Category Archives: Actors

Actor Kevin Dary brings himself into his character with award-winning performance in ‘The Swamp’

Kevin Dary - Headshot (RW)
Kevin Dary, photo by Brad Buckman

With every role Kevin Dary takes on, he brings a small piece of himself and merges it with his character. To transform into another person, he puts himself in their shoes, seeing what parts of his own life connect with theirs. He forgets who he is until he hears the director call “cut” and that is what makes him such a captivating actor.

“I see actors as toys for a director. It’s as if the director is this kid using his imagination and playing around, telling a story, and the actors are his action figures,” he described.

Having worked on many esteemed films, such as Pregoand Pandora’s Box, Dary has shown audiences around the world what he is capable of as an actor. His versatility is evident with every project he takes on, spanning across a variety of genres and mediums. This is exemplified yet again with his work on the 2017 drama The Swamp.

The Swamp was the first project where Dary had the opportunity to work with director Wenhao Gao, originally from China. He was immediately attracted to the script because one of the main themes for Gao was the perception of someone and the judgement from others that this perception brings. Dary played the main character, Vincent, who is accused of killing the dog of his neighbor. It is a dramatic and emotional film that encourages audiences to think outside of the box, not just about the story but their actions in general. Have you ever been in Vincent’s situation? Or have you been one of the accusers? This story, while extreme, does make you think, and not just through its shock value of a little girl’s pet that gets killed.

“I worked together with Wenhao, who also wrote the project, to bring a fully fleshed out character and I offered some of my personal experience in dealing with the way people look at you, for this is a subject that I know all too well, and I still face today,” said Dary.

The film premiered to a limited audience in The Burbank Studios, Burbank, in November 2017. The film was awarded an Award of Recognition, category Lead Actor, for Dary’s performance as Vincent, from the Best Shorts Competitions in March 2018, and the Gold Award for Best Short Film from the LA Shorts Awards in that same month. It will be continuing its festival run in June. Such success could never have been possible without Dary’s outstanding performance.

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Kevin Dary as Vincent in The Swamp, photo by Mairi Sõelsepp

“Working with Kevin is very pleasant and a good experience. I was really happy to have him in my project as the leading actor. Kevin not only has good acting skills, but also his nice personality made our cooperation go well. Kevin has very good understanding of a script and his character. When we did rehearsals and polished the details, I felt that he really put himself into the story, not just to finish a job. As a director, it’s really important to be able to get some new inspirations and ways to make the characters vivid through communicating with actors. From his performance and feedback, Kevin showed me more possibilities of who and what his character can be, and how to serve the story better,” said Wenhao Gao, Director of The Swamp.

Vincent is the lead character of this film and the story is told through his point of view. Because of this, Dary knew the importance of his work and made sure to keep the audience guessing. Many scenes cater to this, with the lead character showing a lot of anger and confusion. Dary wanted to push this even further, choosing to yell in certain scenes to show he may be capable of anything, but also exude the emotion behind each action, showing that each reaction was very human.

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The Swamp film poster

“I remember that when I first read about the breakdown of Vincent, I was intrigued by the idea of this guy described as ‘not a slacker, not a bad guy, just has had a really long night’. When I got to take a look at the whole script and found out his motivations and what he was going through. The film is a great story about prejudices and stereotypes, with an ending that goes against the traditional Hollywood happy ending,” said Dary.

What was unique about this story, and Vincent’s character, is that by the end of the movie it is not revealed if he is guilty of what he was accused of. The writer and director however, told Dary he could make that choice on his own and then act with that choice in mind. What do you think he decided? You’ll have to watch The Swampto find out.

“I love tackling the idea of prejudices and preconceived ideas about people. As someone who has a different style than ‘the norm’, I have been prone to judgment from others. You get to witness how far people are willing to take their assumptions, just based on what they heard, saw, or even think they saw. Sure, it made me stronger in the end, but just like Vincent, I still suffer from that today and it can be hard to stay true to yourself when you feel overwhelmed. Getting to do a piece about that issue that is still dear to me felt good. It shows that while there still sadly is a need for such stories, the battle is definitely not lost as long as we stay strong,” he concluded.

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Liam Casey Sullivan on honor of continuing the conversation about addiction

Most successful actors will tell you that they do not act for the fame or for the fortune, they act for the thrill. They act because their job lets them connect with dozens of strangers, allowing them to contemplate the various aspects of the human condition together. They act because it is their creative outlet and their chance to take an audience along journeys they may never otherwise experience. They act because it keeps them alive. It doesn’t matter if an actor is young or old, new to the screen or a household name, actors act because unlike other professions, theirs allows them to escape reality and explore their souls before the eyes of the world. For these reasons and many more, Liam Casey Sullivan acts and with his rare combination of passion, talent, and perseverance, he is likely to live before a camera for decades to come.

“As an actor, I am required to delve into the bank of my personal experiences and surface the same feelings or emotions that my character is experiencing at any given time. Through respective research and seeking sympathy for the person I’m playing — however challenging that may be — I aim to grasp a complete understanding of their point of view so that I may be able to adopt it. Once I do this, I then embark on understanding their relationship with others by sourcing parallels from people I know in my life and from other stories. Although I may not have shared the same experiences and relationships as my character, I can revert to alternate moments I’ve lived in order to render even the slightest bit of those same reactions and capitalize upon them so I may appear as though I have lived them,” tells Sullivan.

Sullivan’s remarkable ability to ease in and out of character is arguably his greatest asset, and something he has done successfully for a number of different on and off screen productions, such as for the hit teen drama Degrassi: Next Class and The Girlfriend Experience. What tends to differentiate Sullivan from his competition, however, is his ability to adopt and portray traits that are entirely different from his own personality. Not only does he do so exceptionally, he thoroughly enjoys playing characters entirely unlike him. In fact, he considers playing Dougie in the Canadian film, Mary Goes Round, to be the highlight of his film career solely because he had the opportunity to play a conceited, selfish character.

Mary Goes Round follows the life of Mary, a substance abuse counsellor with a drinking problem. After being arrested for drunk driving and losing her job, Mary returns to her hometown where she learns that her estranged father is dying of cancer and wants to form a bond with Mary and her teenage half-sister that she has never met. In the film, Sullivan’s character Dougie conceals his own insecurities through a mask of obnoxiousness and arrogance. His lack of true friendships and general loneliness cause him to fiend attention and subsequently irritate those around him.

Ultimately, Sullivan’s character proved instrumental to Mary Goes Round’s great success and his performance on screen, in conjunction with his input behind the camera, highlights just how valuable he can be on any given project. After premiering at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2017, Mary Goes Round was featured in several other festivals across North America. In addition, it won three prestigious awards, including Best Narrative Feature at the Annapolis Film Festival in 2018 and The Panavision Spirit Award for Independent Cinema at the Santa Barbara Film Festival in 2018.

What Sullivan enjoyed most about playing Dougie was the fact that he was able to explore and portray a personality type that he hadn’t ever depicted before. In addition, the film’s director, Molly McGlynn, was open to experimenting with the script and offering her cast an opportunity to rework and modify their scenes as they saw fit. Under these circumstances, Sullivan was able to allow his creative nature and unique style to flourish and he quickly proved himself invaluable to the production. Ultimately, however, Sullivan was honored to have taken part in shining a light on an extremely prevalent and relatable topic. Knowing that he was able to take part in a broader conversation about addiction left Sullivan feeling fulfilled and hopeful that audiences would be able to look at this social crisis from the unfamiliar, but interesting angle he helped create.

“In all, I liked that this story rings true to how much of an ongoing struggle battling addiction can be. A drinking problem has the power to haunt you for your entire life and this story is unforgiving when it comes to highlighting the truth and the daunting reality of addiction. This story not only spreads an awareness to the public but also gives a healthy sense of hope to those who may be facing similar problems as Mary and it felt great to have played a part in that,” Sullivan concludes.

 

Top photo by Helen Tansey

Actor Ryan Davies Comes into His Own

Actor Ryan Davies’ fast moving career has encompassed just about the entire dramatic range in a short decade’s time. The charismatic British-born Davies’ roster of experience includes everything from playing Hamlet and Chekov’s Uncle Vanya at prestigious London proving ground the Workhouse Theater to commercials, music videos, television and feature films, a trove of professional achievements which have placed Davies very close to the apex of the acting world.

Surprisingly, the intense, blue eyed Davies had little interest in the field, until fate intervened. “I grew up in Wells in the West of England, a rural city with few artistic opportunities,” Davies said. “I spent most of my youth working on a building site but knew it wasn’t something I wanted to do for the rest of my life.”

“I was staying with a friend in London for a week and he was taking a 4-day audition course at [drama academy] The Poor School,” Davies said. “And since I was at a loose end, I thought I’d go along and try it too, just something to alleviate being on my own in a strange city. I didn’t intend to pursue a career in acting, but at the end of the 4 days I was offered a place on the course.”

From that unlikely start, Davies entire life was redefined. “I immediately quit my job on the building site, moved to London and the rest, as they say, is history. I trained at The Poor School in London between 2008 and 2010 and I continue to train at The Actor’s Centre, London.

Subsequent high-profile assignments include a memorable turn as the corrupt villain of producer Adi Shankar’s “X-Men” prequel “Grey Café,” a recurring role in the STARZ/BBC Worldwide original series “DaVinci’s Demons” and an upcoming role in another historical period piece, the forthcoming “Fall of the Templars.”

One of the key moments in Davies’ sure, steady rise to prominence was his performance in director-writer Maria Balduzzi’s acclaimed 2016 short “Wolves,” a nuanced drama in which he excelled as the troubled teenaged protagonist’s father.

“’Wolves’ is a lovely film, about a boy who has a very strained relationship with his single parent father,” Davies said. “The boy uses the woods next to their home as a daily escape from the realities of his life. One day he comes across another boy running away from his own problems, their burgeoning friendship allows him to eventually reconnect with his estranged father.”

“It was an interesting and very challenging role,” Davies said. “It required me to convey the whole spectrum of emotions, and as the relationship between father and son was the emotional heartbeat of the film, it was integral that the audience connected with and cared about both of them.”

Davies’ signature combination of subtle restraint and deep involvement served him well, and elevated the film to an impressive level of dramatic craftsmanship.

“’Wolves’ revolves around the complicated relationship between a father and his son and Ryan was able to give the role the emotional gravitas it required,” Balduzzi said. “It’s very much a film about love. I wanted the film to represent the way we experience life and memory in our most intimate moments and much of the film’s success is due to Ryan’s performance.”

The film was well received in the UK, where it was nominated for Best Short Film at the Iris Prize Awards 2017, and was also selected for screening at the prestigious London Short Film Festival. Balduzzi herself went on to pick up the ‘Horizon Award’ for Most Promising Filmmaker at the 24fps Festival in Texas, where the festival organizers characterized it as “an exceptional piece of work.”

“Wolves” was an important step in the Davies career, one that initiated a new professional momentum. “I came into the industry relatively late, so I’m keen to make up for lost time,” he said. “There’s been a real buzz about ‘Wolves’ that opened up some doors and led to many other opportunities for me and I’ve gone on to be cast in a wealth of other projects, so I’m very fortunate in that respect.”

For Davies, timing has been critical, but his steady reliability and dedication to creative expression practically guaranteed the series of successes which he has enjoyed. With a palpable momentum building, the actor is poised for even greater accomplishments, but he always maintains his own coolly authoritative, resolutely professional methodology.

“I approach each role, no matter how big or small, in exactly the same manner,” Davies said. “I look for characters I can get under the skin of, and I try to bring my individual stamp to each role—and I make sure to have fun along the way.”

Actor Ben Prendergast takes up boxing to play Australian icon Jo Sparro

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Ben Prendergast

Ben Prendergast says his love of film is genetic. His mother’s side of the family constantly watched classic “talkies” on repeat, watched Sunday matinees, and had a general love for iconic starlets and stories. His father’s side still had that same love for movies, but there was a passion for science-fiction and action films, with regular trips to the video store. As a child, Prendergast was immersed in all aspects of film from a young age, loving Star Wars and Casablanca before even Mickey Mouse.

“In Australia, the notion of being in the movies is so foreign, but as I got older and started to build a profile it became evident that I could actually make a go of being involved in an industry that I’d loved for decades,” he said.

As an acclaimed film and television actor, Prendergast has many notable projects on his resume. He has worked alongside Hollywood’s best, including Ethan Hawke in the feature Predestination, and starred in award-winning films like The Marker and Post Apocalyptic Man. Australians everywhere recognize his voice and face from many national commercials, and his versatility is constantly evident, ranging from genres and mediums. With every character he embodies, he does not just portray them, he becomes them. This is perhaps most evident when he took on the role of the iconic boxer Jo Sparro in the celebrated film Punch Drunk.

“Punch Drunk deals with a very real issue in Australia: the marginalization of the elderly and mentally unwell. I loved that the main protagonist was a hero in his day, someone that was very much valued as part of society, but after an unfortunate event he’s literally left to rot in an institution until he fights his way out. I wanted to be a part of the project as it dealt with a sport I love and tackled a real issue within the heart of a fantastic story,” he said.

Punch Drunk is the story of the Mighty Joe Sparro, a champion boxer who is cut down in his prime. Years later, he is in a care facility that shuts down and he needs to fend for himself one last time. Prendergast played the younger Joe Sparro, depicting his early career, showing his courage and man-of-the-people charm, and illustrating for the audience what might have been.

“Jo Sparro was a post-war young man trying to make a living to support his wife and child, so in a lot of ways his natural gift for fighting made him a more loving partner. He loves his wife Millie to death, so when they are separated it is heartbreaking. For so long, he has been confused about where he is, but when the film starts we realize he is coming out of an extremely long coma,” Prendergast explained.

Punch Drunk was distributed to a number of festivals, including Telluride and the New York Short Film Festival where it played in Times Square to an estimated 50,000 people. From there it went to the St Kilda Film Festival, where it was nominated for best screenplay, Young at Heart Film Festival, where it won the Audience Award for Best Film, Adelaide Shorts Film Festival, where it took home the Audience Merit Award, Byron Bay Film Festival, winning Best Cinematography, and an Official Selection at Dungog Film Festival, Heart of Gold International Film Festival, Little Rock Film Festival Official Selection, and Woods Hold Film Festival. After its film festival run, Punch Drunk was distributed digitally and has since been viewed millions of times online. The Director, Sam Wark, believes Prendergast’s portrayal of the young Jo Sparro was pivotal to the film’s success.

“Ben is a pro. He is so proactive in finding the way into his characters and has a limitless supply of positivity and fresh ideas. As a director looking to fulfill a vision and shape a story, it’s a joy to have someone who can bring me a hundred different bold choices on any one idea and then go further and further into the rabbit hole as the story unveils itself. He’s an actor’s actor, so he goes way beyond what you’d think an actor should do in order to prepare for a role, not only mentally and spiritually, but also physically. In the boxing scenes, he worked over the course of three months to not only become fit enough to perform the role, but also to perfectly imitate a 1950s’ boxer style, and then also the stunt falls required. The miraculous thing though is he’s able to do all of this while embodying a character and creating the empathy in the audience needed to touch people. Our audiences fell in love with that character,” said Wark.

Wark had the script for Punch Drunk in his drawer for seven years with no real plans on making it. He knew the script was a gem but didn’t know just how to turn such an important story into a film. That was until he sent the script to Prendergast, who was so passionate about the project, the director knew he had something there. Immediately, Prendergast was the only choice for the role of Jo.

“The film needed someone who could play a champion boxer without the arrogance or coldness that we see from boxers in the modern era. He needed to be a people’s champion, and completely likeable, even to his opponents. By doing this, the film could create the payoff needed to touch audiences and make them think about the mentally ill in a new and perhaps impactful way. That is what I kept in mind when preparing, and while filming,” Prendergast described.

When preparing for the film, Prendergast relentlessly trained for three months to not only get in the shape of a professional boxer, but to realistically fight in required scenes. He also took extensive stunt training in order to be ready to be hit and fall on command. In one boxing scene, he chose to fall a lot heavier than he had initially planned and ended up knocking himself out. The shot was so brilliant, it was used in the final cut of the film.

“I was introduced to the sport of boxing in a new way. I always loved to watch, but to participate and continue to practice to this day is something that the film gave me. I was also drawn into the world of past champions and the history of the sport,” said Prendergast.

Punch Drunk depicts an Australian sporting hero that never made it, someone who showed so much promise but was robbed of it, and audiences ultimately see him victorious after 60 years of solitude. Getting to be a part of such a story was truly one of the most satisfying parts of working on the film for Prendergast, beyond all the awards and accolades they later received. The best part for the actor, however, audiences may not have noticed.

“This ended up being a family affair. My Nana was featured as an extra in the film,” he said.

Check out Punch Drunk to see Prendergast’s outstanding performance.

Tony Nash brings on the laughs and the screams in ‘Secret Santa’

When Tony Nash speaks of his craft, he talks with the passion of someone who truly loves what he does. When he steps onto a set, it doesn’t feel like work for him, but rather it feels like a privilege to have the opportunity to do what he believes he is meant to be doing every day. This young man of Greek-Spanish descent has been acting since his childhood and has taken the Canadian film industry by storm.

Throughout his career, Nash has worked on a series of successful film and television ventures. Movies such as Saving Dreams and Meet the Parents, and shows like Petrol and Condor, the highly anticipated Audience network thriller. With every new project he takes on, it becomes clear that he is doing what he loves.

“What I like about acting is that when it is approached with the sacredness that it deserves, it first and foremost holds a mirror up to me, revealing all my hidden desires, coping mechanisms, repressions, reservations, grudges, vulnerabilities, beauties, gifts, talents and strengths. In so doing, it enables me to understand the souls of others and thereby be qualified and capable of holding a mirror up to the entirety of human nature, as Hamlet advised in Act 3, Scene 2,” said Nash.

Nash’s first true taste of international success came with the 2015 flick Secret Santa. Secret Santa is a feature length film that tells the story of a group of eccentric college kids, struggling to get through the hectic exam period. This horror/comedy is a tribute to B-Movie Slashers but also takes the conventions and turns them upside down. A liquor filled party is planned, adding a Secret Santa exchange for fun. Little do our characters know, a killer is in town and has a special present for all the good (and bad) girls and boys. Dare to open your present? It might be your last. Nash was really drawn to this project because he really wanted a comedic role to add to his repertoire, and his character also had a sweet, love element to his story. More than anything however, he loved that it was an ode to 90’s slasher films.

In Secret Santa, Nash plays Professor Preston Ramsey. The role was a lead and critical to the project as he was the red-herring in the horror plot. Throughout the film, audiences are led to believe he is the secret killer. The role was crucial as he furthers a love story between himself and the other lead, his student, and distracts the viewer from the killer, making the ending more of a surprise, staying true to the horror genre. The character was a sweet, somewhat naive college professor. He also was in a rut romantically and when one of his students started to fall for him, he began to feel alive again. He is an academic and spent his whole life indoors studying while his friends were all outside playing football. He is also a hopeless romantic and had only been in one relationship, which lasted seven years. The character had to be lovable, charming, slightly off beat, and at the same time mysterious. Nash was able to bring all that to the character as well as some humor of his own, which made the set a fun environment to work in and everyone enjoyed themselves. He was able to bring the character to life and give him that nerdy quality he needed to have plus a mature professor vibe amongst a bunch of college kids in an unexpected bloody night. Nash was perfect for the role.

“When I got the role, the first thing I did was went out and bought a pair of glasses and a tweed jacket that I thought would suit the character well. I spent time in university halls watching professors teach their classes to bright students. Also, because my character was being seduced by one of his students I watched The Graduate. I watched Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer, more times than I can count” said Nash.

Secret Santa premiered in November 2015 at the Blood in the Snow Film Festival. The film was then shown at the Toronto International Spring Horror and Fantasy Festival, and the Buffalo Dreams Film Festival. It was distributed by Wild Eye Releasing and is available at several stores on DVD including Walmart and Best Buy. Nash’s take on the vital role of Professor Preston Ramsey was instrumental to the film’s success.

“Tony was pitch-perfect in this slasher-comedy. He was hilarious, charming and ever-so-subtly mysterious to lead us towards the edge of suspicion. It was a brilliant and nuanced performance by a highly sensitive and skilled actor. Bravo Tony,” said Mike McMurran, Writer and Director of the film.

After a friend reached out to Nash telling him about the role, Nash sent in an audition tape that instantly impressed McMurran, saying there would be no one better to play the role. They instantly connected, sharing the same vision for the character and the film as a whole. As it was Nash’s first time in a comedic role, he was eager to try out something different. His versatility shone, and he perfectly encapsulated the mysterious professor. Not only did he have fun, but he says the entire cast and crew became close friends during filming. Overall, it was an incredibly enjoyable experience for the actor.

“I think it’s important to have fun sometimes and do things I am not used to. I think that life is hard enough and sometimes a little horror and comedy never hurt anyone. It’s important to just take a film and just create something entertaining for people who want to see something different. And I think Mike and his crew were able to do that very well. It was exciting to film and definitely will be exciting to watch as well,” he concluded.

Be sure to check out Secret Santa and let Tony Nash make you laugh and scream at the same time.

Actor Yifan Luo channels his teenage years in ‘Talentik’

Yifan Luo knows what it takes to become a sought-after actor. The Chinese native recognizes the importance of patience; success does not come over night, and acting isn’t easy. You have to study and constantly be looking to improve yourself. He knows that even the most renowned actors spent years not hearing back from auditions but never giving up. That is exactly what he did, and now he is a leading actor in China’s film industry and has begun making headlines around the world.

“During some difficult times, you may not get a chance to work for months. Under this circumstance, will you still be sure that you want to be an actor? Can you be patient enough to go for auditions one after another with the best performance you can give although none of them gives you a callback? Will you be as passionate for some work that might give you $200 in total as those big things that you have done before? If the answers are no, then you should not be an actor,” he advised.

Those days are now long gone for Luo, but he constantly remembers them and remains humble despite what he has achieved. Just last year, he was recognized for his portrayal of a schizophrenic psychopath in the thriller SAM, and even received an Honorable Mention for Best Actor at Festigious 2017. He has many exciting projects upcoming, working alongside some of Hollywood’s elite. He also is incredibly versatile, exploring different genres and mediums. Just last year, his film Talentik was released online, allowing audiences to stream the film when they chose.

“Yifan played an important role as one of main characters in our production Talentik. He is such an energetic actor while everyone can see his talent and profession on set. Yifan always spends lots of time on his character and script before shooting, so it’s easily worked with him, saving time and money for our production. Also, his attitude and enthusiasm are often infectious to the other actors and the crew. We are so fortunate to have had Yifan in our production,” said Steven Li, Director.

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The cast and crew of Talentik

The movie is about three Chinese college freshmen who get accepted by a United States Ivy League school. They arrive in the US without anybody helping them and get a text message telling them to look for any possible clues that can lead them to finding the school. While looking for clues, a strong relationship is gradually built among the three characters. One day, one of them gets kidnapped by the villain. The remaining two characters try very hard to find her and save her from the bad guy. Finally, they realize that everything has been set up by the school in order to help them to learn how to work with each other. At the end, they find the school and all get accepted.

“The story tells us the importance of cooperation. Nobody can succeed without the help of other people. Individualistic heroism no longer works for society. We all need to help each other. This movie gives a very good example of how three spoiled kids finally learn how to trust and rely on each other in order to reach the same goal,” Luo said.

The movie tells the story of the three characters on their journey, and Luo plays one of those three characters. Everything happens around the three of them. Luo plays Luke, a college freshman. He initially failed the college entrance exam in China, but happens to be accepted by a college in United States that comes out of nowhere. He comes from a rich family in China. His parents love him so much and they want to control everything in his life. This is why he finally decides to go to the US, so that he can break away from his parents. And interestingly, he is a mind-reader. His favorite thing is to read other people’s mind and make fun of them. The character is quite a few years younger than Luo, who was ready for the challenge of taking on a different generation.

“It was amazing to work with such a professional actor like Yifan who always came prepared and donates himself into the character. The film wouldn’t be such a success without Yifan’s participation. He is a true artist who concentrates on his goal and is in the character with all his heart. It was such an honor that we worked with Yifan in the film and will definitely keep working with him again in the future,” said Olina Wang, Producer.

Wang approached Luo to work on the film, knowing he is an extraordinarily talented actor, and playing comedy without overdoing it and simultaneously having to act 8 years younger than you actually are can be challenging for many actors. Luo was eager to try something different, and immediately accepted the role.

While shooting Talentik, Luo decided to method act, and stayed in character at all times, not only in front of the camera, but also when he was waiting, getting ready for makeup, having lunch, taking a break, etc. He tried to really become the character. He did funny things that he normally would not have. He forced himself to eat twice as much food as he really needed, just like a growing teen. He joked around on the set, making everybody laugh. All these things were to help get himself into character.

“Working on Talentik was awesome. Everyone liked each other. The set was full of laughter. We helped each other with whatever we could. There was no conflict nor any argument during the whole shooting process. I believe that’s the most important thing in a film shoot. Once there is an argument going on, everybody stops and tries to deal with the argument, which delays the process a lot. With good relationships between all the casts and crews, we didn’t have to think about too much and could focus on making the movie good,” he said.

They definitely achieved that. After shooting the film in 2016, the film was released on Sohu Video, one of the largest online distributors in China. It quickly received over 10 million views and is still going strong almost a year later. At the time, Luo was not expecting such a response, as he had so much fun making the film that he considered that enough.

“I have to say that I was deeply surprised. I didn’t know it was getting so many views until one of my friends called me and told me about it. At the beginning, I thought he was lying. I didn’t believe him until I went online and checked it myself. I still feel proud of what I did, what the team did. We brought something to the public and got realization. That’s enough for me. The only thing I ever want is for people to like what I have done and for people watching my work to have fun,” he concluded.

And that’s exactly what viewers feel when watching Talentik. Be sure to watch Luo’s performance in the film on Sohu Video.

Q&A with leading British actor Pezh Maan

Throughout his career, Britain’s Pezh Maan has shown audiences he is a force to be reckoned with as an actor. His work as a villain in the James Bond blockbuster Spectre was an international success, and the actor quickly became recognized around the world. Since then, he has starred in television shows like BBC’s Eastenders, the award-winning French series The Bureau, and the immensely popular FX series Tyrant.

We had a chance to sit down with this dynamic actor and find out about the beginnings of his career and get some advice for those looking to follow in his footsteps. He also gives a brief preview to his upcoming American television show Deep State, which premieres on FOX in over 50 countries later this year.

Check out this interview!

Pezh Maan Promotional 2 (2017)

EWG: Where are you from?

PM: I was born in Plymouth, United Kingdom, a naval town on the south-west Coast bridging the counties of Devon and Cornwall. I spent most of my childhood and youth there before moving away at 18. Since then, I’ve lived in Cambridge in the UK, spent most of the past 20 years making London my home, except for several lengthy stints traveling the globe, once circumnavigating from the UK eastwards and arriving back via Brazil a year later, and several months in different cities in India and the Far East. My star sign is Leo born in the year of the Chinese Wood Tiger.

EWG: In your own words, how would you describe what you do as an actor?

PM: I think what I do is to interpret the words of the writer and turn them into all the facets of the living breathing human being that I am being asked to play. I get into the skin of the character whilst still being myself with all my own emotional responses. When the character is somewhat at odds with my own experiences then imagination can come to one’s aid in creating a way to relate to the character. Imagination is the lifeblood of an actor’s work and interpreting the text is an imaginative endeavor and an extremely rewarding one for me.

EWG: What initially sparked your interest in acting?

PM: Like a lot of kids, I was involved in school productions and I remember just enjoying being on the stage and being in a position to influence the audience with humor or different emotions. I developed a love for performing over the years that was nurtured as I moved through high school and began reading more about plays and watching films and I had some great teachers who inspired in us a love of drama and life, which was invaluable for us. Acting was part and parcel of understanding life it seemed to me and felt like a natural place for me to express myself.

EWG: Why did you want to be a professional actor?

PM: For several years I was involved in amateur productions in London on stage as well as on camera in low-budget short films. After a while it became clear that I needed to be doing it full-time and so it became a natural progression to take the steps of a professional actor. I began the actor’s journey of auditions, castings, knock backs and small successes. None of the joys would have been possible for me if I hadn’t taken the plunge and signed up to be full committed to the activity that was my passion since childhood. And I sort of fell into small successes that led to further work and I’ve been lucky enough to see my career grow.

EWG: What do you like about being an actor?

PM: It’s now such an integral part of my life I can’t see myself doing anything else. I like the work, and the people who are drawn to this particular way of telling stories. One thing we all have in common is the need to tell stories and actors are charged with bringing stories to audiences in a collaborative endeavor that can move people. It’s also a lot of fun. I feel in acting we are given free rein to experience the whole gamut of emotions that in everyday life we don’t get to experience that often (and rightly so!). It’s a very invigorating activity and I find it hugely inspiring.

EWG: What are the challenges to being an actor and how do you overcome them?

PM: The work you need to do as an actor on your mind body and probably soul to be best equipped to be able to produce performances that move people, that are specific and bring characters to life in that believable way that keeps audiences attentions. That entails a lot of preparation and study, especially learning lines and cues of when to make actions necessary for the story and so forth. Then there are the challenges of how to make a life and a living from a profession that has been described as the most competitive one out there. Being rejected is something that you accept as an actor and an experience you become accustomed to and probably the major part of any working actor’s success is having the resilience to keep working despite fallow periods of little or no success. It’s a real test of one’s self-belief as actors. Actors need to be in tune with their sensitivity as humans to be good actors and so it can be quite a challenge to maintain that equanimity and take the challenges in your stride.

EWG: What would you consider the highlight of your career?

PM: That is an interesting question because initially the early successes made a huge impact and it felt as if I was moving from highlight to highlight. Now that my career has a steady momentum I feel as if the highlight of my career is having a career. I’m very grateful to have had the honor of working with some great actors and directors on film and television and being cast in the Bond film Spectre will always be an experience I will remember. I’d like to think that the highlight has yet to happen and wait to see what the future will bring. That attitude keeps me fresh and not complacent which I think is detrimental for any artist.

EWG: How would you describe your style of acting?

PM: I think that is something that critics are better placed to comment on this. Words such as naturalistic and minimalistic are ideas that resonate with me when thinking of performances on camera. I’m excited by seeing performances with those qualities and I like to think that I do my best to try and achieve that on camera. Acting for the camera is an art in itself as the camera picks up on everything you are doing, and so minimalism is amplified and goes a long way. Apart from that I would say that having no style works best for the camera, trying to be as truthful to the moment as possible without embellishing unnecessarily and being economical with gestures and actions can really enhance the portrayal you achieve on screen.

EWG: What advice would you give to those looking to pursue a career in acting?

PM: That’s an interesting question. I’ve read other actor’s responses in the past to that question which fall into the “Do/Don’t do it and Keep going you’ll get there in the end” categories. I would say that either you know you want to do it or you don’t and that you should listen to your gut and heart because then you can never go wrong and in the end if you followed your heart you will be a success whatever happens. And to avoid becoming negative or cynical because life is bigger than all of us and to keep a perspective on it is to have cracked the secret to a successful life. One I’m still trying to achieve myself.

EWG: What are your plans for the future?

I have a really interesting role in a brilliant new thriller series Deep State in Spring 2018, which was great fun to shoot and I can’t wait to see the final cut. I also have another film project that I can’t talk too much about now and a television project to shoot this year. 2018 promises to be an exciting one and we have only just begun.

The Power of Networking, Forming Bonds and Working with Friends: Roshan Gidwani’s Unique Path to the Top

Roshan Gidwani
Actor and TV Host Roshan Gidwani shot by Jonathan Catzin

So much of life, and success, comes down to our relationships; and the ability to form strong bonds with like-minded, inspirational people can be a deciding factor in one’s personal success, not to mention the fact that, for most of us, it makes life a whole lot more enjoyable.

For television host and actor Roshan Gidwani, the drive to connect and form ongoing relationships with those he admires and relates to in the entertainment industry is partly responsible for the celebrated career he’s become known for internationally today.

Friendship and creating quality entertainment is what it’s all about,” explains Roshan Gidwani. I think that many professionals do not see networking as a form of socializing… The stigma is that working is not supposed to be social. I disagree… We’re social beings. If someone likes you, understands your unique take on life and why that defines your interests and ambitions then they are more likely to stand by you on your creative journey.”

Roshan, who’s become known for his lead roles as the host of an impressive list of popular TV series such as “Science Quirks,” “Rap Chef,” “Art Bus” and “Discover Guangzhou,” has reached an astonishing level of success in his entertainment career, which ironically started as a way for him to connect with friends across the world.

“I’m a global citizen. I really miss my friends from all over the world. I went to an international school and my friends dispersed all over the globe after we graduated. We’re all separated by water and land,” Roshan admits. “I wanted to rap and the motivation behind that was that my friendships would last forever like a good song. Or, I would always be around at the click of a button. Acting gives me the same incentive… I guess the word I’m looking for is omnipresence.”

In a way, Roshan’s on screen celebrity has given him just that– a level of ‘omnipresence’ that only a select few manage to achieve. Considering the plethora of projects he’s been apart of to date, which also includes his work as an actor starring in major films, such as Tzang Tong’s highly publicized and award-winning dramatic feature “Faeryville,” and the TV series “Drive Me Crazy,” “Dragon’s Inn” and more, it’s relatively easy for anyone these days to click on the television or go to the theatres and see him on screen.

Fluent in English and Mandarin, Roshan enjoyed an incredibly multicultural upbringing, something that, as the host of an impressive list of TV shows catered to viewers across multiple continents, has undoubtedly helped his audience relate to him. Though he was born in Thailand, Roshan spent his formative years in Sydney, Australia before moving to Guangzhou, China where he lived until he was 17 and finally to Singapore, where his career really took off.

While Roshan has always had a powerful voice and the magnetic energy necessary to captivate viewers when he’s on screen, his first foray into show business came over a decade ago when he was rapping and emceeing shows under the pseudonym Rosh G. As a teen back in China, Roshan’s stage presence and lyrical fluency led him to be featured on national television in China during their national holiday with his song “In Guangzhou.” The attention from that led him to be tapped to perform at major events such as the China Miss Bikini Awards, and not long after he landed the lead recurring role as the host of “Discover Guangzhou,” a series that took viewers across the bustling Chinese city and exposed them to China’s unique art and culture.

By the time he moved to Singapore, the reputation he’d created for himself as a strong and talented performer led him to book work instantly. Though it was still early in his career, he was already hosting the SEA Games in Singapore, a major biennial event overseen by the International Olympic Committee and the Olympic Council of Asia, the Miss Bikini Awards and being recognized by popular magazines for his charm and skill, not to mention his aesthetic appeal. He even made it onto the Cleo 50 Most Eligible Bachelors, a highly competitive accolade decided by Cleo Magazine, and was chosen by Seventeen magazine as their Singapore 2010 Summer Hunk.

He was tapped to host the Mediacorp OKTO weekly TV series “Art Bus,” where he interviewed artists and exposed viewers to a plethora of  public art collections across Singapore. Roshan went on to host of the series “Science Quirks,” which aired on Mediacorp’s digital entertainment platform Toggle. Over the course of the show’s 26-episode run he interviewed researchers and scientists working in the field, and helped to educate viewers on everything from primary to upper level science subjects.

Some of the qualities that have made Roshan stand out and become such a sought after host for a wide range of programs is the continuity of his personality on and off camera, and the way he presents the material in an upbeat and relatable way.

“I’m not a different person at the audition and on the actual shoot. I’m consistent. At least my personality is. I’m naturally very happy… Hosting is very easy when you’re smiling and you enjoy talking to the camera. I like people in general. I host as if I’m connecting with an old friend and that friend is a camera lens.”

It’s easy to see from the moment Roshan graces the screen that his presence and conversational abilities are uniquely captivating, just watch the interview below and judge for yourself.

When asked about his technique as a host, Roshan explains, “After doing this for so long you kind of develop some techniques to wake your voice up. You ruffle your lips, you rap while jogging. You stay focused. I imagine everyone in the room as one moving organism. They’re there to respond to me. They’re there to listen and be guided. It’s not the same as imagining everyone naked. It’s just about believing that they like you. It gets easier when you become friends with your audience.”

While Roshan would continue to host several more series, and still does today, he’s also carved out a competitive position for himself as an actor. Upon moving to Singapore he landed the recurring lead role of Bill on the series “Dragon’s Inn” where he starred alongside Rayve Zen (“Siew Lup,” “Million Loves Me”), Caroline Chong (“The Tattooist,” “Pu Chi Kang”) and Benjamin Heng (“Filial Party,” “It’s a Great, Great World”). Roshan and actor Benjamin Heng formed a close friendship and would go on to work together again in the series “Drive Me Crazy” several years later where their characters are actually best friends on screen.

About working with Heng, Roshan says, “I was 19 years old. He was like a mentor to me. To reconnect years later and find out that he did the project [Drive Me Crazy] because he found out I got cast was a huge compliment. He respects me. We work well together and we’re friends.”

In the series “Drive Me Crazy” Roshan played the starring role of Ryan, a bar owner and perpetual bachelor by choice, whose eye for the ladies led him on one wild rampage after another. With the story centering on the tumultuous newlywed relationship of Jeremy (Benjamin Heng) and Chantal (Sheena Chan), Roshan’s character Ryan, Jeremy’s best friend, was the antagonist who always stirred things up, bringing the show’s conflict, as well as its comic relief.

“I remember Roshan giving the scenes many of his own different interpretations and constantly conversing with the director about which performance he enjoyed the most so that he could repeat it,” Heng recalls. “His raw and natural vulnerability was extremely refreshing and definitely lights up the room.”

The series “Drive Me Crazy” served as yet another testament to Roshan’s ability to captivate viewers, this time revealing his capacity for breathing life into a character and building on that over the course of a scripted series.

While Roshan Gidwani has become an undeniable force in the entertainment industry through his roles as both an actor and host, it’s not a stretch to say that his work, and life in general, is more fun because he makes it a point to connect and form meaningful relationships with those he collaborates with.

At the end of the day he says, “Collaborations between professionals occur because both parties respect each other’s individuality and by doing so, are enhancing their own talent by absorbing your unique traits and sharing their own. They are able to mirror themselves off you and sharpen their own knives because you’re working hard to sharpen your own. It takes two to tango in other words.”

Follow Roshan on Instagram @roshanslife and find out more about him on his IMDB Page: http://imdb.me/roshangidwani

 

Q&A with Actor Dominic Kay of ‘Allies’

There is little doubt as to why Dominic Kay has become a force to be reckoned with in the United Kingdom’s film and television industry. This revered actor has proven what he is capable of in a series of demanding and versatile roles, captivating audiences around the world. Whether it is with his work in the horror White Settlers or in a comedic role in ITV’s iconic soap Coronation Street, Kay is always on the top of his game.

This year, audiences can look forward to Kay once again gracing the big screen in the upcoming 20th Century Fox feature Walk Like a Panther. The film that tells the comedic story of a group of 1980s wrestlers are forced to don the lycra once last time when their beloved local pub is threatened with closure. They put on one last show for their local town, which becomes legend.

One of the highlights of Kay’s career came when making the 2014 historical drama Allies. The film, directed by Dominic Burns and stars Downten Abbey’s Julian Ovenden. The film is close to Kay’s heart, and we had a chance to sit down and talk to him about his role in the endearing World War II movie, and once reading, be sure to check out Kay’s dynamic work in Allies. 

EWG: What made you want to work on the film?

DK: Well what had me interested in this particular project was pretty much everything about it. Firstly, the genre, being a period war movie set during World War II. Ever since I first watched Band of Brothers I have always wanted to be in a period war project. I just love everything about them to be honest. The uniforms, weaponry, language and dialogue are all factors in my interest in a project like this. Also having family members who fought in the war and hearing harrowing stories from my grandfather was a key factor. I had often imagined what it was like to be fighting in a war and I guess this was an opportunity to experience a little bit of that. It was kind of a way of experiencing what it would have been like back then. I love watching movies like these and period dramas. I love everything about them really. It’s not every day you get to go back into the past and wear those uniforms, fire those old classic weapons and act in a way fitting with that period. I guess I’m a classic soul.

The script was a big positive for me as well. It was great and had me hooked from start to finish. It gave a very accurate representation of the war as we know it.

EWG: What is the film about?

DK: The film is set around the ‘D Day’ landings in Normandy France in World War II.
The Germans were occupying France and obliterated pretty much all of the resistance. The next step for them was crossing the English Channel and invading the United Kingdom. The Brits had set up a crack team enlisting the help of the French resistance and help from an American captain. Their mission was to be dropped behind enemy lines in France and to connect with the French resistance, causing as many problems for the Germans as possible in an attempt to shorten and even end the war. The story of the film is particularly important as it is based on true events that hold significant importance in European history. Hundreds of thousands of people lost their lives during this grueling war and many of them were children. To give an accurate and believable performance and do justice to a topic with this magnitude is of paramount importance. Many people growing up today don’t realize what sacrifices their predecessors made for them and I think giving them a glimpse of what it was like can be a good thing.

EWG: What character do you play? How does your character fit into the story?

DK: My character is ‘Coresman’. He is a soldier and field medic. His duties are to firstly fight but also patch up injured soldiers as best as he can and save as many lives as possible. He is placed in amongst this group of elite soldiers and assists them in their mission in trying to push the Germans back, retrieving as much land as possible and ultimately defeat them. He has a lot riding on him as the team is constantly under fire and involved in some pretty ferocious battles. His abilities are constantly called upon and heartache ensues when he realizes he can’t save everyone.

EWG: What was a day on set like?

DK: For me personally it was a complete joy to be on set daily. It was my first experience of anything like this. Even when the weather turned sour it didn’t really dampen anyone’s spirits due to the fact it was so much fun. That being said, it comes with a lot more pressure than usual as to reset and re-shoot scenes took time and a lot of money. So, everyone knew they had to be on point all of the time.

EWG: What did you like about working on this film?

DK: With a production like this there is obviously a lot of fighting and battle scenes with a lot of cast and extras. I mean, you know you have to give an accurate account of what happened, but sometimes you just can’t help your inner child coming out. Running around with firearms and weapons, riding motorcycles, riding around in tanks, fighter planes flying overhead and not to mention huge explosions and pyrotechnics going off all over the place. It was just brilliant.

EWG: What was the highlight about working on the film?

DK: There were quite a few highlights for me regarding working on this film to be honest with you. It was just such an absolute adrenaline rush from start to finish. Long days, bad weather, delays, etc. didn’t distract from the fact that I was having a ball every day I was on set.

The cast was just awesome. There were no bad apples complaining or whining, just great people pulling their socks up and mucking in. Everyone really worked for each other which made it that much more special to be involved in. The main highlight for me though has to be being involved in such a good factual representation of a piece of history that is not just close to my heart but to hundreds of millions of people. Having watched this with my grandfather and seeing the emotion on his face was a real sobering moment for me. Although it did show me that the film had got across what it wanted and was a huge success.

Francesca Nicassio’s Boutique Agency ‘Stars Academy Talent’ boasts a world-class roster

Stars Academy Talent
Stars Academy Talent founder Francesca Nicassio shot by @annawithlove

Being naturally talented and filled with passion for one’s craft is often not enough to make it as a successful working artist in the ever-changing and incredibly competitive world of entertainment. Often times the difference between those who achieve a successful and sustained career and those who don’t comes down to having the support and guidance of an experienced agent or manager.

With offices in Toronto and Los Angeles, and a roster that includes celebrated actors, dancers, musicians and specialty acts, Francesca Nicassio’s boutique agency Stars Academy Talent (SAT), has been a driving force behind the growth and success of her clientele.

Representing a range of talent that spans the gamut, Francesca’s acting clients currently appear as series leads, principal actors and guest stars on major networks including ABC, NBC, A&E, FOX, Universal, Disney, Nickelodeon, Netflix, Amazon, PBS, YTV, Family Channel, BBC, CTV and others. The list of specialty artists she represents through SAT is equally impressive and includes Broadway stars, principal dancers, emerging musicians, Youtube sensations and social media influencers.

“My goal is always the same, to help my clients realize their dreams and further their careers,” explains Francesca. “I am passionate about each and every client no matter the stage in their career. I am intrigued and inspired by talent and superhuman work-ethic. When those two qualities come together, and we have a clear plan, then success is eminent.”

Over the years Stars Academy Talent has become a strong force in the entertainment industry, due in no small part to Francesca’s seasoned eye for recognizing talent and her passion for the process. It was that fiery passion and dedication to helping talents achieve their dreams that first led Francesca to open Stars Academy (SA) in Toronto area back in 2000. SA began as a private performing arts school offering classes in music, dance and the dramatic arts, and Francesca brought in a world-class faculty to ensure her students received the training they needed to both excel and be competitive in the industry.

While she continued to direct the academy for 15 years, Francesca moved into her role as a talent manager rather organically as more and more of the talents she trained began booking professional work and requesting she represent them personally. With an entirely devoted approach, she’s made it a point to let the needs of her clients dictate the direction of her company and services, and it was from there that SA evolved into the boutique talent agency SAT.  

“I took pride in being their backbone and part of their unwavering support system because that is vital in such a challenging industry. I felt as though I was part of their journey experiencing the highs and lows with students who I knew so well and had become like family members,” explains Francesca. “As more and more asked for representation, I knew it was my calling to focus on the agency and artist management.”

With a strong and fruitful relationship already in place, as her young clients grew into adults Francesca expanded her roster to include talents of all ages, with her youngest client today being 3-year-old Canadian Instagram star Luigi Columbo and her most mature being 80-year-old award-winning director and actress Gaylynn Baker who’s based in LA.

Stars Academy Talent
Inside Francesca’s Stars Academy Talent Office. Photo by @annawithlove

Though SAT has grown exponentially, Francesca continues to run the agency with the same founding philosophy of SAT existing as more of a tight-knit family where every client, regardless of where they’re at in their career, receives the attention and support they need in order to progress.

“I now maintain a client list of around 100 artists including star names, emerging and developmental talents of all ages,” explains Francesca. “I am very hands-on and work closely with my talents to make sure they get the guidance and feedback they need to be their very best. They can always count on me to support them through thick and thin. Our roster is a family and it takes a village to become and sustain a career as a working artist. I strive to foster an environment of teamwork, collaborations and encouragement.”

In response to the growing needs of her emerging music clients, she founded the indie record label and music management company FAN ENTERTAINMENT INC., in 2016. She says, “I have been managing distribution, PR and bookings for my musician clients for years now so it was a natural progression to start the label. I have a team of the best writers, producers, video directors, consultants, legal advisors and of course some of the most talented emerging musicians out there, so it was an easy decision.”

The first act she signed was Canadian pop band The Revel Boys, who will be featured on CTV’s highly anticipated music series “The Launch” as one of Canada’s top 30 emerging musical acts. Her music clients have topped world-wide viral and trending charts, charted on iTunes, and have been added to prominent Spotify playlists including New Music Friday, Discover Weekly and many others.

In an article published by Rolling Stone about how Spotify playlists can turn an artist’s song into a hit, Steven Knopper writes, “Big names like Ed Sheeran are almost guaranteed space on prominent playlists. For smaller names, the journey takes longer.” While this is true for the most part, Francesca explains, As an indie record label, it’s all about knowing the right moment to lobby for my artists, getting booked on a music series, going viral and getting placed on any prominent playlist has become as important as radio play and the moves we make in the wake of that are vital.”

Francesca Nicassio
Talent agent Francesca Nicassio shot by @annawithlove

As a strong and fearless woman working in the entertainment industry, and someone who’s successfully managed to build a boutique agency whose talents consistently work at the same level as the biggest international agencies and management firms, Francesca Nicassio is not only helping her artists achieve their dreams, but she’s using her position to support others. She is an Executive Member of Women in Film (WIF) in Los Angeles, an organization that has been working to empower women in the film industry and create an equal playing field for over four decades.

Francesca says, “It’s about women helping women in an industry where we have been statistically underrepresented and treated unfairly. I am strongly committed to equality, diversity, and inclusion in all areas of my life and career, and of course the careers of my clients,  so it is an honor to work towards this with like-minded women. “

She’s contributed to multiple other non-profits focused on arts in education, such as Artists In the Classroom, for which she’s placed professional dance and music educators in participating schools for free extra curricular music theatre arts programs for 17 years. She’s also spent the last 20 years working with local private arts educators to provide thousands of dollars in dance music and theatre training scholarships to underprivileged children and teens, and has recently focused on the anti-bullying movement by placing young stars in schools across Canada to speak to students and bring awareness to the issue. Additionally, Francesca has volunteered as an entertainment booker and director of annual events for CIBC Run for the Cure since 2000 and Toys for Tots since 2002.