Female action heroes; yes, the time has officially arrived. Between Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman and Charlize Theron in Atomic Blonde, the age of lead action female star is upon us. There have doubtlessly been those who have preceded them but these two hit films prove that women in these roles are not only equal to their male counterparts but are currently exceeding them in popularity (to say nothing of revenue generating). Assuredly, a host of productions which offer these female alpha types and actress Alyssa Veniece is ready. She’s not just interested in pursuing these types of opportunities, they are her goal. She espouses her love of action films, especially the ones in which the females overcome emotional weaknesses and matters of the heart. As with the aforementioned actions stars, Veniece possesses not only the aesthetic beauty of a lead actress but also the athleticism which is a necessity. It’s the reason that the filmmakers of “My Ex-Ex” cast her in the role of Tina Phung for the film.
In contrast to actresses who prepare a part once they are cast, Alyssa had literally been training for years when she was serendipitously offered the role of Tina. She had been working out at Tommy Chang’s Black Belt World Taekwondo school for a year and a half prior to being offered the role and training in kickboxing and muay thai for seven years before that. Heeding her father’s advice that “success happens when preparation meets opportunity” Veniece has always been driven to make the best of use of time varying her skill set. “My Ex-Ex” was her first project as a stunt actress and first opportunity to play a character who spoke and could also use her fight technique. Tina Phung is fearless and brimming with self-confidence. Reinforcing her father’s words, her work on this film allowed Alyssa to experience what it was like to work as a professional using all the skills she’d developed specifically to land jobs in entertainment, which includes years of acting training. Mirroring the mental state of her character, the experience gave Veniece the confidence to know that she was on the right path and capable of achieving her dreams.
“My Ex-Ex” is not the typical vehicle for an action role. It’s the tale of a recently-jilted woman (Mary) who has to decide whether to take back the man who dumped her or return to her college boyfriend. When Mary’s boyfriend Ted invites her out to a fancy restaurant she’s convinced he’s going to pop the question but instead of getting hitched, Mary gets dumped. To cheer her up, Mary’s friends take her to see a psychic who casts a spell to reconnect Mary with her ex-boyfriend. The only problem is that Mary didn’t say which one. She bumps into her college boyfriend Patrick, and despite feeling he’s completely wrong for her, she slowly falls for him again. Ted soon realizes his mistake and wants Mary back. Mary is torn between her two exes: Mr. Right on paper, and Mr. Right for her.
Alyssa appears as Tina Phung; a young, fearless, actress and skilled fighter. She is the contrast to the main character when they are both auditioning for a role, however he was not so skilled and definitely more nervous. In one of the most hilarious scenes of the film, these two characters audition for a casting director who asks for a glimpse of the character’s ninja skills. Phung rips off her Adidas tearaways and begins her (actual) fight routine: a mix of punches, spin kicks, and roundhouses. The casting director praises her and then requests the other auditionee to perform the same, which is less than extraordinary. The entire group watches him in disbelief and, in the end, the director awards Tina Phung the role, which she happily accepts while still popping her bubble gum.
Alyssa describes the charismatic Tina Phung as being part herself and part the self she aspires to become. Veniece relates, “I created Tina to be a girl who takes every moment as it comes, every challenge as it comes. She was super confident, uncomplicated, and self-assured in her talents and capabilities. I believed she came from a close-knit family who supported her and had faith that she was a star, so when she entered the audition rooms she already believed she would come out the winner. I’d describe her as a totally un-phased, free-spirit with pretty bad ass martial arts skills. Tina and I are alike in our fearlessness and sense of adventure. We like to push our boundaries and challenge ourselves without worrying about who wants to take our spot. I’d say our style is different. She’s pretty bubbly and a bit unaware of her surroundings, almost in her own happy bubble. Me on the other hand, I’m always aware of who is around me and the vibes they give off. I probably wouldn’t be the one obnoxiously popping my bubble gum in an audition room. Her confidence is quite loudly displayed, and mine is simply internal.”
There’s no danger of Alyssa being a one trick pony/action film based actor. Veniece got her start early on as a bikini model and purposely avoided music video work after she had been cast one too many times as the “hot girl.” These days she has numerous Hollywood blockbusters, commercials, and stunt actor roles to her credits. She readily admits that it’s like a secret hidden power when she is sized up as “just another pretty face” and then demonstrates her agility and fighting skills. She reveals, “It’s show business and you have to let people know all the abilities you bring to the table. If you’ve got it, flaunt it. When I first enrolled at Black Belt World taekwondo school, the owner took note of my skills and was dong fight coordination on the Pacific Rim production filming in Toronto. At the time I had no stunt demo reel, nothing to show for my technique, only modelling photos. He brought me to the set to meet the stunt coordinator, who took one look at the shots and said “Well, she knows how to wear a bikini.” You can imagine my disdain. I never let that happen again.”
So what’s the most unexpected secret weapon in her arsenal that she exhibited on “My Ex-Ex”? Veniece declares without hesitation, “I can rip off my tear-away pants like any pro now. It’s pretty impressive.”