Category Archives: Featured Actress

XIAO SUN IS RISING ON A VARIETY OF FILMS

img_9834

Americans are somewhat spoiled by the fact that Hollywood is the default epicenter of the global movie industry. The UK, China, India, and other places around the world have thriving movie studios producing fine films but Hollywood has the infrastructure which has been in place for more than a century. This gives the city an ample head start. Many actors set their sights on Hollywood as it gives a global platform to the talented members of the film community. Although Hollywood doesn’t create the artistic light, it can project it to all reaches of the planet. The most successful actors possess talent, charisma, and global appeal. This is exactly how one can describe actress Xiao Sun. This Chinese born and raised, moved to Canada, trilingual, dancer, model, and actress is complex and captivating on camera. Although Americans may not recognize Sun as quickly as Canadians, there is something very familiar about her. She worked on X-Men Days of Future Past (grossing 723MM worldwide, 2015 Oscar nominee and multiple award-winning), and TV shows like Being Human (multiple nominations and a win for ASCAP’s Top Television Series) but her roles in both English and French speaking films in her Canadian homeland have made her a household name in the North.

img_9844

In her first ever audition for film or tv, Xiao was cast in the supporting role of Boon-Mae in the comedy film Fatal. Beyond the pressure of being in a feature film, Sun was required to act the part speaking her third language of French (Fatal is an entirely French spoken film). Also playing against Xiao’s nature is Boon Mae’s superficial and jealous character. Being cast so soon after moving from China to Montreal created a whirlwind for Sun, who soon found her comfort at ease on set. She recalls, “I had just moved to Montreal from China with my parents. My French was not very good yet so it was very challenging. My co-actors, Michaël Youn and Tony Tarba were very nice and helpful to me. They’re both big stars in France. They always gave 100% on set; rehearsing scenes with me, giving me tips on acting and my character development. It made me feel very comfortable and relaxed. Sometimes they’d throw me a slang word and I had no idea what it meant or I thought it was something else, but my expression and sincerity would make them laugh. We did have tons of fun in spite of the long shoots every day.” Fatal was distributed by Universal Pictures International & Remstar Films and was a box office success which endears Xiao to fans with the cult following that has led to its ubiquity in France.

A stark contrast thematically, as well as her role she played, was the movie Anna. This critically acclaimed movie about human trafficking was an official selection at Busan International Film Festival in South Korea in 2015 (the location of the world premiere), an official selection at Singapore International film festival, and nominated for a Canadian Screen Award. The film’s Director was so taken with her performance as a tough mafia guard that the character’s name was changed to Xiao. The award-winning Charles-Olivier Michaud directed Sun in Anna and declares, “Anna is a film about a photojournalist who travels to Bangkok to pursue investigations for a news story on human trafficking being carried out by the Triads, and is kidnapped by Asian gangsters and subjected to the same abuse she has investigated. Xiao played the leading role of “Xiao,” a fierce member of a mafia group in Montreal that Anna has to go through in order to get to the person with the criminal evidence of the mafia leaders that abused her in Bangkok. Xiao performed this role with amazing character commitment and zeal, and truly brought the character to life in the fierce way that it needed. She applied such great energy and emotion into her dialogue and expressions that kept the film momentous and suspenseful. Xiao embodied the character amazingly with every scene on camera, adding intensity to this tragic story. She was truly leading to the production. Xiao was such an excellent actor in my film that I cast her in another leading role in my new upcoming television series Premonitions.” Xiao’s portrayal as her namesake was moving to the film’s director and audience alike but it was the subject matter which moved this actress as she reveals, “Human trafficking actually exists in every country, not just less developed countries or areas. It happens not just to women, but also men and children. The awful way that these victims have been treated is something that I could have never imagined and no one should have to experience.”

Summer of 2016 saw Xiao returning to French film in Les 3 P’tits Cochons 2, leading at the box office for local Canadian films. The film is the sequel to the successful film from nine years ago. In Les 3 P’tits Cochons, Sun plays opposite French film star Paul Doucet (Remi) as his love interest Mikou. Mikou is stunning, sexy, and wealthy. It was an opportunity to play a strong woman who is every bit a match for her male counterpart. Sun confirms that she enjoyed the chance to work with the much respected and award-winning Doucet. Although the experience was fun, that doesn’t mean it was necessarily easy. Xiao recalls one unexpected scenario,” You can’t plan for emergency situations. During filming of one of the airport scenes, there was an emergency landing. We had to finish an important scene in 30 minutes; one which was scheduled to last a few hours. Everyone on set rallied and my co-actor Paul Doucet and I were focused to get what the director wanted in the first take of each angle. We managed to finish the scene before the emergency landing of the plane. That is not something that you prepare for in an acting class.” The film’s award-winning director Jean-Francois Pouliot reinforces the idea that Sun’s presence in the film had great impact by noting, “It was only after the premier of Les 3 P’tits Chochons 2, that I realized what a lasting impression the opening scene left on the audience and that is mainly because of Xiao.  She has an incredible screen presence that set the tone for the rest of the movie and helped to elevate it to another level.”

img_9833

Xiao is tight lipped about her upcoming film role which has her acting opposite two Oscar winners but she is happy to discuss the film Tidal Waves in which she plays Riley. Tidal Waves is the story of a young dancer’s struggle with scoliosis. Her history as a dancer makes this a very personal film which she is quite proud of doing. With a wide variety of roles, Xiao Sun is exactly the type of positive yet driven actress that audiences will be seeing more and more of as she appears in more and more international films.

 

 

ANA ROZA CIMPERMAN IS THE DEFINITION OF A DREAM GIRL IN EIGHT AND A HALF CIRCLES

Eight and a Half Circles is a movie which makes the viewer disoriented in an intriguing way. For filmgoers who prefer not to have the action spoon fed to them, this passion piece by filmmaker Gregor Kresal is premiering at the Teplice nad Metuji film festival in the Czech Republic and screenings at the Poprad film festival in Slovakia and at the Spotkania film festival in Poland. The female lead of Eight and a Half Circles is Slovenian born actress Ana Roza Cimperman. Cimperman’s performance as Cat is luminous and yet ethereal, which is exactly the reason Kresal states that she was the very first actress he thought of when he created the role. This film which defines the term psychodrama, allows viewers to enter the altered state of reality of a man who is grasping feverishly to understand what is reality and what his life has meant to those around him. Eight and a Half Circles delivers with a great surprise ending but keeps you guessing about what is fact and what is self-fulfilling/desired reality until the very end.

Actress Ana Roza Cimperman is proof of two things in film; the film community is global now more than ever, and Hollywood still attracts the elite from across the planet. Cimperman has amassed a number of film and TV credits in the past few years (Jefferson, Nympho’s Diary, Rayven Choi, The Man Van, etc.) and is the female lead in Eight and a Half Circles. The fact that this Slovenian born and educated actress exhibits not even a hint of an accent in her role as the American “Cat” in this film, gives profound credit to both her acting as well as her focus on the language of the film. Ana confirms that this was paramount to her approach as Cat stating, “The most difficult part was probably the fact that this was my first film in English. At first, it is really hard to be relaxed and natural in a language that is not your mother tongue, but with enough rehearsal you can get past it. There is also this pressure of sounding as American as possible to not seem out of place in a movie where everyone else is American. After a while you have to let go of that and just focus on the scene and the present moment.” Certain scenes were framed in ways which excluded Cat’s face, in order to portray Omm (the male lead role played by New York actor Joey Maida)’s sense of confusion and disorientation. This required Ana to focus on how to communicate with her body rather than facial expressions or dialogue, creating yet another challenge for her role. Her commitment to reaching for the new places that the role of Cat brought is exactly the reason Eight and a Half Circles creator/writer/director chose Ana. As a grantee of the David Lynch Foundation, Kresal not only experienced filmmaking in the US but also struck a harmonious chord with Lynch. Both artists enjoy the psychological approach to storytelling. Kresal used his experience as an Alpinist to convey the mind altering states that these adventurous mountaineers are subject to experiencing. This is the core of Eight and a Half Circles. Gregor describes the film as an Alpinist’s reflection of Dante’s Inferno. As Omm (the male lead) is preparing for a climbing expedition in Pakistan, he gets the feeling that something might go wrong; which he shares with his girlfriend Cat. He is agitated. Every night he wakes up restless and feels he is drifting further away from Cat. He then wakes up in a hospital room and is told that he has already gone on his expedition, fell ill and was transported to the hospital. In that moment he realizes that Cat is really the woman nursing him while he is recovering from surgery and that his whole relationship with her was just a fragment of his imagination. Kresal comments, “Eight and a Half Circles is extremely important to me as it is essentially my life story. When I completed the script, I immediately thought of Ana Roza who I had met a few years prior in Ljubljana, Slovenia. She plays the role of Cat, Omm’s girlfriend who turns out to be just a fragment of his imagination that his mind creates when he is recovering from surgery in the hospital. Her character had to be grounded but it still had to possess a dream-like quality which Ana managed to pull-off perfectly.” Ana recalls, “Gregor knew me from my work on the feature film Tomorrow in which I had the lead role. I see some similarities between the character of Mojca, who I played in Tomorrow, and Cat as they are both gentle, thoughtful and sensible women so perhaps that made the decision to cast me easier. I was only familiar with Gregor’s work on the documentary Sfinga (The Sphinx) so I was not sure what the tone and the story of the movie would be. I knew it was going to feature mountaineering so I was expecting more of a dynamic, action-based film. I was pleasantly surprised when I read the script which has many layers and depth. It features interesting multi-dimensional characters so it took me several readings to figure out what was really going on. This was a good sign for me as it meant there were many ways to approach this character.”

13987649_1208643962502250_6979794603663033572_o

The viewing audience is often required to contemplate what is reality in Eight and a Half Circles as well as the true motivation and actions of the characters in the film. This makes the surprise ending even more gratifying…SPOILER ALERT. The surreal nature of Cat necessitated contemplation from Cimperman who states, “In the movie there is the real Cat who is a nurse and also the imaginary one, which Omm’s brain created based on the brief moment when they met for the first time. The imaginary one was definitely more mysterious and inquisitive while the real one was more supportive and caring. At first, I almost fell into the trap of playing her in a dreamy and angelic way… which would have been completely wrong because it is important that she is a real and grounded person. It is what keeps the viewer interested in their story and the loss at the end greater when you realize none of those intimate moments between her and Omm really happened.”

Eight and a Half Circles is a film which appeals to the audience in many different ways. The action and adrenaline of mountain climbing with its potential dangers, the inner workings of the human psyche as a way to deal with threats, and the intrigue of the unknown; all are present and accessible in this production. The anticipation at many film festivals, based on word of mouth alone, are proof of film’s ability to peak interest. Cimperman is just as excited about the public’s reception of this film, which she considers to be a major achievement. She is excited to take on more English speaking roles but admits to being drawn to the cerebral aspect rather than daredevil influenced roles. Cimperman reveals, “Joey Maida (Omm) is a very talented and hardworking actor based in New York. I admired the way he dived into the role although it dealt with a sport he was not that familiar with. He was not afraid of challenges and even traveled to Europe to shoot the second part of the movie in the Italian Alps. I have done adventurous sports in the past and I enjoy the rush but, as a working actress, being injured means you cannot work. Acting is my true passion which means that anything which keeps me from acting is not worth giving that up.”_H__0551_retouched

LINZEE BARCLAY CHALLENGES HISTORICAL STEREOTYPES IN “HOMEFRONT”

Love and war are the two most prevalent themes in cinema. Perhaps that is because everyone has been touched by one of these factors, all too often by both. The later makes for great action and outrage; portraying the humanity and inspiring sympathy for those on the unpopular side of history can often be a herculean task. Linzee Barclay understands this very well. In 2015’s HOMEFRONT she plays Elisabeth; a mother, wife, and German caught in the middle of one of World War II’s worst battles. The film had many lofty goals, not the least of which was being a bi-lingual with both English and German dialogue. HOMEFRONT won Best Picture, Best Sound, and Best Production Design (as well as nominations for Best Director and People’s Choice) at the Sheridan Screen Art Awards in addition to being screened at the Oakville Film and Arts Festival and the 2015 Buffer Film Festival in Toronto.

The setting of HOMEFRONT is the Ardennes Forest and also the location of WWII’s “Battle of the Bulge.” The film is less about this pivotal confrontation between German, Russian, British, and American forces than the war’s toll on the people in the Ardennes. 1944 was several years into the war and less than a year before its recognized conclusion. All sides had been exhausted and had recognized their losses. For Linzee’s character Elizabeth, it was the realization of many things. Exhausted by a long war, she understood that the war had only brought destruction to her country and her family. Her husband was likely dead and there was danger all around her and her son. When a wounded American soldier finds his way to her home, with an SS officer on his heels; Elisabeth and her son Fritz (played by C.J. Dube) are convinced to protect him at their likely personal peril. Finding the caring and altruistic side of a likely former Nazi sympathizer is not an easy goal for any actress. HOMEFRONT writer and director Jamie Banks confirms that Linzee was an obvious choice for the role of Elizabeth stating, “She just blew me away in casting. Linzee can convey so much with just her face. In real life she is bubbly, outgoing, funny, yet when she became Elisabeth she truly was a different person. She executed the German Dialogue so flawlessly that even Germans were praising the German dialogue in the film. Linzee is extremely intelligent. This allows her to see what makes a character unique. I immediately knew that she was our Elisabeth.”

IMG_3218

The intensity of the storyline needed to be matched in the actor’s performances. Producer Sarah Thompson was looking for something strong, convincing, and understated in Elisabeth. Although Barclay’s execution of the dialogue was impressive, Thompson was looking for an unspoken sense of depth and intensity. Sarah notes, “Linzee brought an entirely new side to Elisabeth that was not on paper. The physicality and mannerisms that she introduced played a huge part in the audience’s reaction to her. The amount of passion and emotion she gave off with just a look sold us. Her eyes said it all. Her interpretation from just the sides let us know that she would give us endless possibilities.”

HOMFRONT may be a war film but it doesn’t glorify war. Rather than an encouraging tale, the film depicts how some people lose the ability to care for others and the desperation with which others cling to it. As a mother who takes part in a ruse to protect a wounded soldier who is by definition at the time, the enemy; Elisabeth protects the American in an attempt to cling to her good side, while risking her own life. Above it all is her goal to protect her son. Barclay’s convincing portrayal brings the viewer to challenge the dichotomous relationship of what historical propaganda may tell us about someone and human nature itself. Jamie Banks attributes much of the film’s success to Linzee stating, “Linzee provided an intense emotional authenticity to the film that allowed it to succeed. In a very real way, she made the film. Any of the intense emotions a viewer feels are channeled through Linzee. She draws you into the film and makes the danger real. She makes you think, ‘God, she’s in a dangerous situation!’ In any period piece, immersion is crucial, and Linzee provided that immersion for our film.”

Barclay has been a part of many award-winning films and television presentations including The Real Inglorious Bastards which won a 2014 Canadian Screen Award & an Official Selection at the Cornwall Film Festival for Frontier. The Screen Media Award which HOMEFRONT received was particularly meaningful to her. The actress explains, “Elisabeth was very special to me. There are things about her that we can all relate to like loving your family and wanting to protect them. It was the differences that we don’t all share that are the joy of discovering and portraying a character like her. I’ve studied a lot about history of that time and women’s roles in Nazi Germany. My knowledge of the German language was obviously a major asset but, to challenge the stereotype of someone like Elisabeth can be a great discovery. I had to be very specific with her body language and the physical approach to her. The key to it is to finding the humanity. Everyone is flawed in some respect. When a character seemingly ‘wins’ in a story, they are also ultimately losing something dear to them. One just takes precedence over the other.”

Although it wasn’t “method producing” or method acting; the film’s location, in a cabin, in Canada, in the dead of winter…obviously aided the cast of Rylan Wilkie, Mike Koras, and CJ Dube in accessing the harsh message of the storyline. Linzee confesses, “On the third night around 3am actor Rylan Wilkie (who played a very convincingly intimidating SS Soldier) and I got a case of the giggles during a take and couldn’t shake them for a bit. Unfortunately for him, he was standing outside in the dead of winter waiting on an apple box to come in to the cabin and I couldn’t open the door without laughing at him. Yet, when it was time to bring the emotional gravitas of the character to the scene, Barclay was always prepared. Producer Sarah Thompson confirms, “Linzee’s portrayal of Elisabeth and the raw emotion she brought to the film is one of the main reasons the film had such a strong reaction from audiences. The way she openly wept while holding her son at the end sent chills through people’s backs and left a lasting impression that could not be shaken.”

IMG_3217

Within days of wrapping HOMEFRONT, Linzee was cast as Sharlene in the CW series Reign. Her portrayal of this sassy, cockney harlot, in many ways the comedic relief of the series, is in sharp contrast to Elisabeth and the weight of her circumstances. Both characters are equally convincing in the hand of this adept actress. Also in Linzee’s immediate future is her appearance on the CBC TV series Murdoch Mysteries. This Canadian actress continues to cross character borders and national borders with a variety of productions, following her muse as fans follow her career.

From Australia to Hollywood, Award-winning Actress has shown who is ‘Next,’ what ‘Love Is’ and a whole lot more

DSCN1193 (1)
Kayla Strada is an award-winning actress from Australia known for her standout roles in the films “Next” and “Love Is…”

 

Kayla Strada, an Australian actress known for her award-winning performance as Chelsea Johnson in the short drama film, “Next,” has been dazzling international audiences for years for her refined character portrayals in film, TV, commercials and theatre. The enticing Strada has a track record of swelling success. With demanded talent, passion for the craft and a look tailor made for a career in front of the cameras, Strada has risen to international prominence for her standout acting facilities.

Strada’s star quality was recognized in no time by the ultra-competitive industry that is acting. When she was just 17 years old, Strada was cast among thousands of auditioning actors as the beloved character, Betty Boop, for Universal Studios Singapore.

IMG_2038.PNG
Kayla Strada was cast as Betty Boop for Universal Studios Singapore.

She’s since gone on to act in films championed by award-winning filmmakers such as Stan Harrington and Tessa Blake. Strada has acted in “Home and Away,” a 28-year running soap opera that’s the most awarded show in Logie history (Australia’s version of the Emmys), in commercials for Universal and Fox and in theatrical productions of quintessential shows such as “A Streetcar Named Desire,” “Alice in Wonderland,” “West Side Story” and more.

Strada was tabbed for a coveted scholarship at the McDonald College — Australia’s top performing arts school headquartered in Sydney — and also perfected her craft at Australia’s National Institute for Dramatic Arts.

After moving to the U.S., Strada attended Los Angeles’ renowned Stella Adler Academy of Acting, which boasts famed alums such as Oscar winner Benicio del Toro (“Traffic”),  Oscar nominee Mark Ruffalo (“Spotlight”) and Golden Globe winner Henry Winkler (“Happy Days”), among dozens more.

“The real art of acting, I feel, starts from theatre,” Strada said. “The theatre background shaped me as an actress because of the amount of work involved in the collaboration with others. Working with other people’s ideas and your own brings what’s on paper to life. With theatre, you’re never really finished. It’s taught me it’s an ongoing learning experience.”

Strada hails from the city of Gosford that is situated on the Central Coast of New South Wales, Australia, just outside of Sydney. Part of her initial lure to acting came after watching Universal’s 2003 reimagining of an iconic story that’s moved audiences for decades.

“The story all began after watching Peter Pan,” Strada said. “And no, it’s not the story of ‘I never want to grow up, so that’s why I act.’ I think I was about 13, kinda when I thought of myself as a woman. I had a child crush on Peter Pan, then played by Jeremy Sumpter, and really wanted to meet him. The only way to meet him was to be an actor myself. Obviously, my inspiration for acting changed, but that’s where it semi-started.”

Strada’s early taste in film and TV was influenced by her mother, Mary, who made a point to have Strada and her brother, Joseph, watch movies based on true stories.

Added Strada, “I am a big fan of Cate Blanchett. She is a big inspiration because she still goes back to her foundation and still does a lot of theatre, as well as the film side. She knows how to juggle both really well.”

11891142_10152965101202041_4395991120329263447_n.jpg
Actress Kayla Strada reflected on performing the character, Chelsea Johnson: “She taught me to never give up.”

Strada’s own performing began on the stage. Her first big role came in the Gosford Musical Society production of “West Side Story,” where she played Anybody’s, the stubborn tomboy who joins the Jets gang in the story.

“It was super funny for me because I was probably the most European looking girly girl playing the part of an American tomboy, but I had a blast exploring that character,” she said.

It was another character, however, that Strada first performed on stage who holds a special place in her heart and has served as the catalyst for recurring success. Strada debuted one of her favorite characters — Chelsea Johnson — for a memorable high school theatre project. She developed and performed the character, who was a familiar someone that hit close to home.

“Chelsea Johnson’s secret is the same as mine,” Strada said. “We both share the fact that we are dyslexic.”

And both equally brave. Chelsea is a character Strada describes as a bubbly, bright go-getter who has her sights set on being a star actress, despite her impediment. “Cold reads are her obstacles and she is motivated to prove to herself and to others that she can do it.”

Effectively performing a monologue brings its own share of challenges, but delivering one all the while overcoming dyslexia is a feat of remarkable merit. That’s precisely what Strada did.

“To have the audience laughing at me at the beginning, then to not hear a pin drop by the end of my monologue was the most satisfying feeling as an actor,” said Strada. “To have a judge who was examining my performance tear up at the end of my high school performance exam was more then worth it.”

What was gained beyond acing the dramatic test?

“She taught me to never give up,” Strada said.

And Strada didn’t give up the character either. She reprised Chelsea Johnson for a short film called “Next,” whereby this time Chelsea auditions for Hamlet, but has unwittingly memorized the wrong lines and is asked to cold read for the part in Shakespeare’s tragedy.

“Chelsea is forced to face her fears and insecurities to reveal her hidden secret,” Strada said.

Strada’s groundbreaking performance in “Next” was recognized with a Best Actress award at the 2016 Nova Film Fest (Virginia) in April. “Next” was also nominated for Best Short and was the runner-up for Best Dialogue Short at the 2015 Action on Film Festival (Monrovia, Calif.).

13271658_10153468919107041_1888822087_o.jpg
For her role as Chelsea Johnson in “Next,” Australian actress Kayla Strada won the Best Actress Award at the 2016 Nova Film Fest.

Stan Harrington directed “Next” and is a multi-award-winning director, producer and actor known for “Lost Angels,” “Perception,” “The Craving Heart,” and many more.

“I asked Stan if he would film it. When he said, ‘No,” I asked if he would just read the script first. He came back the next day and said, ‘We’re filming it this weekend,’” said Strada.

The pair would collaborate again on the short romantic drama, “Love Is…” with Harrington writing and directing, and Strada starring in the role of Maddie.

The film follows Nick (Bryan Lee Wriggle) and Maddie, who fall in love at first sight, but find their relationship stalling and themselves searching for the true meaning of love.

“The nature of a shoot required to make a movie like “Love is…” is exceptionally trying, so getting to work with actors that not only come prepared, but also have incredible talent and insight, like Kayla, makes everything just that little bit easier,” said Harrington.

Strada described her character as a relatable girl with universal themes including wanting her boyfriend to show his love instead of only saying it. The story picks up where Nick and Maddie are at a routine stage in their relationship, but Maddie is trying to change things because she doesn’t believe Nick has been trying to show Maddie he loves her, even though he has and his efforts went unnoticed.

“It has been a privilege to work with someone like Kayla Strada,” said Wriggle, who has also acted in Harrington’s “Bella” and Relativity Media’s hit “21 & Over.” “She brings a professional attitude and great work ethic to set each day. I feel honored to work with actors that take control of their work and ‘bring it’ on set each and every time!”

Actress Daphne Tenne (“Monkey Say, Monkey Do,” “Vort”) co-starred in the role of Liz. “This project has been an amazing journey,” she said. “Kayla is extraordinary at what she does, truly a professional at work. Acting alongside Kayla in this film was a journey that I will take with me forever. I am very fortunate to have had the opportunity to be a part of the project and I learned a lot about myself and about love.”

The “Love Is…” story had thematic elements inspired by events from Strada’s life. “My uncle passed away and my mother, back home in Australia, was noticing all these five cent coins all over the house. She started to put things together that it was my uncles’ way of telling my family that he his around watching them and things are okay. It may sound strange, but I have had other people come up to me after watching the film, saying they have had similar experiences, so although this is based around a couple, the inspiration came from my uncle.”

“Love Is…” became an Official Selection at the Nova Film Fest, is expected to screen at forthcoming film festivals and will be shot as a feature film adaptation. “The team we had…it became a real family and I love that,” Strada said. “It’s a project that we have worked so hard to tell a story that we are all passionate about.”

Strada’s other film roles include playing an ER Nurse in “Upended,” a short drama directed by the award-winning Tessa Blake (“Election Night”). The film tells the story of an unstable single mother who looks after her young son, who is rushed to a hospital after eating what he though were acceptable brownies. Strada’s character enters the plot and tries to help the boy survive.

She also acted as Nancy in the Nick Seabra-directed film, “Cold Milk.” The role saw Strada carry out the victimized Nancy, who is taken hostage by an unfamiliar, crazed man who wants Nancy to impersonate his daughter, who was taken away from him.

For TV, Strada performed in the role of Gypsy for the Discovery Channel’s “Deadly Women” docu-crime series that chronicles true crime stories of female killers, and in writer-director-producer Sophie Webb’s, “Same Sex.” She’s also acted in Australia in the Nine Network’s “Underbelly” and 7 Network’s hit soap opera, “Home and Away.”

Strada has acted in the music video, “Here’s to the Sunrise,” for the pop/hip-hop group, Kicking Sunrise (Right Coast Music), and co-hosted on YouTube’s popular “The Naked Traveller” adventure series with Tyson Mayr. She most recently presented at the 2016 Los Angeles Greek Film Festival with host Mena Suvari, star of “American Beauty” and “American Pie.”

13396538_10153499582577041_2103501990_o
Actress Kayla Strada presented with Mena Suvari at the 2016 Los Angeles Greek Film Festival.

We’re looking forward to seeing Kayla Strada in many more exciting roles to come! For all the latest, visit her official site, www.kaylastrada.com.

Q & A with the marvelous Canadian actress Zoe Cleland

Zoe Final 1
Zoe Cleland

We recently had the chance to sit down and visit with the talented, lovely actress Zoe Cleland, who film and TV audiences would recognize from her stand-out character portrayals in “How to Plan an Orgy in a Small Town,” “Murdoch Mysteries,” “Saving Hope,” “Pay Up,” “Reign” and others.

A Toronto native, Cleland first starred on the stage before hitting the screen. She booked her debut TV role when she was just 15 and became the youngest actor to ever attend the National Theatre School of Canada.

Cleland has acted alongside famed talents such as Lauren Holly and Megan Follows, and has appeared in roles ranging from comedy to period drama to medical drama and more.

She’s been in the trenches on many productions. We’ve put the spotlight on Zoe, who shared this exclusive question and answer session that reveals just what it’s like to work nowadays as a film and TV actress. We think Zoe’s awesome and invite you to find out her story below!

 

When you read scripts and discover characters, what qualities do you look for and what aspects attract you to a role? 

ZC: I’m attracted to all kinds of characters for lots of different reasons. Great writing has a huge impact on what I want to be a part of. I think if the writing is good, it usually means there’s a level of depth to the characters and the story that is super exciting to mine as an actor. I’m also drawn to roles that I feel will illuminate some aspect of the human experience that I feel needs to be looked at, that will benefit people to empathize with…and then sometimes it’s purely selfish in that a character might be fun to play or might have an aspect that I want to explore for my own understanding or personal development. It all depends! I rely a lot on my intuition.

You booked your first role at the age of 15 when you guest starred as Eva Rookwood on “Murdoch Mysteries.” How did this character tie into the episode and what was the experience like being on a television set for the first time? 

ZC: Yeah, so I played Eva Rookwood, a British orphan who gets adopted into a well-to-do Canadian family, only to be abused by her stepfather. He ends up getting murdered and the episode revolves around solving that crime…won’t give too much away but the crime is a result of the abuse that was going on.

I remember the experience being totally thrilling and terrifying at the same time. Up to that point, I had mostly worked on stage so I really didn’t know much about working with the camera. So the experience was very very new for me. I was so excited to be on set, though, and I remember being completely entranced with how much detail went into to building each room…I remember looking at the books on the bookshelves and how much thought had been put into what they were, even though they probably would never be seen by the camera. I wasn’t used to being immersed on a set in such a realistic way and I thought I had landed in heaven.

You returned to “Murdoch Mysteries” in the role of Joanne Perly in an episode that aired earlier this year. How was this character involved in advancing the story and did you ever anticipate returning to the series? 

ZC: I never anticipated going back; I just assumed that would be it for that show but apparently not! I can’t say too much about Joanne Perly without giving too much away, but I will say that she appears to be a sweet young mother but is actually something else underneath. She ends up being an intricate part of the episode, which revolves around a bank robbery. Her baby also goes on to be adopted by the Murdochs, which was a new kind of plotline for the show.

Last year you made your feature film debut in Jeremy Lalonde’s comedy, “How to Plan an Orgy in a Small Town,” a project just a little different from “Murdoch Mysteries.” What was your experience playing Young Cassie? 

ZC: My experience doing that film was really wonderful, it was a great set to be on and it was so exciting to be playing the leading character in the opening act. I had to have a different relationship with the camera than I’d ever had before, because the emotional heart of the opening of the film rested on me…because of that I learned a lot.

What was it like acting alongside Lauren Holly in the film? 

ZC: It was great; Lauren is really lovely and very generous.

Did you learn or absorb anything from working with her?

ZC: I did, I learned a lot just from watching her work and also from talking to her, we had a lot of time to chat in between takes and she was really open about her life in the industry, so I absorbed a lot from that.

Did the topic of “Dumb & Dumber” or Jim Carrey ever arise? 

ZC: Haha no, I’ve never actually seen the movie.

What are the characteristics a great actress possesses?

ZC: Great question! I think the ability to empathize is probably near the top, because without that there would be no acting. Apart from that, I’m going to say openness, vulnerability, bravery and imagination.

How do you try to incorporate those qualities into your own acting?

ZC: I just try to be honest with myself about whether I really feel I’m being true to a character and/or situation…whether I’m going as far as I can into whatever reality I am portraying. I think if I am I will exhibit these qualities by default.

What is one thing that people would never suspect about being a film and television actress? 

ZC: I think people tend to have ideas about film and TV acting that it is a really glamorous job…and that somehow the actors are the most important part of the whole production. In reality it is really a collaborative thing, there is so much work that goes into film from so many different people and it is truly a team effort. That’s one of the things I love about it. It also really isn’t as glamorous as people think, there’s a lot of waiting around and it takes a lot of passion and stamina to continue to be present in the work.

What’s surprised you the most or surpassed expectations about working in the industry?

ZC: I think in a way the most stunning thing about the film industry is that it even exists at all. When you realize how much work and drive it takes from so many people working together to do a project, it’s really amazing how much great work gets produced. There’s such a magical element to the film industry and it’s incredible how many people have the passion to come together to make it happen.

What’s been your single most difficult day on set? 

 

ZC: I had one day on “Reign” when they didn’t get to my scene till about 3 in the morning, so the whole day was waiting in my trailer, and then trying not to fall asleep. That was difficult purely physically because it was challenging to stay alert enough to do my best work.

What has been the most rewarding role you’ve played thus far in your career? 

ZC: I was in a production of “Three Sisters” by Anton Chekhov in theatre school that really changed my whole approach to acting, and actually made me want to go into film. I played Irina, one of the sisters, and I don’t know if I’ve ever dove more into a part than I did with her. I just got totally lost in her and her story. We had a director who really encouraged smaller, more naturalistic acting and it made me realize how much I loved that kind of intimate work.

Continuing on the theatre theme, you attended the National Theatre School of Canada. How does that training bode well for your portrayals in film and television?

 

ZC: I think my training at NTS taught me a lot about myself…that has been incredibly valuable to me on many levels. The lessons that I learned about myself there made me really know who I am and how my mind and heart work, which is so necessary to act. The school also had a really strong emphasis on building stamina when I was there and that has also served me well.

What was the best part of acting in the comedy series, “Guidance,” alongside Rob Baker? 

 

ZC: The best part of the experience was actually working with Rob, acting in those scenes with him was like being in a verbal fencing match. It was just so much fun.

You played Odette in two episodes of The CW’s award-winning period drama, “Reign.” Tell us a little about Odette.

ZC: Odette is an unfortunate maid who gets involved in a lot of intrigue that she would rather stay out of. Because she is lower class, she is in some ways not part of the world of “Reign” in the same way that everyone else is. It was fun playing her because she is a bit of a deer in the headlights…someone really powerless who has to live day to day surrounded by a lot of danger in the world of the French court.

What’s the best part of acting in a big period piece? Is it the costumes, set pieces, the transformative nature of the production or something else?

 

ZC: I have always had an obsession with period pieces, so acting in them is really a dream come true for me. It’s kind of the ultimate playground for my imagination, because when you are in a period piece it really is like stepping back in time. You are totally transported into another reality in a way that you aren’t when you are in something modern.

What was it like acting with Megan Follows in “Reign”? 

 

ZC: It was wonderful acting with her, she has such a strong presence and she is so focused.

You switched gears last year and acted in the role of Brianna Pierre in the acclaimed medical drama, “Saving Hope.” How valuable is the range of an actress who goes from comedy to period drama to medical drama and more?

ZC: I think it’s valuable for sure, but to be honest I try not to think of each project as being that different from the next. It feels the most authentic to me to approach every character the same way, whether it’s a comedy or a drama. I think that’s what usually gets the best work out of me, when I’m more focused on the character and their situation, rather than trying to fit into a “style.”

 

How would you describe your character, Shawna, in Craig Macnaughton’s comedy series, “Pay Up”? 

 

ZC: I would describe her as a teenage girl who is trying to assert her power in a situation in which she feels powerless. She is an only child of recently divorced parents, and she is tying to stay connected to both of them…and to keep a feeling of security around her. Unfortunately, she doesn’t know how to do this in a way that will really serve her, so she ends up basically playing her parents off each other in order to get them to buy her things.

In “Pay Up,” Richard Lett plays a debt collector named Jack. Is Jack a guy you’d not want to cross or is he living on reputation? 

ZC: I would say Jack has more bark then bite, if he even has much bark at all. He struggles a lot to assert his power over the people he is trying to collect money from, and that’s where the funny parts come in.

What are some go-to hobbies or activities when you’re not on set?

 

ZC: I meditate a lot, and I would say I have a pretty active spiritual life, so that’s something that I commit a lot of myself to…I also watch a LOT of movies. I also like to write and paint, but I’d like to be a bit more disciplined with myself about doing those things regularly.

Who is on your short list for fellow actors or filmmakers you’d like to work with in the future? 

ZC: There’s so many! And it really changes from day to day. Lately I’ve been really getting into the work of Jane Campion. I love what she does. I’ve also been going on a Tom Hardy spree on Netflix…I have an insane crush on him in every way, and I think he’s an incredibly magnetic and dynamic actor.

Powerful Actress Davina Cole Commands the Stage

Michael Wharley.
Actress Davina Cole shot by Michael Wharley

Since its inception, the stage has served three purposes above all else: to entertain, to recount important events, and to impart morals and lessons on an audience. In her years as an actor, Davina Cole has proven her acumen for all three. With a focus on drama, her work on screen and in theater masterfully encompasses the whole of the human condition through stories that are both fascinating and compellingly layered.

A phenomenal creative force whose talent lights up every project she touches, her work in film has long been acclaimed by critics and audiences alike. Among Cole’s most noted roles was that of Soalaih Ez in the 2011 film “When Soukhina Disappeared.” After a young woman vanishes, a journalism student begins investigating the case in this suspenseful drama.

“Soalaih Ez was one of the last people to see the missing girl, and she gives her account of how Soukhina touched her life. It was an emotional piece and I really enjoyed playing a character with so many layers,” Cole said. “Soalaih was key to the getting an account of the final movements of Soukhina.”

The film was regarded as a cinematic triumph for Cole, whose character was integral to the chilling tale. “When Soukhina Disappeared” was directed by Francoise Ellong, whose work on the film “W.A.K.A.” would go on to win the 2014 Jury Prize at the Festival du Cinema Africain Khouribga.

Cole’s immense skillset is not simply limited to acting, however, which she proved with her one-woman play “All the Colours.” Though she was born in London, Cole’s family hails from war-torn Sierra Leone, and those roots were critical in her writing and performing of the play.

“I felt this role took me to another level in my performance skills. It was, however, very draining at times playing a mother who had lost so much,” Cole said, describing the intimate familiarity with the subject matter that led her to write the play. “Having been through my own personal experience of loss and heartache, I was able to bring that to the role and give a truthful performance.”

“All the Colours” tells the gripping story of a mother, Salimatu, living through the horrifying decade-long civil war in Sierra Leone. Cole based her performance in the one-woman play on her mother’s own experience in the country. Cole’s writing was lauded by critics, and her acting earned her a 2014 nomination for Best Actress at the International One-Man Show Solo Festival in the U.K.

A natural choice to fill the shoes of strong, female lead characters, Cole’s performance in “1867” was a brilliant display of just how at home she is on the stage. Cole played Delilah McAndrew, from whose perspective the semi-biographical play tells the fascinating and inspirational story of Madame C.J. Walker, the first American woman to become a millionaire entrepreneur. Walker, who did this despite the added adversity of being a black woman in the post-Civil War South, employs Delilah, the first generation in her family to be born after the abolition of slavery.

“She was such a strong black woman in a time when black women were regularly looked down upon, and to have that level of success at that period of time is truly amazing,” Cole said, describing the connection she felt to Delilah. “As a character she had many layers and I was really able to explore the role.”

Through these roles and her countless others, Cole has established herself as one of the most powerful actors in the industry today. A dramatist of the highest order, she has used the craft not as a soapbox, but rather as a medium through which to remind us of the things we all too often forget. Where lecturers and historians may fall short of imparting these critical lessons, Davina Cole knows how to use the stage and screen to captivate our imaginations with the finesse and magic of a lifelong storyteller.

Born to Be a Star: Australian Triple Threat Jessica Waters

Jessica Waters
Actress Jessica Waters

Born into a family of entertainers, actress Jessica Waters has been in the spotlight her entire life. Together with her four siblings and her father, the lead singer of a local band, she was playing music, dancing and acting beginning at just five years old. By the time she was eight she had her heart set on acting professionally, and in the years since she has grown from one of the most promising young Australian talents into an international powerhouse of the screen.

In 2014, Waters joined the cast of The War That Changed Us, a four-part documentary drama series recounting the stories of real-life Australians who fought in World War I. Waters played a nurse traveling with soldiers on the front lines, and said she fell in love with the role.

“This has to be one of my favorite TV shows I have worked on,” Waters said. “I loved the costumes, and dressing in all the lovely clothes they wore really made me feel like I was back in that time, and I had to do some nurse training for the role.”

The War That Changed Us aired by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in 2014 to commemorate the centennial anniversary of Australia’s entry into the war.

Recently, Waters acted alongside Sam Worthington (Avatar, Terminator: Salvation, Clash of the Titans) in Paper Planes. The film tells the story of a young boy who, after suffering the loss of his mother, finds solace and hope in a competition to design the ultimate paper airplane. Filmed in her hometown of Perth, Waters played the mother of one of the children competing in the whimsical tournament and said it was a fun project to be a part of. The film received nominations at both the Australian Directors’ Guild Awards and the Berlin International Film Festival.

In her latest television role, she plays an American reporter in the SyFy Channel adaptation of the Arthur C. Clarke classic novel Childhood’s End. As an Australian, the role was a unique challenge for her, and required a great deal of intensive voice training to master the accent required for the part.

“I’ve been training my American accent for a year,” she said. “They loved my accent, and I got the part on the spot.”

Childhood’s End is the first screen adaptation of the science fiction masterpiece. Following the arrival on Earth by a race of mysterious but benevolent aliens, the human race begins to thrive and prosper; however, almost immediately suspicions begin to grow among people about their new isolationist neighbors. As a reporter, Waters is on the scene to cover their arrival. The series airs on SyFy later in 2015.

Waters played a reporter once before in The Great Mint Swindle, the true story of a massive 1982 Australian heist where more than $2 million in gold bars were stolen from the Perth Mint. The crime remains unsolved, adding to the mystery and making it one of Western Australia’s greatest and most famous true crime stories.

“I love being in true stories,” Waters said. “The set was very Australian, and I enjoyed being a news reporter because if I didn’t decide to be an actor, I was going to be a TV reporter.”

Not limited to film and television, Waters’ experience as a performer shines in her work onstage as well.

“I have spent three years working with the Shakespeare Theatre Company in Western Australia,” Waters said. “I was not only an actor, but I was also the dance choreographer and a singer.”

In her time with the Shakespeare Theatre Company, she’s worked on iconic Shakespearean plays including A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Much Ado About Nothing, The Tempest and Comedy of Errors.

Audiences can catch Jessica Waters in her upcoming feature film Reality, a satirical comedy in which Waters plays the lead.

“I just know it’s going to be a fantastic film. The script is amazing,” she said. “I have a lead role and it’s a film that kind of makes fun of reality TV shows.”

Reality is currently in the process of filming so eager fans will have to wait to learn more about the project. However, it’s guaranteed to be a fresh look at a genre, which provides a goldmine of comedic fodder.