Category Archives: Actress

A Chat with the Stars: Q&A with Colombian Actress Juliana Betancourth

Hailing from the small town of Don Matias, Colombia, Juliana Betancourth dreamed of one day becoming an actress since she was a little girl, and today is one of the country’s most recognizable stars. She has worked alongside renowned talent and greatly contributed to the success of celebrated productions like Therapy and Bite! as well as working with some of the world’s most recognized brands on national commercials, like Walmart.

Extending her talents to music videos, Betancourth knows how to captivate an audience within the few minutes of a song. One of her career highlights was teaming up with hit hip-hop artist Casso Blax on his video “How to Treat a Woman.”

This video was published on platforms such as The Link Up, YouTube and other download platforms. It was presented on musical channels and had a great reception in the European urban genre. After this success, Casso Blax was hired to perform in different places and cities. This song is also found on Spotify and iTunes.

You can watch the video here, and in the meantime, check out the interview below.

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

JB: After having worked in television, cinema, theater, and commercials … the only thing I was missing was being in a music video. Maybe because I never wanted to be in one before, I felt it was more modeling work than acting … and wow I was wrong!

When Cris Samuels, the director, looked for me through my agent, he told me about the great reception Casso Blax had in the United Kingdom, and he explained that the message of the video dignified women and love.

I felt that this could be the ideal project for making my first music video. Later I would make two more videos in Los Angeles for other artists.

TTN: How did you become part of it?

JB: Cris researched my career in Colombia and Spain and  knew that I had just arrived to live in London, so he looked for me. In England, there is no strong Latin presence, so they still see women from Latin America as very exotic.

This was precisely the kind of character he wanted to show. Someone who had good chemistry with Casso Blax but who in turn contrasts racially. We had a couple of meetings, he introduced me to the artist, we did camera tests, we went to see him sing live at an event. I met his work team and his followers. They really wanted me in the project and I was convinced that it was the right one for me to break into music videos for the first time.

TTN: What was it like working with Casso Blax?

JB: He is an artist in his genre. He composes the lyrics of his songs, the music, makes live presentations. We had a very professional and respectful deal, he was very praised for the fact that I wanted to work on his music video and that I also like his music.

It was essential that we had trust and respect between the two of us, because as an actress I need those spaces to be able to do my work, especially in sensual or romantic scenes.

Casso is a singer who has had to fight a lot in his life to achieve success, has overcome the barriers of racism and an elitist industry.

TTN: What was it like working on this project?

JB: Due to the previous meetings, there was already a friendly chemistry between all of us, so the shooting day was very simple, Casso and I got in front of the camera, the song started to play and we did what we were feeling.  If I wanted to dance towards him, or embrace him, while he sang or interacted with me, I did so naturally.

The directions of the director were very simple, he did not want to interfere with the organic moment, and wanted the interaction to feel natural. I always avoided accepting sensual woman projects, specifically to avoid stereotypes, but as I said before, their argument convinced me.

TTN: What was your character like?

JB: I was Casso’s official girlfriend in this video, the woman he chooses over all other women, the only one who can seduce him, and with whom he wants to spend his time.

A Latina woman with sensual movements, loving, powerful and fragile at the same time. It was a very organic character, the perfect balance between that seductive woman we all carry inside, and the woman who falls deeply in love with his masculine and protective figure.

TTN: How did your character fit into the story of the video?

JB: The whole song is written around her, that character that should be his queen, who does not have to compete with anyone else for his love. It shows Casso rejecting the seductions of the other women, but not those of my character. He talks about how he should treat her well so that she stays with him all her life.

In addition to acting skills, I had to have skills for a specific dance, sensual, but not vulgar. I needed to know how to express the rhythms of this song with movements.

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

JB: From the beginning I liked the way Cris approached me, inviting me to meet the artist first, his music, his followers, he was in charge of showing me the music record support that Casso had and the recognition in his industry.

We were a couple with chemistry and my participation could open doors in Latin American countries and Spain. The recording was very easy and quiet, without many shots, everything was very fresh and I felt very comfortable. It’s a song that I liked. The admiration, in this case, is a determining factor for me.

TTN: What do you like about the video itself?

JB: Urban music has been sadly characterized by having misogynist lyrics, in which it is socially accepted to denigrate women or to advocate that men may have several women. This song says the opposite, speaks of monogamy, to value the woman you have, to be a true man. And this is more in alignment with my way of thinking and my values.

For the other two music videos that I have done “Déjame Ayudar” by JC Gonzales and “Si me dejas Ahora” by Fernando Rodríguez, they have been songs that defend the empowerment of women.

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

JB: Knowing that my image has been going through all these European music platforms is very rewarding, as it is seeing that Casso’s career continued to rise after our video together. I never imagined that participation in a music video could bring me so many other projects. Blax fans, for example, became fans of mine and they now follow my work.

 

Photo by Jhonatan Tabares 

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Canada’s Helena-Alexis Seymour plays her dream role in Amazon’s hit series

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Helena-Alexis Seymour

Helena-Alexis Seymour grew up on stage, never having an issue with being in the spotlight, literally. Growing up in the small town of Cornwall, Ontario, Canada, Seymour danced, did beauty pageants, and modeled. She loved the way she could express her creativity through such methods of performing. As she grew and started a successful modeling career, she realized another passion: acting. After booking her first commercial at only nine years old, she knew what her calling was.

“The more I acted, the more I realized that the artform was about more than me being creative, it was about how I was able to make the audience feel. Having someone watch your performance and be moved by it because they can relate, it reassures them that they are not alone. We all want to feel like we aren’t alone in this world so to be able to do that for someone makes it all worthwhile,” she said.

Now, millions around the world have seen Seymour in some of their favorite films and television shows. She is known for films like the blockbuster xXx: Return of Xander Cage starring Vin Diesel, as well as the multiple Academy Award winning film Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance). The highlight of her esteemed career however, began last year when she was cast in the title role in Amazon’s award-winning original series Chronicles of Jessica Wu.

“Helena is a woman that exudes positive energy, so naturally she brightens up any room she steps in. She’s hardworking, humble, kind and so down to earth, which allowed for us to not only create great moments on camera, but many memorable moments off camera. It was a very rewarding experience and I hope it’s the first project of many that we get to work on together,” said Jasmine Hester, Seymour’s co-star on the show.

Chronicles of Jessica Wu is a story about a young girl on the Autism spectrum who has mastered martial arts. She becomes a Hero in her city and takes down some of the most ruthless villains in Los Angeles. Jessica’s genius ability and martial arts helps her become the most unique and fascinating Superhero of our time. Chronicles of Jessica Wu is a fun, action-packed, and exciting series for the entire family.

“I love how the story showed a strong, bi-racial, woman on the autistic spectrum living a very normal life. She is highly functional and lives quite like everyone else. Bringing awareness to the autism spectrum is something that we all need to experience. Being more inclusive of each other and more loving to each other. Everyone in this world is different and going through something so the more we can open our minds to it, the more compassionate as a whole we become,” said Seymour.

The character of Jessica Wu is driven, focused, ambitious, strong yet quite shy, and vulnerable all at the same time. She is loyal and expects the same loyalty in return. She believes her autism is a strength and uses it to her advantage. She is an intellectual genius and is always two steps ahead in her mind. She uses her amazing mathematical abilities to solve certain issues in her life as well as in her fighting when acting as the superhero named Equation.

“Helena-Alexis is a complete joy to work with. From her dedication, preparation, and delivery performances on and off set, she is the total package. Helena captures the true essence of an individual not defined by any disabilities or anything else. You will surely see how she brings the character Jessica Wu to a full circle of life. Her preparation and dedication to make our show the very best and to reach its maximum potential is truly appreciated. We couldn’t be more pleased and prouder of her work. Seriously, her performance on this show is must see TV,” said Brandon Larkins, Executive Producer.

Stepping into the show during its second season and taking over for the actress that played Jessica Wu in the show’s first season, Seymour had her work cut out for her; she had to honor a character that had already been established in fans’ minds while still making it her own. To do so, she extensively researched autism and what that would mean for her character. She had a great time recreating the character and experiencing life through her eyes. Seymour discovered what Jessica’s values were, what her strengths and weaknesses were, the type of music she listens to, the type of guy she crushes on and even what zodiac sign she was. With all that knowledge, she used it to mold Jessica Wu’s personality, and essentially, her soul.  Luckily, Seymour has a kickboxing/martial arts background, and was able to use those skills when playing Jessica.

I loved everything about working on this. I loved playing a double life as Jessica Wu and Equation,” said Seymour. “I loved working on set with such inspiring and grounded cast and crew members. When you are surrounded by love, light and greatness you naturally will vibrate to that frequency, so I am so grateful that every day was positive and that we were free to create great art together.”

The Chronicles of Jessica Wu is truly fun for the entire family. Seymour is excited by the show’s success already, and for the future seasons to come. She knows the importance of shows like this and is happy to be portraying a such a unique character that the world needs to see.

“This is only the beginning of major change in the television and film industry. We need more ethnic superheroes on the big and small screen. The world is full of different people with different backgrounds. We must continue to open our eyes to them and the gifts that they have to offer not only to this generation but the younger generations to come. It is up to us to show the youth that they matter and that there is someone just like them on the screen who is strong, capable and worthy. Being able to do that for a young child whether with autism or not means that I have done my job,” she concluded.

Be sure to check out the second season of Chronicles of Jessica Wu on Amazon when it is released on April 2nd.

Britain’s Janine Gateland stars in award-winning new horror flick

As an actress, Janine Gateland’s primary responsibility is simple: to tell stories. She takes words off a page and transforms them into a living, breathing person. Whether it be through a camera lens, on stage, or just with her voice and a microphone, she brings a character to life, causing an emotional reaction from her audience. For Gateland, she loves the world of make believe and being able to portray different people in different situations, dealing with life’s obstacles and challenges is what she lives for.

“Acting is unpredictable. It’s never mundane, it’s always an adventure because you don’t always know what job is going to come next. One minute you could be filming in a studio lot or on stage and the next in the woods or up a mountain. From the moment you pick up the script you are at the start of a journey of that character and their story. I love the fact that you learn so much about yourself through storytelling,” she said.

Gateland’s passion translates directly into every project she takes on and is exactly why she is such a sought-after actress both in her home of the United Kingdom and internationally. This is exemplified with her films such as Modern American Nightmare, which will soon be available on Amazon Prime’s streaming service,and The Closing, as well as the highly-anticipated new television series Illville.

One of the highlights of Gateland’s esteemed career came when working on the 2017 film F***, Marry, Kill. The horror flick follows three sisters traveling through the Mojave Desert on their way to their brother’s wedding. A sinister turn of events leads them to a twisted, maddening town where a psychotic, cult-like community kidnaps women and forces them to marry, procreate or be sacrificed. These residents seem hell bent on making it their final destination.

“I like the story because it is so real. F***, Marry, Killis actually based on a game.  People tend to play it at office parties, and I had heard Howard Stern was playing it on the radio. In the film we are playing the game in the car journey for fun, little did we know that would end up being our fate. The main guy in the film who you think is sweet and harmless ends up kidnapping my sister. Like most siblings, we knew we had to go on this car journey and somehow get along. What I like about the film is, even though all 3 sisters come from different lifestyles and bicker, they become a girl powered strong team when things go badly wrong,” said Gateland.

The film is, in Gateland’s words, “very girl powered”. Her character, Tiffany, is the oldest of the siblings. She had a great job, husband, and she was happy. However, everything went wrong when her husband cheated on her. She turned to drowning her sorrows with alcohol and becoming a bit too much of a free spirit. She shows up on the road trip to her brother’s wedding with her new fling of the month, who also happens to be a drug dealer. As the eldest sibling, she knows she’s always being judged by her sisters, but after everything she has been through, she doesn’t care anymore.  When the journey takes a turn for the worst and their lives are in danger, Tiffany realizes she has to step up and becomes the strong, ballsy sister who has to protect her sisters. The role really pushed Gateland’s boundaries both physically and mentally as an actor.

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F***, Marry, Kill premiered in 2017 at Sunscreen Film Festival. From there, it had an incredible film festival run. It has won several awards, including the Semi-Finalist Award at Los Angeles CineFest, Honorable Mention at Los Angeles Movie Awards, and was a winner at Hollywood Verge Film Awards and Direct Monthly Online Film Festival, to name a few. Such success could never have been possible without Gateland’s captivating performance as Tiffany.

“It is a wonderful feeling and I am so proud to be a part of it. A lot of hard work went into the film and I know I worked hard to make my role as memorable as possible. We were very lucky because we made time for rehearsals too, which doesn’t always happen in film. I am so pleased the film has got into so many festivals around the world and there is still more we are waiting on,” said Gateland.

Undoubtedly, Gateland is an exceptional actress, with an impressive career behind her and much more to look forward to. She has no plans on slowing down, as each time she steps onto a film set, she feels the same adrenaline rush that she did the first time. For those looking to follow their dreams into acting, she offers some wise words based off her years of experience.

“Make sure it’s something that you can’t imagine living life without. It has to be your passion and you have to be good. The amount of rejection you get can have an effect on your confidence. You have to be able to take risks and have a real drive to really want it, otherwise go home. You can’t be lazy, you have to put in the work 150 per cent and keep at it. To be successful can take years of training, experience and building relationships. It’s usually very rare to get that ‘big break’ when someone notices you, so you have to go out and find the work yourself.  Plus having a strong support system is tremendously important and having a motivated and well-connected representation that has your back,” she advised.

Check out F***, Marry, Kill, and be sure to keep an eye out for Gateland’s future works.

 

Top photo by Joseph Sinclair

Ukraine’s Alina Smolyar enchants audiences in award-winning performance

Actress Alina Smolyar knows the challenges of her chosen career path. Memorizing large amounts of text, researching characters, drastic physical appearance changes, lack of sleep, transforming into another person, working in extreme weather conditions, the list goes on. However, without such challenges, acting wouldn’t be what she fell in love with when she was only a child. For this internationally sought-after actress, these obstacles are what drives her.

Every project any actor takes on has its own set of challenges, and Smolyar not only accepts this fact, but enjoys it. When working on her film Molehill, which is perhaps the actress’ most decorated film to date, she was faced with what seemed like an endless list of obstacles to overcome, and although it was daunting, this is where she shined.

“Honestly, Molehill was one of the most challenging projects I’ve ever worked on. I thought it would be a disaster! No jokes. But this journey made it all the more rewarding when everything came together,” said Smolyar.

Molehill is an artistic film that follows a group of friends at a party. Audiences are kept guessing until the very end, never knowing what is going to happen next. The ending is completely unpredictable, encouraging audiences to think long after the film concludes, giving the impression that it is a beginning rather than an end.

“I like when it’s unexpected in movies, we as an audience always remember this type of film,” said Smolyar.

Smolyar’s character in Molehill is Leigh, an adult in her early 20s who became older earlier than she’s supposed to. She has a full-time job, her mother is going through health issues, and she has a lot to deal with at home. She finds the need to protect her younger brother Sid, who upon turning 21 becomes very wild. For him, he is having fun, but for Leigh, it is another problem to take care of. She doesn’t have time for herself, to enjoy life or to go out and find a guy. She is incredibly stressed. Her character works in a contrast with everybody and everything around her. From the very beginning we can hear and see a party, people are having fun and this black spot named Leigh who’s so serious and stressed and everything goes wrong for her.

“You know when we are over stressed and it’s so hard to focus on something positive, because it’s like a tornado? You just keep dealing with all this craziness around you. That is the exact struggle Leigh is facing,” said Smolyar.

Smolyar faced a similar struggle when she began working on the film. As a writer of Molehill, she had a different idea of where to take the story, but it wouldn’t work for the film. At the time, she had no idea what else she wanted to share or how to share it. Upon meeting with her director and producers, inspiration struck and she was able to come up with a story she liked.

“You know that feeling when you have to do everything very fast, but you have a white sheet or a monkey with plates in your head? That was me. I had no idea what else I wanted to tell, and we were running out of time,” she recalled.

When making the film, Smolyar was also one of the producers, a role she had never taken on before as she typically focuses on acting. She found her experience as an actress helped with her producing role.

When it came to acting, she put herself fully into Leigh, understanding her struggles and motivation behind every move she made. The arc of the character was important to Smolyar. It was part of her initial idea and was vital for the film.

“It was complicated for me. I guess at one point it worked very well for my acting perspective, because you can definitely see that contrast which I needed for Leigh. I was as stressed in my real life as Leigh was in hers. However, all my preparation for the project as both producer and actress helped to create my Leigh,” said Smolyar.

Being the writer, producer, and star of the film was an enormous amount of responsibility for Smolyar, but she enjoyed that. Molehill truly felt like her film, more so than any other project she had done before. She found wearing so many hats allowed her to become a better actress, and when the film became so successful, she knew she had done her job right.

Molehill premiered last May and then made its way to several festivals both in the United States and around the world. It was an Official Selection at Cine Fest, Festigious International Film Festival, and Mindfield. Smolyar herself was also awarded with Best Actress at the Actors Awards, New York Film Awards, Los Angeles Film Awards, and Oniros where she won Best Acting Duo. The result astounded Smolyar, who although had tremendous success with past projects, did not expect it for her own film.

“It still feels pleasurable, especially when you didn’t expect this kind of success. It feels great when you’re getting recognition for what you’ve been working on and especially when you do what you love,” she concluded.

Be sure to check out Smolyar’s upcoming films 1stBorn, and Skeleton in the Closet.

Aida King brings on the laughs in hilarious comedy ‘Desert Drive’

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Aida King

To succeed in acting, Aida King knows there is nothing more important than self-confidence. Never be conceited but know who you are as a person and how much you are capable of. This is her mantra that drives her and is why she is such a renowned Canadian actress. She has never lost belief in herself, and when audiences watch her on both the big and small screen, she radiates.

King is known for her work in celebrated films like The Convicted, Hemorrhage, and War of Mind. She has worked with award-winning filmmakers and well-known actors, including Alexander Michael Helisek, a veteran actor and producer in Hollywood. Known for his work on the Golden Globe Award-winning television series This Is Us, the Golden Globe Award-winning hit feature film Interstellar, which starred Matthew McConaughey and the two-time Golden Globe Award-nominated popular television series Silicon Valley, Helisek was greatly impressed with King when they worked together on Desert Drive.

“I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to work alongside Aida, as an actor, in her leading role of Missy Lee on the comedy film titled Desert Drive.Aida was absolutely essential to the critical acclaim and commercial success of the film. Her character needed to be depicted by an actress who could convey the necessary warmth, romance, comedy and sincerity that makes her a relatable character to the audience. Aida was able to accomplish all of this and more in a performance that was at once full of force and subtlety,” said Helisek.

Desert Drive follows the life of four Los Angeles based musicians who travel from Hollywood to Palm Springs for the Coachella Music Festival. Instead of harping on aimless debauchery and excessive drunkenness, the story documents the eventful two-hour ride and all the intimate conversations and crazy obstacles that transpire on the action-packed pilgrimage.

“It’s a fun slice of life story that I think people that travel together would appreciate. When travelling in close uncomfortable quarters for a long period of time, sometimes patience can run thin and emotions run high. It’s a fun comedy with interesting characters of substance,” said King.

This movie was filmed in May 2015 and premiered at a Hollywood movie theatre later that year. Not only is the trailer featured on the distinguished website “Funny or Die”, Desert Drive was also an Official Selection at the Ozark Short Film Festival in the Summer 2016. King was proud to be part of a team and found that the chemistry between the characters is why the film went on to do so well.

“I cannot deny that I love hearing people laugh when they watch this film, as that’s the biggest thrill of all for me,” she said.

King’s character, Missy Lee, is a musician who is determined to spice up intimate conversations with the other traveling musicians as they travel for many hours to their destination.

Missy Lee was a happy-go-lucky girl that was content with being in the company of friends, no matter what the situation was. She was definitely a people pleaser and tried to make the best of any situation. While she knew that she was naïve, she was comfortable with that role among her small group of oddball friends.

While she was a bit of a third wheel friend, this character brings balance to the oddball group. While every person was completely different from one another, she played the comic relief to offset tension in the storyline and also the confident when moments were more intimate. The controversial and hilarious lines are the most pivotal plot points in the entire narrative. With such an important role, King knew she had to deliver a captivating performance to bring the film to success, and that is exactly what she did.

As The Convicted was a drama, flipping over to a comedy was a great chance to present a completely different character. This was a huge opportunity to show her versatility and show her comedic creativity. As a Canadian, the comedy culture is highly regarded, so it was natural for King to want to be a part of this film.

“I appreciated working on a character that was light hearted and fun. This was my first time doing comedy, and I loved it,” said King.

King was brought on board after the successful completion of The Convicted, the Director and Producer of the film, Josh Mitchell, decided to bring the actress onto his new projects after being greatly impressed by her talent and work ethic, both of which King is well known for.

While filming, King’s greatest challenge came from filming in the desert. Far from the climate in her home in Canada, spending hours in a small van in hot temperatures was a new experience. However, she would never let this get her down, and found that it only helped her feel as if she was truly on her way to a music festival with a group of her close friends. Eventually, that is what the cast became.

Be sure to watch Desert Drive on Vimeo on Demand to catch out King’s comedic performance.

Actress Romy Weltman recalls first horror film ‘The Returned’

For Romy Weltman, being an actor means getting the opportunity to not just portray another person, but to become one. She embodies each of her characters with a sense of realism, a passion for the art, and a determination that is unrivaled. It is this dedication that makes her so successful and why she has won over the hearts of audiences all over Canada.

Working in both film and television, Weltman is an extremely in demand actress in her home country. She has starred in successful films such as The Red Maple Leaf and Strike! as well as popular television shows like Shadowhunters: The Mortal Instruments and the Disney Channel hit Backstage.

“When I worked with Romy on Backstage, her talent and natural ability to display true emotion was evident. We had two scenes in particular that were quite emotional and Romy was nothing but an absolute professional. She raised the stakes for everybody and set a very high bar. I felt like my acting and my overall work ethic was improved tenfold when working with Romy simply because of how professional and prepared she was. Romy continues to show how great of an actress she is in all of her other projects that she has done. She is without a doubt one of the strongest actresses that I know,” said Kolton Stewart, Actor (Some Assembly Required, The Swap).

Weltman’s first taste of international success came with her film The Returned. The horror flick takes place in a world where a deadly zombie virus has infected mankind, and a single cure has been found. The cure, a treatment called the “Return Protein” which stays the effects of the virus in its host. With injections every 36 hours, the “Returned” are able to live as though they were never bit, despite the virus still coursing through their veins. When it is discovered that the protein stock is running low, chaos hits the streets. Returned who run out of the protein turn to zombies and wreak havoc, protesters turn to murderers as they try to rid the streets of the returned, and right in the middle of it all are Alex and Kate. Kate, a leading doctor in the field of zombie virus’ and Alex, a musician with a dark secret, he is a Returned. As death and fear run rampant, Alex’s secret becomes known and his dosage runs low, he and Kate must fight for a chance to live before he becomes a zombie.

“The story of The Returned is very cool, as it gives people a completely thrilling look on life. The story was different to many others. For thriller and horror movie fans, I think this story is super up their alley and I can promise there will be scares,” said Weltman.

The film premiered in 2013 and made its way to several international film festivals. At the 2014 Nevermore Film Festival, it even won the Audience Award. Weltman’s work was pivotal for The Returned’s success, as she played the younger version of the main character Kate. Young Kate was a strong character who faces a very difficult challenge in her life when she witnesses her mother being attacked by zombies. Playing the younger version of a character is extremely essential to a story. It is important for the audience to see what the character had been through in their lifetime and why they are who they are. Kate, being the lead, had lots of layers to her story. Playing young Kate gave Weltman the opportunity to bring those layers to the table and show the audience who Kate really was as a child. Weltman was only twelve years of age at the time, but still captivated audiences while providing pivotal backstory required to understand the film.

“This project was so awesome. I had never worked on a horror film or movie set at all yet. At this point of my career, this role was a dream come true. I couldn’t wait to see all the action and how horror movies were really filmed,” said Weltman.

Of course, as Weltman did not have her own life experience to pull from when it came to seeing her character’s mother getting eaten by zombies, her creative juices were flowing to determine how best to portray the child’s horror in such an important scene. She managed to perfectly encapsulate such a difficult emotion, and throughout the filming process, Weltman made sure to take in and connect the thriller ideas to her own life. By doing so, it allowed her to truly get into the mind of her character.

“Even though I was just a kid when I worked on this, it really inspired me to keep working and it made me hungry to be on more sets. I can credit that experience to the success I’ve had since,” said Weltman.

Be sure to check out Weltman in Backstage on the Family Channel in Canada on Fridays at 6:30 p.m. EST.

From Mermaids to Mental Health, Actress Brie Kristiansen Does it All in TV, Film, and New Media

Article Written By: Ashley Bower

It’s not always easy to keep up with an industry that is constantly evolving, but when it comes to navigating the busy world of entertainment, working actress Brie Kristiansen is a pro.

“It all started with a musical in Iceland when I was a teenager,” stated Kristiansen, and right from the start, she was propelled into learning how to adapt to the unpredictable curves that life – and the film and television industry – are known for. “The musical was Bugsy Malone and hundreds of people auditioned. In the end, I was cast in the leading role of “Dandy Dan,” which was changed into a female role since they thought I fit very well for the villainous character. Funny story, at the dress rehearsal I fell down and broke my leg and had to do all of the remaining shows in a wheelchair. It actually turned out great in the end, as the wheelchair seemed to add almost another level of authority for this villain.” Ever since this debut, Kristiansen’s career has skyrocketed.

While Kristiansen has numerous projects that span film, television, and new media under her belt, she’s most known for her work on It Takes a Killer, Delirium: What’s Your Worst Fear?, Corrupt Crimes, and her latest role as a series regular on season two of Life as Mermaid.

With over 25 million views and more than 155k subscribers, it’s safe to say that the hit YouTube Series Life as a Mermaid has a passionately committed following. The story follows two mermaid sisters and their journey on land as they work their way around obstacles while adjusting to life with the humans. Kristiansen plays Astrid, a ruthless European villain with an icy demeanor, whose mission is to hunt down the mermaids with the intention of selling them for billions.

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Brie Kristiansen as “Astrid” in Life as a Mermaid

“From the start of when season two started airing, we received such fantastic reactions from people all over the world. We started getting asked for autographs and receiving fan mail which has all been an amazing experience. We truly have the best fans, and they are what made all the hard work worth it in the end,” Kristiansen reminisced.

Though Life as a Mermaid airs on YouTube, one of the entertainment industry’s newer media platforms to publish episodic content on, the production process was exactly the same as any other television show. The only difference: the website makes its content accessible to anyone anywhere in the world.

Starring opposite Kristiansen in the series is Marcella Di Pasquale, who is also credited as casting director and one of the producers of the show.

“Brie is the sweetest person, so it is so interesting to see her play such a brilliantly evil villain,” explained Di Pasquale. “To be able to switch into such a strong character within a matter of seconds just really goes to show Brie’s true talents and acting skills. She is also great at stage combat and I loved watching her film her fight scenes on the show. Brie is very charismatic and naturally talented, which makes her a great addition to any set, and us on the Life as a Mermaid team always love having her around.”

In addition to villainous roles, it’s apparent that Kristiansen has a gift for securing and excelling in roles that encompass very serious, emotional qualities, such as the roles she played in It Takes a Killer, Delirium: What’s Your Worst Fear?, and Corrupt Crimes. Elaborating on her love of playing and process of preparing for such kind of a role, Kristiansen explained, “I always think it’s really funny since I’m actually quite a goofy person, but I guess I look very serious. However, I love doing these roles, especially when there’s an added challenge or something I haven’t done before.” An example of such is Kristiansen’s work she did on Delirium: What’s Your Worst Fear?” where she plays the character of Ava, a teenager with schizophrenia.

Prior to being cast as Ava, Kristiansen wasn’t familiar with the mental disorder outside of what she had seen in other film and television shows. Therefore, it was a role that require extensive research – something which was already a very major component of Kristiansen’s character preparation process. “I try to get closer to my character’s mindset and who they are. I’m a total nerd when it comes to this and will dive into research for significant amounts of time until I feel that I have managed a full understanding of the character, and then I go into the next steps of my preparation,” Kristiansen said.  “With Ava, I did so much research, probably more than I’d ever done before. I thought it was vital for the authenticity of my character to absolutely dive into research. I went to libraries, read books, and even spoke to people with experience in the field.”

Currently, Delirium: What’s Your Worst Fear? is being screened at multiple film festivals around the world.

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Brie Kristiansen as “Ava” in Delirium: What’s Your Worst Fear?

Coincidentally, on Kristiansen’s episode of Corrupt Crimes titled Vulture Feeder Fiend, the topic of schizophrenia arose yet again for the actress, though this time the character with the disorder was not her own. Taking place in California in the 1970’s, the storyline of the episode follows a schizophrenic serial killer named Herbert who murders a homeless man while in his altered state of mind. Kristiansen plays a hippie named Mary, who attempts to hitchhike her way to an event only to suffer a similar fate after she’s given a ride by Herbert himself.

Kristiansen not only loves the roles she’s been given the opportunity to play but is also passionate about the impact they make on her viewers, along with the awareness they bring to mental illness in film and television. “I’m a very open and honest person who comes from a very liberal society. The way I was raised is that if there’s a problem, you speak about it, and that you should never judge others for their feelings or behaviors because you don’t know what they’ve been through or are going through. Mental illness is a very serious issue, and the shame and stigma surrounding these issues need to stop. We need to be able to speak about our feelings, experiences, and illnesses openly in order to help or even fix them. There are so many tools one can learn from speaking to a professional, or by simply opening up to a friend. Love conquers all,” she said.

While some roles help to expand the knowledge and understanding of one’s mind, others do the same for the heart. This is the case for one of Kristiansen’s earlier television series: It Takes a Killer. “In my role as Charlotte, I played an emotionally unstable teenager who goes through a horrible tragedy,” Kristiansen discussed, revealing her journey of portraying the sixteen-year-old character left parentless after discovering her father murdered her mother.  “Charlotte is extremely vulnerable and has moments where she has emotional breakdowns. For me personally, this role was a great opportunity to showcase my talents with vulnerability and fully diving into the character. It was a great experience, and also helped me become more vulnerable and open as a person.”

There’s no question that Kristiansen’s vast experience and success as an actress has helped her grow not only as an artist within the film and television industry, but also as a person. There’s no doubt that this is something she’ll continue to do throughout her acting career in the years to come. Regarding this idea of both personal and career evolution, Kristiansen stated, “I’m incredibly lucky to be a working actress in different parts of the world, and on a variety of project types portraying completely diverse characters. Each time I take on a new role there’s something new I learn about people from the character I’m portraying. As a people person, this job will never become boring. The challenges, in drama, in comedy – all of it – just makes you really grow as an individual and you learn so much about yourself. I’m all about figuring out your dream and making it happen, and I find it to be one of the perks that I am able to grow both personally and professionally while living mine.”

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Brie Kristiansen walking the red carpet

For more information on Brie Kristiansen, please visit:

www.imdb.me/briekristiansen
https://www.briekristiansen.com/

Brazilian triple threat Rita Shukla is an indomitable force on stage

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Brazilian Performer Rita Shukla

You may have seen performer Rita Shukla on stages across Los Angeles as a lead singer with the classic rock band Lloyd Moss & The Rock Collective, singing jazz-style Brazilian bossa nova with the Electrobossa band, or heavy rock n’ roll with Redemptrix. Her strength and dynamic range as a vocalist coupled with her lively and magnetic stage presence has made her a go-to performer for a number of bands in need of a strong lead singer.

As part of Lloyd Moss & The Rock Collective, Rita is a vocalist alongside Andrey Tsvetkov Nazarbekian, who made it to the semifinals on the incredibly popular TV series “The Voice Russia” season 2, and was also a contestant on the 8-time Primetime Emmy Award winning “American Idol” season 15.

“Working with Rita is a constant exchange. Her vast knowledge in music and her stage experience are the factors that give all of our band members a new perspective on the way things should be done, how harmonies should be written and songs should be sung,” explains Nazarbekian. “What really makes her good at what she does is her natural gift for music supported by the education and training she acquired in Brazil ”

Rita began cultivating her talent as a performer at the age of 4 whilst growing up in Campinas, Brazil where music and performance are a vibrant part of the country’s colorful culture. First immersing herself in music classes, Rita immediately fell in love with the way music made her feel.

It’s just like being in nature for me… I feel joy when I sing. it brings me so much peace and happiness, as if I don’t think of anything else. I’m just there present in the moment,” admits Rita. “For you to be able to sing well, you first need to breathe well… the whole process of singing is just therapeutic and healing.

Knowing the competitive nature of being a lead singer, Rita didn’t rely solely on her natural vocal strengths as a high soprano. Instead she devoted herself to perfecting her skills by training with some of the best in the industry internationally, including vocal coaches such as Molly Rocklind (who’s shared the stage with the likes of Stevie Wonder, popular classic rock band America and Chaka Khan), Dawn Bishop (who’s performed with household names like Brian McKnight and the Black-Eyed Peas,) Brazilian soprano Lucila Tragtenberg and maestro Thiago Gimenes, among others.

It didn’t take long for Rita to be tapped to begin performing on stages across Brazil. By the age of 16 she was playing starring roles in popular theatre productions such as “A Receita” by Jorge Andrade, followed by “Um Cadillac Para as Estrelas” and “Quero a Lua” at the Tao Theatre.

With many of her major theatrical projects back home in Brazil utilizing her talent as an actress and singer, she quickly stood out as a rarely gifted performer capable of flawlessly executing both with equal pizazz. But there’s another area of Rita’s ‘gift’ as a performer that has made her so unique amongst others in the industry– and that is her skill as a dancer.

In the same way that her impressive vocal range and natural rhythm has led her to lead bands with musical styles ranging from jazz and bossa nova to classic and hard rock, her skill as a dancer has given way to a multitude of dance performances ranging from flamenco and belly dancing to jazz and tap for musical theatre.

Beginning flamenco dance training at 11 and belly dance at 13,  Rita explains, “First, I fell in love with flamenco, for its strength, rhythm, passion, and history, but dancing in general makes me feel good as I feel the energy of the music and the beat flowing through my body.”

The way she translates music into her movements as a dancer, embodying the rhythm in human form on stage, has not only been a highlight for the audiences who watch her, but a draw factor for those who cast her in their shows. Whilst in Brazil, she was cast as a lead dancer in numerous shows such as “Noche Caliente,” “Bombardeio de Dança” and “Noite Flamenca” with leading Brazilian flamenco dancer and choreographer Karina Maganha. She also made a name for herself as a lead dancer with the Jimena Lourenço Dance Company, starring in shows like  “A Arte Milenar Da Dança Do Ventre,” “1° Festival de Dança Do Ventre,” “2° Festival de Dança Do Ventre,” “Clip” and many more.

By college Rita had not only perfected her individual skills making herself known among the country’s best young performers in each area, but she had blended all of these talents, making her an undeniable triple threat– an asset that boosted her reputation within the world of musical theatre.

About her beginnings, Rita explains, “Growing up studying and doing theatre [in Brazil], and feeling on my skin the importance of embodying the character as a dance, the music as a text and the acting as music, made me a very open, strong and vulnerable actress and singer.”

After completing her bachelor’s in drama at the Pontifical Catholic University of São Paulo, scholarship offers began rolling in from schools in the U.S. for her to continue her education in the performing arts. And in 2013 she packed her bags and relocated to California on a scholarship to study Musical Theatre at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy.

As a singer she’s quickly became a lead member in several bands in the states, while also writing her own songs and embarking on many other fruitful collaborations. After being recognized by music producer and songwriter Ted Perlman, who’s known for his work with renowned stars such as Whitney Houston, Harry Belafonte, Bob Dylan and Diana Ross, the two collaborated in writing a praise and worship rock tune.

Perlman recalls, “As soon as she sang one note, I knew she was special… Rita is one of the most soulful white girls anywhere! She has everything- talent, beauty, brains, and joy. She’s as close to perfect as it gets.”

In the states her seasoned skill as a performer coupled with the fiery nature of Brazilian culture pulsing through her veins, led her to be viewed as a unique talent in the industry.

Last year Rita was personally invited to perform as a singer and dancer alongside some of the most recognizable Broadway stars in the world in the production of “Broadway to the Rescue.” A concert gala for charity, Rita shared the stage with the likes of Tony Award Winner LiLlias White and Tony Award nominees John Tartaglia and Sharon McNight where she gave a memorable performance in numbers from the hit Broadway shows “Hair,” “Memphis,” “Hairspray” and more.

“Training and performance skill once you reach a higher level is not hard to find in Los Angeles. But one thing that I look for in performers, and Rita is one of a few that has it, is personality and unique instinct,” explains Rodrigo Varandas, one of the choreographers behind “Broadway to the Rescue.”

“I feel that her Brazilian culture makes her unique already. But she is able to incorporate American culture in her performance as well and that is just impossible to find. She mesmerized me every time she sang and danced.”

Rita Shukla is one performer who’s managed to excel as singer, actress and dancer, and while she spent years training in order to get where she is today, the natural and vibrant energy she brings to the stage is something that just can’t be taught– and it’s definitely something that has set her apart from the pack.

 

A new take on what it means to be a triple threat with Yana GoodDay

There is an unspoken understanding within the modeling community that confidence will carry you a greater distance than looks ever will; however, a healthy dose of both will help to build a strong career. Unlike most other professions, models are required to sell themselves within the promotion of a product. They strive to attract the focus and attention of consumers in order to increase awareness of particular brands, companies, products, and more. From fashion to glamor, to fitness and swimsuits, models are featured in a variety of media formats that surround us each and every day and they are an integral element of Western culture. With that, the modeling industry has gained a substantial amount of interest and following throughout history, with the number of working models growing and the amount of available jobs shrinking. It can, therefore, be argued that in today’s society, it is more difficult than ever to stand out in the modeling world and thrive amongst the industry’s top contenders. For Russian model, Yana GoodDay, on the other hand, rising to the top of her field has been a lifelong journey and today, she is taking her profession by storm.

Ever since she can remember, GoodDay has found herself energized by the idea of showcasing her unique allure before the world. As a young girl, she often caught herself daydreaming about the idea of seeing her face on magazine covers and walking down fashion runways in beautiful outfits. As she began turning her daydreams into a reality, she realized that not only were her talents rare in the modeling community, but they were transferable to other related professions. She decided to test her hand at acting for films such as Kids in the Cage and The Waiting, as well as television hosting. With time, she learned to balance the three job types in order to build a more well-rounded career. She has since landed herself a number of notable jobs as a model, actress, and television hostess. For instance, when the 2014 Olympic Games were hosted in Sochi, Russia, GoodDay earned herself a job as the hostess of the Games’ official welcoming ceremony.

Earlier that year, Dynamic Project Group Agency were selected to help with the preparation and coordination of the 2014 Sochi Olympic and Paralympic Games. For their official welcoming ceremony, which gathered nearly 3000 athletes from all 88 participating countries, Alena Kremer, of Dynamic Project Group Agency, was looking for a hostess who would provide a familiar face for Russian audiences, as well as one who would represent Russia flawlessly before the eyes of other audiences around the globe. Having formerly served as a reporter for Pro-TV, participated in countless runway fashion shows, posed for covers of well-known magazine companies, hosted national television programs, and more, Kremer was certain that GoodDay was the ideal candidate for the event.

“When we auditioned Yana to host the Olympic Games Welcoming Ceremony, she naturally and effortlessly drew the attention of everyone in the room from the moment she walked in. Her outstanding acting skills and outer beauty is only surpassed by her kind, sweet, down-to-earth nature and her astute intelligence. She is a lovely woman who just happens to be extraordinarily beautiful and talented. She was uniquely dedicated and highly qualified to work in this particularly demanding capacity. Fluent in both English and Russian, she possessed the ability to effortlessly switch languages according to the needs of the audience. Reliable, talented, and hardworking, Yana played a critical role in making this welcoming ceremony the successful event that it was,” raved Kremer, Managing Partner.

Beyond her work as an actress and a television hostess, GoodDay strives to stay true to her modeling roots whenever the opportunity arises. In fact, she honored this effort when she earned herself a role as a lead cover and promotional model for a number of VJ Dunraven Productions’ novels. VJ Dunraven Productions is a highly reputable production company, having released a number of renowned novels written by VJ Dunraven, such as The Promise, and The Captive Shifter. As a lead cover model, GoodDay has established a profound reputation for being able to adapt herself and her looks to suit any genre she is tasked with posing for.

“For the Captive Shifter, Yana posed in an effortlessly angelic stance as she gazed over her shoulder with a sense of purity that was, at once, innocent and mysterious in the most beautiful way,” told Maria Chronis, Founder, Executive Producer, and Director of VJ Dunraven Productions.

Regardless of the novel’s plot line or character basis, GoodDay has a natural affinity for attracting a reader’s attention. Her modeling compliments the contents of each novel and is undoubtedly the reason that so many readers feel compelled to find out what lies beneath her engaging covers. For GoodDay, it is a dream come true to be able to see herself on the cover of each novel and it reminds her of when she would gaze at books and magazines in stores as a child, wondering what it would be like to see her face on them one day. In fact, in the span of two years, she found her face on over 35 different novel covers published by VJ Dunraven Productions.

Being able to live out her childhood dreams is an indescribable feeling, and she considers herself extremely fortunate to be able to truly love what she does for a living. Between acting in films, hosting television shows, and modeling, she has established a remarkable career and she looks forward to building it day by day, and job by job in the future. For those aspiring to develop a reputation like GoodDay’s and to build the type of confidence necessary to accomplish what she has, GoodDay had the following to say:

“Whatever you choose to do, study that subject and its history. Dedicate yourself to it and be brave, but refrain from letting that bravery become arrogance or shamelessness. Work on yourself to be the best version of you that you can be. Finally, don’t forget to get some rest from time to time.”

A MODERN CLASSIC WITH KARLEE SQUIRES IN “SUGAR”

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In case you aren’t aware of it, vinyl outsold downloads last year and are posed to repeat the occurrence this year. That might seem counterintuitive to most readers. It’s easier to access a download and you get to pick out the specific parts that you desire rather than purchasing the entire product. What this trend tells us is that the public is beginning to realize what they forgot, that there is a difference. This same template can be applied to live theater. There is something about the experience, the sound, the energy, and obviously the momentary performances that are created by the entertainers who take part in this classic medium. While Broadway has never gone away, the plethora of touring companies that used to blanket the country and beyond have dwindled. As with vinyl, the “real” thing is starting to make a resurgence, much to the delight of an excited public. Entertainers who can do it all, such as Canadian Karlee Squires are more in demand than in decades. It takes great talent, commitment, and a love of the uncertainty of each performance that drives Squires and this new generation of talented live performers who act, dance, and sing. Even Hollywood and television is taking part in this trend as more and more productions of this kind are seen on both the big and small screens. For Karlee, this is simply more proof that the path she has chosen was well worth the effort it has taken.

“Sugar” is based on the classic comedy “Some Like It Hot” starring Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, and Jack Lemmon in 1959. The music for “Sugar” is by Jule Styne, lyrics by Bob Merrill, and the book is by Peter Stone. Set in 1920’s Chicago, the story follows two unemployed musicians, Joe and Jerry, who witness the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre by Spats Palazzo and his gang. The boys go undercover to get out of Chicago, dressing as women and joining an all-girl band, Sweet Sue and Her Society Syncopators, who are travelling to Florida. Joe takes the name Josephine and falls in love with the band’s singer, Sugar. Meanwhile, Jerry (now Daphne) catches the attention of a wealthy, elderly man named Osgood Fielding, Jr. Karlee appears as Mary Lou early in the plays as Mary Lou leaves the band, figuratively opening the door for Sugar. As proof of her talent and malleability, Squires then appears as Olga and stays in this character for the remainder of the play. In a particularly hilarious scene, while on the train to Miami for the band’s gig, Olga asks Jerry/Daphne to help her fix the bra strap that fell down her shirt. Jerry/Daphne has to reach down her shirt, fumble around until he finds it and tie it back together. It’s a featured comedy skit in Sugar and goes on for quite a few minutes. The character Olga is unaware of what’s happening, as Jerry/Daphne is having too much fun, and the audience roars with laughter. The show heats up when Spats Palazzo and his gang show up in Miami and figure out that the girls are actually boys.

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Squires performance in “Sugar” belies the curt amount of time she had to prepare. She had twenty-five hours to learn script, blocking, and choreography. The nature of theater is that it can often change at a moment’s notice which makes being a quick learner a substantial attribute. The intensity of learning so much so quickly was offset by the pleasure of being surrounded by an incredible cast and crew. Two time Tony-award-winner Robert Morse shared his stories of performing with the cast and gave direction and encouragement to Karlee during the play’s run. Producer/Production Coordinator Eileen Barnett notes, “It was hard not to notice Karlee; there she was on alongside actors from some of the biggest stages in the world, from Broadway, to the West End to national tours; some even being Tony and Drama Desk nominated, and she was enchanting. She is mature beyond her years. Karlee does all of the preparation and rehearsal that any consummate professional does but she is also always looking for a new way to add something. She has talent and drive which is an outstanding combination; one which was very evident to all of us in Sugar.”

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The method for any art form, including musical theater, to move forward is by using one’s talent to push yourself forward by learning from those before you. Karlee Squires is surrounded by her peers and those of legendary status of previous decades. Enabled with a skill set that encompasses the heart of the great musical theater tradition, she is on the forefront of the new generation that carries the torch into the modern era and its productions. As the attendees of “Sugar” can confirm, it’s going to be exciting to watch.