Actor Shvan Aladin Continues to Gain Recognition Across the Globe

424998_origSo much of establishing oneself as a successful actor in the world of film and television comes down to an actor’s ability to be chameleonic in their pursuit of a role in order to make a casting director believe that they aesthetically fit the character.

While the mark of a great actor entails a level of finesse and understanding of the human condition that extends far beyond the depths of one’s surface appearance, when it comes to initially breaking out on the silver screen, looks tend to have a lot to do with who gets cast and who doesn’t. This seemingly unfair truth gone awry is apparent in the careers of many actors who seem to have fallen victim to the dreaded typecast, forever struggling to break out of that one role in which they’ve been ushered into playing over and over again.

Actor Shvan Aladin has created a diverse repertoire of work over the past decade that proves the extraordinary capacity of his craft. Through the wide range of roles he’s already portrayed across genres, Aladin has made his mark as an actor who cannot be pigeonholed into one role; but, being from the Middle East, more specifically, from Kurdistan, has endowed him with features that are easily stereotyped.

Over the years the actor, who moved to Sweden at the age of 9, has been strategically selective about his roles on the screen, but when you’re good at what you do and you look a certain way, ethnic stereotypes, like the “terrorist” in his case, just seem to weasel their way in.

If he wasn’t such a professionally seasoned actor, being called in for roles like this might get a little annoying, but he says, “I try to look at the human being that I’m playing as being different from the ones I’ve played in the past. Because every character is different from each other, just like in life. One of the most valuable lessons I was taught during my training at the Stella Adler academy was to never judge a character while playing it.”

He adds, “It doesn’t mean that I personally would approve of the actions some characters (such as the terrorist ones) I play do, but I try to put my personal emotions on the side while researching and trying to understand the brain of that specific human being and his justifications for doing what he is doing.”

In the past year audiences across the globe have seen Shvan Aladin star in a national commercial for the U.S. Army, the feature film Always Faithful, where he plays a terrorist, and the Swedish television series Blå ögon, also known as Blue Eyes.

While all of these productions in one way or another emphasize his ethnic appeal, the actor brilliantly transforms himself from one character to another without ever encroaching on clichés.

About acting in the commercial for the U.S. Army’s campaign “Tunnel Special Forces,” the actors says, “It was an amazing experience, and the director, Peter Berg made it even better. It felt wonderful being directed by a director whose movies I’ve been watching since I was a child, it really made the entire experience unforgettable!”

A two-time Emmy nominee, Berg was also the director of the recent hit film Lone Survivor starring Mark Wahlberg.

Shvan Aladin
Elvin Ahmad (left) and Shvan Aladin (center) during a protest on the SVT series “Blå ögon” shot by Johan Paulin

In the new political drama Blå ögon, Shvan Aladin plays the dynamic and challenging role of Sharhyar, a young Persian teen who is the only true friend that Simon, one of the other lead characters in the series, has. However, due to the fact that Simon’s mother Annika Nilsson, played by the Guldbagge Award winning actress Anna Bjelkerud, happens to be a political candidate for the openly racist party, Trygghetspartiet, some begin to question the authenticity of Simon and Sharhyar’s friendship.

“My character was a hard working young man with a beautiful heart,” explains Aladin. “In the show Sharhyar is the only one who stands up for Simon because he knows that Simon doesn’t share the same opinions as his mother.”

Over the course of the first season, Aladin’s character Sharhyar is framed for the murder of Simon’s mother– a perfect example of how stereotypes can turn an innocent man in to a falsely accused criminal.

“The political drama ‘Blue Eyes’ is about racism taking over in Sweden; but the subject is globally relevant. It’s a subject that has always existed unfortunately, especially in Europe today,” admits Aladin. “I want to be a part of those who fight against racism, and I believe that you can change people through art. My passion in life is acting and that is my art.”

Early on in his career, Aladin starred in the Swedish television shows Andra Avenyn also known as Second Avenue, and Riverside. And while he has undoubtedly made his name known on the screen, the actor’s talents extend to the stage as well. In fact, even with all the glitz and glamour that come along with being a film and television star, the actor marks his role as Ruckley, a lobotomized patient, in the theatre production of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest in Los Angeles as one of his most memorable to date.

Aladin recalls, “It was the best play that I have been a part of in my life, and playing someone with a mental disability is something that I researched a lot… I will never forget the things I learned during the production. I remember thinking during closing weekend: I will remember this character when I’m on my deathbed.”

The actor has also taken the spotlight in the theatre productions of The Hasty Heart directed by Harry Mastrogeorge and J.B directed by Oscar winner Milton Justice, as well as Our lady of 121st Street, and the remake of the Opera Carmen, which was held in Sweden at the Backa Theater.

With an accomplished repertoire of work with world-renowned directors spanning both the American and European entertainment industries already under his belt, Shvan Aladin does admit that there is one director that he has a strong desire to work with.

“I have always had a dream of working with director Bahman Ghobadi so I will also try to include my third country Kurdistan, which is where I’m originally from and so, hopefully I will get to work with him sometime soon,” says Aladin. “I remember watching his movie ‘A Time for Drunken Horses’ as the first movie I saw in the cinema in Sweden after moving there. I immediately fell in love with the movie and his directing, and I was only 10 years old at that time.”

Currently, you can catch Shvan Aladin in the role of Jacob in the horror film Mansion of Blood, which was directed by Mike Donahue (Surge of Power, Pooltime) and was released earlier this month.

Tone Innset: The Producer Behind some Of Norway’s Favorite TV Shows

Tone Innset
                                              Producer Tone Innset shot by Mark Newton

Documentary series producer Tone Innset has been wildly successful as the creative force behind some of Norway’s best reality television shows. For the past five years she has continued to produce the kind of work that glues audiences to their TVs with the captivating and often intimate personal accounts of those whom she presents with the honed expertise of a storyteller.

As Norway’s top showrunner in the docuseries genre, Innset has produced more than 160 episodes of an array of titles, including 118 episodes spanning 12 seasons of Unge Mødre, the Norwegian version of MTV’s Teen Mom. Much like its American counterpart, the show gives viewers a glimpse into the lives of young women and teens who are either pregnant or have given birth as they deal with the day-to-day blessings and adversities of their newfound family lives.

Filming a show like Unge Mødre comes with its own difficulties, which is one area where Innset’s knowledge and expertise prove how valuable an asset she is to the entire production.

“These are young adults and teenagers with a lot of responsibility on their hands and a lot on their plate,” Innset said. “You also have to remember that in these kinds of series you follow someone’s life, and the most interesting things in a person’s life doesn’t necessarily happen between nine and five.”

Innset was also the producer of 12 episodes of Charterfeber aka Charter Fever, a series that follows a group of real-life Norwegian vacationers as they travel to exotic locales in southern Europe. The show documents their lives as they prepare for the trip, their time on holiday and their return home at the end of the journey.

“I loved that because it was really funny,” Innset said. “You know Scandinavians love to escape the cold weather and go to southern Europe to have fun… We filmed for two months on the Spanish island of Gran Canaria. It’s a humorous and edgy series, and a lot of people relate to the characters and have a laugh.”

Her intense hands-on work on Charterfeber made the show’s 2013 premiere the highest-rated premiere on the TV3 Norway channel in four years. Charterfeber’s widespread popularity garnered the series a nomination for the prestigious Gullruten Norwegian Television Award. The show is also known for having helped launch the career of one of Norway’s hottest celebrities, Svein Tore Ostvik.

Innset’s latest project is the second season of the food series Norges Grillmester aka Norway Grill Master, a star-studded cooking show, which sees contestants facing off through challenges to be named the titular Grill Master. The popular docuseries is hosted by Norway’s golden boy, actor Stig Henrik Hoff (The Thing, Into The White, Lilyhammer), and world-renowned chef Jonas Lundgren.

As a producer with a reputation for being someone who is always on-call and prepared to handle any curve ball in order to keep a production running smoothly, Innset was quick to respond when logistical complications threatened the filming process of Norges Grillmester. After an unforeseeable obstacle arose where a massive tent that had been specially designed as the set for one of the episodes was erected without all of the necessary pieces, it was Innset who came to the rescue.

“Well, on Thursday, we saw that a quarter of the floor in the tent was missing; it never got delivered, and that kind of flooring was very hard to come by,” explained Innset. “Somehow we miraculously managed to find a place where we could get a material similar to the floor we already had, so we painted it to look the same and it all worked out.”

This is only one out of hundreds of examples of the way Innset’s quick thinking and experience has helped to keep one of her productions on track. This particular season of Norges Grillmester premiered April 13 in Norway, and has been an exciting ride with unpredictable twists and turns from contestants Per Thorvald Thorgesen and Terje Inngjerdingen dropping out for health reasons to Sylvia and Luis Vavik winning the title earlier this month.

Innset is also working on the next season of Unge Mødre, which is set to premiere this fall. Her passion for the documentary series genre, which has made her a prolific name in the field and shines in the quality of her productions, stems from a human-interest perspective.

“I strongly believe that when people feel that they are seen and heard they feel a kind of ownership over the project, and when you feel ownership you put a lot more energy into it,” she said. “I have a great passion and love for telling stories, and I am a curious people person.”

Alexander Davis: A Child Actor That Needs to Be On Everyone’s Radar

Alexander Davis
Alexander Davis shot by Denise Grant

To find one’s calling can take a lifetime, but Canadian actor Alexander Davis found his in acting when he was just three years old.

Since then, the eight-year-old prodigy has already played lead roles on stage (A Christmas Story, The Little Mermaid) and in film (The Closet, Volition).

Davis portrayed the lead character of Randy Parker in A Christmas Story, which ran for 48 shows in just six weeks at the Neptune Theatre in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Davis’ portrayal of the quirky Parker was so well done that it earned him a 2015 Young Artist Award for Best Performance in Live Theatre.

Though Davis’ work in A Christmas Story was a resounding success, it was not without its challenges. Just before intermission of one of the shows, Davis fell on the set’s stairs and hurt his leg. He was bleeding, in pain, and his next stage direction was to walk out the door. That’s when he learned the meaning of “the show must go on.”

“My acting mom was amazing. She just carried on with the show and picked me up to carry me out the door,” Davis said. “I don’t know if the audience knew what had happened was real or not. During intermission, I put ice on my leg and went back out and finished the show. Now that’s show business.”

Despite working through injury, Davis was hungry to act again when the show’s run ended. On the flight home from Halifax, he asked his mother if he could go back for more.

“I feel like I was born to perform,” Davis said. “I loved performing to sold out audiences and making the crowd laugh. I think my role at the Neptune Theatre really prepared me well.”

But Davis’s budding brilliance has not been confined to just the stage. He played the lead character in The Closet, a film in which he flawlessly executed the difficult proposition of playing his own twin.

“I had to be exact with where I stood to make sure the shot worked with both of us in the scene,” Davis said. “They edited it or layered the scene to make it look like there were two of me. You learn a lot being an actor.”

Davis’s rapidly expanding reservoir of acting knowledge continued to expand when he played the lead character in Volition, a film about a terrorist who saw the world through a different lens after he met Davis’ character on a train.

The film’s production schedule forced Davis to adapt, which he did with flying colors.

“We filmed late every night on the train, so I had to change the time I went to bed,” Davis said. “It was worth it and so much fun.”

Volition co-star Romaine Waite (Antisocial, One Night a Stranger) liked Davis’ performance so much that he asked the emerging star to be in a music video for rapper Pas Da’ Millz that Waite would later direct.

From stage to film, Davis has achieved more before his ninth birthday than many actors do in a lifetime. But the young Canadian has barely scratched the surface of his brilliance, and is already taking his career to the next level.

While in L.A. to receive his Young Artist Award earlier this year, Davis caught the attention of veteran Hollywood executive producer Irene Dreayer (The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, The Suite Life on Deck, Smart Guy).

Dreayer’s known as an honest-but-tough executive producer who’s often told parents of young actors that L.A.’s not a starting point for a growing career, but rather an end result of a successful career. She’s usually recommended to families they go home, but that was not the case for Davis, according to the young actor’s parents.

Instead, Dreayer spent a lot of time convincing Davis’ parents that L.A. was where the sought after actor should be, according to Davis.

Most recently, the young thespian used his voiceover chops to portray the characters Brownie and Checkers in the animated TV series Super Why!, a popular, animated kids show about the magical adventures of reading-powered superheroes on PBS.

Whether on stage, film or television, Alexander Davis has proven himself to be a talented, reliable and dedicated actor who will no doubt make his presence felt in Hollywood and beyond for many years to come.

Born to Be a Star: Australian Triple Threat Jessica Waters

Jessica Waters
Actress Jessica Waters

Born into a family of entertainers, actress Jessica Waters has been in the spotlight her entire life. Together with her four siblings and her father, the lead singer of a local band, she was playing music, dancing and acting beginning at just five years old. By the time she was eight she had her heart set on acting professionally, and in the years since she has grown from one of the most promising young Australian talents into an international powerhouse of the screen.

In 2014, Waters joined the cast of The War That Changed Us, a four-part documentary drama series recounting the stories of real-life Australians who fought in World War I. Waters played a nurse traveling with soldiers on the front lines, and said she fell in love with the role.

“This has to be one of my favorite TV shows I have worked on,” Waters said. “I loved the costumes, and dressing in all the lovely clothes they wore really made me feel like I was back in that time, and I had to do some nurse training for the role.”

The War That Changed Us aired by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in 2014 to commemorate the centennial anniversary of Australia’s entry into the war.

Recently, Waters acted alongside Sam Worthington (Avatar, Terminator: Salvation, Clash of the Titans) in Paper Planes. The film tells the story of a young boy who, after suffering the loss of his mother, finds solace and hope in a competition to design the ultimate paper airplane. Filmed in her hometown of Perth, Waters played the mother of one of the children competing in the whimsical tournament and said it was a fun project to be a part of. The film received nominations at both the Australian Directors’ Guild Awards and the Berlin International Film Festival.

In her latest television role, she plays an American reporter in the SyFy Channel adaptation of the Arthur C. Clarke classic novel Childhood’s End. As an Australian, the role was a unique challenge for her, and required a great deal of intensive voice training to master the accent required for the part.

“I’ve been training my American accent for a year,” she said. “They loved my accent, and I got the part on the spot.”

Childhood’s End is the first screen adaptation of the science fiction masterpiece. Following the arrival on Earth by a race of mysterious but benevolent aliens, the human race begins to thrive and prosper; however, almost immediately suspicions begin to grow among people about their new isolationist neighbors. As a reporter, Waters is on the scene to cover their arrival. The series airs on SyFy later in 2015.

Waters played a reporter once before in The Great Mint Swindle, the true story of a massive 1982 Australian heist where more than $2 million in gold bars were stolen from the Perth Mint. The crime remains unsolved, adding to the mystery and making it one of Western Australia’s greatest and most famous true crime stories.

“I love being in true stories,” Waters said. “The set was very Australian, and I enjoyed being a news reporter because if I didn’t decide to be an actor, I was going to be a TV reporter.”

Not limited to film and television, Waters’ experience as a performer shines in her work onstage as well.

“I have spent three years working with the Shakespeare Theatre Company in Western Australia,” Waters said. “I was not only an actor, but I was also the dance choreographer and a singer.”

In her time with the Shakespeare Theatre Company, she’s worked on iconic Shakespearean plays including A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Much Ado About Nothing, The Tempest and Comedy of Errors.

Audiences can catch Jessica Waters in her upcoming feature film Reality, a satirical comedy in which Waters plays the lead.

“I just know it’s going to be a fantastic film. The script is amazing,” she said. “I have a lead role and it’s a film that kind of makes fun of reality TV shows.”

Reality is currently in the process of filming so eager fans will have to wait to learn more about the project. However, it’s guaranteed to be a fresh look at a genre, which provides a goldmine of comedic fodder.

One of Canada’s Hottest Stars: Actress Jessica Huras

Over the last decade Canadian actress Jessica Huras has established herself as a sought after talent for high profile theater productions, TV shows and award-winning films. While her versatility and capacity for seamlessly tapping into even the most challenging roles have definitely helped her create the dazzling reputation she has today, it doesn’t hurt that she is undeniably beautiful as well.

Early on in her career Huras appeared on the two-time Gemini Award winning series This Is Wonderland. Shortly after she went on to guest star on the Lifetime TV series Missing alongside multi-award winning actress Vivica A. Fox. An investigative crime series that focuses on finding missing persons, Huras played the roles of Caroline Dunn and Luke Thompson, two characters who at first appear to be separate and unrelated, but over the course of the episode are revealed to be one in the same.

When it comes to choosing one role over another, Huras says, “I look for smart scripts that feel original in some way and that have interesting and complex roles for women.”

In Missing, Huras gives a heart wrenching performance as a transgendered college student who struggles to find his identity as a man born in a woman’s body, a challenging role that only further proves the actress’s affinity for tapping into complex characters.

Audiences across the world will also recognize Huras as Leandra from the first season of the hit television show Being Erica, where she starred alongside Erin Karpluk (Rookie Blue, Reasonable Doubt, Supernatural, Saving Hope, Flashpoint) and Reagan Pasternak (Masters of Sex, Heartland, Cake).

“This was a very theatrical role, allowing me to tap into my darker side and channel my inner Goth,” explains Huras about her character on the three-time Gemini Award and Leo Award winning series.

Similar to the way that Jamie Lee Curtis has become synonymous with the horror genre through her role as Laurie Strode in Halloween, Huras has also become something of a notable “scream queen” on film.

Through films like The Deadly Pledge where she played the role of Nikki Evans alongside Gossip Girl star Leighton Meester, James Isaac’s action packed 2006 horror film Skinwalkers, and NYC: Tornado Terror, Huras has displayed a rare talent for evoking fear within audiences through her believable performances.

Although she has carved out her place as an actress in film and television productions starring alongside some of the best in the industry, the silver screen has by no means taken away from her work as a dedicated performer in the theatre.

In 2009 Huras starred alongside Sebastien Heins from the TV series The Listener, Cracked and Darknet, and Mikaela Dyke from the films Blood Boars and Sight Unseen, in the production of David Levine’s “Reflections On Giving Birth to a Squid.” The production, which opened in Montreal and toured across Toronto, Winnipeg, Saskatoon and Edmonton as part of the Fringe Festival, received the Centaur Award for Outstanding Production from the Montreal Fringe Festival.

In 2010 the actress also founded Heart in Hand Theater company in Toronto – a revolving collective producing rare plays in need of a comeback, as well as developing new works of their own. Through Heart in Hand, Huras has produced “The Commune,” “Cowboy Mouth” where she played the starring role of Cavale alongside Broken Social Scene member Jason Collett, and “Trout Stanley” where she played the role of Grace Ducharme.

About what drives her to perform, Huras says, “I love telling stories and sharing the human experience. I think it’s the most palpable way of connecting and it’s never dull, not for a second. I’m forever challenged and inspired in this field.”

With each of her characters being completely different from the next, Huras’s dedication to continually pushing herself beyond her comfort zone as an actress has allowed her to amass a wide range of roles on both the stage and screen.

With an astonishing career already under her belt and several productions being released this year, it is clear that we will be seeing a whole lot more of Jessica Huras for years to come. Currently, you can check Huras out in the role of Natalie on the History Channel series Gangland Undercover, which began airing in February. She also wrapped production on the films Anxietyville and Teeth earlier this year, both of which are set to debut later this year.

For Actress Alli McLaren, Performing Runs in Her Blood

Alli McLaren
                                              Actress Alli McLaren shot by David Lee

The vast array of roles masterfully portrayed by Alli McLaren are a testament to the striking technique she’s spent her entire life honing, both onstage and in front of the camera. Following in both her mother and grandmother’s footsteps, the Australian dynamo is a third generation actor in whom the art of performance is deeply engrained.

McLaren’s unique talents stem from so much more than the impressive combination of her inherited genetics, for her upbringing in the theatre and her years of rigorous and dedicated training have put her far above the rest. One of her strongest and most valuable assets is something too many actors lack – real-life experience.

In addition to her acting prowess, McLaren is also a talented and accomplished writer for the screen. McLaren wrote the upcoming film My Year of Silence based on her own experiences. The film follows McLaren as she plays Callie, a role that shines a spotlight on the painful reality of those who cope daily with mental illness and depression.

For years, McLaren fought tirelessly to overcome long and difficult battles with illness and depression. Through that struggle, she gained an intimate and personal understanding of the peaks and depths of human emotion and an insight into the human psyche that is clearly displayed in every part she’s played. From the masterful way that she has transformed herself into the mind and body of every character she has taken on, audiences can expect yet another dazzling performance from the actress as Callie in the upcoming film My Year of Silence, which is being produced by White Night Films.

Though her dramatic flair is impeccable, her recent role in A Writer’s Block, also produced by White Night Films, gave her a chance to show off both her action and comedic chops. The project centers around two writers as the plot of their latest film begins to come to life. McLaren’s character Sophie, one of the characters in the two writers’ script, is kidnapped, and the ensuing rescue mission her older brother embarks on to save her forms the backbone of the film. The quick-action, fights and shootouts were a far cry from her other more cerebral and introspective roles, but in no time she mastered the dance-like combat moves with grace and professionalism — and a little bit of fun, too.

“There was a lot of stage fighting choreography involved in this shoot, which was new to me,” said McLaren. “But I felt like a ninja doing it, which kind of rocked.”

In one of her most powerful roles, McLaren played the lead in Infidelity, directed by Emmy Award-winning actress Blanche Baker. Based on a French script, the film centers around an experiment meant to study the faithfulness of men versus women in committed relationships.

McLaren’s character, Gretchen, is the person responsible for conducting the experiment, and as such, she holds complete control over its success. “Gretchen was really the female power in this film,” McLaren said. “It felt great to play a character with so much power and so much control.”

An exceptional actress by anyone’s standards, McLaren’s upcoming projects include the 2016 release of My Year of Silence as well as a likely sequel to follow, in addition to a planned sequel to A Writer’s Block. The young starlet will no doubt continue to raise the bar for fellow actors across the industry as a whole; and as audiences flock to My Year of Silence, they’ll no doubt witness the internationally sought after talent set new standards for dramatic writing as well.