Category Archives: Reviews, Interviews & Features!

Playing the Long-Game with Grant Lyndon

When we were asked to choose one of our 2020 interview guests for a ‘New Year’ check in, we didn’t hesitate in selecting Grant Lyndon. 

Catching up after the start of the new year with award-winning Australian actor, Grant Lyndon. Our readers loved our profile of Grant in last year’s edition. Photographed by Leeroy Tehira.

When the renowned New York International Film Festival announced its most recent winners in December 2020, Grant Lyndon was “humbled but proud” to be among the list and acknowledged as Best Actor for his work in the acclaimed film, Ruby. 

For anyone else in the industry however, it’s no surprise, as Lyndon has been turning in acclaimed performances for years. While under the radar for the early stages of his career, during which he appeared in ABC’s Rogue Nation alongside Gold-Logie winner John Wood, Lyndon continues to attract national and (clearly) international attention for his work and media appearances, recently generating rave reviews in Frontline Views and Entertainment LA.

The New York Film Awards were held in a COVID-safe public screening event at Producer’s Club, in the heart of Manhattan, the urban core of the New York metropolitan area. 

The award is an important moment for Lyndon, who has had an arduous career as an actor in film and television, as well as in the theater and voice-over spaces in Australia. The New York International Film Awards have also offered his colleagues a way to record his hard work in the industry, but also to thank him for his contribution as one of Australia’s most reliable talents. 

In this way, Grant himself has referred to his career as “a long haul.” 

Grant Lyndon has not only stood out as an exceptional actor in any area in which he’s worked, but has also offered expertise and encouragement to motivate emerging actors through teaching, and to build empathetic connections with his characters to convey to each audience a real and profound experience that is far from mere imitation. He understands this field well and from his self-knowledge and his professional career he knows how to distinguish clearly from a neat and well-developed job from any other. 

Hence, his extraordinary skills have been recognized in productions such as Home and Away, Old School and A Place to Call Home, where in each of them he has been able to show us completely different characters, but equally impressive.

In Home and Away, Grant played Professor Calabra. There, audiences identified him with a resistance that denotes tints and shades as intense as delicate from each other. His performance gave the audience a serious, quite formal character, something abrupt that transmitted emotions against him. Such a clean performance that could make anyone disconcerted and angry just to see how well he played a disdainful and badly humored role. Afterwards, as if nothing has happened, Lyndon changes his position and shows himself to be kind, attentive and respectful. 

Without effort or tension, Grant part of Home and Away’s huge bump in ratings, making a memorable impression through the turn in the story that his character produced, unleashing new dramas and new challenges. Ultimately, Grant allowed a depth of authority with reason to underpin the storyline involving Marie Claire covergirl, Pia Miller’s character, to work through her challenges. 

Grant Lyndon playing Professor Calabra in the much-loved and written about, ‘Home and Away.’

For juxtaposition, a viewer can find Lyndon’s portrayal in the acclaimed series ‘Old School’, which attracted some of Australia’s highest-live-to-air ratings with more than 664,000 viewers tuning in to Grant’s performance. An eight-part series screened on ABC1, created by Paul Oliver and Steve Wright, and directed by Gregor Jordan, that follows the adventures of the retired criminal Lennie Cahill and the retired cop Ted McCabe, played by legendary actors Bryan Brown and Sam Neil (Jurassic Park). 

Grant opposite screen legend Bryan Brown in ‘Old School.’

Marcel was crucial to the plot in Old  School, as he underpinned and greatly affected the dynamic of the long running lost love battle between Barb (Linda Cropper) and Lennie (Bryan Brown). He was the new love of Barb that set Lennie off into a jealousy spiral. The tone set by Grant on set was clearly irreplaceable, when watching the footage. He held the line between Barb & Lennie with good weight. This gave a great and realistic feel to the underworld aspect of the show. 

Last but not least, we should also mention his appearance in A Place to Call Home as Jay Kenneth Katzan III in the Do Not Go Gently episode. Ironically, his role seemed to be kind like no one else, arousing the anger and envy of others. There, Grant showed a side of himself in which his body expression said more than a thousand words. At first, without a script, he had the duty to make known an imposing, elegant and charismatic position of an epochal character. Only through his gestures, his movements and his smile he conquered the heart of the audience. Later, as if this had not been enough, he intervened with a dialogue as friendly as he had shown himself. 

Showcase’s ‘A Place to Call Home’ is still beloved by audiences around the world.

The abovementioned roles are a distinct distillation and manifestation of Lyndon’s wide-ranging career path. From the early days of his career, Grant has been able to recognize his strengths and to express it, whether it was with a neutral character or with another hateful one. So much so, that even without a word or a thousand of them, he always made himself stand out. 

Not surprisingly, he has more artistic facets than just his performance in front of the cameras and in theaters. Grant is known as Australia’s ‘voice over king’, and in fact, his record in this area is as competitive as his long stage career. Thus, he has developed magnificent voice works where he is able to vary between American, British and Australian accents. 

Therefore, he has his own podcasts hosted on major platforms such as Spotify and Apple: Busy Dads, described as a podcast packed full of great information, stories, and resources for dads on the go, and The Defiance Code, a health and motivation podcast exploring remarkable mature minds and how they stay fit, happy, and vital. Productions that stand out for relying on listeners and speakers as an assertive means of communication where Grant’s background as a voice artist plays a key role in delivering a powerful message to the audience. 

On the other hand, his work is perfectly complemented by the use of his voiceover for narratives such as House Rules, Aussie Lobster Men and the Australian National Museum. Grant reliably connects with the viewers and listeners of each project, respectively, generating an undeniable added value. This also led him to be part of the animations  Mia & Me and Motown Magic, animated series with a much sought-after impact on children’s content in Australia’s continually evolving film and TV industry. 

For all these reasons, it is a pleasure for the entertainment industry to have the certainty that Grant will continue to develop new roles in the future. Building on his successes,  his next step involves productions in the US. These projects, involving award-winning filmmakers from all over the world, include a hilarious role as ‘Utag the Barbarian’ in ‘The Role World’ from Dlugos ventures, and in White Pixel’s highly-anticipated feature film project, ‘The Other Mike.’

“I’m super excited because I’m in a place where I can draw on all of my experience from both my life AND my career. A great part of my inspiration also comes from my family. My four kids keep me very real & greatly inspired with a healthy curiosity for the arts. The innocense and command of “Why not?” from a child always brings me into thinking  – “Yeah, why the hell not!”.

Adding more excitement to our conversation, Grant continues. 

“My 2021 is going to be filled with breaking down even more barriers, and keeping a youthful thirst for work alive. In a lot of ways I’m at a time in my career when I feel this really is just the beginning. I’m very grateful for all the opportunities I’ve had to date, but am even more excited for what’s to come!”

Johnny Carr: An Actor’s PROFILE

While it might be expected that acclaimed and award-winning actor Johnny Carr would be used to the attention usually given to actors, his self-effacing and humble nature would suggest otherwise. Deservedly nominated for the NYC Web Fest Award as Best Actor for his performance in the series ‘The Greatest Love of All’, the Newcastle native brings a salt of the earth quality not only to his performances but also to any interaction, reminding our editorial team that Australian actors are, indeed, almost always likeable. 

Carr, as shot by the legendary photographer, Sally Flegg.
Carr in the acclaimed series, ‘The Greatest Love of All.’

Carr, who’s featured in a raft of universally loved Australian series, plays and films, was buoyed by the success of the production which was also nominated for Most Outstanding Writing for a Web Series and won Best International Web Series. The latter prize was something that to this day is attributed to the starring performance of Carr, who in large part carries the heart of the series.  

In the show, Carr effortlessly makes his own sense of comedy through sarcasm, connecting with the audience in the process in surprising ways. The value he places on the production runs through the screen, making clear that Carr is an actor who exceeds the expectations of the character he plays in unique and exceptional ways. 

Most memorably, Carr showed how he has some of the best comedic chops in Australia, during a sequence when he is drugged at a house party by his housemates as a sort of emotional kaleidoscope, but he performs it with such precision that it’s a disturbing climax that veers towards the painful (for the viewer, not just the actor). 

Title card for ‘The Greatest Love of All.’

‘The Greatest Love of All’ was also selected for the Miami Web Fest, recognized for being a new kind of film festival for a new kind of filmmaker. The critical acclaim the series attracted is not unsurprising given the success Johnny went on to find in other productions like his memorable role in Channel Ten’s ‘Five Bedrooms’ or Channel Seven’s ‘The Secret Daughter,’ but is fascinating when considering ‘The Greatest Love of All’ was not originally conceived as the high-profile series it became, but a director’s humorous attempt to share a story about the aggressive level of hospitality that is present in Australian domestic life. And how their laid-back nature can often contain macabre undertones.

Carr showed great range by jumping into Channel Seven’s popular drama, ‘The Secret Daughter,’ after his turn in ‘The Greatest Love of All.’

Even more fascinating? Carr’s versatility – later proved with award winning stage roles – that was foreshadowed in his proven capacity to adapt his emotional truth to the most dramatic or emotional scenes and situations, moving the viewer in an empathic  way despite the series being a comedy. 

As legendary theatre critic Suzy Wrong wrote in a review for theatre production The Real Thing, “In the role of Henry is the sensational Johnny Carr, bringing a startling truthfulness to dialogue that could very easily be turned, under the wrong hands, highfalutin and empty. The actor’s presence and timing have us captivated, as we find ourselves enraptured, deeply invested in the many meaningful discussions that provide the foundation for an admittedly bourgeois narrative.” 

Carr on stage during his acclaimed performance of theatre production, ‘The Real Thing.’ Photo by Lisa Tomasetti.

Other industry professionals share the same sentiment, explaining how Johnny has the power of making the viewer believe that nothing happens despite the scene clearly showing the world spilling around him, representing an incredible handling of his performance in front of a camera and his innate talents. 

Were it not enough that Johnny is being featured in our pages today, he’s already attracted the attention of other journalists for many years in Australia who have followed his tremendous work and artistic edge for over a decade. 

In an interview with ‘Arts Review Australia’ Carr was asked who inspires him and why. He responded “people who aren’t afraid to look foolish. The ice-breakers. They allow others to follow suit.” This simple but thought-provoking answer seems to echo his character choices. He appropriates it for the stories and brings it to life with ridiculous, funny, humorous and animated scenes. 

Johnny’s other work reveals the soul of an artist. One that stands out is film ‘Happy Memories’, a production directed by John Tummino.

Here a huge duality appears in contrast to the comic performance mentioned above. Carr plays one of the leading roles, Michael. Together with the actress Laura Wheelwright, who appeared in the Oscar-nominated Animal Kingdom, Carr brings deep and affecting insight to a story about grief and loss in a farming community.

Carr in the revered film project, ‘Happy Memories.’

Johnny’s performance in ‘Happy Memories’, especially in contrast to ‘The Greatest Love of All’, proves his dexterity. His mysterious choices in sequences and moments lead any viewer to wait for glimpses of insight. Carr’s brilliance lies in his capacity to conceal his emotions but not block the audience from connecting with the story – true to the notion that humans and great actors try not to feel, but the average actor is concerned with feeling and how they are doing themselves. 

Carr showed a different side and aspect of his range as an actor in ‘Happy Memories.’

It is such a demanding task to eemit far-reaching sensations and leave a memorable impression through a cryptic character, that Johnny described this challenge in the following terms. 

“[I]t was a balance to play a character whose reality is in question throughout the piece. How to rapidly create that depth of family history whilst keeping the lightness of touch required to serve his buoyant energy,” Carr explains.

Carr, who is attached to a number of exciting projects shaping up for 2021, is excited to continue in showing the world his talents – not for self-promotional reasons, but because of a genuine passion for sharing insights.

“[I’m excited about] stories that search for meaning in the most mundane, absurd circumstances. We do this day to day. Otherwise what’s the point of it all? It’s simpler to find it in places of grandiosity. But what about the minutiae? It’s just as rich if we squint and consider.”

Staying Ahead of the Curve in an Ever Changing Industry: Meet Video Artist Denis Ogorodov

Denis Ogorodov is arguably one of the most uniquely skilled video artists in the industry today. His ability to create videos that leave viewers feeling a deep connection to a brand has undoubtedly made him shine in the eyes of the advertisers who hire him, but it’s his jack-of-all-trades approach to media production that has ultimately placed him ahead of the curve and made him a creative worth looking to for inspiration. 

Last year Denis’s technical skill set and artistic prowess landed him the opportunity to design for the multi-billion dollar streaming giant Twitch from Amazon, an interactive platform where millions of users engage online to dive deeper into gaming, concerts and more. 

Video artist – Denis Ogorodov

Known for his vast skill set, Denis has proven himself as a leading editor, vfx artist, colorist and so much more, that’s one of the reasons he’s referred to as a video artist– because there’s no other title that can really do justice to all the things he handles. 

For Twitch, which is estimated to be worth an astounding $5 billion, Denis was called in specifically to work as the lead editor on their ‘Twitch January Drop’ digital campaign, which showcased the platform’s numerous features, as well as an impressive line-up of interactive events, programming and content.

The vibe of the campaign was intended to be energetic and fast-paced in order to coincide with the incredible range of things the platform offers

“We wanted this 60 second ad to feel almost overwhelming by showing just how much content there is on Twitch,” he says. “We had to find a song that was very energetic that was able to keep the momentum, but at the same time find a balance, where yes it feels almost overwhelming, but people are still registering what’s going on.”

Official “Twitch January Drop” video

“The campaign was designed to be interactive… So many of the assets had to be built in such a way that they could fit together like building blocks, sometimes changing the order, speed, branding or titles…the main video was designed to function as the kick-off for the event.”

The fact that the campaign was interactive not only made it unique, but also challenging, as it was updated live during each stream. As the lead editor, this is one area where Denis’s technical expertise proved invaluable, as his work helped ensure that the campaign’s design remained consistent across every channel and update.

Not only was Denis responsible for video editing the campaign, as well as working on some of the motion graphics and animation, but he worked with the other designers to build VFX templates that were capable of being updated on the fly. 

“He’s very proactive when it comes to finding solutions and is never one to sit around wasting time,” says his ‘Twitch January Drop’ coworker Hondo Logan, who is head of production at Color and Motion. 

“He’s also great at working with and coordinating larger teams. When the workload gets split up and everyone has their own job to do, I never have to worry about Denis’s part, I know he’ll always deliver polished work.”

While it’s no surprise that Denis was called in for the project as he is one of the best at what he does, there’s still a little something uniquely special about being tapped to work on the Twitch campaign.

He recalls, “Back in school I was always fascinated by both computers and art, I was always interested in video game development, photography and all that.”

With his long-time interest in video game development the Amazon Twitch job proved to be thoroughly exciting for Denis, but there’s no question that he put in an unfathomable amount of hours developing his craft in order to go from his humble beginnings in Italy to get to where he is in Hollywood today.  

Denis’s career really started to kick off back in 2014 when he landed a competitive internship at Reset, an acclaimed production company founded by Oscar Award nominated director David Fincher (“Se7en,” “The Social Network,” “Gone Girl”) and Dave Morrison (“Oblivion,”  “Gully”). He got his bearings in the industry at Reset where he was responsible for curating treatments to support their directors’ pitches. That early work had him utilizing a range of software such as Premier, Avid, DaVinci Resolve and Autodesk Flame in order to translate the director’s visions from the early storyboard phase right on through to the final editing stages. 

That use of software and being able to translate the director’s vision through the storyboard phase have been integral to his success today. Since his time with Reset, Denis has come to be known as something of  an industry “unicorn,” in layman’s terms– someone who’s an expert in an incredible range of areas. 

Considering that the commercial and film industries rely heavily on the ever-changing world of technology, having such a broad technical skill set like Denis’s has been an advantage that has kept him ahead of the game.

And when Covid hit he was able to adapt better than most, as his established digital career allowed him to remain on the precipice of change as the entire industry shifted towards working online. 

Denis Ogorodov applying his color grading skills behind the scenes

“With technology being the great equalizer, it is more and more possible to achieve professional industry level work from the comfort of your own home, and the current pandemic we are living through has accelerated this process,” he explains.

“Having built a brand of reliability and efficiency has allowed me to work on my own terms before the pandemic, which allowed me to transition to working remotely instead of in-house quite smoothly.”

While the pandemic has proved to be an extremely difficult time for so many, Denis brings a humble and kind-hearted approach in order to support the industry he loves, something that proves him to be the exact kind of creative talent that any media outlet wants to have driving their team. 

He says, “I’m happy to say that I’ve been able to get four of my US colleagues work recently, so it’s nice to be able to give back.”

Having collaborated with so many critically acclaimed filmmakers and global production companies, and led numerous companies to success with his work as a video artist, Denis Ogorodov has made a significant mark on an international level– and we can’t wait to see what he comes up with next.

‘The Marshes’’ and ‘Home and Away’s’ Sam Delich: An Actor’s Life During COVID

The superfluation of content and stories about adapting and pivoting to life during COVID-19 is such that any story highlighting it as a point of difference has become a cliché. 

Taking a unique spin on the story however is a profile of Australian actor Sam Delich, acclaimed star of horror hit The Marshes and Home and Away, currently filming a slew of projects in the midst of the pandemic (and associated frequency of on-set testing and masks) and about to head over to the US in the coming months for a few more. 

Suffice to say the actor’s blessed during a time when the global industry has been decimated with jobs lost and productions cut short – hence why our editors wanted to profile the actor to determine why thinks he’s been lucky enough to maintain a firm mindset and consistent opportunities when few others are. 

Sam in press-mode at the Heath Ledger awards before COVID-19 reduced the number of red-carpet events worldwide. Below, shot in Sydney.
Sam Delich shot by Sophie Jay.

“The work itself is what drives me,” Sam begins. “[A] good script, good story and a full day of shooting and I’m a happy camper. I’m easily pleased some would say. It’s been tricky with productions shutting down during covid…It’s nothing compared to what many people are dealing with on a global scale.  But I really do think in times of crisis people turn to entertainment as a means of not only escapism but a chance to hear voices of those affected by the issues we all face.”

Sam’s commitment to story is apparent when reviewing his filmography and presence on screen, since he stepped onto the stage playing the vengeful Laertes in the acclaimed final graduating WAAPA production of Hamlet, directed by the AACTA nominated John Sheedy, or on the set for magical realist drama film Back to Earth, which co-starred Spartacus’ star Tom Hobbs (also known for appearing alongside Oscar-winners Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth in The Railway Man). 

In that film, the surrealist scenario involving the resurrection of his dead brother for one more night on earth would have had any actor oscillating between tones and tropes.

Sam’s handling of the material in the character of Lou however, in moments where he effortlessly expresses unbridled sentimentalism and pure joy, all the way down to deep grief in truly affecting moments, is a clear manifestation of Delich’s ability to suspend any qualms about believability and serve story in a way that very few actors can. He, in the words of co-star Tom Hobbs is truly a “[r]are breed of talent. He’s unafraid. It’s a pleasure working with someone who constantly throws fresh ideas out during scenes. It keeps you on your toes. He’s made me a better actor that’s for sure.”

Sam’s performance clearly resonated with producers and industry decision makers, helping secure Back to Earth’s distribution with ABC iView Australia and its 3 million users. 

Sam (center) in ‘Back to Earth’, its international success on the film festival circuit a product of his empathetic performance.

Successes such as this are irrelevant to an actor of Sam’s caliber however, as not long after that production he stepped onto the set of horror film The Marshes. Reviews at the time of the film’s release frequently highlighted Sam’s gripping and truly committed performance.

When looking back at the film through the lens of what Delich is currently accomplishing in the midst of a year that many have described as real-life horror, Sam’s uniqueness as an actor is even more apparent.

In one moment Sam’s character Will has to hear the news that his friend has almost certainly been brutally slaughtered by the terrifying spectre that haunts them, all the while needing to make the rapid decision to run into the unknown marshland or stay and fight tooth and nail for survival.

“That was a bloody hard day,” Sam explains. “It’s a pivotal scene and required everything I had in the tank. Accessing emotion has never been hard for me but to perform in that environment tested all of us….After all the tears and yelling were done thankfully we were all able to shake it off and have a laugh,” Sam adds with a smile.

“I will never forget my co-star Eddie Baroo (Australia, Wolf Creek) getting stuck waist deep in the mud. He kept asking for help but nobody could stop laughing. You always remember day’s like that.”

Sam starred in the horror hit, ‘The Marshes.’

The extremities of The Marshes may have been demanding, but pushing himself to the limits of filming in the Australian outback in high-heat must’ve made subsequent appearances a breeze, as Delich’s on-screen appearances thereafter are truly easeful. In Home and Away, for instance, where Sam’s portrayal of Mark sees him pursuing the affection of acclaimed actor Sophie Dillman’s ‘Ziggy’, Sam balances charm with an underlying edge that hooked viewers at the time and is frequently cited upon as a critical moment in the self-actualisation of Dilmman’s protagonist. 

“I remember the moment where the audience was going to realise my intentions were a little more sinister. Grabbing Sophie’s arm and saying “Where do you think you’re going?” After playing a charming surfer for every other scene was fun. Sophie kept saying between takes “I wonder if girls watching will still think you’re cute.”

Sam made a memorable appearance in the award-winning drama, ‘Home and Away.’

Clearly Sam likes to keep the viewers guessing.

With all these memorable appearances considered, Sam’s success is unsurprising. Like most actors, it’s been a long-road but consistency and discipline over many years obviously has a cumulative effect which has attracted directors, casting agents and producers seeking to collaborate with Sam in a manner that, in hindsight, seems like an inevitability. 

At the end of our conversation, Sam echoed a sentiment that borrowed from Al Pacino’s character in Any Given Sunday, one that will undoubtedly resonate not just with actors reading this but anyone in need of inspiration during what has undoubtedly been a challenging year.

It’s a game of inches”: You just gotta get bit by bit over the line and eventually you have an opportunity to score. Sometimes work comes easy, sometimes you gotta hustle. The industry is always trying to blitz you. Outsmart it and find the play that is going to get you to the end.”

Home and Away’s grant Lyndon on alternating between mediums

While 2020 has been a year characterised by people being forced to pivot, Australian actor Grant Lyndon has been used to doing just that on a regular basis since the beginnings of his career in Sydney for quite some time.

As he, and any other prominent studio executive or producer would attest, actors need not just be malleable and versatile in their screen abilities, but their dexterity with life too. 

Grant Lyndon, shot by Leeroy TeHira.

The life of an actor calls for flexibility and frequent change. It’s to be expected that, in the case of an expert on the matter like Grant is, he boasts prominent experience across all different mediums and genres. 

The Shane-Abbess-directed feature The Osiris Child, where Grant is listed amongst other cast members such as The Mummy franchise star Luke Ford and Transformers actress Isabel Lucas, represented a pivot in a medium after Grant had spent years in television and voice work. 

In his role as Dr Curruthers, Lyndon stands out especially in the penultimate scene counseling Sy (played by Twilight star Kellan Lutz) through the loss of his wife in the futuristic world’s emergency room.

The gritty realism infused with a metallic energy reminiscent of the best George Lucas movies formed a fitting backdrop for the compelling energy of Grant’s time on screen in character, underscoring the notion how he is a true cinematic actor deserving of a close-up. 

Grant’s pitch-perfect embodiment of an American character was also a notable feature of the stand-out role, which is an effective juxtaposition to the father-of-four’s memorable appearance in Home and Away. 

The iconic and long-running TV series could not be more different from the futuristic world in Shane Abbess’ feature, serving as another strong example for how Grant – in his dexterity as a trained actor – effortlessly jumps from world to world. 

Grant appears on the iconic and award-winning drama ‘Home and Away’, also streaming on 7+, reinforcing the importance of his role at the network.

There was one similarity between the roles however, as Grant was asked by Home and Away producers to embody the senior academic authority of his Osiris Doctor character when playing the part of Professor Calabra. While the storyline was crucial to viewer interest, involving the development of Pia Miller’s Katarina Chapman’s career changes, the performance gives any viewer insight into the skills and talents that set Grant apart from other Australian TV actors. 

For one, echoing the words of notable producers, Lyndon’s handling of the material and dialogue encapsulates a masculine credibility as conflated with an understated sensitivity. This duality, seen throughout exchanges between Grant’s character and others as well as in private moments and close-ups, embodies a masculine credibility more reminiscent of old-style Hollywood than modern television.

If that proven versatility wasn’t enough, Grant also is well-known for his voice work. In Motown Magic, Grant voices the character of Johnny in a role well-received by viewers of the hit children’s series all over the world on none other than streaming giant, Netflix. 

In one notable moment, Grant brings the tender tones that are available in one’s voice when using a US accent, to console his daughter. Less is definitely more in this case. The subtleties that are required to really nail a convincing performance so the accent is as natural as possible & doesn’t get in the way, can only come from an artist who has carefully fine tuned his craft over years of development and work. 

The role in Motown Magic solidified a relationship Lyndon has proven with the streaming platform, as he also made a memorable appearance in the popular Netflix series Chosen, alongside Sam Hayden Smith and AACTA-nominated actor Fayssal Bazzi (who stars alongside Cate Blanchett in Stateless). 

Playing another surgeon, Grant clearly solidified his place as the ‘go-to’ doctor in the Australian film and television industry.  

When asked about the secret to carving out places in different pockets of the industry, Grant speaks from a humble place. 

“You just need to be yourself. Ultimately there  is something in the essence of each character in all of us. Locating the likeness (sometimes it may be something we don’t necessarily like about ourselves!) in your character allows you to really walk in the shoes of your character.” 

The spirit echoed in Grant’s words speak to the balance between focus and relaxation needed for people during a stressful year like 2020. 

If there was any advice to aspiring actors, Grant’s would be: Be patient, and use all of the experiences in your life, good and bad, to allow you to deepen your empathy, and ultimately give life to any character you play with authenticity and truth.”

Grant also adds something someone once told him: “the best advice I was ever given was, “Be the kind of actor that gets booked twice”, meaning be humble, generous, and a team player.”

If dominating the feature, television and animated corners of the industry wasn’t enough for the accomplished actor, however, Grant boasts a career as the undisputed ‘voice over king’ of Australia. 

Grant is not just the voice of one, not two, not three, but 6 major household name companies in Australia, ranging from Toyota, bank ING, Qantas, Channel Seven and none other than McDonalds. 

Grant Lyndon is the voice of McDonald’s prolific television and radio commercials.

“Putting in the hard work on your technique, really getting used to hearing yourself in a studio environment, and knowing your strengths are all super beneficial to becoming a working voice artist…It’s also great to be able to work remotely. It’s a saving grace in a world where human contact has been very limited. Most voice artists have a home studio set up of some description.”

Suffice to say, Grant’s capable of giving valuable advice but doesn’t stray away from continuing to evolve himself, as 2020 has shown.

Exclusive: award-winning Australian Actor Alec Ebert on craft and commerce.

Alec Ebert as ‘Derek’ in ‘The Expert’.

Award-winning Australian actors Blanchett and Hugh Jackman have each been quoted on a number of occasions that their success on screen, and their award-winning performances, are attributable to their early careers in the theatre. And while it’d behove many young actors to follow their advice, it’s rare in today’s age to meet a successful TV or film actor who develops a career on stage like the generations of actors before them in an era of TikTok and Instagram.

Award-winning Australian actor Alec Ebert therefore falls into a rare category. After starting out a career in sales, Ebert burst onto the Australian theatre scene in 2016 with an acclaimed performances Charlie Fox in David Mamet’s Speed-the-Plow.  It’s this past history which has formed a solid bedrock onto which his film and TV career has been built which, in the word of those industry professionals interviewed for this profile, will allow it to continue for decades to come. 

As well-known actor Chris Thornton attests, “…few can rival the skills and ability Alec Ebert possesses. I would rank Mr. Ebert as one of the very best performing artists internationally.”

Alec’s work in the film The Expert is in many ways a synthesis of his work in the theatre. In the intense thriller, Ebert plays Derek, an introverted, socially awkward man who fetishises one of his work colleagues. The story concerns the presumptions we make of others, social  isolation, and a thriller-style twist, while dragging the audience into the dark inner life of Derek. When watching the film, it’s clear how it called on Alec to tap into a range of intensity reminiscent of Marlon Brando. 

‘After Nightfall’ star Alec Ebert as ‘Derek’ in ‘The Expert.’

In one moment, Alec, as Derek, portrays the intensity and inner life of his character through wordless expression, raising a scarf stolen from his crush in his mouth in a creepily sensual way, leaving no allusions as to how we as the audience feel about this guy.

It probably also helps that The Expert’s director, Rachel Soland, has also worked on Hulu thriller series Into The Dark, from legendary ‘horror’ production company Blumhouse (helmed by Oscar-nominated producer Jason Blum). That company, helmed by Oscar-nominated film producer Jason Blum, is behind such mega horror successes like Insidious, The Invisible Man (Elisabeth Moss), Paranormal Activity and Happy Deathday.  Such esteemed associations evident when examining Ebert’s career reinforce how the creme da la creme of the industry always ends up working with one another, and that he himself belongs in an elusive category of artists who – while ironically commercially and financially successful – are first and foremost focused on story and craft. 

Ebert’s career boasts associations with filmmakers who have worked on Hulu’s popular ‘Into the Dark’ series

Good art leads to commerce, as they say. Not the other way around. 

When asked what theatre has taught him, and how it has undoubtedly informed his success which can be seen in film Vulture, and David-Lynch-like online series After Nightfall, Alec is simple and direct. 

“The theatre taught me that no performance is too big if the inner life of the character’s experience is truthful. This is as true for the camera as it is for the stage.’

In many ways it’s not a shock to learn of Alec’s success, as it’s to be expected that someone with such an ardent appreciation of art, as he shows, would want to have explored every facet of performance on his way to moving through the ranks to be among the top of the acting field in Australia.

“Child-like curiosity is in all of us, sometimes just below the surface, sometimes buried deep. As we grow older, we forget it, we ‘grow up,’ but it’s still there. I really believe that the secret to true maturity is finding your curiosity – learning to be a child again. I learned this from my late grandfather and it is how I found acting.”

Alec’s upcoming starring performances in US projects from filmmakers like Tim McNeil and Eric Thompson are a testament to how the international film industry seeks out exceptional talent, no matter where they are in the world. The engagements in these projects were arranged by his Amercian sponsor, underscoring how vital a role he will play at the companies in the future, given the high-anticipation the industry places on the productions as it seeks to recover from COVID-19.

Ebert, who was originally born in Melbourne, Australia to parents of Sri Lankan and Australian heritage, is humble when asked about his current success, even when we point to the the recent acclaim The Expert attracted at the Los Angeles Thriller Film Festival or the Minnesota Terror Film Festival, and his acknowledgment by the Short + Sweet Festival for Best Actor, where none other than Miranda Otto and Peter O’Brien were in attendance. 

Ebert in a rehearsal for one of his many stage productions which have established a strong foundation upon which his screen career has been built.

Alec’s appearance in DNA: The Petersons is an additional reflection of the wide range of his craft as proven in a number of leading roles in production of significant merit. In that film, Ebert worked with Nelson Cruz. 

“Acting will never be about Instagram or networking or accolades. These are incidental. It’s all the work you do in the quiet of the night that will define you. It is hard and it is rewarding. The true joy of acting is in the process – to honour the truth of a story – not the honours that come from a job well done. Having said that, it’s always nice to indulge in a little recognition every now and again!”

script supervisor extraordinaire tamara hansen proves to be an invaluable asset to hollywood filmmakers

The extensive and superior role of a script supervisor requires immaculate focus and attention to detail, not to mention the ability to overcome high-stress situations when unexpected curveballs are thrown their way.

With a superpower-like range of skills to her name, leading script supervisor Tamara Hansen is undoubtedly the ultimate behind the scenes ninja when it comes to filmmaking.

Script Supervisor extraordinaire Tamara Hansen – photographed by Rolan Shlain

A true master at multitasking, Hansen’s ability to go above and beyond her general job expectations made her an invaluable member behind the scenes of the recent 2020 conspiracy thriller film “18 ½”. 

The dark comedy was produced by award-winning filmmaker Terry Keefe (“Slaves of Hollywood”) and directed by award-winning producer, author and screenwriter Dan Mirvish, who was recently named one of Variety‘s Top 50 Creatives to Watch.

The film, which stars two-time Primetime Award winner Jon Cryer (“Two and a Half Men,” “Pretty in Pink”) and award winning actor John Magaro (“The Big Short,” “Carol”), is a 1970s era Watergate scandal conspiracy thriller about a Whitehouse transcriber who obtains the only copy of the infamous 18 ½ minute gap in the Nixon tapes. 

Hansen’s role on set was to ensure continuity and prepare the edit logs for all departments, including camera, lighting, sound, wardrobe, make-up and sets, helping to prevent any errors that could occur between takes. 

Considering the size of each department, Hansen’s scrupulous organizational skills along with her ability to facilitate clear communication channels between all teams were integral to ensuring that production ran smoothly.

“For a director, having a strong script supervisor is essential. Tamara was a wonderful creative collaborative partner to work with, dedicated to the film, and loyal to a fault in helping protect my creative vision for the film,” says “18 ½” director Dan Mirvish. 

He adds, “Tamara is easily the best script supervisor I’ve ever worked with, and she’s an invaluable member of the filmmaking creative community… We couldn’t have made this movie without her.”

Unfortunately, due to the global Covid-19 pandemic, the production of the film took an unexpected halt in March and only recently completed shooting in late September. 

“Tamara’s calm but determined personality was exactly what our cast and crew needed,” says the film’s producer Terry Keefe. “Nerves were very frayed because of events happening in the outside world.”

Director Dan Mirvish adds, “She’s always got a welcoming smile on her face, whether it’s first thing in the early morning, or after a long night’s worth of filming. She’s incredibly even-keeled and supportive even when the rest of the crew is freaking out or panicking.” 

“Dan always listened to my notes which was great,” says Hansen. “Now that we’re in the edit, Dan is sending me cuts of the movie to get my notes and thoughts on it, for a final edit, which is very exciting and I really appreciate his trust.”

The highly anticipated film is currently in post-production, and expected for international release in 2021.

Behind the scenes with Tamara Hansen – photographed by Greg Starr

Her exceptional work as the script supervisor on the 2020 horror “Dreamkatcher” had the film’s award-winning writer and director Kerry Harris (“Grip and Electric”) dubbing Hansen as the “Google” of filmmaking. 

“Tamara is quite simply indispensable and I fear by singing her praises I may not find her available for my next film,” says Harris. “That said, the filmmaking world deserves to know.”

“Dreamkatcher” tells the chilling story of a young boy trapped in a nightmarish entity, and stars Radha Mitchell (“Man of Fire,” “Finding Neverland”), Henry Thomas (“E.T the Extra-Terrestrial,” “Legends of the Fall”) and Lin Shaye (“Insidious,” “There’s Something About Mary”).

After applying for the role via a job posting, it was her strong determination to follow up with the director after several weeks of silence that essentially landed her the job. 

“I remember not hearing back from the line producer and thought I didn’t get the job,” she says. 

“After two to three weeks I followed up and she let me have an interview with the director. I found out later that the director didn’t like any of the others who interviewed previously that’s why they were still looking. This is the best example for when persistence works out.”

Given that Hansen is extremely diligent when it comes to detail, it was her ability to maintain strong continuity between each department that ensured every shot remained unanimous in order to cut together for the final edit.

Her flawless edit logs became invaluable to the film’s editor, who thoroughly relied on her notes to effectively bring the whole film together. 

She adds, “I made sure the editor had a record of what the director’s choices on set were, what takes he liked best, what worked out great and what didn’t. I made sure everything stayed cohesive and would cut together in the edit.”

The film, which was released in April 2020 by global entertainment corporation Lionsgate, is streaming across major digital entertainment giants such as Amazon Prime, Hulu and Netflix.

Official “Dreamkatcher” Trailer (2020)

But it’s not just Hansen’s studious leadership and organizational skills that sets her apart from the rest. 

Notorious Hollywood directors and producers often rely on her ability to make decisive verdicts on set, which inevitably improves the final result of the shoot. 

Her ability to actively support the production team extends to include more than just full-length feature films, and over the years she’s applied her unwavering work ethic to the detailed world of documented television series. 

The historic docuseries “The Food that Built America,” which was narrated by award-winning actor and producer Campbell Scott (“The Amazing Spider Man 1 & 2,” “Jurassic World: Dominion”), tells the unknown stories of the innovations and rivalries behind the American food industry’s best known tycoons. 

“Working on a tv-show is more fast paced than filming a movie,” says Hansen. “It was a recreation show, which was very interesting, because we recreated the stories of how Heinz Ketchup was invented, how McDonalds became a franchise etc., It was interesting learning and recreating real life events.” 

Coming off the run of an incredibly strong first season, which drew over 18.8 million viewers, the hit series has been renewed for a second season by leading documentary channel History, which will include 18 episodes.  

Hansen was asked by the show’s line producer to return for season two, however due to her prior commitments on a soon to be announced independent film, she was unable to commit.

“The Food That Built America” television series – History channel

When a director or producer requires integral information, whether a slight detail in a costume change, or whichever lens was used in the film’s opening scene, it’s guaranteed that with Hansen’s precise memory and intricate edit logs, she’ll always have the answer. 

“18 ½” producer Terry Keefe says, “Tamara has an almost photographic memory, or maybe she has an actual photographic memory that may be a superpower, she keeps that a secret.. that really comes in handy in her work.” 

With a stellar repertoire of success to her name, and with consistent praise from honored Hollywood filmmakers, it’s no surprise that Tamara Hansen is renowned as the ultimate right-hand woman when it comes to filmmaking.

Screen starlet Mia Challis on her new series shot COVID-style

Mia Challis filming her new series, ‘User Not Found‘, under COVID-19 mandates

Perth-native Mia Challis sits casually behind a Zoom call, mid-story, when her phone buzzes. 

Although it interrupts the flow of our conversation and the hilarious she was recounting from her time on-set of the upcoming series, ‘User Not Found’, she elegantly picks up the phone, jots down a note, and picks up the story seamlessly from where she left off. 

“That was my US manager – she keeps me very busy,” Mia politely chuckles. 

The ease with which Mia continues the conversation, simply focused on engaging with our team of editors personally versus promoting herself, is a testament to the genuineness of her down-to-earth nature. The former athlete holds herself with the confidence of a young Uma Thurman or Nicole Kidman – their shared height a physical embodiment of the stand-out quality of this hard-working actor. 

“Even though I’ve been compared to actresses like that, which lends itself to an interesting set of roles, I tend to think more about stories I’d like to play in, rather than actors whose careers I’d like to emulate.”

Such assertiveness, blanketed by a curious dexterity, has been entrenched throughout the filming process for her new series User Not Found, in which she plays the starring role of Kate. 

While she was filming the Netflix thriller series Clickbait up until recently, alongside Entourage star Adrien Grenier, COVID naturally halted the filming of nearly all productions all over the world. Perth, Australia’s most isolated city, enjoys the safe benefit of having zero cases. It’s this safety which has afforded her new opportunity in filming User Not Found

While most actors are lucky to spend time on set alongside one big name in their entire career, Challis seemingly floats between high-caliber sets with ease, joining forces with fellow Aussie stars Mel Wozniak (ABC’s Itch) and Cooper van Grootel, who recently joined the cast of highly-anticipated NBC/Peacock series One of Us Is Lying. 

“My cast mates and I are all from Australia,” Mia says with a smile, ” so it’s nice to have this home base, no matter how long we are all away from it’s great to know that we all have a network of like minded people back home.” 

Mia Challis and Cooper van Grootel (Netflix’s ‘Go’) reviewing their scripts in between takes on the set of ‘User Not Found.’

Indeed, Mia knows this well, as she spent a period of time meeting with producers and filmmakers in Vancouver.

“Having a place like Perth to come back to and reset after intense periods of working in other parts of the world is a blessing”

In User Not Found, Mia plays psychology student Kate Andrews, an ambitious overachiever focused on her career who prefers her studies over university parties. The introverted nature of Kate, and the character’s lack of socialisation and experiential blindness, means she leans into trusting people most others wouldn’t. Suffice to say, it leads Kate – and Mia’s performance – down a dark path. 

“It’s dark, but it’s real,” Mia elaborates. “People in today’s world can be too trusting on social media and playing overly trusting character like this made me realise how often stories like this happen.”

Earlier on in her career, Mia enjoyed time on set alongside award-winning Aussie actress Jessica Marais in the feature film Two Fists, One Heart. The break from screen acting after this critical appearance, during which she focused on schooling, and theatre productions like Pride and Prejudice in the lead role of Elisabeth Bennet and Chicago, in which she took on the iconic role of Velma Kelly. Those experiences more than adequately prepared Mia with insights into pursuing excellence and being an overachiever herself. 

“I was more of a theatre buff at school, so although I didn’t study psychology like Kate, I definitely know what it’s like to have tunnel blindness when it comes to pursuing lofty goals.” Mia continues, occasionally interrupting her answers with relatable commentary over Zoom ensuring that I’m interested in her story. A contradiction of sorts – Mia is indeed a star, but a relatable one at that.

“I didn’t have a clue on how to become an ‘actor’,” Mia admits ,”so I would spend my weekends reading plays, watching movies and trying to understand the industry.”

This duality of personality – Mia is at one an extrovert and also perfectly comfortable being a homebody – is precisely the rare and one-of-a-kind nuance that has informed many of Mia’s performances. 

In the critically acclaimed film Memories, alongside award-winning actor Alistair Cooke, for instance, Mia has a scene where she is told her partner has been killed in a roadside accident. The moment prior to this she is seen laughing with friends, completely unaware, and the switch from laughing to crying in a matter of moments, upon seeing the police to deliver the tragic news is a masterclass in screen acting.

In highly-regarded film project Backstabbers, Mia portrays a character that is at the top of the school social hierarchy, her circle of friends are deadly, killing any students that get in their way. Towards the end of the film her character loses all control of her friendship circle, in the final scene, Mia’s character learns that she is in fact next to be killed if she doesn’t keep up her murdering antics. The complexity of her performance in the realisation of her character’s situation, suffice to say, is incredible and the final shot of the film is a close up on Mia’s face. The ending is left open to the viewers, and encapsulates the same type of nuanced performance that Mia presents as Kate in User Not Found.

Mel Wozniak, star of ABC’s Itch, speaks with enthusiasm and ease when asked about Mia’s status as one of Australia’s brightest talents. 

“Mia’s an incredibly supportive co-star – she’s a true collaborator and an incredible actor. Her work speaks for itself.”

Mia’s co-stars, Mel Wozniak (ABC’s ‘Itch’) and Cooper van Grootel, in the middle of a scene for ‘User Not Found’.

When Mia is questioned about filming, her response is true to nature – humble and work-focused.

“This particular filming process was a big learning curve for me,” Mia concedes. “I had never worked on a production that required moments of ‘Vlog’ style camera work, so when I was preparing for the role of Kate I watched hours of videos from famous YouTube vloggers so that I could understand that type of lifestyle.”

It’s unsurprising such fascinating insights into an actor’s preparation from this intelligent Aussie star – after all, its actors like Mia who make it look easy to play pretend in a social climate that craves new stories now more than ever.

Sarah Nasri: Behind the Scenes on her New Series

Sarah Nasri is busy in between scenes, wondering how she’s going to find time to get into character, and prepare for the other two scenes the producers of the upcoming series, Finding Home, plan to film later in the day.

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Sarah Nasri on set for her new series

“Set life is always hurry up and wait,” she offers with a smile. 

The Tunisian star, a globe-trotter since she was young, commands the space on set like any other leading lady before her. The difference now is that Sarah has had to manage filming in a COVID-19 environment, which presents new challenges all collaborators must overcome. 

For one, all actors must wear masks in between takes – creating problems for make-up and also representing another distraction actors must manage when getting ‘into the zone.’ 

An interesting anecdote from set, that perhaps would not have happened were it not for the prescribed COVID-19 mandates, concerned keeping the number of people in a closed place, restricted from one another.

“We had one actress scheduled for one scene during the first day of shoot,” Sarah tells us. “So to keep the people inside the apartment where we were filming, one of the PAs had to wait outside the filming set until we were done with the scene. It’s a little frustrating, but it also gives me a chance to explore the circumstances of the character in greater detail in between takes, so I don’t mind it.”

“Filming within COVID-19 mandates has meant it’s a little difficult to focus at times, because the producers are being so strict with maintaining stations and boundaries between crew and cast wherever possible, to ensure social distancing, but that in itself is an interesting challenge,” Sarah offers.

“I think sometimes external challenges on set are actually great in helping an actor focus – otherwise it’s easy to get complacent – the greater the distraction, the more effort I have to put into my story and what’s going to happen in the scene, but that ironically is something that can help make it more real.” 

Words of wisdom from an established actor, it’s no wonder that Sarah commands the attention of any viewer or producer. Also known for playing a frightful nun in Childhood Chills and Miss Roberts in By the Strings, on this production, Sarah enjoys another leading role in playing the character of Sofia. 

Sofia is a Colombian girl who moves from her home to America, facing the challenges of acculturation along the way.

“What I loved about playing Sofia is the ups and downs and all the happy and sad moments she has to go through in a short amount of time. She can be joyful during the day and extremely melancholic by the evening.

“Initially, I found [the fact that Sofia’s character is an introvert challenging, but throughout preproduction I grew to appreciate that aspect of the story more.”  

In addition to getting an insight into how Central American productions are resuming the filming process, our exclusive on-set visit also helped us get a true appreciation for the way in which fresh stories with an international focus are being made at an increasing rate. 

Colombian+Film+Commission+Cash+Rebate+Law
National Geographic videographer Keith Ladzinski shooting The Birders in La Guajira Department, WhereNext’s feature documentary on Colombian bird diversity. Colombia has long been popular with international filmmakers for its landscape, but Sarah Nasri’s series speaks to how the country produces heartfelt character-based dramas. 

Everyone on set boasted an international pedigree of varying form and degree, creating a multifarious melting pot of cultures and different stories. One of the other actors is [Colombian] Nestor Sierra from Outlandish.”

Suffice to say, while Finding Home is ostensibly about a traveller, it is more about the search for home within oneself. 

Before she has to film and get make-up touches after taking off her mask, Sarah offers one final quote about the filming process.

“There’s nothing greater than creating life within life. During the filming process you get to transform into another character and experience emotions that you might not get the chance to experience in real life. It’s like living in a parallel universe. It also unites people and we all forget all our daily struggle, especially during Covid-19, and lose ourselves in the story we’re telling.” 

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Although she finds herself at home in front of the camera, Sarah Nasri enjoys getting lost in both character and story. Here she’s pictured behind-the-scenes on Finding Home.

Actor Shvan Aladdin’s Role in Hollywood Promotes Cultural Diversity

Playing a character that not only hits close to home, but also marks a time in history when cultural conversations are needed most is a rare and powerful opportunity for any actor.

Establishing success as one of the only Kurdish actors in the industry today, LA based actor Shvan Aladdin’s Middle Eastern heritage and colossal talents have helped bring a stronger sense of multiculturalism to Hollywood.

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Kurdish actor Shvan Aladdin shot by Bjoern Kommerell 

Capitalizing on his Kurdish roots, Aladdin has landed numerous leading roles across film and television productions in stories that are fundamentally relevant to today’s society.

His creative approach to depicting stories of substance on screen have helped to ensure individuals from around the world are seen and heard in a more authentic way.

“First and foremost, it’s an honor to know that I am one of the first to represent my country in a place like Hollywood,” Aladdin proudly shares. “But I really hope there will be many more than me in the future. And I hope that by me being here, it’ll open up the doors for many more who start to believe in themselves.”

Societal issues such as racial profiling, gender equality and women’s rights continue to surge news headlines. Cultural diversity amongst the entertainment industry however is a whole conversation on its own.

With independent studios and progressive filmmakers pushing the boundaries to expose stories of truth, cultural conversations are now the storyboard for many award-winning mini series and Hollywood blockbusters.

“I want to tell stories that are not out there. I am from Kurdistan and it’s so rare we see Kurdish stories being told to the greater audience,” Aladdin shares. “I want to be one of those who brings those stories to life. Aside from that, I want to work with stories that hopefully teaches me, the actor, and the audience something new.”

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Shvan Aladdin in the hit film “Martyrdom”

Despite seeing some movement in cultural diversity across Hollywood of late, many will argue that we still have a long way to go to achieve equal rights.

Recent studies from a 2019 report shows that out of 3,895 speaking or named characters had an easily identifiable race or ethnicity. Of those, a full 63.7% were white, 16.9% Black, 5.3% Latino, 8.2% Asian– but, only 1.5% were Middle Eastern/North African.

Focusing on roles behind the camera, the report also indicates that out of the 112 directors from the 100 top films of 2018, a mere 3.6% were Middle Eastern/North African.

Evidently these stats show great room for improvement, there’s no denying that. However most recently we’ve bared witness to change as some of the industry’s most reputable sources are praising diversity.

The 2019 Korean drama “Parasite” won the award for Best Film at The Oscars earlier this year, marking Hollywood history as the first non-english film to take home the prestigious award.

Arab-American star Rami Malek earned critical acclaim for his portrayal of Freddie Mercury in the incredible biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Malek became the first ever Arab-American to win an Oscar for Best Actor for his outstanding performance in 2019.

And although Egyptian born Mena Massoud skyrocketed to Hollywood fame for his role of Aladdin in the 2019 box office smash remake, the star has struggled to land auditions ever since.

Thus leads us to question, why is there a continual lack of diversity in Hollywood? And why is there still a misrepresentation of cultures in film and television today?

Being one of the only Kurdish actors in Hollywood, Aladdin recognizes the demands for further diversity, adding, “the truth of the matter is that there aren’t any Kurdish actors out here, and it’s a pity. I hope that we will get to a place where tons of other Kurdish actors move out here and get the opportunity to work in this town.”

He continues, “It’s crazy when you think about how big this city is and yet there are no Kurdish actors in it. I really hope for a change in that section.”

So how does one man from Kurdistan implement such change in Hollywood? By moving away from the stereotypical roles which questions the accurate representation of the Middle East.

A 2018 study showed that 78 percent of all Middle Eastern and North African actors were cast in villainous roles, such as terrorists or tyrants, something that Aladdin has personally experienced.

He shares, “I used to get many auditions for stereotypical roles. But then it got to a point where I just had enough. There are only so many terrorist roles you can do before you feel drained.”

Being one of the only Kurdish actors in Hollywood has come as an advantage to the talented star, who is leaving behind the typecast roles to depict characters of substance and truth.

“There have been many times where directors have been looking really hard for Kurdish actors and it’s just impossible to get a hold of them.” Aladdin continues, “I was in a film ‘Noise’ by Michael Aloyan and it took us weeks to find a Kurdish actress. The girl we ended up finding wasn’t even an actor but it worked out.”

Noise with T.V Carpio
T.V. Carpio and Shvan Aladdin in “Noise”

The final casting was flawless, and the engaging film gained widespread viewing via Amazon Prime and was nominated for Best Short Film Award at the 2018 Austin Film Festival.

Aladdin’s genuine performance as the young Kurdish immigrant in the touching film is a character that hits close to home. He reflects, “My mother immigrated from Kurdistan to Sweden in the late 90s, so growing up being a child of an immigrant, I have enormous respect for immigrants.”

He proudly continues, “I know that no mother or father immigrates just for fun. It’s all about giving your children the opportunities you didn’t have growing up. All I am today, I have my mother to thank for.”
“Noise” tells the story of two unique individuals who find love in the most unexpected form with a deaf American woman and a young Kurdish man developing a connection based on sensory touch and vibrational rhythms. Using a notebook as a translator, the characters prove that when you remove language, communication really has no limits.

Their connection becomes tested when the pair are introduced to alternative characters who, according to societal comfort appear to be more suitable. But after a brief moment of contemplation, the two trust their instincts and find their way back to each other.

The optimism shown in the final scene proves that love can exist in all forms, with Aladdin adding, “It’s beautiful. It shows that there’s no limits when it comes to love… I’m so proud to have been part of it.”

Emerging far beyond the stereotypical roles, Aladdin’s career was inspired by the comical pleasures he gained from watching sitcoms as a young child.

Describing his upbringing as “organic,” Aladdin was born and raised in Slemani, Kurdistan. Looking back on his early childhood he reflects, “It was very interesting, sometimes it feels like I’ve gotten to live two very different lives. In Kurdistan, we didn’t have water or electricity 24/7, this was in the 90’s.”

Having water and electricity for most young children is a thought barely to even be considered, however for Aladdin and his brothers this was ultimately a different story.

“I remember having a water company on my street and huge trucks would come and fill them with clean water,” he continues. “Once they drove away, water would keep running down for some minutes before it completely turned off. My brothers and I used to run and fill buckets with clean water so we’d have it for the days to come.”

Reflecting on his past, Aladdin shares, “These are things we take for granted today but there was a time where I didn’t. And it’s interesting thinking about living life then compared to now. “

After migrating to Sweden with his family at age nine, Aladdin became absorbed in the world of network television growing up on classics such as “The Nanny,” “Family Matters,” “Friends” and “The Golden Girls.”

Influenced by these sitcoms Aladdin found direction. “Naturally after a couple of years I just realized that I wanted to do what those actors that I looked up to were doing,“ he shares. “The TV was my best friend for many years…it also taught me Swedish and English.”

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Film poster for “Akeda”

Profiting from his Middle Eastern background, Aladdin scored one of the lead roles in 2018’s “Akeda” directed by Dan Bronfeld. The award-winning film tells the story of a young orphan boy who, whilst filming a movie has his humanity tested when the director pressures him to give a violent performance that blends fiction with reality.

Aladdin plays the role of Mustapha, a filmworker who also lost his parents at a young age. Filled with empathy, Mustapha is torn between professionalism and succumbing to the relatable pressures that the young boy feels.

After reading the script Aladdin became riveted with the storyline, adding, “I think that viewing the world through a child’s perspective makes us question ourselves a lot. We forget that this crazy world we live in and witness, the children witness as well. They look up to us to reach a solution to all these problems. And at times we hand over the responsibility to them. I think that is the core of what the story [Akeda] is about.”

“Akeda” earned critical praise winning Best Film and Best Screenplay at the 2018 San Diego International Film Festival, Catalina Film Festival and Downtown Film Festival Los Angeles, as well as a further 13 nominations across global festivals.

Aladdin’s strong ability to paint a character’s depth and sorrow was proven in the 2018 drama “Martyrdom,” a dark film about a radicalised Middle Eastern man struggling to adapt to a society he sorely doesn’t fit in to.

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Shvan Aladdin in “Martyrdom”

Feelings of defeat takeover when the character’s heinous acts of crime result in the accidental murder of his wife and son, and the repercussions that follow will haunt his remaining years.

When preparing for the grieving role Aladdin shares, “It was a lot of responsibility but I worked day and night preparing for this character and making sure that I knew who he was completely. I ‘knew’ my son, my wife. I made sure to create a full background for the character so that even though I was alone in the short, I still had the life of the character out there to play around with.”

Being the starring actor in the movie, Aladdin was the driving force behind the film premiering at the Montreal Film Festival along with its nomination for Best Short Film.

Reflecting on these outstanding performances and the achievements which followed, it’s obvious that the plethora of skills Aladdin has on offer have helped establish the successful and influential career he has today.

“Thankfully, these past years I’ve gotten to play many well rounded characters that tell deep and beautiful stories.” He adds, “and that’s something that means a lot for my creativity and the vision I have of what I want to do as an actor. I’m not here to play a terrorist.”

Using his Kurdish roots as an accurate representation of the Middle East, Shvan Aladdin is turning heads and changing minds of those who drive diversity in Hollywood. Although a long way to go, multiculturalism is on the rise as more and more industry heads, much like Aladdin are paving the way for change.