Category Archives: Canadian Star

Canadian Actor Nigel Vonas: Far More Than the Average Bad Boy

From his role as a cunning and egotistical prisoner who is hated throughout the kingdom for killing the king’s son in the mythological drama series “Olympus”, to a dark and brooding demon in the premiere episode of the hit series “Supernatural” season 10, Nigel Vonas is an actor whose ability to tap into dark and meaty roles has put him on everyone’s hot list. A shoe in for the bad guy role, the Canadian born actor has taken on an impressive list of characters over the years, appearing in practically every hit series on network television.

Audiences across North America and much of Europe have also had the opportunity to watch Vonas display his dynamic talent as a natural bad boy on screen in the Leo and Prism Award winning series “Arrow,” the Primetime Emmy nominated sci-fi series “Falling Skies,” FOX’s “Almost Human,” Showcase’s Gemini Award winning series “Continuum,” the action packed crime drama “True Justice” and many more.

In the past decade Vonas has transformed himself into the skin of hardened criminals, hired guns, unscrupulous thieves and mysterious demons– to put it simply, any character known for striking fear in onlookers is one that Vonas has probably brought to life at one point or another in his career.

In season one episode nine of Syfy’s “Olympus,” appropriately titled “Pandora’s Tomb,” Vonas gave a brilliant performance acting alongside Graham Shiels (“Guardians of the Galaxy,” “Yes Man,” “General Hospital”) who plays King Aegeus and Wayne Burns (“Murdoch Mysteries,” “Mr. D”) who plays Aegeus’ son Lykos. When Lykos, who is merely trying to protect his father and help him keep his identity a secret as he sits in prison, gets into a heated brawl with Vonas’ character, things take a turn for the worse for Lykos, who is clearly no match for Vonas’ character and is ultimately killed by him.

About the role Vonas explains, “This character is the one that really brings out both the weakness of King Aegeus, and also his belief that his ruling of the people comes before the love of family. His unwillingness to protect his son, or to even show any love or empathy when his son is dying from the wounds he received when trying to protect his father from my attack, shows the king’s lack of care for family or perhaps even his heritage.”

So much can be said about actors and the methods they explore in order to prepare for a given role. From adapting his posture to creating the right mannerisms to fit his characters, the amount of effort that Vonas has put into crafting his believable bad boy image in all of these characters is easily overlooked due to the fact that he is just so good at it. Aside from just being a talented actor though, Vonas’ humble nature and ability to trust and hold space for his fellow actors, allows true connections to form on screen, and is one of the reason why he has become such a success over the years.

 

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Still of Nigel Vonas on “Supernatural”

 

About his work on “Supernatural,” Vonas admits, “I was given the opportunity to work with an incredible director and crew. Jensen Ackles, who plays the lead role of Dean Winchester, is incredible to work with. He is so relaxed and so connected to all of the actors he works with, which made my work so easy. All I had to do was listen and he gave me everything I needed as an actor to bring this character to life. This was a great role in the story, because I believe I was able to bring out even more of the cocky side of Ackles’ character. Even more so than he already was at this point in the story.”

Getting his start in Vancouver B.C, back in 2002, Vonas quickly discovered that acting is what he was meant to do. His dedication to his craft and the relentless drive to push himself to grow helped his career skyrocket with astonishing speed.

“I work very hard at my craft in order to be ready for any acting opportunity that comes my way. I learned very early in my career that you better be ready when the door opens, or you may miss out on something very big,” explains Vonas.

After getting his feet wet on set, shooting a Disney commercial, the actor quickly landed his first TV role as Ryk’l on “Stargate SG-1” back in 2003, before going on to land a series of pivotal roles in films including “The Chronicles of Riddick,” “The Gutter Diaries,” “Thralls,” “Chaos” and “The Harvest Project.”

Anyone who knows Vonas personally will recognize beyond a shadow of a doubt that the actor is the exact opposite of most of the characters he plays; but for him, that is all part of the excitement of acting. His role as Cisco in Ron Oliver’s vampire horror film “Thralls” is the perfect example of just how dedicated Vonas is to abandoning himself and fearlessly tapping into his character, no matter how repulsive they may be.

He recalls, “Getting to play such a cocky character was an interesting experience. I consider myself a very calm person, so this role was quite a challenge. I have always preferred playing characters that are the least like the person I am in life. Those roles are the most challenging. This one was definitely one of them. Day after day I was challenged on set to make sure I was doing justice to this character. But I have to admit, it was kind of fun making many of the other actors squirm at my character’s behavior at times.”

Starring alongside Golden Globe nominee Lorenzo Lamas (“Grease”), Leah Cairns (“Interstellar,” “88 Minutes”) and Siri Baruc (“Writer’s Block,” “Law & Order”), Vonas portrayed his womanizing character Cisco perfectly. Not only did he turn him into a character that audiences easily love to hate, but Vonas’ ability to show his character’s over the top cocky side also allowed the female vampires’ witty, dominating and all around superiority to shine through effortlessly.

Being a great actor is more than just being able to give a great performance, it’s about being able to hold space for other actors, to trust them and give yourself to the story with vulnerability– and Nigel Vonas is one of the rare few who is able to do this with total grace.

Up next for Vonas is FOX’s highly anticipated revival of the television cult favorite “Prison Break,” which went off the air in 2009 and is slated to return to television for its fifth season at some point in spring 2017. The actor has already begun shooting episodes for the new season with the rest of the cast, and although little has been disclosed, we do know that Vonas’ recurring role on the show will draw upon his talent for playing the kind of role that very few will want to mess with.

You can check out the trailer for the show, which was released earlier this week, below:

 

 

Prolific Dancer Brings all the right moves to A World Fit for Kids!

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Latoya Webley has for more than a decade been one of the world’s premier dancers. She has performed with star music artists including Rihanna, Drake and Shakira, and brings her expertise to noted organizations such as A World Fit for Kids!

BY JEREMY CURTIS

 

Toronto-born dancer Latoya Webley has graced many of the world’s biggest stages and performed with superstars Rihanna, Drake, Shakira, the Black Eyed Peas and more over the last 16 years. She’s dispatched her outstanding concoction of dancehall, African, Soca, hip-hop and street jazz dance styles internationally, on tour and for music industry leading events including the Grammy Awards, BET Awards and Much Music Video Awards, to name a few. Webley’s dance career has been characterized by persisting success that’s spanned from North America to Asia, propelling her to a coveted position at the pinnacle of the industry in which many strive for and few achieve.

Webley’s indelible, sought after talent keeps her name rolling off the lips of artists, choreographers, decision makers and audiences aplenty. But there’s a lesser known chapter of her story that’s of essential importance to her career and journey as a dancer. Webley dedicates a segment of her craft in giving back through teaching, guiding, mentoring, inspiring and empowering youth through dance. She has the rare ability to make her moves move others.

The trend can be traced back to her own origins when Webley first began dancing and teaching at community centers around Toronto, including the East Scarborough Boys and Girls Club. And since 2013, she’s engaged the same for A World Fit for Kids! (WFIT), an afterschool expanded learning program based in Los Angeles.

For the community based non-profit, Webley teaches a dance program for Virgil Middle School students that’s complete with educating in fitness, health and nutrition.

WFIT program director Ian Keiller said, “We’re a community-based non-profit in the afterschool world. With the resources we have, to have that top notch talent, it’s very difficult. We felt honored to have someone of her caliber working with her our kids.”

Webley said, “These are all life skills. It’s not all just dance. It’s a fitness package. It’s a life package.”

Founded after the 1992 Los Angeles Riots, WFIT provides award-winning, daily programs at Title I schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District, where 84 percent of students come from economically disadvantaged homes, according to WFIT’s website. Programs are for students of every grade level in elementary, middle and high schools. Parents get in on the action too. Programs feature core areas of physical activity, nutrition, academics and mentoring.

The goal is to promote physical, mental and emotional wellness, and the goals have been met. WFIT received the Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports Gold Medal award and a National Community Leadership Award from the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition.

CEO Normandie Nigh explains on WFIT’s website that WFIT has brought more than $46 million to underserved LA communities, served more than 300,000 children and young people, trained over 10,000 teachers and staff and employed more than 2,900 local community residents. WFIT has also trained more than 1,500 Nike employees as physical activity volunteer leaders and Community Ambassadors, as well as others in the U.K., Australia, Canada, France and South Korea.

“What I really like about World Fit is throughout the year we do various training that tackles different aspects of health and wellness,” said Webley, who more recently is participating with the program’s Nike training extension. “As much as people may think I know, I’m always a student and learning. They always have ongoing programs that inform us on what’s new and healthy, and what we should be doing. It’s not only for us to teach the kids, it’s also for our self-awareness.”

Webley developed the dance program that serves Virgil Middle School, located north of Koreatown. Her students undergo a training program to begin and rotate different activities for different days ranging from health, fitness and nutrition that each supplement dance instruction.

“We strive to improve kids’ grades, get them to build friendships, physically release energy and sharpen problem solving skills,” she said. “We demand that from them and they have to maintain grades to participate.”

The program, which runs throughout school years, draws student dancers of all skill levels from beginners to those experienced. Some go on to compete at dance events such as Beyond the Bell and Sharp International at Knott’s Berry Farm.

“There is an array of all skill levels, so we have to create a program that has balance,” said Webley. “We start off by assessing where the kids are at. We teach routines to them. The bulk of the routines are usually hip hop, but we incorporate other styles like dancehall, breaking, African, jazz and ballet. Aside from dancing, there’s also running and strength training. We incorporate elements of stretching, flexibility and acrobatics, and we encourage kids to participate in the dance teams at their schools.”

The WFIT dance team from Virgil Middle School is this year’s Beyond the Bell reigning champion.

“She’s got a great presence and rapport with kids,” Keiller said of Webley. “She was the right temperament for middle school. It’s a tough age group to reach.”

Webley has been serving in similar roles for years. She currently choreographs for the Los Angeles SparKids, the official kids dance team of the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks, along with dancer Brandee Evans. She has taught dance at the Osaka School of Music in Japan and conducted dance workshops at Osaka’s Myster Dance Studio, AX Dance studio, Alley Opp Dance Studio and the Unity Dance Studio in Hiroshima.

Webley’s music video debut came in Sean Paul’s “Temperature/Breakout” video in 2005. She danced in Rihanna’s first video, “Pon de Replay,” in Drake’s first video, “Replacement Girl” and in the Diddy, Lenny Kravitz, Pharrell Williams video, “Show Me Your Soul.”

Webley danced in many recurring performances with the internationally famed singer, Shakira, including her “She Wolf” promo tour, NBA All-Star Weekend performance, Yahoo and Clear Channel shows, on George Lopez Tonight, Good Morning America, The Late Show with David Letterman, So You Think You Can Dance (USA) and at the 2009 American Music Awards.

She has danced and toured with Kardinal Offishall, who opened in part of the 2005 50 Cent and G-Unit tour. Webley has also toured with Sean Paul, JoJo and Jamie Foxx in America, and with Destra Garcia in Trinidad and Tobago. While working in Japan, she danced at the 2009 Japan MTV Music Video Awards with the Black Eyed Peas.

This year, Webley danced in Rihanna’s smash hit video, “Work” featuring Drake, and she’s featured in a forthcoming Drake video that recently filmed. Last year, Webley danced in Will Smith and Bomba Estereo’s “Fiesta (remix)” video and at the Latin Grammy Awards with Fifth Harmony and Maluma.

Keiller credited Webley’s credentials as an asset to her work with WFIT and said the students “respond to people who really know what they’re talking about.”

It’s all collectively made for a positive experience that Webley helps cultivate.

“Her teams were always top notch, very organized and not only good performers, but a good group of kids,” said Keiller. “That stems from the leadership and the example she demonstrated. She was able to give them something to strive for to give them focus, keep them committed and set goals for themselves to strive to do their best.”

Wardrobe Stylist Kirsten Reader Works on TIME’s Famous Cover

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TIME Magazine is perhaps one of the most universally recognized magazines around the world. Steve Jobs, Princess Diana, Obama, Einstein, and JFK are just a few famous and world changing faces that have graced the covers of this prestigious publication. But with each every famous cover, there is a team behind it. 

Canadian fashion director and wardrobe stylist Kirsten Readers knows this, as she styled TIME’s July 2013 cover “How Can Service Save Us” for the magazine’s annual national service issue.

“I don’t think anyone would turn down an opportunity to work with a publication like TIME magazine. They are iconic and recognized around the world,” said Reader. “For me it was such an honor and an accomplishment I will always be proud of.

The TIME article featured military veterans to talk about what happens to them post service. 

“I had to source authentic United States Military fatigues that would have been worn during the current war in Afghanistan,” described Reader. “We had to ensure that we honored the veterans who were participating in the current crises, as that was the focus of the article.”

Although the TIME magazine editorial crew is located in New York City, the shoot took place at the Westside Studios in Toronto, and therefore Reader worked with a very small team.

“The photographer Andrew B Myers and I made sure we got the overall vision TIME had requested taken care of,” said Reader. “Working with Andrew and TIME was a dream come true. Everyone was an absolute pleasure and yet another job I felt lucky to be a part of.” 

Reader had her work cut out for her. Having the shoot in Toronto created some unexpected challenges. 

“Ensuring to source the correct military service fatigues here in Toronto was a bit of a challenge, but one I truly relished succeeding at,” she said.

And succeed she did. Reader’s styling caught the attention of many high profile people in the entertainment industry, and allowed her to increase her connections.

 “She achieved a cover profiling models as veterans in a respectful light dressed in authentic current military wardrobe,” said filmmaker and television producer Jonas Bell Pasht. “This level of respect for real veterans while still working on achieving a dynamic cover is why Kristen is so often sought after for these central and critical projects. She is not only capable of delivering the message but also helping to ensure it is done in the most memorable and respectful way.”

 “For any stylist to be selected to work on the cover of such a widely distributed and entrusted publication within the journalism world is a massive accomplishment as a stylist that cannot be undervalued or understated,” said Odessa Paloma Parker, the fashion editor of The Globe and Mail, one of Canada’s largest circulating newspapers. 

 Reader remembers the shoot as one of the quickest she ever participated on.

 “The shoot itself was a half day with a day of preparation prior to ensure we had lots to work with to do the veterans justice,” described Reader.

 The cover is something Reader can, and always will be, proud of.

 “This was an amazing project to be a part of,” said Reader. “TIME is an iconic publication and never one I thought I would have the chance to style for, as it is a news publication so it was truly a once in a lifetime opportunity.”

For the multitalented Zoe Cleland, acting ‘never seemed like a choice’

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Actress Zoe Cleland has shined in her roles in “How to Plan an Orgy in a Small Town,” “Murdoch Mysteries,” “Reign” and more.

 

 

For Canadian actress Zoe Cleland, the journey began on the stage, advanced to the screen and has featured her becoming many memorable characters across comedy, drama, mystery and more.

“I think every time I do a new project, I grow as an actor and as a human being,” she said. “One of the things I love about acting is that it’s not static. Every job requires me to expand myself and my vision of the world.”

Her own story is one characterized by ambition, talent and success. She began performing for theatrical productions as a child and made her TV debut on “Murdoch Mysteries” at the age of 15. By the age of 17, Cleland was among a dozen actors – and the youngest ever – to be chosen for the National Theatre School of Canada, a milestone selection into her home country’s top conservatory training program.

“I literally knew I wanted to be an actress when I was about 5,” Cleland said. “It never seemed like a choice to me. It was always just part of who I was. For about a year, when I was really little, I used to watch “The Wizard of Oz” every day and told everyone at my school that my name was Dorothy! My parents took me to a lot of theatre as a kid. They would take me to the Stratford Festival every year and I remember that being the first time I started thinking of acting as a profession beyond playing dress-up at home. I remember being about 4 years old and seeing a production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” that seemed like the most magical thing on earth.”

Cleland, a Toronto-born talent, is classically trained and among her performing arsenal, she’s studied dramatic combat and is well versed in singing, dialects and accents including British, Irish, Scottish and American.

While attending the National Theatre School, Cleland starred in eight productions at the conservatory including her own self-written solo show, “Drawing White,” and in a production of Anton Chekhov’s “Three Sisters,” in the role of Irina, one of the sisters.

“I also played the Fool in “King Lear,” which was a lot of fun. Sometimes just doing scene work in a lot of detail was most rewarding,” said Cleland. “The great thing about theatre school is that they give you so much time to just totally dive into things and pick everything apart as much as you want, so sometimes just doing scene study was great because you got the chance to look at something from every possible angle.”

The training and experience helped groom Cleland, 24, into a dynamic, well-rounded and brilliant actress with a world of authenticity and performing charisma.

“I think in all honesty going to theatre school taught me more about how I am as a person than any one thing about acting,” she said. “I went when I was really young, 17-19, so I was really still just trying to figure out who I was. The whole thing was such an intense experience and it changed me so much. I think overall it taught me to trust my own internal guidance system and let that lead me in my work, rather than looking to the outside for someone to tell me what I should do.”

Cleland later went on to star in the theatre productions of “Wishes of This & the Other Thing” directed by Rose Plotek and “The Chimes” directed by Nancy Palk. In 2013, Cleland received the Theatre Centre Emerging Artist Award at the Summerworks Festival for her starring role in “Girls! Girls! Girls!” directed by Donna Marie Baratta and Jessica Carmichael. The play is about a group of 14-year-olds who one night decide to attack one of their peers.

“It is written in a poetic, playful style that makes it kind of otherworldly,” Cleland said. “I played Jam, who is a follower just trying to fit in and be liked. She ends up getting in way over her head in the violence that her friends are perpetrating. She struggles with her integrity when she realizes that they have gone too far.”

Parlaying her strong theatre background into TV recognition, Cleland went on to land recurring roles on the CW’s fantasy drama series, “Reign,” starring Adelaide Kane and Megan Follows, and Bite TV’s comedy series, “Guidance” starring Rob Baker.

Millie Tom has worked in the casting of more than 50 films and 19 different TV titles including “A History of Violence,” “The Incredible Hulk” and “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.” She said, “I have known Zoe since she was 15 years old, when she first started auditioning. I believe she has a unique, magnetic quality that lends itself perfectly to film and television. I cast her in two projects since she graduated the National Theatre School, one being “Guidance,” a comedy series about three inept guidance counselors working in a high school.”

In five episodes of “Guidance,” Cleland played Morgan, a student who approaches the counselors for help.

“She was so good as Morgan, a precocious teenager who was being bullied,” Tom said. “She nailed her role as the ‘straight man’ to Rob Baker, who played opposite her, while at the same time pulling off the comedic timing that made the show a success.”

Cleland kept the momentum going and booked roles on the History Channel’s “Brainwashed,” Craig Macnaughton’s comedy webseries, “Pay Up” and in the hit supernatural medical drama, “Saving Hope” starring Erica Durance.

Most recently, Cleland returned for a guest starring role in “Murdoch Mysteries,” for the episode – “Raised on Robbery” – that aired in January on the CBC. She also made her feature film debut in writer-director Jeremy LaLonde’s comedy, “How to Plan an Orgy in a Small Town,” that’s been screening on the independent film circuit and won Best Feature and Best Ensemble awards at the 2016 Canadian Filmmakers’ Festival. The film stars Jewel Staite, Lauren Lee Smith and Lauren Holly.

“I loved the sense that we were all collaborating and making something together, and that everyone’s thoughts were valued and taken into consideration,” Cleland said.

We’re excited to see Zoe Cleland in many future roles to come. Check out Zoe’s work on Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/zoecleland and follow her on Twitter: https://twitter.com/ZoeCleland

 

 

 

Actress Alison Balnar Stars in Film Headed to Cannes

When Canadian actress Alison Balnar first stepped on stage, it was to play the classic role of Dorothy in Wizard of Oz. At the time, she was ten years old, with big dreams and a life ahead of her. Now, she is a part of a film headed to the Cannes Short Film Corner.

Balnar believes that going to Cannes will give the film, 60 Eight, the recognition it deserves.

“It’s one of the most prestigious international film festivals and will provide a great platform for a fantastic film,” she said. “I feel that the filmmaker, Raja, and the film itself are very worthy of this platform.”

60 Eight follows the life of John, who at the age of eight gets stuck in a lengthy comatose/minimally conscious state. It exposes the life and relationships surrounding John. Balnar plays the role of Sarah, John’s best friend. Sarah is captured at three different ages since the film focuses on the 52 years that John is in a coma. Balnar portrays Sarah at the age of 18.

“It feels great to be involved with a project with such a touching story,” said Balnar. “Raja was a terrific person to work with and was the driving force behind finding and using the vulnerability that was required to portray Sarah.”

The film was written and directed by Raja Pothineni, and stars Matt Jayson, Reginald Span, Lucas Zaffari, Laine Hannon and Denah Angel.

Balnar was extremely dedicated to an accurate portrayal of Sarah right from the beginning, said director Raja Pothineni.

“It was great working with Alison. In the very first meeting, we talked about how 60 eight was going to be a film that tried to portray the lives of its characters as authentically as possible, and the work that would need to go in to be able to pull that off,” said Pothineni. “Right from the start, I could see that Alison was dedicated in bringing her character to life and her talent lets her play complex characters while hiding the effort it takes to create them.”

Pothineni also said that Balnar’s attitude and commitment allowed for a smoother production.

“During the shoot, her commitment to the moment and her fellow actors meant that I had to give very minimal direction, and on the edit table, I was very glad to find her maintain her rhythm across shots and takes,” he said.

For Balnar however, the film is about the story it tells and the life lessons that are conveyed.

“I think that this film is filled with many valuable lessons and Raja does a beautiful job in capturing them,” said Balnar. “One lesson that resonates with me is the power of love. John is consistently loved throughout his life even though he is put in extraordinary circumstances. I think that this film reminds the audience of this force of love and puts life into perspective.”

Playing the character of Sarah has given Balnar the chance show audiences her versatility by playing a very vulnerable character.

“As an actress, each role and character is unique. It requires you to look into different emotions and experiences and translate them to find parts of the character,” she said. “When you combine my exploration of the character with the director’s openness to my interpretation, it gives me total freedom to perform. As an actress, that is a great gift.”

The role did not come without it’s difficulties. Her character is in an extraordinary circumstance that needed to be displayed effectively on screen, and Balnar stepped up the the task.

“A challenge I had with the character, Sarah, was finding the right colours in my performance that captured exactly how she felt,” she said. “It was a matter of how to authentically capture what her character was feeling given these extraordinary circumstances. I needed to find a balance of both strength and weakness within her and have that translate on camera.”

Although Balnar is only portraying the character of Sarah for a portion of the film, she is able to capture her story and the character’s feelings in a way she feels many will be able to relate to.

“When I play Sarah, she is 18 years old and moving to college. She needs to let go of John and accept his fate in order to move forward with her life. Sarah of course takes care of herself and lets go of her dedicated visits to John in the hospital. It’s her struggle of coming to that decision and moving forward with life that I can relate to. Sarah is growing up and facing decisions that will ultimately affect her life for the better or worse,” she said. “I think this is a struggle that is not only relatable to me, but so many other millennials.”

60 Eight premieres May 16 at the Cannes Short Film Corner.

Tom Stevens brings ‘A Reckoning’ to Fox’s hit psychological thriller ‘Wayward Pines’

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Tom Stevens

Canadian actor Tom Stevens has risen to the pinnacle of film and TV for his many critical roles in titles such as the WWE’s feature action movie, “12 Rounds 2: Reloaded,” Hallmark’s drama series, “Cedar Cove” and Fox’s family comedy, “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days.”

His achievements in TV are marked by occupying role after role in many leading, acclaimed shows including “Smallville,” “Psych,” “Supernatural,” “Arrow,” “Falling Skies,” “Motive” and more.

Continuing in the same coveted direction, Stevens debuted toward the end of Season 1 in Fox’s breakout hit series, “Wayward Pines.” His acting in the role of Jason Higgins punctuated again his place among today’s top working actors and evidenced the reason why his name is rolling off the lips of many industry-leading decision makers and audiences everywhere.

The psychological thriller series, based on the “Wayward Pines” novels by Blake Crouch, was developed for TV by Chad Hodge. It follows the story of a Secret Service agent Ethan Burked (Matt Dillon) who goes to Wayward Pines, Idaho, in search of two agents who have gone missing.

In no time, Ethan learns it’s himself too who may not survive the seemingly idyllic rural town. Its inhabitants are trapped in Wayward Pines and governed by authoritarian Sheriff Arnold Pope (Terrence Howard). Those who try to escape are sentenced to a public execution called a reckoning.

Stevens unleashed Jason on “Wayward Pines” in Season 1 Episode 9, “A Reckoning.” The episode centers on Ethan’s interrogation of Harold Bollinger (Reed Diamond) and on three young men from the “Class One of the Academy.” Leading the Class One trio is Jason, and they storm a jail in an effort to reckon Harold and his wife, Kate Hewson (Carla Gugino), Franklin Dobbs (Ian Tracey) and two others.

“It’s the kind of character I always want to play,” Stevens said. “On the outside, he looks clean and proper, but on the inside, he’s an animal.”

The “Class One of the Academy” operated under the leadership of David Pilcher (Toby Jones), a scientist who founded Wayward Pines. “In this episode,” Stevens said, “Jason represented all the teachings that Pilcher has implemented on these kids. It’s a totalitarian regime implemented on small town American perfection.”

Of Jason’s characterization, Stevens explained, “I don’t want this guy to have taken a breath until he pulls the trigger for the first time. Being suffocated by society, until you get to kill, that was the sociopath I wanted to play.”

In the episode, Jason executes all of his targets except Kate, as she survives thanks to Ethan. “He saves the day at the last second,” Stevens said. “Ethan ends up coming in and shooting me.”

The role called for Stevens to act alongside Gugino for the first time, and to execute the peaking climax where he shoots her husband. Gugino starred last year in “San Andreas” and has acted in many other blockbusters such as the “Spy Kids” trilogy, “Night at the Museum,” “Watchmen” and “Sin City.”

Stevens said of Gugino, “She was a consummate professional. She was there to make the best thing possible. In every single take, she was fantastic. I had to step my game up and I felt so blessed to be around those guys.”

Filmed in Vancouver and broadcast July 16, 2015, “A Reckoning” was directed by the award-winning Nimród Antal, who directed such films as “Kontroll,” “Vacancy” and “Predators.”

“He was a rock star,” Stevens said. “It felt like being on stage at a rock show. He would come in and have so much fire in him. He would get everyone involved and everyone gets infused with passion.”

Stevens reprised Jason as he wound up surviving and appeared again in Episode 10 – “Cycle.”

“Wayward Pines” premiered last May, finished its smash debut season by July and was ordered by Fox for a second season that’s to premiere this summer.

The series has also starred Oscar winner Melissa Leo (“The Fighter”) and Oscar nominee Juliette Lewis (“Cape Fear”).

The “Wayward Pines” pilot was directed by M. Knight Shyamalan, a two-time Oscar nominee known best for “The Sixth Sense.” Shyamalan also executive produces the series. The show’s first 10 episodes have reached nearly 63 million viewers in more than 126 countries.

Actress Sidney Leeder Draws Us In

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Actress Sidney Leeder shot by Taylor McKay

 

For an actor, much of the work that goes into physically becoming a certain character comes down to identifying and creating their mannerisms, idiosyncrasies and the way they carry themselves. Movement in itself is a form of communication, something Canadian actress Sidney Leeder knows all about.

Audiences across continents will recognize Leeder from her roles in the films Debug, The Hazing Secret, Salem Falls, and Goon, as well as the hit television shows Beauty and the Beast, Reign, Lost Girl, Debra, Alphas and more; but prior to becoming the sought after actress she is today, Leeder was a professional dancer.

The grace and flawless movement that she brings her characters to life with on screen makes it easy to see that her extensive training as a dancer has made her a more intuitive and dynamic performer than most of her contemporaries.

In the 2011 Lifetime film Salem Falls, an adaption of Jodi Picoult’s 2001 novel of the same name, audiences had the opportunity to see Leeder in the pivotal role of Catherine, a young teen who falls in love with her teacher and subsequently turns his life upside down when she claims rape. Directed by Bradley Walsh (The Listener, Turn the Beat Around), the film follows Jack McBradden played by James Van Der Beek (Dawson’s Creek), a high school teacher who tries to make a new life for himself in Salem Falls after Leeder’s character tarnishes his reputation.

Unfortunately for Jack, his past comes out and turns the whole town of Salem Falls against him except for the one woman, Addie Peabody played by Sarah Carter (Falling Skies, Rogue), who goes to great lengths to track down Catherine and prove Jack’s innocence.

Although Salem Falls was one of the earlier films in Leeder’s career her performance comes across as that of a seasoned veteran.

“In one of the most pivotal scenes of the film I confess to lying about my alleged affair with professor… The scene takes place while walking down a long passageway. It was lengthy and revealing dialogue that required serious mental concentration. This character was also a challenge to play, as she needed to have just the right balance of maturity and naivety,” recalled Leeder.

“Prior to shooting I talked a lot with director Bradley Walsh about the characters motivation and significance. Having the opportunity to delve into such a complex character so early on in my career was an amazing challenge.”

Leeder’s career continued to skyrocket after the release of Salem Falls with the actress going on to land multiple guest star roles on television shows such as Life with Boys, The L.A. Complex, Degrassi: The Next Generation and Satisfaction. In 2014 she was cast to star in another Lifetime movie, The Hazing Secret, where she took on the riveting role of Melissa.

The storyline of the film revolves around the death of Leeder’s character Melissa, a naïve college freshman who makes out with the boyfriend of one of the sister’s of the sorority she’s pledging. Nancy, the sorority leader, revives the old practice of hazing in order to punish Melissa for her mistake, but when she locks Melissa in a coffin the young pledge suffocates and ultimately pays the price with her life.

Over the course of the film, Megan, one of the sorority sisters who is played by Gemini Award winner Shenae Grimes-Beech (90210, Scream 4), makes it her mission to expose the crime and the truth about Melissa’s tragic death. The film, which was directed by Jonathan Wright (Nostrum, A Very Merry Mix-Up), was nominated for an award from the Directors Guild of Canada earlier this year.

If there was ever any question over Leeder’s emotional capacity as an actress her knockout performance in The Hazing Secret proves that she can bring the waterworks with natural believability and make an audience feel for her character like the best actors in the industry.

 

DEBUG POSTER
Poster for the film “Debug”

 

Last year Leeder also starred as Lara alongside Adrian Holmes (The Cabin in the Woods, Elsium), Kjartan Hewitt (Capote), Jeananne Goossen (The Vow, The Night Shift) and Jason Moma (Game of Thrones) in David Hewlett’s (A Dog’s Breakfast, Rage of the Yeti) sci-fi horror film Debug.

Convicted of eco-terrorism, Leeder’s character Lara, along with five others, are placed into a work program aboard a dilapidated spaceship where they are assigned the task of debugging the ship’s artificial intelligence, but their job aboard the ship proves to be far more dangerous than simple computer hacking.

“Lara is very intuitive right from the get go. She warns the others that something about this mission feels wrong and explains that she is sensitive to the energy of her surroundings but is ignored,” explained Leeder. 

When Iam, the ship’s AI played by Moma, feels the threat of annihilation, he begins fighting back in surprising ways killing most of the hackers aboard the ship including Leeder’s character Lara. Lara’s death is one of the most shocking of all as she is virtually raped to death.

Thinking that she is going to try out a kinky method of virtual fraternization with Mel, her beau on the ship played by Hewitt, Lara follows the ships orders and enters its sensory system not realizing that Iam is luring her into a trap.

“She is asked to remove her clothing and enter a pool of crystal clear liquid. As she does this she is transported virtually to a blood stained prison cell where Iam awaits her. It is there that he, and every other man who has set foot on the ship rape and beat her to death,” said Leeder.

“While mentally she is in this virtual reality, Lara’s physical body is actually drowning in the sensory system pool she entered. By the time Mel finds her it is too late and she is already dead.”

From playing the catty teen girls everyone loves to hate to the sweet and innocent girl next door and everything in between, including a psycho serial killer in the film The Killer, Sidney Leeder has revealed herself as an artist with exponential talent. She also recently finished filming multi-award winning director Rachel Meyer’s film Lunch, which premiered at the Beverly Hills Playhouse Film Festival last month.

“Being on a film set is one of my favorite places. It’s like stepping directly into a storybook. Acting gives me a natural high and allows me to explore myself, connect with others and imagine endless possibilities. I act because not acting simply isn’t an option. The need to perform and create has lived inherently in me for as long as I can remember,” admits Leeder.

 

Showstopper Tate McRae Has Our Attention!

Rob Daly Phot2
Canadian Star Tate McRae shot by Rob Daly Photography

From contemporary dance to jazz and ballet, 12-year-old Tate McRae is a force to be reckoned with whose performances on stage and in film are impossible to take your eyes away from. The young star, whose become quite a celebrity in the Canadian entertainment industry over the last few years for her far reaching talent as an actress, dancer and singer, has achieved unparalleled diversity in her career.

Tate began dancing at the age of 6, and by the time she was 8 years old her beloved hobby had turned into a full-fledged career. Her ability to move her physical being and embody the music she dances to with the utmost skill and grace is astonishing. As a dance competitor, she is a tough opponent for any dancer to go up against, but she doesn’t dance for the awards as much as she dances for the underlying reason that performing is a part of her soul. It is something that she was born to do.

She admits, “Even in my spare time I chose to do something that has to do with the arts. I am always singing or dancing around or listening to music! I have been like that since I was a little girl. Even before I took lessons I was always putting on shows!”

Some of Tate’s dance accomplishments to date include winning the Junior Best Dancer Award at The Dance Awards in 2015, the Silver Medal Solo Award and Bronze Medal Pas De Deux Award at the 2015 YAGP (Youth America Grand Prix) finals in NYC, 2014 NYCDA (New York City Dance Alliance) National 1st Runner Up Mini Outstanding Dancer, and Mini National Best Dancer Award at The Dance Awards in 2013.

She was also selected as one of the few dancers to be a part of DancerPalooza’s Beat Squad, a group of America’s top competitive dance soloists selected to perform on the Hall of Fame Performance stage during DancerPalooza in California in 2014 and 2015.

Earlier this year she also performed at the Rule The World NUVO Closing Show in Calgary, Canada, which you can check out below.

 

Tate’s undeniable skill backed by her reputation as an extraordinary dancer has also benefitted her in her career as an actress. After signing with her current agency, Stars Academy Talent, several years ago, she began landing leading roles in television shows, films and commercials.

She explains, “I got into acting through my dancing and singing. I love musical theater and had to learn to develop characters for my songs… The same day I got an agent I booked a job doing voice overs for the show Lalaloopsy!”

As an actress Tate is known for her work as the voice of Spot Splatter Splash on the highly successful animated series Lalaloopsy, which aired on Nickelodeon and Nick Jr. in the U.S. and on Treehouse TV in Canada before moving to Family Jr. in 2014.

Aside from starring in 17 episodes of the popular children’s series, she also starred in the Lalaloopsy: Band Together video, which was released in August, the 2014 Lalaloopsy Ponies: The Big Show film and the 2013 Lala-Oopsies: A Sew Magical Tale video.

Last year she was a featured actress in Toyota’s commercial “Can’t Win Everything – Prairie Pageant.” Earlier this year she gave a dazzling contemporary dance performance in a music video for the CASBY and four-time Canadian Radio Music Award winning band Walk Off The Earth’s hit single “Rule the World.” In addition to being featured in promotional dance videos for Triple Flip, and modeling for dance companies including Capezio and Twear, Capezio also sponsors for her work as a dancer.

Tate admits, “Dancing has helped me with my career as an actor because I have made so many more connections through dance. The 2 worlds really do cross over. Dance has given me lots of confidence and has made me really comfortable performing. I do not get nervous when I am asked to recite lines or play a character.”

If her skill as an actress and a dancer wasn’t impressive enough (and of course, it is), Tate also happens to be an exuberantly talented singer. In fact her singing voice can be heard on a radio commercial for Resorts Of The Canadian Rockies, as well as in the show Lalaloopsy when she takes on the role of Holly Sleighbells.

You can get a glimpse of just how extraordinary of a singer she is in the video below where she performs a dance at The Dance Awards in NYC in 2014 to her cover over the song ‘Human’ .

 

Mesmerizing Dramatic Actress Eliana Jones

HemlockCarpet
Actress Eliana Jones

While Eliana Jones is only 18 years old, her resume boasts the accomplishments of an actor well beyond her age. While she has undoubtedly made her name known in the world of television, Jones has given a slew of knock out performances on the stage and in feature films like Step Dogs as well. Her television career, however, is what has catapulted her to the top of her industry.

While Jones has appeared on array of award-winning television shows over the years, her career got a major boost when she landed the recurring role of the caddy high school teenager, Alexa Sworn, on executive producer Eli Roth’s (director, Hostel series; actor, Grindhouse: Death Proof, Inglorious Bastards) Netflix original series Hemlock Grove.

The Emmy nominated Hemlock Grove tells the story of a small town reeling from the recent murders of several teenage girls. Jones’ character Alexa, and her twin sister Alyssa, played by Emilia McCarthy (Kid’s Town, Maps to the Stars, Max and Shred), are the daughters of Hemlock Grove Sheriff, Tom Sworn, played by Aaron Douglas (The Returned, I, Robot) and the best friends of Christina Wendall, played by Freya Tingley (Once Upon a Time). Often eliciting intense reactions from their peers as they taunt and ridicule students at their high school, the Sworn sisters are the exact opposite of their quiet and reserved friend Christina, and their caddy nature might just make them the killer’s next target; but you’ll just have to watch the first season of the show to find out.

Hemlock Grove has received widespread praise and critical acclaim, and is currently in its third and final season. Other notable actors who worked with Jones on Hemlock Grove include Famke Janssen (Phoenix in the X-Men series), Dougray Scott (Mission Impossible 2, Taken 2, Ever After), and Bill Skarsgard (Vicoria, Anna Karenina, Behind Blue Skies).

The first hit television show Jones landed was Nikita, in which she debuted on screen as the younger version of Alex, one of the show’s lead characters who was played by Lyndsy Fonseca (Kick Ass; Kick Ass 2; How I Met Your Mother; Desperate Housewives). Nikita, which aired on the CW, has been nominated for numerous awards, including two Primetime Emmys.

Jones debuted her versatility in the role depicting young Alex through the show’s repeated flashbacks in nine episodes over the course of the first and second seasons. During many of the episodes Jones had the opportunity to display her knack for dialects and speaking other languages, an asset that has assuredly set her apart from other actresses.

“I often spoke Russian throughout the show,” Jones explained in an interview, “which is something that I had to spend hours learning!”

Her rendition was spot-on, however, which contributed toward many of the subsequent roles for which she was cast. The CW enjoyed Jones’ portrayal of young Alex so much in Nikita, that not long later the network cast her for another younger version of a lead character. In the hit TV series Lost Girl, Jones played teen Tasmin, the younger version of Rachel Skarsten’s (50 Shades of Gray; The Vow) starring character.

Jones has captivated television audiences on many other shows, including the CBC series Saving Hope, in which she acts alongside Wendy Crewson (Air Force One; The Santa Clause), as well as YTV’s The Stanley Dynamic, where leads the series alongside prolific television star Michael Gross (Anger Management; Suits; How I Met Your Mother; ER; The Young and the Restless).

Jones gave yet another dazzling performance in the feature film Step Dogs (2013), where she played the starring role of Lacey, a spoiled teenager from Hollywood who is forced to move to Canada with her aunt and their dog. The plotline follows both Lacey and her dog as they adjust to a new way of life, encountering many surprises, challenges and new relationships along the way.

Currently, Eliana Jones is in production for The Family Channel’s Backstage, a new show that follows a group of extremely talented artists, dancers, singers, painters, and actors. Backstage is set to begin airing in January of 2016.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Richard Davis Lights Up the Screen in the Films “Psychic Playground” and “Shahzad”

Richard Davis
                                     Richard Davis on set of the film “Amalgamations”

Toronto born actor Richard Davis has not one, but two films being released later this year, the bravoFact poignant drama Shahzad and the quirky dark comedy Psychic Playground.

Shahzad, written and directed by Haya Waseem, follows an 11-year-old Pakistani boy who moves to another country with his father and has difficulty transitioning. Davis’ character, Richie, comforts Shahzad and becomes his best friend, which helps drive the film’s narrative of Shahzad discovering that his ‘home’ can be anywhere in the world, not just the place he was born.

“The role was a favorite of mine because of the storyline and people involved in the project,” says Davis.

The extremely gifted 11-year-old, a four-time Young Artist Award nominee has completed 18 films in the span of his extraordinary career over the last seven years, portraying a diverse range of characters from comedy to drama in TV and Film.

Davis is best known for his character in Marco Baldonado’s The Comeback Kid, as well as Ken Finkleman’s (The Newsroom) HBO Canada hit series Good Dog, which he landed at the age of 5. The series Good Dog focused on a TV producer who attempts to launch a reality show centered on his life with his model girlfriend and her son, played by Davis. He also starred in an episode of Murdoch Mysteries, Copper, and The Ron James Show.

The busy actor owes a large part of his career to his intellect as Davis has an amazingly high oral I.Q. in the 99.9 percentile, as well as being an adept speed-reader.

“Being a speed reader really comes in handy when you only have 24 to 48 hours to prepare for the audition,” says the astute actor.

At the age of 4, Davis started his career in commercials being featured in several high-profile national television advertisements for McDonalds, Make-A-Wish Foundation and many more. At around the same time he also began acting in the theatre, which Davis admits gave him “the opportunity to develop my confidence and acting skills through performing monologues on stage to an audience.”

This year Davis also had a role in director Sean Cisterna’s (Moon Point, 30 Ghosts) recent feature film Full Out. The film, which debuted on Canada’s Family Channel in September and helped boost the network to the No. 1 spot as the leading specialty kid’s network in the country, is based on the true story of gymnast Ariana Berlin, whose dream to compete in the Olympics was derailed after a car accident.

The inspirational movie, which starred Jennifer Beals (The “L” Word, Flashdance, Proof), Ana Golja and Sarah Fisher (both from Degrassi: The Next Generation), focuses on Berlin’s recovery and comeback to gymnastics. In the film Davis’ character, a young boy who Berlin meets at the recovery center, is also struggling to heal and work past his own traumatic accident, which ultimately helps Berlin come to terms with and conquer her own obstacles.

“There is something to be learned from every role I perform,” says Davis on his acting process. “It’s the best when you can just be free to express what is truly in your heart and mind…”

While Davis has a mature understanding for dramatic roles, his latest film displays him in a comedic light in writer and director Sarah Pugsley’s Psychic Playground. In this oddball film about an eccentric boy who has an unusual approach to show and tell in the classroom, Davis takes on the starring role of Dez.

With three films released just this year, it’s safe to say that the exceptional and wise beyond his years Canadian actor will be looking onward and upward as 2016 steadily approaches.