Germany has a lot of claims to fame. The country has produced innovative scientists, ground-breaking philosophers, brilliant artists and composers, not to mention some of the best beers in the world; and with award-winning actor Varick Addler on the list, they can count captivating screen talent among their many notable attributes.
In 2012 Varick Addler took home the Audience Award for Best Performance in a Supporting Role at the Nuremberg Human Rights Film Festival (NIHRFF) for his remarkable performance in the film “Mimikry – Upside Down.”Early on in his career Addler honed his skills at some of the most recognizable acting school across the globe, including the NYFA New York Film Academy in Los Angeles, the William Esper School in New York, the Munich Film Academy and more.
With a plethora of lead roles in film and television projects that span virtually every genre, Addler’s brilliant repertoire of work reveals him as an actor with impressive range, one who easily inhabits his characters and seamlessly brings them to life on screen.
One of Addler’s first professional roles on screen came nearly a decade ago when he played a key Soldier in the 2008 action film “The German,” which took home the Nando Award from the Novara Cine Festival. Directed by Nick Ryan, whose 2012 documentary “The Summit” was awarded at the Sundance Film Festival and earned the Irish Film and Television Award for Best Documentary and Best Feature Documentary, as well as the Boulder International Film Festival’s BIFF Award for Best Adventure Film, “The German” gave viewers the first taste of Varick Addler’s unparalleled skill in the action genre– an area of his craft that he’s become increasingly well-known for on an international level in years since.
Since his debut action role in “The German,” Addler has gone on to give memorable performances in a pretty impressive list of well-known action-packed films and series including the 2010 Golden Globe nominated film “Red” starring Golden Globe Winner Bruce Willis (“Die Hard”) and Oscar Award winner Helen Mirren (“The Queen”), CBS’s two-time Primetime Emmy Award winning series “CSI: Miami” and the Primetime Emmy nominated crime series “NCIS: Los Angeles” starring Golden Globe nominee Chris O’Donnell (“Batman & Robin”), “Law & Order: LA” and Germany’s long-running cop drama “Tatort,” which has earned over 96 award including seven Bambi Awards and six Adolf Grimme Awards, one of the most prestigious awards presented in German television.
While Addler’s appeal as an action star is undeniable, his magnetism on-screen is by no means limited to the fast-paced, heart-pumping genre alone.
German audiences will immediately recognize Addler for his recurring lead role as Johnas Schneller on the hit romantic drama series “Verbotene Liebe,” aka “Forbidden Love,” which earned the Golden Rose Award at the Rose d’Or Light Entertainment Festival. The long-running series initially centered on the wealthy Anstetten family and the middle-class Brandner family– specifically on the forbidden love between Jan Bradner and Julia von Anstetten which, although unknown to them, are twins separated at birth.
As the series progressed “Verbotene Liebe” moved away from the drama of Jan and Julia’s love affair and centered instead on a new family, the Lahnsteins, and that’s when viewers really get to see Addler in action. A family with dark and dirty secrets by the plenty, Addler’s character comes onto the show as the unpredictable and abusive father of series star Tanja von Lahnstein, played by Miriam Lahnstein (“The Peppercorns”).
Over the course of the series Addler reveals his ability to go from charismatic to manipulative and downright scathing. Addler breathes such vile life into Johnas Schneller that he easily became the show’s character everyone loved to hate. Out of all his atrocious acts though, the worst and most defining comes when Schneller who, in the middle of beating his daughter Tanja, pushes his son Thomas down the stairs to his death. To make matters worse, Schneller blames the murder on Tanja, a key plot points that sends Tanja into a mental institution for several years after her brother’s death.
“It was a very challenging role, since it is not easy to deal properly with the issue of child abuse. I am now father myself of two little boys and the thought that something could happen to my children makes me very sad and angry. More incomprehensible how a father can torment his own child in such a way,” Addler admits.
“I don’t have much in common with that character, however, as an actor I must be able to getting into the character and understand their motivation. Preparation is more than knowing your lines. It is embodying the life of the character.”
While fans of Tanja’s character were understandably thrilled when Addler’s character was reported to have died as she did time in an institution, Tanja was far from being free of her noxious father. The series brought Schneller back again and again as a ghost returning from the dead to haunt Tanja with repeated attacks, which says a lot about the character, and the actor, as he was clearly too strong of a draw factor for audiences for the show’s creators to let him die out.
With a number of riveting performances in both European and U.S. productions, Varick Addler has established an indelible reputation for himself as a captivating and dynamic performer whose boundary pushing talent allows him to portray characters within every genre.
Up next for Addler is the highly anticipated action film “Out for Vengeance” directed by Angel Film Award winner Salar Zarza.
First taking to the screen as Countess Albrizzi and Albrizzi’s ghost, in the UK’s hit ITV series “Strange But True” alongside famed English presenter Michael Aspel, actress Francesca De Luca has carved out an impressive reputation as a performer whose magnetic energy on screen keeps audiences engaged in every role she plays. Over the years she accumulated a pretty extensive list of credits that includes the films “Orpheus & Eurydice,” “Lateshift,” “Taxi,” “Anna and Modern Day Slavery,” as well as the TV series “Down & Out” and “Leenden University.”
For Francesca De Luca 2016 has been a major success with the actress taking on a critical role in five-time Oscar Award winner Francis Ford Coppola’s (“The Godfather,” “Apocalypse Now”) recent film project “Distant Vision,” which also stars Lou Volpe from “The Bold and the Beautiful” and Francesca Fanti from the four-time Oscar nominated film “Nine.”
De Luca gave a memorable performance as iconic English ballet dancer Margot Fonteyn in the docudrama “Jeremiah Tower: The Last Magnificent,” which had it’s world premier at the Tribeca Film Festival in April. De Luca also starred in the film “Passports,” which earned awards from California Women’s Film Festival and the Accolade Global Film Competition, in addition to being chosen as an Official Selection of several other prominent festivals including Atlanta Shorts Fest, Laughlin International Film Festival and Film Invasion LA.
Francesca De Luca has earned quite a bit of attention for her finesse when it comes to taking on boundary-pushing dramatic roles, as well as for her spot-on portrayals of historical figures such as Countess Albrizzi and Margot Fonteyn; but her strengths on screen don’t stop there. She is also a master of comedy, something she proved with her performances as Fiorella in the Royal Television Society award winning series “Sundae” and Sonja in Robbie Moffat’s (“Sisters Grimm,” “Dark Side of Heaven”) comedy film “Heckle,” as well as with her role in the series “Down & Out” where she acts alongside A.B. Farelly from the film “There’s Something About Mary.”
While the dynamic nature of De Luca’s craft has helped her make a name for herself in film and television, she’s also been featured in several music videos including one for DJ Goldroom’s hit song “California Rain,” which was featured on MTV’s Snapchat and helped launch the Snapchat Snap Channel in 2015. You can also see her in a national commercial for Turner Classic Movies as well as the music video for Olos’ “Real Talk.”
To find out more about Francesca De Luca, what it was like working with Francis Ford Coppola and what’s next for her, make sure to check out our interview below!
Where are you from?
FDL: London, England. I was born in Hammersmith, London and am of Italian origin. My great grandparents came over from Italy in the late 1800’s. I was brought up by my mother with the help of my grandfather, as my father left when I was two. My grandfather was a real inspiration to me as a person and I feel very lucky to have had him in my life.
When and how did you get into acting?
FDL: My mother took me to dance classes from the age of 6, ballet, tap and modern, which I loved. Then I started competing in poetry festivals reciting poems. I felt at home and confidant on the stage, it gave me the space to express myself. I became more serious about acting at the age of 16 when I auditioned for the school play and was offered the role of the flirtatious nurse or the main role of the hunchbacked German owner of a lunatic asylum who goes mad at the end of the play! Guess which one I chose?! I loved the challenge of that role, even though the nurse would have made me more popular with the boys! In fact my best friend did not initially recognize that it was me on stage! –which I was always amused about as it was a complement to my acting ability! I won the school’s award cup for the best actor that year. After this experience I was hooked on real acting and knew it had to be my vocation.
What is it about acting that drives you to perform?
FDL: I love to make an audience feel something whether it’s through comedy or drama, and the emotion and truth of a character. I love making people laugh, feel and think, and I love to get my teeth into a script where the character has depth, contrasts and experiences an emotional journey.
I love to bring characters to life on both the screen and the stage. I love to explore all parts of myself and bring my life experience to a role. I am interested in psychology and feel I understand how complex we are as humans, with all of our quirks, patterns and vulnerabilities, no matter how tough we appear on the outside.
I like to make a role come alive in the present, and am excited by the challenge and process of bouncing off the other actors and seeing what happens! When I started acting I thought it was about hiding myself until I realized that it was completely the opposite, it’s about showing who you are, your vulnerability and all that it encompasses is what I feel makes an actor really watchable. We are all complex and have contradictions within us and we all share many of the same fears and want to be loved and to love.
Can you tell us about the film “Passports” that you recently shot?
FDL: The film follows Tanya who returns after six wild years of travelling. Once home, her mother and grandma make her join an online dating site and go on a date. The date is a visit to a psychic. During the visit unexpected events occur and the guy hits on the psychic secretively sliding to her a piece of paper saying ” Call me.” The psychic ignores him and tells Tanya her fortune and after Tanya shows the psychic a ‘new’ game of magic in which she makes her date’s car keys disappear. From then on things get heated between the three. This film is a dramedy with beautiful cinematography and interesting characters.
How does your character fit into the story?
FDL: My character is the psychic who the other main characters in the film, who are played by Ekeobong Utibe and Coty Galloway, go on a date to visit. However the guy shows his true colours and ends up hitting on the psychic and emotions get heated. My character comes across as quirky and puts on a front of mystery and that makes for some comedy when she is reading the girl’s future. She gets more than she bargained for when a game of magic starts and mayhem ensues.
What was your favorite part about working on this film?
FDL: I enjoyed working with the two talented writer/directors Jeremy Pion Berlin and Adam Linkenhelt in making my character three dimensional and in bringing the comedy out from the truth of the situation. The psychic was a woman just doing her job with the same spiel day after day. She’s bored by all of the guys hitting on her, and the same old “I see love in your future” line she gives. The magic that happens in the scene excites her and when the guy loses his temper later she makes sure she is still paid and handles the situation well. I created a backstory of her life in my head so that the character was more real and the comedy would come from the truth of the situation. Jeremy and Adam encouraged improvisation.
When I first auditioned I did an American accent and then told them I was British and did a cockney accent and then my own accent which is standard British. They loved my cockney accent and then decided on using my own natural accent. They asked me to improvise in the audition as if I was a psychic giving a reading to them which went very well. They told me soon after that they wanted to cast me, which was great and I loved the way we all worked together. They are talents to watch out for in the future and I look forward to working with them again later in 2017 on their first feature film “Illynger” in which I will play a lead role. I can’t wait!
Has the premiere date for “Passports” been set yet?
FDL: Yes we had a Hollywood premiere in July at Raleigh Studios Hollywood, The Charlie Chaplin theater.
You were also in Francis Ford Coppola’s film “Distant Vision,” can you tell us about the story the film brings to the screen?
FDL: “Distant Vision” is about a multi generational Italian American family set in New York whose history spans the development of television. I believe some of the characters were inspired by his own family. I play one of the Italian relatives.
What was it like working with Coppola?
FDL: It was such an honour working with Francis. A dream come true for sure as he is a such a master director. He showed immense passion for this project and was a very humble genuine man.
I couldn’t believe it when he was actually there in person at my first audition. I had to hide my nerves at first but soon relaxed. We got on very well and he asked me about my Italian history. He told me I looked like one of his relatives. I told him I understood the perspective of immigrants and how it feels, and I joked that while I am born in London my Italian roots show through as I use my hands when talking, a gesture that I was doing at that same moment! It was easy to talk to Francis and he reminded me of my grandfather with his warmth. When he talks to you he looks you right in the eyes and really listens. It felt like I had known him for years. Such a lovely man. He spoke about how important it is to be yourself and how the character becomes us. He used examples from actors like Al Pacino when he was filming “The Godfather.”
It was amazing being one of the first actors in the world to be part of his innovative ‘Live Cinema’ experiment, something no other filmmaker has attempted yet!
Live cinema utilizes feeds from several cameras, instant replay servers, which he switches live with very advanced broadcast equipment. It is an ongoing project that will take several years to complete I believe. It’s a hybrid of theater, film and television.
As a director he was very direct and calm. He is so highly intelligent and creative and it felt like I was in “The Godfather” especially as we all looked so Italian and the actors he chose were very entrancing. It was like he was painting a picture with every shot and his attention to detail was amazing. It was clear he wanted us all to be relaxed and he let us bond naturally with each other. It felt like a real family on set.
Can you tell us about some of the film projects you’ve done?
FDL: In the film “Orpheus & Eurydice” I played the sorceress Aglaoniki, one of the leads alongside Oliver Reed. It was filmed around Athens, Greece. My character was the baddie in the movie. She kills Orpheus and Eurydice. Oliver Reed was the narrator. Oliver Reed was one of my favorite actors and I was so happy to be in a feature film with such a great iconic actor. Aglaoniki was a fun role and I enjoyed giving her layers, not just being evil. She is in love with Orpheus and he rejects her and she feels that pain of rejection but going to stronger lengths than we would usually go, by killing him and his love Eurydice by putting a spell on her so she gets killed by a snake!
We filmed a lot of the scenes in a cave outside Athens and my character had an altar. There was a scene in which Orpheus was supposed to get angry with me and the director told the actor to hit me with his lyre! I remember the actor looking at me in shock, wondering how we would do that without me actually being hurt. I think he ended up trying to ‘strangle’ me as that was easier! I had just done a film acting course in London with director Bob Bierman and relished the idea of using what I had just learned in this film; however I soon realized the director did not like the subtle acting I was hoping for, he kept asking for me to go bigger!
It was Oliver Reed’s second to last film around the time he shot “Gladiator.” I feel fortunate to have had the chance to work with him before he died. The movie was shown in theaters across Greece and had a mix of American, British and Greek actors. I was featured in the Greek version of Hello Magazine and newspapers in London and interviewed on radio in London about the film.
I played Margot Fonteyn in the feature docu-drama “Jeremiah Tower: The Last Magnificent,” which was produced by Zero Point Zero and Anthony Bourdain for CNN Films. It has been successful in major film festivals such as Tribeca where it premiered this year, and it will be shown on CNN in 2017. Directed by Lydia Tenaglia, “Jeremiah Tower: The Last Magnificent” is a story about the life of Jeremiah Tower, one of the most controversial and influential figures in the history of American gastronomy. In one section of the film set in the 60’s it documents his well known dinner parties in which the famous ballerina Margot Fonteyn, my character, was an anticipated guest.
“Taxi” is a film in which I played a taxi driver and the film follows her throughout her day giving the audience a day in the life experience of what it’s like to be a female taxi driver. This film was largely improvised which was an aspect I enjoyed. This film was shown at The Cannes Film Festival Short Film Corner a few years back. I had the opportunity to see it at the festival in Cannes and see other films at the festival which was a great experience.
How about television projects?
FDL: I played an Italian Countess, Countess Albrizzi, in the series “Strange But True,” which was shown on London Weekend Television, one of the UK’s three main tv stations, and had very high ratings which was great. The story was set in the 1800’s and my character is killed by her husband who found out she was cheating on him so she could get pregnant as she had thought him to be infertile. He got so angry that he chopped off her head! You didn’t actually see that in the show though… we just hear her scream as he comes towards her with an axe! Very gruesome! My character then turned into a ghost and haunted the palace. This was based on a true incident and Joan Collins was filmed telling this story in between the reenactments, as it was actually her who had seen my character’s ghost when she stayed in Venice at the Palazzo. The ghost was seen walking out of a painting of herself.
In the comedy tv series “Down And Out” I played one of the three leads alongside A.B. Farrelly, the daughter of Bobby Farrelly, one of the Farrelly brothers who directed several great comedy movies like “Dumber and Dumber” and “Something About Mary.” A.B. is a well respected comedy actress and stand up comedian and she was so lovely to work with. My character was Margo, an attractive lipstick lesbian, a successful go getter who gets herself in trouble by speaking before she thinks. She is one of three women who are coming out. My character has a very funny scene with her crazy therapist played by the talented Malcolm Matthews. I loved working with him. It was a fun scene to film. “Down and Out” was written and produced by Annie C Wright.
The show was chosen as an Official Selection of Webfest and LA Cinefest, and was featured on the front page of the One More Lesbian website, the leading platform for high quality Lesbian film and TV.
In “Justice For All with Cristina Perez” I played an American litigant. I can’t reveal more as it has not been shown yet! It was filmed live and the questions from Cristina Perez were not given to me before filming so I had to know this character’s backstory inside and out! A good challenge for me!
In “Sundae” I played Fiorella, the daughter of an Anglo-Italian Family in London. “Sundae” was the Runner up in Royal Television Society Awards for Best TV Pilot. My highlight in the show is when I get angry with my boyfriend and squash a big plate of spaghetti on his head!
You get approached all the time to work on projects with people, what makes you pick one role over another?
FDL: Firstly the script. If it’s well written and also if the character develops throughout the story. I have to feel that I can’t wait to get my teeth into this script. Then the director. If we click at the audition and I can see us working well together.
Do you feel that you get cast to play a certain type of character more than others?
FDL: Yes– evil, mysterious, bitchy, quirky, strong are possible adjectives to describe the roles I’ve played. The psychic I played in “Passports” is quirky and comedic. My comedic role in “Down And Out” was a strong woman discovering herself and I played a bitchy Northern English heckler in “Heckle.” I play a bitchy mother in “Your Move,” a new series coming out in 2017 and I played a mysterious Russian secret agent in “Anna and Modern Day Slavery.”
Out of all your productions, what has been your favorite project, or projects, so far and why?
FDL: Of course being part of Francis Ford Coppola’s “Distant Vision” project has been the pinnacle of my career and I loved working in the presence of such a master. One of my favorite acting experiences has also been being directed by Sir Timothy Ackroyd. I feel he helped me hone my acting craft. Playing Carla in the stage production of “Kennedy’s Children” was wonderful as I hired an accent coach to help us all with the American accents and I feel I perfected my Texan accent which was good so that I could forget about the accent and focus on the acting alone. She was an interesting character with flaws and insecurities that she was trying to surmount while going for her dream in Hollywood. And finally working as the psychic on “Passports” was a challenge as I wanted to make her real, three dimensional and not hammed up.
What is your favorite genre to work in as an actor?
FDL: Comedy and drama, dramedy and also fantasy. I like all of these. I have a well developed sense of humor and have a strong feel for comic timing and seem to make people laugh with my choices! I remember one of my acting teachers recently saying “You could make a fortune out of comedy!” I love drama too with emotional situations. I like paying a villain who people love to hate or people pushed to their limits or in difficult situations. The list is endless, I love a challenge. If people tell me I have moved them or made them laugh or uplifted them or made them think, I feel fulfilled and happy that I have done my job. I feel I have a lot to give.
What separates you from other actors? What do you feel your strongest qualities are?
FDL: Depth of character. I am good at showing contrasts in characters. I take direction very quickly and I can improvise well. I am good at getting great results on the first take. I have a large range of emotions and life experiences that I can draw upon and have taught me about myself and other people. I am excellent at accents and changing the tone of my voice and physicality. I give my all to any role I play and am always looking to learn and become a better actor. I have a genuine love for my craft and am easy to work which helps bring out the best in others I work with. My presence adds to making the production a success.
What projects do you have coming up?
FDL: Later in 2017 I will be shooting the feature film “Illynger” with the directors of “Passports.”
I’ve also just started freelancing with one of LA’s top Voiceover agents and look forward to auditioning and booking some great roles. It’s highly likely you will hear me in some big animation movies and TV shows over the next few years! Bill Ratner, one of the US’s busiest voiceover artists, heard my voice reel and immediately recommended me to his agency.
What are your plans for the future?
FDL: To keep on working on my craft and take classes at studios like Groundlings and work further with other world renowned LA acting teachers like Lesley Khan. In London, I was one of the founding members of the Anthony Meindl Acting Studio. I was inspired by Anthony Meindl when I first saw his Youtube videos and when he visited London I made sure I did his masterclasses. Then he opened his London Studio helmed by Mitchell Mullen, a seasoned actor from Boston and I never missed a class till I left London for LA in 2013. In London and LA I did scene study and worked on a variety of scripts. Tony gave me added encouragement to make a career for myself in LA.
What do you hope to achieve in your career as an actor?
FDL: I aim to continue working with talented writers, directors and actors, to make high quality films and tv shows that people will love and to reach a large audience. I want to feel I have made a difference to this world. I want to feel that I have become the best actress I can ever be and keep my sense of humor!
If you weren’t an actor what other profession do you think you would have pursued?
FDL: A fine artist, designer or even a life coach! I am good at painting and am creative and I am good at seeing people’s blocks and weaknesses and would want to help them become happier people.
Natasha Khan Mayet has always been driven to perform, but her refined and natural talents in acting leave a lasting and notable impression among audiences everywhere. From film to television to commercials and even on the stage, Mayet takes on a wide variety of characters, challenging herself and constantly proving her flexibility and skill. This, coupled with unduplicatable charisma and unparalleled beauty, make Mayet a highly sought after actress in the industry.
A native of South Africa born to parents from East India, Mayet has become known for her performances in the films “Trafficked,” “11:11,” “Three Suspects” and many more. Her work on the stage is equally as dazzling. She made a distinct mark in the eyes of audiences in Los Angeles when she took on the starring role of the Indian goddess Kali in the play “The Desperate Yogi,” presented at the prestigious Hollywood Fringe Festival. The story revolves around a man who has contracted HIV and travels to India to become a yoga instructor.
“I think this role challenged me as I discovered elements of the mother goddess in myself,” Mayet recalls.
“The Desperate Yogi” was chosen among Frontier Magazine’s favorite LBGT productions. In the play, the man gets to India and is met by gods and goddesses, who influence his path to finding the answers he is looking for. The play received raving reviews from audience members, who especially praised the performances of the deities. While it is understood that every show is, to a certain extent, an ensemble piece, it is undoubtedly in large part because of Mayet’s sincerity and believability as the two female goddesses, the mother goddess and the goddess of love, that the play was met with such success.
A robust and fruitful career in the industry has allowed Mayet to work with incredibly talented and renowned individuals. Natasha plays a critical role in the film “11:11” produced by internationally acclaimed producer and director Roxy Shih (“Dark Web,” “The Tribe”). She was cast in James Franco’s (“Pineapple Express,” “Spiderman”) “Mother May I Sleep with Danger” alongside celebrities such as Tori Spelling (“Beverly Hills, 90210,” “Scary Movie 2”). She can be seen in actor and rapper Machine Gun Kelly’s (“Nerve,” “Why Him”) music video “A Little More.”
Mayet says, “The music video is a comment on how obsessed with social media society has become.” She has also been directed by Ben Affleck in “Live by Night”and can be seen alongside Emmy Award winning actress Sarah Michelle Gellar (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “I Know What You Did Last Summer”) in one of ProActive’s current nationally airing commercials.
Speaking of Vampires, Mayet stars in the upcoming series “Vampire Academy,” where she plays Moira Ozera, an older vampire queen. In the series, Ozera plays the mother of acclaimed actor Justin David. Interestingly enough, Mayet had worked with David before, this time playing his love interest in Andrea Guzman’s “My Father’s Way.”
“That is the beauty of acting!” Mayet laughs, “And, since I am constantly working on my craft, training, and honing my skills, it is impossible for me to spend a day where I am not acting! Sometimes you play the girl next door, sometimes you play the villain. Sometimes you play up your age, and sometimes you play it down, but it all allows me to explore the different aspects of myself, to grow, and to constantly evolve.”
Mayet, highly intelligent and fluent in five languages, aspires to write and direct her own feature films. Until then, she is assisting other motivated filmmakers by acting in their projects. Mayet just wrapped filming the season “Office Girls,” a show based on Sylvester Steven’s novel of the same name, which stars a predominantly female cast.
“My character is Tazzy Lin, a meek character who is in charge of running things in the office,” Mayet explains. “I usually only choose to work on a project if it tells a story that is in some way important and conveys a message, and Tazzy, although meek on the surface, emerges as a strong woman with a story to tell as the series unfolds.”
Part of what makes one actor stand out from the rest is their dedication to their craft, and, in this field, Mayet absolutely shines.
“I live, breathe, and sleep acting,” Mayet admits. “I constantly feel like I need to be creating.
It is her pure love and commitment, along with her extensive training and, maybe most importantly, raw and natural talent which one simply cannot learn, that makes Mayet an actress to be talked about for many years to come.
Indian-born actor Karan Sagoo recently wrapped production on the upcoming horror film “Followed,” which also stars Satellite Award Winner John Savage from the seven-time Oscar nominated film “The Godfather: Part III” and the five-time Oscar Award winning film “The Deer Hunter,” Blanca Blanco (“Bullet,” “American Romance”) and Kelsey Griswold from the two-time Golden Globe Award winning series “American Crime Story.”
Expected for release later this year, the film is depicted through a series of video blog posts made by an unseen vlogger whose interest in the macabre leads him to take his show, and a crew of three friends, to a famous Los Angeles hotel with a reportedly haunted past. As the group traverses the hotel in search of answers, they soon find themselves getting more than what they bargained for when they encounter an evil entity with malicious intentions. And that is where Karan first comes into play.
A key character and driving force in the plot, Karan seamlessly embodies the masked demonic character using his body movements to elicit fear within the amateur film crew in “Followed.” His spot-on performance is definitely a key element behind the film’s suspense.
Oddly enough, Karan was initially cast in the role of an aggressive and mentally unstable drug dealer who goes after the crew as they document the hauntings (a critical role which he plays in the film as well) however, after the film’s director, Antoine Le (“Bar Union”), saw Karan’s extraordinary command over his movements and body language, he immediately cast him to play the lead role as the film’s main antagonist.
“Karan is an incredibly talented actor. After watching the way he used his body as the deranged drug dealer in my film, I asked him to try to embody the evil demon for the film and he nailed it. I cast him for the second role right away. He was able to bring both characters to life, from their mannerisms to their body language, perfectly. Having him in the film has definitely been a huge asset,” says Le.
It will come as no surprise to those that have followed Karan’s career to date that his mastery over his body caught the attention of “Followed” director Antoine Le. Prior to embarking on his acting career, Karan Sagoo carved out a prominent position for himself in the fashion and advertising industries as a model, a field of work he continues to be sought after for today.
Over the course of his career Karan has been featured in some of the world’s most popular magazines, including Elle magazine, DNA, Yuva Youth magazine, Rolling Stone magazine, Man’s World, Society magazine and more. His charisma, good looks and ability to transform himself and embody different looks and personalities (which has been a huge asset in his acting career as well) has led him to be featured in ads for a diverse list of global companies such as Virgin Atlantic, Toyota, UK Trade and Investment, Videocon, Liril Soap, Max Lifestyle, Union bank, Focus T-shirts, E-Zone, Ernst and Young and others.
Having been on billboards and inside the pages of countless magazines, Karan Sagoo is probably one of the most recognizable male models in the eyes of viewers across India; but what he’s achieved as an actor has made his name known on a global scale. Karan first hit the big time when he played one of the lead bachelor’s in the hit series “The Bachelorette India,” which aired on India’s major TV network Life OK. While his role on the series several years ago made him a major heartthrob in the eyes of women across India, his dynamic talent as an actor is what has kept him on everyone’s mind.
In 2012 Karan starred in the hit romantic comedy film “From Sydney With Love,” which follows Meghaa, a small town girl from West Bengal, India, who is in for a major culture shock when she travels to Sydney, Australia for college.
Starring alongside some of India’s most sought after actors, including Bidita Bag (“X: Past is Present,” “Icche”) who plays Meghaa, as well as Ronjini Chakraborty (“Man’s World,” “At The End of it All”) and Evelyn Sharma (“Gadaar: The Traitor,” “Kuch Kuch Locha Hai”), Karan takes on the lead role of Suhail Syed in the film. A narcissist from an extremely wealthy family, Karan’s character Suhail becomes the film’s major antagonist through his relationship with Meghaa, who he sees as a challenge, which leads him to pursue her romantically.
Karan’s performance as Suhail is definitely one of the highlights in “From Sydney With Love,” as he easily embodies the attractive, but overly egotistical character in a way that makes him easy to hate.
Directed by Prateek Chakravorty, who produced the hit series “Born Stylish” and the films “Jomer Raja Dilo Bor”and “Tujhya Vin Mar Javaan,” “From Sydney with Love” premiered in Sydney, Australia and was screened across the globe in the U.S., Australia, Canada, England and India. The film was produced by Pramod Films, one of the most recognizable names in Bollywood cinema as the production company behind major hits such as “Deedar,” “Barood,” “Jagir,” “Azad” and others.
In addition to “From Sydney With Love,” Karan is known for his lead roles as Professor Drew in the docu-drama series “Cry Wolfe,” Mukul Sinha in the crime series “Khotey Sikkey,” as well as the series “Rishta.com” and the multi-award winning film “Band Baaja Baaraat.”
Karan took on the lead role of Vikram in the romantic comedy “Band Baaja Baaraat,” which won the coveted Aspara Award, Filmfare Award and many more. Directed by Maneesh Sharma (“Fan,” “Ladies vs. Ricky Bahl”), “Band Baaja Baaraat” follows two wedding planners, Shruti played by Zee Cine Award winner Anushka Sharma (“Sultan,” “PK,” “Nh10”) and Bittoo played by BIG Star Entertainment Award winner Ranveer Singh (“Finding Fanny”), tasked with planning the weddings of three very different and demanding couples.
One of the couples is Vikram, played by Karan, and his fiance Preity, played by Kanksha (“Paranoia”). Due to Vikram’s family wealth and status, he has the means to give Preity the wedding she always dreamed of, even if it means bringing in India’s biggest star to perform at the wedding. A key character in the film, Karan’s memorable and magnetic performance as Vikram in the critically acclaimed film “Band Baaja Baaraat” definitely earned the actor quite a bit of attention both in India and abroad.
Aside from playing two lead roles in the upcoming horror film “Followed,” Karan is currently featured in a commercial for TagFi, a popular new social networking app that allows users to connect and find groups of people with common interests and passions, and easily make plans. In the commercial Karan plays Neil, an on-the-go business professional who is unable to meet and make connections with people due to his busy lifestyle, but thanks to TagFi, Neil’s social life is buzzing.
“The ad has been featured on app download services worldwide such as iTunes and the Apple App Store, and has been viewed millions of time. Karan is super professional and dedicated to his craft. He has a very natural charisma and gravitas as an actor that really comes across on screen. He has played a lead role in endearing Tagfi to millions around the globe,” says award-winning director Cole Mueller, who directed the Tagfi commercial.
In the commercial world, Karan is also known for being the face of major ads for Mother Dairy ice cream, Samsung, Raymonds suits, Ariel detergent, Lipton iced tea, Sompo insurance, Lux soap, Fiama Di Wills body wash, Volkswagen and more.
From his lead roles in several highly acclaimed films to his illustrious career as an international model, it’s easy to call Karan Sagoo one of India’s hottest exports– and he’s definitely one you should keep your eyes out for!
Some actors just have the kind of face audiences can’t help but love and Australian actor Toby Levins is definitely one of them. Besides being naturally good looking, Levins’ has an amiable and magnetic on screen presence that makes him an easy fan favorite– so it comes as no surprise that he was cast to take on the lead role of Deputy Bill Todd in the first five TV movies in Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ on going “Murder, She Baked” series.
You can catch Levins reprising his role as Deputy Bill Todd in the series fifth film, “Murder, She Baked: Just Desserts,” which premieres Sunday March 26 at 9:00 p.m./8:00c on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries!
Based on the cozy mystery novel series written by Joanne Fluke, the films follow Hannah Swensen, played by Daytime Emmy Award winner Alison Sweeney (“Days of Our Lives”), a small-town baker who starts splitting her time as an amateur sleuth after her delivery driver is found murdered behind her bake shop in the series’ first film “Murder, She Baked: A Chocolate Chip Cookie Mystery” released in 2015.
Levins’ character Bill Todd, Hannah Swensen’s brother-in-law, is the town deputy, who works closely with series’ lead Cameron Mathison (“All My Children”), who plays Detective Mike Kingston.
While Levins is widely known throughout the industry for his recurring roles in several action heavy dramas such as the Primetime Emmy Award nominated post-apocalyptic drama series “The 100,” ABC Freeform’s Saturn Award nominated fantasy drama “Beyond” and the Leo Award nominated crime series “Rogue,” his character in the “Murder, She Baked” franchise is the polar opposite of most of his other roles. As Deputy Bill Todd, Levins effortlessly brings the films’ comic relief, further proving his dynamic range as an actor.
Levins’ says, “In one of the earlier films I was joking With Alison Sweeney, who plays Hannah in the franchise, that Bill should be based on Yosemite Sam. So now before a scene I just think ‘What would Yosemite Sam Do?’ How can you not have fun at work when that is your mindset!”
The on-screen chemistry between Levins and Mathison is immediately evident, and their relationship is definitely critical to the popular movie series as Bill is always at the scene of the crime doing his duty to enforce the law as Detective Kinston and Hannah try to solve the case.
About working with Levins, Mathison (who is also a lead reporter for “Entertainment Tonight”) says, “He is a riot on set. All of our procedural police scenes are together, and Toby and I always have a blast when we work together.”
Despite the mystery murder concept that runs through the “Murder, She Baked” series, there is definitely a romcom element, especially as things begin to heat up between Hannah and Detective Kingston over the course of the films; and with Levins’ character Deputy Todd married to Hannah’s sister Andrea, played by Lisa Durupt (“Preggoland”)– Hannah, Kingston and the Todd’s might just become one big happy family. But you’ll just have to keep watching the on going series to find out!
Since “Murder, She Baked: A Chocolate Chip Cookie Mystery,” Levins has starred in the series’ follow up films “Murder, She Baked: A Plum Pudding Mystery,” “Murder, She Baked: A Peach Cobbler Mystery,” “Murder, She Baked: A Deadly Recipe,” and most recently, “Murder, She Baked: Just Desserts.”
The “Murder, She Baked: A Deadly Recipe” film will air on Sunday at 7:00 p.m./6:00c on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, just before the most recent film in the franchise premieres.
In “Murder, She Baked: A Deadly Recipe” Levins takes center stage when his character Bill Todd runs for town sheriff. Up until then, Levins’ character has been a staple in the series representing the honest, good-natured energy of small town law enforcement. However, when the current sheriff, the one Bill is running against in the upcoming election, is found murdered, he becomes the prime suspect. The film offers quite a drastically divergent plot line from the previous films, one that gives way for a lot more character development on Levins’ part, which he nails as usual. To find out whether the lovable Deputy Bill Todd is actually a cold-blooded murder who’s been disguising his evil ways all along, you’ll have to catch the movie when it airs on Sunday.
Out of all five films, Levins admits that his favorite one to work on so far has been “Murder she Baked, Just Desserts.” “I had a lot of police procedural scenes with Cameron Mathison (Mike), who is a lot of fun to work with. We have an ongoing battle to make each other laugh during a take. I am kicking his ass,” explains Levins.
Over the last few years Toby Levins has been one incredibly busy actor who continues to be in high demand for a number of lead roles. Since shooting the first five films in the “Murder She Baked” series between 2014 and 2016, he’s also played an impressive list of critical recurring roles on some of the most-watched TV series in the U.S. and Canada.
His lead role of Lieutenant Carl Emerson on season 2 and 3 of the “The 100” really gives audiences an opportunity to see Levins’ capacity for playing intense, dark and action-packed characters.
The series follows a group of 100 teens from the Ark Space Station who return to earth 97 years after a nuclear disaster to see if earth is inhabitable. There they find that a few groups had survived the disaster, but the surviving groups are caught in an intense power struggle, with the Mountain Men having the dominant upper hand.
Levins’ character Lt. Emerson, the right hand man of the Mountain Men president, comes onto the scene in season 2 when he tries to kill members of the Ark, but is captured instead. He becomes a key piece in the Ark’s unfolding plan to gain the upperhand when they send him back to the Mountain Men with a message: “We’re coming for you.” Towards the end of season 2 Emerson becomes the only surviving Mountain Man after Mount Weather, the Mountain Men’s headquarters, self-destructs killing everyone but him. Despite being on the antagonist side of the story, Levins’ portrayal of Lt. Emerson easily made him a fan favorite in the show.
While Levins look has made him an easy cast for authoritative, law enforcement roles, the stark contrast between the characters he plays has revealed him to be an incredibly dynamic actor.
“What makes a performance interesting, and I am speaking for myself here, is truth. There is nothing duller than watching an actor working extremely hard in order to show the audience how amazing an actor they are,” explains Levins. “What is mesmerizing is watching an actor and forgetting they are an actor. What leads to this, I think, is twofold; making the truth of both the scene and the character the highest priority, and not allowing one’s ego (which is usually a very loud voice in an actor’s head) to have skin in the game.”
Up next for Toby Levins is the highly-anticipated scripted comedy series “Loudermilk,” which is being developed for AT&T Audience Network by Peter Farrelly and former “Colbert” Report writer Bobby Mort. The 10-episode series centers on Sam Loudermilk, played by Golden Globe nominee Ron Livingston (“Swingers”), a recovering alcoholic and substance abuse counselor with a bad attitude.
Levins will play a key recurring role as Carl, the boyfriend of series’ lead Allison, played by Laura Mennell (“Alphas,” “Watchmen”). “In playing Carl I was afforded the opportunity to improvise with Ron take after take, a luxury so rare and rewarding. ‘Loudermilk’ is a show that I would watch if I wasn’t in it – that is a very nice thing to be a part of,” says Levins.
Stay tuned for updates on the release date for the upcoming series “Loudermilk,” and make sure to catch actor Toby Levins in the premiere of “Murder, She Baked: Just Desserts” Sunday, March 26 at 9:00 p.m./8:00c on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries.
Australian actor Wadih Dona’s career has been marked by an impressively steady progression of accomplishments. His natural cache of talent and classic theatrical training has earned him two decades of sustained professional success, not only on stage but also with numerous television and film jobs. Dona’s gift for creating fully realized, believable characterizations have landed him several very high-profile recurring roles on Australia’s top TV shows, but those successes are just a minor aspect of the driven actor’s ambition.
“I am interested in telling stories that resonate on a larger scale,” Dona said. “I have been in TV, film and theatre for many years in Australia, and I am interested in opening up avenues for international work. The US is a market that actors naturally gravitate to, and given my long list of credits, I felt ready to take it on.”
It didn’t take long for Dona to reach this goal. His portrayals utilize an impressive mixture of instinct, stagecraft and soulful, emotional intensity; Dona draws viewers in close, building an emotional bond which he deftly exploits for a powerful artistic impact. It was precisely this quality which led him to his first US film, 2016’s Septembers of Shiraz, playing alongside two of America’s biggest movie stars, Oscar winner Adrien Brody and the acclaimed lead actress Salma Hayek.
The film, a thriller set in 1979 Iran, was somewhat of a passion project for the two stars—both also served as producers—and it combines taut suspense and raw emotion into a compelling whole.
“Septembers of Shiraz is an art house film, it’s an intimate family story, not an action blockbuster,” Dona said. “The film is an adaptation of the novel by Dalia Sofer, and is based on real life. It centers on a Jewish-Iranian family, played by Brody and Hayek, who are suddenly faced with persecution when the Iranian Revolution unfolds in 1979. Brody’s character is arrested, tortured and humiliated, and the film closely follows his ordeal and the fortitude he had to have to get through it.”
Dona’s personal background—the actor grew up in numerous European and Middle Eastern countries—and formidable resume of successful performances served him well when it came to Septembers of Shiraz.
“I knew Wayne Blair, the director, as we had worked together in a production of Othello for the most eminent Shakespeare company in Australia,” Dona said. “We had history, were good friends, so he trusted me and my work methodology—and vice versa.”
“He sent me the script, asked me to screen test and told me that the project would be cast out of the US, with Salma Hayek and Adrien Brody attached. Obviously, I did well because I got the part, but Wayne had no final say in the casting so it was good to know that I achieved it on my own merit.”
This was indeed the case, as executive producer Heidi Jo Markel said: “We were looking for an actor with gravitas, who could portray the menace of the Iranian Revolution. We knew we had our guy when we saw his fantastic screen test. Wadih is talented actor with incredible screen presence and the icing on the cake was that he was a pleasure to work with on the shoot.”
To develop his character (Rostam, a member of the infamous Revolutionary Guard) Dona focused on Markel’s watchword: “Menace. Rostam symbolizes the forces of chaos and anarchy within the Revolution,” Dona said. “I was cast because I can access those dark emotions quite easily. As a child I was exposed to civil wars and I knew those kind of men, I saw them—young men who suddenly had power, and they could do what they pleased with that power. When we were on set, carrying weapons and with the period uniforms, I was scared when I saw my own reflection in the mirror!”
“Adrien Brody and Salma Hayek were both very personally invested in this story,” Dona said. “I had scenes with both, and each was a pleasure to work alongside, but I had more to do, plot wise, with Salma. In one scene, Rostam loots her house and there is an obvious sexual threat as well as one of underlying violence. We rehearsed this scene a few times and kept going deeper emotionally. She went into that dark emotionally territory with me so openly, we built rapport very quickly because of this. She was fantastic to work with—open, accessible and an absolutely gorgeous human being.”
When the film debuted at the prestigious Toronto Film Festival, Dona said, “It premiered there in the biggest cinema in Toronto, the Roy Thompson theatre, with 2,630 people watching. It was massive. I had never seen a cinema that size.”
A complex, thoughtful piece of filmmaking, Septembers of Shiraz was aptly described, by one critic, as “a germane and intelligent observation of the current global political climate in which the world’s ‘have-nots’ are rebelling against the party-political status quo.”
For Dona, it had even more significance. “It was a fantastic, enriching experience,” he said. “Personally, I think we made something quite beautiful and life affirming. And it has helped me leverage myself professionally to do more work. It’s a calling card of sorts for me now—people sit up and listen when I tell what I have done in this film. And, if I had to be selfish, I would say also that shooting a film with one of your friends directing and acting alongside Oscar award winning stars, well, that’s too not bad, either, is it?”
Troy Greenwood has many talents; producer, writer, actor, etc. While he may not truly accept it, poet and artist should be mentioned in the same breath. His film Faded Image is as vulnerable, heart-wrenching, and inspiring as any of the great poems of literature. The film seeks to reveal, relate, and give respite to those who experience or come into contact with those who experience depression. The public’s understanding and acceptance of the validity and presence of mental health has grown considerably in the last decade, often as a benefit of the work of artists like Greenwood who help others to peer into the invisible “virus” that effects and overwhelms our fellow citizens and family members, often directly in front of us. FadedImage was an official selection at the Covellite Film Festival as well as the Bare Bones festival 2017. As someone who has dealt with the challenges in his personal life like clinical depression and leukemia, Troy is able to communicate the internal perspective that so many silent individuals struggle with on a daily basis. Because he is a lauded and respected member of the film community, Greenwood is able to present these feelings in a way that makes them palpable to a wide audience. Good films allow us to “see” the emotions on the screen, great ones allow us to “feel” them; and Faded Image is a great film. The two drastically different scenes relate the mental state and the ability of all individuals to choose which of these to gravitate towards. As the dialogue of Faded Image states, “Find shelter in the simplest of things that bring us joy. Dance, cry, sing, laugh…even when it hurts and know that you are never alone.” Poetry. Hope. Art.
To suggest that Faded Image is a life-long endeavor is completely accurate. The writing of the script has been a decades long process for Greenwood. While the majority of those who battle depression avoid the help that could be given them due to some antiquated sense of inferiority or shame, it takes an artist like Troy to run headfirst into the fray and reveal the most personal and vulnerable parts of himself. This is partly due to a desire to help and inform others and also as a self-enacted form of therapy. Therapy happens in stages and can sometimes take a lifetime to achieve the progress necessary to cope. Greenwood began creating the script for FadedImage two decades ago. He reveals, “I wrote the first half of the script during my teens when I was first diagnosed with chronic depression. Battling through dark times and dark thoughts it can almost feel like you’re detached from yourself, unable to feel, and the dialogue of the first half of the script came out of a piece I wrote talking to myself as an outsider about the way it feels to be at the end of your rope – suicidal. I then thought about what I might say to myself in those darkest of moments to get myself through, and that formed the first incarnation of the script, nearly 20 years ago. I returned to the piece at numerous points throughout my career, tinkering with the script, mostly updating or revising the second half of the script, and how my thoughts had changed about what I might choose to say to myself to get through. It wasn’t until I started collaborating with Film Acting Fight Club that the idea came back in earnest to film this project. It had been several years since I looked at the script but I brought it in to the group for a reading. The feedback I got from the group was great, and I went about rewriting a draft of the script.” The first half of the film, which was written in Troy’s teen years, takes place in a bathroom. It depicts a teen contemplating, and to some point, attempting his own suicide. It is painful to watch. The lack of color translates the lack of interest and stimulation that someone suffering from depression receives from the world. This myopic outlook is unavoidable in the same way that someone dealing with pneumonia cannot resist a cough. The second half of the film depicts the same person, now an adult who has persevered and now possesses the wisdom and ability to speak to his younger self about the trials he has faced. The man’s age has also taught him the ability to do that most difficult thing, take one’s own advice. The setting for this second half of the film is a summer’s day surrounded by color and light…and hope. A young girl plays in the park, alluding to the hope that blooms in the future.
If writing this script was the act of writing a speech, filming and releasing it was the equivalent of reading the speech aloud at the city square. Troy confirms that the technical part of filming came with its challenges as well. He notes, “I knew the constraints of an enclosed space [bathroom scenes] would make it nearly impossible to get the angles I needed to bring my vision to life, so we built a set and shot the first half of the project during the winter. After finishing the first half, the second portion was much easier as it just required waiting for the weather to clear in order to shoot in the summer. The sunny park and the winter indoors are obvious metaphors for the winter and summer of our lives and proved incredibly apt. The finished piece has been very well received. It is my desire to donate the film to health and support groups as an educational and/or promotional tool for discussing the issue of depression. Too often, we struggle in silence, and I would hope this film might shed some light on that and at least open up some conversation about an issue that I think affects a lot more of us then we admit.”
The entire film is a voice over monologue, which lends itself to the idea of the viewer being inside the mental perspective of Faded Image’s main character. This facet also makes the cinematography more vital than normal. Troy is adamant that the talent of his DP Chris Bragg helped him to so accurately portray what depression (and the release from it) feels like. Bragg comments, “Faded Image was a unique and interesting project to work on. It was clear that Troy had spent a long time with the idea and script to know exactly what was needed. The bathroom set was painstakingly built to allow for specific angles and it really opened up possibilities for me as the cinematographer, like the tight close-up over the sink, or the slow move up and around his shoulder. The final piece is a raw and engaging piece that grips you and leaves you pondering it well after viewing.”
Faded Image contains many possible motives. It can entertain, inspire, inform, help…the specific reasons are not completely obvious. This is an unexpectedly endearing quality for a film. Void of outcome attachment, the audience is able to take something personal from the production. Greenwood relates, “Inspiring people can drive people to create change in the world (that is a help), and films that help are often sources of inspiration for people. If anything, I’d say in all of my work my aim is get people to see things from different perspectives, to offer insight perhaps into why someone acts a certain way or question what ‘equality’ or ‘justice’ or ‘truth’ means and in doing so get my audience to investigate their own views on various subjects. I guess the best way to put that would be to say, my goal in all my work is to investigate and illuminate humanity.”
International Entertainment, and the Talents that Leave us Buzzing….