Category Archives: International Actor

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

ARROW MAKES A BOOMERANG OUT OF ALISON ARAYA

Art can run in cycles or periods of fashion. As one of the most ubiquitous art forms, TV is as susceptible as any to being a part of this. It’s no news flash that we are in the heyday of superhero entertainment. Marvel, DC, and many independent comic book/graphic novels have been featured in production after production. There’s a good reason for this; these larger than life characters depict who we want to be, the stories are epic and provide an excellent form of escapism. When it comes down to it, people truly enjoy them. These Omni-present produtions provide many actors with opportunities to utilize their skills as well as live out some personal fantasies. How many times do you get the chance to save the world in tights? While Alison Araya’s character on Arrow (distributed by Warner Brothers Television) might not be Oliver Queen (based on DC comic’s Green Arrow), her recurring role places her in the “universe” as the fans say. Her continued presence comes with the fans and attention that the show and the genre are well known for. It’s not a new source of attention for this actress who has appeared in films based on comics (Avery has appeared in both X-Men Origins: Wolverine and Watchmen). Being a part of a fantasy world that is also grounded with a large dose of reality suits Araya just fine. By her presence throughout multiple seasons (Arrow is completing its sixth season), it appears that it suits the producers of this CW series as well.

With several seasons under its belt, “Arrow” is a vetted hit in the CW line-up. Exploits of these types of heroes are among the most popular of all action hits and “Arrow” is happy to be part of this movement. What drew Alison to the program is what most fans appreciate about it; the darker element of the story. This non-genetically enhanced hero who has earned his abilities through somewhat mysterious circumstances and is tenacious in the pursuit of criminals gives a realistic quality to “Arrow” that is part Batman, part Robin Hood, and a hint of LA Confidential. Flawed characters abound in the story but not in an overly defined moral sense. As a member of the SPCD, Araya’s character Officer Lopez was originally written as a more peripheral role but Alison’s on screen charisma quickly altered this. Lopez has continually appeared throughout the last three seasons of “Arrow” and has been a part of some of the most pivotal storylines in “Arrow.” For Araya, an accomplished actor with roles in action films, there was still a learning curve to playing a police officer. She somewhat hesitantly tells, “It was much harder than I thought. In my first scene I was arresting and handcuffing a perp…there was some fumbling on my part. No one would say I’m a natural when it comes to being a law enforcement professional. I even dropped the gun several times, but I was determined to see the scene through. Shortly after that first experience my agent called to say they had booked me on another episode and that was the beginning of the development of Officer Lopez.”images (3)

In the show’s world of superheroes and super villains, Lopez is a reality anchor for the show’s fans. A stoic member of the police department, she searches for the truth and is a more relatable element for the audience to connect with and bridge the gap with the more extraordinarily powered characters. Araya portrays this character with a calm demeanor which comes off surprisingly well considering Lopez is charged with enforcing the public safety in a community of such epic parameters. Even with the somewhat hyperbolic scenes, Lopez approaches her work as any urban officer would treat an everyday disturbance.

It increasingly becomes a required skill for the modern day actor to be comfortable working with what is not actually there but will appear later in post. Alison’s work on a number of feature films and TV productions has given her ample experience to master this craft. Actors are required to use their imagination but this modern technological facet takes the idea to a very literal place. Araya states, “It definitely makes for an interesting day on set. As actors we are asked to use our imaginations and drop into the reality of our scenes but days with VFX require big imagination. I love the challenge, I really have to work to create the world around me and say yes to it. You have to simply commit fearlessly!”

Alison concedes that the development of Officer Lopez into a character that would appear throughout numerous seasons of “Arrow” was as unexpected to her as anyone. Still, it’s something for which she has been continually thankful. It’s a perfect balance for the actress who has been able to accept roles in feature films, independent films, made for TV movies, and other productions simply because of the fact that Lopez is not a central part of every episode of “Arrow.” Her character’s recurring presence keeps her in the eyesight of fans of the show and gives her the freedom to pop up in other productions simultaneously. It’s the entertainment industry version of Johnny Appleseed. The situation can create a somewhat welcome growing pain for Alison who notes, “Working on the show is such a wonderful experience for me. Everyone involved is very kind and they truly interact like a family. Because I’m not there every day, I make sure to watch the show and stay on top of the story so it will make sense when I am on. That can be difficult sometimes when I’m trying to immerse myself in preparing for another role…but I’m not complaining; I’ll accept this kind of problem anytime I am fortunate enough to have it.”images (2)

These superheroes that we love to watch are exciting and inspiring to watch. They make us all feel that we are capable of doing great things and working for the common good. As Officer Lopez, Alison Araya reminds us that there are those among us who bridge that gap, that we all have the potential to aspire to service of others…and she is just plain ol’ fun to watch in the world of “Arrow.”

Canadian actor Tim Hildebrand stars in Steampunk sensation ‘Steamwrecked’

TimHildebrand HeadshotTim Hildebrand says he was once taught that “the secret to truthful acting is to love your character, no matter who he is.” This versatile Canadian actor has stepped into many roles, always conveying sincerity with each performance, and this directly relates back to that mantra that has stayed with him throughout his formidable career. He loves every character he plays, and is committed to each and every performance.

“If I really care about the people I portray, I’ll identify with them, and understand why they do the things they do, at the heart level. I’ll care. I’ll want them to succeed, and so I’ll invest in getting them what they want through the methods that make sense to them, because of who they are, what they know, and what they’ve experienced,” he said.

Audiences will once again have the chance to see Hildebrand in the upcoming film Steamwrecked, set to be released later this year. The film, written by Rachel Hemsley, and directed by Christopher Matista, follows a “lightning harvester” zeppelin pilot named August Morlock, in a steampunk/sci-fi world. Crashing in a forbidden zone during an exceptionally bad storm, he and his lone surviving crewmember are forced to traverse a deadly desert, inhabited by wild creatures called “scavengers”, to bring their coveted cargo to safety.

“When I read the script, I was just intrigued. I’d never read anything like it. It was a Steampunk universe, which I wasn’t really into, but the universe Chris and Rachel came up with was so well thought out and plausible it actually grabbed me. The film is about beating the odds and surviving. It’s about unlikely alliances, learning to love someone you don’t think you can, and making sacrifices for one another. Ultimately, it’s about overcoming. It’s inspirational,” said Hildebrand.

Hildebrand plays August Morlock, a widower and a loner. He’s gruff, but a softie deep down. When his ship crashes in a storm, in the worst possible place, he finds himself stuck between his young, stubborn and injured female crewmember, and the local inhabitants tracking them to kill them. August has to try to get the girl and the canisters to safety.

The character of August Morlock is wonderfully layered. A life-and-death urgency underscores Hildebrand’s captivating portrayal, as he and his shipmate avoid their hunters. Hildebrand also utilizes Morlock’s background with wonderful restraint, his caution and world-weariness contrasting the stubbornness and passion of his protégé, Rowe Windsor (portrayed superbly by Sarah North). This, combined with unexpected moments of softness, create an interesting mystery to Morlock that only fully makes sense when revelations come to light late in the film. To carry the truth of that unspoken backstory throughout the film, so consistently and effectively, demonstrates a unique depth and maturity in Hildebrand’s acting.

“Because there was so much going on internally, this was a project where it felt appropriate to stay ‘in mood’, between takes: not exactly staying in character, but staying in the emotional space of the character. I don’t always do that, it’s case by case. But this project was right for that kind of focus,” Hildebrand described.

The actor worked closely with director Christopher Matista to develop the many layers of August and accurately portray his vision for the film. Matista was constantly impressed with Hildebrand, from the moment he auditioned to the last scene they filmed. Being the male lead actor, the film is dependent on Hildebrand, and according to the Director, he did not disappoint.

“Tim is an amazing actor to work with. On camera he is talented, creative and flexible. Between takes he has a great sense of humor to keep the mood light. When filming a stunt scene that involved four other stuntmen, Tim was very careful during rehearsal to communicate his actions, while also paying close attention to the stunt supervisor. During the actual filming, Tim continued this communication, and was able to deliver great results. Tim acting performance stood out even before he was cast, actually. He wasn’t able to make it to our first casting session and elected to instead submit a video audition. In my experience, actors who submit video auditions rarely make it to call backs. However, Tim stood out. In his audition, he used his teeth to tie off an imaginary bandage around his arm. This small action brought real life to his character and to that moment, and got him a spot in callbacks, and eventually the film.”

“He’s very intelligent.  And adaptive. During one rehearsal, he and I discussed his experience with hang-gliding to connect fictional lines of dialogue to the real world. On set, a director should spend a significant amount of time with the actors, discussing the scene and rehearsing. Because of complications, this wasn’t the case on Steamwrecked. I was lucky to have ten minutes to rehearse before filming a scene. Many actors would have shut down or failed to get into character but Tim kept his cool. Because of his prep, and understanding of the character, I could always rely on him to deliver,” said Matista

Steamwrecked is currently starting its festival track in the United States, but may also be headed abroad to countries like China, New Zealand, and Brazil. It not only appeals to Steampunk communities, but also a wider audience, with memorable performances and a heartwarming story.

“We shot in late Fall, and the desert gets cold. Our first twelve hours were a night shoot. The winds got up to about seventy miles per hour and it was absolutely freezing. I’m from Canada, so it was kind of strange to experience air and wind that cold, but not see any snow. I remember PAs were driving to different towns trying to find those little packages for the crew that you put in your shoes and gloves to stay warm. After two days of that, the weather turned sharply and it became blazing hot; like, oven hot. So the back and forth with the temperature had an effect on some of the equipment and on people’s bodies, but when it was all said and done, we knew we had been a part of something special and everyone was on a real high,” Hildebrand concluded.

Unstoppable Actress Karishma Bhandari

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Actress Karishma Bhandari shot by Karen Scott

 

The job description of an actor is unlike that of any other professional. With every role an actor must become a completely new person in a completely new world. For British actress Karishma Bhandari, that part of the job came naturally. As the London-born daughter of Indian immigrants, growing up hasn’t always been easy — but her experiences have been an immeasurable asset to her craft.

“I grew up with working class parents… The only time we sat down as a family was to go to the cinema, or watch films on TV. They were really busy working,” recalled Bhandari. “Because I grew up seeing them laugh at the TV, I always just wanted to be on TV to have their attention too. I know it may sound silly, but that’s how it all started and it really pushed me to become a good actress ― into something they would be proud of.”

Now, after devoting years to training and honing her craft, Bhandari has far exceeded her childhood goals. The long list of her credits includes the cult British comedy “The Inbetweeners 2,” Disney’s “The Muppets Most Wanted,” and even a guest appearance on the critically acclaimed series “24,” which starred Kiefer Sutherland and won 70 awards during its nine year run on FOX, including eight Primetime Emmys and two Golden Globes.

But of all Bhandari’s roles, no two better illustrate the breadth of her maneuverability as an actress than the flamboyant Bollywood musical “Club Dancer” and the gritty drama “Six Rounds.”

“‘Six Rounds’ was based around the 2011 London riots,” Bhandari said. “Between August 6th through 11th in 2011 thousands of people rioted in London’s boroughs, and in cities and towns across England.”

At its heart, “Six Rounds” is the story of a morally-conflicted boxer and the trials he faces during a dark week of unrest in Britain. The boxer finds himself forced to choose between leaving everything he knows behind him, or giving up what might be his last chance to make a brighter future for himself. Bhandari’s character is a member of the protagonist’s old street gang, and she serves as a symbol of the harsh life that awaits if he strays from his new course. By setting the story against the backdrop of the 2011 Riots, director Marcus Flemmings created the boxer as an allegory for the divisive choice facing England — stay in the past, or embrace the future.

“She is passionate about being successful and will go to great lengths to achieve what is required of her by others and herself,” said Flemmings when asked about Bhandari. “I can honestly say Karishma Bhandari is one of the most exceptional people I have worked with – both with her professional craft and as an outstanding individual.”

Being brought up immersed in the cultures of both East and West has given her an insight into and an understanding of the human condition that no amount of practice could bestow. For an actor, being able to recognize where cultural differences end and human commonalities begin is key to portraying characters that are not just believable, but real in their own rights.

That insight is what enabled Bhandari to seamlessly transition into the role of a gangster in “Six Rounds,” following her run on the dance floor as Geeta in the feelgood Bollywood musical “Club Dancer.” In the film, Bhandari plays the betrothed sister of a man who bears a striking resemblance to a murderer who has just been killed by police. The film follows the outlandish and hysterical events that unfold as Geeta’s brother works to save up for his sister’s wedding. The role presented Bhandari with a number of challenges, but rather than slowing her down, they only motivated her further.

“It felt great playing this character. I speak Punjabi at home, and the film was in Hindi, so I was faced with a different language and accent I had to learn. I had Bollywood dance training, but to do it on a massive set in front of a lot of people was scary,” Bhandari recalled humbly. “But everyone complimented me after I filmed the song, as that was my first thing I had to shoot.”

The time and energy it took to blend into a totally foreign role is staggering, but Bhandari’s commitment is resolute. That drive is exactly what directors have come to expect and rely on from the gifted actress.

“I believe as an actor you have to be willing to learn, willing to explore yourself,” she said. “Some people get put into brackets and characters because they play them well. But as an actor you should be a chameleon.”

That willingness to step outside her comfort zone is why she’s so respected as an actress. It’s also why her performances in a wildly diverse range of roles have been so successful. Bhandari’s range is unrivaled, her drive is unwavering, and she is blessed with a natural talent that shines brighter each time she steps in front of the cameras.

 

Actress Sunny Koll’s comedic chops on full display in award-winning series ‘Flat Whites’

Sunny Koll always knew she was meant to be an entertainer. Growing up in Adelaide, Australia, Koll always felt at home on a stage. However, from the age of 13, she pursued a singing career. Never did she picture herself becoming an actress, but one fateful day she decided to take acting lessons, and she quickly realized she had a passion for it. Now, years later, she is a sought-after actress all over the world.

Around Australia, Koll’s face is instantly recognizable from both the big and small screen. She has worked on several popular commercials, the award-winning series Traffik, the anti-cyberbullying film Zach’s Story, and many more. She is extremely versatile, going from different genres and perfectly embodying the characters she is playing. In the critically-acclaimed television series Flat Whites, Koll’s skills at playing a comedic role are more than evident.

Flat Whites was so much fun. It was my first indie job and I loved every minute. The crew were up for trying new techniques and ideas and it paid off,” said Koll.

Flat Whites follows the lives of best friends Phil and Luc in their endeavors to meet the perfect girl and fall in love, all the while willing to sacrifice their friendship if the chance of romance appears. The show was extremely popular, winning the Producing Award for a Comedy Series, Lead Actor in a Comedy Series, Music Production in a Comedy Series, and Supporting Actor in a Comedy series at the LA WebFest. It also went on to be an Official Selection at the Hollyweb Festival and an Official Selection at the Pollygrind Film Festival in 2012. The show premiered as a web series and then because of its success, went on to air on three TV stations in Australia.

“It’s brilliant that the show has been so successful. Max Orter and the rest of the cast and crew deserve so much success. I’m really very happy everyone’s getting acknowledged for their work,” said Koll.

In the series, Koll played Stacy, the female lead in the episode Phil and Luc. Both Phil and Luc try to pick Stacy up, which causes an altercation with her boyfriend. Her boyfriend injures Luc, which forces Stacy to break up with him. She then takes Phil and Luc back to her place to tend to Luc’s injuries, only to discover it’s all been a ploy to win her over. Finally, Stacy throws them both out of her house.

“It was a very funny script. Two boys want to meet girls but they have the same taste and always end up falling for the same girl. They then sacrifice their friendship in order to win the girl over, only to both lose the girl and end up back at square one. It’s an oldie but a goodie,” said Koll.

Koll was asked to be a part of the show by the Producer, Director, and Co-writer Max Orter. Koll wanted to be involved, as she thought it sounded like a fun production, and contacted Orter. He was very impressed with Koll’s abilities and commitment to the project, and immediately requested she take the role of Stacy.

Working with Sunny is the perfect experience of working with a professional actor. She’s a very warm personality and gets along with all cast and crew. She also has an infectious smile and knows how to have a joke. Sunny is amazing to have on set. She puts in the time and effort to be as good as she possible can. She’s always well prepared and will do whatever it takes to make the production the best it can be,” said Orter.

Koll’s acting was so believable, in fact, that at one point during filming, spectators in the park did not realize there was a television set filming a fight scene, but rather an actual fight. During shooting, four men raced over to protect Koll.

“I still don’t know how they missed the cameras and the sound gear, but it was a very nice gesture on their behalf,” Koll laughed.

Koll’s portrayal of Stacy was extremely popular with viewers, and although the series ended in 2012, it is still considered a great episode. Koll has the ability to remain in the minds of viewers, bringing an authenticity that connects with audiences. This is exactly what she did for Flat Whites, and what she does for every role she takes on. It is no doubt why she is considered one of the best, and why audiences worldwide can expect to see her face on both the big and small screen for years to come.

Photo by Daniel Guerra

IS PHIL LUZI THE SUPERHERO GENRE’S FRENEMY OR BFF?

There’s no being lukewarm when it comes to superhero movies. It’s either love them or mock them. If you’re not standing in line to see the newest Marvel or DC Batman vs. Superman vs. King Kong vs the Crab Legged Prestidigitator film, then you’re likely mocking those standing in line. Wrong; in fact, wrong bigtime! A group of very funny and very talented comedy actors/singers showed their affinity for these films while also pointing out some of their shortcomings in the appropriately titled Man of Steel Song. If you recall the Dean Martin Roasts (the present incarnation of which is the Comedy Central Roast), then you understand that the purpose is to show love and also keep someone aware of their fallibility. The combination of superheroes, comedy, and singing was the triple crown for Canada’s Phil Luzi. Luzi is an instantly recognizable name in Canada’s improv scene as well as on comedy series (such as CBC’s “Terrific Women”) and feature films (The Devil’s Tail), and is vigilant in his search for different ways to display his talent and sensibilities. Truth be told, Phil was beyond being a pushover when Melissa D’Agostino (Writer and Star of Man of Steel Song) asked him to join the cast. Luzi confesses, “I was so excited when I was invited to play Green Lantern in the super hero parody Man of Steel Song, which went on to be a huge success. Not only did I get to perform as Green Lantern, but I was also the lead male voice on the soundtrack! That’s something that’s been on my bucket list forever. I love playing and singing with Melissa, not to mention with other cast members who are absolute dynamos. We were given the opportunity by our director, Matthew Campagna, to improvise and play, and I believe that’s what makes the short so, so good!”

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Man of Steel Song became an internet sensation, and went on to be featured and recognized in many film festivals. It satirizes the disposability of franchise film-making that is rampant in the superhero genre, namely between DC and Marvel. In the short film, superheroes gather in a church to mourn any shot they may have had at a big screen feature. Luzi plays The Green Lantern, made famous by Ryan Reynolds. While D’Agostino’s Wonder Woman has reason to feel upbeat these days, Phil’s character comes to terms with the likelihood that his shot at anything more might be over too since it was a box office flop; all thanks to the overexposure of the golden children of the comic world, Batman and Superman. The superfluous drama in which the actual superheroes are immersed exacerbates the implied and stated comedy of Man of Steel Song. Perhaps the only thing funnier than someone who isn’t in on the joke is an individual who simply doesn’t have a comedic thought or expression. Phil states, “I think any grown person wearing a cape in tights and makeup is hilarious. Also, I love wearing a cape in tights and makeup. Green Lantern, specifically is hilarious to me because, if anything, I’m a Superman fan. The Green Lantern is MAYBE in my top 5 and even then, I don’t really know if that would be the case if his lantern was another color. Truthfully, I don’t really follow superhero movies as an adult like I did as a child. As with the tooth fairy and Santa, there just came a time when I stopped believing. I lost interest somewhere along the way when the novelty of it wore off and superhero movies became a dime a dozen.”

The ironic thing about Phil’s involvement in this production is that it reminded him of his real life superpower as well as realizing a dream of his own. While a blemish faced teenage Peter Parker became bitten by that radioactive spider or an adolescent Bruce Wayne began his training to become the world’s greatest detective, it was his natural inclination to easily elicit laughter that set a young Phil Luzi apart from his classmates and peers. He recalls, “Being comedic is the first talent that made itself apparent to me while I was growing up. Friends would say ‘you’re so funny!’ or ask me to say something funny! For a while, I took it offensively like I was a clown or something. Like they were laughing AT me and I didn’t know why; like the Joe Pesci scene in Goodfellas when he freaks out on Ray Liotta. But now I love the idea of making someone laugh. It’s the best sound in the world. It means someone is watching, that I have an audience. I guess I prefer comedy more because I love laughing so much myself. The sound of it means I’m doing something good…that something I’m doing is making someone’s day better or more memorable.”

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In the short film, Melissa D’Agostino rewrote the lyrics to the famous Crash Test Dummies hit “Superman’s Song.” Luzi sings the male part in this duet and delivers it with impressive facility and presence. One almost wonders if he lip synced to a professional vocalist performance but he is adamant that the male singing was all him. “Singing on the soundtrack was without question my favorite part! It has always been a goal of mine to be on the soundtrack of a film, whether it was an animation or a musical. Man of Steel Song gave me that first opportunity. I love singing, and it’s actually been a while since I’ve done a musical. After I started Second City, that part of my life sort of dwindled. The only time I get into a sound booth now is for commercial or animation voice gigs, so this was a real treat. This was my chance to bring that part of my performance abilities back to the surface, and now I want to do it more!” comments Luzi.

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As Phil did in his younger days, the makers of these superhero franchises might misconstrue the intention of Man of Steel Song if they hear of it secondhand or don’t truly pay attention when viewing it. They would make a serious mistake if they took it as ill-natured mocking. It is the most affectionate type of comedy; that which says you are loved and we feel close enough to you that we can say it is funny when you stumble on a pebble in the road. Luzi is an ideal messenger for this. His leading man looks, his comic timing, and his singing ability just might place him in contention for an actual superhero role and, more than anyone, Phil Luzi finds that incredibly amusing.