Category Archives: Actor

ALEXANDRA HARRIS HAS AND DOES NOT HAVE “MISSED CONNECTIONS”

Alexandra Harris - Missed Connections 2

Sometimes when things go wrong it can be very right. Consider Alexandra Harris. By all accounts people who know her consider her to be very positive and upbeat. There’s no implication of a duplicitous nature in regards to Harris but, opposites can play very well in cinema. As an acclaimed actress in a wide variety of productions, she exhibits all of the acting skill of the notable peers in her industry. The filmmakers of Missed Connections wanted to use Alexandra’s inherent goodness to drive a less amiable character in this production. Missed Connections is a Zero Film Festival Award-winner and was screened at esteemed events like the Raindance Film Festival and Cannes Film Festival. The protagonist of the film is Jamie (played by Joseph Cappellazzi), a man who gets ruthlessly dumped by his girlfriend Sophie (played by Harris). The fallout and aftermath leave him incredibly heartbroken and bitter. In an attempt to get back at the world (and to satiate his friends who tell him to start dating) he begins responding to the “Missed Connections” section of the paper, showing up to dates pretending to be the desired person…with less than fantastic results. Through this process, Jamie actually meets a girl he likes, Emma (played by Rebecca Perfect), and then has to come clean about what he’s done. Even more conflict arises when Jamie must decide whether he’s going to keep trying to get back together with Sophie or move on with someone new.

As Sophie, Jamie ex-girlfriend, Harris is cold but not completely unrelatable. Jamie has some maturing to do and the inherent likability which Alexandra possesses makes the audience question whether some of the blame falls upon his shoulders. It’s precisely because of this quality that Rory O’Donnell (casting director on Missed Connections) was adamant that Alexandra would bring depth to the character of Sophie. O’Donnell professes, “I knew she’d be a great fit. Here we were in London, with all these serious Brits and this bright bubbly American (yes, yes, I know she’s Canadian) came bouncing in and just sort of blew us all away. As a casting director, that’s what you hope for. She’s just very, very good, and very easy to work with. It’s quite simple really. She doesn’t make the production about herself and is able to roll with whatever punches may come her way.”

   Sophie has left Jamie bitter and heartbroken but instead of taking responsibility for his part in the failed relationship, he goes about trying to blame other people. Understanding that her portrayal could easily sway the view of Sophie in the eyes of the audience, Harris took care to present her as someone whom the audience could project their own ideas onto. She relates, “I saw Sophie as one of those girls with a five-year plan. The type of girl who knew where she wanted to be and was constantly evaluating herself and those around her to make sure she was on her way to achieving it. There’s nothing wrong with that but I think sometimes it makes people less flexible with the those who are in their lives. Sophie would describe herself as ‘career oriented’ for sure.”

While her performance is magnetic in Missed Connections, there were a few substantial hurdles for ALexandra to overcome in being cast for the film. It seemed highly unlikely that she would be Sophie in this production. Chris Presswell (writer and director of Missed Connections) confirms, When Rory O’Donnell (our casting director) read the script, he thought Alexandra would be great for Jamie’s love interest (Emma), however, I wanted to keep the cast British as it was supposed to be a British comedy. When Alexandra came in for a read through, I knew I wanted her in the film somehow. She’s such a talented actor, and also a genuinely good and decent person; the perfect combination. Rather than Emma, I liked the idea of her for Sophie (Jamie’s ex-girlfriend) because I knew she’d bring some vulnerability and depth to her. While Sophie’s technically the bad guy of the story, it’s boring if the audience flat out hates her; casting Alexandra was the perfect solution to that. It’s pretty hard to hate her. She’s also very fun to have on set and all that positivity was needed when shooting during the British winter as it gets dark at 4pm!”

To hear Harris tell it, the audition wasn’t as much of a cinch as the director implies. It is a testament to her abilities that an early misstep during the audition did not derail Presswell’s desire to use her in the film. It’s often said that bad choices lead to great stories and this aptly applies to Alexandra’s initial choice in the audition. Ever self-effacing, she reveals, “When I was called in, it was for Jamie’s love interest, Emma. Rory had told me it was supposed to be a British dark comedy, so I thought ‘Right, I’ll be British then.’ Keep in mind, I had only been living in the UK for about 6 months and was still under the impression that all British people sounded like Hugh Grant. I’d also never performed with a British accent (I played an American in The Last Man, which Rory had cast me in pretty much as soon as I arrived in the UK). I went in and did THE WORST British accent. It was cringe worthy. Chris was so polite and kept a straight face but I remember Rory just looking horrified. He was nice enough to take me aside and say gently ‘Why don’t you try it with your American accent.’ which I then did. I immediately felt the energy in the room change. Both Chris and Rory relaxed a lot! That experience is something that the two of them still tease me about to this day. The positive result was that I started taking accent work seriously, studying with a teacher and performing as a Brit towards the end of my time living there. I remember being so proud to invite Chris to my performance of ‘The Cherry Orchard’ where I was playing a British Charlotta and afterwards I questioned him and he just looked at me and said “Well, Alex, I’ll give it to you, for a second I thought you were British, but I’ll never forget your Emma”. It’s true what they say, first impressions are real!”

Missed Connections was Alexandra’s first time shooting in London and second time filming in the UK. Her first British film, The Last Man, was shot in the woods outside of London in Essex. Filming in London proper is a much different experience than in Essex, her Canadian homeland, or even Hollywood. The Brits are some of the best actors in the world and Harris took every advantage to soak up the experience of the unique British approach. UK productions are more grass roots and unpolished compared to other film centers, on purpose. The feeling on UK shoots of “we’re all in this together” permeates all levels of production. This lack of hierarchy was something to which Harris was unaccustomed but welcomed. This however does not mean that it was any less challenging. The actress notes, “Chris [Presswell] is soooo British. When I say that, I mean that he doesn’t’t suffer fools and really doesn’t overpraise. When he offers a compliment, it’s genuine and it means a lot. We were on the same page from the beginning so we didn’t’t have to talk about the character too much. I would say ‘I’ve been that girlfriend’ and he would say ‘I’ve dated that girl’ so we knew where to go from there. We knew we didn’t want Sophie to be a bitch but rather someone who was at their ropes end.”

The short days and the brutal London winter temperature were unsuccessful in squelching Alexandra’s well-known positivity. Through her performance and a shrewd stroke of casting, she presented Sophie as an emotionally complex character. What might have originally been a secondary antagonist for this film became a stand-out character which captivated audiences. Mentioning how being different was a prominent facet of her character and her involvement in Missed Connections, Harris recalls, “It became the running joke on set that I had to be called the ‘evil American’ because Canadian’s can’t be mean; however, I think my character proved them wrong.”

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Anja Ellam captivates audiences with her writing of new film “The Woods”

There is one thing about her that shines above all else: she is an entertainer. She is extremely multi-talented, and uses her writing and acting skills to captivate audiences around the world, whether through film, YouTube, or various social media platforms. There is truly no limit to what she can accomplish.

Ellam has tens of thousands of followers on her Instagram, with a strong impact on Twitter as well, and as an influencer has helped many companies and shows gain a following and audience. Working with AwesomenessTV, both her writing and influencing skills have boosted the show to have millions of views. With the extremely popular app, the ArsenicTV Snapchat story gets over 500,000 views daily, and as a host and influencer for the show, Ellam is a large part of that. However, it was with the film The Woods where Ellam’s impressive natural writing talents became truly evident to worldwide audiences.

“Relationships between siblings can be complicated, especially if they’re teenagers. I wanted to show why the older sister in the film was so angry, because this is a common conflict between sisters,” said Ellam.

The Woods tells the story of two sisters at a party, who get lost in the woods while leaving. The film is about two sisters who get lost in the woods while leaving a party. They quickly realize they’re lost and will have to work together to get out, and push through the fighting and angst between them.

“I wanted to do something simple: two characters, one location,” Ellam described. “The sisters’ relationship is based on my sisters and my relationship.”

Ellam wrote the film entirely by herself. Originally, she wanted to experiment with her writing and work on a project that her friends could be a part of. She wrote the script while trying to think of the simplest way to make a short, but the story developed the more she wrote.

“The story is all dialogue driven which is a fun challenge for me as a writer. I also ended up directing it, which is something I’m not familiar with but my team believed in me, and I did know the script and the vision, so I hope the viewers can see it too,” she said.

Viewers definitely see the vision. The film has gone on to be shown at several prestigious international film festivals.  After premiering at the UK Monthly Film Festival, Ellam won the new filmmakers award at the Mediterranean Film Festival (MedFF). It also was just selected as a semi-finalist for the Miami Epic Trailer Festival.

“It’s a really amazing feeling that the film has been so well-received. It’s one thing to write something that people like ,but actually making it and still having people want to watch it is really cool. I know that sounds weird to say, but we did this on a very small budget with only one shooting day. It’s nerve racking because if something doesn’t work it’s almost like you can’t redo it. I’m glad people think we were able to do a good job. It’s had to get your vision across so I’m glad people saw what we were going for,” Ellam said.

All those that worked with Ellam on the film immediately saw that she was an extraordinary writer, and all of the success that the film has received could never have been possible without the vision and talent she brought with her. Maxwell Peters, a Los Angeles based Screenwriter, Director, and Producer, produced The Woods. He says her commitment to the film made it the success that is it.

“Over the course of the past two years I’ve worked with Anja on multiple projects. Most recently I produced her short film The Woods, which she wrote and directed. Anja is easy to work with and had a firm grasp on what she was doing. She worked with her actors with ease and was able to get wonderful performances out of all of them, aside from that she was able to work with crew in an effective and efficient manner,” said Peters.

Even without all the accolades and awards, the experience of writing The Woods was unforgettable for Ellam. She knew what she wanted to do from the beginning, and using her creativity, she was able to make something unforgettable for audiences as well. The film even has a twist ending, which was just plain fun for Ellam to write.

“I liked writing the ending the best. I didn’t know how I was going to end it at first, but I knew I wanted it to be unexpected. I had a lot of fun experimenting with different ending options,” said Ellam. “I took this ending honestly because I think happy endings are boring. I considered having them not make it out but I thought leaving it a little more open ended was a bit more surprising. I love twist endings.”

Be sure to check out what happens to the two sisters by seeing Ellam’s fabulous work in The Woods.

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.

YVETTE GREGORY IS WINE TASTING

WineTastingScreenGrab1

While actress Yvette Gregory looks like Beatriz Jones, the character she plays in the Eros Panhellenios 2017 film Wine Tasting, the dichotomy is clear when you study each woman. It’s even more clear for the woman who becomes the other. The two may share some history with wine, Gregory’s family has a vineyard (Hentley Farm in South Australia) and Jones is in a relationship with a sommelier, but that’s close to the only intersection for these two. While Beatriz is a bit “tightly wound”, Yvette has been an artist seeking out challenges since her days as a child on set in her homeland of Australia. It’s ironic that it takes someone as free spirited as Gregory to convincingly portray the constrained Jones. It’s just one aspect in a series of counter intuitive preconceptions you might make about Gregory…which you’ll soon learn to realign.

Having already experienced a highly successful acting career in Australia and enjoying a comfortable living would be enough for most of us but for Gregory there is always a new mountain to climb. Entertainment is in her DNA (her mother was a model) and she was in front of the camera while still in her single digits. Acting was as everyday as…well, everyday life. While notoriety and financial compensation is the definition of success for most people, new challenges and the pursuit of her craft are paramount for Yvette. Leaving her stable and successful acting career, family, and friends in Australia; this actress headed to Los Angeles in search of success in Hollywood.

The pursuit of success and the conflict it can cause is the theme of Wine Tasting in which Gregory portrayed Beatriz Jones, the girlfriend of aspiring Sommelier Ed Tate (played by Josh Thrower). Wine Tasting follows four men who have struggled and sacrificed vast swaths of their personal and professional lives to become professional wine tasters. When all but one of them passes the incredibly difficult sommelier certification test, the ensuing conflict threatens to tear their close-knit group apart. Yvette’s character is one of the men’s girlfriends, and throughout the film she struggles to maintain their relationship as his wine-tasting obsession becomes overwhelming. Wine Tasting’s Award Winning script by Justin Samuels has won awards at Film Festivals including: the Beverly Hills Film Festival, Sunscreen Film Festival, Evolution and Mallorca International Film Festival, and is an Official Selection to the San Rafael Film Festival. The theme of success, community, and conflict is not foreign to Yvette or her chosen profession. She comments, “Of course we all have that little green monster inside of us. I would say it’s probably even more prevalent in the entertainment Industry. Everyone has their own path and if you stay in line long enough, your turn will eventually come. I have friends who have found success back home and in Hollywood very quickly and others who have hustled for decades. I know my biggest character defect is when I start to compare myself to someone else. It’s good to take a step back, look at what you have accomplished and find gratitude for everything you have achieved so far. The main difference is if you recognize these things in yourself or if you impulsively act on them. One of the great things about acting is that you do a lot of introspection, which allows you to not just react without thinking.” Gregory is much more actualized than the main characters of Wine Tasting who are sometimes defined by the situations that occur in their lives.

Yvette’s role as adult escort Stephanie in Amazon’s “Private Sales” couldn’t be further from herself or Beatriz but the role gave the actress a great deal of exposure, leading to opportunities such as her role in Wine Tasting. While “lady of the evening” may not cause you to think “girlfriend”, the producers of Wine Tasting recognized something in the portrayal that worked exceedingly well. Gregory agrees, “I think my role in ‘Private Sales’ played a big a part in this casting even though Beatriz who I was cast as in Wine Tasting couldn’t be any more different than the role I played in ‘Private Sales’! Beatriz is totally reserved and a bit of a prude with jealousy and trust issues about her boyfriend. I think I pull off the pretty nerd look and that’s Beatriz’ vibe, which helped casting decipher the role for me pretty quickly. Beatriz is a bit conservative and reserved but isn’t afraid to tell it how it is when it gets to the breaking point. She really loves Ed but is torn because he slowly becomes more and more distant, showing little respect for her time. Relationships are hard at the best of times but, when a relationship is new and other commitments seem to become more important, it really tests the trust and stability of the relationship. Beatriz is intelligent, articulate and loving but she is also a little emotionally immature. They both have a lot of growing up to do.”

The conflict that comes from a lack of time is not restricted to relationships and their love. Yvette was cast as Beatriz almost as filming was set to start. Even when you love what you do, a cramped timeline can lead to anxiety. Inevitable last minute changes occur, as in all productions, but the time afforded most actors to truly and deeply understand their character was significantly reduced for this actress…not that you would ever know it. Wine Tasting’s director, Josh Miller, declares, “Yvette is an exceptional actress with everything a director could want from a performer. Her ability to adapt to changes in the material is remarkable, and her talent for improvisation is second to none. Yvette was one of Wine Tasting’s most valuable assets.” You won’t hear any complaining about the twelve plus hour shooting days or lack of prep time from Gregory who is fully aware that she is living out her dream. Even though dreams don’t come easy, they do come with perks. Yvette remarks, “Shooting at the famous Saban Theater in Beverly Hills was a special treat. With all the history of the great actors who have performed there, it demanded excellence of all of us. If I were to be honest, that’s the reason I left behind what I had already achieved in Australia. I wanted to be working in a new setting that demanded excellence from me. Travelling to Hollywood to work alongside those who I perceived to be at the upper echelon of the industry, that’s what success means to me…and it feels pretty great.”

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Actor Varick Addler: One Talented German on Everyone’s Radar

Varick Addler
Actor Varick Addler shot by Chris Janik

Germany has a lot of claims to fame. The country has produced innovative scientists, ground-breaking philosophers, brilliant artists and composers, not to mention some of the best beers in the world; and with award-winning actor Varick Addler on the list, they can count captivating screen talent among their many notable attributes.

In 2012 Varick Addler took home the Audience Award for Best Performance in a Supporting Role at the Nuremberg Human Rights Film Festival (NIHRFF) for his remarkable performance in the film “Mimikry – Upside Down.” Early on in his career Addler honed his skills at some of the most recognizable acting school across the globe, including the NYFA New York Film Academy in Los Angeles, the William Esper School in New York, the Munich Film Academy and more.

With a plethora of lead roles in film and television projects that span virtually every genre, Addler’s brilliant repertoire of work reveals him as an actor with impressive range, one who easily inhabits his characters and seamlessly brings them to life on screen.

One of Addler’s first professional roles on screen came nearly a decade ago when he played a key Soldier in the 2008 action film “The German,” which took home the Nando Award from the Novara Cine Festival. Directed by Nick Ryan, whose 2012 documentary “The Summit” was awarded at the Sundance Film Festival and earned the Irish Film and Television Award for Best Documentary and Best Feature Documentary, as well as the Boulder International Film Festival’s BIFF Award for Best Adventure Film, “The German” gave viewers the first taste of Varick Addler’s unparalleled skill in the action genre– an area of his craft that he’s become increasingly well-known for on an international level in years since.

Since his debut action role in “The German,” Addler has gone on to give memorable performances in a pretty impressive list of well-known action-packed films and series including the 2010 Golden Globe nominated film “Red” starring Golden Globe Winner Bruce Willis (“Die Hard”) and Oscar Award winner Helen Mirren (“The Queen”), CBS’s two-time Primetime Emmy Award winning series “CSI: Miami” and the Primetime Emmy nominated crime series “NCIS: Los Angeles” starring Golden Globe nominee Chris O’Donnell (“Batman & Robin”), “Law & Order: LA” and Germany’s long-running cop drama “Tatort,” which has earned over 96 award including seven Bambi Awards and six Adolf Grimme Awards, one of the most prestigious awards presented in German television.

Varick Addler
Actor Varick Addler

While Addler’s appeal as an action star is undeniable, his magnetism on-screen is by no means limited to the fast-paced, heart-pumping genre alone.

German audiences will immediately recognize Addler for his recurring lead role as Johnas Schneller on the hit romantic drama series “Verbotene Liebe,” aka “Forbidden Love,” which earned the Golden Rose Award at the Rose d’Or Light Entertainment Festival. The long-running series initially centered on the wealthy Anstetten family and the middle-class Brandner family– specifically on the forbidden love between Jan Bradner and Julia von Anstetten which, although unknown to them, are twins separated at birth.

As the series progressed “Verbotene Liebe” moved away from the drama of Jan and Julia’s love affair and centered instead on a new family, the Lahnsteins, and that’s when viewers really get to see Addler in action. A family with dark and dirty secrets by the plenty, Addler’s character comes onto the show as the unpredictable and abusive father of series star Tanja von Lahnstein, played by Miriam Lahnstein (“The Peppercorns”).

Over the course of the series Addler reveals his ability to go from charismatic to manipulative and downright scathing. Addler breathes such vile life into Johnas Schneller that he easily became the show’s character everyone loved to hate. Out of all his atrocious acts though, the worst and most defining comes when Schneller who, in the middle of beating his daughter Tanja, pushes his son Thomas down the stairs to his death. To make matters worse, Schneller blames the murder on Tanja, a key plot points that sends Tanja into a mental institution for several years after her brother’s death.

It was a very challenging role, since it is not easy to deal properly with the issue of child abuse. I am now father myself of two little boys and the thought that something could happen to my children makes me very sad and angry. More incomprehensible how a father can torment his own child in such a way,” Addler admits.

“I don’t have much in common with that character, however, as an actor I must be able to getting into the character and understand their motivation. Preparation is more than knowing your lines. It is embodying the life of the character.”

While fans of Tanja’s character were understandably thrilled when Addler’s character was reported to have died as she did time in an institution, Tanja was far from being free of her noxious father. The series brought Schneller back again and again as a ghost returning from the dead to haunt Tanja with repeated attacks, which says a lot about the character, and the actor, as he was clearly too strong of a draw factor for audiences for the show’s creators to let him die out.

With a number of riveting performances in both European and U.S. productions, Varick Addler has established an indelible reputation for himself as a captivating and dynamic performer whose boundary pushing talent allows him to portray characters within every genre.

Up next for Addler is the highly anticipated action film “Out for Vengeance” directed by Angel Film Award winner Salar Zarza.

Q & A with Actress Francesca De Luca!

Actress Francesca De Luca
Actress Francesca De Luca shot by Lionfly Studios

First taking to the screen as Countess Albrizzi and Albrizzi’s ghost, in the UK’s hit ITV seriesStrange But True” alongside famed English presenter Michael Aspel, actress Francesca De Luca has carved out an impressive reputation as a performer whose magnetic energy on screen keeps audiences engaged in every role she plays. Over the years she accumulated a pretty extensive list of credits that includes the films “Orpheus & Eurydice,” “Lateshift,” “Taxi,” “Anna and Modern Day Slavery,”  as well as the TV series “Down & Out” and “Leenden University.”  

For Francesca De Luca 2016 has been a major success with the actress taking on a critical role in five-time Oscar Award winner Francis Ford Coppola’s (“The Godfather,” “Apocalypse Now”) recent film project “Distant Vision,” which also stars Lou Volpe from “The Bold and the Beautiful” and Francesca Fanti from the four-time Oscar nominated film “Nine.”

De Luca gave a memorable performance as iconic English ballet dancer Margot Fonteyn in the docudrama “Jeremiah Tower: The Last Magnificent,” which had it’s world premier at the Tribeca Film Festival in April. De Luca also starred in the film “Passports,” which earned awards from California Women’s Film Festival and the Accolade Global Film Competition, in addition to being chosen as an Official Selection of several other prominent festivals including Atlanta Shorts Fest, Laughlin International Film Festival and Film Invasion LA.

Francesca De Luca has earned quite a bit of attention for her finesse when it comes to taking on boundary-pushing dramatic roles, as well as for her spot-on portrayals of historical figures such as Countess Albrizzi and Margot Fonteyn; but her strengths on screen don’t stop there. She is also a master of comedy, something she proved with her performances as Fiorella in the Royal Television Society award winning series “Sundae” and Sonja in Robbie Moffat’s (“Sisters Grimm,” “Dark Side of Heaven”) comedy film “Heckle,” as well as with her role in the series “Down & Out” where she acts alongside A.B. Farelly from the film “There’s Something About Mary.”

While the dynamic nature of De Luca’s craft has helped her make a name for herself in film and television, she’s also been featured in several music videos including one for DJ Goldroom’s hit song “California Rain,” which was featured on MTV’s Snapchat and helped launch the Snapchat Snap Channel in 2015. You can also see her in a national commercial for Turner Classic Movies as well as the music video for Olos’ “Real Talk.”

To find out more about Francesca De Luca, what it was like working with Francis Ford Coppola and what’s next for her, make sure to check out our interview below!

Where are you from? 

FDL: London, England. I was born in Hammersmith, London and am of Italian origin. My great grandparents came over from Italy in the late 1800’s. I was brought up by my mother with the help of my grandfather, as my father left when I was two. My grandfather was a real inspiration to me as a person and I feel very lucky to have had him in my life.

When and how did you get into acting?

FDL: My mother took me to dance classes from the age of 6, ballet, tap and modern, which I loved. Then I started competing in poetry festivals reciting poems. I felt at home and confidant on the stage, it gave me the space to express myself. I became more serious about acting at the age of 16 when I auditioned for the school play and was offered the role of the flirtatious nurse or the main role of the hunchbacked German owner of a lunatic asylum who goes mad at the end of the play! Guess which one I chose?! I loved the challenge of that role, even though the nurse would have made me more popular with the boys! In fact my best friend did not initially recognize that it was me on stage! –which I was always amused about as it was a complement to my acting ability! I won the school’s award cup for the best actor that year. After this experience I was hooked on real acting and knew it had to be my vocation.

What is it about acting that drives you to perform?

FDL: I love to make an audience feel something whether it’s through comedy or drama, and the emotion and truth of a character. I love making people laugh, feel and think, and I love to get my teeth into a script where the character has depth, contrasts and experiences an emotional journey.

I love to bring characters to life on both the screen and the stage. I love to explore all parts of myself and bring my life experience to a role. I am interested in psychology and feel I understand how complex we are as humans, with all of our quirks, patterns and vulnerabilities, no matter how tough we appear on the outside.

I like to make a role come alive in the present, and am excited by the challenge and process of bouncing off the other actors and seeing what happens! When I started acting I thought it was about hiding myself until I realized that it was completely the opposite, it’s about showing who you are, your vulnerability and all that it encompasses is what I feel makes an actor really watchable. We are all complex and have contradictions within us and we all share many of the same fears and want to be loved and to love.

Can you tell us about the film “Passports” that you recently shot?

FDL: The film follows Tanya who returns after six wild years of travelling. Once home, her mother and grandma make her join an online dating site and go on a date. The date is a visit to a psychic. During the visit unexpected events occur and the guy hits on the psychic secretively sliding to her a piece of paper saying ” Call me.” The psychic ignores him and tells Tanya her fortune and after Tanya shows the psychic a ‘new’ game of magic in which she makes her date’s car keys disappear. From then on things get heated between the three.  This film is a dramedy with beautiful cinematography and interesting characters.

How does your character fit into the story?

FDL: My character is the psychic who the other main characters in the film, who are played by Ekeobong Utibe and Coty Galloway, go on a date to visit. However the guy shows his true colours and ends up hitting on the psychic and emotions get heated. My character comes across as quirky and puts on a front of mystery and that makes for some comedy when she is reading the girl’s future.  She gets more than she bargained for when a game of magic starts and mayhem ensues.

What was your favorite part about working on this film?

FDL: I enjoyed working with the two talented writer/directors Jeremy Pion Berlin and Adam Linkenhelt in making my character three dimensional and in bringing the comedy out from the truth of the situation. The psychic was a woman just doing her job with the same spiel day after day. She’s bored by all of the guys hitting on her, and the same old “I see love in your future” line she gives. The magic that happens in the scene excites her and when the guy loses his temper later  she makes sure she is still paid and handles the situation well. I created a backstory of her life in my head so that the character was more real and the comedy would come from the truth of the situation. Jeremy and Adam encouraged improvisation.

When I first auditioned I did an American accent and then told them I was British and did a cockney accent and then my own accent which is standard British. They loved my cockney accent and then decided on using my own natural accent. They asked me to improvise in the audition as if I was a psychic giving a reading to them which went very well. They told me soon after that they wanted to cast me, which was great and I loved the way we all worked together. They are talents to watch out for in the future and I look forward to working with them again later in 2017 on their first feature film “Illynger” in which I will play a lead role. I can’t wait!

Has the premiere date for “Passports” been set yet?

FDL: Yes we had a Hollywood premiere in July at Raleigh Studios Hollywood, The Charlie Chaplin  theater.

You were also in Francis Ford Coppola’s film “Distant Vision,” can you tell us about the story the film brings to the screen?

FDL: “Distant Vision” is about a multi generational Italian American family set in New York whose history spans the development of television. I believe some of the characters were inspired by his own family. I play one of the Italian relatives.

 Francis Ford Coppola
Francesca De Luca (left) and Francis Ford Coppola (right)

What was it like working with Coppola?

FDL: It was such an honour working with Francis. A dream come true for sure as he is a such a master director. He showed immense passion for this project and was a very humble genuine man.

I couldn’t believe it when he was actually there in person at my first audition. I had to hide my nerves at first but soon relaxed. We got on very well and he asked me about my Italian history. He told me I looked like one of his relatives. I told him I understood the perspective of immigrants and how it feels, and I joked that while I am born in London my Italian roots show through as I use my hands when talking, a gesture that I was doing at that same moment! It was easy to talk to Francis and he reminded me of my grandfather with his warmth. When he talks to you he looks you right in the eyes and really listens. It felt like I had known him for years. Such a lovely man. He spoke about how important it is to be yourself and how the character becomes us. He used examples from actors like Al Pacino when he was filming “The Godfather.”

It was amazing being one of the first actors in the world to be  part of his innovative ‘Live Cinema’ experiment, something no other filmmaker has attempted yet!

Live cinema utilizes feeds from several cameras, instant replay servers, which he switches live with very advanced broadcast equipment. It is an ongoing project that will take several years to complete I believe. It’s a hybrid of theater, film and television.

As a director he was very direct and calm. He is so highly intelligent and creative and it felt like I was in “The Godfather” especially as we all looked so Italian and the actors he chose were very entrancing. It was like he was painting a picture with every shot and his attention to detail was amazing. It was clear he wanted us all to be relaxed and he let us bond naturally with each other. It felt like a real family on set.

Can you tell us about some of the film projects you’ve done?

FDL: In the film “Orpheus & Eurydice” I played the sorceress Aglaoniki, one of the leads alongside Oliver Reed. It was filmed around Athens, Greece. My character was the baddie in the movie. She kills Orpheus and Eurydice. Oliver Reed was the narrator. Oliver Reed was one of my favorite actors and I was so happy to be in a feature film with such a great iconic actor. Aglaoniki was a fun role and I enjoyed giving her layers, not just being evil. She is in love with Orpheus and he rejects her and she feels that pain of rejection but going to stronger lengths than we would usually go, by killing him and his love Eurydice by putting a spell on her so she gets killed by a snake!

We filmed a lot of the scenes in a cave outside Athens and my character had an altar. There was a scene in which Orpheus was supposed to get angry with me and the director told the actor to hit me with his lyre! I remember the actor looking at me in shock, wondering how we would do that without me actually being hurt. I think he ended up trying to ‘strangle’ me as that was easier! I had just done a film acting course in London with director Bob Bierman and relished the idea of using what I had just learned in this film; however I soon realized the director did not like the subtle acting I was hoping for, he kept asking for me to go bigger!

It was Oliver Reed’s second to last film around the time he shot “Gladiator.” I feel fortunate to have had the chance to work with him before he died. The movie was shown in theaters across Greece and had a mix of American, British and Greek actors. I was featured in the Greek version of Hello Magazine and newspapers in London and interviewed on radio in London about the film.

I played Margot Fonteyn in the feature docu-drama “Jeremiah Tower: The Last Magnificent,” which was produced by Zero Point Zero and Anthony Bourdain for CNN Films. It has been successful in major film festivals such as Tribeca where it premiered this year, and it will be shown on CNN in 2017. Directed by Lydia Tenaglia, “Jeremiah Tower: The Last Magnificent” is a story about the life of Jeremiah Tower, one of the most controversial and influential figures in the history of American gastronomy. In one section of the film set in the 60’s it documents his well known dinner parties in which the famous ballerina Margot Fonteyn, my character, was an anticipated guest.

“Taxi” is a film in which I played a taxi driver and the film follows her throughout her day giving the audience a day in the life experience of what it’s like to be a female taxi driver. This film was largely improvised which was an aspect I enjoyed. This film was shown at The Cannes Film Festival Short Film Corner a few years back. I had the opportunity to see it at the festival in Cannes and see other films at the festival which was a great experience.

How about television projects?

FDL: I played an Italian Countess, Countess Albrizzi, in the seriesStrange But True,” which was shown on London Weekend Television, one of the UK’s three main tv stations,  and had very high ratings which was great. The story was set in the 1800’s and my character is killed by her husband who found out she was cheating on him so she could get pregnant as she had thought him to be infertile. He got so angry that he chopped off her head! You didn’t actually see that in the show though… we just hear her scream as he comes towards her with an axe! Very gruesome! My character then turned into a ghost and haunted the palace. This was based on a true incident and Joan Collins was filmed telling this story in between the reenactments, as it was actually her who had seen my character’s ghost when she stayed in Venice at the Palazzo. The ghost was seen walking out of a painting of herself.

In the comedy tv series “Down And Out” I played one of the three leads alongside A.B. Farrelly, the daughter of Bobby Farrelly, one of the Farrelly brothers who directed several great comedy movies like “Dumber and Dumber” and “Something About Mary.” A.B. is a well respected comedy actress and stand up comedian and she was so lovely to work with. My character was Margo, an attractive lipstick lesbian, a successful go getter who gets herself in trouble by speaking before she thinks. She is one of three women who are coming out. My character has a very funny scene with her crazy therapist played by the talented Malcolm Matthews. I loved working with him. It was a fun scene to film. “Down and Out” was written and produced by Annie C Wright.

The show was chosen as an Official Selection of Webfest and LA Cinefest, and was featured on the front page of the One More Lesbian website, the leading platform for high quality Lesbian film and TV.

In “Justice For All with Cristina Perez” I played an American litigant. I can’t reveal more as it has not been shown yet! It was filmed live and the questions from Cristina Perez were not given to me before filming so I had to know this character’s backstory inside and out! A good challenge for me!

In “Sundae” I  played Fiorella, the daughter of an Anglo-Italian Family in London. “Sundae” was the Runner up in Royal Television Society Awards for Best TV Pilot. My highlight in the show is when I get angry with my boyfriend and squash a big plate of spaghetti on his head!

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

FDL: Firstly the script. If it’s well written and also if the character develops throughout the story. I have to feel that I can’t wait to get my teeth into this script. Then the director. If we click at the audition and I can see us working well together.

Actress Francesca De Luca
Actress Francesca De Luca shot by Lionfly Studios

Do you feel that you get cast to play a certain type of character more than others?

FDL: Yes– evil, mysterious, bitchy, quirky, strong are possible adjectives to describe the roles I’ve played. The psychic I played in “Passports” is quirky and comedic. My comedic role in “Down And Out” was a strong woman discovering herself and I played a bitchy Northern English heckler in “Heckle.” I play a bitchy mother in “Your Move,” a new series coming out in 2017 and I played a mysterious Russian secret agent in “Anna and Modern Day Slavery.”

Out of all your productions, what has been your favorite project, or projects, so far and why?

FDL: Of course being part of Francis Ford Coppola’s “Distant Vision” project has been the pinnacle of my career and I loved working in the presence of such a master. One of my favorite acting experiences has also been being directed by Sir Timothy Ackroyd. I feel he helped me hone my acting craft. Playing Carla in the stage production of “Kennedy’s Children” was wonderful as I hired an accent coach to help us all with the American accents and I feel I perfected my Texan accent which was good so that I could forget about the accent and focus on the acting alone. She was an interesting character with flaws and insecurities that she was trying to surmount while going for her dream in Hollywood. And finally working as the psychic on “Passports” was a challenge as I wanted to make her real, three dimensional and  not hammed up.

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

FDL: Comedy and drama, dramedy and also fantasy. I like all of these. I have a well developed sense of humor and have a strong feel for comic timing and seem to make people laugh with my choices! I remember one of my acting teachers recently saying “You could make a fortune out of comedy!” I love drama too with emotional situations. I like paying a villain who people love to hate or people pushed to their limits or in difficult situations. The list is endless, I love a challenge. If people tell me I have moved them or made them laugh or uplifted them or made them think, I feel fulfilled and happy that I have done my job. I feel I have a lot to give.

What separates you from other actors? What do you feel your strongest qualities are?

FDL: Depth of character. I am good at showing contrasts in characters. I take direction very quickly and I can improvise well. I am good at getting great results on the first take. I have a large range of emotions and life experiences that I can draw upon and have taught me about myself and other people. I am excellent at accents and changing the tone of my voice and physicality. I give my all to any role I play and am always looking to learn and become a better actor. I have a genuine love for my craft and am easy to work which helps bring out the best in others I work with. My presence adds to making the production a success.

What projects do you have coming up?

FDL: Later in 2017 I will be shooting the feature film “Illynger” with the directors of “Passports.”

I’ve also just started freelancing with one of LA’s top Voiceover agents and look forward to auditioning and booking some great roles. It’s highly likely you will hear me in some big animation movies and TV shows over the next few years! Bill Ratner, one of the US’s busiest voiceover artists, heard my voice reel and immediately recommended me to his agency.

What are your plans for the future?

FDL: To keep on working on my craft and take classes at studios like Groundlings and work further with other world renowned  LA acting teachers like Lesley Khan. In London,  I was one of the founding members of the Anthony Meindl Acting Studio. I was inspired by Anthony Meindl when I first saw his Youtube videos and when he visited London I made sure I did his masterclasses. Then he opened his London Studio helmed by Mitchell Mullen, a seasoned actor from Boston and I never missed a class till I left London for LA in 2013. In London and LA I  did scene study and worked on a variety of scripts. Tony gave me added encouragement to make a career for myself in LA.

What do you hope to achieve in your career as an actor?

FDL: I aim to continue working with talented writers, directors and actors, to make high quality films and tv shows that people will love and to reach a large audience. I want to feel I have made a difference to this world. I want to feel that I have become the best actress I can ever be and keep my sense of humor!

If you weren’t an actor what other profession do you think you would have pursued?

FDL: A fine artist, designer or even a life coach! I am good at painting and am creative and I am good at seeing people’s blocks and weaknesses and would want to help them become happier people.

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.