Mariana Wahrhaftig goes from fan to expert producer for Zelda symphony

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Mariana Wahrhaftig used her years of being a Zelda fan to her advantage for the concert series.

Most adults in today’s modern world grew up playing video games. For many children, opening up a gaming was the greatest gift they could possibly receive. A favorite video game often has more of an impact on a child than a favorite book, and people become nostalgic when talking about them.

 

Producer and director Mariana Wahrhaftig is one of those people. For her, like so many others, Nintendo was the system of choice, and Zelda was the game. But, for Wahrhaftig, she doesn’t have to talk about “the good old days” playing the game, because Zelda is her present.

Wahrhaftig was a producer for the third season of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses – Master Quest. The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses is a concert that features music and video from the acclaimed video game The Legend of Zelda series where new and exclusive musical arrangements are played by a full live orchestra and choir in sync with vides played on a giant screen. Master Quest is the third season of this concert.

The Legend of Zelda was my childhood. I fell in love with the games after playing them, and have loved them ever since. The games’ soundtracks were basically the soundtracks to my childhood,” said Wahrhaftig.

As producer, she was responsible for all the new creative content of the show. She supervised the pieces, as well as produced it. She was in charge of the new piece for the Majora’s Mask game, which was a request from Nintendo, since they were releasing a remake of the 2000 game. She also was responsible for writing, and providing direction for the videos they recorded with the game creators. She directed creative content and produced the new videos, and some updates requested by Nintendo. She also worked a bit of tour logistics.

“I loved the fact that I got to work with my favorite video game, and bring life to pieces that would touch the hearts of fans and take them back down memory lane and re-live the moments from their childhoods,” she said.

Wahrhaftig worked alongside Bill Panks, a composer who orchestrated the Majora’s Mask piece under her direction, and Daniel Johnson, the editor of the videos that accompanied the music. Johnson described working with her as a “total blast.”

“We had so much fun on this project, and her insight and fandom for the Zelda games really helped guide me along in the edit, since at the time I had never played any of the games myself,” said Johnson. “Her knowledge and passion for all the little details of the Zelda universe really helped flesh out the final videos to be as rich and specific as possible for all the fans who came to the show.”

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The concert features videos that are perfectly timed with the music.

Wahrhaftig agrees that the experience was a great one, especially because of those she worked with.

“The videos are a huge part of the show, and they have to be perfectly in sync with the music, and Dan and I spent hours on end in front of his computer getting things just right,” she said. “He’s a star, he truly made the videos amazing. He knows his craft, and he does it really well.

I got to work with some great people who are very talented, and I am very thankful for that.”

The pressure was on for Wahrhaftig to deliver, as Zelda fans have a love for the game that is unlike most other video games.

“You want to make things that are true to the original games, and that are at Nintendo’s standards. You aren’t dealing with your own content, and so, everything you do, you have to make sure you do it right,” she said.

And it looks like she did, as The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses – Master Quest received extremely positive reviews, and is described as something every fan must see. And who better to do this, than a true fan.

Click here to buy tickets at a concert near you.

 

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Keanu Uchida Embodies a Champion Horse in New Musical “Dancer”

Keanu Uchida is still a fresh face in the professional dance world but he has already achieved considerable diversity and prestige in his career.

While still studying dance at his home dance studio near Ottawa, Uchida was honored with acceptance into the highly-respected summer intensive program at The Julliard School in 2013.

He has also received many regional and international titles in dance competition, making him one to watch in Canada and beyond. Most notably, he was awarded the title of Senior Male Best Dancer in 2014 at international dance event, The Dance Awards and given the opportunity to assist celebrated choreographers like Travis Wall, Nick Lazzarini, Mia Michaels, and Al Blackstone at conventions.

The multi-talented Uchida, who is a musician as well as a student of physics at The University of Toronto, is making big contributions to the professional dance community with his work on screen and on stage. He danced leading roles as a principal dancer on BBC television series, The Next Step and was hand-selected by head choreographer, Jeff Dimitriou to appear as one of only 15 dancers in the 2015 Pan American Games Closing Ceremonies production which was broadcast to an international audience.

“Keanu is simply brilliant,” says Stacey Tookey, who oversees contemporary dance for the NUVO Dance Convention and is probably best known for her appearances as a resident choreographer and guest judge on the Canadian and American versions of the dance competition reality show So You Think You Can Dance.

Canadian dancer Keanu Uchida

Uchida has also proven an invaluable contributor to dance in Toronto as a featured dancer in immersive and challenging performances by leaders in the city’s contemporary dance scene.

“I often create while channeling Keanu’s movement and essence,” says Cora Kozaris, choreographer of CARNÉ, a bold, new work debuting at one of Toronto’s oldest contemporary dance presenting organizations, Dancemakers Centre for Creation. “His uniqueness and creativity is harmonious with my mind. Together, we inspire each other to push boundaries.”

Uchida is looking forward to the next evolutionary step in his career as he immerses himself in the leading role, Northern Dancer in the upcoming musical theater production, Dancer, which is expected to debut in Spring 2017 at Toronto’s historic Elgin Theatre.

After a competitive audition process that lasted two days and lured many of Canada’s best dancers, he waited months for casting results to discover he was being offered to lead the cast as a race horse that is crowned Canada’s first winner of the Kentucky Derby. Uchida spent an intense three weeks last Spring working with Tookey, who is choreographer for the show, and producer John McKellar to artistically draft the scripted dance pieces during the workshop phase of the production.

“Digging into the creative process with both Stacey and John was a compelling experience,” recalls Uchida. “Both asked a lot from me regarding my character and discovering the role of Northern Dancer became a collaborative effort. I was given artistic freedom to try lots of things.”

The musical, told in “ten furlongs” and split into two acts, follows Northern Dancer’s steady rise to success. A horse no one wanted to buy, he forms special relationships with his owners, is trained and put to the test in race after race, eventually becoming a national symbol of pride. The story is an emotional journey as he seeks acceptance from the equine community and of himself.

The character of Norther Dancer has no lines in the musical, though he is in almost every scene. He communicates through body language and dance with friends and a few enemies throughout the performance. The technical and demanding choreography by Tookey requires of Uchida significant grace, poise, and control, not to mention, imagination and the ability to explore and innovate.

“Lots of movement was developed from improvisation, where I was asked to embody the horse and embrace its motion as naturally as possible,” says Uchida. “I wasn’t asked to ‘dance’ like a horse, but rather to be one.”

Uchida’s capabilities as a very creative and dextrous dancer made him perfect for this character and its development.

“Keanu’s ability to implement his creative vision while adhering to tight deadlines is what makes him an essential asset to any project he is a part of,” says Tookey.

Toronto-based dancer, Keanu Uchida

Fellow dancers and choreographers with whom Uchida has worked repeatedly mention his unique brilliance and artistry as a performer.

“Besides his physical capabilities, he has an incredible way of bringing you into a world,” explains Julia Cratchley, who hired Uchida last year for an immersive dance project with her company TranscenDANCE. “He will make you believe anything he does and captivate you doing even the slightest thing.”

Being thrown into a central role in a musical has inspired Uchida to take voice lessons.

“This process has completely sparked my interest in musical theatre,” he remarks.

Given his dedication and talent, it seems inevitable that no matter where Uchida’s career takes him next, audiences are very likely to see more of this young professional on stage in the future.

Simone Lombardo has Just Cause for praise

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Simone Lombardo is internationally recognized for his abilities and achievements in the visual effects industry.

It can be during difficult times where one discovers what they are truly passionate about. When people are pushed to their limits they find happiness, no matter how old they are.

This is what happened for Simone Lombardo, who is now an internationally recognized 3D artist in visual effects in both film and video games.

As a young boy growing up in Liege, Belgium, Lombardo was frequently very ill, and was limited on what he could or could not do, and where he could and could not go.

“I couldn’t go outside and play until I was about 8 years old, but even then I was a bit weak, so I would stay inside,” he described. “One of my teacher’s setup a computer for me during lunch time at school so I didn’t feel bored or lonely. That is when I fell in love with computers.”

It did not take long for Lombardo to start discovering different software that the school computers had to offer, such as Logo and Turtle Graphics and later Klick & Play which would let him do mini-game, and finally 3D Studio 4, which he says made him discover 3D.

“I was always interested by Japanese animation because of my grandfather’s love of it, as well as Walt Disney, but when A Bug’s Life was released I knew this was the future of animation, and I knew this is what I wanted to do, this and video games.”

Lombardo has achieved his childhood goal. He has worked on the blockbuster films The Maze Runner and its sequel The Maze Runner: Scorch Trials, the Academy Award winning film Hugo, as well as the largely successful video games Resident Evil and Soul Caliber V.

“I love the fact that if I have an idea late at night, I could just jump on the computer and quickly prototype something. I went to art school, but I always have had problems learning how to draw. many of my friends tried to teach me, but somehow it never works. But, when it comes to visual effects, everything is possible. It’s like magic,” said Lombardo.

Lombardo is an award-winning member of his field. He was an honorable mention at the CG Society International Challenge Spectacular, and first runner up at the Journey Begins. He won the Vocation Foundation Price in Belgium, in the CG Animation category in 2007, and is in the official 3dsmax Bible Book of 2008 and 2009

“Simone is an elite visual effects artist and animator of extraordinary ability,” said Saku Partiamies, the VFX supervisor at Pixomondo Shanghai, who worked with Lombardo on Hugo. “Simone possess excellent interpersonal skills and is a natural leader on set, instructing a large team of people how to achieve the most effective results to make the best film possible.”

Despite his overwhelming success and accolades, Lombardo says there are still challenges he faces each day.

“VFX is a young industry, and it keeps changing almost every day. It can be difficult to jump in the middle, as it is difficult to keep up to date with it. It has so many branches and variations,” he described.

But Lombardo has done a good job at keeping up-to-date with his chosen field. While studying advertising at a young age, he mastered programs like Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, and branched into 3D Studio 4, despite there not being any access to it in his hometown.

“I just learned by reading the documentation and finding really rarely some book at the library. I ended up knocking on the door of the only company in my country at the time that was doing 3D Animation at the time, Neurone Animation, and asked them how I could learn more,” he said.

This sheer determination led Lombardo to a night school where he could refine his skills.

“They had computers, and software like Alias, and 3dsmax. I was freaking out,” he said. “For 3 years I made the trip from my hometown to the school every day. It was one hour on the bus, two and a half hours on the train, and then a thirty minute walk each way.”

A four hour commute to school has paid off for Lombardo, who worked on Take Back Your Power, which was done under Reuben Langdon at Just Cause.

“It was a really great project to work on, because the time was short, and I could test some game engine render with it. While 80 per cent of it was done with traditional CGI, the other 20 per cent was done using a really early version of my Game Engine Hybrid pipeline, it was a really good warm up. And the director was really nice,” he described.

Langdon, the founder of Just Cause Productions, knew from the time he met Lombardo that he wanted him to work at Just Cause.

“I can honestly say that working with a visual effects artist of Simone’s caliber has been one of the high points of my career,” said Langdon. “Simone’s work changed the way the industry looks at game engine.”

Working with Just Cause, Lombardo also worked on Resident Evil and Soul Caliber V, which many gamers recognize for their outstanding visual effects.

“Working on an amazing game like Resident Evil taught me a lot about motion capture and game tech. It re-connected my visual effect knowledge with my game engine root from Amsterdam. Working on Soul Caliber V, I could learn from the amazing team at Just Cause, and their amazing knowledge of Facial Motion capture and voice-over,” described Lombardo.

Lombardo has ambitious goals, from wanting to become a director for a movie or game, as well as release his own IP he wrote called HOPE, which will consist of three movies, two games, one comic book series, and a television show.

“Once that is done, I think it will be ok to take a break,” he concluded.

Well, he has definitely earned it.

HOW BRUNO NUNEZ ROMAGNOLI IS SUPPORTING “HER LAST JOB”

Bruno Nunez Romagnoli is already a well known actor in his homeland of Argentina. With his latest role, he is becoming a part of the lineage of Latin actors in Hollywood; a list which includes such actors as Anthony Quinn, Antonio Banderas, Michael Pena, Edward James Olmos, and so many others. This actor exudes the intensity and charisma that the aforementioned leading men posses but is also required to establish a career in a modern day market which is somewhat chaotic. With so many paths available to the actors of today (film, TV, online and streaming platforms), the path to work and success is more fragmented than ever before. This also means that the potential for an actor to be seen is greater, as is the competition for the public’s attention. To get noticed takes that intrinsic quality, a quality that many are recognizing in this young actor known for his commanding presence.

Her Last Job is writer/director Leon Tianze Wang’s film about modern day hitmen and their pursuit of a mark while dealing with their personal lives. Romagnoli plays Robin, an assassin hired for a job who runs into an old flame, who was also a hitman. The reunion does not end well for Robin. Her Last Job creator and director, Wang recalls the experience working with the actors, “Bruno’s performance in the film is incredible but he added more than the public will ever know. Without him on set, I don’t think we would have been able to achieve making this film. We had so many problems when we were shooting in the Salton Sea. I was worried about the actors all the time because I was making them work for more than 16 hours straight. Bruno, who was the leading character told me, ‘Don’t worry. I understand how directing works. I’m here for you so let’s work, okay?” I couldn’t believe it. He truly helped me out at a time when everyone was exhausted. He led the charge to stay focused and at delivered a heart wrenching and riveting performance.”

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Romagnoli always loves the challenge of filmmaking and acting but reveals that Her Last Job was a challenge that required him to stay particularly focused. The location and the fact that this was an independent film made the shoot especially difficult for its cast and crew. Bruno reveals, “Filming in the middle of the desert at noon is insane! It was more than 115 degrees Fahrenheit, and was also full of flies, making it very uncomfortable. The incredible heat caused some of the equipment to intermittently stop working, which delayed shooting. Filming was delayed so much that the script needed to change and 30% of the scenes became night scenes. Independent films have a much tighter budget and in order to not exceed that, we had to stay awake and work through the entire day and night for the climax scene. The two actresses and I who were a part of these scenes were working for more than 20 hours straight, only stopping for lunch. The director felt awful about the working conditions; we were all tired and dizzy because of the heat. If I only had an acting background, I might have been grumpy, but I understood his situation. I let him know that I was going to be there for whatever he needed and I was not going to stop until it was done. With tears in his eyes, he hugged me. I might have helped but it still wouldn’t have worked without the two talented women, Caitlin Harty and Mariana Huerta who worked just as hard as everyone involved in the film. There were no rampant egos on this production.”

Critics and cast praised Bruno’s performance in the film. Bruno threw himself into the character and his preparation just as he would for any major studio production. He admits that he found transforming himself to be more difficult than the actual delivery of his performance. Romagnoli comments, “I did a total physical change to play Robin and it has changed the way I live. When I got the script the first thing I noticed was that my character was a hitman, and the second was that I had a sex scene. Because of his vocation, my character has to be in a really good shape. I think that is what someone who kills professionally would look like. There are a lot of physically demanding scenarios in his work and he has to be prepared if he wants to remain alive. I had three months before the shooting so I got a personal trainer and I started a program of intensive diet and training at the gym. I would not call it enjoyable. I would feel sick some days, but I got into shape just in time; and maintained it even after the shooting. There are many roles which call for this physical appearance so I have continued this approach to be prepared.”

Bruno Nunez Romagnoli has all of the physical attributes and talent of the marquee names that the public loves, but also has the perspective of a filmmaker. This winning combination has led him from his home in Argentina to the Hollywood community as he pursues and accepts the offers that continue to gravitate his way. Her Last Job is the first of many future jobs which are establishing him as one of the film industry’s bright faces.

Making a Dream a Reality: Venezuelan Actor Pedro Flores!

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Actor Pedro Flores (left) and Laverne Cox from “Orange is the New Black” at the 2014 Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards in Los Angeles, CA (photo by: Inez Veronica Chavez)

His entire life, Pedro Flores dreamed of becoming an actor. But growing up in the small town of El Tigre, an eight hour drive from the Venezuelan capital of Caracas, meant achieving that goal required him to defy the odds. With endless dedication, commitment, and a talent that out shined the competition, Flores has reached his dream. He’s become an inimitable figure in the industry, a go-to actor capable of assuming any role in any genre.

In addition to his extensive work in films like “Match” and television series like “What’s The Norm?,” Flores has also been featured in a number of successful commercial advertisements.  Among these were a commercial for Universal Studios’ “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter,” as well as an ad for Volkswagen’s Jetta and Beetle models earlier this year.

 

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Pedro Flores on the far left in a poster for the new Harry Potter campaign

 

Flores recently wrapped filming on the first episode of the upcoming series “What’s The Norm?,” a hip new comedy which breaks down stereotypes about race and relationships. The series stars Kerry Rhodes as Norm, Nicky Whelan (“Hall Pass,” “The Wedding Ringer”) as his wife Chloe, and Flores as Pelo, a suave dancing coach with a record of seducing his clients.

“Norm is a baseball player, a legend now in the final stage of his career and about to retire. Chloe is an actress whose career is finally taking off. I play Pelo, Chloe’s dancing coach, and we’re competing in a dancing competition on TV,” Flores explained. “Pelo is the sexy, Latino dancing instructor who makes a move on Chloe — but he pretty much makes a move on all the girls he dances with.”

Though “What’s The Norm?” is a comedy at its core, it smartly examines the profound number of issues facing couples, particularly couples of different races. Pelo’s failure to woo Chloe is just one of his character’s hilarious moments, and it serves to show viewers just how strong Chloe and Norm’s love for one another is.

Flores starred as the Boyfriend who is at his wits’ end in the 2016 film “Match,” a film that revolves around the vapid and materialistic mindset that makes dating apps so popular. In the film, Flores is driven to madness when his girlfriend won’t stop staring at her phone while the two are on a date. Set to debut at the Los Angeles Brazilian Film Festival in September, “Match” is a scathing critique of so-called smartphone addiction and mobile dating apps.

“It’s an excellent film because it shows how technology, specifically cell phones, are affecting our interactions and relationships with other people,” Flores said. “My character is annoyed at his girlfriend, who’s taking selfies while they are in the restaurant and giving all of her attention to the phone and how many likes she’s getting. So he just gets upset and leaves the restaurant.”

Last year, Flores also starred as Truce in the TV comedy “Jay Rocco.” “Jay Rocco” follows titular character and famous fashion designer Jay Rocco, who’s changing his entire collection based on the advice of a stranger he caught breaking into his house. Rocco sends his secretary Sibilla out to the Malibu Hills, where she finds herself stranded after a drunken night of partying. That’s how Sibilla and viewers meet Truce, a man whose wanderlust led him to give up his old life and explore the globe on a spiritual journey.

“Truce left his home in Venezuela, his family and his perfect job and just went out traveling the world in order to create his own path and discover the mystery of life,” Flores said, describing the nuances of Truce. “He likes the feeling of freedom and he loves to meet new people. He knows that he’ll always learn something from someone, no matter who they are.”

In a way, Truce has a great deal in common with Pedro Flores. Before he left Venezuela, Flores had attained a degree in engineering and could have easily settled for an easy life with a good job. But much like Truce, that life was not for Flores. Years of dedication and unquantifiable talent have allowed him to not only pursue his dreams, but to make them a reality.

 

THIS ACTRESS IS QUITE HAPPY ABOUT THE NEWS

Comedy is often the presence of the absurd in otherwise quite serious circumstances. Monika Smith is one of Hollywood’s comedic actresses that has become increasingly of note in this world due to her work on shows like Adult Swim’s Newsreaders. Newsreaders is the spinoff of Adult Swim’s Childrens Hospital produced by The Corddry Company (established by Emmy award-winning actor and comedian Rob Corddry of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, HBO’s Ballers, Hot Tub Time Machine, and Childrens Hospital). Many of the Corddry Company productions use an eclectic cast to add an impression of reality to their fictionalized comedy productions. Appearing in addition to Monika are personalities and actors like Dan Rather, Jane Seymour, Ed Begley Jr., Dave Foley, Conan O’Brien, Billy Ray Cyrus, David Hasselhoff, and countless others. This series requires actors of major presence and talent to perform with such recognizable faces and not become overshadowed. Smith more than met this challenge with her role as Cammie on Newsreaders.

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Los Angeles may be a big city but the entertainment community is quite small for both the famous and those not as widely known professionals. Canadian born comedic actress Monika Smith had made a name for herself early on in Canada as part of Second City, the famous improv sketch comedy group. After moving to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career, she also became involved in LA’s Second City as well as the Upright Citizens Brigade and Nerdist. Possessing this background and her talents as an actress quickly gained her acceptance into the LA comedy community. She tells, “I felt very much a part of the community right away. When it came to my work on Newsreaders, every writer, producer and actor on that show is an exceptional comedian so the bar definitely was raised. The environment was accepting, every joke was yes-anded. The comedy world in Los Angeles can feel small at times, and this was one of those moments where I felt I got to be a part of something special.”

Being a part of the LA improv comedy world can mean that you sometimes work with the same people, whether onstage or on set. When Monika auditioned for the role, she was aware of the great writers, producers, and cast members, but did not expect to be working with Thomas Middleditch (Emmy nominated lead actor in HBO’s Silicon Valley). Smith reveals, “I had performed with Thomas before this at some improv shows, and on an improvised web show (Improvise Live), so working with him was easy as we already knew each other’s styles, plus we have the bond of both being Canadian. On Newsreaders I played Cammie who was doing an undercover interview with the lead of the show who plays the reporter. Thomas Middleditch played my boyfriend and we were supposed to be in school paying for our tuition using the bang bus. The newsreaders host was interviewing us in order to catch our boss, who was supposed to be using it illegally.”

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One of the stereotypes that Newsreaders like to play off of is the idea that television news personalities are more possessing of pleasing aesthetics than the intellect to properly process the information they disseminate. With all of Monika’s success as a comedic actor, who also had a thriving modeling career with Ford and Elite modeling agencies (before focusing on her acting career), she proves that this stereotype does not apply to this actor. Commenting about this idea she states, “I don’t think looks are as important in comedy. Comedy is about the circumstances created and the reactions of the people within it. Being beautiful isn’t a trope of comedy. But, this is Hollywood, so looks always factor in.”

MONIKA SMITH ALWAYS GETS THE LAST LAUGH

In the world of Prank TV shows, Monika Smith is one of the shining stars. This actress has numerous film and TV credits in her list of credits but made her mark early on with shows like Disaster Date (as the name implies, a program about horrible dating experiences) and Who Gets The Last Laugh (WGTLL). WGTLL pitted famous comedians against each other to see who can pull the most outrageous prank. Smith was one of the comic actors on the show who acted out the parts dictated by these comedians. Possessing a strong background in improvisation as well as being extremely confident and convincing was a necessity for the actors on WGTLL. Monika saw the show as a chance to challenge herself. She states, “I love pranking. I think it has helped me hone my skills as an actor and I am very fortunate for this experience. As I move forward in my career I am continually trying to challenge myself with the roles I play.” WGTLL, produced by Ashton Kutcher and Jason Goldberg for TBS, resulted in Smith working alongside household comedy names like D.L. Hughley, Alan Thicke, Tom Green, and many others. Smith concedes that she particularly enjoyed working with so many comedians whose work she has enjoyed for so long. Monika relates, “. It was so much fun to work with Cherie OTeri. I grew up watching her on SNL. She had made me laugh for so many years with her work so it was particularly fulfilling for me to make her laugh. Kevin McDonald from Kids In The Hall was the same for me. He was a celebrity guest and Kids in The Hall is a very famous Canadian comedy show that I grew up watching. That show shaped a lot of people’s comedy styles. To make Kevin laugh was thrilling. At one point he was complimenting me about how funny I was and I was thinking to myself, ‘I watched your show over and over at home in my pjs growing up!’ Those are the pinch me moments that a lot of us aspire to achieve.”  WGTLL Producer Nick Kriess adds his comments to Smith’s other admirers noting, “Monika struck me as an actor to keep an eye out for when she came in to audition for Punk’d.  She was incredibly captivating during the auditioning process, showing a clear sense of direction; she knew how to grab your attention and keep you mesmerized.  I brought her along with me on TBS show Who Gets the Last Laugh?, a hidden camera comedy television series that saw some of the industries’ most well-known comedians going up against three guest comedians to see who could pull off the most outrageous practical jokes on the unsuspecting public.  Monika was a series regular on the show.  She was critical to the project because she had to convince ‘normal’ people to do the crazy tasks that the comedians were coming up with.  There aren’t a lot of actors that can stay in character during insane situations and convince people to do absurd things, but Monika is one of those actors who can. Who Gets the Last Laugh? was a hit due in large part to Monika’s extensive improv background.  Monika has managed to make a strong career out of her fantastic comedic sensibilities and her amazing way of always knowing the best direction to take a scene in no matter what is thrown her way.  She went neck and neck with some of the biggest celebrity comedians in the game and stood her ground, sometimes even completely overshadowing them.  Monika’s leading role on the production catapulted her into being the fan favorite, directly resulting in the one million plus viewers Who Gets the Last Laugh? received each episode.  Monika is a very unique actor in that she can convince people of just about anything.  For example, on one of the most hilarious and popular episodes, Monika had to convince an unsuspecting person that her dance partner was cheating on her and was subsequently going after the person’s significant other.  This task would be a very hard one to accomplish for most people, but it was almost too easy for Monika.  She is a class act and has helped the series succeed as both a piece of entertainment and a showcase for what makes Monika such a professional and amazing actor to work with. Monika has accumulated many impressive credits in a number of major film and television productions in the global entertainment industry for several years now.”

Monika Smith has created a unique situation for herself in the entertainment industry. At a young age she had a successful international modeling career with Ford and Elite. Rather than make this her life’s work, she pursued her love of comedy and joined the Second City Touring Company in Toronto. Recognizing the opportunities available to her, she relocated to LA where she began performing on harold, maude and house teams at UCB, as well as Second City and Nerdist. She has taught improv at Second City, UCB, Nerdist, and even internationally in China. The unique combination of her physical presence, comedic instincts, and acting abilities made her the first call for shows like WGTLL. The programs lead performers needed to be eye catching, persuasive, fast thinking, and able to stay in character longer than almost any other actors. Smith explains, “Who Gets the Last Laugh, and the numerous prank shows I’ve done have made me a better actor. I was forced to be in character in front of real people for hours sometimes. With only a mic on my person, and an ear bud letting me know what was happening in the scene, I was able to convince real people that I was a crazy person. It was hard work and it was thrilling. There are no second takes as you have to have your ‘mark’ (the real people) believe you the first time. It’s a skill that I think has made me a better actor.”

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Smith states that the X factor which makes her scenes so demanding but also so highly educational for her is the “marks.” She emphasizes that working with an unknowing participant, although similar to improv sketch comedy, can pull you in directions that are completely unexpected. Monika confirms that she is often relieved when her true motives are revealed to the “mark”, but the experience is well worth the small amount of uneasiness. It is often bewildering to witness what some individuals will allow her to do during the pranks. Recalling some of her favorite moments on WGTLL, she states, “On the show I played various characters and tricked real people into believing that this character and these odd situations were real. I played an intern that accidentally discovered classified government papers. I made people believe that the FBI was after us. On another episode I called a locksmith and had them open a jewelry store that I told them was mine. Once they unlocked the door I proceeded to steal all the jewels and leave them in the store. I had to convince these people not only that I owned a jewelry store, but I also got them to open the safe. You can discover whether or not you are truly convincing in the role you are playing in these situations. That’s the type of immediate feedback that confirms if your acting instincts are correct.”

Monika Smith can be seen in a number of films and television programs, most recently starring alongside Patrick Stewart and Adrian Scarborough in the STARZ series Blunt Talk (Golden Globe nominated). All of these opportunities are the reason she moved to Los Angeles. She feels confident that she has chosen the right environment here in LA stating, “I had thought about moving to NY, as I had worked there when I was modeling and loved the city. But, LA is where TV and movies are cast and I thought it was the smartest option. It’s a wonderful city where art is being created just about everywhere.”

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