Tag Archives: acting

Alina Smolyar to star in upcoming horror ‘Skeleton in the Closet’

photo Valery Sobol
Alina Smolyar, photo by Valery Sobol

Growing up in Odessa, Ukraine, Alina Smolyar always believed she would be a painter. She had been drawing since the age of three and gained recognition for her work around the world. However, at twelve-years-old, she quit it. Even at that age, she knew she did not have the inspiration or the drive to become a visual artist; this was her parents dream, not her own. She knew she had another passion to explore, one that excited her beyond anything else, and that was acting.

As a childhood pastime, Smolyar would put together small plays or sketches with other kids in her neighborhood. They invited audiences of their parents and neighbors, and every time Smolyar would perform she felt an energy that was unparalleled with anything else she had ever experienced.

“When it came to that point when I had to choose my future job I totally knew what I wanted to do. The only problem was that I had to convince my parents that I could do it. They didn’t want me to become a professional actress. They are not related with show business at all,” said Smolyar.

Now, Smolyar has indeed shown not only her parents, but also the entire world just what she is capable of as an actress. She starred in her own filmMolehill, taking home several awards for Best Actress for her performance from many prestigious film festivals around the world. She has been in several national commercials and acclaimed television series. She has worked alongside Hollywood’s elite, like Denise Richards, Val Kilmer, and William Baldwin in the upcoming comedy 1stBorn.

Smolyar’s latest film is the action/thriller feature Skeleton in the Closet. The film tells the story of Jason, 20-something slacker and computer savant who, on a dare, hacks the White House computer servers. He covers his digital tracks, but a hacker buddy boasts of Jason’s exploits online. The FBI tracks down the friend – then breaks down Jason’s door. The events that follow are a race against time, a battle of wits, and a fight to the death for two young computer prodigies pitted against a group of armed, determined criminals who will stop at nothing. In the end, the difference between life and death rests solely upon superior intelligence – and willingness to trust, but as things spiral further and further out of control, the question for us is: will they make it?

Valery Sobol
Alina Smolyar, photo by Valery Sobol

“It’s so fresh right now audiences will love it. It’s going to be a Ukrainian-American project, a thriller with some action elements. I won’t give you details about the story but it’s very hot and new for this particular time. It’s a thriller, you will see a lot of action and of course everything is based on love. You’ll see some drama, elements of comedy. David Ransil is a script writer, you will enjoy it for sure. He definitely knows what he does,” said Smolyar.

In the film, Smolyar plays a pivotal role. At first, her character appears to be very nice and helpful, but she is also very deceiving. She aims to benefit herself in every move she makes. She also is pivotal to the climax of the story, helping audiences better understand every characters’ motives.

Smolyar is very excited to be working on such a unique film. Not only does she like the story, but she loves the team she will be working alongside. Shooting will begin in September, with an expected release date of next year.

“It’s very important to have a great team. I like the script, the idea, my character and the place where we are going to shoot it. It’s a huge mansion with an amazing lake. I am really looking forward to it,” she said.

Smolyar has quite the year ahead with Skeleton in the Closet and1stBorn. With so much going on, she still remembers being a young girl in Ukraine with a dream that her family didn’t support, and now, for others that may be facing the same challenge, she offers the following advice.

“Think wisely before choosing this career. You always have to be prepared to hear no and just move on. The best phrase for that if you can see yourself doing something else besides acting, do it, don’t start an acting career. But if you decide to take this road you have to understand that it takes so much commitment, inside power, taste and knowing what you’re selling. You are a product, know your brand,” she advised.

To stay up-to-date with Skeleton in the Closet, check out the film’s website here.

 

Written by Annabelle Lee

A how-to of staying in shape on set

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Andrey Ivchenko, photo by John Hong

As the brilliant Toni Sorenson once said, “If it was easy, the reward at the end would mean nothing.” This statement comes from a woman, mother, and author, who grew up in an orphanage and on the streets and chose a path to victory.

In the entertainment business, victory means booking a new role in a television series, feature film, producing a project you’re passionate about, selling a script you wrote or getting it optioned and made. Most people don’t realize though how big of a part fitness plays into those, especially with actors.

Hollywood, the entertainment capital of the world, has people from all over the world, near and far, looking to pursue their dreams and to make those dreams turn into a reality. Staying in shape while in pursuit of those dreams is not only important for one’s physical health, but their mental health as well. With rejection being one of the biggest struggles someone just moving to Hollywood will have to deal with, it’s very important to always have a healthy outlet for the ups and downs you will face on your journey.

Being an actor in Hollywood isn’t for people with thin skin. It tends to focus so heavily on what its idea of the “perfect image” is as we see daily from network TV shows, to commercials, to magazines, to models on billboards, you get the idea and know what I’m talking about. This business in particular holds people’s image to a much higher standard than one would face living anywhere else in the world. With that being said, the pressures that come with that responsibility are extremely high especially for an actor that will be seen on the silver or big screen.

The reason I mentioned the above is because throughout my experience of being in Hollywood, being a big guy, everyone is constantly judging. When I began this journey, I got into stunts since it seemed like a natural fit – I’m a big guy, 6 foot 3, built, with an accent, and told I could play bad guys all day because I guess that’s the “tough guy” image I give off. Given that that’s the direction I decided to pursue, I had to make sure that my image lived up to the hype. I was in the gym for several hours a day, 6 days a week, eating 7-8 meals throughout the day that consisted of consuming approximately 5,000 calories a day. Believe it or not, eating that much every day and working out that much isn’t easy, even for the big guys that make it appear that way.

As I transitioned into the acting side of the business, I was often told I was “too big.” Too big? I was just told for years I need to be bigger and tougher looking to be the bad guy and now I needed to become less bulk and leaner because now I would be playing more leading man roles, not just henchman types, and needed to be able to be diversified that way if casting or producers saw fit. So, the process began again and now instead of going to the gym six days a week, I was going four days a week and cutting my calories to 3,000 a day. Having been an athlete my entire life since I was a child, serving in the military, and also having a master’s degree in Kinesiology, made finding the discipline to re-write my fitness programs and stick to them pretty easy for me, but they require a lot of discipline! I’d say having discipline when it comes to fitness is one of the biggest skills one can achieve. Setting goals, making plans, and sticking to them. No one ever said looking “Hollywood” good was going to be easy! However, at the end of the day making all of those challenges and sacrifices can be very rewarding mentally as well as physically.

The entertainment business as a whole has put an emphasis on fitness since it was established. From physical comedy actors like Charlie Chaplin, to Steve McQueen, Ronald, Reagan, to action heroes like Sylvester Stallone, Clint Eastwood, and Dwayne Johnson. In addition, there are also actors who perform their own stunts like Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible, and Jackie Chan. Staying in shape for these guys is essential to their careers. For example, most people don’t realize what Hugh Jackman went through to achieve his transformation to become Wolverine. His training consisted of two or more hours in the gym six days a week and consuming 5,000-6,000 calories a day to gain all that muscle and then had to transition into a much lower calorie diet to lose all the water weight and increase his cardio, so he could get shredded for the role.

Working on Television shows like Nikita,XIII: The Series, and Warehouse 13, I was grateful that I was introduced to martial arts and gun skills at a young age because it really made it an authentic look for the characters I played on those shows. As well as feature films I’ve worked on like Freezerand Way of The Westthat were both very physical and challenging as well but required a lot of those trained skills that I already had.

In regards to stunt work, it’s not just about looking the part, but being able to execute the part. Doing stunts is tiresome work and requires extremely long hours and repeated choreography and actual physical fighting to get it right. Sometimes they change the whole thing altogether and you have to relearn from scratch all over again but staying focused mentally and physically is the key. You have to be really physically and mentally ready to keep up, stay alert, and be on point for every take and also take direction correctly from the stunt coordinator and the director. There are a lot of moving parts while shooting an action scene so it’s very important that it always be executed properly every time. I have worked through injury, blood, sweat, tears, and I can honestly say it was all worth the challenge in the end. Good work is applauded and recognized in the entertainment business and word of mouth about people can spread very quickly and, in some cases, can even lead you to your next job if you remain humble, keep the right mindset, and positive attitude which is the key to success in this business.

When I booked the feature film Freezer, I was eating about 3,000-4,000 calories a day to get bigger because the director wanted me to look big and intimidating in comparison to Dylan McDermott. And when I booked xXx: The Return of Xander Cage, Vin Diesel and the director, DJ Caruso, also wanted my character ‘Red Erik’ to appear really big and tough, but in some of these scenes my character was going up and down flights of stairs, so I made sure to really increase my cardio training, so I wouldn’t fatigue while shooting those scenes over and over. In addition, it required me to learn motorcycle stunt training which I hadn’t done since I was about sixteen years old. But I’d say because of my fitness level and ability it allowed me to re-learn quickly and efficiently. At the end of the day the stunts they decided to go with were so extreme they hired a stunt double for those that you see in the film, but I was still required to go through the training as if I were the one doing the stunts myself as well. Had I not been fit enough to be up to the task of creating the character vision they had and physically doing the stunts they wanted in those scenes, I don’t know if I would have booked the role at the end of the day.

Fitness, especially today, is a constantly growing trillion-dollar business that’s probably more trendy and popular now than it’s ever been before. With social media and all the pressures of having to post images and videos of your personal and professional life constantly, you frequently feel vulnerable to the pressures that Hollywood gives to always look your best. Regardless though of what the trends are, one thing always remains true which is that being healthy is essential so implement it into your everyday life regardless of your schedule or profession, and also make sure you get enough hours of sleep a night which is a key element that’s more important than most people realize. Resting the body keeps a healthy mind and allows the body to recover. Set your goals, make time for yourself and watch how many doors achieving those goals will provide in your life, physically, mentally, and emotionally. Again, as Toni Sorenson once said, “If was easy, the reward at the end would mean nothing.”

 

Written by Andrey Ivchenko

Canada’s Romaine Waite terrifies audiences in sci-fi horror flick ‘Antisocial’

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Canadian Actor Romaine Waite

Romaine Waite has always been an outgoing person, a trait he believes has helped him greatly as an actor. When he was a child, growing up in Canada, he participated in school plays and drama programs, not because he thought it would be his career, but simply because that is what he enjoyed. It wasn’t until his early twenties when he realized he could truly follow his passion, and the second he got his first professional part, he knew that acting was his calling.

“I’ve always had this innate ability to connect with people in some way, making people laugh or causing disruptions, depends on who you ask,” he joked.

Now, Waite is a celebrated actor. His work in television series such as Star Trek: Discovery,Frankie Drake Mysteries, and The Mistimpressed audiences in not only Canada, but the rest of the world. His versatility knows no bounds, and he is always looking for a new way to explore his talents.

“Romaine is great. He makes my job a lot easier. He is the consummate professional and a very dedicated and crafter artist. It is always pleasurable working with him,” said Alan Moy, Producer who worked alongside Waite on Murdoch Mysteries and Usher the Usher.

Waite recalls his first real taste of international success as the sci-fi horror flick Antisocial. The movie follows five university friends who gather at a house party to ring in the New Year. Unbeknownst to them, an epidemic has erupted outside, causing outbreaks around the world. With nowhere else to turn, they barricade themselves indoors with only their phones, laptops, and other tech devices. They use their devices to research the possible cause of this outbreak. Information and video footage over flow their computers as they descend further into the cause and the ensuing chaos. As the virus spreads, the mood in the house changes from fear to paranoia. Who is safe? Who can they trust? Reality becomes blurred as they slowly discover the source of the virus causing the sickness… and there is no going back.

“I thought the story was clever it takes something that everyone was familiar with, being social media, and took it to the extreme. If you take away the gore, it’s basically what we’re experiencing today. Snapchat, Instagram, etc. have become these tools that are allowing people to share every single aspect of their life. In a way, I think the film talks about a very important subject in our society — what are the effects of social media and what are the limits and consequences of sharing too much on social media,” said Waite.

In the film, Waite plays Steve, one of the five friends gathering to celebrate New Year’s Eve. He was jovial and sincere university student. Audiences got to see him enjoy time with his close friends and girlfriend. Unfortunately, he was first in the house to experience the epidemic that trapped them in the house. This is pivotal, as Waite was responsible for getting the audience to truly understand the epidemic, and therefore the film. Within the film, Steve was the only individual who the audience was able to see go through a full transition. With this, the audience knew what the signs were and what would happen if another character was to get infected.

“It was really important to me that people felt the struggle of this character. As he tried to figure out what was happening to him without revealing anything to others in house. Through my portrayal, I hoped the audience would feel like they were a friend to my character and miss this him when he was gone,” Waite described.

The film had its premiere at the Fantasia Film Fest in Montreal back in 2013, and from there went to several high-profile international film festivals, including Calgary International Film Fest, Sitges International Fantastic Film Festival, Toronto After Dark Film Festival, and the Cannes Film Festival. From there, it was distributed through Monster Pictures on DVD, through Super Channel, and on iTunes. Such success could not have been possible without Waite’s portrayal of Steve, hooking audiences to the story early on.

“It’s always nice to see an indie film do well. It takes so many people and long days to make a film. To me the success is in completing the project. I am proud of everyone involved,” said Waite.

Antisocial was Waite’s first horror feature film, and five years later he still looks back and coals the experience amazing. At the time, he was still very curious about the process of filmmaking and how it all would come together, and he could not have been happier with the result. Everyone on set was professional and inspired, creating a contagious energy. He found himself watching everyone on set, from the cinematographer to the special effects make-up artist, taking everything in and reminding himself why he wanted to be an actor in the first place.

“I liked the comradery. Everyone was really passionate about the project. We were all stuck in a house for weeks. Friendships were built, and some good memories were made. I hadn’t done anything like that before. Overall it was a great experience,” he said.

Be sure to check out Antisocial to see Waite’s terrifying performance as Steve.

Actor Kevin Dary talks new film ‘The Chop Shop’ and living his dream

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Actor Kevin Dary

Kevin Dary always knew he wanted to be an actor and has spent his entire life devoted to this artform. Every new character he plays allows him to explore a new part of himself. He knows that through his craft, he can heal wounds, spark new interests, or make one question their own behaviour, and he understands the responsibility behind this. He makes sure to put his entire heart into every project he does, and that is what makes him such a formidable actor.

Known for his versatility and dedication, Dary has worked on several award-winning films throughout his esteemed career, including Pandora’s Box, The Swampand Prego. Through each film, Dary conveys true depth and realism behind his characters. In his most recent film, The Chop Shop, he once again does just that.

The Chop Shop is a passion project made by award-winning director Eric Milzarski. It follows two brothers, Luther and Corey, who are drastic opposites. Luther owns a chop shop that is tied to a group of gangsters and tries to get his do-gooder brother involved. Luther gets beaten for not paying back money. After he finds comfort in his caring brother, Corey, either he must pay them back and risk jail or swallow his pride by turning legitimate.

“I love the idea of apparently terrible, sloppy people actually being a little better than you would expect. That’s why I think this story is important, because themes like forgiveness are universal, and I believe that messages that have a subtler delivery rather than being very on the nose have a stronger impact on audiences. It feels real, just like the world The Chop Shop is set in,” said Dary.

In Chop Shop, Dary plays Johnny, Luther’s right hand at the shop. He has been there since the beginning and he will be there until the end. He also trains the newest recruits. He is the catalyst for a pivotal scene in the story, when Luther has an argument with his brother trying to get him to join the shop, an incident with a rapidly spinning tire costs Johnny a thumb. Luther’s brother, who studied medicine, comes in and offers first aid. Luther jumps on the opportunity to convince him that he is definitely needed here. This moment is key in the film because this is when Luther’s brother starts heavily questioning his possible implication. It is also in that moment when the audience finally sees Luther’s true feelings for Johnny, and Johnny’s physical pain is now nothing compared to the disappointment and resentment he has for his boss. Dary knew the importance of the scene and that he had to deliver, and he impressed all he worked with.

Filming this scene involved a lot of preparation for Dary, first with makeup and visual FX to create the torn apart thumb, but more specifically with the Director, Eric Milzarski. They wanted to be absolutely sure that they could convey the idea of this pain being even stronger from Luther’s attitude towards Johnny in that terrible moment. Milzarski took the time to talk with Dary, one on one, before they even rehearsed this scene. It was an amazing moment of directing and collaboration between the two artists.

THE CHOP SHOP POSTER
The Chop Shop film poster

“Professional through and thorough, Kevin is the type of actor who welcomes harder roles. As his director on several projects, Kevin will workshop and make every character his own. Kevin is an old soul for today’s world. He will listen for hours, take notes about everything, and asking often the most bizarre questions that build his character. Between takes, he’ll quietly focus on little details like “how would my character hold his bottle?” Then the moment the cameras are on him, it’s truly magical,” said Eric Milzarski, Director of The Chop Shop.

The film premiered in September 2017 in Warner Bros Studios to a private audience of industry professionals. It is currently in the festival circuit, and so far has been in the official selection of The Grove Film Festivalin Jersey City, New Jersey, with a screening on March 28th, 2018, and of the Los Angeles Film And Script Festival, with a screening on April 22nd, 2018 at the Conplex Theater on Santa Monica Blvd. Among the prestigious upcoming film festivals, the project was submitted for is theG.I Film Festival inWashington, D.C, the largest in the Veteran community, of which Eric Milzarski is a proud member.

“Knowing the film has been so successful is both beautiful and heartwarming, because I know this project was made with so much passion towards involving audiences that seeing it succeed at that feels so right. I have heard from the director that the scene with Johnny is often the highlight during screenings, with strong response from the audience, who seem to suffer with and for Johnny in that moment. It’s amazing for an actor when you hear something like that,” said Dary.

Although Dary had little knowledge of what happens in a chop shop prior to getting this role, he made sure to study and understand the environment his character was living in. When filming in an actual auto centre, he talked to the workers and learned how to use the machines. This greatly helped make the environment familiar and made the actor feel that he belonged in there, so he could embrace it as Johnny.

The Chop Shopis the kind of project I love working on because it has an edgy feeling to it, but only to better serve a very relatable story about sibling love and relationships. It has elements of betrayal, deception, but also redemption and forgiveness,” said Dary.

Be sure to check out The Chop Shopand Dary’s enthralling performance.

 

Written by Annabelle Lee

British Actress Milanka Brooks brings on the laughs in TV Movie ‘Do Not Disturb’

As a child, Milanka Brooks found herself inspired by her late father, Harry Brooks. He was an actor, and the two would discuss theatre, film and television, and frequented the theatre together. Growing up, Milanka began seeing the theatre world as a magical space where real-time stopped and the world as she knew it only existed within the parameters of the stage. She knew from that young age that she would find herself on the same path as her father and that her future lied in acting.

Now, Brooks is an acclaimed actress, showing audiences in her home country of England and around the world just what a talent she is. Having recently starred in an episode of the popular Netflix original series Black Mirror, and the hit British television show Benidorm, the actress’ versatility is evident, and with her upcoming film Patrick being released later this year, she has no plans on slowing down.

One of Brooks’ most prolific roles was that of Svetlana in the movie Do Not Disturb. The film tells the story of Anna and John, who book into the Stratford-on-Avon hotel where they spent their honeymoon ten years earlier – separately, following Anna’s extra-marital fling, but they had paid for the room anyway. They decide to give their marriage another go but then Anna sees young Luke, the hungover best man from the previous night’s stag party, who mistakes her for a prostitute and whom she rings receptionist Sheila to get rid of. In the meantime, two real escorts arrive and assume that porter Neil is their client, to Sheila’s annoyance. Confusion arises when a blindfold Anna has sex with Luke by mistake and Neil ejects her husband John, believing him to be Luke. By the time Anna’s mother turns up there is much explaining to do.

Do Not Disturb Sian Gibson, Kierston Wareing, photo UKTV
Sian Gibson, Milanka Brooks and Kierston Wareing in Do Not Disturb, photo courtesy of UKTV

Do Not Disturb is a really fantastic romp made for audiences with a penchant for farce. Even when reading the script, I could feel the pace and energy of the film. It doesn’t shy away from being a purely energetic, entertaining spoof, full of thrills and turns that leave the audience feeling fully satiated by the end,” said Brooks.

The character of Svetlana is a very intimidating, confident and forceful escort from Russia. As one of the two escorts, Brooks’ character is hired to entertain the groom-to-be on his stag-do in a hotel in Stratford-Upon-Avon, a town that is definitely not known for this kind of behaviour. They storm in to the hotel and demand to be taken to his room. They end up entering the wrong hotel room and seducing the wrong man, which is the catalyst for the train of events to follow.

Svetlana came in to destroy what was already a fairly shattered environment, in Brooks’ opinion. The humor in the story came from a degenerate group of people, all finding themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. Svetlana highlighted this by her stature, attitude and insolence of the whole situation.

“The men are quite paradoxically the scared characters in the story, and the women end up incredibly domineering and commanding. Sometimes I feel like this came a little too naturally,” Brooks joked.

Milanka press Do Not Disturb Catherine Tate, Miles Jupp, Steve Edge, Kierston Wareing, Dylan Edwards, Penny Ryder, Photo UKTV
Catherine Tate, Miles Jupp, Steve Edge, Kierston Wareing, Dylan Edwards, Penny Ryder, and Milanka Brooks in Do Not Disturb, photo courtesy of UKTV

Do Not Disturb also stars British icon Catherine Tate, which was the initial reason Brooks wanted to be a part of it. Working alongside such talented comedians inspired Brooks, saying the TV movie really felt like an ensemble piece from the beginning. Rehearsals consisted of a lot of improvisation and devising around the script. Writer and Executive Producer Aschlin Ditta was always open to the cast’s ideas and any amendments that complimented the story and supported the characters. This allowed the cast to really become comfortable with each other and their characters, playing off everyone’s comedic timing and creating laugh-out-loud funny scenes.

“Milanka is a very fine actress and comedienne and someone I would work with again without a second thought. As a performer she is brilliant and skilful, with a rare eye for both comedy and drama, and as a professional she is faultless. Milanka is incredibly thorough both in her preparation and execution, an exceptional talent, and while she undoubtedly delivers in performance she is also a team player who is a joy to be around. Her energy, talent, insight and humour make her an actress to grace any production,” said Aishlin Ditta, Writer and Executive Producer of Do Not Disturb.

A lot of Brooks’ performance was based on her on-screen relationship with fellow actress Kierston Wareing. The chemistry between the two, playing escorts, had to be comedic and believable to bring audiences in, so the two spent a lot of time getting to know each other outside of rehearsals and filming. The result was perfect timing between the two characters.

Working alongside such a stellar cast and crew, including Wareing, Ditta, and Tate is why Brooks enjoyed creating Do Not Disturb as much as she did. With such comedic energy all around, it was easy to see the humor of the story on set.

We ended up shooting in this beautiful country house a little outside of London. If any neighbors were watching they would have likely called the police given the absurd nature of a lot of people running in and out of rooms half dressed, but fortunately for us we were in the middle of nowhere,” she concluded.

 

Written by Annabelle Lee

Top photo by Faye Thomas

Liam Casey Sullivan takes destiny into his own hands

It has been said that destiny doesn’t come down to chance. Rather, destiny is a choice. It isn’t something to wait for, it is something to be achieved. Growing up with actors as parents, Liam Casey Sullivan has always known that entertaining was his destiny; however, rather than wait around for his fate to unfold, Sullivan took matters into his own hands and began doing the very thing he knew he was meant to do. His childhood was charged with exposure to entertainment and other forms of artistic expression. With that, his imagination ran rampant and he was captivated by the world it molded around him. As a result, the talented young actor is no stranger to the stage. Whether he is acting in a theatre production, on a television program, or on the big screen, he is determined to ensure that he never lets his calling escape him. He was born for the screen and knows that with the right amount of hard work and dedication, he will be able to continue along a path to greatness and enjoy it.

Since the outset of his career, Sullivan has earned himself a number of different roles across various entertainment mediums. For instance, when Sullivan was just 10 years old, he felt more than ready to begin his acting journey. The unrepresented, eager young artist had compiled a portfolio of head shots and information about himself, as well as his skill set, and to his avail, was recognized by renowned director, Pat Mills, who wanted Sullivan to act in his upcoming film, 5 Dysfunctional People in a Car. The film comedically follows five individuals during a car ride to drop their grandmother off at her retirement home.

Given his desire to immerse himself into the entertainment industry, Sullivan recalls the experience as feeling absolutely surreal. On top of the excitement of simply getting to act professionally, knowing that his first ever film went on to successfully screen at several North American film festivals, as well as to secure a win for Best International Short Film at FilmOut San Diego, was all the more exciting for the enthusiastic Canadian actor. In addition, he was over the moon when BlogTO named 5 Dysfunctional People in a Car one of the top 8 must-see films at the Toronto International Film Festival.

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LIAM CASEY SULLIVAN AND SHANNON FORD 5 DYSFUNCTIONAL PEOPLE IN A CAR, PHOTO BY PAT MILLS

For the film, Sullivan played a character by the name of Robbie Gordon, intended to be the ultimate heartthrob and the coolest kid in his school. He exists within a constant buzz that results from his popularity, keeping his friends close and turning his nose up at anyone else he crosses paths with. Stereotypically, girls crush on him, his grades lack, and his ego fills every room he enters. In order to play Robbie as convincingly as possible, Sullivan made an effort to channel the excitement of entering the acting world at such a young age and allow him to appear conceited and aware of his reputation. In addition, he seized the project as an opportunity to act as a sponge, absorbing as much information as he possibly could from his experience on set, working alongside other talented actors and under a skilled director. He took note of the hard work and processes evolving around him, vowing to bring his skill set up to par and to start off his career with a bang.

“I was so fortunate to be able to witness a group of people so passionate about what they were doing at the young age of ten. It really solidified my aspiration to continue to do this for the future of my career,” recalled Sullivan.

After working on 5 Dysfunctional People in a Car, Sullivan dedicated himself to pursuing other meaningful roles. He continued to surround himself with like-minded creatives and seizes each new learning experience as ferociously as he did for his first. Since that very first film, Sullivan has gone on to work on a number of other successful projects, such as Mary Goes Round and Degrassi: Next Class. Sullivan is a firm example of the notion that by combining his talent with a willingness to learn and a determination to find work, he can turn his dedication into positive outcomes. For other young actors looking to seize their destiny, Sullivan has the following advice to offer:

“Always challenge your emotional capacity and don’t be afraid to take leaps outside of yourself. It is surprising how well you can do when you consistently test the boundaries of your work. It is really important to always keep in mind how many people go into making a production successful and it is crucial to trust your collaborators. Whether that’s your director or your fellow actors, developing solid trust amongst each other is a great way to achieve results. Be that firmly supporting and believing in your director or fully engaging with another actor in a scene, always remember that achieving greatness in this industry is solely based on the collaboration of many.”

 

Written by Annabelle Lee, top photo by Joshua Augusto

Overcoming diversity barriers in the industry

My name is Xiao Sun. I was born and raised in China before coming to Canada nine years ago. The performing arts has always been my passion and I have been getting up on a stage to express myself since I was only five years old. I have had the opportunity to work alongside some of Hollywood’s elite, like Oscar winners Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Charlize Theron, and most recently Seth Rogan, to name a few.

Like many in this industry, my path towards becoming an actress has been unique. I originally started off as a dancer, training for ten years in Chinese traditional dance. I travelled around China with my team, competing and learning along the way. My dance background taught me how to express myself through performing arts from a young age, and I was later hired as a dancer in Cirque du Soleil’s touring show Amalunain Montreal, Canada.

After moving to Montreal with my parents in 2009, I also began modeling. I joined Miss Universe Canada and was one of the top 10 national finalists and was awarded the Best Runway Model award. At the time, I was the first Asian contestant to ever receive this prestigious award. That was when I realized, maybe for the first time in a professional sense, that I had the power to overcome diversity barriers and become a role model for other Asians looking to make their way in North America’s fashion and entertainment industries.

It was after this experience when I began pursuing my truest passion: acting. Not too long afterwards, I booked my first ever film, Fatal (Universal Pictures), and my career kicked off. However, as the years went by, the only roles that I was getting were those that were specifically looking for Chinese actresses to play “hot girl” or “girlfriend” or “receptionist” or “best friend”. I was and still am very grateful for these roles and how they helped develop my career, but I was beginning to want more. Very few casting calls were looking for Chinese or Asian actors for leading roles, and none of the roles had any real substance.

Recently, the trends in the industry are changing. The success of Black Panther was just one of many awakenings for Hollywood, showing production companies that films not only starring minorities, but also celebrating them, can become massive successes both critically and at the box office.

Television is undergoing a similar paradigm shift. Just last month, Glamour published an article titled “Now Trending on TV: The Sexy Asian Hunk” highlighting the many hit shows that feature Asian actors in the starring roles, playing roles that go beyond the typical stereotype often associated with Asian characters. This is exactly what I, like many Asians in the industry, love to see. However, even with all the progress that has been made in the last two years, dynamic female Asian leads are still very underrepresented.

For the first few years of my acting career, I was building quite the resume, but was still finding myself playing secondary characters that showcased Asian women in a way I found stereotypical; I was either hot, or nerdy, or a funny best friend, or a combination of the three. I wanted to be able to develop a role, get into the substance of the character, and really show a wide range of emotions while reminding myself why I got into acting.

I decided to slightly change the roles I was going for. I started going to less auditions, as I started picking roles that I felt were more suited to what I felt I wanted, and what I thought would be more interesting roles for an Asian woman. This included my 2016 appearance on Syfy’s Incorporated. The story took place in a future where the United States was no more, and China had taken over as the global superpower. I played a public influencer that encouraged and inspired people to save the kids suffering in areas affected by natural disasters caused by climate change. In Mother,opposite Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem, my character was a huge fan of poetry. I travelled days to see a famous poet (played by Bardem) to tell him how much I liked his work, and my character was just a normal human being on this planet. These roles did not require a specific ethnicity. These types of roles are the type we should all strive for.

My most recent role, in Seth Rogan and Charlize Theron’s film Flarsky, I once again had the opportunity to play a character that was proudly Chinese. Initially, the role did not specifically call for an Asian actress, as the film was still being written. After getting the role, the finer details were ironed out, and I was written as a powerful Chinese executive passionate about rescuing animals. This character is passionate and complicated, and the kind of character I always dreamed of playing when I first set out to become an actress.

For too long, Asians have lived on the edge of screens. Jackie Chan and Lucy Liu were pioneers in overcoming such barriers, and in recent years, minorities are having more and more opportunities to take on roles that highlight their culture but are not limited to that audience. Asian actors still have a long way to go, but I would encourage all looking to break out in the industry to keep trying. Go for roles that you are passionate about, write the character you want to play in the story you think is important to be told, be proud of your accent, and sooner or later, audiences will have their own Asian “Black Panther” to look up to.

 

Written by Xiao Sun