Category Archives: Actor

SALLY KINGSFORD IS HAPPY TO BE THE HEAVY IN THE AWARD-WINNING “STAMP”

Headshot 3Australia’s Sally Kingsford in known for playing comedic roles. She’s good at it and both peers and public know this. Being funny on camera is an inherent trait for some actors and it most certainly applies to Kingsford…she understands this. As Ashely in the award-winning and commercial hit Australian television comedy series “Summer Heights High”, Sally became an instantly recognizable comedic personality in her homeland, Europe (BBC 3), the US (HBO and Netflix) and other parts (such as the Comedy Channel in Canada). Numerous other productions have made use of the actress’s propensity for comedic moments but it was award-winning director Lukas Menitjes who wanted to flip that concept. He asked Kingsford to appear as the heavy, known as “The Suit” in his film “Stamp.” More known for being the always positive and often abused well natured character, Sally’s portrayal of “The Suit” in “Stamp” is that type of person we all love to hate, or at least strongly dislike. The actress was eager to show a greater breadth of range to her abilities in this film. While she has been often praised for the performances she’s given in a host of beloved productions, “Stamp” allowed her to show how she can bring a darkness to comedy as well.

Lukas Menitjes wanted to create an absurd comedy in “STAMP” and he felt that Kingsford would be the perfect villain for his story. As “The Suit” Sally appears as an obnoxious, self-involved, self-important professional with an over-inflated ego demanding others cater to her demands and condescending attitude. There’s plenty of comedy, based on reality in events of one Monday morning in a coffee shop. Rebecca (the barista) is hounded by a customer (Andrew) to get a free coffee after she refuses to give him an extra stamp on his coffee rewards card. Andrew tries various disguises to trick Rebecca into serving him. Rebecca eventually relents but takes solace in making Andrew the wrong coffee. “The Suit” adds to the chaos of the film (and Rebecca’s stress) by making her life at work a living hell with her demands. In a passive aggressive display, she complains on the phone to her friend about the barista right in front of her. “The Suit” serves to contribute a strong sense of reality by providing a more realistic character for Rebecca (the barista) to interact with in contrast to Andrew’s over-the-top characterisation and actions.

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Ask a director and they’ll likely tell you that the actors they choose for their villains are the ones who present them with a sense of humanity and relatability rather than one dimensional and cartoonish. In spite of her character’s exhibited negativity and rudeness, Sally sees her as very sensitive and donning a harsh defensive exterior to avoid being hurt. Meintjes confirms that it’s the actress’s ability to go deep into a character that caused him to approach Kingsford for the role. He professes, “Sally is an incredibly talented and diligent performer. In STAMP she delivered an excitingly bold and magnetic performance as ‘The Suit.’ The best actors have an insatiable inquisitiveness; this obsession enables them to create memorable performances. I can’t think of a more fitting description for Sally. Her passion is quite unlike the motivation I’ve seen in other actors. She is determined, honest, and possesses unequivocal integrity.”

Kingsford describes her preparation for roles as detective work but perhaps not in the traditional manner followed by most actors. Rather than delving deep into her own character first, Sally prefers a holistic sense of story, viewing the characters and actions from different angles/perspectives and then honing in on her place in the “big picture.” When she finally began focusing on her role in “STAMP” she looked outward. She communicates, “I did a lot of people watching. There is a street in Melbourne called Collins Street and the top end of it is known as the ‘Paris end’; it’s where all the most expensive designer stores are and where the most elite businesses and firms have their offices. This was the kind of place I imagined ‘The Suit’ going to work. I loitered around and watched people going to work in the morning paying particular attention to their physicality and imagined the kind of lives they lived. I knew that Andrew’s actions in the film were going to be over the top so I approached ‘The Suit’ in a very natural manner. I really enjoyed this role that was really a dramatic character in a comedy. I’ve done a lot of work in comedies being the funny one and it was nice to switch that around in this film.”

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Not only was “STAMP” embraced by the public but the short film received three nominations and a win at Australia’s Martini Awards. While the film industry peers who voted for the it appreciated Kingsford and her fellow cast and crew’s talent, the general audience recognized a part of their own lives that was delivered in a way that somehow made a common & difficult occurrence entertaining and enjoyable. Beyond the experience of working with the talented production members of “STAMP”, the woman in “The Suit” notes that there are some valuable life lessons to be taken from the film: 1) Don’t try and cheat the system, it won’t work, 2) Hard work and determination doesn’t always pay off, & 3) Don’t work as a barista…the customers are either incredibly rude or crazy.

 

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Chinese Actor Yifan Luo talks upcoming film ‘Rift’

As a child, growing up in Shanghai, Yifan Luo did not see himself as an actor. In fact, he was very business oriented, and the arts were not a feasible career option for him at the time. However, as a teen, everything changed; when he stepped on the stage for the first time as the lead in his high school play, he experienced the unique sensation that only comes from doing something you truly love. His passion for acting was born at that time, and now, over ten years later, this passion only grows stronger each time he steps onto a new set.

As an in-demand actor in both China and abroad, Luo is constantly looking for different roles than those he has played previously. He aims to portray as many different personalities as possible, from a schizophrenic psychopath in the film SAM to a jokester college freshman in the feature Talentik. His versatility knows no bounds. With the four films he has coming out this year, each character explores a different side of humanity. In the upcoming movie Rift, Luo once again plays a different role than he ever has.

“The character of the psychologist is somewhat complex. Yifan is perfect for the role and his performance is excellent. He is a professional and dedicated actor. I definitely want to work with him again,” said Jing Ge, Producer.

Rift is a compelling science fiction film focusing on a series of characters. It begins with Sergeant Howard receiving a case that Professor Miles is missing. The main character, Yu, is considered as the prime suspect. However, Yu denies everything. According to his testimony, Yu killed Proffesor Miles ten years ago for the professor’s plagiarism of his thesis paper. Yu was sent back to China after he was released from the prison. Through investigation, Howard believes that he is lying about something regarding the case. However, the psychological consultant, Gu Shenming, holds a different opinion. Yu gives them an unbelievable explanation that he comes from a parallel universe. Howard doesn’t believe Yu, but he has no evidence, so he has to release Yu after 48 hours. Yu’s girlfriend Xin bails him out. Howard is shocked when he sees Xin, because this girl was murdered five years ago by a serial killer. When Yu sees Xin, he is also surprised that Xin is still alive. Two days later, different female bodies are found in suburban Los Angeles, related to a serial killer, all while travelling through parallel universes.

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Yifan Luo in Rift

“Science fiction is always what people like to watch. Especially now in China, it is a very popular topic in film/TV shows. In this story, we see different kinds of people, good and bad. It is a real society that the film creates. It brings us a world where the hero is a real man who would never reach his goal without the help of people around him. Of course, the hero gets what he needs in the end, which also encourages the audience to go for what they want,” said Luo.

In Rift, Luo plays Gu Shenming. His character is the psychologist that works for the police. He talks to the suspects and makes the conclusion regarding whether they are lying or not. In the story, when the main character comes from a parallel universe, nobody believes what he says. Therefore, the sergeant sends Gu Shenming to talk with him and expects that he will be proved a liar. As the conversation progresses, Gu gradually believes in what the main character says and starts to suspect that the sergeant actually knows a secret about the case that he doesn’t want other people know. Finally, Gu makes the conclusion that the main character is not lying about anything, which infuriates the sergeant.

Gu Shenming is the only person that believes in what the main character, Yu, says about travelling from the parallel universe. Without the character, the main character would have been sent to prison at the very beginning. It is this character that keeps searching for evidence that proves Yu is not lying about anything, and the psychologist is the one who finally destroys the sergeant’s plan. During the process, Luo’s character is under the immense pressure but never gives give up. He does his duty as a psychologist and prevents the main character from being persecuted.

“I read the synopsis of the story before I went for the audition. I really liked the idea of a parallel universe. The character I auditioned for is a very smart psychologist who works for the police that diagnoses whether the leading guy is crazy or not, since he keeps talking about a parallel universe, which is totally what I’m good at. I believed that I could do a very good job in playing such a role,” said Luo.

As the story has the setting of a parallel universe, the actors were required to frequently move between the universes in the story, meaning the cast and crew had to constantly change the set, costumes, and makeup. Because of this, everyone had to be on top of their game. Luo made sure to be extremely familiar with the script and storyline, even for scenes he was not in. This also created a great sense of teamwork between everyone on set, as they were constantly working to make filming as smooth as possible. For Luo, it was working with everyone on the film that made working on Rift such a great experience.

“It was a great experience to work with Yifan. He is very professional and very passionate. As a partner, he is very considerable. He even helped me read the lines so patiently when I was doing my close-up shots. He always spends a lot of time working on the character before he goes to set. He is also creative at the same time. He has a sense of humor that makes his acting unique.  He is one of my favorite actors I have ever worked with,” said Yun Xie, Lead Actress.

Keep an eye out for Rift at a film festival near you.

British Actor Pezh Maan captivates in award-winning French series ‘The Bureau’

Pezh Maan in The Bureau (2016)
Pezh Maan as Houtan Vosoughi in The Bureau

Pezh Maan did not choose to become an actor. For the British native, it was instinctual, similar to waking up each day and going to bed every night. There was never anything else he imagined himself doing, and as a child, he never wondered what his future would hold, he knew. He has always listened to his heart and believes that when one lives by such a rule, success will always follow. It definitely has for Maan, who has become a sought-after actor in the United Kingdom’s film and television industry.

Audiences around the world quickly became enamoured with Maan when he played the Chief Analyst and right-hand man to Christoph Waltz’ Blofeld in the 2015 James Bond movie Spectre. He is also recognized for his outstanding work in the television shows Eastenders and Tyrant. His film Unattended Item went on to critical acclaim, and there is a lot of buzz around his upcoming television series, Deep State, starring Kingsmen’s Mark Strong and Game of Thrones’ Joe Dempsie, which premieres on FOX this Spring.

“I think what I do as an actor is interpret the words of the writer and turn them into all the facets of the living breathing human being that I am being asked to play. I get into the skin of the character whilst still being myself with all my own emotional responses. When the character is somewhat at odds with my own experiences, imagination can come to one’s aid in creating a way to relate to the character. Imagination is the lifeblood of actors’ work and interpreting the text is an imaginative endeavour, and an extremely rewarding one for me,” he said.

Maan’s versatility is endless, and as a multilingual actor, his work in other languages has led to success in countries outside of his home of the United Kingdom. In 2016, he starred in the French television series Le Bureau des Legendes, translated to The Bureau in English. The series went on to become a hit with not only audiences, but French critics as well. At the COLCOA French Film Festival, it took home the TV Series Jury Special Prize and the TV Series Audience Award. At the French TV Critics Association Awards (A.C.S.), it won Best Production. It also won Best French Series at Le Parisien, Best French Series at the Globes de Cristal Award, and was in the Top 10 Series at Télérama: Top 10 Series.

“I think knowing that the season was such a success gave everyone confidence that their ideas could only build on the quality that had already been established. I’m very proud of the work that we did, and it is a great feeling to be part of a universally lauded show. Despite what people say, good reviews and accolades are validation of a standard that you hope to achieve, the excellence that your hard work is aiming for. And it is satisfying that audiences and critics alike have responded to the elements that we worked to create for them. As an actor who is always learning, it gave me some very valuable feedback, especially as the performances were singled out for praise. It validated some of the bolder creative choices I made and that the Director had the bravery to include in the final cut,” said Maan.

The show, now in its third season, is a spy thriller directed by Eric Rochant for Studio Canal +. The Bureau is based upon real accounts by former spies and inspired by contemporary events, and centres on the daily life and missions of agents within France’s Directorate-General for External Security, its principal external security service. It focuses on the “Bureau of Legends”, responsible for training and handling deep-cover agents (operating ‘under legend’) on long-term missions in areas with French interests, especially in North Africa and the Middle East. Living under false identities for years, these agents’ missions are to identify and recruit good intelligence sources.

Maan played Houtan Vosoughi, an Intelligence officer charged with investigating and arresting foreign agents who have penetrated Iran. He has a wife and family who were oblivious to the danger and risk he was facing in his everyday role. As such, he was capable of leading multiple lives successfully without disturbing any of the delicate balances of each, all while still maintaining his sanity. He was a man capable of extreme violence, which was kept very deeply hidden behind an impassive exterior and a sense of decorum. He was a skilled communicator and could use words as weapons to disarm his opponents and reveal information without needing to resort to violence. He was also very self-confident in being able to handle people who were not trustworthy but had vital intelligence. Maan’s character was pivotal to the success of the second season of the show. He was the man who put all the pieces of the puzzle together that had been accumulating as the episodes progressed and discovered double agents that had infiltrated security. Through a series of cleverly crafted scenes and after interviewing a number of suspects he was able to make the arrests that lead to the series climax.

The arrest of Sara Giradeau’s character, Marina, was a pivotal moment in the story that created a climate of fear about the severe consequences that awaited her and her colleagues. Houtan’s arrival in the story as a dark horse and sinister figure was timed to escalate the tension that had been mounting and his quiet probing into the activities of the protagonists, aided by a wonderfully nuanced script, served as the catalyst for the exciting climax.

Maan has been a fan of French Cinema for quite a while, and when the opportunity to audition for the show came about, he eager to partake. After reading for multiple roles, Maan was chosen by the producer for the essential role of Houtan Vosoughi. The producers knew of the actor’s work in Spectre and they wanted to imbue the character of Houtan Vosoughi with a similar kind of cutting edge mentality.

“I watched the first season of The Bureau and was very impressed with the economy of style and the cinematic pace that gave the show a very unique atmosphere akin to some of the great cinematic thrillers. It was brilliantly acted, and I wanted this show to be my first French language production,” he said.

To prepare for his role on the series, Maan studied the first season, making sure to pick up on the details and nuances of the atmosphere, characters, and style of the show. From there, Maan created his character off the pages of the script. He decided Houtan’s actions would be expressed through stillness and facial expression as much as possible, keeping in line with the intelligence operatives holding multiple cards close to their chests. Maan also wanted to generate a lot of tension in the investigation and interrogation scenes, with the idea that he was leading the audience closer to the danger and intrigue of the plot. He executed this to perfection.

Maan also studied similar American shows, such as 24, stylizing his character similar to Jack Bauer. By doing this, he noted the subtlety of the acting and Keifer Sutherland’s ability to portray level-headedness in high stakes scenarios. Maan used this as a reference to find the right tone for his character. He also watched a lot of old crime thrillers in the French language and worked with a dialogue coach to bring out the nuances of the language.

One of the highlight of the experience for Maan was shooting in Morocco, where most of the scenes take place. Not only did it feel authentic, he says it is one of the most beautiful locations he has working in throughout his career. The other highlight, of course, was working with such a tremendous team.

“Working with so many experienced and talented artists was an exciting challenge that definitely motivated me to produce better work. It was such a collaborative experience on set with cast and crew which brought out the best in all of us and the atmosphere was a really lovely one to work in. The level of detail that concerned the Director, Camera team and fellow actors brought a high degree of excellence to the ambition of the project and one that was artistically very satisfying to be part of,” said Maan.

Be sure to watch the second season of The Bureau to witness Maan’s stellar performance as Houtan Vosoughi.

Dominic Kay terrifies as conflicted veteran in ‘White Settlers’

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Dominic Kay, photo by Ian Thraves

When one asks Dominic Kay why he went into acting, his response is quite simple; he would not have been happy doing anything else. Every day he arrives on set, he is eager to get started. Acting never feels like work to Kay, and the long days and trailer time that some find disheartening just add to the experience for this British native. He humbly feels lucky to do what he loves every day, and audiences around the world feel lucky to watch this talent on both the big and small screens.

Kay’s work in film and television has made him instantly recognizable in the United Kingdom. He has appeared in shows such as Hollyoaks in the City as well as the renowned British soap Coronation Street. His work in film includes the acclaimed historical drama Allies, and many more. However, this actor does not limit himself to just one genre, and as the villain in the 2014 horror White Settlers, Kay’s versatility is evident in every scene.

“This project appealed to me initially due to the fact that it was an opportunity to work with a director and producer that I heard very good things about. Then once I was read the script I was hooked, I read the whole screenplay in an hour, then immediately phoned my agent and told her that I wanted to do it,” said Kay.

White Settlers tells the story of Ed and Sarah’s first night at their new home – an isolated farmhouse on the Scottish borders. This should be a new beginning away from their stressful London lives. And at first it is; come sunset they fall in love all over again on a wander in the woods. But as darkness falls, Sarah suspects they’re not alone, Ed goes to investigate and quickly, the evening becomes a nightmare. It suddenly dawns on them; they do not belong here, and they certainly aren’t welcome.

In White Settlers, Kay plays Local, the antihero. He is an ex-military psychopath, who stops at nothing to get what he wants. He is hard as nails, a bully, and a pack leader. He is definitely not one to be taken lightly. As you get further into the film, audiences see his desperation turn sadistic, forcing him to become more and more ruthless. He thinks nothing of terrorizing people to get what he wants. From when he first enters the feature until the very end, he causes nothing but chaos.

While playing such a menacing role, Kay made sure to maintain the constant barrage of peril and volatility. Particularly in the scenes without dialogue, he managed to be terrifying just with body language and facial expressions. To maintain being threatening and intimidating without being overdramatic can be a challenge, but Kay did so flawlessly. He exudes malice and instills fear into his c audience by doing as little as possible. He always made sure he brought an element of truth into his character. In one particular scene, he acted out of instinct and went off book. The director, Simeon Halligan, loved what the actor did and Kay’s instincts proved fruitful, as that scene made the final cut of the film.

White Settlers gave me the opportunity I had been waiting for a while – to play a real nasty piece of work. I love to play around with characters, and this character was going to be fun, despite being a challenge. I had to be very menacing, intimidating, and scare the life out of my co-stars. Decision making and being brave was key for this character. It was a difficult mindset to get into, so I found that if I wasn’t fully immersed into him it could come across a little forced,” Kay described.

Kay’s work as the leading bad guy helped White Settlers achieve international success at many prestigious film festivals. The film premiered at the 2014 Film4 FrightFest. It was the winner of the ScreamFest Festival Trophy – Best Cinematography 2014. It was then distributed by Falcon films, Grim up North. Many critics were impressed by Kay’s ability to terrify yet still be endearing. The Producer of the film, Rachel Richardson-Jones, credits Kay as being one of the driving forces of the horror film.

“I cast Dominic to play the lead bad guy in the film. He was an integral part of the cast and did a great job. We were hugely impressed by his acting skills and how he adapted to the role. He was a great addition to the cast and was good to work with. He was very professional and hardworking at all times,” said Richardson-Jones.

When casting for the film, Richardson-Jones immediately thought of Kay after seeing the actor in a television show. She invited him in for a meet and greet, and once Kay read the script, it was a perfect match. He was eager to explore a side of himself that he never had before, and working with a team that he knew would be ideal, he immediately said yes to the part.

“This project was great to be part of. Well, having to portray a character that is a complete psychopath was a joy and a challenge to be honest. It was great fun it gave me freedom to express my darker sides and go even further with them. The director was a credit to the production and got the best out of me with ease. The whole cast just performed really well and everyone bounced of each other adding the performances,” said Kay. “It’s not every day you get to be an axe wielding mad man and terrorize innocent people.”

This year, audiences can see Kay on the big screen once again in the feature Walk Like a Panther. The film tells the story of a group of 1980s wrestlers who are forced to don the lycra once last time when their beloved local pub is threatened with closure. Kay is incredibly eager to share this film with audiences around the world.

It is without a doubt that Dominic Kay is an inspiration to those looking to pursue acting not just in the United Kingdom, but around the world. He always knew acting was his passion, and never gave up on his dream, and he has wise words for those who would like to follow in his footsteps.

“Read as much as you can and expand your vocabulary. This understanding gives you so many more places to go with your performance. You can identify subtle changes in scenes and make better decisions based on the information in front of you. Secondly, I would advise that you study yourself and identify exactly who you are deep down – your core characteristics. This understanding of who you are lets you know what you bring to the table, what you are selling. There’s no point in trying to be something you’re not, because people can see through. Lastly, don’t be scared of letting yourself go or looking a fool, and be brave in your decision making. Unless you are very lucky, success won’t come easy, so work hard,” he concluded.

 

Photo by Ian Thraves

Actor Chris McNally’s Dramatic Trip to ‘Heaven’

Actor Chris McNally’s easy going, amiable demeanor is completely genuine, but the Canadian-born performer is capable of utterly transformative characterizations, fraught with subtle psychological nuance and stark, emotional depth,  It’s an attribute that’s served him well in a fast-moving career which  has taken him from aspiring supporting player to major lead roles, and his striking portrayal of Cal Dennison in Lifetime network’s forthcoming adaptation of the celebrated VC Andrews novel Heaven is a prime example. For McNally, landing the film’s second lead was the almost inevitable conclusion of a lifelong passion. “I just have always wanted to be an actor, ever since I can remember,” McNally said. “I’m not sure what initially prompted my interest, but there really was nothing else I ever thought to pursue.”

 Heaven, which sparked an entire series of best-selling novels, is a sort of glorious throwback to mid-century Peyton Place-era tearjerkers, loaded with melodramatic moral and social conflicts and fraught with scandal and hopelessly romantic entanglements. In the case of titular character Heaven Casteel, a comely teenager who finds herself sold off by her abusive father to a childless couple only to reluctantly submit to the male head of her new household’s seduction, the story line definitely pushes some boundaries.

 As McNally explains, “Heaven follows a teenage girl and her difficult journey through adolescence. The story begins in a dark place—Heaven lives with her alcoholic father, pregnant stepmother, grandmother and siblings in a small, dilapidated house in the mountains. When Heaven’s stepmother loses her baby, it triggers a tragic chain of events, ending with her father selling all his children and separating them. Heaven ends up with Cal and Kitty Dennison, who seem great at first, but life becomes even more complicated when Kitty begins having schizophrenic, abusive tendencies and Cal falls in love with Heaven.”

 To call the role of Cal a challenge would be a tremendous understatement, and McNally approached it with a characteristically canny mix of dramatic craft and emotional restraint.

 “Things become complicated when Kitty begins mentally and physically abusing Heaven, not letting her outside the house, forcing her to clean all day,” McNally said. “Cal finds himself trying to shelter and protect Heaven from Kitty’s actions. During this process though, Cal starts to develop romantic feelings for Heaven. This was the most difficult part to navigate, because we didn’t want Cal to come off as a predator.”

 McNally’s natural, persuasive approach to a role is so convincing that, in fact, he got the part despite the fact that he had to audition remotely, via a tape shot in a friend’s apartment—hardly an ideal circumstance. “I couldn’t attend the audition since I was out of town,’ McNally said. “So I asked a friend for help taping it. We got together in his tiny kitchen and made do with what we had. When I got back to Vancouver, I had a callback, so I went in for a session with the director and producers, and a week later was told that I’d gotten the job.”

 

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After landing the part, McNally got down the very serious business of making his character sympathetic.

 “I tried to prepare for this by using the relativity of the circumstances as structure,’ McNally said. “I doubt anything would ever have transpired between Cal and Heaven if they were in a normal situation. Their reality, though, is that they both find themselves as prisoners in this house arrest-like jail that Kitty has created. So within the walls of the house, we have this warped reality, separate from the real world. In that world, I looked at Heaven as my ally, and I protect her, we bond, and her earnestness and kindness begins to authentically fill a void in my heart that I hadn’t realized, until then, that Kitty never did. I’d say that was my main prep—understanding how and why these feelings came to be, and making it work for me.”

 This precisely reasoned motivation—calling back to Stanislavski’s famed dramatic admonition to “play the life”—is key to McNally’s appeal and success, artistically and professionally. In just over a decade, his continually rising profile has led to a formidable resume of on-screen achievements, with numerous roles, both on television series and small-screen movies and 2018 looks to be a banner year for the actor—he not only has Heaven coming out soon but also a recurring role in the highly anticipated Netflix original series Altered Carbon, already making a significant Hollywood buzz for being one of the most ambitious and highest budgeted series in television history.

 All of this was earned solely by McNally’s dedication. “Chris has a lot of talent and passion which he brings to his work,” co-star Julie Benz said. “He’s disciplined, reliable, passionate about his craft and he really delivers when the cameras are rolling. It was refreshing to work with a young actor who is more interested in the craft of what we do than how many Instagram followers he has.”

 It’s an exciting time for the perpetually driven McNally, who remains a down to earth, affable guy with a winning, attitude.

 “I believe you only have one chance at life, so if you really want something, you need to do everything in your power to make it happen,” McNally said. “I use that philosophy every day and it inspires me to keep going after my goals, to keep training, keep auditioning—and working.”

Professional Heavyweight Boxer Turned Actor Larry Olubamiwo is a Knockout On Screen

Larry Olubamiwo
Actor Larry Olubamiwo shot by Karen Scott

As a former professional heavyweight boxer Larry Olubamiwo knows a thing or two about knocking opponents out in the ring; but the successes he’s become widely recognized for in recent years have actually taken place outside of the boxing ring as Olubamiwo’s continued to show what he’s made of on the silver screen.

At 6-foot-4, Olubamiwo looks outwardly dominating, something that undoubtedly lent itself to his benefit in his boxing career and intimidated opponents before the first punch was even thrown. While that naturally strong aesthetic has also led him to be the first choice for a number of commanding lead roles as an actor, his collective work in film and television have revealed his capacity take on multi-layered roles that extend far beyond that of the stereotypical tough guy.

In projects such as Verona Rose’s 2016 dramatic film “Fabric of the Royals” where he stars alongside Alice Fofana from Benjamin Rider’s multi-award winning film “Seven Devils,” and the series “Life of Hers,” which won the Best Ensemble Award at the 2014 Screen Nation Awards, the emotional range and vulnerability that Olubamiwo brings to his characters draw us into the story making it hard to peel our eyes away.

Despite earning extensive praise for his on-screen roles, Olubamiwo remains admirably humble about his career and his talent, but knowing his strengths and capitalizing on them, as is the way for any actor who wishes to ‘make it’ in such a competitive industry, have been imperative to his success.

“My sensitivity and vulnerability as an actor despite my physicality sets me apart,” says Olubamiwo. “I have been told that I’m able to convey a range of emotions with just my eyes, which I am grateful for as acting, a lot of times, is about stillness.”

Though Olubamiwo had a passion for acting during his youth, at that time boxing was where his heart and mind were focused. He spent years undergoing the intense training required of a professional athlete, eventually going on to become a powerful heavyweight competitor in the ring. In 2012 his boxing career ended abruptly, which brought understandable challenges, but in a way came as a godsend as it opened the doors for Olubamiwo to devote himself fully to his work as an actor.

While he’d already played key roles in films such as Jim Dickinson’s comedy “Rough and Ready,” as well as several commercials including a BBC Sport promo for the Rugby World Cup where he played a featured rugby player, and the popular 2007 ‘Bungee’ commercial for the Electoral Commission in the UK, which continued to air during every election until 2013, Olubamiwo was finally in a position to fully immerse himself in his acting training and take his work to the next level. Bringing the same fervent dedication and focus that he gave to his work as a professional boxer, the actor quickly became a sought after force in the entertainment industry.

He explains, “My love for acting and my natural work ethic I have as a boxer allowed me to excel in the training. And while I was training, I was very proactive in searching for acting work and an agent. And the rest is history as they say.”

After landing representation with Imperium Management, Olubamiwo’s captivating talent immediately struck a chord with “Fabric of the Royals” director Verona Rose, who aside from her work as a director, is known for numerous performances on hit series such as the multi-award winning series “EastEnders,” the two-time Primetime Emmy nominated series “Hustle,” and most recently, the Golden Lion Award winning dramatic film “Our Little Haven.”

Rose says, “It was such a pleasure to work with Larry. I had seen his work previously and it’s amazing what range he has despite his size and skills as a fighter. He is able to show such emotion without even saying a word which is true acting. I learned alot from him on set and want to work with him again.”

Nominated for Best Film at the 2016 Screen Nation Digital-iS Media Awards, a prestigious awards ceremony in the UK that’s often referred to as the ‘black Bafta’s,’ “Fabric of the Royals” tells the powerful story of a family who leaves their home in Jamaica to start a new life in the UK in the 1980s. Taking on the starring role of Derek, the head of the family, Olubamiwo gives a captivating portrayal of a man struggling to assimilate to a new culture and rise above the racism and violence he experiences in his new country, in hopes of giving his children a better shot in life.

Told through the eyes of his youngest daughter, “Fabric of the Royals” offers an impactful insight into the many challenges minorities face upon emigrating to a new country.

Revealing Derek as both the strong backbone of the family who commands respect from his children and the fun-loving dad who makes everything alright when they experience truly horrific treatment from the outside world, Olubamiwo endows his character with multiple layers. His performance on screen not only makes his character easy to love and root for as the film unfolds, but it also serves as a testament to his impeccable acting ability.

While Olubamiwo nails the mark in the powerful father-figure roles he plays in both “Fabric of the Royals” and “Life of Hers,” not all of his characters are as easy to love, but they don’t have to be. In the 2016 dramatic horror film “Cat Face” he took on the starring role of Kaka, a priest with mystical powers that brings a murdered woman back to life and gives her the power to track down a violent cult of serial killers and take bloody revenge.

Olubamiwo sends chills down the spines of viewers with his performance, and “Cat Face” went on to be awarded at the Africa Magic Viewers’ Choice Awards (AMVCA) in 2017. Revealing yet another area of the actor’s widespread skill set, Kaka speaks Yoruba in the film, a language Olubamiwo is not only fluent in, but one that makes the character that much more mysterious on screen thanks to the way the actor portrays him.

Larry Olubamiwo is one uniquely talented actor who embodies the beautiful contradiction of being the polar opposite of what outsiders tend to assume at first glance. And while his imposing figure has made it easy for him to play the intimidating, sometimes even criminal role, like Reynolds in the 2015 thriller “Honour Amongst,” it’s Olubamiwo’s incredible emotional depth, dedication and magnetism on screen that makes him someone worthy of the spotlight and international praise.

Up next for this talented actor is the dramatic crime film “The Middle Man,” which is written and directed by Philip Howard and is slated to begin filming late this year.

Dancer Mao Kawakami Glows on Stage and Screen

Japanese dancer Mao Kawakami’s graceful, kinetic precision and peerless creativity have earned her a fabulous career. Whether appearing on the movie screen, touring with major pop stars or performing show stopping numbers at major televised award shows, Kawakami’s vibrant, high-energy style commands attention. Even in an ensemble troupe setting, the charismatic Kawakami stands out—audiences can’t take their eyes off her.

The Los Angeles based Kawakami’s fascination with dance has been life-long. “At age 3, I was going crazy dancing with my fairy stick at home,” Kawakami said. “So my mom put me into a ballet studio, which turned out to be amazing! I was strictly a ballerina until I joined a dance club in middle school and was introduced to hip hop “

photo: Joseph Cultice

Even at this young age, Kawakami remained focused, steadily expanding upon her foundational training and always progressing. “I moved to Canada when I was 15,” Kawakami said. “I went to dance studio after school almost every day and that’s when I learned all genres in dance, because I wanted to learn more and have fun. I grew a lot as a dancer and teachers and choreographers also started to notice ne. The dance industry world seems really big yet it really is such a small world, so choreographers always talk to each other and you never know who’s watching.”

By the time she arrived in Hollywood, the stars were aligning in Kawakami’s favor, and while the dancer’s professional life is often a fast moving course of one-off freelance gigs, Kawakami easily established a steadily building momentum.

“Once I got to L.A. and started to work with on music videos, the choreographers referred me to other big name choreographers,” Kawakami said. “I was working with Oththan Burnside [MC Hammer, Snoop Dogg, Rihanna] a lot, music videos for Keyshia Cole and some other projects, and she referred me to Jamaica Craft, who choreographs TLC, Usher, NE-YO, Justin Bieber, she was looking for a dancer the FOX Teen Choice Awards. I got the job and that’s when my career grew from small projects to big award shows and tours.”

 

photo: Wes Klain

Things began to move fast for the ambitious young dancer. Before long she was getting assignments for jobs with alternative hip-hop sensations N.E.R.D., interpretive dance collaborations for pop princess Pink and hitting the road with rap superstar Iggy Azalea—some of the best, most high profile performance opportunities in all of show business. Kawakami’s signature combination of high energy, interpretive skill and flawless execution make her an in-demand asset to any dance presentation.

“I have worked with Mao on multiple gigs,” Burnside  said. “She ‘gets’ all aspects of work and has an ability to figure it out, in a matter of seconds, which makes things easier for all of us. Her presence is like a diamond—she brightens up the stage and makes the whole production look better. That’s the reason I keep hiring her.”

Kawakami’s sterling professional reputation professionalism and very impressive roster of credits are the result of one thing—her artistry. Her innate gift for dance colors every aspect of her life on stage, and off stage, and Kawakami embraces her art, life and career as equal parts of a holistic philosophy,

“My career really grew when I started to know myself more as a person,” Kawakami said. “Not only as a dancer, but also as a whole person. That is a big part of any successful career. Even if you’re a really good dancer, if you can’t figure out who you are, you just don’t glow the same. I think you glow the most when everything is aligned; your dance, your personality, character, and your health, mentally and physically. Everything shows from the inside out, and when I figured this out, I definitely started to book more jobs.”

photo: Wes Klain

Kawakami is rarely found relaxing at home between gigs and is constantly expanding her skillset and exploring new avenues of creative expression. “I love touring!! You get to see different cities and countries on top of doing a job you love.” Kawakami said. “But I also love doing movies—I just played the new Bella in Pitch Perfect 3. I got to work with my favorite choreographer Aakomon Jones and also learned to act and took vocal lessons. Singing and dancing require extra energy, so we took boot camp classes at night to keep our shapes. The whole movie experience was so amazing, we got to shoot at the biggest aquarium in the states in front of huge whales and turtles! The process went by so quickly but I would do it all over again.”

Kawakami’s intoxicating mix of raw talent, striking good looks, dynamic moves and limitless enthusiasm for her work places the dancer in a league of her own, one where she has already achieved great success and stands poised to ascend ever higher in the entertainment world.

“Everything is connected,” she said. “One experience fuels another, and that fuels another. It’s a chain reaction. So if you experience a lot, your creative flow just becomes so smooth and colorful. Dance is my job but it always has also been my escape, it is like therapy to me. It helps me express things that I can’t say with words, it is a nonverbal communication. It is art.”