After years of hard work and dedication, London-native Shanika Ocean has truly done it all — from her innumerable roles in film and television, to hosting television shows live from the red carpet, to a number of widely acclaimed performances as a singer in internationally broadcast competitions. A naturally gifted thespian, she’s a master of adapting to any and every role that comes her way. That talent has proven invaluable in an industry where many actors are often limited in the scope and range of their performing.
Ocean got her first taste of the spotlight as a child modelling and appearing on several children’s BBC shows. She then went on to take part in the British vocal competition series “The Choir.” The show saw her travel to China, where she performed for audiences watching around the world on international television. It gave her a chance to show off her vocal chops, but moreover it was that experience which set her on the path of a career in front of the camera.
“It was the first series I ever did and it was amazing to audition and then be picked along with 20 other people to be part of the choir,” Ocean recalled. “We flew to China to represent Great Britain in the World Choir Olympics and it was an experience I will never forget.”
In the film “Do Us Part,” Ocean delivers an unsettling performance as the lead character Shea, a woman driven to madness by her boyfriend’s incessant philandering.
“She was sweet and innocent and pretty much the perfect girlfriend,” Ocean said, describing Shea before her boyfriend’s constant cheating sends her past her breaking point. “Then the next minute she gets a gun and shoots her boyfriend. She can’t take it anymore.”
The film effectively makes audiences empathize with both Shea and her boyfriend, seeing each as both the villain and the victim. The morbid tragedy gives viewers a peek into the psyche of the serial cheater and the betrayed girlfriend who kills him.
Not all of Ocean’s roles are as dark as “Do Us Part” however, such as her role on “The T-Boy Show.” The British series stars Tolu Lope as the titular T-Boy, a wealthy Nigerian teen who travels to England to live with his working class aunt and awkward cousin.
“In the episode, T-Boy is upset with Abigail, the girl that he loves. She isn’t interested in him so he decides to go on a date with my character, Ella,” said Ocean. “Ella is not at all who he thought she was, and to make things worse Abigail catches him in the act.”
Ocean’s roles span from the light-hearted to the unhinged, from dramas to comedies to action-packed thrillers, and everything in between. But in addition to all of that, Ocean is perhaps best known for her countless appearances as a host and presenter on an array of series over the years. One such series was the enormously popular “Unplugged” on OH TV, which has given new or unsigned artists and bands the opportunity to become breakout sensations in the music industry. In addition to “Unplugged,” Ocean has hosted a myriad of other programs and events, notably the 2012 MOBO Awards, Capital Xtra Radio, and has covered London Fashion Week since 2015 as well as L.A. Fashion Week in 2016 for Fashion Thirst UK, which provides viewers with all the latest news and trends in the world of high fashion.
“When I did the red carpet at the MOBO Awards, that was a big moment for me,” she said. “I had always watched the MOBOs since I was a child and I had always wanted to go. And now here I was, interviewing celebrities from the likes of Rita Ora, Dionne Warwick, TLC and Emeli Sande.”
Ocean just finished shooting her latest project, the first episode of the upcoming series “Pursuit,” in which she gets to show off her skills as an action-star in the role of Officer Torres.
“I was running around with a gun, which I had never done before. I didn’t even know how to hold a gun properly when I started,” she said with a laugh. “But it was super fun and took me out of my comfort zone, and has made me really want to focus on doing action projects. I literally felt like I was in CSI.”
For someone whose skillset is as diverse as Ocean’s, it can often be more difficult to choose roles than to find them. After her roles in film, television, theater and her dozens of hosting and presenting credits, Ocean has developed a simple method of choosing her projects.
“Sometimes when I am given a script to read, I can feel the character and visualize myself playing them instantly,” Ocean said. “If I have that feeling, I know the role is for me.”
We already know through his powerful leading performances in films like “Suspect 13” and “Bio Killer,” that English actor Rob McLoughlin’s dramatic disposition and captivating on screen presence have made quite an impression on audiences.
Early on in his career McLoughlin established himself as a diversely talented actor capable of holding his own alongside industry greats such as Golden Globe nominee Martin Freeman, who McLoughlin acted alongside in one of his first projects on the big screen, the BBC’s “Micro Men.”
Aside from being an extraordinarily talented performer, McLoughlin has the added bonus of being drop dead gorgeous by anyone’s standards. What’s more is the fact that, regardless of whether he’s playing a bad boy criminal like his character in the film “The Fry Up” or a debonair stud, which he portrayed in a recent commercial for Audi (which you can check out below), McLoughlin is a gifted chameleon who is able to easily adapt his look to fit the role.
In one of his most recent films, “Il Sonnambulo,” he applies his remarkable artistry to the horror genre for the first time. His expressive and self-aware nature is serving him well for this new challenge, as the psychological horror featuring a murderous Venetian “Boogey Man” has already won several impressive awards including Vancouver Web Fest’s Best Horror and Seattle Web Fest’s Best Cinematography and Best Director.
With his belief in the power of creativity, his trust in the writing and his engagement in the development of his characters, McLoughlin is a director’s dream. He worked closely with award-winning “Il Sonnambulo” director Doug Rath to create the dynamic character of Roberto Aurelio; an accomplished and somewhat arrogant journalist looking for a big break.
For the recent and first time dad, McLoughlin says, “The subject matter was challenging…although it was so much fun, it was really really dark too.”
It takes a certain positive attitude and passion to cultivate fun on the set of an intense and murderous horror film, read McLoughlin’s interview below to see how he does just that!
Hi Rob, thanks for joining us! Can you tell our audience where you are from?
RM: I’m from Liverpool but London has been my home for the past 14 years. It’s a great, fun and creative city.
When and how did you first get into acting?
RM: When I first came to London I was working as a model. I got into acting that way. I just got to help out on a couple of unpaid short films. Couple of lines here and there. That sort of thing. I got hooked immediately. I love being on set. I love the process of it all. It’s just so much fun and it is really absorbing to get into the heads of the characters and to tell their stories.
Can you tell us a little bit about the storyline of the film “Il Sonnambulo”?
RM: “Il Sonnambulo” translates as “The Sleepwalker” in Italian. He’s a Venetian ‘Boogey Man’. He is a character that people would warn their kids about, “Be good or Il Sonnambulo will get you.” That kind of thing. He’s really bloody horrible! He kills kids and adults; he mutilates them in fact!
So it begins with a very famous photographer, Atticus Hurst, whose daughter vanished 20 years ago and he’s been taunted by someone claiming to be Il Sonnambulo ever since. This has lead him to many gruesome murder scenes, but his pain of loss and over exposure to the gore has lead him to be somewhat desensitized to it all. Then he teams up with a ‘gonzo’ style journalist, who has forced his way on to the trail of Il Sonnambulo. Things take a very different turn for both of them after that.
How does your character Roberto fit into the story?
RM: I play the journalist, Roberto Aurelio. He’s a good guy. Was successful in the past winning loads of awards for his war stories when he managed to sneak into Syria to report on the conflict, but the past few years have been quiet for him. Getting an interview with Atticus Hurst is his big break back into the big time. And oh boy, does he want to exploit that. Roberto is a fun character. He’s a chancer, you know? He takes loads of risks. He’s cheeky and arrogant but somehow still remains likable.
How did you approach developing this character for the screen?
RM: I actually sat down with the director, Doug Rath and his wife Hanna and invented Roberto’s back story. He’s not a million miles away from me personality wise. He definitely looks like me for sure. I wanted him to be vulnerable but arrogant at the same time. He has to show balls but he’s scared shitless. And that’s confusing because he thinks Atticus is completely mad, that this is all some spooky crap that Atticus has made up after too many absinthes. However, it’s all too enticing and could get him back on track professionally. I mean, who knows that feeling better than an actor right? Pretty much everything we do is a shot in the dark. Maybe I’m closer to Roberto than I thought. Interesting.
Did you face any challenges along the way?
RM: The subject matter was challenging, I had never done an outright horror film before, and although it was so much fun it was really really dark too. It’s a psychological horror. I think I could have dealt with gore easier. The fact that we were dealing with the horrible murders of babies is what did it, as I had just become a dad for the first time and now I had to put these thoughts in my head. Yeah, it was really tough, as you can imagine. In fact don’t imagine, I have imagined it for you.
What were some of you most memorable moments during the production?
RM: I broke my nose. All by myself. Actually, I rebroke it.
We were waiting in the green room on set to do a scene at night to be shot in the back of a black cab and I was a bit fidgety. Doug has this cane that he got off a set in Chicago, it was an antique wooden stick with a heavy solid silver bulldog handle. Apparently it belonged to some nasty East End gangster in Victorian London. It was also supposedly cursed. I started spinning the thing around and sure enough I wack myself in the exact place where my nose had been broken 2 months before. I looked around the room and luckily no one had noticed until the makeup girl pointed out there was blood pouring from the bridge of my nose. We were just about to film a scene, man, not good timing.
Has “Il Sonnambulo” had its world premiere yet?
RM: It was shown on the productions own website at Halloween; IlSonnambulo.com. It’s now doing rounds at film festivals and gaining interest from several networks in the States to be shot as a series. It has a lot of legs and the story needs to be pushed on. We left it at one hell of an amazing cliffhanger, so all our fingers are crossed.
Does the film have any upcoming screenings that you can share with us?
RM: It’s been shown at the “Vancouver Web Fest” where it won for Best Horror. It also won Best Cinematography and Best Director at Seattle Web Fest. Its showing in Buenos Aires and Toronto, New Media Film Fest and Montreal Web Fest too. There’s more to be confirmed at this point.
Can you tell us about some of the other film projects you’ve done over the course of your career?
RM: I’ve done quite a few films. My first big film was on a BBC production called “Micro Men” starring Martin Freeman. It’s a true story about Clive Sinclair (Alexander Armstrong) who invented ZX Spectrum home computer and Chris Curry (Freeman), who invented the BBC micro computer which was used in almost every school in the UK. I played one of Curry’s technicians, Nick Toop. The BBC didn’t credit me with the role as I was a late casting, but I’m on the poster! Something I’m still trying to put right 10 years later.
“Suspect 13” was also a highlight in my acting career. Set in a high class private members bar in the city, I played a gangster, who sticks the place up taking all 13 witnesses hostage, and the investigating officer, who accuses all 13 of committing the crime. It was amazing fun to play 2 characters at the same time. Playing the bad guy is always fun. Written and directed by Sam Walker and produced by his company BloomBox, this was his first film. It was shot in black and white for a very noir feel. Sam has become a good friend since we worked together.
Can you tell us about some of the notable people you’ve worked with over the years?
RM: I spent eight years working at the Royal Opera House in London doing stage combat and stunt work. Working with Placido Domingo on Cyrano De Bergerac and Simon Boccanegra was awesome! I’ve worked with world renowned director David McVicar many times. One of the things I worked with him on was Le Nozze Di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro) which won several awards. We actually devised an opening scene during the overture which has never been done in the two hundred years of its production so there’s a little bit of history there.
Going from there to films, back and forth has always kept things fresh for me. Working with Martin Freeman on “Micro Men” was great. He’s a super friendly guy. I also told him he was going to play the Hobbit after reading it in Empire Magazine. Something he knew nothing about at the time. I take full credit for that by the way!
They are all very different, what made you choose to participate in these projects?
RM: That is simple; fun! That’s why I do what I do. I love my job. Love it! I get to make pretend like we did when we were kids, but now I do it for a living. I hope that shows in my performances. One day I’m sword fighting on stage in front of two thousand people and the next I’m on set with fifty people who’ve all shown up because they believe in this script we’ve all read. It’s amazing! That’s the power of it. Everything we do, we believe is the best thing ever. That’s exciting!
You get approached all the time to work on projects with people, what makes you pick one role over another?
RM: The story for a start. The experience I will get and what I will learn from it. I’m not financially motivated at all. I leave that to other people. I’ve worked on many things for very little to no money because I believed in the story. You just know when you read the script, “I want to do this!” Everything is in the writing.
Do you feel that you get cast to play a certain type of character more than others?
RM: No, not really. I’ve probably played a version of the same character more than once but not that I’ve really noticed. Any similarities in roles I have played have always been far apart enough for me not to notice. So no, I don’t feel typecast in any way.
Out of all of the projects you’ve been in to date, what has been your favorite project, or projects, and why?
RM: Working at the Royal Opera House was amazing fun! I love doing the stunts and training hard. I even went and got a personal trainer qualification off the back of it.
“Suspect 13” was amazing! Pulling off a heist in the middle of the financial centre in London was brilliant. We nearly got arrested by the CID when we began filming as they didn’t realize we had permission to film in the area. Especially dressed in suits with balaclavas carrying baseball bats and concealed guns. That was a memorable moment!
I did a six week run in theatre playing the role of Jean in “Miss Julie.” That was a real eye-opener for me. I hadn’t done much theatre before then so playing the lead in a classic such as that brought it’s own challenges. I learned so much in those 6 weeks. On the last performance, a matinee on a Sunday afternoon, we did a performance for a school. When the curtain went down at the finale a 16 year old kid in the front row said to his friend (not too quietly either), “Thank f*** for that!” “Yep,” I said, “Thank f*** for that!”
What has been your most challenging role?
RM: Erm,…. a couple I think. I played an abusive husband in “The Loving Brutality.” That was tough as I had to get my head around someone who beats his wife. I had to find some sympathy for the character as that’s the only way you can play it. He’s a bully, a horrible guy, but of course, he doesn’t know he’s bully. It was dark. The role made me feel very weird, I don’t do bullies.
“Il Sonnambulo” was tough, again because of the subject matter. As a new dad, I didn’t expect I would be imagining horrific things happening to babies as part of my job. It was extremely challenging. Doug (the director) felt the same. He had a model made of a dismembered baby for one of the scenes. We couldn’t even look at it. Up close it didn’t even look that realistic but we kept it covered until it was needed. I don’t think it even made the final cut. It was too much.
What is your favorite genre to work in as an actor?
RM: Saying all that, I really liked doing the horror thing. We all get a thrill from being scared or creeped out. I’m lucky I got to make one. I would definitely do another one. I also love comedy. It’s so bloody hard to get that right. People always tell me the way to play comedy is to play it straight and I agree on the most part but America loves slapstick. You can’t play that straight. That needs to be amped up. Laughter is the best medicine they say.
What separates you from other actors? What do you feel your strongest qualities are?
RM: I’m me. I don’t look at others and wish I was them. I’m just me. I don’t really blow my own trumpet, I believe I have good qualities though. I have good acting chops! I know I can switch from drama to comedy. Sometimes in the same sentence. We’re particularly good at that in the north of England, and that’s how life is most of the time, isn’t it? I can scrub up ok, don a suit or scruff up quite easily for a role. My normal style is jeans and a t-shirt. I’m witty, I’m intelligent; I was given a good brain and I like to use it. I’m relaxed. Maybe too much sometimes but I’m also professional. I do my job to the best of my abilities every time.
Have you been in any commercials or music videos?
RM: Yes, I’ve done a few commercials. Last year I did a six-part Mark’s and Spencer ad for Valentine’s Day. It was based on an internet date that goes really well thanks to M&S. I also did a commercial for Audi recently. We filmed in Spain and I was strapped to the top of their new cars being driven down an airport runway at 80 mph. That was so much fun. I wanted to do it all week. The hardest part was I was meant to be reading a newspaper and looking really relaxed. Not so easy when the wind is pushing the paper into your face. We used a cardboard one in the end. It was like 100 degrees and I got totally burnt but I really enjoyed it.
What projects do you have coming up?
RM: So, apart from the interest in “Il Sonnambulo,” I’m currently attached to a film called “Betrayal,” written by my friend Malcolm Davies. It’s a really well written gangster drama. It’s in pre-production at the moment but there’s a few big names attached already. I’m set to play the co-lead in this. There’s such a nice twist in this story which sets it apart from the mainstream British gangster film, which usually gets centered around football for some reason. I’m really looking forward to getting started on it.
What do you hope to achieve in your career as an actor?
RM: I love working. I just want to work. I’m ambitious, I want to carve out a successful career. I can see myself directing at some point. I would love to write, direct and star in something one day. It’s the life less ordinary, isn’t it?
My family and friends have always supported me and my partner is a rock. I owe it to them to be successful.
Why is acting your passion and chosen profession?
RM: I studied fine art in college. My dad is an artist, my whole family is quite creative actually. We have lots of musicians and singers. It was a natural progression for me. I’ve always been obsessed with movies and I’ve always wanted to make them. I hope I can be behind the camera at some point, but for the moment I’m really enjoying working in front of it. I must be mad!
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