Q & A with Child Actor Richard Davis!

Richard Davis
Actor Richard Davis shot by Denise Grant

At 11-years-old actor Richard Davis has already accomplished more in the entertainment industry than many actors ever will. In the past three years he’s received four Young Artist Award nominations for his work on the films The Comeback Kid, Brothers and To Look Away and the award-winning series Kid’s Town.

While it’s undeniable that the kid has a face that could melt the heart of the Grinch, Davis has a lot of other things going for him besides just being ridiculously cute. For starters, his emotional range is astonishing, and not just for someone of his age but for an actor of any age. He understands the process of character development and knows exactly when and how to deliver the necessary comic relief or high-intensity dramatic moments within a scene. What is even more impressive though, is his knowledge of the world around him and the manner in which he speaks.

A speed-reader who actually competes in book competitions like the Battle of the Books, a competition that he won with his team earlier this year, Davis loves a good story. And, one of the reasons he loves acting, and has become so good at it, is because it allows him to become part of the story bringing characters to life on the screen.

Audiences across Canada and the U.S. will recognize Richard Davis from his roles on the popular television shows Good Dog, The Ron James Show, Murdoch Mysteries and Copper, as well as the films A Family Way, Hazel & Elwood, Amalgamations, Full Out and many more. The young actor recently wrapped production on the film Shahzad, which will be released on BravoFact in August of 2016, as well as Psychic Playground which will be available very soon.

To find out more about Richard Davis make sure to check out our interview below. You can also find out more about his work through his IMDb page.

Where are you from and how old are you?

RD: I was born near Toronto, Ontario and I am currently 11 years old. Although at four years of age, I tested in the 99.9 percentile for oral I.Q. and could read encyclopedias, it wasn’t always easy for me. I was considered a ‘miracle’ when I was born and I had my challenges. My mom’s pregnancy was eventful and I was a premature baby that had to be intubated when I was born. I lived in three hospitals before coming home for the first time. I was followed by specialists for the first year until they discovered I was communicating in full sentences and starting to read using Baby Sign Language through American Sign Language. Eventually, my tongue caught up to my brain and there was no stopping me.

When and how did you get into acting?

RD: I was always curious. I wanted to learn about everything around me. I would ask questions and I would read everything I could get my hands on. When I had questions related to how something was made, my mom always said, ‘the best person to answer my questions were the people that worked in that area of expertise’…so we went on a lot of field trips. Even when we went shopping, I would ask about the products in the store and how everything, “operated”. After I learned about the products, I would proceed to play a ‘salesperson’ while my mom shopped. My mom would often apologize to the customers for me bothering them, but everyone seemed quite happy by it. Well, one day, I happened to try and sell lights in a lighting store to a gentleman, who turned out to be George Pastic, an Oscar nominated director for the film The Violin in 1975. Not only did George take me under his wing, but he became my mentor and friend, along with his wife Eleanor. Sadly, George and his wife tragically passed away in the fall of 2014 and I will always miss them.

What is it like having such a successful career at such a young age?

RD: It’s pretty cool to have people come up to me and say ‘Hey, are you that guy in the movies?’ It’s nice to be recognized for doing what you enjoy. I actually feel very fortunate that I have found something that I love to do at such a young age. Most people go through their lives trying to find out what it is that they want to do when they grow up. I love having the opportunity to be in front of the camera and bring a new character to life. One of the things I love to do most is to read a great book; the bigger, the better. When I get a new script, it’s like opening up a new book. The best part is that I get to be one of the characters in that book. When a script is based on a novel, I usually read the script and novel to get a full understanding of the character. Being a speed reader really comes in handy when you only have 24 – 48 hours to prepare for the audition.

 Can you tell me a little bit about the film and television projects you’ve done?

RD: I consider myself very fortunate to have had the opportunity to play many exciting roles. When I was 5 years old, I landed a recurring role on Ken Finkleman’s comedy HBO series Good Dog. It was a wonderful opportunity to work with some very talented professionals over the course of the series. The series followed George, played by Ken Finkleman, a self-absorbed producer whose new reality show is in danger of being taken off the air. George is forced to liven the atmosphere of his life due to the network’s demands, so he asks his young model girlfriend, Claire, played by Lauren Lee Smith, to move into his house, but he doesn’t realize that means Claire’s son, my character, would also be moving in– along with my sister, nanny and our pet Rottweiler. George was often in the dog house.

I have also enjoyed filming on shows such as Murdoch Mysteries, set in the early 1900’s, as Finn Hopkins on the episode “Midnight Train to Kingston.” I will be careful about saying too much about this episode as I know that this show is played in many different countries around the world. I need to be careful so I do not give away any spoilers. I also played the role of Buzz in a black and white webisode for the television series Lost Girl. I thought it was cool to have my hair shaved to reflect my character Buzz’s name, and it was awesome wearing clothes from around the 1950’s. I love the wardrobe departments on shows like Murdoch Mysteries and Lost Girl. I’ve also had fun voicing with Ron James; I voiced Petey on The Ron James Show. Ron is such a nice person who is very intelligent and has a big heart. It was a real pleasure to work with him at CBC in Toronto.

I have also enjoyed playing the role of Brian Jr. on the web-series Kid’s Town, which is available on Amazon Instant Video, iTunes, Ameba TV, Hulu, and Vimeo on Demand. Kid’s Town is a family show, and I play the next-door neighbor to the new kid in town. He befriends me in part, because we have the same name, and because I have no friends until he moves in, due to my big list of allergies. I enjoyed playing the character of Brian Jr. because I was the comedic relief in the show. I loved the writing in the series, and I must admit that I seemed to luck out with getting some of the best lines. I’m looking forward to doing more comedy in the future and creating more characters…Perhaps one with a British accent next time, as I love playing with accents.

For four years in a row, I won the lead role from the most prestigious university film programs in Canada. For one role, it was a two-hander where I played the lead role of Oliver in To Look Away. For this role, it involved filming late into each night in ridiculously below freezing temperatures.   I also played the lead role of Max in the film Brothers, which landed me my fourth Young Artist Nomination. I also played the younger lead character of Damian in Amalgamations, which ended up screening at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival Courts Metrages in 2013.

Another memorable role that I was nominated for a Young Artist Award and loved playing was “The Comeback Kid”. I played the lead character of Boniface Domingo Brantley who is The Comeback Kid and goes by the nickname Bo. Bo is an 11-year-old boy whose only friend happens to be an imaginary luchador named M the Minotaur. Bo and M spend their days flying model airplanes. Well, one day an aspiring pilot named Susie shoots down their aircraft and she feels so bad that she invites them to her birthday party, the first birthday Bo or M have ever been invited to. Bo doesn’t like change and he’s never been good at making decisions, but he is forced to transform and come out of his shell when his parents announce that they are separating. Even though the story was written for an 11 year old, I was only 7 when I won the lead role of Bo.

My most challenging lead role to date would be Hazel & Elwood. I played the lead role of Elwood at 6 years of age in Hazel & Elwood, a film that revolves around a family stricken with tragedy.

I found myself in some precarious situations in Hazel & Elwood, like derailing an entire train by placing pennies on the tracks…from my little purse dressed as a girl. The challenging part was wearing those Mary Jane shoes – wow! They are not meant to fit boys feet! Plus, I learned what girls had to go through with a crinoline, nylons and dress if they had to go to the restroom! You girls do not have it easy! Truth be told…all great actors have put on a dress. Tom Hanks, Ron Howard, Robin Williams, Eddie Murphy, Adam Sandler and Charlie Chaplin, just to name a few.

Richard Davis
Richard in a dress on set of the film “Hazel & Elwood”

They are all very different, what made you choose to participate in these projects?

RD: Quite honestly, my love of acting made me eager to participate in every project I completed. It has only been due to prior bookings that I have had to turn down an audition or role.

What has been your favorite role so far and why?

RD: Wow…this is a difficult question, because I have loved so many roles. I would have to say that I loved being on the set of Copper as a street kid that was up to mischief. There was talk of where my character could be possibly headed on this show, but unfortunately the series was cancelled at the end of Season 2. It was an amazing set though with incredibly talented individuals from the show runner Tom Kelly on down. After my first day of filming, I spent an hour or two touring the set and learning how it all came together. This was another set where people were so nice and willing to teach me. It is definitely an experience that I will always treasure.

Another favourite role of mine was one I just completed; a Bravo Fact funded film called Shahzad. Shahzad is about an 11 year old Pakistani boy who moves to Toronto, and has to deal with transitioning into a foreign world. I played the role of Richie, a classmate that becomes Shaz’s best friend over the course of his first school year in Canada. The role was a favourite of mine because of the storyline and people involved in the project. It is a short story that I am told has already garnered attention to turn into a full length featured film, which I hope it does so I can read and see more of the story.

You get approached all the time to work on projects with people, what makes you pick one role over another?

RD: I am up for the challenge of any role that is presented to me by my agent. However, if I had the choice to pick one over another, I would say that I love a good story with great writing. Having said that, I also love a film where the director allows me to add improv to the story, like my last film Shahzad. It’s the best when you can just be free to express what is truly in your heart and mind and play within a scene. What I think I loved best about my last film was that the other actors in my scenes were able to follow along with me in the improv. That’s when the most natural moments are born on film.

Have you done any commercials?

RD: Yes, I have. In fact, I was recently nominated for a Joey Award for my favourite commercial, which was a PSA for the Make-A-Wish Foundation in Canada. I am most proud of this spot as the focus of the campaign was to promote fun ways to find money to donate to a very worthy cause. I have also done many commercials for companies such as McDonald’s, Maytag, Sears, KFC, Spinmaster Toys, Sprout T.V. etc. One commercial I did for Hasbro involving Play-Doh when I was 4 years old, is still continuing to collect views on YouTube. I find it quite interesting to hear the theme song being played in the commercial in so many different languages around the world. I have also done some voice over radio and television commercials for car companies and Robin Hood Flour.

You’ve also performed in several theater productions—can you tell us about your work in the theatre?

RD: When I was younger, I used my theatre productions as a way of training for television and film. When I first began in the industry, I was only 4 years of age. With my exceptional reading and memorization skills, I needed an outlet. Being involved in the theatre gave me the opportunity to develop my confidence and acting skills through performing monologues on stage to an audience. I also had the opportunity to work together with a group of people to act in stage performances.

Do you have a preference for performing on stage or on camera?

RD: I love my improv class and the immediate response I receive from the audience. However, I do tend to enjoy television, film and voice over more than theatre for one reason; I love the newness of the scripts. With being an avid reader, I really do love being able to be a part of that new adventure. I find it exciting and I look forward to every new opportunity that comes along in the business.

Is it overwhelming at times to be receiving so much recognition for your work so early on? How do you balance being a kid with having a career?

RD: I had a great role model with George. When he discovered me in the lighting store when I was three years old, I had no idea he had been nominated for an Oscar. He had many other awards as well for his work that George never displayed. After I knew both he and his wife Eleanor for quite some time, he shared with me that he had the awards on display at first. However, over the years he realized that the awards were not important. I learned a great deal from George. He was always so humble, that it was not even himself that informed me of all his success. As my mom often says, the most important role I will play is myself, and George exemplified this well.

I balance being a kid with having a career with just that…making time to be a kid. The fact that I love what I am doing makes it rather easy. I am happiest when I am on set, therefore it doesn’t feel like work to begin with. However, my parents make sure that there is a healthy balance between acting, schoolwork, family, friends, activities and sleep. Two years ago, I tried the “gifted program.” Although I managed to get great marks, my parents decided it was not a healthy balance for me as the focus was ‘pace’ and I craved ‘depth.’ With having extra assignments added into my schedule, my parents felt that the ‘fun’ factor was missing from my life. Each person is different and so are their circumstances; and for me, the perfect solution was to switch back to my regular school and begin part-time homeschooling for the core subjects. This enables me to dig deep into the subjects that I crave and be with homeschoolers for events like the advanced Battle of the Books, while still having the social experience of both worlds.

Which actors do you look up to, and why?

RD: I admire many actors and their work. The actors that stand out for me though are ones like George Clooney who are philanthropists and are willing to go out on a limb for what they stand for. I have always been a believer of giving back from a very early age. I know that I am fortunate to have the opportunity to do something that I love in life and get paid for doing it. My own brother was adopted from an orphanage, and it bothered me when I saw the pictures of the children not having a proper playground to play in. For two years, I saved up my money and built a nice playground for the children who were left behind. I also helped out some families financially in our community who were suffering due to cancer and sent a girl to camp who had just lost her father. I think it’s important to give back when you can, and my acting has allowed me to do some good things for others.

I also admire Tom Hanks. I loved some of his films such as Big, Forrest Gump and Cast Away. I hope to have the opportunity to work with Mr. Hanks one day as well as Adam Sandler and Kevin James, to name a few.

What is your favorite genre to work in as an actor?

RD: I love all genres of acting as each area brings out something new for me to learn. However, I must admit that I love comedy. I find that there is so much sadness and tragedy in the world. Unfortunately, with being such an early reader, I learned this at a younger age than I should have. Thankfully, I learned about most of it from reading and not personal experience. My one wish for this world would be to have all of the wars end and have everyone get along. The other wish would be to make everyone happy and laugh. I can’t make wars end, but I can make people laugh through acting in comedies. Therefore, Comedy would be my answer. I would also love to be a host on a game show or an educational show.

What separates you from other actors?

RD: Casting Directors have told me that the one thing that separates me from other actors is my ability to follow directions at such a young age. I was in a workshop for my union in Canada where I performed a mock audition for Los Angeles Casting Director Krisha Bullock (ICarly, Victorious, Sam & Cat, Henry Danger) and Larissa Mair Casting (Degrassi, Life with Boys, What`s Up Warthogs!). They gave me three re-directions and I nailed all three in the next take in front of everyone. They both told me that even adults have a hard time achieving this and I was only 8 years old at the time. They held up my headshot at the end of my audition and told the audience to watch out for me as I was going to be famous.

What projects do you have coming up, or have you recently finished filming?

RD: My next film where I play the lead role of Dez in Psychic Playground will be available on Vimeo before the end of the year. Psychic Playground is a dark comedy film about an inventive kid who turns show and tell into a disaster. I am excited to see this project when it’s finished, as the director was very artistic with my “Invention”.

You will also soon be able to find me playing the role of Richie in the film release of Shahzad on the Bravo Fact Channel. I had a great time on Shahzad with the lead character played by Yatharth Bhatt (Combat Hospital) and another supporting character, Filip Geljo (Odd Squad).

I am very proud to have had the opportunity to be part of such an inspirational feature film called, Full Out. It recently debuted in California on NBC and on the Family Channel in Canada. Full Out has become my top film to recommend to everyone, and is based on the true life story of California gymnast Ariana Berlin, who made an inspirational comeback after a devastating accident. I play a young boy who has also been in an accident and is going through his own recovery. The film stars Ana Golja, (Degrassi) and Jennifer Beals (Flashdance). I had a wonderful time filming with Ana Golja, Ariana Berlin, Ashanti Bromfield and Jacqueline Byers.

Why is acting your passion and chosen profession?

RD: The short answer is I got discovered and I love it and I don’t want to quit. The long answer is I love to be in front of the camera. It’s the best feeling in the world. I simply love to analyze and learn. In acting, you are constantly analyzing the other character’s behavior and responding to it. I remember in first grade, a child had cut her hair in my class. I came home and said, “I’m not sure if my teacher was upset with the whole class for the incident happening, with whoever did it, or herself as a teacher for not being able to stop it from happening.’ I was six years old at the time. My mom said if I ever stopped acting, I could become a psychologist. I have come to realize that the writing of scripts and acting incorporates psychology.

I also think that there is something to be learned from every role I perform. Sometimes it’s within the material that I am studying for the role. For example, with Hazel & Elwood, with the movie being about trains, I loved that I could look up the trains within the script and learn about them. The same is true about the biplanes in The Comeback Kid. I also meet a lot of interesting people on set with so much knowledge to offer. Acting is really the best job in the world. I don’t know any other job that allows you to do something different every day and to continually learn.

If you weren’t an actor, what other profession do you think you would like to have in the future?

RD: I would love to become a writer and director so I would never be out of work as an actor. I think it would also be wonderful to be a teacher to students who want to learn. I would love to teach drama, history and geography.

What are your hobbies outside of performing?

RD: I have a few close friends that I like to spend time with, and I love spending time with my family. I love horseback riding, downhill skiing, swimming and biking, just to name a few. I’m a real history and geography enthusiast as well. I recently participated in a Battle of the Books competition where I read 25 novels ranging up to Adult fiction and non-fiction a few times each. Our team held practices weekly as we really needed to know specific details in the books. Our team did extremely well and we won the competition. I give kudos to the second place team as well as they were a great challenger.

I love reading so much that I read books on the side leading up to the competition. Some were part of a series in the Battle, and I found myself getting hooked on them. Even though the Harry Potter Series was not part of the Battle, I’m also on my 6th time reading that series and still enjoy it. A highlight for me this year was to travel to Cleveland, Ohio to see Potted Potter. For any Harry Potter fans out there, I recommend the show.

I enjoy going to the movies and the theatre to watch other actors perform. Another favourite thing to do is to spend time building Lego with my brother, Alexander. We have a rule in our house. When we get a new Lego set, we have to put it together correctly the first time. After that, we get to be creative and change it up to whatever we want it to be. My little brother is so creative, so it’s a challenge to keep up to him. He’s also followed in my footsteps with acting, so we enjoy singing, or doing improv together with different accents that we pick up from YouTube videos that we watch. We have a really good time together.

 

Advertisements

Dawn Climie: Going to Incredible Heights to Keep Costume Continuity on Set

Dwan Climie
           Colin O’Donoghue (left) and Dawn Climie (right) on set of the series ‘Once Upon a Time’

In any film or television production, the wardrobe department is responsible for designing and selecting costumes and attire for the cast. Regardless of setting or genre – whether it’s a Victorian or space age period piece, tragic drama, spy thriller or college comedy – costume design is an immense task that requires countless hours of planning, research, budgeting and acquisition.

The job of actually designing the costumes, dressing the cast and then watching over the wardrobe and preventing malfunctions when it comes to the shoot is too big for any one person, so the costume designer is usually unable to be on location during filming. In their stead, at least in Canadian productions, they appoint a costume set supervisor who they rely on to ensure that everything goes off without a hitch.

That’s where Dawn Climie comes in. Climie grew up in the industry; her father worked at a TV station in her native Alberta, Canada, and as a child she would sit in the sound stages and watch him work. She was fascinated by the hustle and bustle of the sets, by the lights and cameras and most of all, by the glamorous costumes and the cast’s ornate hairstyles.

“For a kid this is beyond imagination. This is magic, and it still is for me,” Climie recalled. “Costumes became my favorite expression of that magic. The transformation that occurs in a performer when they don a costume designed to be the outward expression of their character is truly a gift to behold. I wanted to be a part of that.”

That childhood dream has been Climie’s reality for 25 years now. Climie received a 2006 Primetime Emmy nomination for her work on Once Upon a Mattress, and has been key to the success of such films as 50 Shades of Grey, Horns, The Bourne Legacy, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, The Thing, The A-Team, Tron Legacy, The Fog, Fantastic Four (2005), Blade 3 and The Chronicles of Riddick, among countless others.

The long list of Climie’s credits is so impressive not just because her projects are myriad and hugely varied, but because so many of them are high-profile big-budget productions which have been widely publicized and boasted casts packed with household names.

Working on Tron Legacy, Climie worked as the bridge between director Joseph Kosinski and designer Christine Clark, who was nominated for the 2011 Costume Designers Guild Award for her work on the film. The high-tech digital world at the center of the ambitious sequel was the result of hundreds of hours of careful planning and design. Much of what audiences saw in theaters was computer generated, and the eye-catching costumes worn by Tron Legacy’s stars Olivia Wilde (House M.D., Her, Cowboys & Aliens) and Academy Award winner Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart, The Big Lebowski, True Grit) were painstakingly designed to complement that fantastical and visually-stunning environment.

“The costumes were an amazing advancement that had never been tried in film costuming before,” Climie said. “Light in a costume was something that had never crossed my path before. So learning about a dressing a light grid suit, dealing with the replacing of broken lights, and re-patching broken wires was something that we all had to grasp on the fly.”

As a set costume set supervisor, she acts as the go-between for the costume designer and the director, makes sure there are no malfunctions in the wardrobe department and ensures that both the director’s and costume designer’s combined aesthetic vision is met and brought to life on camera.

In Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol the explosive action, breakneck speed and adrenaline-pumping stunts made the project one where every contingency had to be accounted for. Capturing the sophisticated spy-couture aesthetic was a huge challenge for Climie and the wardrobe department. The designer worked hard to balance the practical necessity of costumes which could handle the wear-and-tear of the film’s many crashes, jumps and rolls, but also didn’t restrict the actors’ mobility or cramp their style.

One of the most tense scenes of M:I – Ghost Protocol was filmed at (and on) the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the tallest building in the world. The iconic scene features Ethan Hunt, played of course by three-time Academy Award-nominated superstar Tom Cruise (Top Gun, A Few Good Men, Born on the Fourth of July, Jerry Maguire), climbing the massive skyscraper with nothing but a pair of high-tech gloves. Climie was integral in the scene’s visual success, as well as its safe execution.

“Myself and a few other crew members had to spend our days in five-point harnesses attached to the cement ceiling of the building, while helping strap Tom into the different harnesses that would be needed to do each piece of the stunt,” Climie said. “I spent a lot of time with the stunt and rigging teams. We had to plan and prepare each harness, pad and costume piece that would be needed to get the shots safely and seamlessly for the sequence.”

That careful planning and preparation paid off, and the scene went off almost without a hitch. But Climie certainly felt the pressure of having the safety of an actor – one of the world’s best known and highest grossing actors, no less – reliant upon her and her team’s work. And when the inevitable glitch did rear its head, Climie leaped into action, so to speak.

“I can still remember the feeling of lying on my stomach leaning out of an open window on the 123rd floor as myself and the props person tried to repair a malfunctioning light on one of Tom’s climbing gloves,” Climie recalled. “The view was astounding but my prayers were, ‘Oh lord, don’t let me let go of the glove.’”

One of Climie’s latest projects is the Amazon Original Series The Man in the High Castle. A period piece set in an alternate timeline, the acclaimed series meets at the dark crossroads of science fiction dystopia and socio-political philosophy. Adapted from the novel by sci-fi legend Philip K. Dick, both the series and the book take place in 1962. However, in this timeline the Allies lost World War II and the United States has been under Japanese and German occupation for 14 years.

The costumes in The Man in the High Castle are not what you would expect from a period piece set in 1962. Because the series takes place in a timeline where the U.S. lost, the ‘50s and ‘60s styles we know today had be reimagined for a world where the Axis powers became the dominant superpowers. It fell on Climie to make sure that the show’s creative team and designer Audrey Fisher’s careful and deliberate wardrobe decisions were faithfully adhered to, and that no costume mishaps delayed shooting. Of course when those mishaps do happen, the director, designer and crew are always glad Climie is on hand – as they were when a hiking scene caused one cast member’s pants to tear under pressure.

“The result was an exploded inseam with some alarming exposure! Thankfully we had a wonderfully understanding cast member and my amazing crew ran out to the woods with a sewing machine and some fabric so we could repair the pants on site,” Climie said. “Rebuilding a pair of pants in the woods was not the original plan, but the show must go on.”

Every film and TV series she has been involved in has benefited from her invaluable expertise, quick thinking and creative problem solving. She has one of the most demanding jobs on any production, but because of her dedication and poise under pressure her talents are always in high demand. The first season of The Man in the High Castle will be available on Amazon Nov. 20, 2015. Many of her other projects can be seen on streaming services like Netflix and Hulu, and most are available on DVD and Blu-Ray.

Canadian Screenwriter Nicole Demerse Brings the Comedy

Nicole Demerse
Nicole Demerse (left) and her husband Alex Bull (right) on the WB lot in Los Angeles

Occasionally a television production might struggle in developing a script that is ready to go to camera. When that happens, the producer will usually consult a list of heavyweight writers to help them bridge the gap from concept to script. In Canada, one writer has stood out to be one of those go-to writers to help turn a concept idea into a full-blown series. Nicole Demerse has a passion for telling stories that spark a conversation. Over the past 14 years her focus has been predominately writing for youth television as a sought-after screenwriter, across multiple genres, for a worldwide audience of millions.

She is not one to shy away from the tough issues. In an episode of Degrassi: The Next Generation, one of the high-school aged characters faced the difficult dilemma of abortion. There was such a strong reaction to this episode that the New York Times discussed the plot with its international audience. The show and its predecessor are part of the long running Degrassi series that is one of the most popular productions to ever come out of Canada.

And for Nicole, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. She is able to weave inventive and stand-out stories across many television genres or formats, having seen great success with animated comedies for kids and adults, movies-of-the-week (MOW), and original series. The plots and characters she creates are often from very different worlds, proving her ability to speak to a variety of different audiences.

Nicole recently penned seven scripts for Game On, a show about what it would be like to have sportscasters commentating on an average suburban boy’s daily existence. The series stars Samantha Bee from The Daily Show With Jon Stewart and Jonathan Torrens of Trailer Park Boys.

Game On Executive Producer Steve Westren says, “When Nicole agreed to come aboard it was considered to be a real ‘get’ – our broadcaster was thrilled to have such a sought-after, highly respected writer joining our team. Nicole’s scripts are the perfect amalgam of funny, smart, and emotionally resonant. She doesn’t just go for the joke, she finds the core truth in a moment, which always makes comedy much funnier!”

Nicole was also a writer the long-running animated series Totally Spies!, a show about three teenage girls in Beverly Hills who also happen to be international spies. Totally Spies! is an international juggernaut and is viewed in over 200 countries worldwide.

The industry has certainly noted Nicole’s accomplishments. She was nominated for a Gemini award for her work on Degrassi: The Next Generation. The Gemini is the highest awards honor for Canadian television (recently renamed the “Canadian Screen Awards”). She also received a Writer’s Guild of Canada screenwriting award for her work on the show The Blobheads, a sci-fi comedy about a teenager whose baby brother is deemed ‘Emperor of the Universe’ by three aliens who move in with the family in order to keep their Emperor safe and happy.

Nicole’s talent has taken her to the top of the Canadian television scene so it comes as no surprise that producers in Hollywood are looking to add her to their list of writers and show creators as well. She is staying busy by keeping her creativity sharp, working on projects that keep pushing her limits for content. Nicole is currently developing two new hour-long dramas, Choice, which follows a doctor who is led down a dark path by her own poor choices, and Washington Prep, which revolves around a group of corrupt politicians who are grooming the next generation to follow in their dirty footsteps.

Nicole’s hard work has put her at the top echelon of desired writers in Canada, but for Nicole the work helps enrich her own life as much as the audiences who adore her writing.

When asked why she writes, Nicole says, “Humans love good stories, it’s ingrained in our DNA. A good story can help you through a rough time, inspire you to take risks and to grow, or just make you laugh or cry.” Asked why she’s enjoyed writing for kids all these years, Nicole says, “I think it’s really important to tell good stories to kids, stories that spark their imaginations and get them to dream and believe that the world out there is so much bigger, cooler and more exciting than the little place where they grew up.”

This talented screenwriter has also written episodes for the Emmy Award winning fantasy series The Zack Files, the Gemini Award winning animated series Atomic Betty, the International Emmy Award winning sci-fi series Dark Oracle, as well as contributed ground-breaking scripts to 42 other television shows.

An Interview With Australian Child Star Caleb McClure

 Caleb McClure
Australian actor Caleb McClure shot by Lliam Murphy

Often times the most successful child actors have more than just talent and a lovable face on their side they also have the ability to play characters much younger than they really are. In the same way that adult actors play high school kids—for instance, when 29-year-old Stacy Dash played 16-year-old Dionne in Clueless, and Leonardo DiCaprio played 16-year-old Frank Abangale Jr. in Catch Me If You Can at the age of 28, the capacity to believably portray younger characters has been integral to the success of many of the world’s most famous actors.

At 15-years-old Australian actor Caleb McClure has already achieved a level of notability in the entertainment industry that most actors can only dream of. To date McClure has taken on a slew of incredibly challenging characters in films including A View from Below, Zero, Arrival, A View From Bellow, I Am Evangeline and the upcoming film The Legend of Ben Hall, as well as the five-time Logie Award winning series Underbelly.

McClure’s ability to play younger characters is an undeniable asset, but what makes him so extraordinary is the way he brings his characters to life, especially considering many of his projects have been heavy hitting dramas based on true stories.

In 2013 McClure took on the role of Young Sylas, a 10-year-old boy whose life is changed forever after a mysterious object falls from the sky, in the multi-award winning film Arrival. McClure also played the starring role of Leopold, a young elementary school kid who struggles to hide that he’s HIV positive from the world in the film Where is Mum?, directed by Chantal Denoux, who received the World Medal from New York Festivals for her documentary My Home: Your War.

Although McClure has proven his ability to portray younger characters with ease, those aren’t the only roles he gets cast in, and his malleable age range has definitely helped him create the dazzling repertoire of work he is known for today.

In the film Holding The Man, which was released in Australia earlier this year and garnered the Awgie Award from the Australian Writer’s Guild, McClure took on the dramatic role of a young teen named Nick, the younger brother of Tim Conigrave. McClure brought an astonishing level of emotion to the role, which definitely helped drive the dramatic aspects of the story in the film.

With wit, wisdom and an emotional capacity that is well beyond his years, Caleb McClure is definitely one actor that you will want to keep your eyes out for. To find out more about his projects, what drives his performances, and how he balances being a regular kid with being an international film star, check out our interview below! You can also find out more about Caleb McClure through his IMDb page: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm3899794/

 

LG: Where are you from and how old are you? 

CM: I am 15 and I’m originally from Sydney, but I reside in Melbourne Australia.

LG: When and how did you get into acting?

CM: I started modeling for magazines and commercials when I was 4; and I landed my first film role when I was 8. The film was called Fairlight and I played the role of James. After that I landed the leading roles in over 15 short films, and I played very different characters in each one.

My parents saw that I could follow direction from the director and how much I loved to grab a script and was committed to learning lines and developing my character.

LG: What is it like having such a successful career at such a young age?

CM: I absolutely love it and the feeling I get when I’m on set is like my own little world that I can transform.

LG: Can you tell us a little bit about some of the film and television projects you’ve done?

CM: In the film The Legend of Ben Hall, which is set in the 1800s and centers on the life of Ben Hall, an Australian bushranger who robs people and forms a gang, I played Frederick Nelson. As the eldest son of Constable Nelson, a policeman, I had to accompany my father who was on patrol of the bush to round up the criminals at bay, but he is shot by John Dunn and dies in my arms.

As this is true Australian history as it is written, my role was important to the movie to show how this gang affected people. My role was intense at times with a lot of action and emotion so I had to be quick on my feet, and it was definitely physically challenging, as I had to run a lot in cold weather. The film was shot in winter so being outside in the bush was freezing, but it was worth it to be apart of this. I got to watch how props and mechanics work on set. I loved watching weapons being used and had a great time with the actors and the director was always fantastic. The costumes were amazing. Transforming into another era and becoming this character was great, and as this was based on a true story it was like taking a step back in time. Being Australian it was easy for me to relate to Frederick, as he is part of our history and I have a lot of respect for these people from that era.

In the film Holding The Man I played Nick Conigrave, the younger brother of the main character Tim Conigrave. The film is about a love story between Tim and John, who fall in love while attending an all-boys high school and although their love endures over the course of 15 years as they manage to overcome through life’s challenges, when Tim gets aids everything gets much harder.

As Tim’s brother I had to show a lot of emotion and be aggressive and upset. Being a member of a family with so much dysfunction that doesn’t get along well made things very dramatic, and my character brought a lot of drama to the story, which I actually loved doing.

I was always on the lookout for anything that could help me bring this character to life in a realistic way. I like creating a fictional person with weaknesses, history, mannerisms, hopes, fears, someone that is often even more real than people you meet in real life. As the younger brother, my character couldn’t understand what his brother was going through and he was confused and sometimes scared by the way Tim acted when he’s pushed beyond his limits.

Working alongside Guy Pearce and Ryan Corr and lot of others I felt a bit nervous before we started filming, but after I got on set and had gotten into my character I felt great.

The cast of this was amazing and I felt great being able to watch and learn as they took the time to discuss the script and my character role before we would head out on set to act out our scenes. The costumes were funny as the film is set in the 1980s, but I related to this character and I felt right playing him because I understand what it was like to be bullied over things in life.

In Underbelly, a crime series based on true stories, I played Ollie, a young boy under the watch of Squizzy Taylor, a notorious gangster in Melbourne in 1915 in the sixth season of the show. My character was poor and lived on the streets, and Squizzy would watch every move I made. My character was scared and submissive and he would have to steal for him in order to survive and in exchange he provided me with food and protection. I wore clothes from that era like woolen socks, which were very itchy and uncomfortable, and braces with a cap hat and thin shirts, so most of the time on set I was cold, dirty and itchy, which made me feel like I was actually living in that era. I also researched the era in order to better understand what the people had to go through and how hard living conditions were back then.

In the film Holden Town I play the starring role of Mack, who lives with his single father, Billy Barker, a man who was once a household name throughout Australia, but now he struggles to make ends meet as he raises his two sons.

My character needed money so he went to work on an apple orchard with some other young men, teaching him to realize that if he wants something he has to work hard for it. The film has drama, comedy and a lot of emotion, and having multiple genres in this film gives me the opportunity to change my character around a lot.

We have only shot the trailer for the film so far, and we will begin shooting the film in 2016 with this being shoot being on location in Victoria, Australia.

LG: They are all very different, what made you choose to participate in these projects?

CM: In Underbelly it was interesting playing a kid that had to steal and survive on the streets in the 1920s. I think trying to understand what it was like back then compared to the way things are with technology today was a cool experience. We have come along way since then, and I researched that era in order to get an idea of how people lived then and how tough it was.

Being as Holding The Man is based on a best selling novel on someone’s real life and I was playing the brother of Tim Conigrave, I had to research my character, as he was a real person with his own story and that made the experience really amazing. It was also interesting knowing that this love story took place during a time when there were a lot of negative feelings towards gay people.

LG: You get approached all the time to work on projects with people, what makes you pick one role over another?

CM: The character and what’s behind the role, I try to find something I can relate to or is challenging, and something that I can accomplish in a great way. I also look for roles I’ve never done before in order to give my career and my craft a bit of diversity and ones that I can learn from. I’m interested in whatever will carry me to the next level as an actor so I can continue to make good movies.

LG: Have you done any commercials?

CM: Yes I’ve done several commercials for Brisbane Racing Club, Skwirk, Jump Factory Trampoline Park in Melbourne, Master Electricians, Nissan X Trail, a toy commercial for Target, David Jones the Australian department store, and Anzac Day for News Corp, which aired on all of the television channels, Internet, and in movie theaters.

LG: Is it overwhelming at times to be receiving so much recognition for your work so early on? How do you balance being a kid with having a career?

CM: While the film industry is incredibly hard and demanding, I have courage and inspiration to carry me through. In my spare time I love bike riding and being outdoors, and these things bring balance to my otherwise demanding schedule.

LG: What has been your favorite role so far and why?

CM: My favorite roles would have to be Underbelly as Ollie and Holding The Man as Nick, because I got to meet talented and experienced actors that helped me a lot on set with guidance. They were very caring and supportive. I also found it awesome to be in two different totally different eras, the 1920s and 1980s, with different costumes.

LG: Which actors do you look up to, and why?

CM: I have two favorite actors one is Australian Ryan Corr and American actor Leo DiCaprio because they both can carry different characters with their natural ability and shine in any character they take on. If I had a dollar for every time someone said that I look like Leo I’d be rich! I would love to work alongside him one day!

I look up to so many actors and I enjoy watching television shows, but I also look at the actors’ work and craft and find things that they do in their acting that I like and can learn from.

LG: What is your favorite genre to work in as an actor?

CM: Definitely drama and horror, but at the end of the day every genre is great, and there’s nothing like a bit of action either.

LG: What separates you from other actors?

CM: My focus and dedication to the craft, and my ability to get on with the task at hand without distraction, and at times my quirkiness.   I always have a good time on set and I like to have fun. I am very respectful to those I work with and my surroundings, and when I set my mind to something I like to bring it to life for the audience.

LG: You’re also a “Don’t Bully” ambassador– can you tell us about what that means and what the organization does?

CM: “Don’t Bully” is very important to me because, unfortunately there are some people who treat others with no compassion, kindness or respect, they also humiliate and berate people to the point of depression, which can cause suicidal thoughts. This is wrong, we as a society need to stand up and speak out for the silent, for those who do not have the strength or courage to stand up for themselves. No one has the right to bully, intimidate or humiliate another person, and “Don’t Bully” to me, is a way to stand up and speak out for those who cannot do this for themselves. I am passionate about “Don’t Bully” because I want to make a difference. I want to help others who have been in my situation being bullied and I really want to send the message to the all of the bullies out there that it is NOT COOL and it’s NOT OK… I want to make a difference for this generation and our future generations.

LG: What projects do you have coming up, or have you recently finished filming?

CM: Holding The Man is about to be released in America and it has done very well in Australia. Also The Legend Of Ben Hall is in post-production and will be released soon as well.

LG: What kind of training are you doing to better your craft at the moment?

CM: I’ve been training my American dialect with a coach; and I also train with another coach who helps me with comedic timing and voice control.

LG: Why is acting your passion and chosen profession?

CM: I have always enjoyed playing characters. I have fun reading scripts and feeling the character’s emotions and feeling like I am in the story.

LG: If you weren’t an actor, what other profession do you think you would like to do in the future?

CM: That’s very hard as I’m still growing up in the world, but I find I would like to do anything with film.

LG: What are your hobbies outside of performing?

CM: My hobbies are Bmx riding, collecting coins, antiques and hanging out with my friends at the local skate park.

LG: You’ve also had a lot of success as a model, can you tell us about some of the modeling jobs you’ve done so far?

 

CM: I did Elle magazine’s kids section, which went all through Asia.

Ingenious Production Designer Yihong Ding Wraps Production on “Mira”

Yihong Ding
Production Designer Yihong Ding

The striking talent of Yihong Ding as a production designer and art director is literally visible in every project she has touched. She moves seamlessly through the worlds of film, television and advertising; not an easy feat when one considers that the approach a person must take when designing the ambiance of a feature film to match a director’s vision is vastly different from their approach to creating the backdrop of a commercial meant to persuade an audience of consumers.

Originally from Shanghai, Ding studied in London and eventually got her master’s in production design at the world-renowned American Film Institute in Los Angeles. Since then, she has been hard at work on an ever-growing list of projects. To ensure each film, show or commercial conveys the right mood and feeling, she works closely with the director of the production to capture and physically recreate their vision. From color schemes to lighting, props to set design, she is responsible for turning the conceptual into the living, breathing worlds we see on film.

Ding has worked on projects ranging from The Birthday Boys starring Bob Odenkirk (Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul, Mr. Show) to Mandala, the winner of the 2015 Los Angeles International Film Festival award for Best Foreign Film. She’s done several commercials for Diomany high-end lingerie and served as art director of an advertisement for the Microsoft Outlook app. It’s her work on films like Mira however that really showcases her incredible talent for production design and her awe-inspiring ability to create a self-contained world on the screen.

Working on director Amanda Tasse’s Mira, currently in post-production, Ding was given a dual-challenge. First was creating a marine biology research laboratory complete with the appropriate scientific equipment and actual jellyfish tanks. Second, she had to design an intricate “memory wall” which the title character uses to keep a log of her life.

“I had a lot of fun doing the research for this project,” said Ding, who studies every project’s background meticulously to ensure the environment seen on camera is authentic and accurate. “We ended up filming at an empty lab on Catalina Island, and dressing the lab into the jellyfish lab for the story.”

Vanessa Patel as Mira in the lab created by Yihong Ding in "Mira"
Vanessa Patel as Mira in the lab created by Yihong Ding in “Mira”

Filming on an island presented its own challenges. Ding had to personally pack all of the glass tubes and prop equipment by hand, and shipping all of the fragile items to Catalina was expensive and required her to closely observe weight restrictions and eliminate any waste in the budget while maintaining the realistic integrity of the set.

“Finding the jellyfish tank was another challenge. They were all costume-made and very expensive,” she said. “I almost had to build them myself, but luckily we found a person that was willing to rent three to us for a really great deal.”

The experience tested and proved Ding’s invaluable ability to balance the creative and financial sides of production design with aplomb. The laboratory she created is so authentic and convincing it’s absolutely indistinguishable from a research facility one might see at a university. While the lab provides the backdrop, the “memory wall” Ding created gives the viewer a personal connection to Mira’s title character.

The character of Mira suffers from a form of epilepsy that causes intense seizures and short-term memory loss of the hours preceding each attack. Mira dedicates herself to studying a species of jellyfish which may hold a cure for her disease, but her condition poses a huge challenge and she has to find a way to overcome the amnesia. So Ding helped design a “memory wall,” which becomes Mira’s method of constantly reminding herself of what’s happened before each seizure.

“She would take a picture right before she knew she was going to have a seizure… and then she would map out all the pictures on her bedroom wall,” Ding described. “It was a very complicated visual graphic to create, and I wanted to make sure that it looked real… and for the very first time I sat down and considered myself as Mira… I started to think like Mira, which was really amazing, because I found myself digging deeper into the design than I normally do.”

Yihong Ding has what many specialists lack: a multifaceted skillset combined with extensive experience in every level of design and the ability to work within any range of budget without ever compromising the quality of the project. From envisioning the conceptual to building the practical, from dressing sets to arranging the details and minutia for the perfect shot, she is a one-woman creative army.

Production Designer Spotlight: Hank Mann

Production Designer Hank Mann
Production Designer Hank Mann

The visual component of a film production is an aspect often taken for granted. Combining elements of creativity with the ability to adapt the surrounding environment to fit whatever a film, television or commercial project calls for, the production designer is responsible for setting the cinematic stage. As the main head of the art department, the most labor-intensive aspect of the entire production crew, a good production designer needs to be as much of a leader as they need to be a visionary, while also being mindful of the production budget.

Hank Mann possesses all of these qualities, and then some. With an international upbringing that included the UK, Australia, and Canada, Mann’s career as a production designer has made him a sought-after asset to international film and commercial crews.

Mann’s reputation exploded early in his career as the production designer on a commercial for Ford Motor Company starring David Duchovny. In the production he was responsible for recreating an iconic American diner with a retractable roof (for filming) out in the UK countryside. The project was a success and since then Mann has designed sets on location around the world for clients such as L’Oreal, Infiniti, Audi, Barclay’s Premier League, Benjamin Moore paints and much more.

He is also a sought-after production designer in the music video industry—in fact, he was the production designer on the video for “How You Remind Me” by Nickelback, the most-played song of the decade for 2000-2009 (Neilson Research).

The video garnered over 135,000,000 views on YouTube, and the band went onto receive four Billboard Awards and four Juno Awards for the hit song. In the video Mann created a set that fused crisp modern elegance in the set design to a pre gothic-looking cinder block frame. The result was a contrast without prior labels, and sets a distinct tone for one of the most successful music videos in history.

For much of his career Hank was based in Vancouver, British Columbia, a hotbed for diverse film projects. Throughout his time there he was able to design a whole spectrum of challenging sets and locations, allowing for a rare type of versatility in his background.

“In Los Angeles a Production Designer will specialize into a niche field such as period pieces, sports movies, or science fiction, because there is enough volume of projects in each field being made to support niche skills,” he said.

“In Vancouver I have found that the diversity of experiences on all the projects over the years has made my problem solving skills quite acute. One day it’s designing a yurt village to be built in the mountains, the next it’s designing a kid’s bedroom circa 1981.”

Mann has a gift to be able to transform a setting to look like somewhere on the other side of the world. On a recent Arby’s commercial Mann turned Cape Town, South Africa into a street the looked identical to a main street straight of the USA.

For a Subaru commercial Mann and his team created a gigantic tornado-like storm with additional special effects such as explosions, flying boats, wind and rain – all on a perfectly sunny day. He has even created a prehistoric village deep in the rainforest on British Columbia’s Vancouver Island for the award-winning Discovery Channel docuseries Before We Ruled The Earth.

As important as the creative aspect of production design is the managerial side of things. In that role Mann has earned his reputation as a good delegator, able to synthesize the many moving parts of an art department such as set design, costumes, props, special effects, and more, all while keeping the producers happy and on budget and co-creating a vision in sync with the DOP and director.

Brazilian Hottie Fred Fleury Plays the Perfect Bad Boy

Fred Fleury
                                  Actor Fred Fleury shot by David Mueller

According to an article published by CNN Travel, American women ranked Brazilian men as the third hottest out of all of the countries in the world, and those good looks have definitely not skipped Brazilian actor Fred Fleury.

Originally born in Sao Jose dos Campos, the young stud entered the world of musical theatre back home in Brazil where he studied at the famous Escola de Atores Wolfmaya.

Fleury was not only blessed with good looks and undeniable acting talent though, he also has an astonishing singing voice, something that has definitely come in handy in the myriad of stage productions he has starred in over the years.

Prior to moving to New York to attend school several years ago, the young performer made it to the semifinals as a singer on Tudo É Possível hosted by Brazilian celebrity Ana Hickman, a popular program that airs on Rede Record de Televisão aka Record, Brazil’s second most popular television network.

Shortly after, Fleury began applying for placement in musical theatre programs in NY; and it’s not surprising that he was accepted to each and every one he applied to considering the breadth of his talent, but the prestigious Circle in The Square Theatre School where such notable stars as Kevin Bacon, Molly Shannon and Benicio del Toro attended was the one that won out.

Through his performances including productions “Periodic Maintenance,” “Marley: A Musical Tragedy,” and “The White Man Is The Right Man,” Fleury has proven his natural capacity for taking on challenging roles; but, his talent extends far beyond the stage.

Last year he landed a spot as a guest star on the Oxygen Network’s TV series My Crazy Love, which stars Isaiah Seward from the popular shows Hostages, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Black Box, The Knick and The following, Laura Lamberti from Cassanova Was a Woman, Dark Tarot, Stunods and Celebrity Ghost Stories, and Alexandra Lopez from Very Mary-Kate, CollegeHumor Originals, The Pox Show, and Jake and Amir.

Shortly after, Fleury landed another guest starring spot as Jesse on the hit comedy series Gringolandia, which recently began airing on Netflix.

The comedy series, which is currently on its second season, has amassed an impressive list of awards spanning the US and Mexico; and, prior to airing on Netflix, Gringolandia became a major hit with social media fans when the first season was released on the YouTube Channel Contento garnering over 80,000 subscribers.

While Fleury displays his knack for the comedy genre beyond a doubt through his role as Jesse in the series, the actor’s most passionate about playing more dramatic roles.

Fleury admits, “My favorite genres are drama and horror with heavy content. Actors that inspire me are Jack Nicholson in The Shining; Anthony Perkins in Psycho; Javier Bardem in No Country For Old Man; and the recent work of my Brazilian compatriot Wagner Moura as the lead in the Netflix’s Narcos has been very inspiring too.”

In Pat Williams’ 2014 film When Good Girls Kill, Fleury took on the leading role of a ruthless Russian gangster. After a heated argument with her ex-husband, Ashley, played by Samantha Rivers Cole (The Long Island Serial Killer, Guyz, Fists of Love, The Psychotics, Downtown Girls), takes her daughter to the park, but when her young child disappears terror ensues.

Panicking as she scans the park for her daughter, Ashley is taken by surprise when Fleury’s character approaches her from behind, holding her at gunpoint he threatens her with never seeing her daughter again unless she does exactly what he says.

After forcefully dragging her to his mob boss Odey, played by Jon L. Peacock (The Wolf of Wall Street, Royal Pains, Deadly Devotion, Bridge of Spies), and pushing her into an SUV, Fleury’s character explains that if she wants to see her child again she will have to commit a murder in exchange.

Caught in the middle of a battle between the Russian and Columbian drug lords, Ashley sees no way out other to kill Arturo, the Columbian drug lord that Russian’s want removed from the equation.

“It’s through my character that Ashley understands the danger and violence of the situation she’s dealing with, and it’s that latent reality that makes her control her nerves and perform a murder,” Fluery explains. “This is a type of role that I love playing (the villain) and have been called for a lot since. So it was a great opportunity.”

Fleury’s versatility as an actor combined with his good looks have made him the perfect actor to play roles like the handsome bad boy, a type of character he portrays with total believability, and one that we are assured to see him take on again and again in the future.