Category Archives: Actor Profile

Ariel Zhang talks living her dream, the importance of acting, and dancing in CD-9’s “Get Dumb”

head shot taken by Gerard Alba
Actress Ariel Zhang

From the time Ariel Zhang was a child, she always wanted to be a performer. Singing and acting were always her passions, and growing up in Beijing, China, she began to explore these passions, by studying vocal music, dance, and stage drama. At that time, she enjoyed being at center of the stage, being in the spotlight and being admired. As she grew, she began to appreciate the nuances to acting more and more. She wanted a colorful life, where she could constantly have different experiences and see through many different perspectives. She came to truly appreciate Sir Alex Guiness’ words “Acting is happy agony.” This realization solidified her future, and acting became her true love. Now, she is an award-winning actress, with international audiences appreciative of her talent.

I bring life to screen. Being an actress, I can pass all my energy to the audience with my performance. The successful performance of an actress gives vivid and direct descriptions of the hero to affect the inner heart of all the audiences. It also means that I could have the chance to experience the eternity of time and space as well as the immortality of life, as I could have the chance to act in roles from the far past to the never-ending future,” said Zhang.

And Zhang has done just that. She has portrayed characters from the ancient times, like in the film Mo Zi when she had the leading role of Song. She has represented large companies, such as Citic Bank, when they launched a campaign and commercial to help Chinese immigrants coming to the United States. She has used both her singing and acting capabilities while teaching young children English and Chinese with the interactive computer game PreSchool Play with Skoolbo. And she has captivated audiences around the world with her award-winning performance as a schizophrenic in the film Consumemate. There is no limit to what this versatile actress can achieve.

“I think that being an actress is a great almost holy job, where you can redeem people’s souls, just like doctors do to save people’s physical lives. I think that a theater is like a church, where people will get their souls purified. Watching the work of the actors, the audience will be able to look into their own minds, from which they will view the world and the society with some kind of criticism. Staying in a theater for two or three hours, the audience can be there observing themselves from the depths of their heart with quietness. This is the charm of the stage drama, which communicates with the audience by the performance of the actors. That is why I hope to have such power to influence the audience by my acting,” said Zhang.

While Zhang tells important stories, she always enjoys what she does. She always has fun, no matter what role she is playing. And sometimes, she plays roles just to have fun, going back to that thought she had as a child, that when you act, each day is different. That is exactly what happened when she was a dancing girl in Mexican pop band CD-9’s collaboration music video with South Korean girl group Crayon Pop, titled Get Dumb.

“It was fun to be one of the dancing girls. This music video doesn’t really have a proper story line to follow, so your character feels freer to do whatever feels right. In a commercial or a film, you can experiment with the character, but you know where the story is taking you, so this was different and fun,” said Zhang.

As a dancing girl in the video, Zhang got to dance in a pool that was in a fancy car, just laughing and having fun. The video gave her the opportunity to keep expanding her horizons, and work with foreign singers, something the actress had never done before.

“I felt out of my comfort zone, since I was dancing a different kind of music of that I usually listen to. But I felt comfortable enough to be myself and have fun with it. Also, as a dancer, the floor is my world, but having the unique opportunity of doing it in water, it was a nice experience,” she described.

Fellow actress Sabrina Percario worked with Zhang on the video, and describes her as extremely pleasant to work with, a reputation she carries with whatever she works on.

“Ariel is a sweetheart and very professional actress. She is a unique, dynamic and much desired creative artist. She brings to her work both enthusiasm and creative magic, and she excels in many specific areas that take her beyond the range of most artists in her peer group. She is able to play very different characters,” said Percario.

The video, produced by Sony Music, has over 2.5 million hits on YouTube alone. It is an upbeat song, made for dancing. That is exactly what Zhang did when she first saw the final product, and it made the experience even better.

“I was really happy with the video. When I got to see the music video online, I was so excited, that I danced and sang along with it,” she said. “CD-9 and Crayon Pop have so much energy, it’s contagious. Even though everyone was working so hard, they never went off. They kept the set working in a positive way with a smile in their faces. Everyone seemed to be happy to be working there that day.”

You can watch the Get Dumb music video here.

Mike Goral’s narration of docuseries “Polar Bear Town” captivates audiences

Mike Goral has built his career in acting without the “lights, camera, action” experience. Instead, he works alone, in a small sound-proofed room, with only a microphone as his partner. Goral is a voice actor, and has narrated projects appreciated by millions, both in his home country of Canada and the United States.

While working in the industry for over twenty years, Goral has worked on promos and imaging products for some of the world’s most recognized companies, narrated television shows for some of the largest networks, and voiced segments for local radio stations that thousands listen to every single day. He is extremely versatile, and has genuine passion for what he does. While working for the television show Polar Bear Town for the Smithsonian Channel, Goral is able to do what he loves while continuously learning about something he knew nothing about, making each day completely different.

“I thought Polar Bear Town was a really cool story. I loved the script and the story. It’s always fun to work on a production that is well-planned. The production team was awesome and I was drawn to the project immediately. Nothing beats working with great people,” said Goral.

Polar Bear Town is a documentary series about a community of people in Churchill and Northern Manitoba, Canada that reside in a part of the continent where polar bears dwell at certain times of the year. People from all over the world travel to this remote community to get a close-up, in-person look at the mighty polar bear.

“I’ve heard stories about Churchill for years. It’s one of the most remote communities in Canada. I grew up in Southern Ontario, nowhere near Northern Manitoba, and the polar bear stories were legendary. I always heard that some people carried guns up there because of the imminent danger of bear attacks. I always thought it would be a cool place to visit, but haven’t made my way up there just yet,” said Goral. “I’ve learned so much about Churchill, Manitoba because of this show. I’ve experienced a different culture within my own native country. I found the people’s stories fascinating: people who make a living out of being tour guides for seeing polar bears, up-close in their natural habitat. I didn’t even know such careers existed. “

As the narrator for the show, Goral has what he describes as the unique privilege of telling a great story to a large audience of viewers. Each episode shows a different element to the story, and there are different tones in the episodes. There are parts where there is imminent danger, and Goral has to deliver his narration with a certain intensity. Then, there are parts where two of the cast members are arguing, which requires different cadence to his deliveries. The narration is key to the show’s success.

“The story takes a lot of different turns, and I have to use all that I have learned over the years to help make those make transitions when I am telling the story. It was a lot of fun, and it’s what I love to do,” he said.

Goral has now voiced the first season of Polar Bear Town, and he worked with director Jeff Newman on this most recent season. The two have a great sense of teamwork, as Goral describes the director as awesome, and a consummate professional.

“Jeff is very focused and would walk into our sessions knowing exactly what he needed done. He gave very clear direction, and was a lot of fun to work with. We shared a lot of laughs while working together too. The process was relaxed and enjoyable. I really hope to work with him again. Nothing beats good chemistry,” described Goral.

Newman agrees, and says working with Goral is fantastic and a lot of fun. As the director, he knows the importance of a voice actor, especially for a documentary type of show. Narration is pivotal to the telling of the story.

“Mike’s easy to work with, consistent, and has a great delivery. He takes direction really well and was able to give me exactly what I needed really fast,” said Newman. “This series has a wide range of reads to it, from scientific and informational, to intense adventure, to balls out fun. Mike was able to cover all the bases and provide the right tone in every scene.”

Despite discussing polar bears so frequently, Goral has found he is more scared of them than he once was, becoming more aware of how dangerous the bears are.

“There was one segment of the series that described the vicious attack of a local woman. She almost lost her life. I couldn’t imagine experiencing something like that. I think going through something like that can change a person forever,” said Goral.

While his subject matter might be harsh, the experience is a great one for Goral. Working on Polar Bear Town allows him to do what he loves on a regular basis, and although he is not featured on the screen, but rather through the speakers, fans appreciate the value that he adds to each episode.

 “I really enjoy it. When you are part of something you like, it’s a lot of fun. You get to be a part of something great. I just loved the way the series was produced. It was an awesome production team. They were true professionals, and that’s what made it such a pleasure,” he concluded.

You can watch full episodes of Polar Bear Town here.

Indian actress Natasha Khan Mayet wows International Audiences

Natasha Khan Mayet
Actress Natasha Khan Mayet shot by Melissa Simpson

Natasha Khan Mayet has always been driven to perform, but her refined and natural talents in acting leave a lasting and notable impression among audiences everywhere. From film to television to commercials and even on the stage, Mayet takes on a wide variety of characters, challenging herself and constantly proving her flexibility and skill. This, coupled with unduplicatable charisma and unparalleled beauty, make Mayet a highly sought after actress in the industry.

A native of South Africa born to parents from East India, Mayet has become known for her performances in the films “Trafficked,” “11:11,” “Three Suspects” and many more. Her work on the stage is equally as dazzling. She made a distinct mark in the eyes of audiences in Los Angeles when she took on the starring role of the Indian goddess Kali in the play “The Desperate Yogi,” presented at the prestigious Hollywood Fringe Festival. The story revolves around a man who has contracted HIV and travels to India to become a yoga instructor.

“I think this role challenged me as I discovered elements of the mother goddess in myself,” Mayet recalls.

“The Desperate Yogi” was chosen among Frontier Magazine’s favorite LBGT productions. In the play, the man gets to India and is met by gods and goddesses, who influence his path to finding the answers he is looking for. The play received raving reviews from audience members, who especially praised the performances of the deities. While it is understood that every show is, to a certain extent, an ensemble piece, it is undoubtedly in large part because of Mayet’s sincerity and believability as the two female goddesses, the mother goddess and the goddess of love, that the play was met with such success.

A robust and fruitful career in the industry has allowed Mayet to work with incredibly talented and renowned individuals. Natasha plays a critical role in the film “11:11” produced by internationally acclaimed producer and director Roxy Shih (“Dark Web,” “The Tribe”). She was cast in James Franco’s (“Pineapple Express,” “Spiderman”) “Mother May I Sleep with Danger” alongside celebrities such as Tori Spelling (“Beverly Hills, 90210,” “Scary Movie 2”). She can be seen in actor and rapper Machine Gun Kelly’s (“Nerve,” “Why Him”) music video “A Little More.”

Mayet says, “The music video is a comment on how obsessed with social media society has become.” She has also been directed by Ben Affleck in “Live by Night” and can be seen alongside Emmy Award winning actress Sarah Michelle Gellar (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “I Know What You Did Last Summer”) in one of ProActive’s current nationally airing commercials.

Speaking of Vampires, Mayet stars in the upcoming series “Vampire Academy,” where she plays Moira Ozera, an older vampire queen. In the series, Ozera plays the mother of acclaimed actor Justin David. Interestingly enough, Mayet had worked with David before, this time playing his love interest in Andrea Guzman’s “My Father’s Way.”

“That is the beauty of acting!” Mayet laughs, “And, since I am constantly working on my craft, training, and honing my skills, it is impossible for me to spend a day where I am not acting! Sometimes you play the girl next door, sometimes you play the villain. Sometimes you play up your age, and sometimes you play it down, but it all allows me to explore the different aspects of myself, to grow, and to constantly evolve.”

Mayet, highly intelligent and fluent in five languages, aspires to write and direct her own feature films. Until then, she is assisting other motivated filmmakers by acting in their projects. Mayet just wrapped filming the season “Office Girls,” a show based on Sylvester Steven’s novel of the same name, which stars a predominantly female cast.

“My character is Tazzy Lin, a meek character who is in charge of running things in the office,” Mayet explains. “I usually only choose to work on a project if it tells a story that is in some way important and conveys a message, and Tazzy, although meek on the surface, emerges as a strong woman with a story to tell as the series unfolds.”

Part of what makes one actor stand out from the rest is their dedication to their craft, and, in this field, Mayet absolutely shines.

“I live, breathe, and sleep acting,” Mayet admits. “I constantly feel like I need to be creating.

 

It is her pure love and commitment, along with her extensive training and, maybe most importantly, raw and natural talent which one simply cannot learn, that makes Mayet an actress to be talked about for many years to come.

“From Sydney With Love” Star Karan Sagoo in the Upcoming Film “Followed”

Karan Sagoo
Karan Sagoo shot by Toranj Kayvon

Indian-born actor Karan Sagoo recently wrapped production on the upcoming horror film “Followed,” which also stars Satellite Award Winner John Savage from the seven-time Oscar nominated film “The Godfather: Part III” and the five-time Oscar Award winning film “The Deer Hunter,” Blanca Blanco (“Bullet,” “American Romance”) and Kelsey Griswold from the two-time Golden Globe Award winning series “American Crime Story.”

Expected for release later this year, the film is depicted through a series of video blog posts made by an unseen vlogger whose interest in the macabre leads him to take his show, and a crew of three friends, to a famous Los Angeles hotel with a reportedly haunted past. As the group traverses the hotel in search of answers, they soon find themselves getting more than what they bargained for when they encounter an evil entity with malicious intentions. And that is where Karan first comes into play.

A key character and driving force in the plot, Karan seamlessly embodies the masked demonic character using his body movements to elicit fear within the amateur film crew in “Followed.” His spot-on performance is definitely a key element behind the film’s suspense.

Oddly enough, Karan was initially cast in the role of an aggressive and mentally unstable drug dealer who goes after the crew as they document the hauntings (a critical role which he plays in the film as well) however, after the film’s director, Antoine Le (“Bar Union”), saw Karan’s extraordinary command over his movements and body language, he immediately cast him to play the lead role as the film’s main antagonist.

“Karan is an incredibly talented actor. After watching the way he used his body as the deranged drug dealer in my film, I asked him to try to embody the evil demon for the film and he nailed it. I cast him for the second role right away. He was able to bring both characters to life, from their mannerisms to their body language, perfectly. Having him in the film has definitely been a huge asset,” says Le.

It will come as no surprise to those that have followed Karan’s career to date that his mastery over his body caught the attention of “Followed” director Antoine Le. Prior to embarking on his acting career, Karan Sagoo carved out a prominent position for himself in the fashion and advertising industries as a model, a field of work he continues to be sought after for today.

Karan
Karan Sagoo shot by Casey Moore

Over the course of his career Karan has been featured in some of the world’s most popular magazines, including Elle magazine, DNA, Yuva Youth magazine, Rolling Stone magazine, Man’s World, Society magazine and more. His charisma, good looks and ability to transform himself and embody different looks and personalities (which has been a huge asset in his acting career as well) has led him to be featured in ads for a diverse list of global companies such as Virgin Atlantic, Toyota, UK Trade and Investment, Videocon, Liril Soap, Max Lifestyle, Union bank, Focus T-shirts, E-Zone, Ernst and Young and others.

Having been on billboards and inside the pages of countless magazines, Karan Sagoo is probably one of the most recognizable male models in the eyes of viewers across India; but what he’s achieved as an actor has made his name known on a global scale. Karan first hit the big time when he played one of the lead bachelor’s in the hit series “The Bachelorette India,” which aired on India’s major TV network Life OK. While his role on the series several years ago made him a major heartthrob in the eyes of women across India, his dynamic talent as an actor is what has kept him on everyone’s mind.

In 2012 Karan starred in the hit romantic comedy film “From Sydney With Love,” which follows Meghaa, a small town girl from West Bengal, India, who is in for a major culture shock when she travels to Sydney, Australia for college.

Starring alongside some of India’s most sought after actors, including Bidita Bag (“X: Past is Present,” “Icche”) who plays Meghaa, as well as Ronjini Chakraborty (“Man’s World,” “At The End of it All”) and Evelyn Sharma (“Gadaar: The Traitor,” “Kuch Kuch Locha Hai”), Karan takes on the lead role of Suhail Syed in the film. A narcissist from an extremely wealthy family, Karan’s character Suhail becomes the film’s major antagonist through his relationship with Meghaa, who he sees as a challenge, which leads him to pursue her romantically.

Karan’s performance as Suhail is definitely one of the highlights in “From Sydney With Love,” as he easily embodies the attractive, but overly egotistical character in a way that makes him easy to hate.

Directed by Prateek Chakravorty, who produced the hit series “Born Stylish” and the films “Jomer Raja Dilo Bor”and “Tujhya Vin Mar Javaan,” “From Sydney with Love” premiered in Sydney, Australia and was screened across the globe in the U.S., Australia, Canada, England and India. The film was produced by Pramod Films, one of the most recognizable names in Bollywood cinema as the production company behind major hits such as “Deedar,” “Barood,” “Jagir,” “Azad” and others.  

karan sagoo
From Sydney With Love film poster

In addition to “From Sydney With Love,” Karan is known for his lead roles as Professor Drew in the docu-drama series “Cry Wolfe,” Mukul Sinha in the crime series “Khotey Sikkey,” as well as the series “Rishta.com” and the multi-award winning film “Band Baaja Baaraat.”

Karan took on the lead role of Vikram in the romantic comedy “Band Baaja Baaraat,” which won the coveted Aspara Award, Filmfare Award and many more. Directed by Maneesh Sharma (“Fan,” “Ladies vs. Ricky Bahl”),  “Band Baaja Baaraat” follows two wedding planners, Shruti played by Zee Cine Award winner Anushka Sharma (“Sultan,” “PK,” “Nh10”) and Bittoo played by BIG Star Entertainment Award winner Ranveer Singh (“Finding Fanny”), tasked with planning the weddings of three very different and demanding couples.

One of the couples is Vikram, played by Karan, and his fiance Preity, played by Kanksha (“Paranoia”). Due to Vikram’s family wealth and status, he has the means to give Preity the wedding she always dreamed of, even if it means bringing in India’s biggest star to perform at the wedding. A key character in the film, Karan’s memorable and magnetic performance as Vikram in the critically acclaimed film “Band Baaja Baaraat” definitely earned the actor quite a bit of attention both in India and abroad.

Aside from playing two lead roles in the upcoming horror film “Followed,” Karan is currently featured in a commercial for TagFi, a popular new social networking app that allows users to connect and find groups of people with common interests and passions, and easily make plans. In the commercial Karan plays Neil, an on-the-go business professional who is unable to meet and make connections with people due to his busy lifestyle, but thanks to TagFi, Neil’s social life is buzzing.

“The ad has been featured on app download services worldwide such as iTunes and the Apple App Store, and has been viewed millions of time. Karan is super professional and dedicated to his craft. He has a very natural charisma and gravitas as an actor that really comes across on screen. He has played a lead role in endearing Tagfi to millions around the globe,” says award-winning director Cole Mueller, who directed the Tagfi commercial.

In the commercial world, Karan is also known for being the face of major ads for Mother Dairy ice cream, Samsung, Raymonds suits, Ariel detergent, Lipton iced tea, Sompo insurance, Lux soap, Fiama Di Wills body wash, Volkswagen and more.

From his lead roles in several highly acclaimed films to his illustrious career as an international model, it’s easy to call Karan Sagoo one of India’s hottest exports– and he’s definitely one you should keep your eyes out for!

 

Catch Actor Toby Levins in “Murder, She Baked: Just Desserts” Airing March 26 on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries!

 

Toby Levins
Actor Toby Levins

Some actors just have the kind of face audiences can’t help but love and Australian actor Toby Levins is definitely one of them. Besides being naturally good looking, Levins’ has an amiable and magnetic on screen presence that makes him an easy fan favorite– so it comes as no surprise that he was cast to take on the lead role of Deputy Bill Todd in the first five TV movies in Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ on going “Murder, She Baked” series.

You can catch Levins reprising his role as Deputy Bill Todd in the series fifth film, “Murder, She Baked: Just Desserts,” which premieres Sunday March 26 at 9:00 p.m./8:00c on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries!

Based on the cozy mystery novel series written by Joanne Fluke, the films follow Hannah Swensen, played by Daytime Emmy Award winner Alison Sweeney (“Days of Our Lives”), a small-town baker who starts splitting her time as an amateur sleuth after her delivery driver is found murdered behind her bake shop in the series’ first film “Murder, She Baked: A Chocolate Chip Cookie Mystery” released in 2015.

Levins’ character Bill Todd, Hannah Swensen’s brother-in-law, is the town deputy, who works closely with series’ lead Cameron Mathison (“All My Children”), who plays Detective Mike Kingston.

While Levins is widely known throughout the industry for his recurring roles in several action heavy dramas such as the Primetime Emmy Award nominated post-apocalyptic drama series “The 100,” ABC Freeform’s Saturn Award nominated fantasy drama “Beyond” and the Leo Award nominated crime series “Rogue,” his character in the “Murder, She Baked” franchise is the polar opposite of most of his other roles. As Deputy Bill Todd, Levins effortlessly brings the films’ comic relief, further proving his dynamic range as an actor.

Levins’ says, “In one of the earlier films I was joking With Alison Sweeney, who plays Hannah in the franchise, that Bill should be based on Yosemite Sam. So now before a scene I just think ‘What would Yosemite Sam Do?’ How can you not have fun at work when that is your mindset!”

The on-screen chemistry between Levins and Mathison is immediately evident, and their relationship is definitely critical to the popular movie series as Bill is always at the scene of the crime doing his duty to enforce the law as Detective Kinston and Hannah try to solve the case.

About working with Levins, Mathison (who is also a lead reporter for “Entertainment Tonight”) says, “He is a riot on set. All of our procedural police scenes are together, and Toby and I always have a blast when we work together.”

Despite the mystery murder concept that runs through the “Murder, She Baked” series, there is definitely a romcom element, especially as things begin to heat up between Hannah and Detective Kingston over the course of the films; and with Levins’ character Deputy Todd married to Hannah’s sister Andrea, played by Lisa Durupt (“Preggoland”)– Hannah, Kingston and the Todd’s might just become one big happy family. But you’ll just have to keep watching the on going series to find out!

Since “Murder, She Baked: A Chocolate Chip Cookie Mystery,” Levins has starred in the series’ follow up films “Murder, She Baked: A Plum Pudding Mystery,” “Murder, She Baked: A Peach Cobbler Mystery,” “Murder, She Baked: A Deadly Recipe,” and most recently, “Murder, She Baked: Just Desserts.”

murder she baked
Film Poster for “Murder, She Baked: A Deadly Recipe” released in 2016

The “Murder, She Baked: A Deadly Recipe” film will air on Sunday at 7:00 p.m./6:00c on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, just before the most recent film in the franchise premieres.

In “Murder, She Baked: A Deadly Recipe” Levins takes center stage when his character Bill Todd runs for town sheriff. Up until then, Levins’ character has been a staple in the series representing the honest, good-natured energy of small town law enforcement. However, when the current sheriff, the one Bill is running against in the upcoming election, is found murdered, he becomes the prime suspect. The film offers quite a drastically divergent plot line from the previous films, one that gives way for a lot more character development on Levins’ part, which he nails as usual. To find out whether the lovable Deputy Bill Todd is actually a cold-blooded murder who’s been disguising his evil ways all along, you’ll have to catch the movie when it airs on Sunday.

Out of all five films, Levins admits that his favorite one to work on so far has been “Murder she Baked, Just Desserts.” “I had a lot of police procedural scenes with Cameron Mathison (Mike), who is a lot of fun to work with. We have an ongoing battle to make each other laugh during a take. I am kicking his ass,” explains Levins.

Over the last few years Toby Levins has been one incredibly busy actor who continues to be in high demand for a number of lead roles. Since shooting the first five films in the “Murder She Baked” series between 2014 and 2016, he’s also played an impressive list of critical recurring roles on some of the most-watched TV series in the U.S. and Canada.

His lead role of Lieutenant Carl Emerson on season 2 and 3 of the “The 100” really gives audiences an opportunity to see Levins’ capacity for playing intense, dark and action-packed characters.

The series follows a group of 100 teens from the Ark Space Station who return to earth 97 years after a nuclear disaster to see if earth is inhabitable. There they find that a few groups had survived the disaster, but the surviving groups are caught in an intense power struggle, with the Mountain Men having the dominant upper hand.

Toby Levins
Marie Avgeropoulos (left) & Toby Levins (right) in “The 100” Season 2 Ep.11 ‘Coup de Grace’

Levins’ character Lt. Emerson, the right hand man of the Mountain Men president, comes onto the scene in season 2 when he tries to kill members of the Ark, but is captured instead. He becomes a key piece in the Ark’s unfolding plan to gain the upperhand when they send him back to the Mountain Men with a message: “We’re coming for you.” Towards the end of season 2 Emerson becomes the only surviving Mountain Man after Mount Weather, the Mountain Men’s headquarters, self-destructs killing everyone but him. Despite being on the antagonist side of the story, Levins’ portrayal of Lt. Emerson easily made him a fan favorite in the show.

While Levins look has made him an easy cast for authoritative, law enforcement roles, the stark contrast between the characters he plays has revealed him to be an incredibly dynamic actor.

What makes a performance interesting, and I am speaking for myself here, is truth. There is nothing duller than watching an actor working extremely hard in order to show the audience how amazing an actor they are,” explains Levins. “What is mesmerizing is watching an actor and forgetting they are an actor. What leads to this, I think, is twofold; making the truth of both the scene and the character the highest priority, and not allowing one’s ego (which is usually a very loud voice in an actor’s head) to have skin in the game.”

Up next for Toby Levins is the highly-anticipated scripted comedy series “Loudermilk,” which is being developed for AT&T Audience Network by Peter Farrelly and former “Colbert” Report writer Bobby Mort. The 10-episode series centers on Sam Loudermilk, played by Golden Globe nominee Ron Livingston (“Swingers”), a recovering alcoholic and substance abuse counselor with a bad attitude.

Levins will play a key recurring role as Carl, the boyfriend of series’ lead Allison, played by Laura Mennell (“Alphas,” “Watchmen”). “In playing Carl I was afforded the opportunity to improvise with Ron take after take, a luxury so rare and rewarding. ‘Loudermilk’ is a show that I would watch if I wasn’t in it – that is a very nice thing to be a part of,” says Levins.

Stay tuned for updates on the release date for the upcoming series “Loudermilk,” and make sure to catch actor Toby Levins in the premiere of  “Murder, She Baked: Just Desserts” Sunday, March 26 at 9:00 p.m./8:00c on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries.

 

“FADED IMAGE REVEALS A VULNERABLE & GIVING TROY GREENWOOD

Troy Greenwood has many talents; producer, writer, actor, etc. While he may not truly accept it, poet and artist should be mentioned in the same breath. His film Faded Image is as vulnerable, heart-wrenching, and inspiring as any of the great poems of literature. The film seeks to reveal, relate, and give respite to those who experience or come into contact with those who experience depression. The public’s understanding and acceptance of the validity and presence of mental health has grown considerably in the last decade, often as a benefit of the work of artists like Greenwood who help others to peer into the invisible “virus” that effects and overwhelms our fellow citizens and family members, often directly in front of us. Faded Image was an official selection at the Covellite Film Festival as well as the Bare Bones festival 2017. As someone who has dealt with the challenges in his personal life like clinical depression and leukemia, Troy is able to communicate the internal perspective that so many silent individuals struggle with on a daily basis. Because he is a lauded and respected member of the film community, Greenwood is able to present these feelings in a way that makes them palpable to a wide audience. Good films allow us to “see” the emotions on the screen, great ones allow us to “feel” them; and Faded Image is a great film. The two drastically different scenes relate the mental state and the ability of all individuals to choose which of these to gravitate towards. As the dialogue of Faded Image states, “Find shelter in the simplest of things that bring us joy. Dance, cry, sing, laugh…even when it hurts and know that you are never alone.” Poetry. Hope. Art.

To suggest that Faded Image is a life-long endeavor is completely accurate. The writing of the script has been a decades long process for Greenwood. While the majority of those who battle depression avoid the help that could be given them due to some antiquated sense of inferiority or shame, it takes an artist like Troy to run headfirst into the fray and reveal the most personal and vulnerable parts of himself. This is partly due to a desire to help and inform others and also as a self-enacted form of therapy. Therapy happens in stages and can sometimes take a lifetime to achieve the progress necessary to cope. Greenwood began creating the script for Faded Image two decades ago. He reveals, “I wrote the first half of the script during my teens when I was first diagnosed with chronic depression. Battling through dark times and dark thoughts it can almost feel like you’re detached from yourself, unable to feel, and the dialogue of the first half of the script came out of a piece I wrote talking to myself as an outsider about the way it feels to be at the end of your rope – suicidal. I then thought about what I might say to myself in those darkest of moments to get myself through, and that formed the first incarnation of the script, nearly 20 years ago. I returned to the piece at numerous points throughout my career, tinkering with the script, mostly updating or revising the second half of the script, and how my thoughts had changed about what I might choose to say to myself to get through. It wasn’t until I started collaborating with Film Acting Fight Club that the idea came back in earnest to film this project. It had been several years since I looked at the script but I brought it in to the group for a reading. The feedback I got from the group was great, and I went about rewriting a draft of the script.” The first half of the film, which was written in Troy’s teen years, takes place in a bathroom. It depicts a teen contemplating, and to some point, attempting his own suicide. It is painful to watch. The lack of color translates the lack of interest and stimulation that someone suffering from depression receives from the world. This myopic outlook is unavoidable in the same way that someone dealing with pneumonia cannot resist a cough. The second half of the film depicts the same person, now an adult who has persevered and now possesses the wisdom and ability to speak to his younger self about the trials he has faced. The man’s age has also taught him the ability to do that most difficult thing, take one’s own advice. The setting for this second half of the film is a summer’s day surrounded by color and light…and hope. A young girl plays in the park, alluding to the hope that blooms in the future.

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If writing this script was the act of writing a speech, filming and releasing it was the equivalent of reading the speech aloud at the city square. Troy confirms that the technical part of filming came with its challenges as well. He notes, “I knew the constraints of an enclosed space [bathroom scenes] would make it nearly impossible to get the angles I needed to bring my vision to life, so we built a set and shot the first half of the project during the winter. After finishing the first half, the second portion was much easier as it just required waiting for the weather to clear in order to shoot in the summer. The sunny park and the winter indoors are obvious metaphors for the winter and summer of our lives and proved incredibly apt. The finished piece has been very well received. It is my desire to donate the film to health and support groups as an educational and/or promotional tool for discussing the issue of depression. Too often, we struggle in silence, and I would hope this film might shed some light on that and at least open up some conversation about an issue that I think affects a lot more of us then we admit.”

The entire film is a voice over monologue, which lends itself to the idea of the viewer being inside the mental perspective of Faded Image’s main character. This facet also makes the cinematography more vital than normal. Troy is adamant that the talent of his DP Chris Bragg helped him to so accurately portray what depression (and the release from it) feels like. Bragg comments, “Faded Image was a unique and interesting project to work on. It was clear that Troy had spent a long time with the idea and script to know exactly what was needed. The bathroom set was painstakingly built to allow for specific angles and it really opened up possibilities for me as the cinematographer, like the tight close-up over the sink, or the slow move up and around his shoulder. The final piece is a raw and engaging piece that grips you and leaves you pondering it well after viewing.”

Faded Image contains many possible motives. It can entertain, inspire, inform, help…the specific reasons are not completely obvious. This is an unexpectedly endearing quality for a film. Void of outcome attachment, the audience is able to take something personal from the production. Greenwood relates, “Inspiring people can drive people to create change in the world (that is a help), and films that help are often sources of inspiration for people. If anything, I’d say in all of my work my aim is get people to see things from different perspectives, to offer insight perhaps into why someone acts a certain way or question what ‘equality’ or ‘justice’ or ‘truth’ means and in doing so get my audience to investigate their own views on various subjects. I guess the best way to put that would be to say, my goal in all my work is to investigate and illuminate humanity.”

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“Rollin’ with the Nines” Reveals Anthony Warren’s Flare for Action

Actor Anthony Warren
Actor Anthony Warren shot by Will Tudor

There’s a scene in the hit film “Rollin’ with the Nines” where Anthony Warren, playing the Jamaican drug dealer Karnage, stabs an informant trying to buy drugs. Warren’s performance is so believable and his Jamaican patois so on point that anyone could be forgiven for thinking they were watching a documentary about crime on the island nation. Upon meeting the successful British actor however, it’s clear that the scene was very much a reflection of his impressive acting talent. Warren is a charming and imposing figure all the same, representing the ideal combination for leading men in the world of film.

Anthony’s ability to jump into distinctive roles that prove to be memorable and game-changing for any film of which he takes part is making him known in the industry. He tells us that the aforementioned scene in particular was “so violently gross [to film] but it was fun.” If anything, the London native was so convincing to his co-stars on the set of “Rollin’ with the Nines” as a menacing drug dealer that “Eastenders” star Terry Stone felt compelled to literally hit Warren in the head with a frying pan in a scene where he and his buddies try to swindle Warren’s antagonist. It hurt, according to Warren, but he swears it was an accident.

Anthony Warren’s hugely successful career began over 20 years ago, in a more humble fashion than compared to his current position of fortune. His work in “Rollin’ with the Nines” marked the beginning of his dominance in the action genre that began simultaneously over a decade ago with his critical role in “Control” opposite Academy-Award nominee Willem Dafoe (“Spiderman,” “The Aviator”), and “Fast and Furious” and “Avatar” heroine Michelle Rodriguez. Leading and starring roles in similar projects have continued, and when watching his impactful performances in films like “Rollin’ with the Nines” and “Control,” it’s clear why Warren hasn’t lived the typical life of the struggling artist.

While many actors take on work whenever they’re hired, Warren’s sought after stature in the industry means he needn’t be concerned with just taking on any project. If anything, his filmography proves his careful selectiveness and irreplaceable position within the acting field.

The truthfulness of Warren’s leading performances in other genre films like “The Deaths of Ian Stone,” opposite “Under the Dome” and “Bates Motel” star Mike Vogel, and as Capt. Naish in the Wesley Snipes (“Blade,” “Passenger 57”) and William Hope (“Aliens, “Captain America,” “Sherlock Holmes”) feature film “The Marksman,” are all proof of Warren having firmly found his own place in a world characterized by high-standards, loyal fans and blockbuster thrills.

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“Rollin’ with the Nines” film poster

“Rollin’ with the Nines” in particular has been a thrilling highlight for Anthony, notably so for representing his collaboration with successful director Julian Gilby who also directed Will Poulter (Oscar-Winner “The Revenant”, “We’re the Millers”) and Emma Rigby (ABC hit “Once Upon a Time in Wonderland”) in the 2014 hit-film “Plastic.” It further reinforced his growing profile with action films shot in the UK and his association with the music industry, as “Rollin’ with the Nines” concerns small-time drug dealers releasing their music in urban London.

And therein lies part of Warren’s truly exceptional talent – he has managed to traverse genres effortlessly. In his case (and maybe for this decade) action and musical theatre specifically. Alongside his key roles in action films “The Contract” with Academy Award winner Morgan Freeman (“Driving Miss Daisy,” “The Dark Knight”), Warren’s classical singing training and skill on stage landed him a leading role in Opera North’s Rodgers and Hammerstein production of “Carousel,” directed by Jo Davies, and “Brashana O”, directed by Geoffrey Creswell.

In “Brashana O”, a story based on the legendary rolling calf that forms part of Jamaica’s folklore, Warren wowed audiences with his portrayal of Barker. His connection to Jamaica gave the production a refined sense of integrity, helping to sustain the belief that the Rolling Calf is really a ‘duppy’ (ghost) that has the ability the change, if and when necessary, into other animals. Warren’s performance was easily considered as both impactful and humorous all at the same time. His role as Heavenly Goggin in “Carousel,” a more traditional musical, was an important one that esteemed reviewer Geoffrey Mogridge noted as “mysterious,” and set the scene for the protagonist’s confrontation with the production’s antagonist.

One could say that Anthony Warren is something of a ‘jack-of-all-trades.’ But his success in the different areas of the acting field prove that he is certainly not a ‘master-of-none.’ We look forward to seeing him in many more blockbusters (hopefully action movies, and more musicals) for years to come.