houses built into the cliff sides. So I think that part was convincing enough. But it was pretty crazy to go film somewhere so far away and different.

SY: Having moved to Los Angeles from Kansas after you graduated from high school to pursue your acting career, what advice do you have for teens who have the same goal of becoming an actor?

LH: It’s hard, but I don’t want to discourage anyone. I want to say the total opposite; if there’s anything in someone’s life they want to do, I would say to give it a try. You have nothing to lose by trying, and that way you won’t have any regrets. I would say to stay true to who you are, and surround yourself with positive people.

SY: After working as a model as a teen and starring in supporting roles after graduating from high school, you later earned a degree in apparel and textile marketing from Kansas State University and a degree in jewelry design from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles. Would you encourage teens who want to become actors to continue their education?

LH: Yes, it was important for me; I think education is always important, and never a waste. I’m not actively using either of those degrees, but I’m happy to have them. It made me a more well-rounded person. The college experience itself is something I wouldn’t have wanted to miss out on. Even the parties and friendships are all important and part of growing and discovering who you are.

Education is really important, especially since acting isn’t a guaranteed profession. So I wanted to have a Plan B, in case acting didn’t work. I do have a lot of interests.

Early on, I had an acting coach tell me, “This is a tough business. If there’s anything else you think you want to do, go do it. This really has to be the only thing that you want, because it’s that hard.” So I did try other things, but I kept coming back. I realized I have to keep at this, because it’s what I really want.

SY: Would you be interested in going back to jewelry design in the future, or are you more focused on acting?

LH: I think creative types of people have a need to create. It’s not what they want to do; it’s a need, and it’s a part of who you are. So that is something I would look to in the future. Even if it’s just a hobby, I’m always going to be making jewelry and using my hands and creating art. But I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of doing it professionally, as well.

SY: Since ‘SAF3’ is an action adventure series about the elite division of the Malibu Fire Department, what was filming the action sequences like overall? What was the experience of learning how to scuba dive?

LH: We all had to get scuba certified in South Africa. I had never done any scuba diving before that. But I spent a day with an instructor. The hardest part of that was in the beginning, when I couldn’t even handle the mask. It just freaked me out, so I spent about 10 minutes sitting on the edge of the pool, getting used to the mask. That definitely helped me grow as a person.

Before we started shooting, I trained, lifted weights and took swimming lessons. The water there was so cold that it took some time getting used to. (laughs) Obviously a lot of the harder things were stunted.

SY: Would you be interested in continuing with the action genre in the future, and performing more of your own stunts?

LH: Yes, I would. As hard as it was, it was also really awesome. There aren’t really that many women in action, and it’s probably because it’s so hard. (laughs) It’s challenging and not very glamorous. But I would love to keep doing it, and try my hand at different types of action.

SY: Even though there aren’t that many women in the action genre, like you mentioned, are there any actresses that you look up to, or would like to work with on a project?

LH: Yes, in the action genre, Milla Jovovich is awesome. Kate Beckinsale was also great in the vampire movies she did (the ‘Underworld’ series). She was pretty cool, and a bad-ass action girl in those films. Angelina Jolie is also a killer action star.

My favorite dramatic actress is Cate Blanchett. I think she’s extremely talented, and is as fine of an actress as they come. There are a lot of great actresses that I look up to.

SY: Besides working on ‘SAF3,’ you have also starred in films. How does working on a series compare and contrast to shooting a movie?

LH: Honestly, filming TV was hard. There are really long hours, and we were just, go, go, go. Sometimes we would get new script revisions 10 minutes before we were going to shoot the scene. It was incredibly fast. But as a group effort, we did the best that we could. It was a really good learning experience and crash course that I hadn’t been able to have with smaller roles and films.

SY: With ‘SAF3’s first season coming to an end with Saturday’s episode, ‘Independence Day,’ would you be interested in taking part in a second season if the series was picked up again?

LH: Yes, if it gets picked up, I’m in. We’re waiting to hear, but it looks positive. For me, nothing’s ever official until it’s signed and dried, and I have my plane ticket. So right now, I’m in a space where I’m going to keep pursuing other things. But I’ll be thrilled if it does get picked up for another season.

SY: What kind of reactions have you received from audiences who have been watching the show? Have you received positive responses?

LH: I surround myself with pretty positive people. Obviously the people who know you are going to be positive. I’ve had people say they’ve been really happy that there is a show that’s appropriate for the whole family.

There are always going to be people who don’t have positive things to say. For me, if people aren’t in the arena fighting for me, I won’t stay with them.

SY: Further down the line in your career, when ‘SAF3’ is finished, would you be interested in starring in another television series, or would you like to pursue more films? Do you have a preference of one particular medium?

LH: Either one would be great. The dream for me has always just been to be employed as an actress, because I do really love it and have a lot of respect for it. Anytime someone hires you to do a job in your chosen profession, it’s validating.

I would like to shoot in the States, if possible. (laughs) It wouldn’t so much be film versus television, but something in my own country.

SY: How do you feel that you’ve grown as an actress over the first season? If the show does get picked up for a second season, what did you learn that you can bring to future episodes?

LH: I didn’t have all the scripts in advance; we got them in advance. So for me, it was about discovering who all these characters are as we went. So I think I have a better understanding now of who Lydia is, and who the other team members are, and what their relationships are. At the end, I finally started to get it. (laughs) So that would definitely be an advantage going back.

SY: If the show films in South Africa again, would you be more comfortable shooting there, since you are closer to the rest of the cast now?

LH: Yes, it would be an advantage. We know each other and how we work. I also know my way around Cape Town now, so I know what to expect and avoid. I would also be more comfortable in having friends and family visit, since I would feel more comfortable telling them where to go. I was worried about that before, and didn’t want that added pressure. But now I would like to have everyone come. So I do think it would be easier and better to go back a second time.

SY: Is staying in connect with your friends and family while you’re shooting important to you?

LH: It is. I’ve kept my Facebook private, and have it just for people I’ve always known. That’s been a way for me to stay in connect with the large population of people I’ve known all my life. I also stay in connect with my immediate family, obviously, through phone calls and emails. I go back home about three times a year to visit. I have little nieces and nephews, so that’s always an incentive to go back.

SY: Do you draw on your own personal experiences to make your characters more relatable?

LH: Yes, absolutely. Whenever there’s an emotional scene, I reflect on my life. Sometimes I’m present enough in the story, where the emotions just come and I don’t have to think about it. But other times, you do think about your own experiences, and how you can relate. I think about who I am, and who Lily is, and how the two people meet, and where the truth lies.

SY: Do you have any upcoming projects lined up right now that you can discuss?

LH: I’m waiting to hear back about ‘SAF3’s future, and if we’re doing Season 2, what the shoot dates will be. I should know about that pretty soon, and when I’ll be free to do other projects. Even if it does get picked up, and I have the dates, I’ll know when I’m not filming that. Then I’ll know when I can do a film or other projects.

SY: Being here in New York, which has a big theater presence, would you be interested in performing in plays as well?

LH: Yes, theater, absolutely! My start was in theater, and I love the energy from the audience. So I would absolutely love to do a play. But I can’t sing, so any of that would be out. (laughs) I did see ‘Jersey Boys’ and ‘Rock of Ages’ while I was here, and they were phenomenal and amazing. There are so many talented people out there, and getting to watch them was a gift for me.

We’re all unique snowflakes, and we all have so much to offer. I am who I am, and I hope I can use that in some way to tell a story that other people can enjoy.

Interview: Lydia Hull Talks SAF3

Interview: Lydia Hull Talks SAF3

Written by: Karen Benardello

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As a life-long fan of entertainment, particularly films, television and music, and an endless passion for writing, Karen Benardello decided to combine the two for a career. She graduated from New York's LIU Post with a B.F.A in Journalism, Print and Electronic. While still attending college, Karen began writing for Shockya during the summer of 2007, when she began writing horror movie reviews. Since she began writing for Shockya, Karen has been promoted to the position of Senior Movies & Television Editor. Some of her duties in the position include interviewing filmmakers and musicians, producing posts on celebrity news and contributing reviews on albums and concerts. Some of her highlights include attending such festivals and conventions as the Tribeca Film Festival, the New York Film Festival, SXSW, Toronto After Dark, the Boston Film Festival and New York Comic-Con.

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