Tag Archives: International Actress

Karen Mitchell: Owning the Screen with Magical Presence

Karen Mitchell
Actress Karen Mitchell shot by Chris Jon Photography

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

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

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

Karen Mitchell
Karen Mitchell shot by Sagar Beleka

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Q&A with Leading Colombian Actress and ‘Therapy’ star Juliana Betancourth

Juliana Betancourth, industry-leading actress in Colombia, is known for her talent and versatility. She has starred in countless acclaimed productions, from Bite! to La Reina de Sur. Her most recent project, Therapy, allows worldwide audiences to once again appreciate her outstanding acting capabilities.

After the great reception that the short theater play Terapia had, winning several awards of the Short & Sweet: Hollywood 2017, an adaptation of the script was made. Betancourth in the lead role of Marina, is a self-sacrificing wife who during couples therapy is discovering disturbing secrets about her husband, which causes a turning point in the story to show us a darker side of this character. Each one has a secret to reveal that seems to indicate that there is no way to fix the marriage, but the perverse sexual hobbies and fetishes of both end up uniting them and committing the greatest monstrosities; impacting the life of the person who tried to help them: their therapist. Betancourth develops an exquisite multidimensional, sensual and violent character.

The film crew is composed of successful filmmakers in Los Angeles, such as director Jhonatan Tabares, director of photography Jaime Salazar, Producer Yaniv Waisman, among others. A group that has been developing different audiovisual pieces for the Latin American industry in Hollywood.

The premiere was at the Panamanian International Film Festival, where the film took home the top prize. It then did the same at the Panamanian International Film Festival 2018 and the ELCO Film Festival, with many more expected this year.

We had a chance to sit down with Betancourth to talk about the making of this critically-acclaimed film.

IFR: Why did you want to work on this project?

JB: I already had an emotional connection with the project, and with the character of Marina who had allowed me to access very deep places acting wise.

The premise of this artistic piece was wonderful. It had a completely unexpected turning point, which was exciting for me, and as an actress it allowed me to play practically two roles in one.

I also liked working with the team involved that was composed of producers, director, cinematographer, and actors whom I’ve always admired.

IFR: Why did you want to work on this project?

JB: Therapy started as a theater play, and was directed by Jhonatan Tabares. Due to the great success it had, the Super Hero Latina production company run by Tanya Mordacci wanted to turn it into a film.

Everyone involved in the project already knew my acting work. They had seen me in the lead role in the Virginia Casta movie, and many other projects that were seen in Mexico and the United States. Also, with Jhonatan, we had already worked on previous pilots for TV shows. He knew me personally. We had already worked together in the stage version of Therapy.  It is very important when accepting a project to not only like the script, but also the quality of people who are part of it.

IFR: What do you like about the story?

JB: The story of this project is one of the most interesting in which I have worked. It is fiction, but it is an experiment that brings us closer to the understanding of human psychology. To that infinite universe of our mind, of the decisions we make and our behavior towards society.

I love that the story is transgressive. That it is perpetuated in the mind of the audience. That they want to stop seeing it, but they cannot look away. I am fascinated by social experiments.

This is why the premise of this story is important, it is also not far from reality. Within our communities are these types of dangerous individuals that are the product of our shortcomings as a society; of our injustices and oppressions; but each viewer is free to draw their own conclusions.

IFR: What was it like working on this project?

JB: The process with the director Jhonatan Tabares was special. There were many hours of rehearsals, finding the characters, their motivations, their actions, and their arcs through the written words and physical work.

I studied the behaviors of the most dangerous serial killers in world history, especially couples like Charlene & Gerald Galician, Raymond Fernandez & Martha Beck, Bonnie & Clyde, among others. I wanted to know the reasons why they killed their victims, the way they did it, and the satisfaction they found in it.

One of the things that I liked most about this project was working alongside my colleagues Ramón Valdez and Fernanda Kelly, two great Mexican actors. Also, the producer Tanya Mordacci, producer Yaniv Waisman, and the always supportive Vange Tapia. Director of photography Jaime Salazar, still photo Elena Rojas, and all those who were part of this family made this an unforgettable experience.

IFR: What was your character like?

JB: Marina is a supposed self-sacrificing woman. A Latina who lives in the United States, and who depends economically and emotionally on her husband, but this is just an act and part of a macabre game she carries out with her partner. At the turning point, we will see the real Marina, a psychopath, who finds sexual pleasure in seeing her victims die.

It is a dark character, with complex psychology, special motivations and very different from conventional characters. Marina all the time is playing at being another woman different from who she is. She is a kind of actress, but her performances hide macabre intentions.

It was very interesting to work on this character because the unexpected turning point leaves the audience surprised based on how Marina was from the beginning.  She plays the role of a sheep beautifully, but in reality, she is a hungry wolf.

IFR: How did your character fit into the story?

JB: There are only three characters in the whole movie. Marina, although initially playing the role of victim in therapy with the couple’s psychologist, crying and accusing her husband of being abusive, ends up being the mastermind with a criminal plan.

Driven by her desires and impulses, she mentally dominates her partner to commit the homicides while she enjoys the process and destruction it causes. It is an incredibly complex character, one that generates uncomfortable feelings from the audience when they realize the true objective of the two main characters.

Without Marina, there is no Therapy.

IFR: What did you like about working on this project?

JB: Working on this project has been one of the best experiences of my life. Connecting with so many talented people, who have become my friends, and will be people I plan to work with again in my future projects. It was great to work and build this character, to keep experimenting until we found what worked best, and have direct and honest communication with the director.

Art projects fascinate me because it is not about business and how much money we can make, but more about character, story, and connections with the cast and crew to make a film or TV show that moves people and makes them think. That is always a beautifully motivating factor for me.

IFR: What else did you like about working on this project?

JB: We filmed in one location. The office of the psychologist. The final scene was exhausting and dramatic, that we could only film in two sequences. We both were spent when the director finally called cut.

In the play, there was no character of the psychologist. It was just a voice, and we broke the fourth wall when speaking to the voice, which made it feel like to the audience that we were speaking with them. In the film, Fernanda Kelly played the role of the psychologist, and she was marvelous in it. It was amazing to act opposite her, and it lifted our performances to another level.

IFR: How does it feel knowing the project has been such a success?

JB: I knew it would be a resounding success since I had first read the script, and saw the reaction when performing it as a theater piece. I fully trusted the director’s work, and my own. I had no doubt about the success it has had and will have for the next few years.

When you do a project, you do not think about prizes, you know if the project is good or not regardless of the recognition or criticism you receive, but I would be wrong if I said that it is not rewarding to receive the accolades.

Each time we have received these awards for Therapy I have celebrated them. I feel proud. It fuels my fire, and I long to do more great work with excellent projects.

 

Written by Annabelle Lee
Photo by Vinny Randazzo 

Actress Liya Shay is the voice in your head in film ‘From Within’

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Actress Liya Shay, photo by Collin Stark

“Taking on a new role, transforming into a new character is like a drug to us actors,” said Liya Shay. The Russian native has enjoyed acting since she was just a child, knowing she would never want to do anything else; she can’t live without it. She believes she is one of the luckiest people on the earth, getting to do what she loves every day. She is also one of the best actresses to recently come out of Russia.

Throughout her career, Shay has worked on a series of esteemed projects, solidifying her reputation as a true professional. Her portrayal of the sister in The 4th Person caught the attention of both audiences and critics, a trend that continued for her roles in Musician Evan Blum’s “Won’t Be Alright” music video, and the short film Greek Yougurt.

“If you don’t truly love acting, you would not be able to do it,” she said.

Shay has become an international success, with producers and directors looking to have her in their films. Just last year, this happened when producer Nikita Sapronov reached out to the actress to be in the film From Within. The two had worked together on the film Forever, and Sapronov knew Shay would be ideal for the role of Louise. The two have now worked on four projects together, and Sapronov is always impressed with the skill that Shay holds despite her young age. He was very impressed with how fluently she switches between accents and dialects. He helped the casting directors of the television series Cyberia find their lead character Dr. Alina Petrovska, knowing that Shay can speak Russian and do an authentic Russian accent. In the near future, Sapronov yet again will be working with the actress on the mockumentary feature film Homeschool Graduation, and believes that her talent as an outstanding actor will make her a wonderful asset to his film.

“Liya created a unique character in From Within. Fictional, yet so familiar to everybody who faces the struggle of their perfectionist self. The combination of her strong deep melodic voice together with the British accent that she portrayed flawlessly due to her background living in the UK, created a character that was unforgettable. The character was an antagonist, but Liya was able to play on different notes of the character, making her performance so unique,” said Sapronov.

From Within tells the story of Caleb, a musician who stands up to his perfectionist inner voice, accepts his faults and embraces his inner creativity, taking his performance beyond the technique. Shay believes the film tells an important story, as many people struggle with trying to be perfect and constantly feel not good enough. From Within tackles these issues.

“Our world is so reliant on competition in everything we do. There is always someone better or stronger or cleverer and we always have this voice in our heads that tells us that we are not good enough, and often this voice is the reason why we give up. In this story, we wanted to remind the audience that doing something from your heart is more important than doing it perfectly. That what we do and the way we do it is so unique to every person, that simply that makes us equally special. Trusting your instincts and not comparing yourself to anybody else is the key to success,” said Shay.

Shay’s character Louise was extremely crucial to the story of From Within, as she leads Caleb through his self-discovery. She pushes him beyond his boundaries, and makes him realize that he can achieve greatness on his own, if only he embraces his mistakes. Shay was able to portray how three dimensional her character became, despite being written as a simple antagonist.

“I loved playing around with this character. I tend to get cast in roles that show vulnerability and a lot of emotions. This character was the opposite. She was strong and in complete control over Caleb. it’s definitely a lot of fun to be the boss. Also, I was always moving around as opposed to Caleb who is always at the piano in our scenes. It gave me an opportunity to really play the devil who is always behind, always whispering in your ear. The gorgeous red dress was the icing on the cake,” said Shay.

The audience’s sympathy for both the pianist and the muse helped the film achieve such success on domestic and international film festivals. It was an Official Selections at the Mission Viejo Film Festival, Oasis Film Festival, VOB Screening Series, and Austrian International Film Festival. None of this could have been possible without Shay’s intense portrayal of Louise. She knew the importance of building a believable relationship with the character of Caleb. Because Louise was an imaginary character, Shay had to create a sense that she was not a real person, but a product of Caleb’s imagination. Although it was mainly achieved through montage in the film, she had to carry the sense of it throughout the film. She chose to often walk around in circles close to Caleb, intruding his personal space, which emphasized that they had a very close relationship, and that she was holding some sort of power over him.

“Louise has a strong mindset that can’t be changed or meddled with. Unlike Caleb, she knows exactly what she wants from him and how to get him there. Although she is the antagonist, the audience is compelled to listen to her because of the intensity that she holds in every moment,” Shay described.

Audiences should be sure to check out Shay’s portrayal of Natasha in the upcoming film Jet Lag. Check out the trailer here.