Category Archives: Actor

Trans Actor Jesse Todd Shines Light on Gender Non-Conformity through the Films “Parry Riposte” and “We Forgot to Break Up”

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Actor Jesse Todd shot by Jessica D’Angelo

Jesse Todd is more than just a great actor, he is at the forefront of a movement that embodies the most misunderstood and underrepresented people in Hollywood: the transgender community.

The ability to express yourself freely without judgement or criticism of others is a lifelong journey that Jesse has experienced his whole life.

“When I started questioning my gender it really opened the door for me to reflect on all aspects of myself and who I want to be. To me acting is all about honesty and lending your truth to the character you play. Understanding myself and my truth through transitioning has allowed me to approach every character I’ve played with a deeper level of empathy,” Jesse explains.  

On screen his rare ability to translate both vulnerability and resilience through his performances, such as those in the hit films Parry Riposte and We Forgot to Break Up, have continued to pull at heartstrings around the world. His leading role in We Forgot to Break Up has no doubt brought the film to become recognized as an award winning work of art. It was the winner of the 2017 Best Canadian Shortwork Award at the Whistler International Film Festival, the Audience Award at the 2018 Chicago Critics Film Festival, and a Grand Jury Nominee at the 2018 SXSW Film Festival, to name a few. 

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As a trans actor Jesse taps into the important yet sometimes uncomfortable conversation of change, especially in terms of the way one’s physical transformation alters their previous world entirely. We Forgot to Break Up, as well as numerous other films he’s been apart of, unravel the many emotions people might have towards this type of change, even when they claim to “accept” you. This conversation has made Jesse a source of inspiration, something that led him to be invited as a panelist at 2018 Trans Summit at Outfest in LA. For Jesse, sharing his experience at the summit was a way to give-back and it’s one that he was proud to have been apart of. 

The best part of the trans summit was speaking with the mostly trans audience. After a Q and A with the panelists, there was an open forum discussion. It was a safe space to talk about the experience of being a trans artist in an industry that has historically excluded us and created problematic narratives and depictions of us,” explains Jesse. “I was able to talk about some of the challenges I faced with a group of people who had had similar experiences.” 

Many of Jesse’s roles to date have shed light on the transgender community and the daily trials they face in their world. To no surprise Jesse’s leading role as Evan Stroker in We Forgot to Break Up left an unforgettable mark that carried the film to its fullest potential. The film portrays the reaction of characters of a rock band and their unresolved conflicting emotions towards Jesse’s character, who goes through a gender affirming transition and returns to meet the band after a long absence. The interactions between Evan and the band members leave the audience feeling uncomfortable, raw, and emotional.

“Evan Strocker shows up to a gig of a band he used to manage but hasn’t seen in years. These are people that he grew up with and eventually walked out on. He has written a memoir and is hoping to leave it for the guitarist, his ex-lover,” explains Jesse. “Before he’s able to sneak out the way he came in, he’s found by the current manager. Tension is very high as Evan faces each band member; they’re not exactly happy to see him.”

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Jesse Todd in “We Forgot to Break Up” by Cabot McNenly

Evan Strocker was the manager for the band “Heidegger” for years and was somewhat responsible for their fame. The tumultuous relationship between himself and the band members give rise to feelings of dread, shame, rage and despair. Jesse carefully goes in and out of his pain using his own experience to drive home Evan’s emotional experience in a way that is real and powerful. 

“To bring this character to life I really focused on those relationships of the past. I drew upon my own experiences with letting go of relationships in order to find my truth. It can be very painful and jarring to finally put your own needs first and separate yourself from people who are holding you back, especially when you love them.”

Beyond the physical aspects of transitioning, the film focuses on how other people respond and reconnect with someone who returns in their new, more authentic state. The story depicts the layers of unprocessed and uncomfortable emotions that everyone involved faces and provides the audience with a raw and palpable perspective on the journey many within the transgender community face. It’s no wonder it was the Winner of Best Canadian Shortwork.

“I like to tell stories about people who feel real and allow themselves to be vulnerable.There is nothing in this world more strange and interesting to me than people. I’ve always been interested in trying to figure them out,” explains Jesse. 

“I hope that my work can help viewers look inward and feel something deeply. I hope that I can fill viewers with creative energy that motivates them to work on their own art, whatever that may be,” 

Jesse’s natural talent coupled with his depth and courage to portray his character’s unapologetic and most authentic self on screen holds the capacity to change the hearts and minds of viewers.

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Jesse Todd in “Parry Riposte” shot by Goldbloom Micomonaco

In the film Parry Riposte Jesse takes on the starring role of Liam directed by Goldbloom Micomonaco, a QueerTrans Jewish writer, director, and producer of projects under Goldbloom Films and Made By Muses. They have created powerful films like Wet (2018), an Official Selection of TiffxInstgram, Twigg Drive Freestyle (2018), and Hunger (2017), an Official Selection of the Toronto New Wave Film Festival. Their work has permeated into community spaces such as LIFT and the Trans Collective RSU

In Parry Riposte Jesse’s character grapples with the fact that he must guide a group of traumatized teenagers who have been victimized by a traumatic transphobic event at their school. Jesse delves into his leading role in a dynamic and believable way, and leaves a memorable impression on audiences.

Parry Riposte revolves around a fencing team of gender nonconformists who have to learn to stand together after their practice studio is vandalized by transphobics within their community. 

Jesse explains, “Each member of the club deals with the traumatic events in their own way. And my character, Liam, the senior athlete, is trying to pick up the pieces.”

The story is about finding ones community and chosen families, and the lengths trans and non-binary people go to in order to make space for each other. Conjuring up the endurance it takes to face adversity against the odds and inspiring those in pain to do the same, Jesse beautifully embodies his role as Liam on screen.

Actor Jesse Todd
Jesse Todd in “Parry riposte” by Goldbloom Micomonaco

“Jesse has an acting skill that is nuanced and advanced… The role of Liam was originally very angry and loud, but Jesse’s interpretation of the role grounded the performance and brought Liam to life in a way that was unlike anyone else we considered for the role,” explains Parry Riposte director Goldbloom Micomonaco. “Jesse’s reputation as an actor in Toronto preceded him, and I had known his work beforehand from other film productions… Working together was an amazing opportunity.”

In the wake of his own journey Jesse’s ability to deeply connect with the characters he takes on make his performances more than realistic, they are magnetic. His honest connection with his roles establishes the same honest connection with the audience. 

As is the case with most great actors, Jesse’s background has helped lay the foundation for him to tap into the raw and authentic emotions of his characters. 

Born and raised in Ontario, Canada with a single mother and two siblings, Jesse’s family endured many hardships with a lack of money and a lot of bad luck. However, these trials did not harden Jesse’s spirit but instead, made him a more self aware and empathetic human being. Through the arts, he found a positive environment where he could utilize his talents and escape his troubles at home. 

“It was my dream to be an actor when I was a kid, and I was always performing, I was such a ham. It helped me to feel free and have an escape from my reality,” Jesse recalls. “It was what I wanted to do with my life.  But as I got older, it didn’t seem like a possibility for me anymore. I wasn’t comfortable in my body and I didn’t want to be under any spotlight.” 

It wasn’t until his transition in his 20’s that Jesse felt more comfortable and confident moving throughout the world. His journey into self awareness and the courage to allow his truest and most authentic self to shine through, allowed him to connect with his life in a deeper way; and in finding himself, he was led him back to his first love, acting.

Jesse says, “I hadn’t thought about acting in years but an opportunity presented itself and I fell in love with performing all over again.  I see acting as an opportunity to reflect on all of my experiences and apply what I’ve learned throughout my life. It’s the best job in the world.”   

Jesse’s ability to not only represent and take on the weight of a suppressed community is, in a way, heroic. He has reached the root of his authentic self in a way that takes courage and deserves recognition. The transition process of reflecting on all aspects of himself and coming to terms with who he is has made Jesse a better actor, one that is able to carry heavy roles with vulnerability in a way that is familiar and even comfortable. 

“What I have to offer is myself, my experiences and my outlook on life. I have spent a long time trying to find strength and value in myself. I’ve figured out that everything I’ve been through has given me the tools to be a great actor,” explains Jesse. “My strongest qualities are my ability to listen, empathize, and respond thoughtfully. I see every acting job as an opportunity to both learn about myself and celebrate my life experiences through the character I’m playing.”

“Outlander’s” Fergus Grows Up: All Eyes On French Actor Romann Berrux

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Romann Berrux and Caitriona Balfe in “Outlander

For the talented French actor Romann Berrux, family means everything, and these days his extended family of fans spans the globe. Through his portrayal of Fergus Fraser in the critically acclaimed Starz series “Outlander,” Berrux quickly became a fan favorite who stole the hearts of audiences across the world with his performance as a young pickpocket.

Based on the “Outlander” series of books by Diana Gabaldon, “Outlander” stars BAFTA award winner Caitriona Balfe (“Escape Plan”) and People’s Choice Award winner Sam Heughan (“A Princess for Christmas”), telling the story of a married combat nurse from 1945 who’s mysteriously swept back in time to Scotland in 1743.

Out of all the genres, period pieces are often dubbed the most challenging for an actor due to the multitude of nuances that actors must bring to their characters in order to help transport the audience to another place and time– for Berrux, it meant having to adapt his way of acting to the 18th century.

Discussing how he confronted this challenge, Berrux explains, “I really worked on pronunciation so that I could be as clear as possible, so I didn’t sound like someone from the 21st century. Also, the outfits and the atmosphere was really different. I was so into it that I sometimes forgot that we were actually in the 21st century.”

That dedication and preparation paid off, culminating in an epic recurring performance on Berrux’s part, one that led audiences to fall in love with his character every time he appeared on-screen. Over the course of Seasons 2 and 3, Berrux was a main character, starring in some of the show’s most talked about episodes, including one where his character Fergus’ loyalty is put to the test.

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Sam Heughan and Romann Berrux in “Outlander”

In Episode 2 of Season 3, ‘Surrender,’ we find Jamie (Heughan) living in the forest hiding from the English soldiers who desperately want to catch and imprison him. Following Fergus into the forest in hopes of finding Jamie, the soldiers begin to close in on the show’s valiant hero, but before they can capture him Fergus jumps in the way, risking his life to save Jamie, and losing his hand as a result. It was a pivotal episode for the show and it was one that Berrux personally loved shooting.

“I loved shooting this episode, it was so tense, and I was nervous but I dedicated all my heart to this episode because I really wanted to be as good as possible for the upcoming scene where I would lose my hand,” said Berrux. “I tried to figure out a way of feeling pain through my character. It was so nice to see people’s reactions when they saw the episode and all the heartwarming messages I received when it aired.”

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Romann Berrux in “Outlander”

As the Starz hit series grew in popularity, so did Berrux’s international fan club. Berrux, who was already widely known in France for his role as Hugo Roche in the comedy-drama series “Detectives,” became an even bigger international sensation through his starring role in “Outlander,” with his performances capturing the attention of other major film and television productions.

“Performing is the best moment for an actor, it’s the achievement of long hours of work and rehearsals,” said Berrux. “It’s the only moment where I can be someone else, totally different from my personality and that’s what I love the most.”

The passion for performing started at a young age for Romann Berrux, who was street cast at the age of 5 to take on his first film role in the popular French movie “Le coeur des hommes 2.” Since that first seemingly destined role, Berrux went on to play numerous other leading roles in films and series such as “Miroir, mon beau miroir” and TV series including “Joséphine, ange gardien,” “Brigade Navarro,” “Medical Emergency,” “Detectives,” and most recently “Huguette.”

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Actor Romann Berrux

“I think the most important thing is to love the character and the role. I have always been able to choose my roles since I live with my parents and I am not forced to do roles for money,” explains Berrux. “Acting has always been a passion for me and not something related to money. I choose each role for the love of acting and for the love of the story. I hope to always be able to continue like that. Loving the role and character helps make my job easier because I think about the character all the time and I become it.”

Berrux’s performances and the overall success of his television work led him to be cast in the key recurring role of Damien Forrest in the popular television series, “The Inside Game,” created by Academy Award-winning director Jean-Xavier de Lestrade and Antoine Lacomblez.

Though he has accrued an incredible level of success to date, Berrux admits that his career path was “very random.” But to fans around the world and the productions he’s worked on, it is clear that he was destined for a career as an actor.

“Being a child actor might seem weird for some people but it really wasn’t and in my opinion it was the best thing that could have happened to me. I had the opportunity to spend weeks on shoots learning so much about human values, respect and maturity,” recalls Berrux. “I was spending most of my time with adults who considered me as an actor and not a child, which I think definitely changed me in a good way.”

While Berrux continued to attend school like a regular kid, he maintained a calm and humble focus, admitting that he never really discussed his work as an actor when he wasn’t on set.

“I felt like it wasn’t really necessary. I was raised in a simple manner, and besides, I know that all of this is not real life,” said Berrux. “I have a very close family and friends who are always there for me.”

In a way, working on the set of the “Outlander” series brought a similar sense of closeness for Berrux as he fell in love with the story, his cast and crew and found a unique bond with his character Fergus, who he found to be similar to himself.

“I would say that we are both very spontaneous, and we are both very loyal to the people we love,” admits Berrux.

Berrux said he woke up each morning with a smile on his face knowing he was working with a fantastic crew and spending time with cast mates that he became friends with, Heughan and Balfe, so it’s no wonder that he fell in love with the whole “Outlander” atmosphere and enjoyed being a part of the show.

Those friendships even found themselves on display on social media with co-star Sam Heughan, a People’s Choice Award winner and accomplished stage and screen actor best known for his roles “A Princess for Christmas” and “A Very British Sex Scandal,” cheekily teasing Berrux on Twitter. Balfe, a two-time winner of the People’s Choice Award and three-time Golden Globe nominee, also has joined in on the fun.

It was the scene where Fergus pickpockets Heughan’s character who then proceeds to chase him on the streets of Paris, which happened to have been shot on Berrux’s birthday. It also happened to be Berrux’s first night shoot and his first time learning stunts. All told it was a great day, or in his own words, “a purely awesome day and a good gift for my birthday!”

With more than a decade of acting credits to his name, Berrux continues to surprise and impress fans around the world with his brilliant work. You can currently catch Berrux in the lead role of Rémi in the recently released film “Huguette” from director Antoine Garceau (“Presque Adultes,” “Call My Agent”), which debuted on the Arte Channel in Europe on December 6.

The film follows Huguette, played by three-time Cesar Award nominated actress Line Renaud (“Let’s Dance,” “Monte Carlo”), a 78-year-old former school principal who nearly ends up homeless before her her neighbor Marion, offers her a deal– a roof in exchange for her help in preventing her teenage son Rémi (Berrux) from dropping out of school.

“This movie meant a lot to me as I have always been a fan of Line Renaud’s work and Antoine Garceau’s movies,” said Berrux.

Having been an actor for nearly his entire life, Romann Berrux possesses the kind of range on screen that most actors spend decades trying to hone. There’s no doubt that this talented Frenchman will continue to wow audiences around the world with his work for years to come.

Award-winning actress Liane Grant shines on the Transatlantic stage & screen

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Actress Liane Grant

The prodigious talents of British actress, Liane Grant, seems to show no ends for she has received acclaim not only for her professional work in acting, directing, writing and producing on stage, but on the screen too; and on both sides of the Atlantic, no less. 

Recently Grant co-produced, wrote and played the lead role of Meredith in the American dystopian play, “Half Me, Half You”, which debuted at the Fresh Fruit Festival in New York in July 2018, and where Grant won the Outstanding Playwright Award. The hit production also led Grant’s costar, Jennifer Fouche, to earn the Outstanding Featured Performer Award.

“Acting is so much more skilled and complex, and uses so much brain power as well as heart and soul power, more so than I think many people realize,” said Grant, who has over 26 acting credits on stage and screen.

“It also forces me to be a better person because I’m constantly having to think about different stories and different kinds of people, and look at things from a multitude of perspectives.”

An alumnus of the prestigious Cambridge University in England, Grant also studied acting at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts (AADA) in New York for two years. In 2015 she co-founded her own production company, RoL’n Productions, through which she’s produced “Half Me, Half You”  and other acclaimed works.

RoL’n Productions focuses on providing opportunities for women in the arts and with an all-female cast, “Half Me, Half You”, which dramatizes issues of prejudice such as on race and gender, was no exception. Grant co-founded RoL’n Productions with Roxanne Lamendola, an American actress whom she met at AADA, the alma mater of some of the best actresses of their generation, from Lauren Bacall to Anne Bancroft of yesteryear, and Anne Hathaway and Jessica Chastain of today.

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Poster for “Taken in Marriage”

However, Grant’s first theatre co-production for RoL’n Productions, the barbed comedy, “Taken in Marriage,” not only had an all-female cast but also linked her with yet another luminary of screen and stage, the three-time Oscar-winning actress Meryl Streep, as she performed in one of the lead roles of Andy, a part originated by Streep on Broadway in 1979.

“Working with so many talented women, knowing that we’d provided them with those opportunities to showcase their talents, was amazing,” said Grant, who ensured that seven production roles, in a variety of areas, were filled by women.

Grant co-produced “Taken in Marriage” in 2015 to be performed at the Waterloo East Theatre in London, England, with the sharp comedy focused on the character of the pretty and young Annie, as she sits in a basement on the eve of her wedding, surrounded by female family members, with long-lost feelings, frustrations and secrets on the verge of being revealed to much hilarity.

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Liane Grant in “Taken in Marriage”

Grant’s debut in a feature film, “Gypo,” was in the UK in 2005, but it marked a strong start to her career, as the film not only won the British Independent Film Award for Best Achievement in Production but, more so, was directed by Jan Dunn, the multi-award-winning female auteur and one of the first British directors to be listed on the Hollywood Director’s List.

“Doing ‘Gypo’ was my first professional job, and my first feature film, and for that reason it will always be a standout project, let alone the amazing team of professionals I was able to work with,” said Grant, about her first professional role nearly fifteen years ago.

Grant plays a bully in “Gypo”, which charts the breakdown of a working class family in England, when the teenage daughter of a family befriends a refugee girl, with leading roles by actors Pauline McLynn, whose credits include Tom Cruise’s “Far & Away” and “Transformers: The Last Knight” and Paul McGann, who portrayed the iconic British character, Doctor Who, in 2013. 

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Film poster for “Gypo”

Moving seamlessly from stage to screen can be challenging for any actor, but for Grant, who has performed in four Shakespeare plays for theater in the US and the UK – including as a female Julius Caesar in an all-female production – her valuable training, skills and experience make the transition back and forth almost seamless.

“Theater is wholly unique because it allows for a direct and intimate relationship with the audience: even when you can’t see the under the stage lights, even when you are lost in your character and in the moment, you feel that connection and their presence in some way,” said Grant, who has performed at the famous Edinburgh Fringe and in England and New York.

“There is certainly an electricity, literally and metaphorically, when the camera is rolling, and screen work is exciting and alive in its own way, but they are very different processes: how you prepare the character may be exactly the same, but the process for that character to be brought to life is very different.”

It is an approach that stands Grant in good stead, as she prepares in 2020 for her latest on-screen role as the character, Stephanie Miles, in the new US television series “Emergency: LA” which focuses on fictional dramas based around the emergency services of Los Angeles’ fire, police and hospital services. 

“When I watched Julie Andrews in ‘The Sound of Music’, it changed my world: I didn’t just understand the magic of film but the magic of a performance speaking to you directly,” said Grant, who also starred in film, “The Parasite,” in 2016.

“So, honestly, my ultimate goal would be to make someone else feel the way Julie Andrews made me feel, to pay the gift forward.”

 

 

Actress Elysia Rotaru on breaking into performance capture work

ELYSIA_7439My name is Elysia Rotaru and I have been working as a professional actress since 2008. You may recognize me from the hit show Arrow and the voice of Beatrice Villanova in FIFA 2018, FIFA 2019, and FIFA 2020, as well as countless other films and television series.

In 2010, I also began my voice over career. As a voice artist, I have lent my voice to over 1000 projects, ranging from, commercials, animations, video games, promo spots for TV Networks and selected shows, educational videos, phone systems, A.I technologies and operating systems and many more, working with clients in the USA and Canada on a global scale.

The world of voice over is vast, fast and a ton of fun, and is a great compliment to working on camera, if you can maintain the balance and stay open to the opportunities.

Performance capture work is a great way to expand your skill set as an actor. Remember Avatar? Or Gollum in Lord of the Rings? These performances used performance capture technology to blend real life and animation, allowing you to film someone live and transfer them into computerized form. If you are looking to branch out into this genre of the field, but don’t quite know how to get your foot in the door, I’ve included some helpful tips and insider information below.

How to prep

Well there are now classes you can take to get familiar with all the oddities of the performance capture world, and I recommend pairing that with acting classes and voice over classes, if you’re just starting out in the biz in general. Also any extraordinary skills like martial arts, sword work, stunting, dance etc. are a bonus in my eyes. This area is one of the most challenging ones to break into, so having a great voice and/or on-camera agent who is in-the-know about this work would be great. A voice over demo and video reel showcasing your physical skill sets is a huge step up as well and hopefully gets you through the door to an audition.

During the audition

With performance capture video games, they may not only be looking for “realistic, grounded and engaging ” voice performances, they are also looking to hire you for your aesthetic and physical portrayal of your character(s). This area of the voice over world is a unique blend of theater, on camera and perhaps stunt work. Therefore, the more training you have, especially in specific areas like sword work, dance, firearms etc. might give you an advantage.

When it comes time to audition, one must prepare the script to be off-book. They ask that you also show off as much physicality as possible from the given stage directions and if there are none, time to use your imagination to show off your range, creativity and commitment to the work. Also, wear form fitting clothes, as the casting director will usually have that noted in detail.

It’s important to remember the audition is usually a full-body frame, where all your physical life can be seen. I know they also appreciate facial expressions, as that is a huge element to performance capture.

Now also note: the projects are 99.9% of the time super confidential with strict NDA’s and the material you’re auditioning with may not be the actual script. So, it’s really up to you to do the best you can with your prep and bring it to life, fully articulated in voice and body and have fun!

The job

When you book the job and get on to a performance capture set, it’s a magical experience.

Your preparation must be amazing in regards to having the text memorized/off-book. Depending on the project, you can usually figure out what you’re prep work will entail.

However, you should be able to create character choices that support the story ahead of time and bring in your choices, an also be ready to let go of them too, if new direction is presented on the day.

Be ready to work in a Velcro bodysuit, covered in reflective balls with a tiny camera attached to headgear pointed at your face the whole time and dots marked on your face. This isn’t the on camera glam you can experience on a TV or film set so be ready to feel a little vulnerable and out of your comfort zone, that is until you get in the zone.

You will be working with a large group of people: a dev team, make-up artists, producers, a voice director, cinematic director, the rest of the cast, and more, so be ready to learn new rules that are particular to performance capture, that after repeating a few times, will become second nature in that environment.

The crew usually helps build you a basic set, but most often, your imagination and guidance from the directors are what you play by. In some cases, you might be given new lines to memorize on the day, like a soap opera and with a limited number of takes to execute the scenes.

The work takes place in what is normally called a “volume”, a large space with hundreds of cameras lining the walls and ceiling to capture every single movement the actors in the scenes will perform. From a grand gesture like walking and waving, to the tiniest movement, like a pinky finger twisting and the furrow of a brow. Having a great sense of spatial and physical awareness is a great asset, hence why I see a lot of actors with theater training booking work in the performance capture world. That is not to say you must have that as a background, as anyone with a desire to learn and the passion for the craft of acting and voice work can have great opportunities and a fulfilling career working in performance capture.

Multi-Award Winning Actor Hugo Diego Garcia Dazzles International Audiences

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Actor Hugo Diego Garcia at the Beverly Hills Film Festival

Actor Hugo Diego Garcia possesses a talent that is exceedingly rare among even the most seasoned of his peers. He’s able to transition between wildly different characters and roles with the effortlessness that others might walk from one room to the next. A great deal of his uncanny ability to embody virtually anybody onscreen is no doubt due to his upbringing, immersed in three distinct cultures.

“I was born in Oyonnax, France, a small city lost in the mountains,” Garcia described, “to a Spaniard father and a mother of Italian descent.”

His upbringing in that idyllic, yet isolated, town didn’t initially afford Garcia the opportunity to see as many films as he might have had he grown up in a big city. The collection of movies he did have, however, included some of the most influential and universally-acclaimed works in the history of film. Once he’d devoured the classic films he had at home, Garcia developed an insatiable need to watch every movie he could get his hands on.

“We didn’t have many films at home, but we had some of the best. The first VHS tapes and then DVDs we had were from Cimino, Leone, Scorsese and Coppola,” Garcia recalled.

“I then watched most of the American movies that were screened on TV, I would go every week to the French version of Blockbuster and rent plenty of DVDs. Together with my best friend we’d see every movie at the local cinema in my little city. And somehow, I got lucky enough to watch some of the best cinematic works ever at a very young age.”

That early exposure to such a vast number of films and filmmakers left an indelible mark on Garcia. As he entered adulthood, he became certain his calling lay on the silver screen. For Garcia, living in such a remote part of the world was an obstacle he was determined to overcome. With unbridled determination, he began studying every book and taking every class he could find to learn and master the actors’ craft.

“It was so far from our world, both geographically and metaphorically, that I couldn’t envision it,” he said. “I bought books from masters, studied and read just about everything, tried classes everywhere, and ultimately moved to Paris where I studied full-time in three schools — including one where I was offered free tuition after several rounds of auditions.”

After years of tireless dedication to improving his craft and growing as an actor, Garcia has achieved his dream. He’s deftly honed and refined his unique style with years of devoted practice, study, and insights gained from a lifetime spent observing the greats. As a result, Garcia’s become a commanding onscreen figure, delivering powerful performances in an ever-growing number of roles.

Among Garcia’s most definitive roles to date is the forthcoming film “Cagnolino.” Beautifully written and performed, the tragic drama tells a story of loyalty, violence, and deferred dreams.

“‘Cagnolino’ is about appearances and social determinism. It talks about the fascination for violence, particularly in the ‘hoods, through the music, pop culture, cinema, TV, and other media,” he described. “It is the story of a bad encounter, based on multiple true stories.”

The film follows the young members of a small-time criminal group as their egos and hotheadedness inevitably lead them toward the tragic consequences of a fateful mistake. Garcia stars in the leading role of Dario, a member of the family torn between his familial loyalty and his desire to escape this life and build a real future.

“My character wants to emancipate himself and get a better life for himself. He wants to do what’s right and leave the family business to pursue his own life and dreams, as well as being motivated by his girlfriend,” Garcia explained. “He struggles to leave because of the weight of the family ties and the love and admiration he has for his family, including his cousin. He has this life in his blood.”

Its story unflinchingly honest and its actors’ performances unequivocally human, “Cagnolino” captures the raw and universal truth of the struggles between right and wrong, power and weakness, and loyalty and self-determination. Garcia’s performance as Dario is masterful and moving, a testament to his strength and versatility. Further illustrating his commitment to his craft are the lengths to which he went to ensure a perfect performance in the film.

“In the sequence where my character gets beat up, we were shooting by night and at 6 a.m. I had to finish the night on the floor being kicked by the other characters,” he recalled. “I got bruises all over my body, but the adrenaline and pleasure of filming got us through it.”

With filming and post-production completed this year, “Cagnolino” will begin screening at festivals soon. Also set for release in the coming year is “Death Before Mourning,” a profound film which examines the often-silent and stigmatized effects of mental illness. Impressed by Garcia’s exceptional work in other roles, “Death Before Mourning” director Ruperto Luis Sanchez handpicked Garcia for the lead role in the film.

“After seeing his work and collaborating with Hugo on several projects, I had no doubt he would be the best fit for the lead role in my movie, Death Before Mourning. Ayala, his character, is complex and dark and Hugo possessed every quality required to play such a tortured role,” Sanchez said, explaining his deliberate choice to cast Garcia.

“His charisma, rugged good looks and ability to speak perfect English and Spanish made him my first choice directly. Ayala is also a boxer and so is Hugo, which made it even more interesting.”

The film takes an appropriately dark approach to its subject matter. With mental illness becoming a more and more prevalent topic in today’s news and culture, “Death Before Mourning” is a timely film that accurately portrays both the effects and stigmas facing those who suffer from invisible diseases like depression. Garcia, a trained boxer himself, disappears into his role as a boxer fighting against a different kind of opponent within his own mind.

“‘Death Before Mourning’ is a complex, ambitious black-and-white movie about PTSD, depression and the cycle of life,” Garcia described. “I play Rene Ayala, a great prospect in boxing, who sees his dreams destroyed when he loses a fight he was supposed to win, destroying his self esteem, future and all-time dream.”

Garcia’s performance in “Death Before Mourning” is undoubtedly one of his most powerful to date. As he steps out of himself and into the character of Rene Ayala, he brings such life to the role that it becomes nearly impossible to say for sure that the struggling boxer onscreen is a work of fiction rather than a living, breathing man in his own right. That is precisely where Garcia’s greatest strength lies. Much more than an ability to become somebody else, Garcia is able to persuade audiences that his characters are alive and that he was never really there at all.

“Acting, for me, is pure pleasure. It might be cliche, but I have a passion for storytelling,” said Garcia, explaining what draws him to acting and what makes him such a superb onscreen presence. “To quote De Niro, acting is ‘living someone else’s life, without paying the price.’ It’s using part of yourself that you wouldn’t or couldn’t explore in society for any number of reasons.”

Precious few actors in cinema today can hold a candle to Garcia. Fluent in three languages, a professionally-trained boxer, and unmatched in his onscreen versatility and range, Hugo Diego Garcia is among the most talented and devoted actors to grace the screen in years. Just as he’s spent his life studying the greats who came before him, there will be a day when a new generation of actors do the same — and they will undoubtedly turn to the iconic performances of Hugo Diego Garcia.

Swedish Actor Matti Leinikka Shines on the Screen and Stage

Matti Leinikka
Swedish actor Matti Leinikka

Matti Leinikka may have grown up surrounded by the stoic, chilling beauty of northern Sweden, but the warm laughter and bright smiles he inspires in audience members has made him familiar to countless fans across the globe. Few actors possess the diverse range of talent needed to establish a successful career in both television and film, as well as live on stage, yet Matti has proven his ability to cross between the mediums with ease and continually showcase the diverse scope of his talent.

In the hit Swedish television series “Amira Time” Matti kept viewers hooked by connecting diverse plot points together through the power of humor. This Swedish sitcom would never have taken off without his ability to effortlessly bolster the chemistry that his fellow co-stars shared with one another. His magnetic energy on set has proven key to the success of numerous productions so it comes as no surprise that his co-stars continue to heap praise upon his talents. 

Fellow actress Johanne Jung, who acted alongside Matti in the theatre productions “Morbid Curiosity” and “Stop Kiss,” as well as the film “Blottad,” fondly recalled the safe, creative, and collaborative environment that Matti fostered when she worked with him.

Jung says, “Matti is very professional and kind. He both gives and receives feedback gracefully. He is willing to go the extra mile for both his role, his co-stars and the show as a whole… He is professional and creates a safe and creative environment for his fellow cast and crew members.”

Though Matti has revealed his power as a comedic talent, he has also illustrated his bone-chilling capacity to play a convincing villain on the big stage in front of a live audience. In the interactive theatre performance of “Morbid Curiosity,” he got a rare chance to enchant viewers with the tantalizing prospects of a murder-mystery. Sold-out shows attested to the fact that audience members couldn’t get enough of Matti’s hit performance, which he enjoyed in no small part because of its interactive nature that permitted him to connect personally with audience members as he took the stage.

By taking on the role of Josef, a tailor accused of murdering his business rival, Matti capably demonstrated his ability to deliver audience members to an imagined past wherein they could lose themselves in the setting of the story.

Matti Leinikka
Actor Matti Leinikka in “Morbid Curiosity”

His strong voice, fine control of on-stage movements, and effortless ability to meld well with his fellow stage performers are doubtlessly why director Elin Hagelberg cast him to take on a lead role in her upcoming film “Exposed.”

“Exposed” is a notable project for a variety of reasons, not least being the fact that it was shot in one take. Matti didn’t merely play a role or camera, either, but contributed to the creative process throughout the film, helping deliver hilarious comedic moments that punctuated an otherwise serious plot. 

Embodying the role of Mike, a shy introvert who’s dragged to a group therapy session by his employer, was no small feat, yet it was one that Matti undertook with gusto. He felt immediately connected to the role of Mike when reading the script, when he noticed that the shy character nevertheless contained hidden layers, one where audiences can bet on the fact that Matti gave a sterling performance. Shot in Matti’s home town of Umeå, “Exposed” earned a coveted grant from Film i Västerbotten, and is slated to release next year.

Matti has long understood that being an excellent actor is about more than delivering when on stage or in front of the camera – it’s also about interlacing well with the crew, contributing to the creative direction of the entire project, and making a lasting connection with viewers so that they can remember what they’ve witnessed for years to come. The diverse breadth of Matti’s professional experience renders it easy to achieve all of these things regardless of the medium he’s presented with.

Regardless of how skilled he is when it comes to serious productions or dramatic performances, though, Matti’s true love has always been centered around comedy. His strong sense of timing is a rare gift and it is undoubtledly part of why audiences are so enthralled with his ability to generate knee-slapping moments. Furthermore, his ability to fluidly switch from goofing around to acting with the utmost seriousness helps him effortlessly navigate the complex layers that go into comedic productions.

Many of Matti’s favorite comedic memories revolve around his lead appearance in “Superbowl of Love, an independent film that was so hilarious it was announced as one of the official selections of the Prague Independent Film Festival in 2019. When a small-town radio host decides to offer a prize of $1 million to whomever can prove they have the worst life, the male lead Tom strives to demonstrate that his enduring virginity makes him the butt of everyone’s jokes. Matti’s spirited performance in the starring role of Tom in this dark comedy spoke to the strange and bizarre ways that our diverse lives challenge us all differently, leaving audience members holding their stomachs in laughter all the while.

Matti’s excellent work in that film ensured his professional future would be replete with additional work, and he’s already preparing to work with renowned Ukranian filmmaker Mariya Somova in her upcoming film. Given that his work on “Exposed” and “Amira Time” has bewitched the hearts of countless fans, it’s safe to say that his future productions will be just as eagerly attended and boisterously cheered on as his lasting accomplishments. 

 

Karen Mitchell: Owning the Screen with Magical Presence

Karen Mitchell
Actress Karen Mitchell shot by Chris Jon Photography

It’s not every day that an actress with the scope of talent Karen Mitchell has comes along. The Australian actress is not only skilled on screen, she has the magic that draws viewers in, bringing her character to life, no matter who it is she’s playing; like the recent role as Linda in the soon to be released romantic drama “If I Were You.” Other upcoming parts she’s championed are Alexa in “Just One More Day,” Tina in “The Margin of Things”.  She can just as easily turn around and seemingly effortlessly play detective roles in projects such as the three-part series “Ice Cold Blood,” and the award-winning television series “Starship One.” She not only skillfully plays the character, she truly is the character.

Perhaps it is the former years she spent as a classic ballet dancer that gives her the ability to glide into any character she graces on screen. Or, perhaps it’s her vast experience and portfolio of masterpiece performances that gives her that special touch.

Throughout her career, Karen Mitchell has built quite a portfolio, bringing to life character after character in a long list of award-winning films, well-known television shows, and nationally-aired commercials. She’s especially drawn to the investigator crime drama roles, beginning with her debut as Twila Busby on “Facing Evil,” a Discovery channel hit.  Her success in the show gave way to many others in the same and similar genres, like playing Catherine in the thriller “Nameless: Blood and Chains,” Tracy in “Deadly Women,” and the unforgettable Carmen on the crime drama series “Behind Mansion Walls.”

Karen Mitchell
Karen Mitchell shot by Sagar Beleka

Karen could have easily become comfortable in her convincing crime drama roles; but, she’s not one to be pigeonholed into playing one type of character. The substance she’s made of radiates way further than that. She excels in stretching herself, playing both good characters and not-so-good ones, which is even more evidence of her elevated skill and talent, a trait that has earned her fans from around the world.

The ability Karen has to take command of any role she plays, captivating her character’s every action and emotion, is unfounded. Over the years she’s expanded her repertoire to include a number of comedic roles in projects such as the hit television series “It’s a Dole Life,” the AACTA award winning television series “Black Comedy,” the two-part Australian satirical AACTA award winning television series  “Double the Fist,” the Australian television comedy series “Legally Brown,” the American adult Netflix sitcom “DisEnchanted” and the action comedy movie “The Tail Job.”  Not many could pull such a feat off but she did, and royally so. In addition, she nailed her performance as Sally in the thriller “Fearless Game” and was a stellar Angela in the family drama “About a Husband.” “The Hand that Feeds” would not have been the same without her in character as Mum and she rocked the role as Deedee Banks in “Torn Devotion” as well.

Karen is at her best when it comes to playing controversial characters that are immoral and conniving like her unforgettable role as Tracy Grissom in “Deadly Women.” She can go from being the lead protagonist to the despised antagonist in a heartbeat. She just has that magical ability to pull any character out of her hat. She can easily master an intense criminal investigator and whip right around and bring those criminal characters we love-to-hate to life. Those are the very attributes that are at the helm of her magnificent journey on screen.  

Karen is not only a highly talented actress and an exquisite dancer, she’s also a voice actor, model and presenter– we’d expect nothing less from the multi-faceted, multi-talented star who is one of those rare individuals that just seems to have it all.

Karen Mitchell
Karen Mitchell plays the lead in a National Commercial for The Commonwealth Bank

Her talents have caught the eyes of the corporate world, who practically stand in line to offer her roles in promoting their wares and services. Commonwealth Bank, Colosyl, Shark Sonic Duo, Thin Lizzy make-up, Coles, Marasilk and Biophysics are just a few of the big names that have sewn her talents up to represent them in commercials.  

Even her voice sets Karen apart. She has been the vocals behind a number of pieces. At present, she is the notorious voice of the children’s entertainment company, Party Pirates.  

Karen’s accomplishments don’t stop there either.  She was a finalist in the Miss Australia beauty pageant.  She’s a Screenwise Film and Television graduate and proud member of the Actors Equity and SAG-AFTRA.  Her passion for acting was realized at the tender age of three years old.

It is clear to see that Karen enjoys each and every part she plays. Her passion for what she does is contagious, radiating from the set to the emotions of the audience, whether it be a loveable, despicable, intelligent, or funny part– she sinks into the characters and makes them her own, and it is hard to tell where they end and she begins. Yes, she’s that good!

 

Actor Evan Marsh talks the importance of storytelling and loving what you do

For Canada’s Evan Marsh, acting is, at its heart, storytelling. Whenever he embodies a new character, he focuses on the story in the script and the untold story of his character’s life and their world. It isn’t just about believably saying the words on a page, it is becoming someone entirely new, living what they are living and going through entirely new life experiences. With that singular goal in mind, Marsh has quickly risen to the top of Canada’s entertainment industry, becoming a celebrated actor in his home country.

Throughout his career, Marsh has shown audiences all over the world just what he is capable of. Whether he is acting as the comedic relief/heartthrob in the Netflix Original Northern Rescue, or antagonizing the hero in DC’s newest hit Shazam!, Marsh’s versatility and talent is always on full display.

“As a man who gets bored of repetitive things quickly, I think the main thing I love about acting is the excitement of ‘what’s next?’ No single production is the same and each experience is so very different from the next. I also love meeting new people so walking onto a set with 10 new cast mates and 100 new crew members is a dream come true,” said Marsh.

Marsh is always looking for unique and often untold stories to put his touch on, and he found that with the 2017 comedic drama The Space Between. Amy Jo Johnson’s debut feature film is a heartfelt comedy about a proud new father who learns that his wife took his infertility into her own hands with a 19-year old university student and sets out on a journey to find the biological baby-daddy.

“I like this story because it brings both comedy and drama to the screen in a very unique and interesting way. It deals with the very real problem that people deal with that is infidelity but manages to discuss it in a way that still ultimately warms the heart. Amy Jo Johnson is incredible at writing in a way that is bigger than life, but never has a false note and I think that is why I myself and so many others really loved the story of The Space Between,” said Marsh.

On top of its compelling story, Marsh was attracted to the film because of the likeness he shared with his character, Danny Baker. When he first read the script, he was shocked at their similarities and knew there was no one better to play the role. Johnson agreed.

Danny is a very gentle and innocent kid. He is very smart, and when audiences first meet him in university, he explains that he is on his way to becoming a doctor. He cares about his family and puts them before everything. This is all a surprise to the audience because as the lead is trying to find him, they are naturally picturing someone completely different.

“It could be argued that this story wouldn’t even be possible without the character of Danny Baker. When I first read the script, I was surprised at how significant of a role the character played to the entirety of the story as the entire cast are trying to locate Danny. As this is going on the audience is creating its own idea of who my character might be along the journey,” Marsh described.

Because the storyline revolved around his character, Marsh felt a tremendous amount of weight on his shoulders. He loved that feeling and it allowed him to test his ability in a way he hadn’t yet had the chance to do at the time for a feature film. He sat down with the writer and really figured out what she wanted from the character and was sure to bring her ideas and thoughts into his scenes.

“I enjoyed so much about this project, but in particular I enjoyed working with Amy Jo Johnson the director/writer. I believe that because she has held such a long successful career in front of the camera that she developed a great ability to talk to her actors on set and discuss where a scene should be going or why something may or may not be working. She also has an infectious joy that she carries with her every day that made working on this project so fun and rewarding,” he said.

The Space Between was released in theatres on July 6th, 2017. On top of resonating with its audience, it went on to win awards and recognition at many film festivals around the world. Marsh was thrilled to be such a vital part of the film’s commercial and critical success, and still feels grateful to this day.

“It is great knowing a project that read so beautiful in the early stages was able to keep its heart throughout all the filming, editing and cutting. I think each cast member did such a wonderful job bringing their characters to life without losing any of the larger than life comedic aspects and I believe that played a significant part in the film’s success,” he concluded.

 

Written by Sean Desouza
Photo by John Bregar

Kevin Clayette creates troublesome love triangle on Australian hit ‘Neighbours’

With every new role he takes on, Kevin Clayette gets to do something completely different and transform into someone brand new. For the actor, it is immensely fun, like playing make believe. He dives deep into his character’s back stories, journaling their thoughts and researching their backgrounds. With his characters, he gets to challenge himself, doing things that scare him and meeting new people, travelling to different places in time, adopting different cultures, and he loves every minute of it.

I play make believe for a living. I get to be the little five-year-old inside of me who didn’t care what other people would think. I get to be different people and to observe the world around me for a living. I am a storyteller,” said Clayette.

Throughout his esteemed career, Clayette has shown audiences all over the world just why he is such a renowned actor. He captivated audiences in the award-winning science fiction horror Doktor without uttering a single word and sang his way to fans hearts in the cult classic Emo the Musical.

Despite all of his success, Clayette claims the highlight of his career came back in 2016 when he was cast in the iconic Australian soap opera Neighbours. Australia’s longest-running drama series, Neighbours follows the lives and dramas of the residents of Ramsay Street, a quiet cul de sac in the fictitious Melbourne suburb of Erinsborough.

“I like that it’s one of those shows that doesn’t try too hard to be cool. It’s just really simple, it’s about the life of these characters who live on this street and what they go through. It’s obviously an important story because the show has been running for more than 30 years. I think people just find it really relatable which is amazing. We all need to recognize ourselves in something or feel inspired by something. Shows like this allow us to disconnect from real life for a moment. Neighbourshas also been known for dealing with important topics like bullying, depression, and much more,” said Clayette.

Playing the character of Dustin Oliver, Clayette had to transform into a homeless twenty-year-old who spent his life going in and out of foster homes. Dustin becomes best friends with Jack, a main character in the show, but quickly creates drama when he kisses Jack’s girlfriend Paige, creating a love triangle that completely captivated fans of the soap. Later on in the series, Dustin helps Jack remember who he is after he suffers from memory loss, allowing Clayette to become a fan favorite during his time on the show.

“I portrayed my character in many different ways ranging from a light charismatic side to a more dramatic and troubled persona,” Clayette described.

Even though his character is portrayed primarily as a good guy, Dustin has some anger issues because of his rough upbringing, and uses boxing as an outlet for stress relief. Clayette therefore had to learn boxing, which he had never done before, and utilize those new skills in choreographed fight scenes.

“It was truly incredible. When I first learned who I was going to play, I wanted to make it as believable as possible. I started thinking about my character’s background and researched on the show to get more context. Then closer to the shooting dates, I started receiving my scripts, which would have a lot more information about my character. I then proceeded to learn my lines thoroughly and put pieces of the puzzles together in regards to my backstory and who my character was. I loved the challenge,” he said.

Clayette loved every second of his time on Neighbours. Fans of the show still reach out to him, two years later, saying how much they loved his character and his acting on the show. He never grows tired of it and is still honored to have been part of such a wildly popular series.

‘It felt incredible. I’m following in the footsteps of many other amazing actors who were there before me. At the end of the day, I was only a piece in this gigantic machine, but I feel very honored that I was a part of it. The fact that I came from a tiny little French island in the middle of the Pacific, not speaking any English and managed to make it on there is something I’m very proud of,” said Clayette.

Undoubtedly, Clayette has had a career many can only dream of, and at just 25, audiences can continue to expect greatness from this extraordinary actor for years to come. He has many exciting projects in the works and has no plans on slowing down.

For those looking to follow in his distinguished footsteps, he offers some wise words:

“Be proactive about it and don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it. The former because luck is not something you want to rely on,” he advised. “There are so many actors out there, you have to create opportunities for yourself. The more you put yourself out there, the more opportunities will come your way. If acting is your dream, then you should not allow anyone to take that away from you. Believing in your dream and yourself is 50 per cent of the job.”

 

Written by Sean Desouza

Australia’s George Zach: Playing the Obvious Villain and Those Not So Obvious

Screen Shot 2019-07-16 at 8.23.28 PM

The most successful art is that which is universal and international in its nature. That which needs no translation and has an appeal that transcends the local identity. The same can be true for the artists which present said art; when we see something of ourselves in them, we are more welcoming. This is an apt description of actor George Zach who seemingly always appears as the character but in a way that doesn’t seem foreign. It’s a benevolent part of this actor’s career which has spanned theatre to film, Australia to numerous other parts of the world. From his Logie nominated role as Michael in Loulla to the metaphysically mysterious priest in Six Steps to Eternal Death, Zach has always found a way to perfectly fit in. There’s an element from his early childhood which contributed to this template and blossomed into a highly successful career.

Australians know George Zach well from his appearance in the iconic 90’s comedy film Nirvana Street Murder. Zach starred with other well-known Aussie actors such as Golden Globe nominated actor Ben Mendelsohn (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, The Dark Knight Rises) and Mark Little depicted the culture clash of Greek immigrants and Australians in the country at the time. As a first generation son of Greek immigrants himself, George’s preparation for this role was literally a lifetime in the making. His own lineage has blended ideally with a number of productions in which he has been cast. These range from comedy to drama to…well, something altogether different. As someone who grew up with and rejected stereotypes, George was happy to take part in the SBS TV production English at Work. This ground breaking series dealt with issues relevant to people of non-English speaking backgrounds in work place environments. Presented in a dramatic documentary format, it afforded Zach the opportunity to portray an immensely diverse set of characters. He informs, “It was a really important and revealing program. Facets like the Australian sense of humor was explored. A joke in one person’s language can easily be an insult in another person’s culture. Hilarious and heartbreaking at the same time. The propensity to be misunderstand is enormous. I did enjoy this series. It reminded me of how difficult it must have been for my parents and other immigrants who faced challenges which I can only imagine.”

Completely contrasting this very real world type of subject matter; George appeared in Peter T Nathan’s (known for the award winning Australian TV series Shortland Street and Home and Away) Six Steps to Eternal Death. Selected an Official Selection of the Celtic Mystery Short Film Festival, nominated for Best Supernatural Film at the New Hope Film Festival, and a recipient of awards from the Bucharest Shortcut Cinefest and others, this highly stylized and does not lend itself to a logical interpretation. Zach appears as a priest in an Alternative Universe where a Mother is forced to accept she is dead and move on. The actor notes that the power priests held over parishioners in his youth gave him insight into the role.

Equally fantastic and much more menacing is Zach’s appearance as King Oleander in Michael Loder and Charles Terrier’s fantasy/war film A Little Resistance. Driven to madness over the death of his wife, King Oleander embarks on a campaign of obliteration that ultimately results in his own daughter taking up arms against him. The personification of evil in its extremist form, George relates that he found the experiences quite enjoyable. For the affable actor, the role seems to have been a catharsis. Actors often take the painful circumstances of others and live through them, coming out wiser in the end. For George Zach, there are infinite more experiences awaiting him and his admirers.