Category Archives: Actor

Michael Whalley steals the heart of ‘Jean’ and audiences in new film

There is a camaraderie that comes from playing sports. Everyone has the same goal, they wear the uniform, they experience the same victories and failures as a team. For New Zealand’s Michael Whalley, he experiences that same solidarity from acting. He represents the team while still shining on his own. He works with that team spirit to achieve the best result possible. He loves to play, and considers acting a serious game, as each new project brings a new match and a different opponent. To use such a metaphor shows how much Whalley appreciates the intricacies of his craft, and this understanding translates to raw talent for this celebrated actor.

With an esteemed resume and unparalleled versatility, Whalley is an internationally in-demand actor. While working on many acclaimed films, such as the 2015 award-winning feature Psychoanalysis, he has shown the world what he is capable of. His work on Slow West, alongside Michael Fassbender and Ben Mendelsohn, received praise from audiences and critics, and this trend occurs with almost everything Whalley takes on.

“To think I could be paid for doing the very thing I wanted to do every day was such an incredible thought, so I sought to make that my reality,” said Whalley.

Earlier this year, one of Whalley’s newest films was once again a large success.  The actor played the leading character of Beverly Shepherd in the historical romance Jean. The film tells the story of Jean Batten, New Zealand’s greatest pilot, heroine, celebrity, and mystery. Beverly Shepherd is the romantic lead in the film. Beverly is a man with a strong moral backbone, a sense of fun for life and a determination to challenge for the things he wants in both affairs of his career and heart. Despite being the only son of wealthy Sydneysiders, he lacks the pretension of wealth. He can read people and knows instinctively if they are being untruthful. Independent and modern, he is attracted by Jean’s adventurous spirit and mystery. His greatest struggle is attempting to protect Jean from decisions that would put her in danger, only to have to accept that she isn’t someone who wants or needs protection. He knows he has to play a long game of love to not scare her away. Jean had lovers in her life, but Beverly is the one man who truly captures her heart. In the story, audiences see how headstrong Jean is with her life and career, and when Beverley sweeps in and shows her glimpses of recreation, fun and love, he innocently threatens her focus, creating Jean’s ultimate emotional conflict. Therefore, the filmmakers required a seasoned actor to play such a pivotal role in such an important story, and Whalley was the obvious choice, with the talent and passion to go with it.

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Michael Whalley and Kate Elliot in Jean, photo by Ginnie Loane

“Especially in the past few years, it has been of growing importance to remind ourselves of the power women had in shaping the world. Too many films are one-sided in their portrayal of male heroes, and Jean was a heroine that defied the constraints of a male-driven world. The film, the first about Jean Batten, is a piece of entertainment, education and inspiration for New Zealand and the world to see. I had known of Jean Batten in the past, but this was a chance to see behind the tabloids and popular public image into the life of such a mysterious firebrand,” Whalley described.

After premiering earlier this year, the film has seen vast critical success. At the Film Awards New York 2017, Jean won an unprecedented nine awards, including “Best TV Movie” and “Best Drama Special”. These are immensely prestigious honors, as New York Festivals recognize only the best content from over 50 countries around the world. In addition, the film was successful commercially, airing on TVNZ, which reaches over 2 million people and has recently been acquired by distributor Banijay International for the ROW market. Such success could not have been possible without Whalley’s portrayal of Beverly.

“He brought a charm, wit and strength to the character of Beverly Shepherd that we could only imagine.” said the Producer and Writer of the film, Donna Malane.

Taking part in this period piece was enticing for Whalley, and as an actor he is always looking for new challenges and experiences to refine his talent. This story is set in the thirties, and Whalley researched the decade extensively to ensure he would completely transport audiences. Parts of this process were more fun than others, such as driving around an open top 1930s Model A Ford, and getting to know about the planes they were working with, which by a happy coincidence, were taught to Whalley by an old friend of his grandfather, Dennis. However, some parts of the preparation process were more grueling. Whalley had to take on the language, manner of speech and the classic nature of the period drama, and work to make that all ring true for his mouth, body and mind to create a genuine portrayal. To do this, Whalley infused his character with the parts of himself that fit best, which he tries to do for every role he can. This helps create an authenticity that captivates audiences, and what the actor is so well-known for.

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Michael Whalley in Jean, photo by Ginnie Loane

Whalley says getting into the mindset of the time was made easier by the incredible costumes designed by Kirsty Cameron. As soon as he put on his gear, he felt clean, classic and upright. “Putting on my costume became a very important part of my morning ritual to get into Beverly’s shoes, literally,” he joked.

Improvisation also was a great tool for the actor when preparing for filming. During rehearsals with his co-star, Kate Elliott, they would have a series of improvisations around the scripted dialogue, which he says was a sure-fire way to find out what they knew or didn’t know about their characters and the world of the film. These exercises were helpful as the role of Beverly was a refreshing change for the actor, who often plays “punks and public nuisances”, and the character of Beverly is very dependable and ethical.

The actor also uses music frequently to prepare for roles. For Jean, Whalley made a playlist specific to what Beverly may have been listening to at the time, mixed with songs from Postmodern Jukebox to “get in the zone to play”, once again, similar to an athlete.

Undoubtedly, Jean is a must-see, and Whalley is enchanting in it, as he is so well-known to be. His passion for the story is evident, and his passion for what he does is even more so.

“This was a chance to act in an historical and important story in both New Zealand and International history. The true love of Jean Batten, at one point the world’s most famous and respected women. To play a character who had the charm, wit, intelligence and pilot skills to win the heart of the Lady that kept it locked away,” concluded Whalley.

 

Top photo by Ginnie Loane

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NOT YOUR TYPICAL FUNNY MAN: JAMES PRESTON ROGERS

Actor James Preston Rogers is tight lipped about the plot details of the upcoming 2018 release Benjamin (Darius Films). What he is happy to speak about is his enjoyment of being in this film cast alongside so many comedic heavyweights. Rogers is so often noticed and cast for action roles (with a commanding physical presence of 280 lbs. and over six and a half feet tall) that displaying his comedic abilities alongside Kevin Pollak, Dave Foley, Rob Corddry, Peri Gilpin, Cheri Oteri, and numerous others was a joyful difference for him. His appearance as Ulf, a Russian semi-pro hockey player allowed James to stay close to the accent he had developed for the “Siberian” in “Frontier” (on Netflix) playing the nemesis of Jason Momoa’s lead character. The accent is as close as James gets in this film to any aspect of the melee that the Siberian or the combative aspect of Ulf’s hockey career in this comedic role. The inference of Roger’s commanding stature might be the premise of a fish out of water but James takes his place evenly matched alongside so many recognizable faces in the comedic acting world. As director and costar of Benjamin Bob Saget states, “Simply put, James is impressive. His comedy talent is obvious. He understood the role of Ulf and added great depth to it. It would have been easy to present the character as one dimensional but James portrayed Ulf as sincere, deep, and of course with the imperfections that make real people so funny. It was a pleasure to work with him and we were lucky to have him in the cast.”

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Benjamin is the title of the film as well as the character which the story focuses upon. A teen who has decided to delve into drug use, a group of family and friends hold an intervention to dissuade him. During the act of revealing the skeletons in their own closets (in hopes of eliciting a similar response from Benjamin) these individuals all come to realize how they are perhaps living more chaotic lives than the young man they came to help. Rogers appears as the Russian hockey player/boyfriend of Benjamin’s mother Marley, played by Peri Gilpin (perhaps best known as Roz from TV’s “Fraiser”). ULF comes in as Marley’s boyfriend very supportive of her and her situation. Throughout the course of the story ULF realize that he doesn’t fit into this new world he has embarked on, and need to focus more on himself to make his dreams a reality. English is Ulf’s second language. He really loves hockey and Marley and will do anything for either of them as the wild side of the sport and this woman fulfill a part of him. Amongst all the other adults who appeal to Benjamin, Ulf is the character who is likely the most unlike them and therefore has an unexpected connection with the perspective of Benjamin.

Appearing as Ulf is the second time recently that James has appeared as a Russian (the first being in “Frontier”). The language and accent are nearly second nature to this Canadian born actor who spent his childhood and early adult years amongst a variety of cultures. His childhood friends in Toronto were German, Irish, English, Scottish, and originated from many other parts of the world. This was early training for his ears, training that Rogers put to good use in his acting career. In regards to his role in Benjamin, James describes, “The advantage I have over Russian actors is that English is my first language. You need to know that the script is written in English and is for an English audience looking for a Russian accent. It can be difficult for a Russian actor who learned English as a second language to hit all of the nuances of the jokes the writer is looking for. I’m sure it would be the same for me if I were in a Russian language film. Sometimes it’s about what you don’t say and let the space be taken up for the audience to complete the joke in their own mind. This comprehension gives me an advantage and I usually book these kinds of roles over the Russian actors. Like almost anything, you need to know your audience. If you put the accents on too heavy, you will lose your audience. You need to put on just enough and know the comedic timing for the joke to get across.”

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Being cast alongside so many famous comedic actors might seem intimidating, and James admits that it was at first. However, the process became so enjoyable and satisfying that any insecurities took an immediate backseat to the experience. Rogers tells that the scripted and non-scripted jokes were plentiful and the conversations off camera were intelligent and enlightening; proof that like James himself, his costars are far from one dimensional. Rogers feels drawn to roles that (similar to career courses of larger actors like Dwayne Johnson and Jason Momoa) dispel the idea that an actor who is cast in action roles does not possess the ability to be equally gifted in comedy or drama. He confirms, “Just because are tall or in good physical shape doesn’t mean that we don’t have life experiences and emotions that equip us to communicate through the camera and onto an audience. Most well-known actors get painted with one brush and it’s very rare that we get to color outside the lines. I love seeing a comedic actor cast in a dramatic role and present another side of themselves. My father was hilarious and I think that part of that comedy gene exists in me. When I was in 10th or 11th grade we’d have these things called ‘cut-fests’ at school. You’d square off with someone and trade insults. People would cut class just to watch. It was all for laughs. Between my father and the cut-fest I was working on my comedy timing through my entire childhood, I just grew into being a big guy. Benjamin has given me the chance to show that training and the fact that I’m standing alongside some of the best comedic actors in the present day entertainment industry is beyond exciting.” James Preston Rogers has taken his rightful place as the physically and comedically impressive gentleman alongside his talented cohorts and can be seen doing so in Benjamin.

Anna Pniowsky masters different levels of fear to terrify audiences in ‘He’s Out There’

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Photo by Kevin McIntyre

Even at the age of 12, Anna Pniowsky understands that choosing to pursue a career as an actress would not be worth doing for the wrong reasons. It is a cutthroat field to work in and if you wish to become an actress for glamor or fame, it is unlikely that you will be able to withstand the pressure and the challenges that you will be faced with. Pniowsky knows that becoming an actress involves a type of perseverance that most individuals will never require in their lifetimes. She is always on her game, ready for any audition, callback, or role that she is tasked with. On top of that, she has mastered the ability to look self-doubt in the face and turn it away. Her love for acting transcends any obstacle that she comes across and by believing in herself and surrounding herself with people who support her dreams, she has no doubt that she will be acting for years to come.

“If you feel that acting is truly in your blood, remember the well-known adage – it is a marathon, not a sprint. It takes a lot of auditions before you book something. You will feel self-doubt and you will want to give up, but if you truly love it, you can push forward. You just have to believe in yourself,” told Pniowsky.

Despite her age, Pniowsky has earned herself a breadth of experience and training in her field. Just this past year, she landed the lead role in a film written, directed, and starred in by Oscar-winning actor Casey Affleck. The film, Light of My Life, is a drama about a father (played by Affleck) and his daughter (played by Pniowsky) who live on the outskirts of a society that was destroyed by a pandemic ten years ago. Buzz about Pniowsky’s role in the film is already gaining traction as being a career-defining moment for the talented young actress and audiences everywhere are eager to see what happens when it premieres.

Prior to filming Light of My Life, Pniowsky won the role of Kayla in Sony Screen Gems’ horror film, He’s Out There. He’s Out There depicts the terrifying tale of a mother and her two daughters who take a vacation to a remote lake house and wind up being tormented by a murderer in the woods. In the film, Pniowsky acted alongside celebrated actress Yvonne Strahovski, as well as her little sister, Abby. She was paramount to the film’s storyline and appears in the entire duration of the film. In order to play her character as convincingly as possible, Pniowsky endeavored to master multiple different ways of appearing frightened. Since her character is scared throughout the entirety of the film, she felt it was very important to develop her character to be dynamic and she avoided appearing one-dimensional at all costs. With that, she developed various different levels of fear that she could transition back and forth between, depending on the intensity of the scene. In doing so, she created a character that audiences can relate to, and ideally, will identify with as they embark upon the journey that the film aims to take them on.

The film’s director, Dennis Iliadis, could not have been more pleased with Pniowsky’s performance. Knowing that the quality of the film rested entirely on the performance of his cast, he was determined to find actresses that could emulate the mood of the film directly into its audience. When asked about Pniowsky’s performance, Iliadis had the following to say:

“Anna was phenomenal to work with. For such a young age, she’s an actress of incredible intelligence, sensibility and instinct. I have never worked with a young actor or actress who is so hard working, disciplined and focused. We had a very emotionally demanding and technically difficult shoot but in those very challenging conditions, Anna gave a great performance in a role of strenuous physicality and very complex and heightened emotions. Even in the most difficult situations, Anna was always prepared, always ready to go. She really made the rest of us up our game.”

After wrapping He’s Out There, Pniowsky gained a new appreciation for the horror film genre. Most mainstream horror films today have one goal and that is to terrify an audience. It is rare, however, to be able to act in a horror film with an underlying moral compass. Pniowsky was fortunate enough to be able to identify the deeper meanings that the story tells. Not only is it a story that highlights the unrelenting strength of a mother’s love for her children, it also does an excellent job of emphasizing a journey of personal growth in Pniowsky’s character. She found herself inspired by the presence of strong, female characters in the film and feels that young girls can learn a lot from Kayla’s will and determination to survive. She loved seeing strong female characters taking charge and fighting hard for what they believe in. It is a message that women of all ages can carry with them beyond the film and into their own personal lives and Pniowsky was honored to be able to play a role in helping foster that movement.

From High Tension Thrillers to Cutting Edge Emotional Dramas, Actress Daniela Junko’s Range Continues to Impress

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Actress Daniela Junko

When an actor brings a character to life on screen with such seamless believability, we’re sometimes led to wonder– is this character really just a natural extension of the actor’s off screen self? It’s when we see actors take on characters that are the polar opposite from one another and still deliver that same flawless authenticity (those such as Charlize Theron in “Monster” compared to “The Legend of Bagger Vance,” Jennifer Lawrence in “The Hunger Games” series compared to “Silver Linings Playbook” and Denzel Washington in “Training Day” compared to “The Magnificent Seven,” to name a few), that is when we know the true strength of an actor’s craft. One such actor who boasts an undeniably impressive range that places her in the upper echelon of the world’s most skilled actors is Daniela Junko.

Tall, exotic and beautiful, Daniela Junko’s look gives her the coveted ability to easily portray leading ladies on screen ranging from the femme fatale to the damsel in distress and everything in between. Her physical attributes aside, it is what she brings to the table in terms of talent that has really made her a powerhouse in the industry.

Over the years Junko, who is originally from Brazil, has become known for her starring roles in films such as Frank Lopez’s (“Tangerine Sky”) award-winning crime drama “Three Kings Down,” the twisted thriller films “I Am Tommy Talbot” and “The Incision” with Delpaneaux Wills from the two-time Golden Globe Award winning series “American Crime Story,” the hit feature film “Rough Mix” with Asian Television Award winners Kay Tong Lim and Rebecca Lim, and most recently the emotional drama “Alone,” which screened at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year.

When asked what drives her as an actress, Junko explained, “As funny as it may sound, humans. We are such beautiful and complex creatures, even if we were capable of living for hundreds of years we would still not go through all the emotions and experiences that life has to present us with. To be able to study, understand and portray those different emotions, perhaps even help someone open their mind is a gift.”

From her body of work it is easy to see Junko’s interest, aptitude and dedication to discovering and experiencing the wide spectrum of emotional responses available and the many ways each individual character’s past experiences frame those responses.   

Two of Junko’s projects that really shine a light on her inimitable capacity to bring two completely different characters in two totally different genres to life are the films “Alone” and “The Incision.”

In Tekin Girgin’s thrilling crime drama “The Incision,” which centers on an organ trafficking ring led by an unscrupulous entrepreneur looking to expand his business, Junko gave a chilling  performance as Jessica, the point person who leads potential victims (or ‘organ donors’ as her character might refer to them) into situations where they are drugged and operated on. The leading lady of the film, Junko carefully imbues Jessica with multiple layers that make her intriguing and scathing simultaneously. The way she initially comes across, mesmerizing victims with her beauty and appearing affable and trustworthy, to her true essence as an evil power hungry woman with no identifiable value for human life, Junko’s performance on screen is difficult to peel our eyes away from as we wonder what her character is going to do next.

Whereas “The Incision” proved Junko’s flare for playing the villain, her role in the 2017 drama “Alone” directed by Angelo Perrino (“Dirty Spaghetti,” “The Lost Samurai”) revealed the actress in a very different light.

Riddled with vulnerability and emotional turmoil, her performance as Emma, a beautiful woman struggling to cope with debilitating depression, earned Junko a prestigious Best Actress Award nomination at the Madrid International Film Festival– and to anyone who’s seen the film, it comes as no surprise.

Starring opposite Swell Soubra, who is known for his work on the multi-award winning film “Lost Angels” and plays Emma’s boyfriend in “Alone,” Daniella powerfully depicts the paralyzing struggles those diagnosed with clinical depression face on an everyday basis. The on screen chemistry between Soubra and Junko is evident throughout the film, which is understandable considering their a couple off screen as well.

I love working with [Daniela], she is a tireless worker who demands the most from herself and everyone around her and she’s always great to be around. She is an incredible actress and storyteller,” explained “Alone” director Angelo Perrino. “The whole film would not exist without her… She is the film.”

Incapable of being typecast, Daniela Junko is one actress who has managed to defy all genre limitations and pre-existing expectations concerning the kinds of characters she takes on. Up next for Junko is the film “Killer Issues,” which will be directed by Jonathan Cocco (“Abduction,” “Twice Blessed”) and is expected to begin filming in 2018.

Actor Profile: Australia’s Madalein Jackson

Madalein Jackson
Australian actress Madalein Jackson

Hailing from Newcastle, Australia actress Madalein Jackson first took to the stages at the age of 7. Performing in multiple theatre productions over the course of her childhood and teenage years, Jackson realized early on that acting was a passion she had to follow.

“I find acting to be extremely cathartic; it’s such a great outlet for expressing yourself.  Acting has always been a weird obsession for me that has sometimes been difficult to make sense of… There is also nothing like the rush of performing, I cannot think of anything else that compares to the feeling,” explains Jackson.

One of the aspects of Jackson’s talent that has made her such a dynamic asset to the theatre productions she’s starred in to date is her remarkable singing voice. Early on in her career Jackson’s voice landed her a coveted spot in Newcastle’s Hunter Singers choir, with which she travelled and performed across both Australia and Europe.

“Being a member of Hunter Singers improved my singing technique immensely… we were constantly learning and performing new repertoire, helping me to develop fast learning and excellent sight-reading skills, both of which are extremely beneficial in the musical theatre world.” explains Jackson about being selected to sing for one Australia’s premiere vocal groups.

“I was lucky enough to be part of the European tour to Austria, England and Wales, as well as competing at the Llangollen International Eisteddfod and being part of premiere performances of commissioned works by renowned Australian composers Stephen Leek, Paul Jarman and Gordon Hamilton.”

Jackson’s seasoned skill as an actress coupled with her powerful singing voice has made here a natural choice for leading roles in an impressive list of esteemed productions in Australia, such as “Urinetown,” “Seussical,” “Pride & Prejudice,” “Les Miserables,” “Animal Farm,” “Bugsy Malone,” “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and “Our Day Out.”

One of her most memorable performances, and one that definitely struck a chord with audiences, was her performance in the hit musical “Seussical” where she took on the starring role of Gertrude McFuzz.

“My favourite part of ‘Seussical’ is absolutely the music. It has such well-written, catchy songs, and we had an amazing cast and band who did such an incredible job bringing the music to life,” admits Jackson.

The play pulls together characters from Dr. Seuss’s most famous books, mainly those from “Horton Hears a Who!,” “Horton Hatches the Egg” and “Miss Gertrude McFuzz.” When Horton the Elephant hears a sound coming from a speck of dust he is convinced that there must be someone in it– so he places it on a clover and guards it; meanwhile the surrounding community led by the villain Sour Kangaroo go to town mocking Horton without mercy, all but Gertrude McFuzz. A shy and insecure ‘bird-girl,’ Jackson’s character Gertrude McFuzz is overwhelmingly in love with Horton, but fearing he won’t notice her because of her puny tail, she goes to the doctor who prescribes her pills to take to make her tail grow. Thrilled by the immediate results, Gertrude quickly overdoses on the pills, which lead her tail to grow to an enormous length.

Jackson’s ability to bring to life such an awkward and fantastical character on stage while singing all of the dialogue was tantamount to the success of “Seussical” in Australia.

When asked how she feels on stage, Jackson said, “It’s a combination of overwhelming euphoria and varying degrees of nervousness. It is exciting, nerve-wracking and exhilarating. It’s like jumping out of a plane without a parachute! A great audience will feed you energy and contribute to the highest high there is.”

Over the years Jackson wowed countless audiences with her capacity as an actress on stage, and in 2012 she made the cross over to the film and television. Her first role on screen was on none other than four-time Golden Globe Award winning series “Glee,” which she followed up with a featured role on the Golden Globe Award winning series “Enlightened” with Laura Dern (“Jurassic Park,” “The Fault in Our Stars”). In 2013 Jackson took on a key role as Miss Merryweather’s Assistant in the film “Wiener Dog Nationals” where she acted alongside Golden Globe nominee Morgan Fairchild (“Life’s a Beach,” “The Bold and the Beautiful”) and Jason London (“The Man in the Moon,” “Jason and the Argonauts”).

From the stage to the screen actress Madalein Jackson has created a dazzling repertoire of work that reveals the dynamic nature of her craft and we’re sure we’ll be seeing a whole lot more from her as time goes on.

 

Australian actress Natasha St. Clair-Johnson stars in new film ‘Incall’

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Natasha St. Clair-Johnson, photo by KAT TUOHY PHOTOGRAPHY

“Acting is the one way that I feel free to be myself,” said Natasha St. Clair Johnson. The Australian native has an innate talent, and has loved performing for almost her entire life. As a child, she wanted to be like the people she saw on-screen, but as she grew, this desire became much fiercer. She wanted to tell stories; she wanted to show the wonderful and painful aspects of what it means to be human; she wanted to make a difference with the best way she knew how. Acting became her focus, and performing her way of life. Now, she is one of Australia’s leading actresses, and the passion she feels for what she does is the same as it was when she began her career.

While working her way to the top, St. Clair-Johnson worked on several extremely successful projects, showing her home country and the world why she is so formidable. In the feature film Birthday, the actress has the critical role of a social-worker. Her work led the film to be selected for the highly-prestigious Cannes Film Festival, where it took home the top award for Best Actress in a Foreign Film. Similar success followed with her film Prized, where she co-stars with ‘Twitch’ aka Stephan Boss from So You Think You Can Dance and currently the popular DJ on The Ellen Degeneres Show, as well as the movie Shang, playing a seductive vampire and showing audiences how versatile of an actress she truly is.

“The thrill of performing is like nothing else for me. With film and theatre being such different mediums, they both still give me joy. Being on set has an intimacy, a rawness, and a realism to it,” said St. Clair-Johnson.

Audiences can also look forward to St. Clair-Johnson’s performance in the highly-anticipated film Incall. The film tells the story of a wealthy house wife who gets more than she bargained for when a call girl changes the course of her day into something completely unexpected. It explores ideas of sexuality, power, feminism, and manipulation, with three women all appearing as different facets of what is it to be the modern woman.

“Not many films like to show women that are sexual and strong. It’s considered taboo, and commonly mistaken to be either an excuse for woman to behave in an explicit nature or to get attention. Our film is more about the mind games between people. It’s not about seeing anything happen but the suggestion,” St. Clair-Johnson described.

The film is centered around St. Clair-Johnson’s character and what happens to her over the course of one day. It is a window into the perverse intimacy she enjoys. She is an elegant, well-dressed, poised woman with a dark side. Although she appears to be one way to others, her inner desires are quite different from the persona she displays. She has a certain way about her that can be disarming, which is what the directors were looking for in St. Clair-Johnson’s performance. She perfectly personifies the complicated character, with a hint of possible danger, as you can’t always be sure where the character might take the conversation or situation she is in.

While many films explore a male and female dynamic, Incall involves two strong female characters. These characters are not necessarily attracted to each other, but rather show how they manipulate, judge, and control each other. It is about ego and power. St. Clair-Johnson’s character is the instigator of the events. Therefore, when the director was looking for someone for such an important and complicated role, she knew she had to find someone with immense talent.

“Natasha is gifted and hard working. She always gives 100 per cent to every take and patience beyond what would be required of her. It is a pleasure working with her on and off set. She is very personable. Her unique choices make her an outstanding actress. She has a subtle but compelling ability to seek the nuances in her characters’ behavior, with an unlimited range and keen understanding of the complexities of the characters’ relationships,” said Rachael Murphy, Writer and Director of Incall.

Murphy approached St. Clair-Johnson when she began casting. She knew that she wanted the actress as her leading character to make her film a success. St. Clair-Johnson was happy to take on a role in an all-female film. During the shoot, she found herself being taken away with what was happening. She knew exactly where to go with her character, completely embodying her. She would utilize subtle and exciting exchanges between her co-star and herself, opening up her creative juices. With every script she works on, the actress takes the time to analyze it. She figures out the exact motives behind each of her characters’ choices. For Incall, she worked those choices into her performance flawlessly, displaying intimacy, and passive-aggressive behavior simultaneously.

In addition to acting, St. Clair-Johnson also took on an executive producer role for the film. Although she had never done this before, she was excited to learn about the job, knowing the experience behind-the-scenes would help make her an even better actress. She was able to find the perfect balance between her role as an actress and her executive producing responsibilities, and found herself watching every take and staying engaged in all areas of the film production.

“This project gave me artistic freedom to play with whatever choices I wanted. I was to carry the film and I loved the responsibility of that. Especially showcasing myself in a film that is strongly focused on women. My team and I knew that it would be topical and the LGBT community would also be interested. We were recently approached by a film festival exclusively showcasing films produced and starring woman. It’s an honor,” said St. Clair-Johnson.

Incall is currently in post-production with a release date set for 2018 into the film festival circuit, and then onwards to national release in the United States and Australia. It is also expected to make its way to several Australian television networks, and streaming services such as Amazon Prime, Netflix, YouTube, and Hulu in the short film category. If you get a chance, make sure to check out St. Clair-Johnson’s stellar performance.

The Character Actor Swell Soubra

Actor Swell Soubra
Actor Swell Soubra shot by Joshua Shelton

Hailing from Geneva, Switzerland actor Swell Soubra has become known for his roles in a plethora of high profile film and television productions such as Stan Harrington’s (“The Practice,” “The Insomniac”) multi-award winning film drama “Lost Angels,” which took home a whopping seven awards from the Indie Fest USA International Film Festival, Frank Perry Lopez’s (“Tangerine Sky”) dramatic crime film “Three Kings Down” with award-winning actor Marcos Gracia (“Black Jacks”) and most recently, the sci-fi action series “The Last Ship.”

While Swell quickly made a name for himself in the industry as a dynamically talented actor who can breathe life into virtually any character, his professional adult life began in a field that many would consider the polar opposite of the arts– banking.

“I used to be a Swiss private banker,” recalls Swell. “But then I did a commercial for Pepsi Switzerland, which was my first step into the acting world and I loved it. I was surprised that it was actually a job.”

That transformative step, one that has taken Swell on a journey far away from the 9 to 5 and one that ultimately led him to relocate to Hollywood, happened in 2011. Since then, Swell’s career has unfolded at an impressive pace with the now internationally sought after actor being called in for a variety of roles across genres.

The Last SHip

Swell was recently tapped to play a key role in the hit series “The Last Ship.” Created by Primetime Emmy Award nominee Hank Steinberg (“The Nine”) and Steven Kane (“The Closer,” “American Dad!”), “The Last Ship” follows the crew of a naval destroyer who are forced to consider the reality of a new existence on earth when an unexplained pandemic wipes out most of earth’s population.

Acting alongside Adam Baldwin (“Full Metal Jacket,” “Independence Day”), People’s Choice Award nominee Eric Dane (“Grey’s Anatomy,” “Marley & Me”) and Bridget Regan (“Jane the Virgin”), Swell Soubra comes into the series in the premiere of season 4 directed by Paul Holahan (“The Man in the High Castle”), which aired in August. Kicking off the season with a bang, the episode follows the crew of the Nathan James ship as they traverse the globe in search of a precious seed that could save the world. Swell comes in as a businessman in Morocco who is connected to the black market sales organization in charge of selling the seed. Swell’s critical performance not only showcased his rare capacity as an actor and on screen magnetism, but the role also required him to converse in both French and English, something few actors can believably achieve.

Nominated for the prestigious Saturn Award in 2015 and 2016 by the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films, USA, “The Last Ship,” which airs on TNT, proved to be a powerful first foray into primetime television for Swell.

Swell explains, “Playing that character was an amazing experience because of the setup. Mixing languages on set was quite fun and I enjoyed being with such a great cast… It was a wonderful experience because Warner Bros., the production company, invested a lot of money in terms of the action scenes. Working with such a versatile director who worked on so many huge TV series was quite an experience.”

Over the past six years Swell Soubra has been tapped to play a wide range of characters including everything from a man struggling with depression in the film “Alone,” which screened at the renowned Cannes Film Festival earlier this year, to a transgendered serial killer in the film “I Am Tommy Talbot.” One of the things that sets Swell apart from most other actors in the industry is the fact that he is a versatile character actor. He starred in the films “Three Kings Down,” and award-winning director Tekin Girgin’s (“Mayweather Experience Documentary,” “Here’s Johnny”) dramatic crime film “The Incision,”

Up next for Swell is the dramatic thriller film “Killer Issues” from award-winning director Jonathan Cocco ( “The Max It Show” ).