Category Archives: Entertainment

ACTRESS JAEDA LEBLANC IS A LITTLE GIRL ON A BIG SERIES

Actor’s know that when you exhibit your skills on a project this is not only the action of using your talent but also the way in which you advertise yourself to other potential employers. Being of benefit to any production allows directors, writers, and other professionals to envision you in their own creations. An actor can spend a lifetime amassing a collection of performances that will keep them employed doing the vocations that they enjoy so much. It can take decades, even lifetimes to do so. In the case of Canadian Jaeda LeBlanc, it may happen much more quickly…because it already has. While still in her single digits, this young actress was noticed by Gregory Smith, director of the highly successful TV series “Saving Hope.” Airing on Fox in the US, “Saving Hope” joined the lineage that has lasted for decades of popular dramas that take place in the medical field and portray the humanity behind the healers, the afflicted, and their loved ones. When Smith saw Jaeda on “Odd Squad” he understood that her talent and abilities transcended those of youth based stories. Casting her as Aisha Kai in “Saving Hope” not only proved that he was correct but also gave a boost to LeBlanc’s credibility and vetted her as an actress more than capable of working in prime time television.20728338_157108004866208_2853571896937534171_n

The key to being a great guest star on an already popular show, as well as being a great actor, is being memorable without trying too hard. Performance is a requirement; beyond that you can chalk it up to charisma. Robin Williams, Leonardo DiCaprio, countless actors have appeared on prime time TV shows in bit parts that morphed into careers on the small and the big screen. Canadian actress Jaeda LeBlanc has that same magnetism. Although still in her early teens she has appeared in a number television and film productions. She’s appeared in films with such household names as Susan Sarandon, Kathy Bates, and Natalie Portman. It’s easy to see why her roles have been much more prolific in the past two years when viewing the heartfelt portrayal, she gave in “Saving Hope.” As Aisha Kai, a bossy, sassy, and very intelligent young girl mature beyond her years, Jaeda gives a layered performance. Aisha’s mother died of cancer three years prior and she now lives with her father who is also terminally ill. She has learned everything she can about her father’s illness and takes the doctors to task about it. Dr. Reid (Erica Durance, star of Saving Hope) makes matter worse when she makes a promise to Aisha whose own birthday is derailed by her father’s sickle cell crisis. Aisha (powered by LeBlanc’s portrayal) gives the audience the dual sense that she is very young but has been forced to mature quickly due to her difficult circumstances. She’s a girl who is aware well beyond her years about life’s harshness…but still is a young girl, with all of her concerns and uncertainty. At times irreverent and at other times fearful, the role gave Jaeda the opportunity to convey many subtle shades of emotion rooted in body language as well as dialogue. Gregory Smith, director of “Saving Hope” tells, “On our show Jaeda played Aisha, an insecure stubborn child that is authentic without being annoying or exaggerated.  As a director I know that it is not easy for a young actor to fully immerse themselves into a role but this is not the case here. Jaeda translated her actions and emotions to a believable character that drew sympathy with her realistic yet endearing delivery. Jaeda is an accomplished young actress who commands powerful, nuanced performances, the quality of which exceeds that of many of her peers. She was able to take on and be this child with a sick dying parent, unsure, stress and sad of what could happen.  Jaeda has the ability to know if she is under or over acting and correct her own self, this is an impressive trait.”Photo 2016-05-11, 4 37 09 PM

You’d think that for a young actor the excitement would be finding themselves on set, under the lights with all eyes on them. For some it might be the luxury of having their own trailer with snacks and video games. For LeBlanc it was sitting down for the table read. The formal table read is a staple of all major productions; for Jadea, this was her first and a true indicator that she had made it to the big leagues. Many table readings would follow this one but you always remember your first…like a first love. Without a frame of reference, Jaeda paid attention to how far the other actors “turned up” their performances at the table read and matched them toe to toe. Reading the room and acclimating is a benefit of being an actor. While she received praise for the read, it was the test of being on set that confirmed her abilities when under pressure. LeBlanc remarks, “It was nice to be a ‘Guest Star’ and work with seasoned actors in one of the most popular TV show in Canada. From the first moment I was on set everyone was super nice to me, not only because I was a kid but as another actor. People may not always admit it but, kids can tell when someone is being nice to you because you’re young rather than being honest. It was a great feeling to be treated as a peer by so many great actors. Like my mom always says, I have an ‘old soul’ so for me to be around adults feels normal. It was nice to feel like a peer playing in the same field as all those seasoned actors of this start cast TV show.” When you play a role in a Canadian Screen Award-Winning Series (“Saving Hope” has received numerous awards including: Canadian Screen Awards, Directors Guild of Canada, Leo Awards, Joey Awards, and others) that is watched by most Canadians, you are bound to get noticed. Casting Directors definitely paid attention as proven by the numerous TV and film roles which followed this young actress’s appearance on the series. Jaeda LeBlanc is just embarking on her teen years yet she has already amassed a long list of credits that have set a strong foundation for an already impressive acting career.

With Director

(Jaeda with director Gregory Smith)

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A FAMILY OF FRIENDS HAS MANY FORMS IN “PARKED”

There’s something romantic and endearing about a group of people coming together to support each other’s attempt to bring out the best in themselves and their dreams. It might be possible to make it on your own but when you do it with a trusted group of confidants it’s so much more enjoyable. “Parked” is a Canadian production which tells the story of five men who attempt to navigate the highs and lows of life. It’s a theme that is synonymous with the writers who created this show. In a small writers’ room, Gorrman Lee, Executive Producers Adam O. Thomas, Tracey Mack, Siobhan McCarthy, and Actor/Co-Producer David Lewis spent many long nights together writing what ultimately became a season of six full webisodes and twenty-five interstitial videos. The struggle that artists take on to test themselves, to aspire to create something which binds viewers together, it’s just as touching as the obstacles and experiences of the characters in “Parked.” Great things are achieved in life when people work together to support each other’s dreams, whether in real life or the stories which resemble it.

Here’s something that any true artist will tell you, greatness is found in the idea and the manifestation of it not necessarily in the execution of it. There’s a reason that songwriters receive a larger portion of the income generated by a song than those who perform it. Creative individuals understand that the idea itself is the keystone. The modern presentation of this is the fact that many of the productions that are presented on the web rival, and sometimes exceed, the stories presented on more traditional platforms. When writer Gorrman Lee saw the pilot for “Parked” shared on Facebook he thought “They’re doing this on the web? It’s so good!” The show’s pilot is so well produced and funny that it stands as a testament to the excellence of work being created outside the traditional system in today’s marketplace. When Lee had the chance to meet Siobhan McCarthy at a pitch event, he made it his mission to convince her that he could be of benefit to the show as one of their writers. He recalls, “I was very professional about it. I told her how much I enjoyed the pilot and asked if they were looking for people to join up; if so, I’d love to have a coffee with her to discuss. Asking people to coffee in this industry is a great, low-pressure way to get an in.” To Gorrman’s delight and the shows benefit, it worked.

Parked with EP Siobhan McCarthy

“Parked” is about a group of 30-something dads, plus their one non-father pal, struggling with their late coming of age. While at first glance the characters might seem homogenous, each one has their own story to differentiate them in the group. The same can be said for the writers. As the youngest in the writing room and the only non-parent himself, Gorrman related most to the character Josh (the burnout, non-father of the group). While Lee and Josh vary greatly in personality, being of a certain age and place in your life naturally presents a shared perspective. Josh is found to be somewhat abrasive by the audience of “Parked” but Gorrman enjoyed the exercise of finding the sympathy/concealed soft side of Josh. The dichotomy of Josh was as entertaining for Lee as a writer as it was for the viewer. In episode #5, “Waiting for Kiddo”, Josh appears insufferable as he enters the scene complaining about how lame kids’ birthday parties are and how he’d much rather spend the day getting stoned. Lee’s writing shined a light on Josh’s humanity by showing just how hard he’s willing to work to get a child to attend this party with him. It looks creepy from the outside but Josh’s unawareness of this ultimately comes off as sweet because he just wants to hang out with his friends.

In a similar way to Josh’s willingness to step out of his comfort zone to keep the group together, Gorrman took on a writing assignment for “Parked” that was well outside his wheel house. Adam O. Thomas (Executive Producer of “Parked”) notes, “Gorrman was a key member of our writing room. He helped find the humor and really had a strong handle on how to shape a scene. If we were going off on a tangent, he was always the one to help bring us back around. He also made sure we never took the easy way out. I loved him for that. We broke down episodes and then assigned each writer some. Gorrman had a couple of the toughest. One was a musical episode and the other had to dance around the theme of child abduction to find the comedy in a dislikable character…. not an easy task. When he turned in his episode, I laughed out loud. It was perfect!” The musical episode referred to was entitled “Master Baker” and required Gorrman to create a Rap video. While most people think of writers as professionals who create based on something which they already know and actors as professionals who educate themselves/research about things they don’t know, Lee’s situation with this episode seems to indicate that writers are much more like actors in their approach. He was given an outline and lyrics for the song but the rest of creating the scene was up to Gorrman. He states, “I’m not really a Rap fan, my wife is though. I’m a writer of color. I’m Chinese-Canadian. It was important to me to research enough that I wasn’t being offensive or inappropriate in satirizing rap with three white, and one Indian actor. I think we pulled it off because of how silly our characters looked. The joke was on them, and not at the expense of rap.” The writer admits to feeling a great sense of accomplishment standing on set and watching the rap video sequence being filmed with Davinder/Sean Amsing is in his hot tub alongside Jimmy Z /Colin Foo. The entire cast and crew seemed to revel in the ridiculousness of the scene which Gorrman had concocted. It was obvious to all that the cast was living out the same fantasy that their characters connected with. “Parked” actor/writer David Lewis confirms, “Gorrman’s voice was definitely a distinct one. His episodes were some of our strongest. His understanding of character and story structure was invaluable. I’ve been working in this industry for over 25 years and have seen both good and bad writing. Gorrman’s writing is very good!”

Parked at Leo awards

Part of success is accepting both achievement and disappointment with grace. “Parked” received multiple nominations at the Leo Awards (Canadian based awards) in 2016 and a win for best actor (David Lewis). It was an instance of public affirmation in the industry for this production. With equal measure Lee describes, “It was a wonderful moment for all of us. While I remember that easily, I also remember the many long days and nights churning out ideas and breaking stories. I wish we could’ve come up with a way to shoot our original idea for the season finale. It was about Josh realizing that he had drunkenly donated sperm to a local sperm bank and convincing the other dads to help him break into the bank and steal it back. It was our take on a ‘bank heist’. Thinking back to this pitch still makes me chuckle. There’s always something to work towards.”

MANOJ SAKARAPANI IS A CORPORATE VILLAIN IN THE PILL

Sometimes you have to listen to your gut and sometimes you have to listen to those around you for sage advice. In the extremely rare case, you can do both. When Manoj Sakarapani was cast as the CEO of a pharmaceutical company in “The Pill” it was a great occurrence of playing against type. Sakarapani is a soft spoken, intensely polite, and thoughtful person. The money grubbing CEO which he portrays in this film which explores the morality and ethics of the industry is an ego fueled opportunist. Taking on this role allowed the actor a chance to “swim in a pool” that he always avoids. It’s a benefit of being an actor and this is something that Manoj is exceptional at; in fact, a little to exceptional. His fellow cast mates felt such disdain for Manoj’s character during the filming (and surprise by his complete reversal of personality) that they continually made him promise to never pursue any work in the pharmaceutical industry because he would be a highly successful villain in it. Sakarapani concedes that he was highly convincing in “The Pill” while also finding the reactions of his costars amusing. It’s an age old conundrum for an actor, you want to be completely believable in your role, even if that means being believable as someone who is hated.

In “The Pill” a virus is spreading and a pharmaceutical company has found a cure for it, deliverable in the form of a pill. Once the pill is distributed and released to public, reports surface about its cures against the virus but also revealing deaths due to side effects of the pill. The CEO of the company sees an opportunity to take the company global and ignore the facts that the pill offers some cure but avoids the possibly fatal side effects. He puts intense pressure on the scientists and the quality control specialists and his team to produce large quantities and release the pill worldwide. While fending off direct conflicts the Scientist who discovered the pill and his team, the CEO also is confronted by the news media. A reporter interviews the CEO and the team regarding the discovery but secretly wants to uncover the truth of the drug and expose the CEO and his company to the public as money driven and disregarding of the serious damage to life. In a final heated discussion with the CEO, the scientist and the rest of the team refuse to release the pill. The big reveal and catharsis happens when the scientist forces the CEO to take one of these pills and tries to shove it down his throat. All of this is exposed to the public through media by the TV reporter who secretly tapes the whole thing with the aid of her camera operator.

As Brenden Fletcher in the movie, Manoj portrays a man who is money minded and who will do anything to take his company global. Fletcher is blindsided by the potential income and shows complete disregard for the potentially malevolent effects of this drug on members of society. He is willing to sacrifice his moral and ethical values because as it was so eloquently stated in the film Wall Street “Greed is good.” Sakarapani did not see the character as one sided and felt that the role was quite challenging. He explains, “As an actor you have to be versatile here because you are playing a really good guy with the media who states that he wants to save lives and cure humanity as your number one priority. At the same time, you have to play the greedy guy who wants this done right away before there are more complications and more negative news comes out about this drug.  I enjoyed the versatility needed to play these contrasts with my acting range to convey the subject and the message to the audience that my character needed to deliver. My role tends to be more of a Chameleon because that is what I am doing with the reporter when I’m talking to her in person and with my team during conversations and heated discussions.”

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The presentation of the film is non-linear, which helps to intensify the emotional impact of the story as well as provide some interesting twists and turns for the audience. The story was built in a way which wouldn’t have made sense in a linear approach. The story starts with a reporter trying to investigate why this Pharmaceutical company is still thriving but being tight lipped when asked about the deaths being reported. The reporter states that she wants to focus on the success of the company, which causes the CEO to perceive this as an opportunity for positive press. gets nice media for the company. Fletcher relaxes and begins to profess his aspirations to help humanity. At this point, flashback being to present the back story involved, revealing the CEO and team discussing the drug’s merits and shortcomings. The film vacillates between members of the team being interviewed by the reporter until she finally sneaks in to a live meeting that the CEO and his team are having which ends up dramatically against the CEO, publicly exposing him. This constant paradigm shift slowly revealed the layers of deception and intent on the part of Manoj’s character.  The final shot of the film which slowly roles in on Sakarapani communicates the solace and defeat of a man who has gambled and lost it all, and he knows it.

Vanessa Gibuea, one of Manoj’s costars in “The Pill” states, “The only way to describe Manoj in this film is chilling. He plays it close to his chest. He’s not maniacal or overtly abusive in his portrayal; it’s not cartoonish. This is what makes it so frightening. What Manoj did was to present his character as a very real person. A real person makes a series of mistakes that eventually lead into one very big and bad decision. Brenden Fletcher is a person who lost sight of himself and his fellow man. That happens more often that we’d all like to admit. What was so striking about the way Manoj presented him is that he found all of those little decisions in his performance and you felt them rather than someone showing you them or telling about them all. It was amazing.”

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Millions Watch Dan Babic in viral “Watch Me” parody

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Dan Babic and Caitlyn Jenner

“I didn’t wake up to be mediocre.” This simple mantra is what pushes Australian Television Host Dan Babic every day. He doesn’t accept anything other than excellence, and those who have followed his career know this to be true. He is truly extraordinary, and at just 23, he has emerged as one of Australia’s most high-profile entertainment journalists.

Babic’s online television show AfterBuzz TV has over 20 million downloads a week in 150 countries. He has interviewed some of the world’s most recognizable celebrities, such as icons Caitlyn Jenner and Kim Kardashian, as well as Academy Award winners like Kathy Bates and Brie Larson.

Entertainment journalism and hosting is something that chose me. As long as I can remember, it has been the only thing I have wanted to do,” said Babic. “We live in what appears to be such a dark world at times, so I live for my moment on screen where I can help provide escapism and take audiences away from the hardships they may be facing. I love the power it gives me to brighten one’s day and the ability to just make people laugh.”

In the parody music video of the hit song “Watch Me” by Silento, Babic does just what he aims to do, and gives audiences around the world the opportunity to watch a video and escape. The hilarious video features Babic dancing and rapping a line in the song. His reputation and popularity greatly contributed to the video’s massive success, going viral and amassing over 20 million views on YouTube alone.

“Although we truly believed in the project, nothing is more validating than knowing all your hard work has paid off. While we were confident in the final result, my grandmother taught me to ‘never count your chickens before they hatch.’ There is always that slight feeling of fear upon releasing a video to the world that your intention of proving joy and laughter could be ill-conceived and taken out of context. Reading all the comments from fans provides the upmost feeling of joy knowing that through my talent and work I was able to make someone smile. It’s why I get up every day and continue to have the success I have in the entertainment industry. I see what I do as service to others.”

The video, by YouTube sensation Bart Baker, is four minutes of talent. It was written by Eli Braden, who is responsible for some of Howard Stern’s, Jimmy Kimmel’s and Joan Rivers’ most successful content. Babic had always wanted to work with the writer, and therefore jumped at the opportunity when it arrived. Knowing the necessity of having a distinct leader in the industry who would not only boost views on the video, but also who have the ability to make audiences laugh, Babic was approached to be a part of the parody. There are several controversial moments in the video, which are necessary for the humor, and Babic’s role provides the light-hearted moment needed to capture audiences.

“Production chose not to take the risk of using an on-camera personality without a notable acclaimed track record and requested my work on the project. Having notoriety in the television industry is something I don’t take nonchalantly. I am well aware of that my regard is rare and the ability to entertain millions though my personality is a true gift. I was therefore thrilled to have the confidence and respect of acclaimed industry professionals and was very excited to collaborate with successful individuals at the top of their field,” said Babic.

The video largely takes place in a gymnasium, with various characters dancing in the background and appearing on screen. Regardless of his crucial role in the parody, Babic says working on the project was very relaxed and filled with constant laughter. He was working alongside comedic experts, an exciting experience for the television host. When shooting the parody’s make-or-break moment, he felt completely confident in his ability to use his improvisational skills to create laughter. He trusted his instincts, and helped make the moment triumphant and made a moment with darker humor very tasteful. His versatility is evident, and his cameo impressed many around the world.

“The parody was an instant hit, and Dan’s leading and critical role as a television personality held tremendous weight in the production. His role in the music video worked similarly to having film stars in music videos, as fans looked forward to seeing one of their favorite TV hosts in the music video, where he was even key in pointing out the surprising twist at the end of the music video. The parody video of ‘Watch Me’ garnered an incomprehensible 20 million views on YouTube, an impressive feat which highlights not only the immeasurable success of the music video itself, but of the impact Dan’s role had on attracting viewers to come and pick out his part. This, paired with overwhelming praise from fans as well as over 180,000 likes for the video on YouTube, is incontrovertible evidence of the massive commercial success of the music video, and of Dan’s leading and critical role therein,” said Heidi Jo Markel, CEO of Eclectic Pictures who has worked with Babic in the past.

The day-to-day structure involved each industry professional staying in their lane and using their well-regarded creative instincts to ensure the project’s success. Babic was surrounded by other industry leaders on the video, and when everyone from different fields came together with one goal in mind, it was the best part of the experience for the entertainment journalist.

“Working with notable, celebrated professionals in the entertainment industry is inspiring, the project allowing us to each learn from one another and admire each other’s unique gifts and rare talent. I’m a big believer that you are your environment and felt extremely grateful to be in the position I am in,” Babic concluded. “I never take this for granted and as a host live for bringing people together in laughter, entertainment and good times. With so many views of the parody, it is safe to say our work put a smile on millions of people’s faces across the world. That’s what the world needs more of after all.”

You can watch the “Watch Me” parody video here, and prepare to feel the sense of escapism that Babic always aims for, and always achieves.

RAFAEL THOMASETO KEEPS THEM COMING BACK FOR MORE

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A producer is the closest thing the entertainment industry has to a parental figure. As the head of any production, this individual oversees every aspect from beginning to end and ensures that it all runs smoothly. It’s a tiresome and exhausting vocation, the main reward of which is getting more of the same work. A producer will tell you that they choose this vocation because they love the creative process and being surrounded by others who take part in it. For a successful producer, diversity is the key. Similar to directors, a producer’s work on a notable ad campaign can mean as much (or more) recognition and compensation than on a film or TV presentation. The career of Rafael Thomaseto encompasses all of these different creations, leaving him in the enviable position of having an eclectic body of work and possibilities to pursue. His resume encompasses a strong list of production credits, including independent films, commercials for major brands (such as Chanel, Samsung, Nissan and Jose Cuervo), the clip of the song “Perfect Illusion” by the iconic Lady Gaga and the production of videos for the YouTube. The common thread among all these is the talent and work ethic he possesses. The best advertisement is performing your job with excellence and the word is out about Thomaseto.

As producer of the film “Inherent Greed” (Directed by Zachary Wanerman), Rafael oversaw this production which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival and also impressed Louie Torrellas (CEO of Ambitious Media Productions). Torrellas relates, “One of the executive producers on the film recommended Rafael to my company, Ambitious Media, which was in charge of producing Inherent Greed. We hired him and he instantly took over the project and made it work, to great acclaim. Our first partnership was such a success that as soon as I received the briefing of the entire media production for LA Style Fashion Week, Rafael was the first name that popped into my mind. It was going to be a challenging job but I was sure he was qualified and experienced enough to handle it. Again, my expectations were attained. Once Rafael joins a project, he will do anything possible to make it work and to make it the best.”

Hired by Ambitious Media as head of production for the city’s biggest fashion event would seem to be a completely different environment than that of a soundstage or location shoot for a film however, Thomaseto’s skill set is equally applicable to both. Though Los Angeles Style Fashion Week has been around in some incarnation since the 70’s, the past decade has seen it evolve into a much more expansive and widely attended event. The city and the industry have taken an obvious step towards using their entertainment producing infrastructure to promote the fashion scene as a major player worldwide. While the surroundings and the players are different than the ones he is so accustomed to, many of the applications of Rafael’s abilities are lateral. Instead of overseeing a film production, he developed a documentary which showed the increase of the fashion scene in LA. Locating and hiring the director, cinematographer, and film/photography crew to shoot interviews with the major players in the fashion industry as well as the big name models who would be appearing at the event; all these were familiar procedures for Rafael though they were in a wildly differing venue. The producer notes that his ability to bring aboard world renowned fashion photographer Lemuel Punderson as the main director for the production was a particular source of pride.

A complete dichotomous experience of working with the beautiful people, Thomaseto’s past success on a number of productions for Traverse Media resulted in them hiring him as part of the production team for the experimental “Crypt TV.” Traverse Media, a production and talent management company committed to creative and enterprising content and filmmakers, hired Thomaseto as part of their Production team coordinating the project for Crypt TV. Crypt TV is a digital genre brand co-founded by Jack Davis and horror icon Eli Roth. Declaring its motto as “#WeirdIsGood”, Crypt TV creates and distributes dark, edgy, and scary video content on Facebook and across its family of publisher sites. One year after launch, with 2 million direct social followers and a syndication network of 2.5 million unique monthly visitors on the sites in its network, Crypt TV has quickly become the fastest growing leader in digital productions of this genre. In addition to working with the best up-and-coming filmmakers across the world, Crypt TV creates engaging original video content directly for the Top Hollywood Studios including: Universal, Fox, Warner Brothers, Paramount, Netflix, and others. Crypt TV is uniting fans and creating a movement that’s redefining what the future of the genre among millennials.

Although hired on shortly before the shoot, Rafael quickly solidified all aspects of the production of the three short films which Traverse created for Crypt TV: “Lust Kills” (62,000 VIEWS), “Gluttony Kills” (371,000 views), & Sloth Kills (272,000 views). These three films were produced in just a matter of weeks and had received several thousand views in a mere matter of hours after being released. The expediency and process by which entertainment is created and delivered continues to evolve with technology and the public’s sensitivity to it but the need for professionals like Rafael Thomaseto will be a constant throughout these changes, as will the need of entities like Ambitious Media Productions and Traverse Media. The upcoming projects which Thomaseto is currently involved in with both companies assures this fact. The new edition of LA Fashion Week (which is a biannual event), an indie feature film in 2018, and several short films (a continuation of his partnership with Crypt TV) will all add to the association that Rafael has with both Ambitious Media Productions and Traverse Media in the very near future.

 

ALYYSA VENIECE BRINGS IT ALL, LIKE A WARRIOR

Alyssa Veniece describes herself as having alter egos which make appearances. This makes a lot of sense when you consider that she has experienced success as an actress, singer, stunt person, fitness model, swimsuit model, and dancer. It seems easier just to have the specific part of your talented personality show up that day for work while the others rest (it would actually allow her to get some rest). While she says this in half-jest/half-truth, it’s obvious that Alyssa is a driven and artistic individual who is capable of tremendous focus. Often the duality of her nature and talents is obvious in the work she presents. Her music is influenced by everyone from Boys II Men to 50 Cent. In productions like NBC’s “Warrior” she dances and acts while her modeling led to the production using stills of her face to adorn the scene. You can’t separate the ingredients of your favorite meal or dessert and still achieve the same satisfaction and this applies to the multiple talents of Alyssa Veniece as well.

What exists in 2017 is a multitalented and confident Alyssa but in the early days (back home in Canada), she was just a little girl in what she describes as a loud, crazy, and constantly laughing family. Her early predilection for casting and directing her sisters and cousins in plays was a strong indicator as to the direction she was headed. Witnessing the Olsen twins as child actors and a strong attraction to Disney movies assured young Alyssa that her career was a certainty, with the added benefit that she didn’t have to choose between acting, singing, and dancing. Her early attraction to acting still remains true all these years later. She notes, “The honesty is what it’s always been about for me. Whether someone plays a villain or a saint, they are honest with themselves in their actions. I’ve always been drawn to the truth of things, and I loved that during a movie I was constantly having realizations about life and the way people are. As an actor we get to tell stories, and teach people, while figuring ourselves out during the process. Certain shoots I’ve worked on have definitely been closure for me of times in my past.  It all connects us to each other and to something greater – anything is possible when you’re playing pretend! I hate limitations and acting frees you from any cage you ever could imagine. I love acting because it’s healing, helpful, hopeful… and ultimately, fun.”

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As audience members, we’ve all had that moment when a performance spontaneously created a strong emotional response. One of the talents that has served Veniece so well throughout her career is her ability to synthesize her different talents. Singing, acting, and dancing are different faces of the same person for this immensely versatile and creative Canadian. Her appearance on NBC’s Warrior as a Geisha was just as much due to her strength as a dancer as an actor. Her costar Jade Whitney (whose credits include Suicide Squad and FX’s “The Strain”) “Both Alyssa and I appeared as Geishas in ‘Warrior’. Not only is she an incredible actor and dancer, but she is one of the most hard working people I’ve had the pleasure to work with. One shoot was a particularly long overnight experience; it was grueling for all of us. Alyssa was focused and strived for perfection with every take yet didn’t complain or even show signs of fatigue. There are a lot of talented people in this business but I think it’s those with the right attitude that end up becoming successful throughout their career. I think Alyssa excels in this field because she cares about the craft, is open-minded, and willing to learn new things.”

In “Warrior” Alyssa’s role is that of a Geisha for Will Yun Lee’s character, Susano. Her character is extremely well- trained, comfortable with being the center of attention, seductive, and completely at ease with her sexuality. While the mindset of this character does not correlate with Veniece’s own, she uses another of her passions to enable this…music. The actress reveals, “I’ve spent a lot of time studying my craft and using the methods that I’ve learned but I’ve also found that music is an incredibly strong tool. I like different types of music depending on what I’m doing. I typically steer towards hip-hop, trap, pop, r&b, and electronic. If I’m trying to get into character for a role, I will listen to music that I think that character would listen to. If I think they should be in a certain mood, my musical choices will reflect that to sustain my character, especially right before an audition. My song picks vary depending on the intensity of my training and I could easily be listening to a slow song by 6lack or something hardcore like Omelly or Casanova from OHB.”

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Alyssa Veniece is that type of creative individual who never suffers from interest or ability, only from lack of time to do everything she wants. The very fact that she acted and danced in “Warrior” while her very face adorned the club (add model to her credits on the show) attests that it’s not “if” she will be creative but rather “which” avenue will she choose. One thing is certain, if you keep watching you are going to see Alyssa in a film, TV production, or music video. In fact, you most likely already have.

TRANSFORMING THE SMALL PARTS INTO BIG ROLES WITH AVI AGARWAL

Here’s the secret that many involved in the arts don’t want to tell you; there are two types of professionals in these industries: those who desire esteem and those who just want to be creative. Everyone likes to be respected, that’s completely understandable but some need it more than anything else. It’s up to psychologists to explain the reasons for this. The true believers of the creative world simply want to create, it’s the oxygen to their career. Actors like Avi Agarwal can be seen in films, TV productions, theater plays, and commercials. For him, each of these is simply another opportunity to do what he wants to spend every day doing. These many differing productions not only flex different acting muscles for him but they also reach entirely different sections of the public. A famous and respected director might see his work in a play such as “The Crossover” (the LA production in which Avi performed multiple roles) while old friends on the opposite side of the planet reach out to him in excitement having seen him on a global Amazon Prime commercial. The lack of ego Agarwal possesses is palpable when speaking with him as it becomes easy to comprehend that he is best categorized as an actor who simply wants to spend his life acting. They say that variety is the spice of life and this actor’s commercial work alone attests that he is compiling an eclectic collection of vocational and acting experiences.Headshot 5

Appearing in the Amazon Prime commercial titled “Speed. Selection. Underwear for your hands. Get it all with Amazon Prime”, Avi was seen by more than three million viewers. This advertisement was presented through one of the most ubiquitous of all formats in the world, Facebook. Due to the extremely brief length of commercials, directors of these productions cast memorable and charismatic actors, the type of individuals who stick in your memory. Director Steve Mapp stipulates that both Agarwal’s appearance on camera and his ability to not over-perform made him effortless to work with. Avi comments, “It’s proof that you can’t try to make sense of this business, you just take each situation on its own merits. I’ve done plays where I rehearsed for more than half a year to perform and films where it was months of preparation. When I was cast in the Amazon Prime commercial, I simply showed up, had a conversation with Steve [Mapp] and then did a few takes. I had people from places as far as London reaching out to me with excitement when they saw me. It’s funny and it makes you thankful that people are excited about your career.”

It’s this humble perspective and staunch work ethic that have made Agarwal appreciated and desired by many professionals in the production industry. Director Justin Bookey confirms, “I hired Avi Agarwal for my production company’s shoot of an online commercial with a widespread management industry audience. His professionalism and skill made him shine in this role and the video garnered industry awards with his help. His great attitude and flexibility on the set also made him a valuable asset. He’s got a unique blend of quirkiness, timing, and expressiveness that will serve him well in a variety of comedic and dramatic roles. I feel lucky to have found him.”Headshot 6

This commercial is a sort of an innuendo on how not to run an agile meeting. It’s a comic take on the most common mistakes made by the employees and employers. Such occurrences as when an important topic is being discussed and someone interrupts with the silliest of questions, people being on their phone instead of paying attention, insecurity about their job resulting in hoarding information, people lying about their work, over enthused employees, etc. Avi portrays a nerd at an office meeting where everyone is quirky and the team leader pays more attention to his own interests than creating a cohesive team. The production was created for industry outreach and was shown at the Global Scrum Gathering in San Diego where it received enthusiastic praise and reactions.

In a bit of a stretch that called upon his heritage, Agarwal used his knowledge of Indian Culture to portray the character of Pastor Sanjay in “The Great Controversy.” The scene is set in a church where the younger pastor (played by Agarwal) is more inclined to understand and compromise to the senior pastor but we also see the senior pastor bending his rules to adapt to the younger generation. Avi appears as the same youthful pastor happily dancing to music in his office. In “Are You My Mother” Avi is seen in a tale which depicts how the older and younger generations are struggling to adjust to each other’s ideas and tastes. It’s displays the impact on two insanely big generation gaps. This commercial is all about how all single people are always pestered by the older women around them about finding a partner and getting married. It’s based on an Indian single man being imposed on by an elderly Indian woman whom he is not even related to. The goal of both commercials is to promote the idea of diversity in the church. This actor admits that he was more surprised than anyone to be given the role but concedes, “I was thrilled to be a part of such a commercial which is different because it is promoting diversity in the world. I mean, honestly…before this work, I did not know that people made commercials to invite different cultures to churches and these two were especially targeted towards the younger members of society. I feel blessed to do such a commercial. It promotes the fact that people from different cultures can be pastors at a young age and in most cases can be funny.” That would not be as possible without Agarwal and the director of the two projects, Philip Sherwood notes, “It’s so obvious that Avi takes great joy in his craft. He is a great actor and has the ability to lift everyone’s spirits on set…which is exactly what his character was doing in the action of these commercials. To this day I don’t know if that was who Avi is or if he was so deep in the character that he never left it. That’s a testament to just how truly great he is.”Headshot 3