Category Archives: International Actor

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.”

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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

Karishma Bhandari
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.

Actress Gabriella Giardina to fill audience’s small screens in multiple upcoming TV shows

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Gabriella Giardina

Gabriella Giardina believes she was born with the love of acting. She remembers watching movies as a child and being completely mesmerized. At the time, she believed the people on the screen were real, showing their real-life experiences. When her parents explained what film and acting was, she was instantly amazed. After watching a film or television show, she would run to her room and re-enact whatever she had just watched, creating the whole story and scenes from scratch. Since the age of four, she would repeat the lines of any movie she had just watched. There was never any doubt for her as to what she was meant to do, and to this day, that belief is still there. She was destined to be an actress, and audiences around the world are thankful.

Originally from the small town of Ragusa in Sicily, Italy, Gabriella has travelled the world doing what she loves, taking in new cultures and experiences and implementing that into her craft. Working as both as actress and model, she has shown the world what she is capable of, and has emerged one of the top in her field. She has worked on feature films, shorts, commercials, television series, and music videos, never afraid of taking on something different than what she has done before.

“My favorite part of acting in any kind of set, film, television, photo-shoot, music video, is to be able to express everything simply with your eyes and expression. That’s something I find very powerful. It’s really exciting when you are on set having a great song play. But I love it even more when it’s really just you, your feelings and a camera that wants to catch it all,” she said.

Music videos require just that, and Gabriella has been a large part of the success to many. This year, she was played the singer’s muse in the music video Leila by Jah Khalib, a romantic song in which the Jah Khablib sings of the muse that he has dreamed of. Jah Khalib is one of the most famous artists in Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and his popularity is spreading in very short time. In November of last year, he performed live at Flavio Briatore’s Billionaire Manson, at Burj Khalifa Blvd in Dubai.

“I love Leila, it really transported me and made me love it right away, and what the song is about to helped me understand her,” said Gabriella. “Shooting for Leila was like taking a day off to go explore and then represent beauty. The music video is so well represented that, even for those who cannot understand the lyric because of the language, the narrative is very explicit, with powerful, poetic emphasis.”

Giardina was selected for the role by the young but renowned award-winning Director Aisultan Seitov, winner of the 2016 Hollywood Boulevard Film Festival as Best Director in the category Short Meter, and he knew that Giardina had what it took to make the video a success. Published on May 11 2017, in less than one month the video-music “Leila” already achieved more than 2,650,000 views.

“I love music that tells a story, makes you feel all different kinds of emotions, dream the wildest dreams, makes you travel and go places you’ve never been or fantasize about or just travel around the world; that gives you energy and power or makes you vulnerable, makes you reach the sky. Music is very powerful and really reaches the furthest places. And music videos accompany that. They create one of the millions of scenarios of places, stories, emotions that one can express and experience. When an artist makes a song and music, they are sending a message to so many. So, to be a part of all this, to be a part of creating something so beautiful that reaches so many, that’s one of the things I really love about music videos,” she said.

Gabriella Giardina had achieved success with music videos prior to Leila, including the hit Paani Paani. The song was associated the story of the movie Yaariyan, in which Giardina had a leading role. The song sung by rapper Honey Singh and the soulful Neha Kakkar hit the right chords with the youth. The video was an enormous commercial success and registered over 18 Million views on YouTube alone.

Paani Paani was also a great experience. The director, Divya Kumar, created a set of young energic people and the singer, Yo Yo Honey Singh, brought his talent and all of us really enjoyed working on this together, getting to know one another,” she said.

All those that work with Gabriella Giardina know that she is a unique actress, which is why she is extremely sought-after. Her commitment to every project and genuine passion for what she does makes her pivotal to the success of whatever she works on. Alexandra Guarnieri, a Producer at All In Films, first worked with Gabriella in the musical A Night at the Black Cat Cabaret. She was instantly impressed, since the first audition, by Gabriella’s intensity and by her ability to closely relate to the character, and she defines Gabriella gifted of an intuitive talent, which is one of the most important quality to perform characters with emotional dynamics.

Having witnessed Giardina’s talent before and during the performances, Guarnieri cast her to be the female lead of the new television series project Sigueme. With many upcoming television series next year, Giardina is continuing to show audiences how versatile she is.

“I think doing a television show is very challenging because you bring the character you play through a very large continuous change. And you want to do it well, you want to give it justice and understand it, not judge it, love it, like your own self. Sure, you have a script and story to follow, but you have so many opportunities and various facets to take on the journey of portraying this person, this being, that you in your own way create. And it’s not just the character itself, it’s also the character relations with other people, places, life experience and everything that involves a day to day life. So, it’s that big range of opportunities on how is this character going to be, from the inside out that really fascinates me,” said Giardina.

Gabriella Giardina will be playing the role of Monica Muerte in the upcoming TV series The Legend of High Master. The show turns around a man named William who creates his own Kung Fu dojo called High Boxing. Soon Master Willie must defend the honor of his dojo and neighborhood from the attempt of the Corporate’s hegemony, and has to fight the corporation’s masters using high boxing to prove that his Kung Fu is the greatest, keeping his business, and saving his honor. Monica Muerte is the leading female character in the series. Her story is crucial in the series since it is unveiled at the beginning and evolves gaining relevance, episode by episode, as she becomes one of the reasons William is inspired to create his “High Boxing” in defense of the neighborhood. Monica is an expat with problems to settle down in a new environment. The character is complex and peculiar, and it requires uncommon acting skills to smoothly and naturally switch from a romantic to a dramatic or even comedian performance in a blink, all fulfilled at high level by Gabriella Giardina.

“What enhances my feeling about being in the show is the awareness of the complexity of the character. I cannot reveal very much about the plot but I can say that Monica is a complicated young lady. I’m particularly attracted by more complex and troubled roles and definitely Monica is a challenge; I am enthusiastic and eager to work on the series,” she said.

In addition to The Legend of High Master and Sigueme, Giardina is set to be in the upcoming television series The Poe Project, based on the life of Edgar Allan Poe. Giardina will be playing Cora Anne, a character who represents a woman who was a public reader, writer and actress herself, whose radiantly beautiful smile appears unmatched to Edgar Allan Poe. Gabriella Giardina’s experience in theatrical performance is important, as she can understand and better interpret the role.

“Cora Anne is an intriguing character. She is a lady of intellect, since she is a writer, a public reader and an actress of theatre. The role is fascinating and the script immediately captured me. She’s very feminine but strong and powerful at the same time. I love the contrast that goes so well together. It’s something new to explore and I truly look forward to portraying her,” she said.

With so much upcoming, and with so much success already, Giardina is in no way tired of doing what she loves best. Understanding a character and portraying them in a believable and sincere way is a thrill to her, and a thrill for audiences to watch.

“An actor doesn’t only have the job of reading a script and performing it at its best. An actor studies people, understands what’s behind every reason of this being you are introduced to, empathizes with and for this person, which is extremely important. Without judging it. An actor gives a voice to someone who is either not as loud or doesn’t have one. It opens the eyes of the audience, to new possibilities, new ways of seeing or approaching relationships and situations, new realities. An actor brings to life people and their stories. That’s what to me being an actress means,” she concluded.

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

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Canadian actress Shauna Bonaduce, photo by Andréanne Gauthier.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Actress Ariel Zhang captures split personalities in award-winning performance

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Ariel Zhang 

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

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

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

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

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Ariel Zhang as Amalthea in Consumemate

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

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

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

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

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

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

Actor Wadih Dona Thrives on Challenge

Australian actor Wadih Dona is a force to be reckoned with. With an impressive depth of classical theater training, a rich catalog of stage, television and film credits, the handsome, versatile player has achieved a great deal and is poised to ascend to the top of his field. For Dona, it’s been a near-lifelong pursuit.

“I don’t think you choose acting—it chooses you,” Dona said. “From a very early age I was always drawn to it. My father worked all over the Middle East and Europe, and as child I was exposed to many places and different cultures. I was always interested in people, watching them, looking at their behavior, making up stories about them. You see a couple in a restaurant and within seconds you can figure out their relationship based on their behavior. Is this a first date or a break up? I loved that.”

Acting is a particularly demanding endeavor. In order to succeed, a practitioner must demonstrate the ability to create a wholly convincing fictional experience. It’s a complex, sophisticated, painstaking discipline, and Dona does it with a sensitivity and skein of truth that reaches his audience’s empathic core to evoke a genuine response. As Nicholas Buffalo, who directed Dona on medical drama series All Saints, said, “Wadih’s incredible skills as an actor, his talent and versatility not only ensured the series’ commercial success and high viewership but also contributed to the way the show was received by critics and award bodies alike.”

This rare ability was honed and perfected by training alongside some of the world’s most prestigious educators. With studies at the renowned Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts, New England University, New York University and London’s world famous Royal Shakespeare Company, Dona, since finishing his studies in the mid-90’s, has undertaken a steady stream of work and built a career of significant momentum in theatre, film and television.

Currently appearing in the Sydney Theatre Company’s critically-acclaimed revival of Michael Gow’s Away at the Sydney Opera House, Dona’s trove of international include a wide range of theatrical work, recurring roles on some of Australia’s most watched television programs and made his US feature film debut in 2016’s Septembers of Shiraz. But, at home, he is perhaps best known for his role as Dr. Nick Paltos on the top-rated series Underbelly.

“I had watched the first season of Underbelly and loved it,” Dona said. ”Then I heard they were casting the second season leads, and Nick Paltos, the character I played was of Greek Australian heritage and I had a reasonable resemblance to him. Really, it was synchronicity, because the producers were interested in me, so I screen tested for it and the rest is history, as they say.”

“Unconventional stories are always the most interesting to me,” Dona said. “The character was based on a real person, a doctor who was notorious in the 70’s for smuggling the largest import of hashish into Australia—seven tons! Here was a conservative doctor, a GP, the pillar of his community, a church goer and beneath all of it he ran a huge drug racket. That, to me, was fascinating.”

Underbelly had smashed ratings records right out of the gate. As the Australian News reported, the show was “the most watched Australian Television series, with the double episode premiere attracting an average of 2,501,500 viewers nationally. The show has consistently rated highly, being the most watched show on Australian television for all episodes broadcast so far.” Dona’s striking portrayal of this infamous character kept the excitement high, and he relished every moment of it.

Underbelly was a fantastic experience,” Dona said. “But it was shot very quickly and was a true thrill. They cast strong actors because they knew the shooting time was short, so you really had to go with your instinct, as rehearsal time was also very short. Since I was playing a doctor on my first day of shooting the first scene was of me performing a colonoscopy, so it was very interesting getting the medical advisor to show me how to do that at 7 am on set!”

Since that six episode stint on Underbelly, his ongoing professional odyssey, with almost 30 television credits and eight big screen appearances, has been equally rewarding and successful. “Acting is a lifelong pursuit,” Dona said. “It’s organically happening for me now, and the opportunities coming are fantastic. There is no failure, only feedback. You have to plan to some extent but also leave some things to fate. I never want to be someone who regrets not doing something—if something challenges me, I embrace it.”

 

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

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Actress Mariana Montes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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