Category Archives: Actress

BRIAR NOLET HAS TAKEN “THE NEXT STEP”

While the entertainment industry is for the most part based around youth, it’s rare that we see someone truly grow up on camera. Ron Howard, Drew Barrymore, and a select few have come into their own and lasted in the business. In what would appear to be the most recent individual to fill this template is Canadian Briar Nolet. An artist of impressive dance and acting skills, Nolet appears on Temple Street Productions “The Next Step” about a group of young dancers. The Canadian program is equal parts astounding dance and a (fictionalized) depiction of the lives of the characters. As the youngest cast member of this program, Briar began as a member of J Troupe (the in-training group) but was so skilled that she was quickly was moved up to A Troupe and cast on the show. Throughout the several seasons of “The Next Step”, fans from across the globe have seen Briar grow from a young girl into a woman, mirroring the evolution of her acting and dance abilities. As a fan favorite, Nolet has traversed the planet with the live performances that “The Next Step” has toured with including; the UK, Australia, Europe, Canada, and many other destinations.

“The Next Step” has won many awards (Canadian Cinema Editors Award, BAFTRA, Canadian Screen Award, etc.) and received numerous nominations, but that’s not what made the show an international success. Fans from different cultures connected with the young cast members, the stories, and their struggles to pursue their dream. Frank Van Keekan (Creator of “The Next Step”) confirms that Briar was a focal point of this reaction and the show’s success. He states, “Briar Nolet burst onto the scene of The Next Step as a member of J-Troupe. J-Troupe was the junior troupe in the dance studio. We specifically designed J-Troupe to be a training ground for new actors, getting them ready to move into A-Troupe once they were old enough and if they showed enough talent. Briar was one of the few actors that made it through the ‘system’. Her dancing and acro abilities were unparalleled. We were continually gob-smacked by her performances. After a couple of seasons, we quickly had plans to grow her into one of the main cast members. As soon as she arrived there, Briar excelled, becoming one of the show’s regular cast members. During that time, and with very little effort, she grew a massive fan base and quickly became one of the stars of The Next Step. She has gone on the live tours which travel the world over. Briar is easily one of the show’s most beloved cast members and one of the show’s most in-demand characters. It’s been amazing to see how she has gone from a young J-Troupe member, to being one of the show’s stars. It’s all due to her amazing work ethic, her immense talent, and her star quality.”

Briar’s role on “The Next Step” is Richelle, a feisty and talented dancer who is singularly focused to become the greatest dancer she can. Possessing more attitude than friends, she exemplifies determination. Nolet describes, “Playing Richelle on The Next Step, really grew my skills as an actress. I have similar characteristics to Richelle; however, she does have an edge that I don’t really share with her. In saying this, it’s fun to experiment and portray emotions that are different than how I [as Briar] would react to certain things.” It is notable that one of the reasons Richelle has become such a favorite to fans of the show is for this unique personality. Richelle doesn’t fit the mold of the status quo, which many of the show’s admirers appreciate in both the character and Briar’s portrayal.

Something that Nolet does share with her character is the sacrifices which a dancer must make to pursue this passion. The life of a dancer, whether real or fictional, is one of giving up time with family and friends to hone your craft. The same cause and effect applied to Briar’s work as an actress. Richelle was perhaps communicated so well by this actress because she could completely empathize with the character.

The immense talent of Briar’s dance abilities is well documented and displayed on “The Next Step.” Pushing the limits of where dance stops and acrobatics begin, her performances on screen were often unbelievable. Briar is more than amused to share as she states, “I would say something that sets me apart from everybody else is that I have no fear. As a dancer, I will always take risks and try different things that sometimes nobody could even think was possible. It’s a shock to everyone that such a little body can do that. I also have a crazy amount of energy and determination and I think that helps separate me from other people. I am one to of course be safe but at the same time just go for things. Sometimes I honestly throw my body somewhere and hope that I find my feet. Ha. A lot of my tricks that not many people can do come from just trying the impossible. These are moves I have been doing for a long time and am very comfortable with, to the point that sometimes I don’t even have to think about it. The difficulty level is the same no matter where I do them. Obviously, on camera they can edit if I mess up a trick they can make it look like I didn’t but,  on stage you can’t do that so you’ve just gotta go for it. I get super pumped up and excited when I am doing these things, I absolutely love it.”

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Briar’s fans will be happy to know that the upcoming season of “The Next Step” shows Nolet (as Richelle) to be one of most focused upon leads for the new storyline. As Briar Nolet’s star continues to rise, admirers of her acting and dancing can be certain that this talented young woman will be pushing herself to the surprise of all who watch.

Writer Sarah Stunt tells inspiring and impactful story in award-winning film ‘Girl Unbound’

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Actress/writer Sarah Stunt, photos by Alexis Dickey

Growing up, Sarah Stunt always loved stories. The Toronto native was always a big reader, reading her first novel, Little Women, at just nine years old. She loved the history and romantic setting, drawing her to the visual, and she was immediately taken by the characters, seeing herself in the passionate and independent writer Jo March. At the time, the only way she could describe the feelings the book gave her was on paper. It was something that changed her life. Now, her talent communicating through the written word, and that passion that started at just nine-years-old, has propelled Stunt’s career, and she is recognized around the world as an outstanding writer.

 

Stunt’s work has impressed international audiences for many years, but it was writing the impactful documentary Girl Unbound that she considers the highlight of her career. The film is about an exceptionally brave girl living in Waziristan, Pakistan, “one of the most dangerous places on earth.” Maria Toorpakai defies the Taliban, disguising herself as a boy, so she can play sports freely, something the Taliban strictly prohibits girls from doing. However, when she becomes a rising squash star, her true identity is revealed.

“I love working on documentaries as a writer. It’s always a long-term, nurturing relationship that changes and grows as time goes on. The lives of the characters are real. You don’t have to envision the conflicts, the inciting incidents or arcs, they evolve naturally on their own. Being able to capture it on the page is where the magic before the magic takes place, because in a matter of pages, your essence of the film presents itself and sets the stage moving forward. Being able to create some sort of affect, as the subject matter is usually from a human-interest point-of-view, is always the greatest outcome. You learn to champion your characters and unlike fiction, their stories continue to evolve after production is complete. It has a long-lasting affect,” said Stunt.

As the film’s writer, Sarah worked closely with the Producer, Cassandra Sanford-Rosenthal, to develop the film’s basic concept, and from those initial ideas, she wrote the film’s script. Rosenthal says without Stunt, the film could never have been possible.

“Sarah is an exquisite writer whose skill and talent for her craft is obvious. Girl Unbound could not have been made without her guidance and her amazing abilities. The fantastic record of success the film had could not have been achieved if not for Sarah’s prodigious talents,” said Sanford-Rosenthal.

After being asked to premiere at the world-renowned Toronto International Film Festival last year, Girl Unbound received rave reviews from such top industry publications as The Hollywood Reporter and screened at more major international film festivals such as the DOC NYC (where the film was nominated for the festival’s Grand Jury Prize), Cleveland International Film Festival (where the film was nominated for Best Documentary), Athena Film Festival, and the Human Rights Watch Film Festival.

“I am so proud that the film has done so well. So much work, dedication and time went into the making of this film. With all the ups and down, everything from capturing the characters and their lives to the struggles of filmmaking in general, the final film is beautiful and powerful and executed in a way that will continue to generate a conversation after the film has been screened. This, in my opinion, is the true purpose of documentary film,” said Stunt.

With experience in writing for documentary, which for obvious reasons does not have scripted lines but requires a strict outline, Stunt was asked to join the film. The filmmakers knew they needed an experienced and skilled writer to properly tell such an important and captivating story. Originally, Stunt came to work on the film for a short time, but ended up as the lead writer, watching over the process from start to finish.

“The messaging is inspiring. The themes are varied with a focus on human rights, girls in sport, the right to education, and identity, but the courage of this one girl and the support of her family to use their platforms to inspire and make change is why it’s so important. Our main subject Maria is a force to be reckoned with, and if she can win and continue to do so, then it spreads the message of hope for others to do the same,” said Stunt. “The story was so strong and ever evolving. It took a lot of risk, courage and strength for all involved to actualize the final product and it inspired me to do my part as a writer, even though I wasn’t on the ‘frontlines’ of it all.”

In a world with a growing stereotype towards the Middle East, the story of Girl Unbound is of increasing importance. For Stunt, working on the film was not about the many awards and recognition both she and the film received, but about educating the viewers and inspiring audiences through Maria’s story.

“I loved working on this project. It took on many lives but the story that is out is the one that needs to be told. It has so much heart and invites viewers into a world that is both complicated and beautiful. It expels Western notions of Pakistan, sheds light on the lives of many but especially women and children and challenges old world notions that this generation of youths are trying to identify with and evolve from,” she concluded.

Actress Shauna Bonaduce takes audiences back in time in “Embrasse-moi comme tu m’aimes”

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Canadian actress Shauna Bonaduce, photo by Andréanne Gauthier.

Acting has always been a part of Shauna Bonaduce’s life. As a child growing up around Montreal, performing was a favorite past time, and the stage was a second home. As a teen, she was shy and thought maybe she should consider a different field, but acting kept coming back to her, as true loves do, and audiences both in Canada and around the world are thankful, as she is a truly unique actress.

Bonaduce’s versatility in her craft is evident with every role she takes. Whether it be comedic in the hit teen show Comment devenir une legende, or serious in the popular Quebec series 30 vies, Bonaduce knows how to captivate audiences. Her work last year in the period drama Embrasse-moi comme tu m’aimes did just that.

“Era movies are great. I love getting to explore an era that I would otherwise never have the chance to get acquainted with. I love researching and having the chance to travel back in time, and getting to explore how the women of these different periods lived.  And love the dresses and hairstyles of these periods. What a chance to be able to play dress up and be paid for it,” Bonaduce joked. “Also, the cast and crews of that movie as well as the director himself were just perfect. I consider this project as one of my most memorable ones.”

The story follows twenty-two year old Pierre Sauvageau , in the year 1940. Pierre wants to join the army, but he must take care of his twin sister Berthe who is paraplegic from birth. This closeness awakens Berthe’s sensuality, who then tries to seduce her brother. Pierre rejects her advances, but when he falls in love, he is haunted by the fantasy of his sister. He would like to get rid of it, but the fantasy of Berthe is very persistent.

“The movie takes place in the 1940’s, Second World War, so research on that time was mandatory for the process. In my creative processes though, mostly when the rest has settled down (learning the lines, researches, reading the script, etc.), the costume also has some importance in helping find the character. It really helps me become the person I’m portraying. How she walks, moves, talks, holds herself, her hair, it’s very stimulating. Is she the ‘good girl’ type or more frivolous? Trendy or conservative? Feminine or more one of the boys? The costume chosen by the production always influences my performances and I’m always exited when it’s fitting day to discover what they will bring along,” said Bonaduce.

Bonaduce plays Madeleine, a pivotal character to the story, as she is Pierre’s first serious date in a long time. He takes her out to dance that night at Café Bleu. When he gets in the car with her to drive her back home, the attraction is palpable and they start kissing. But as always, his sister is there to haunt him and, confused, he decides to pretend Madeleine has bad breath and that he will just take her back home.

“Shauna truly brought the role to life, with simplicity and genuineness while still keeping it firmly rooted in the period in which the film took place. This is a valuable feat, and not one that I have seen many actors attempt successfully. Shauna’s authentic portrayal brought us back to that time. She was engaging yet had the more reserved, prim decorum that women of that time so often had. She kept enough of her personal, modern flair to remain relatable to contemporary audiences, while still offering them a genuine, organic glimpse into their nation’s past. Without a doubt, we were delighted to have Shauna amongst our actors and she definitely contributed to the success of the film, which was greatly appreciated by the audience and rewarded by two awards at the Montreal International Film Festival last September. I would work with her again anytime,” said the director Andre Forcier.

In fact, he was so impressed with Bonaduce’s portrayal of Madeleine that another collaboration between the two is already being worked on for his next feature film, though the project remains secret at this time and can’t be elaborated on. He thinks Bonaduce was able to bring the perfect balance that Madeleine needed, the poetic and theatrical yet realistic and authentic approach that characterises most of the director’s work. Bonaduce is very eager to collaborate with Forcier again.

“Andre is a great director and quite unique too. There’s only one like him and I had the chance to work on what lots of us consider like one of his bests movies. I feel extremely privileged” said Bonaduce.

Going back in time and portraying characters from other eras is one of Bonaduce’s favorite things to do as an actress. In the film La passion d’Augustine, she had to play a trendy young woman in Catholic Quebec during the 1960s.

“I definitely did some research about that era and how things where done in that time; the role of women, the convent, the importance of religion in people’s lives at that time, etc,” said Bonaduce.

In the film, Mother Augustine provides a musical education to young women no matter their socio-economic background in a small convent school in rural Quebec. She helps Alice, a young music prodigy; realize her aspirations. However, with the looming changes brought by Vatican II and Quebec’s Quiet Revolution, the school’s future is at peril. Bonaduce plays Françoise, a trendy young woman who believes in modernity and evolution. She finds this convent completely passé and is quite happy that it is under serious threat of being shot down. When leaving the Church where a meeting was organized by the nuns in a desperate attempt to save the convent, she is requested by two students of the convent to sign their petition to save it. Françoise refuses immediately, since she is very much against that idea. 

“Historical movies are my favorites and I had the chance to take part in this great movie, with a very talented director. There are too little female directors in our industry. Lea Pool in one of our great ones and she truly inspires me. She is bold, outspoken and determined. There were also lots of great Quebec actresses on the cast, from whom I admire the work a lot, Celine Bonnier is one of them, and just felt blessed to be able to see them work and learn from them. It was just such a great experience,” she concluded.

Actress Ariel Zhang captures split personalities in award-winning performance

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Ariel Zhang 

Despite being an award-winning actress, Ariel Zhang remains humble. For the Chinese native, she is just thankful to be doing what she loves each day. Audiences around the world have had the opportunity to appreciate her talents, and with each project she takes on, it shows how versatile she truly is. This was never more evident than when she shot her film Consumemate.

Consumemate tells the story of Amalthea, a writer who wants to write a perfect story, but has her own internal struggles. It shows the consequences of Amalthea losing herself in her art. She sinks into madness as she immerses herself in her drive for perfection to live in the character of Piner, the protagonist of her story. She develops a split personality and cannot distinguish between reality and fantasy. Zhang played both Amalthea and Piner in the film.

“I like the theme of the project that is about success and ruin. The acme of desire is ruin, it’s difficult and important to make a balance. I believe the aim of every artist is to achieve perfection of execution. As an actress and artist, I always hope to find roles that are challenging and have perfect performances. Setting a goal is the whole life. In order to achieve that goal, I have to eliminate all the obstacles. Sometimes the obstacle is ourselves, so I start to fight with myself and seek a breakthrough,” said Zhang. “As an actress, I have to put myself into some imaginary circumstances and feel my characters. I have to have my heart open and be vulnerable. Sometimes, if I go deeply and stay in that imaginary circumstances for a long time, it can feel hard to get out. I also have a negative side in my body and feel self-denial and self-doubt. The feeling of failure is like an evil power, just like the writer Amalthea. The harder part was the ghost, Piner. She represents the dark side of people, she is like a powerful evil. I had to overcome my fears. I had to find out the dark side beyond myself.”

Although Consumemate just started its film festival run, it has already seen a lot of success, and was the winner of the Festigious International Film Competition 2017. Zhang has been recognized internationally for her outstanding performance. She won the Award of Merit – Leading Actress at the Best Shorts Competition 2017, the Festival Award – Best Actress at the Festigious International Film Festival 2017, the Bronze Award – Best Actress at the NYC Indie Film Awards, and was an Honorable Mention – Best Actress at the Los Angeles Film Awards.

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Ariel Zhang as Amalthea in Consumemate

“When we were working on the first steps of rehearsals of this film, I thought this could be a great movie, so I gave my best, as everyone did. The fact that this film is doing so well on an international level is something that makes me feel really proud, and inspires me to keep working hard, because every victory means more and more work,” said Zhang. “It was fun and challenging having two different characters in the same movie. They were so opposite that I really needed my space and to work with each of them, and the director and the rest of the crew were really helpful about that.”

The success of the film truly came down to Zhang, as she had to fully capture both of the characters she had created. The director, Jun Xia, says he cannot imagine any other actress for Consumemate other than Zhang, and her acting in the film was complete perfection.

“Ariel nailed every single scene. Her understanding of the character and her journey was 110 per cent accurate, and even more important, believable. And for sure, she can make a project awesome just by having her as part of it. She has such a high level of professionalism as an actress. Also, the fact that she can deliver any emotion on screen completely real, makes the product basically perfect. She understands and works the character of the film as much as the director, so they end up giving life to any single detail of the film,” said Jun Xia, the director of the film.

In addition to being the lead actress, Zhang also wrote the film. Her idea to create the two characters were to create contrasts between them. She says the challenge is not only that the two characters have totally different personality characteristics, but they also live in different times. She was seeking to find different characteristics for each character. To do this, she explored the symptoms in schizophrenic patients, ensuring the feel was believable and raw. To set up the tone of ancient people, she also read a lot of ancient literature and watched many ancient themed movies. She truly wanted to explore more details to create a believable and truthful performance.

“After I created the two characters and the story, I also learned a lot of things from my characters. In a personal aspect, I learned that I need to appreciate the imperfect self, imperfect art and imperfect life. In a professional aspect, I found deeper areas of both myself and my role. I learned how to use acting skills and techniques to create characters, and not just playing myself. I knew more about my capability which will help me with developing different types of characters and different genres of films,” Zhang described.

Consumemate has been officially selected for the Los Angeles CineFest and Digital Griffix Online Film Festival, and there is no doubt that Zhang’s performance will once again be appreciated by those audiences, and many more.

THE LONG JOURNEY OF TSURIA DIAZ BEGAN WITH ONE SINGLE PLAY

There are so many possible means of gaining notoriety these days. All too often there are short cuts to getting attention for your work or talent. Like a match that ignites quickly and burns out just as fast, the individuals who take this approach rarely experience an enduring career. A firm foundation provides for several levels of building. Actress Tsuria Diaz subscribes completely to this premise. Diaz has a long list of television productions to her famed career in Mexico (Rosa Diamante, Como Dice el Dicho, El Octavo Mandiamento, Me Mueves, etc.), which would not have been possible without her training in theater acting. While television and theater have distinct differences, the pressure and immediate nature of the later instills a confidence in actors from which TV and film productions benefit. One of Ms. Diaz’s most noted and acclaimed live performance roles is that of Marimar in the play Perras. The tale is as malevolent as any great Shakespearean tragedy but set in the world of an all girl’s school. Via her character, Tsuria is given the opportunity to play someone in a difficult situation that could happen in any time period but with a very present day woman’s mindset. The range with which Marimar could be presented is wide; critics, the play’s director, and her costar all agree that Diaz presented her character as both vulnerable and tough…portraying a young woman who was at times both endearing and off-putting. This was all part of the actress’s grand design to prepare for any production that would come her way…as a true professional.

Perras (Spanish for “bitches”) is the story of two young women who are expelled from their “nice” all girl school. The vastly different economic and social backgrounds of students at this school is a microcosm for overall society. The two main characters, Sofia and Marimar, are best friends. What Sofia doesn´t know is that Marimar is pregnant and the baby’s father is actually Sofia’s father. Desperate, Marimar performs an abortion by herself. Unaware of the potential risk of doing this, she pays with her own life. Perras presents the idea of unintentional betrayal by those closest to you. While searching for comfort from a society that has treated one with malice, we can sometimes make decisions that steer us towards even greater harm… and to those we care about. The subject matter of Perras might be difficult to watch but the convincing and heartfelt performances of Diaz and Jimena Sanchez (Mairmar’s best friend Sofia in Perras) is transfixing. To communicate such a dire situation in a way that connects with the audience and endears them to tough characters takes great talent and subtlety. Jimena professes, “Tsuria and I spent so much time preparing the most complicated scenes of the play but each time was as if it was the first time. She has an impressive ability to seem honest and spontaneous every single time. It’s very easy for an actor to simply learn one way that works and always deliver lines in this manner but Tsuria is always searching for something that is in the moment. When you work with her, you pay attention because just like the audience, you want to see how she is going to perform each time. Her professional way is simple, she enjoys the entire process. What for I really admire about her is how she always kept a good vibe and positive energy, even in stressful situations. In live theater there are no retakes, you must perform and persevere. When you learn to do that with such artistry, as Tsuria does, I’d have to imagine that acting on a set which gives you the opportunity to do several takes with different approaches…it gives her even more chances to impress those she works with as she did during our time together.” The bond between the two lead characters and actresses was palpable during the performances of Perras. Cultivated in over a year of work, the cast often rehearsed without any props to focus solely on the emotional content and interaction of the characters. The direction that Guillermo Rios instilled in her is something which Diaz credits to this day for her professional work on stage and TV. She notes, “Guillermo was rough on us at times to be honest but he helped me to learn and understand how to own the truth onstage. He never allowed us to ‘lie’ and this is the foundation of my acting skills. I feel very thankful to him, even though it was a hard at rehearsals. It’s as if he built this chip in my head; this inner voice that in every single audition, project, or class I’m taking tells me, ‘Slow down and see the world as she (the character) would see it.’ That fact alone was well worth all of the hard work.”

There’s not a lot that Tsuria Diaz has in common with her character Marimar but…it is acting. A fifteen-year old pregnant teenage girl who unwittingly kills herself and conceals the reasons from her best friend is a dark persona to inhabit. Diaz finds it necessary to leave the character’s emotional journey on the stage and not carry it into her everyday life. While onstage she is clear about her process stating, “The scene where Marimar explains how she did the abortion by herself and the last scene in which she is seated and singing the national anthem (because she used to sing it happy and proud but now she is dead) are particularly difficult emotionally. You literally breathe through the pain, guilt, and fear in these scenes. This is why I love acting, because you understand human nature. Without judging, just deep empathy for another human being is what you feel. Marimar died because the son she was expecting was from her best friend’s dad. She inserted a hook inside her thinking it would work, but it was despair and guilt that drove her to death. Acting allows me to inhabit the lives of these characters and learn from them. In honesty, it makes me better as a person.” An avid lover of dogs (she has rescued seven) gives a glimpse into the warmth that is underneath the surface of Tsuria Diaz in every role. Even her darker characters have an endearing vibe about them. She concedes that it is essential to every role to find that tenderness stating, “I want to achieve the best version of me as a woman, I can possibly be. To be honest, the best way of living my role as a successful actress would be helping as much as possible, indirectly or in a direct way. I have met many successful actors and business men and they all have something in common more than fame or money, they are humble. It’s a trait that is important to me. I want to achieve real empathy.

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I want to touch someone’s heart and move love or hate, hope or fear, but I always want to move them. It has to be sincere though; I hate when someone is fake, I want to keep it real, in my personal life and as my characters.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Natasha Khan Mayet is one Indian Actress Making a Huge Splash in Hollywood!

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Actress Natasha Khan Mayet shot by Paul Smith

When internationally acclaimed actress Natasha Khan Mayet was growing up in South Africa, she knew her future would be a creative one. Since beginning her acting career over a decade ago, Natasha has become known for her roles in Mother, May I Sleep with Danger with James Franco and Tori Spelling, Metropolitan Detective, and 2 For Flinching. In a time when actresses like Priyanka Chopra are protecting national security in Quantico and Deepika Padukone is making moves in XXX: The Return of Xander Cage, Natasha Khan Mayet proves actresses of Indian descent can make it in the big time on a global scale.

One of her most recent projects, Trafficked, is proof of her incredible accomplishments as globally renowned actor. In that film, Natasha shares the silver screen with Golden-Globe nominated actress and American movie star, Ashley Judd, well known for her roles in the blockbuster Divergent franchise, Olympus Has Fallen and Double Jeopardy. Natasha admits that Judd is “one of [her] favorite actresses,” so it’s no surprise that she’s proud of the esteemed production. The story of Trafficked concerns three girls from America, Nigeria and India who are trafficked through an elaborate global network and enslaved in a Texas brothel, and must together attempt a daring escape to reclaim their freedom.

In her key role as a woman who is kidnapped by Albanian mercenaries and sold to a group of Italian men, Natasha steals the audience’s attention every time she is on screen, such is the power of her captivating performance. She proudly explains that the filmmakers needed an “Indian woman with strong acting skills,” and that she was the only actress who fit the bill.

Given the critical impact her scenes have on the film’s plot development, it’s easy to describe her role as the heart of the film. The emotional depth of her role and its critical importance to the film’s story was clear while shooting. Natasha tells us how “[t]he scene where we were tied up and at the mercy of the Albanians was pretty raw, and as I stood there tied up with other girls we literally felt as if we were their prisoners.” She goes on to say that “the scene became so real…a couple of us were already crying because the moment was so real to us.”

Not only was Trafficked shortlisted for the Sundance Screenwriters Lab, it was written and produced by Siddharth Kara, author of the internationally acclaimed book Sex Trafficking: Inside the Business of Modern Slavery. Kara is also a leading professor at Harvard and a lecturer at UC Berkeley, attaching greater credibility to a film project that not only brings an audience to tears, but has a politically charged message that will ensure its global success.

Further to that, Natasha confirmed her exceptional acting skills in Trafficked by working alongside award-winning director Will Wallace, who won a feature film prize at WorldFest Houston for his hit comedy Cake: A Wedding Story, starring Major Crimes and The Closer TV star, G.W. Bailey. Another one of his projects, the romantic drama Red Wing starring Hidden Figures star Glen Powell and the late Bill Paxton, was an additional credit to why Natasha was so excited to play a critical role in Wallace’s latest project.

Natasha’s authentic relationship with her craft is reflected not only in her involvement with Trafficked, but the diverse range of roles she has played in a number of other high-profile film and television productions. She explains that “acting constantly challenges me,” and that “it allows me to explore the different aspects of myself, grow and constantly evolve, and tell a different story through each role that I play.” So while Trafficked represents a recent silver screen highlight of which Natasha was a key reason in its success, she is also experiencing extraordinary triumphs on the small screen too.

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Film Poster for “Trafficked” directed by Will Wallace

Most recently, Natasha was seen playing the critical role of Helena Michaels in the Amazon-Prime original series Music & Murder. Appearing alongside Atlanta TV star Tony Scott, the formally-trained actress added a great depth of intrigue as the mother of lead character Chastity Michaels, and thus provided important emotional life to a storyline about a talented music video producer who avoids life on the streets and finds success, only to be framed for murder.

In further support of her reputation as an actress capable of playing complex and fully-rounded characters, much like her South African compatriot Charlize Theron, Natasha plays reporter Angela Lee in the upcoming television pilot Stimulus. In this provocative series, Angela is torn between reporting the news and uncovering the truth, in a story that raises significant questions relating to race, politics, religion and prejudice.

Clearly, Natasha’s recent work shows she is an actress who sticks to her artistic values. She elucidates that she loves “any project or role that challenges” her, and that it’s crucial for the production to “tell a story that is in some way important and conveys a message.”  

Actress Mariana Montes captivates audiences in Spanish classic “The House of Bernarda Alba”

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Actress Mariana Montes

While growing up in Mexico City, Mariana Montes loved the arts. As a child, she would make up stories in her head, and as she matured, she realized that acting out these stories was where her passion truly was. For her, acting is giving voice to one’s thoughts, and what a voice she gives.

After rising to the top as one of Mexico’s best actresses, Montes began to be recognized internationally for her talents. While working on the musical Too Many Tamales with the Bilingual Foundation of the Arts, Montes showed off her comedic capabilities while acting, singing, and dancing. More recently, she played a very different role in the Spanish classic The House of Bernarda Alba, created by Federico Garcia Lorca.

The House of Bernarda Alba is one of the most important plays ever written in Spanish language. It’s a very powerful play that has very deep characters. It’s a pleasure to have the opportunity to work with such rich material,” said Montes. “I defend freedom, women’s rights, love, I am against racism, I support people who love each other doesn’t matter what sex they are. I am a pacifist. Lorca was murdered during the civil war in Spain because of his political believes and his sexual orientation. This play is great to make a point about our broken society. This was written in 1936, and as incredible as it seems this play is still as recent as ever.”

The play tells the story of Bernarda Alba and her five daughters. Immediately following the death of her husband, Bernarda announces that they will observe an eight-year mourning period in which they will not leave the house. The play takes place in the house of Bernarda Alba in a small Andalusian village during a sweltering hot spell in the summer of 1936. Montes has a principal role in the play, playing Martirio, the second of the five daughters.

“Martirio is a very dark role. She is the most emotionally traumatized of the characters. She has a lot of resentment toward her mother. Her freedom is completely oppressed. Her mother ruined her future marriage because she thought the man who wanted to marry her wasn’t good for the family reputation because his social class was lower than theirs. We are talking about a very traditional society and a lot of rules were to be obey,” described Montes. “Martirio is a lead role who brings all the conflict to the story when she tells her mother about the affair her youngest sister Adela is having with Pepe el Romano who is Angustia’s fiancé, the oldest of the five sisters.”

An important aspect to the character of Martirio is the hump she has, which contributes to her many insecurities. Finding the correct posture was the first step Montes took to truly become her character. The director, Denise Blasor, didn’t want a fake hump to be used, so Montes had to readjust her body to give the impression that she had one.

Blasor has worked in the industry for over 35 years. She is the Associate Artistic Director of The Bilingual Foundation of the Arts, and describes Montes as a wonderful asset to the theatre community.

“One of the first things that I noticed about Mariana was that her talent comes naturally. She is an artist of many dimensions and manages to capture the hearts of all whom she works with.  Her commitment to creatively explore her role with sensitivity, intellect and humor and the multitude of skills that she possesses while still maintaining humility and an open mind is a testament to her character and personable demeanor. Mariana is smart, talented, dedicated, professional and a pleasure to work with. She always brings new ideas to the table and inspires her peers with her fast creativity, wit and generous acting style,” said Blasor.

These thoughts were echoed by her fellow cast members, who describes Montes as a pleasure to work with. Elisa Noemi, who plays another sister in the show, says that you can always trust Montes on stage. For Montes, working with everyone was one of the best parts of the experience.

“I had an amazing experience with this production. I love the professionalism of the company. From the cast to the crew, everyone was on top of their game. I love the vision our director had. I got to meet new artists and now I have great relationships with them,” she said.

The production was performed last year at The Barnsdall Gallery Theater in Hollywood, with a second run at Ruth B. Shannon Center. Due to their success, the cast filmed a short film of the play, which was nominated for Best Theatrical Short at the 2015 Imagen Awards. The Imagen Awards honors and recognizes the positive portrayals of Latinos and Latino cultures in film, television and new media and celebrates the achievement of Latino talent in the entertainment industry.

This play will also be performed later this summer with the same cast at the Shannon Center of the Performing Arts in Whittier, California.