Ashiko Westguard has a lot to be proud of; her hard work as a model has led to international success and recognition, she has made a successful transition into the film industry and she has an inspiring family who encourage and support her.
Westguard’s family remain at the pinnacle of her life and even of her achievements, with the highly sought after model and actress crediting them for her passion, confidence and imaginativeness, arguably the defining traits, aside from her enticingly exotic and raw beauty, of her success in two of today’s most competitive industries. Westguard however, only speaks of the ease with which she wins over the many world-renowned photographers and clientele she has a repertoire with. She has a unique way of cultivating emotional connection and positivity through images, no doubt her enchanting character is a lasting effect of her lakeside upbringing back home in Innisfil, a quaint town in Ontario, Canada.
But don’t let her rural upbringing in mislead you, with a maternal role model like hers, it’s not surprising that Westguard has an awe-inspiring career which has continued to take her across continents modeling in Japan, Hong Kong, Spain, France, South Korea, Denmark and Slovenia. She attributes her strength, determination and courage, which have all helped her earn coveted jobs, like her most recent ad campaign for Dita von Teese Lingerie shot by Albert Sanchez, to her mother, a political refugee who arrived in Canada alone as a teenager from Czechoslovakia.
It takes a certain wild energy and emotional embodiment to command the world’s attention on the cover of a magazine. Westguard is no stranger to these high-paced shoots as she has graced numerous covers including Women Magazine, Femina Magazine, Women’s Fitness, Essentials Magazine, Sweat Equity and Verve Magazine.
Growing up with a father who is a champion hydroplane racer, this wild energy is in no short supply. Westguard called upon her wild women qualities for her recent shoot in Slovenia, where she took on the role of the ultimate wild woman, a Bond Girl, alongside Robbie Williams as James Bond, for the internationally recognizable brand, Café Royal.
While she may share some of the credit for her break into the modeling industry at age 18, with her younger sister who also signed with acclaimed agency Next Models, only her own hard work can account for Westguard’s introduction to the acting scene. Westguard’s modeling career has put her unique capacity for emotional intelligence and confidence on display in a long list of international ad campaigns, and it’s those same traits that have helped Westguard make a name for herself as an actress.
Acting became one of Westguard’s earliest childhood dreams since she first took the stage in the Stephen Lee Cock Theatre’s production of “On The Tip of My Tongue” back home in Canada; and her perseverance and dedication to turning it into a reality has definitely paid off. Training with professionals like David Rotenberg helped Westguard make the challenging transition from modeling into acting, and over the last few years she has successfully evolved from the portrayal of emotions externally to the embodiment of a character’s essence on screen.
Some of the roles she has become best known for over the years are from her portrayal of the riveting and exceedingly complex Eve in the sci-fi feature “A Dark Matter” and Beverly in the Leo Award winning series “Painkiller Jane” where she acted alongside multi-award winning actress Kristanna Loken from the films “Beyond the Game” and “Fighting for Freedom.” She has also guest starred on the series “Kaya,” as well as “The Red Booth.”
In the midst of a bustling schedule and international success,Westguard still finds time to return home to Innisfil, where she enjoys a simpler life, breathing in nature and being with family. With a family full of inspiring role models and a community that knows her more as their neighbour than the glamorous girl from the covers of magazine, it is no wonder that her childhood home is where she choose to return to for grounding and inspiration. Having this base has allowed Westguard to transcend the typical barriers of the fashion and film industry with grace, landing her on the side of blissful success, facilitated by the confidence, passion and self-worth instilled in her by her supportive family.
We already know through his powerful leading performances in films like “Suspect 13” and “Bio Killer,” that English actor Rob McLoughlin’s dramatic disposition and captivating on screen presence have made quite an impression on audiences.
Early on in his career McLoughlin established himself as a diversely talented actor capable of holding his own alongside industry greats such as Golden Globe nominee Martin Freeman, who McLoughlin acted alongside in one of his first projects on the big screen, the BBC’s “Micro Men.”
Aside from being an extraordinarily talented performer, McLoughlin has the added bonus of being drop dead gorgeous by anyone’s standards. What’s more is the fact that, regardless of whether he’s playing a bad boy criminal like his character in the film “The Fry Up” or a debonair stud, which he portrayed in a recent commercial for Audi (which you can check out below), McLoughlin is a gifted chameleon who is able to easily adapt his look to fit the role.
In one of his most recent films, “Il Sonnambulo,” he applies his remarkable artistry to the horror genre for the first time. His expressive and self-aware nature is serving him well for this new challenge, as the psychological horror featuring a murderous Venetian “Boogey Man” has already won several impressive awards including Vancouver Web Fest’s Best Horror and Seattle Web Fest’s Best Cinematography and Best Director.
With his belief in the power of creativity, his trust in the writing and his engagement in the development of his characters, McLoughlin is a director’s dream. He worked closely with award-winning “Il Sonnambulo” director Doug Rath to create the dynamic character of Roberto Aurelio; an accomplished and somewhat arrogant journalist looking for a big break.
For the recent and first time dad, McLoughlin says, “The subject matter was challenging…although it was so much fun, it was really really dark too.”
It takes a certain positive attitude and passion to cultivate fun on the set of an intense and murderous horror film, read McLoughlin’s interview below to see how he does just that!
Hi Rob, thanks for joining us! Can you tell our audience where you are from?
RM: I’m from Liverpool but London has been my home for the past 14 years. It’s a great, fun and creative city.
When and how did you first get into acting?
RM: When I first came to London I was working as a model. I got into acting that way. I just got to help out on a couple of unpaid short films. Couple of lines here and there. That sort of thing. I got hooked immediately. I love being on set. I love the process of it all. It’s just so much fun and it is really absorbing to get into the heads of the characters and to tell their stories.
Can you tell us a little bit about the storyline of the film “Il Sonnambulo”?
RM: “Il Sonnambulo” translates as “The Sleepwalker” in Italian. He’s a Venetian ‘Boogey Man’. He is a character that people would warn their kids about, “Be good or Il Sonnambulo will get you.” That kind of thing. He’s really bloody horrible! He kills kids and adults; he mutilates them in fact!
So it begins with a very famous photographer, Atticus Hurst, whose daughter vanished 20 years ago and he’s been taunted by someone claiming to be Il Sonnambulo ever since. This has lead him to many gruesome murder scenes, but his pain of loss and over exposure to the gore has lead him to be somewhat desensitized to it all. Then he teams up with a ‘gonzo’ style journalist, who has forced his way on to the trail of Il Sonnambulo. Things take a very different turn for both of them after that.
How does your character Roberto fit into the story?
RM: I play the journalist, Roberto Aurelio. He’s a good guy. Was successful in the past winning loads of awards for his war stories when he managed to sneak into Syria to report on the conflict, but the past few years have been quiet for him. Getting an interview with Atticus Hurst is his big break back into the big time. And oh boy, does he want to exploit that. Roberto is a fun character. He’s a chancer, you know? He takes loads of risks. He’s cheeky and arrogant but somehow still remains likable.
How did you approach developing this character for the screen?
RM: I actually sat down with the director, Doug Rath and his wife Hanna and invented Roberto’s back story. He’s not a million miles away from me personality wise. He definitely looks like me for sure. I wanted him to be vulnerable but arrogant at the same time. He has to show balls but he’s scared shitless. And that’s confusing because he thinks Atticus is completely mad, that this is all some spooky crap that Atticus has made up after too many absinthes. However, it’s all too enticing and could get him back on track professionally. I mean, who knows that feeling better than an actor right? Pretty much everything we do is a shot in the dark. Maybe I’m closer to Roberto than I thought. Interesting.
Did you face any challenges along the way?
RM: The subject matter was challenging, I had never done an outright horror film before, and although it was so much fun it was really really dark too. It’s a psychological horror. I think I could have dealt with gore easier. The fact that we were dealing with the horrible murders of babies is what did it, as I had just become a dad for the first time and now I had to put these thoughts in my head. Yeah, it was really tough, as you can imagine. In fact don’t imagine, I have imagined it for you.
What were some of you most memorable moments during the production?
RM: I broke my nose. All by myself. Actually, I rebroke it.
We were waiting in the green room on set to do a scene at night to be shot in the back of a black cab and I was a bit fidgety. Doug has this cane that he got off a set in Chicago, it was an antique wooden stick with a heavy solid silver bulldog handle. Apparently it belonged to some nasty East End gangster in Victorian London. It was also supposedly cursed. I started spinning the thing around and sure enough I wack myself in the exact place where my nose had been broken 2 months before. I looked around the room and luckily no one had noticed until the makeup girl pointed out there was blood pouring from the bridge of my nose. We were just about to film a scene, man, not good timing.
Has “Il Sonnambulo” had its world premiere yet?
RM: It was shown on the productions own website at Halloween; IlSonnambulo.com. It’s now doing rounds at film festivals and gaining interest from several networks in the States to be shot as a series. It has a lot of legs and the story needs to be pushed on. We left it at one hell of an amazing cliffhanger, so all our fingers are crossed.
Does the film have any upcoming screenings that you can share with us?
RM: It’s been shown at the “Vancouver Web Fest” where it won for Best Horror. It also won Best Cinematography and Best Director at Seattle Web Fest. Its showing in Buenos Aires and Toronto, New Media Film Fest and Montreal Web Fest too. There’s more to be confirmed at this point.
Can you tell us about some of the other film projects you’ve done over the course of your career?
RM: I’ve done quite a few films. My first big film was on a BBC production called “Micro Men” starring Martin Freeman. It’s a true story about Clive Sinclair (Alexander Armstrong) who invented ZX Spectrum home computer and Chris Curry (Freeman), who invented the BBC micro computer which was used in almost every school in the UK. I played one of Curry’s technicians, Nick Toop. The BBC didn’t credit me with the role as I was a late casting, but I’m on the poster! Something I’m still trying to put right 10 years later.
“Suspect 13” was also a highlight in my acting career. Set in a high class private members bar in the city, I played a gangster, who sticks the place up taking all 13 witnesses hostage, and the investigating officer, who accuses all 13 of committing the crime. It was amazing fun to play 2 characters at the same time. Playing the bad guy is always fun. Written and directed by Sam Walker and produced by his company BloomBox, this was his first film. It was shot in black and white for a very noir feel. Sam has become a good friend since we worked together.
Can you tell us about some of the notable people you’ve worked with over the years?
RM: I spent eight years working at the Royal Opera House in London doing stage combat and stunt work. Working with Placido Domingo on Cyrano De Bergerac and Simon Boccanegra was awesome! I’ve worked with world renowned director David McVicar many times. One of the things I worked with him on was Le Nozze Di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro) which won several awards. We actually devised an opening scene during the overture which has never been done in the two hundred years of its production so there’s a little bit of history there.
Going from there to films, back and forth has always kept things fresh for me. Working with Martin Freeman on “Micro Men” was great. He’s a super friendly guy. I also told him he was going to play the Hobbit after reading it in Empire Magazine. Something he knew nothing about at the time. I take full credit for that by the way!
They are all very different, what made you choose to participate in these projects?
RM: That is simple; fun! That’s why I do what I do. I love my job. Love it! I get to make pretend like we did when we were kids, but now I do it for a living. I hope that shows in my performances. One day I’m sword fighting on stage in front of two thousand people and the next I’m on set with fifty people who’ve all shown up because they believe in this script we’ve all read. It’s amazing! That’s the power of it. Everything we do, we believe is the best thing ever. That’s exciting!
You get approached all the time to work on projects with people, what makes you pick one role over another?
RM: The story for a start. The experience I will get and what I will learn from it. I’m not financially motivated at all. I leave that to other people. I’ve worked on many things for very little to no money because I believed in the story. You just know when you read the script, “I want to do this!” Everything is in the writing.
Do you feel that you get cast to play a certain type of character more than others?
RM: No, not really. I’ve probably played a version of the same character more than once but not that I’ve really noticed. Any similarities in roles I have played have always been far apart enough for me not to notice. So no, I don’t feel typecast in any way.
Out of all of the projects you’ve been in to date, what has been your favorite project, or projects, and why?
RM: Working at the Royal Opera House was amazing fun! I love doing the stunts and training hard. I even went and got a personal trainer qualification off the back of it.
“Suspect 13” was amazing! Pulling off a heist in the middle of the financial centre in London was brilliant. We nearly got arrested by the CID when we began filming as they didn’t realize we had permission to film in the area. Especially dressed in suits with balaclavas carrying baseball bats and concealed guns. That was a memorable moment!
I did a six week run in theatre playing the role of Jean in “Miss Julie.” That was a real eye-opener for me. I hadn’t done much theatre before then so playing the lead in a classic such as that brought it’s own challenges. I learned so much in those 6 weeks. On the last performance, a matinee on a Sunday afternoon, we did a performance for a school. When the curtain went down at the finale a 16 year old kid in the front row said to his friend (not too quietly either), “Thank f*** for that!” “Yep,” I said, “Thank f*** for that!”
What has been your most challenging role?
RM: Erm,…. a couple I think. I played an abusive husband in “The Loving Brutality.” That was tough as I had to get my head around someone who beats his wife. I had to find some sympathy for the character as that’s the only way you can play it. He’s a bully, a horrible guy, but of course, he doesn’t know he’s bully. It was dark. The role made me feel very weird, I don’t do bullies.
“Il Sonnambulo” was tough, again because of the subject matter. As a new dad, I didn’t expect I would be imagining horrific things happening to babies as part of my job. It was extremely challenging. Doug (the director) felt the same. He had a model made of a dismembered baby for one of the scenes. We couldn’t even look at it. Up close it didn’t even look that realistic but we kept it covered until it was needed. I don’t think it even made the final cut. It was too much.
What is your favorite genre to work in as an actor?
RM: Saying all that, I really liked doing the horror thing. We all get a thrill from being scared or creeped out. I’m lucky I got to make one. I would definitely do another one. I also love comedy. It’s so bloody hard to get that right. People always tell me the way to play comedy is to play it straight and I agree on the most part but America loves slapstick. You can’t play that straight. That needs to be amped up. Laughter is the best medicine they say.
What separates you from other actors? What do you feel your strongest qualities are?
RM: I’m me. I don’t look at others and wish I was them. I’m just me. I don’t really blow my own trumpet, I believe I have good qualities though. I have good acting chops! I know I can switch from drama to comedy. Sometimes in the same sentence. We’re particularly good at that in the north of England, and that’s how life is most of the time, isn’t it? I can scrub up ok, don a suit or scruff up quite easily for a role. My normal style is jeans and a t-shirt. I’m witty, I’m intelligent; I was given a good brain and I like to use it. I’m relaxed. Maybe too much sometimes but I’m also professional. I do my job to the best of my abilities every time.
Have you been in any commercials or music videos?
RM: Yes, I’ve done a few commercials. Last year I did a six-part Mark’s and Spencer ad for Valentine’s Day. It was based on an internet date that goes really well thanks to M&S. I also did a commercial for Audi recently. We filmed in Spain and I was strapped to the top of their new cars being driven down an airport runway at 80 mph. That was so much fun. I wanted to do it all week. The hardest part was I was meant to be reading a newspaper and looking really relaxed. Not so easy when the wind is pushing the paper into your face. We used a cardboard one in the end. It was like 100 degrees and I got totally burnt but I really enjoyed it.
What projects do you have coming up?
RM: So, apart from the interest in “Il Sonnambulo,” I’m currently attached to a film called “Betrayal,” written by my friend Malcolm Davies. It’s a really well written gangster drama. It’s in pre-production at the moment but there’s a few big names attached already. I’m set to play the co-lead in this. There’s such a nice twist in this story which sets it apart from the mainstream British gangster film, which usually gets centered around football for some reason. I’m really looking forward to getting started on it.
What do you hope to achieve in your career as an actor?
RM: I love working. I just want to work. I’m ambitious, I want to carve out a successful career. I can see myself directing at some point. I would love to write, direct and star in something one day. It’s the life less ordinary, isn’t it?
My family and friends have always supported me and my partner is a rock. I owe it to them to be successful.
Why is acting your passion and chosen profession?
RM: I studied fine art in college. My dad is an artist, my whole family is quite creative actually. We have lots of musicians and singers. It was a natural progression for me. I’ve always been obsessed with movies and I’ve always wanted to make them. I hope I can be behind the camera at some point, but for the moment I’m really enjoying working in front of it. I must be mad!
Cyber Evolution Chimelong Paradise water stunt show China. Photographer: Universal Artist Photography, Mason Sharrow
Struck by her sexy confidence, we aren’t surprised in the slightest to find out that directors are similarly impressed when acclaimed stuntwoman and performing artist Kate Petersen enters the room (or the stage). True to her authentic self, Kate finds that she is often cast in roles where she plays “tough, sexy and strong” leading characters. This persona often comes across in roles as a leader of a group or head of militia, and was especially embodied in Kate’s “Rescue Ops” character where she acted alongside co-star Brian Allen Keith (“Sex & the City” and “Baywatch”). These roles resonate with Kate and maintain her passion for the sensational work that she does.
Her combat scenes, fire burns and high falls have taken Kate all over the world, playing leading roles in world-renowned live shows such as; Seaworlds’ “Pirates Unleashed,” Movie Worlds’ “Fright Nights,” Dream World’s “Kevil Hill and Daydream Circus” and Chimelong Paradise’s “Countdown till Destruction” and “Cyber Evolution.”
Kate gained a name for herself starring on television series like, “Totally Wild” and “Australia’s Got Talent” at a young age and in front of large live crowds. These types of experiences, combined with her impressive skill-set and her award-winning background (Kate placed first in gymnastics team nationals for Australia and won a scholarship from the Australian Acting Academy) fueled her confidence and strength. Kate begins the interview modestly, but we soon find out that her rare and varied combination of stunt skills is what makes her unique in the world of stunt performers, especially at the young age of twenty-three.
Next up Kate will be touring the US performing live in “Tidal,” which will combine her acrobatic, stunt and gymnastic skills with street entertainment. “Tidal” is scheduled to begin touring in September 2016.
To hear more about Kate’s specific skills, challenges she has overcome and her thoughts on living abroad, read our interview below.
Can you tell us where you are from and a little bit about some of the unique skills you incorporate into your work as a performing artist?
KP: I am from Gold Coast, Australia and some of my skills include figure skating, gymnastics, circus aerials and groundwork, diving, stunts and acting.
When did you first realize performing was something that you wanted to do as a career?
KP: I started doing gymnastics at a young age and I was scouted at a competition when I was twelve and was asked to join the circus. I immediately loved it and that’s when I realized I wanted to pursue it as a career.
What was the first job you had as a performing artist?
KP: My first performing job was with the “Trix Circus” back when I was twelve. I trained with them for 6 months and then we went on tour, joining with the “Aston Circus” all around Queensland, Australia.
When it comes to working as a stuntwoman in the industry what are some of your special skills?
KP: My specific skills as a stunt performer are high diving, stage combat, high falls, fire burns, repelling, whip cracking, precision driving, ice-skating and gymnastics.
How long have you been training in each of these areas? If you had to pick one or two, what would you say your favorite “stunt” skill is to perform?
KP: I have been training in gymnastics since I was three, ice-skating since I was thirteen and all of the other stunt skills for the past five years. My favorite stunts are precision driving and high falls.
Can you tell us about some of the live shows you’ve done over the years?
KP: I have performed with many companies doing live shows and one of the first was the “Super Performance Centre.” I was in a number of their productions and corporate events. Being the lead performer, I had multiple individual acts including the “Spanish Web,” hula hoops and trapeze. I was also the performance coordinator, which involved choreographing group acts, managing and maintaining performers as well as show quality.
Not long after this I performed in shows at the Gold Coast theme parks including Seaworld’s “Pirates Unleashed Acrobatic & High Diving Show,” Movie World’s “Fright Nights” and Dreamworld’s “Kevil Hill and Daydream Circus.” I played lead roles in all of these shows and I gained more skills and experience with every performance.
My experience in these shows then took me to China where I performed in the largest water stunt show in the world. I did two shows at the theme park Chimelong Paradise including “Countdown till Destruction” and “Cyber Evolution.” I was performing multiple lead roles and this is where I gained a lot of my stunt experience.
Living in China was my biggest challenge having to adapt to the culture and leave all my family and friends in Australia but it was worth it to pursue my dream job.
Can you tell us about some of the film projects you’ve done?
KP: I have been in several films. My first big acting job was starring in a film called “Rescue Ops.” This film was directed and shot in China and I not only acted in the film, but I also preformed fight scenes and my own stunts. I was playing a secret agent along side with my co-star Brian Allen Keith (“Sex & the City” and “Baywatch”) who played the role of Director Black.
My character was a role I really connected with, as I was a tough, sexy and strong secret agent who was trained to infiltrate the most dangerous organizations in the world. Getting to work on an international action film like “Rescue Ops”only fueled my fire to pursue acting and stunts in the film industry.
How about television projects?
KP: I was featured as a performing artist on “Totally Wild,”which is an Australian television series. I was showing my skills as a circus performer including acts such as straps, partner acrobatics and triple trapeze. I was interviewed by the television presenter Jessica Skarratt about my training in the circus, how I got into it, shows I was performing in and my goals for the future. It was great exposure as I was young and eager to get my name out there as a performing artist in Australia.
I also was a contestant on the popular television series, “Australia’s Got Talent” in 2010. I was performing fire poi and fire hula-hoop along side my friend Shaun who did fire-staff. We did various interviews backstage with Grant Denyer and on stage with three judges Dannii Minogue, Brian McFadden and Kyle Sandilands. There was a huge crowd of over 3000 people and the experience was absolutely exhilarating.
They are all very different, what made you choose to participate in these projects?
KP: I want to perform for the rest of my life. It brings me great joy and makes me feel strong and confident so I don’t mind what I’m doing as long as I love it. I’ve performed in a number of different productions and shows and I’ve gained different experiences from all of them and I find it only builds my career for future projects.
What about performing makes you feel strong and confident?
KP: I think because I have performed in front of all different crowds ranging from one to 40,000 people. I gained a lot of confidence over the years and the more skills I gained the stronger I became. To do the different skills I perform I have to keep my body in extremely good physical shape doing extra cardio and workouts on top of my skills training. Each different skill requires different muscles in the body so I have to make sure I am ready for everything.
Have you been in any commercials or music videos?
KP: Last year I was in a commercial in China for “Lao Yang Dumplings.” I was a stunt performer and had 3 fight scenes. The commercial was for their new restaurant and was aired on multiple media channels in China.
Do you feel like having such a broad skillset has given you an edge in the industry?
KP: Yes for sure. I have gained so much experience and a wide variety of skills from doing a number of different shows and performances and it definitely gives me a unique and intriguing resume.
Having a rare combination of so many different skill sets in the stunt industry is definitely a plus as directors and coordinators can feature me in different roles, using various skills in films, television shows and commercials.
It is incredibly unique to have all of these skills as most performing artists specify in one area and not several. I have trained these different skills from a very young age and for a twenty three year old I have more experience than most people who are performers.
Do you feel that you get cast to play a certain type of character more than others?
KP: Yes for sure. I am usually cast as a lead role for a powerful and strong woman in charge. I’ve played many characters in my live shows that involve me being the leader or the head of an army or group.
You mentioned that this type of character resonates with you, do you feel that your background and training has contributed to supporting your character of feminine strength, or is that something innate that you exude in your everyday life?
KP: I would have to say both. My skills definitely helped of course but some of the challenges I’ve faced in life have definitely made me stronger. For example, I had back surgery in 2010 and that was one of the hardest things to overcome. I was out of training for 6 months but I pushed through it and still managed to get all of my skills back within a few months. Performing is my absolute passion and I would do anything to continue pursuing that for the rest of my life.
Do you have anything that you’ll be working on in the near future that you can tell us about?
KP: I’m currently working on “Tidal,” which is a live show produced by Joston Theney of Sinning Networks. This show is a modern, fantasy re-imaging of the Tale ‘The Ugly Duckling’ as told through the sordid trauma of young Corbin’s family’s brutal divorce. Federique of the North appears to deliver him from darkness and self doubt. I will be using a combination of my acrobatic, stunt and gymnastics skills in the live show and it’s scheduled to tour in September 2016.
What is it about being a performing artist that you love most and why are you passionate about continuing on with this career path?
KP: I love performing the skills that I’ve worked so hard on and doing something that I absolutely love as a career everyday. I want to continue to develop more skills and experience, I am working towards directing my own show or movie. This is something I’ve trained towards my entire life and I can’t imagine doing anything else now, this is my absolute passion and it drives me everyday to do these amazing things that I dream about.
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