Tag Archives: Actor

Actor Yifan Luo channels his teenage years in ‘Talentik’

Yifan Luo knows what it takes to become a sought-after actor. The Chinese native recognizes the importance of patience; success does not come over night, and acting isn’t easy. You have to study and constantly be looking to improve yourself. He knows that even the most renowned actors spent years not hearing back from auditions but never giving up. That is exactly what he did, and now he is a leading actor in China’s film industry and has begun making headlines around the world.

“During some difficult times, you may not get a chance to work for months. Under this circumstance, will you still be sure that you want to be an actor? Can you be patient enough to go for auditions one after another with the best performance you can give although none of them gives you a callback? Will you be as passionate for some work that might give you $200 in total as those big things that you have done before? If the answers are no, then you should not be an actor,” he advised.

Those days are now long gone for Luo, but he constantly remembers them and remains humble despite what he has achieved. Just last year, he was recognized for his portrayal of a schizophrenic psychopath in the thriller SAM, and even received an Honorable Mention for Best Actor at Festigious 2017. He has many exciting projects upcoming, working alongside some of Hollywood’s elite. He also is incredibly versatile, exploring different genres and mediums. Just last year, his film Talentik was released online, allowing audiences to stream the film when they chose.

“Yifan played an important role as one of main characters in our production Talentik. He is such an energetic actor while everyone can see his talent and profession on set. Yifan always spends lots of time on his character and script before shooting, so it’s easily worked with him, saving time and money for our production. Also, his attitude and enthusiasm are often infectious to the other actors and the crew. We are so fortunate to have had Yifan in our production,” said Steven Li, Director.

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The cast and crew of Talentik

The movie is about three Chinese college freshmen who get accepted by a United States Ivy League school. They arrive in the US without anybody helping them and get a text message telling them to look for any possible clues that can lead them to finding the school. While looking for clues, a strong relationship is gradually built among the three characters. One day, one of them gets kidnapped by the villain. The remaining two characters try very hard to find her and save her from the bad guy. Finally, they realize that everything has been set up by the school in order to help them to learn how to work with each other. At the end, they find the school and all get accepted.

“The story tells us the importance of cooperation. Nobody can succeed without the help of other people. Individualistic heroism no longer works for society. We all need to help each other. This movie gives a very good example of how three spoiled kids finally learn how to trust and rely on each other in order to reach the same goal,” Luo said.

The movie tells the story of the three characters on their journey, and Luo plays one of those three characters. Everything happens around the three of them. Luo plays Luke, a college freshman. He initially failed the college entrance exam in China, but happens to be accepted by a college in United States that comes out of nowhere. He comes from a rich family in China. His parents love him so much and they want to control everything in his life. This is why he finally decides to go to the US, so that he can break away from his parents. And interestingly, he is a mind-reader. His favorite thing is to read other people’s mind and make fun of them. The character is quite a few years younger than Luo, who was ready for the challenge of taking on a different generation.

“It was amazing to work with such a professional actor like Yifan who always came prepared and donates himself into the character. The film wouldn’t be such a success without Yifan’s participation. He is a true artist who concentrates on his goal and is in the character with all his heart. It was such an honor that we worked with Yifan in the film and will definitely keep working with him again in the future,” said Olina Wang, Producer.

Wang approached Luo to work on the film, knowing he is an extraordinarily talented actor, and playing comedy without overdoing it and simultaneously having to act 8 years younger than you actually are can be challenging for many actors. Luo was eager to try something different, and immediately accepted the role.

While shooting Talentik, Luo decided to method act, and stayed in character at all times, not only in front of the camera, but also when he was waiting, getting ready for makeup, having lunch, taking a break, etc. He tried to really become the character. He did funny things that he normally would not have. He forced himself to eat twice as much food as he really needed, just like a growing teen. He joked around on the set, making everybody laugh. All these things were to help get himself into character.

“Working on Talentik was awesome. Everyone liked each other. The set was full of laughter. We helped each other with whatever we could. There was no conflict nor any argument during the whole shooting process. I believe that’s the most important thing in a film shoot. Once there is an argument going on, everybody stops and tries to deal with the argument, which delays the process a lot. With good relationships between all the casts and crews, we didn’t have to think about too much and could focus on making the movie good,” he said.

They definitely achieved that. After shooting the film in 2016, the film was released on Sohu Video, one of the largest online distributors in China. It quickly received over 10 million views and is still going strong almost a year later. At the time, Luo was not expecting such a response, as he had so much fun making the film that he considered that enough.

“I have to say that I was deeply surprised. I didn’t know it was getting so many views until one of my friends called me and told me about it. At the beginning, I thought he was lying. I didn’t believe him until I went online and checked it myself. I still feel proud of what I did, what the team did. We brought something to the public and got realization. That’s enough for me. The only thing I ever want is for people to like what I have done and for people watching my work to have fun,” he concluded.

And that’s exactly what viewers feel when watching Talentik. Be sure to watch Luo’s performance in the film on Sohu Video.

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Q&A with leading British actor Pezh Maan

Throughout his career, Britain’s Pezh Maan has shown audiences he is a force to be reckoned with as an actor. His work as a villain in the James Bond blockbuster Spectre was an international success, and the actor quickly became recognized around the world. Since then, he has starred in television shows like BBC’s Eastenders, the award-winning French series The Bureau, and the immensely popular FX series Tyrant.

We had a chance to sit down with this dynamic actor and find out about the beginnings of his career and get some advice for those looking to follow in his footsteps. He also gives a brief preview to his upcoming American television show Deep State, which premieres on FOX in over 50 countries later this year.

Check out this interview!

Pezh Maan Promotional 2 (2017)

EWG: Where are you from?

PM: I was born in Plymouth, United Kingdom, a naval town on the south-west Coast bridging the counties of Devon and Cornwall. I spent most of my childhood and youth there before moving away at 18. Since then, I’ve lived in Cambridge in the UK, spent most of the past 20 years making London my home, except for several lengthy stints traveling the globe, once circumnavigating from the UK eastwards and arriving back via Brazil a year later, and several months in different cities in India and the Far East. My star sign is Leo born in the year of the Chinese Wood Tiger.

EWG: In your own words, how would you describe what you do as an actor?

PM: I think what I do is to interpret the words of the writer and turn them into all the facets of the living breathing human being that I am being asked to play. I get into the skin of the character whilst still being myself with all my own emotional responses. When the character is somewhat at odds with my own experiences then imagination can come to one’s aid in creating a way to relate to the character. Imagination is the lifeblood of an actor’s work and interpreting the text is an imaginative endeavor and an extremely rewarding one for me.

EWG: What initially sparked your interest in acting?

PM: Like a lot of kids, I was involved in school productions and I remember just enjoying being on the stage and being in a position to influence the audience with humor or different emotions. I developed a love for performing over the years that was nurtured as I moved through high school and began reading more about plays and watching films and I had some great teachers who inspired in us a love of drama and life, which was invaluable for us. Acting was part and parcel of understanding life it seemed to me and felt like a natural place for me to express myself.

EWG: Why did you want to be a professional actor?

PM: For several years I was involved in amateur productions in London on stage as well as on camera in low-budget short films. After a while it became clear that I needed to be doing it full-time and so it became a natural progression to take the steps of a professional actor. I began the actor’s journey of auditions, castings, knock backs and small successes. None of the joys would have been possible for me if I hadn’t taken the plunge and signed up to be full committed to the activity that was my passion since childhood. And I sort of fell into small successes that led to further work and I’ve been lucky enough to see my career grow.

EWG: What do you like about being an actor?

PM: It’s now such an integral part of my life I can’t see myself doing anything else. I like the work, and the people who are drawn to this particular way of telling stories. One thing we all have in common is the need to tell stories and actors are charged with bringing stories to audiences in a collaborative endeavor that can move people. It’s also a lot of fun. I feel in acting we are given free rein to experience the whole gamut of emotions that in everyday life we don’t get to experience that often (and rightly so!). It’s a very invigorating activity and I find it hugely inspiring.

EWG: What are the challenges to being an actor and how do you overcome them?

PM: The work you need to do as an actor on your mind body and probably soul to be best equipped to be able to produce performances that move people, that are specific and bring characters to life in that believable way that keeps audiences attentions. That entails a lot of preparation and study, especially learning lines and cues of when to make actions necessary for the story and so forth. Then there are the challenges of how to make a life and a living from a profession that has been described as the most competitive one out there. Being rejected is something that you accept as an actor and an experience you become accustomed to and probably the major part of any working actor’s success is having the resilience to keep working despite fallow periods of little or no success. It’s a real test of one’s self-belief as actors. Actors need to be in tune with their sensitivity as humans to be good actors and so it can be quite a challenge to maintain that equanimity and take the challenges in your stride.

EWG: What would you consider the highlight of your career?

PM: That is an interesting question because initially the early successes made a huge impact and it felt as if I was moving from highlight to highlight. Now that my career has a steady momentum I feel as if the highlight of my career is having a career. I’m very grateful to have had the honor of working with some great actors and directors on film and television and being cast in the Bond film Spectre will always be an experience I will remember. I’d like to think that the highlight has yet to happen and wait to see what the future will bring. That attitude keeps me fresh and not complacent which I think is detrimental for any artist.

EWG: How would you describe your style of acting?

PM: I think that is something that critics are better placed to comment on this. Words such as naturalistic and minimalistic are ideas that resonate with me when thinking of performances on camera. I’m excited by seeing performances with those qualities and I like to think that I do my best to try and achieve that on camera. Acting for the camera is an art in itself as the camera picks up on everything you are doing, and so minimalism is amplified and goes a long way. Apart from that I would say that having no style works best for the camera, trying to be as truthful to the moment as possible without embellishing unnecessarily and being economical with gestures and actions can really enhance the portrayal you achieve on screen.

EWG: What advice would you give to those looking to pursue a career in acting?

PM: That’s an interesting question. I’ve read other actor’s responses in the past to that question which fall into the “Do/Don’t do it and Keep going you’ll get there in the end” categories. I would say that either you know you want to do it or you don’t and that you should listen to your gut and heart because then you can never go wrong and in the end if you followed your heart you will be a success whatever happens. And to avoid becoming negative or cynical because life is bigger than all of us and to keep a perspective on it is to have cracked the secret to a successful life. One I’m still trying to achieve myself.

EWG: What are your plans for the future?

I have a really interesting role in a brilliant new thriller series Deep State in Spring 2018, which was great fun to shoot and I can’t wait to see the final cut. I also have another film project that I can’t talk too much about now and a television project to shoot this year. 2018 promises to be an exciting one and we have only just begun.

Q&A with Actor Dominic Kay of ‘Allies’

There is little doubt as to why Dominic Kay has become a force to be reckoned with in the United Kingdom’s film and television industry. This revered actor has proven what he is capable of in a series of demanding and versatile roles, captivating audiences around the world. Whether it is with his work in the horror White Settlers or in a comedic role in ITV’s iconic soap Coronation Street, Kay is always on the top of his game.

This year, audiences can look forward to Kay once again gracing the big screen in the upcoming 20th Century Fox feature Walk Like a Panther. The film that tells the comedic story of a group of 1980s wrestlers are forced to don the lycra once last time when their beloved local pub is threatened with closure. They put on one last show for their local town, which becomes legend.

One of the highlights of Kay’s career came when making the 2014 historical drama Allies. The film, directed by Dominic Burns and stars Downten Abbey’s Julian Ovenden. The film is close to Kay’s heart, and we had a chance to sit down and talk to him about his role in the endearing World War II movie, and once reading, be sure to check out Kay’s dynamic work in Allies. 

EWG: What made you want to work on the film?

DK: Well what had me interested in this particular project was pretty much everything about it. Firstly, the genre, being a period war movie set during World War II. Ever since I first watched Band of Brothers I have always wanted to be in a period war project. I just love everything about them to be honest. The uniforms, weaponry, language and dialogue are all factors in my interest in a project like this. Also having family members who fought in the war and hearing harrowing stories from my grandfather was a key factor. I had often imagined what it was like to be fighting in a war and I guess this was an opportunity to experience a little bit of that. It was kind of a way of experiencing what it would have been like back then. I love watching movies like these and period dramas. I love everything about them really. It’s not every day you get to go back into the past and wear those uniforms, fire those old classic weapons and act in a way fitting with that period. I guess I’m a classic soul.

The script was a big positive for me as well. It was great and had me hooked from start to finish. It gave a very accurate representation of the war as we know it.

EWG: What is the film about?

DK: The film is set around the ‘D Day’ landings in Normandy France in World War II.
The Germans were occupying France and obliterated pretty much all of the resistance. The next step for them was crossing the English Channel and invading the United Kingdom. The Brits had set up a crack team enlisting the help of the French resistance and help from an American captain. Their mission was to be dropped behind enemy lines in France and to connect with the French resistance, causing as many problems for the Germans as possible in an attempt to shorten and even end the war. The story of the film is particularly important as it is based on true events that hold significant importance in European history. Hundreds of thousands of people lost their lives during this grueling war and many of them were children. To give an accurate and believable performance and do justice to a topic with this magnitude is of paramount importance. Many people growing up today don’t realize what sacrifices their predecessors made for them and I think giving them a glimpse of what it was like can be a good thing.

EWG: What character do you play? How does your character fit into the story?

DK: My character is ‘Coresman’. He is a soldier and field medic. His duties are to firstly fight but also patch up injured soldiers as best as he can and save as many lives as possible. He is placed in amongst this group of elite soldiers and assists them in their mission in trying to push the Germans back, retrieving as much land as possible and ultimately defeat them. He has a lot riding on him as the team is constantly under fire and involved in some pretty ferocious battles. His abilities are constantly called upon and heartache ensues when he realizes he can’t save everyone.

EWG: What was a day on set like?

DK: For me personally it was a complete joy to be on set daily. It was my first experience of anything like this. Even when the weather turned sour it didn’t really dampen anyone’s spirits due to the fact it was so much fun. That being said, it comes with a lot more pressure than usual as to reset and re-shoot scenes took time and a lot of money. So, everyone knew they had to be on point all of the time.

EWG: What did you like about working on this film?

DK: With a production like this there is obviously a lot of fighting and battle scenes with a lot of cast and extras. I mean, you know you have to give an accurate account of what happened, but sometimes you just can’t help your inner child coming out. Running around with firearms and weapons, riding motorcycles, riding around in tanks, fighter planes flying overhead and not to mention huge explosions and pyrotechnics going off all over the place. It was just brilliant.

EWG: What was the highlight about working on the film?

DK: There were quite a few highlights for me regarding working on this film to be honest with you. It was just such an absolute adrenaline rush from start to finish. Long days, bad weather, delays, etc. didn’t distract from the fact that I was having a ball every day I was on set.

The cast was just awesome. There were no bad apples complaining or whining, just great people pulling their socks up and mucking in. Everyone really worked for each other which made it that much more special to be involved in. The main highlight for me though has to be being involved in such a good factual representation of a piece of history that is not just close to my heart but to hundreds of millions of people. Having watched this with my grandfather and seeing the emotion on his face was a real sobering moment for me. Although it did show me that the film had got across what it wanted and was a huge success.

Dewshane Williams on exploring his love of science fiction in The Expanse

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Bobbie Draper (Frankie Adams) and Sa’id (Dewshane Williams) prepare for a Martian battle in The Expanse

What audiences tend to love most about science fiction is the fact that the realm of possibilities is endless. Science fiction is known for carrying fans into unfamiliar worlds, unexplored dimensions, and uncharted territory. Both characters and storylines defy the norms of the world we know and live in; however, social dilemmas, emotions, and personality traits often stay the same. As an actor, science fiction remains one of the most unique, interesting genres to explore. For Dewshane Williams, this is because it is a genre that allows us to determine what human beings are capable of, be that within the constraints of modern life as we know it, or beyond.

Besides science fiction, Williams has familiarized himself with a number of different genres and storylines throughout his career. For instance, Williams mastered the art of drama through his stellar performance of Frank in the film Dog Pound, which portrays the life of three juvenile delinquents who are sentenced to a correctional facility where they encounter gang violence, death, and harassment from staff and other inmates. Contrastingly, Williams immersed himself into the wonderful world of comedy in 2012 for the film The Story of Luke about a young man with autism who is thrust into a world that doesn’t expect much from him. Beyond that, Williams has tried his hand at action films, thrillers, mysteries, horror stories, and much more. There are few limits to what he can achieve when he puts his mind and his skill set to work.

In 2015, Williams earned himself a role in Universal SYFY Networks’s hit series, The Expanse as Corporal Sa’id. The show follows the lives of a police detective a spaceship crew who discover a conspiracy, the first officer of an interplanetary ice freighter, and an earth-bound United Nations executive director, who slowly discover a conspiracy threatening the Earth’s rebellious colony on the asteroid belt. Between Williams’ fascination with space travel and Sa’id’s passion for serving others, Williams became enthralled with the project. In the series, Sa’id serves as part of an elite Marine Firing Squad; however, what Williams respected most about his character was embedded within Sa’id’s devotion to his planet. His willingness to save his planet inspired Williams and motivated him to adopt every trait and mannerism that accompanied that level of selflessness. Fortunately, one of Williams’ greatest attributes is his ability to transform himself into the character at hand. For some actors, identifying with a specific style of acting comes naturally; however, for professionals like Williams, it is impossible to categorize himself. He does not act according to a specific set of styles or rules. On the contrary, his versatility allows him to adapt himself to a variety of different emotions and character traits.

“The story of this show is so important because we live in an age of Space X and interplanetary travel. I think it is important to embrace the possibilities that our future holds. The concept of space travel and exploration is very real. We’re doing it now, which is incredible. This show, in a way, sheds light on what we may go through as an evolving species. It shows what we may be capable of doing; both positive and negative. Not to mention, most of the concepts in the show are scientifically possible. For all of the future space explorers out there, this might be the inspiration they need to take us where no one has gone before,” gushed Williams.

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Dewshane Williams recording voiceover work for The Expanse virtual reality Game Battle For Mars.

As an avid science fiction fan, Williams loved getting into character and immersing himself in the costumes and props on set. When he was being fitted for his costume, Williams noticed something familiar about the design and upon inquiring about their origin, he learned that they were made by the same company who produce Iron Man’s iconic suit. His enthusiasm about the project grew with each day on set and the more he explored the script, the more he realized the potential that the storyline held. In fact, the show’s VFX Supervisor, Bob Munroe, took notice of Williams’ devotion to the project and solicited his help to act as the lead for a virtual reality video game based on the show’s premise. Williams was extremely humbled about the possibility of expanding The Expanse’s presence in the world of science fiction and eagerly accepted the offer to work on the video game, The Battle on Mars. It comes as little surprise, therefore, that Munroe was equally as thrilled to have Williams on board.

“The moment I met Dewshane, I knew he was a rare talent. I had such a great experience working with him that I later enlisted him to star in our virtual reality game. Considering how much VFX was required while shooting our opening scene on mars, Dewshane had to exercise a lot of patience. Not to mention, he had to wear a 40-pound suit on a hot day. It would’ve been very easy to complain but he never did. Instead, his generosity and attitude made him a standout. When I had the opportunity to create a video game for the TV show, he was the first person I called. His enthusiasm is so contagious,” said Munroe.

Now finished its second season, The Expanse has established a strong following, as well as a large amount of recognition in the industry. It has garnered a number of award nominations, as well as a win for Best Dramatic Presentation at the Hugo Awards in 2017. If you are curious to see Williams in action, as well as to see what the show’s hype is all about, start watching The Expanse now and stay tuned for the premiere of Season 3 in 2018.

 

Top photo: Dewshane Williams in the Virtual Reality Game “The Expanse: Battle on Mars”.

Canada’s Victor Gilbert enchants audiences in new film ‘The Walking Man’

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Victor Gilbert

With his mom being a cinematographer and sister being an actress, Victor Gilbert’s impressions of movies are quite different than most children his age. He doesn’t just see something to entertain him, he understands the whole filmmaking process, and has for most of his life. At only ten years old, he can navigate a film set and understand the intricacies of what is required to make a film like many much older. That is perhaps why he already knows he wants to spend the rest of his life acting, and he is in demand not just in his home country of Canada, but internationally as well.

Gilbert’s career is already very formidable. Just this year he worked on a powerful commercial for Alberta’s public service union AUPE, and his film The Kiss has made its way to several prestigious film festivals. He has starred in five seasons of Netflix’s hit series Hell on Wheels, and even with this, he feels like he is just getting started.

“I would really like to be an actor full-time when I grow up and don’t have to be in school,” said Gilbert.

Despite not being a full-time actor, Gilbert is still quite the professional. Just last year he starred in the film The Walking Man. The film tells the story of a man who is compelled to leave his job and become a homeless wanderer. His friends and acquaintances share their opinions, and audiences are left to ponder his purpose. In the film, Gilbert plays Eric, one of the principal children who talked to the camera about “The Walking Man”. Eric was once a player for the soccer team that The Walking Man coached prior to quitting and abandoning his life. Having a child’s perspective about why the man began wandering was essential to the story’s development and how audiences felt about the entire concept.  Eric is a young boy who loves to play video games and doesn’t really take his attention away from his game when he talks. He is a ‘rough’ boy who is not very interested by what is going on with his old coach. He is asked to speak about what he saw, but doesn’t really want to since he’s so busy with his games. The disinterest in such a unique showcases a child’s innocense, and required a talented young actor to embody such a character. This is where Gilbert shined.

“My mom says many adults, like the main character of the movie, question themselves and their lives at some point, so the topic is very accurate and recurrent and impactful. It’s not always easy to deal with all the bills, and many people probably feel like they want to quit. It’s good because it teaches everybody that they are not alone and there are options and people out there to help. Maybe it’s important to take pauses in life to stop and relax and just walk, and it’s ok. Basically, don’t stress about things, and ask questions in life,” said Gilbert.

The Walking Man had its premiere screening at Orange Lofts Condos in March of last year, and now is making its way to film festivals. It was previously selected for the Winnipeg Real to Reel Festival, and the Central Alberta Film Festival. It is expected to have screenings at even more festivals soon. Such success may not have been possible without Gilbert’s portrayal of Eric. He had many lines throughout the film, and he had to stay very serious. He was only 8-years-old when the filming took place, and this is no easy task for someone of that age. However, Gilbert understood the importance of his character, and even learned the whole script by heart to comprehend the story’s importance. He then did his entire scene in just one take.

“The fact that he was able to pull through his character so well makes his presence on screen quite remarkable as you can tell he masters his lines even if he is so young. In this scene, he has to look straight at the camera and deliver his lines. He did not budge, he delivered the full script and added very brilliant luminosity to the film, as his bright eyes and his lovely and joyful character pierce the screen for those scenes,” said Derek Selinger, the Writer and Director of The Walking Man. “I worked with Victor many times before. I keep hiring Victor because of all the various faces he can pull, his lovely personality, the fact that he can remember lines so well and because he is so professional. When I called him up on filming day to come sit on the couch to deliver his lines, he came right away.”

Selinger, a well-known magician, knew Gilbert was the right person for the role in his film. Gilbert had to sit on the couch and play on a Nintendo GameBoy, and then talk to the camera. While saying his many lines, he always stayed in character and very serious. He describes The Walking Man and what his character saw, and does so in a confessional sort of way. Such a style requires extreme focus, as the camera sees every aspect of your face. It also requires a rawness, as the scene had to present in the style of a documentary interview. With the distraction of the video game console, this could have been difficult for many child actors, but Gilbert embodied it perfectly. Besides, for the young actor, this was a dream come true, as he still got to play video games, something he already enjoys. 

Derek is just really nice. He is not stressful, he helps his actors and makes the set very comfortable. He takes his time to explain the set, he is all prepared already when we show up on set, so things go super fast. Like, the fastest I have seen,” Gilbert described.

However, even though he got to play video games and work with people he liked, the best part of Gilbert’s experience shooting The Walking Man came from an unexpected source.

“Derek is a magician. A real magician! He does shows on big stages. So, he is a very interesting person. He does magic tricks sometimes on set,” said Gilbert.

Check out the tralier for The Walking Man here.

Michael Whalley talks playing make believe for a living

Headshot pic Sheridan Harbridge
Michael Whalley, photo by Sheridan Harbridge

When adults are asked what they miss most about childhood, their answers tend to have to do with the loss of their imagination. Children are known to imagine without limits and to dream without fear or understanding of failure. With that, children allow their minds to carry them into different worlds; worlds through which they create, discover, fantasize, and invent. Much like children, actors and actresses transform themselves into the characters that they portray and they do so without constraining their imaginations. They will stop at no lengths to mold their characters to fit into a plot line and they devote themselves to telling stories as convincingly and engagingly as possible. For actors like Michael Whalley, there has always been an undefinable intrigue to playing make-believe for a living and he has established a remarkable career out of exploring the industry that goes along with it.

Throughout his career, Whalley has acted in a number of award-winning films, such as Slow West and Jean. He has earned himself a reputation for his profound ability to bring his characters to life before his audience’s eyes and he accepts nothing less than the best from himself, regardless of the role or film. Just this past year, Whalley landed himself the role of Hugo in The Pretend One. The Pretend One depicts the emotional rollercoaster that unfolds when an adult woman’s imaginary childhood friend, Hugo, finds his existence threatened by a real, live love interest. Essentially, Hugo is the product of the main character, Charlie, who attempts to combat her loneliness after the death of her mother. As adults, Hugo and Charlie have to navigate their feelings for each other and their relationship when Charlie’s romantic interests steer in different directions. Hugo’s very existence is dependent upon Charlie’s attention and he is therefore determined to keep himself and their love alive.

“Hugo is pivotal to the storyline because he is the reason that the film was written in the first place. The unique thing about this story is that it deals with the existence of an adult imaginary friend, even though we typically associate imaginary friends with children. To think that an imaginary friend can have as many complex feelings as we do is something I hadn’t seen before. Witnessing Hugo grow aware of life and it’s worth was enlightening. His quest to become real is the burning centerpiece of the film,” told Whalley.

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Michael Whalley with Geraldine Hakewill, photo by Benedict Wall

Not only was The Pretend One an unusual storyline, it was also filmed in an extremely unique fashion. Whalley recalls it as being one of the rawest and fulfilling experiences of his career, having much to do with the fact that he and the other cast and crew members of the film disconnected themselves from reality to enhance their focus on their work and to produce the most organic, authentic performances that they could conjure up. They filmed on a cotton farm, far from cell phone and internet reception. In addition, cast and crew members all lived in mining huts on location while filming, requiring them to bathe in the farm’s lake, to eat the local cuisine, and to detach from modern day pleasantries.

When it came time to film their scenes, the actors and actresses were expected to deliver a wholesome, fully attuned performance. They rehearsed where possible, and improvised where necessary to sell each scene effectively. Whalley, who has a profound ability to gain the trust of his director, adopted what he calls a “two for you, one for me” rule while filming whereby he received permission to shoot two options: the first one as the way that the director wished, followed by one take where Whalley could feel out the scene and act as he saw fit. Fortunately for Whalley, the majority of scenes that he took creative authority over ended up making the film’s final cut.

Dinusha Ratnaweera, who produced The Pretend One, had nothing but positive things to say when asked about Whalley’s performance. He was astounded by the way the actor’s performance has been received by those who have seen the film so far and is eager to see what will be said once the film actually premieres. After seeing Whalley dedicate himself to the part of Hugo and doing everything in his power to meet the demands of the film, Ratnaweera earned a new appreciation for his talents.

“This was not the most traditional territory to film in, but based on test screenings that we’ve had so far, Michael’s performance has been very well received and praised. I believe he took a risk with this role, but he more than achieved a nuanced, sensitive, compelling portrayal of what is indeed a very complex role,” said Ratnaweera.

The Pretend One is set to premiere in 2018 and Shoreline Entertainment will be responsible for its worldwide sales and representation. In addition, cinemaaustralia.com.au recently gave the film an extremely rare, 5-star review. Whalley is very excited to see how the film will fare with the public and hopes that it will reflect the hard work and dedication that each member of the project put into it. As for the rest of his career, Whalley is taking things one part at a time. He is currently preparing for the world premiere of Muriel’s Wedding: The Musical. Upon closing Muriel’s Wedding: The Musical, he will embark upon his first pilot season and from there, he hopes to continue playing make believe for as long as he possibly can.

 

Top photo: Michael Whalley and Geraldine Hakewill in ‘The Pretend One’, photo by Rob Morton

Scott Michael Wagstaff on creating his own destiny

ScottWagstaff' headshot 2 by Simon Kelski photography
Scott Michael Wagstaff, photo by Simon Kelski

On paper, Scott Michael Wagstaff can be described as an actor, portraying the lives of television and film characters in a variety of different genres. One a deeper level; however, Wagstaff is far more than your average actor. When he acts, the British-native is adamant about bringing as much honesty and realism to the characters he plays. He is driven by the unique opportunity he has to inspire his audiences to feel emotions that they might not otherwise allow themselves to feel. More often than not, acting is a taxing job and Wagstaff accepts this reality. Despite this, what differentiates him from his competition is that the onerous aspects of his job are the ones that motivate him to conquer every obstacle he encounters and continue to excel above his fierce competitors.

As an actor, Wagstaff is aware that his job is not always as fascinating as it may seem. Over time, it has involved challenging auditions, inconsistent hours, and a second job to keep on top of the bills. With a passion as strong as Wagstaff’s, however, there are ways of counter-acting the somewhat defeating uncertainty of not knowing when your next job will be. When he isn’t filming, the talented actor balances between developing ideas and concepts for his own future projects with expanding his skill set as an actor to ensure that he never loses his edge. He believes in the power of refreshing his skills to bring a bigger, better performance to his upcoming projects; a strategy which has paid off time and time again for his work in well-known films and television show like 6 Days and Color Me Grey. In addition, for his work on the film Pendulum, Wagstaff received a nomination for Best Supporting Actor at the prestigious FilmQuest Film Festival.

In 2014, a former co-star of Wagstaff’s recommended his name for an upcoming film called Final Reflection. When he was approached about working on the film, Wagstaff found himself drawn to the well-written script and the authentic relationships depicted in the storyline. Final Reflection portrays the emotional journey of a Jewish Policeman who forms a rapport with a young Nazi officer in 1942 when the Nazis deported approximately 300,000 Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto. It is a story of survival, hardship and hope for which Wagstaff played the lead role of Isaak. Without Wagstaff’s stellar performance, it is unlikely that the film would have been selected for prestigious film festivals like the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival, Student Arts Festival, TiltShift Film Festival, and several others after its premiere at the BFI Southbank in London.

Wagstaff is used to dedicating every fibre of his being to his roles; however, he felt an overwhelming responsibility to accurately portray the facts of this story and the types of emotions that the men and women would have been feeling at the time that these events took place. He heavily researched the Warsaw Ghetto in 1942, the struggles that Jewish police officers faced during this era and how they would’ve interacted with Nazi officers. He was intent on bringing every piece of history and raw emotion to Isaak’s character as he possibly could, something he strives to do for all of his characters. In return, he thrives on the way in which his characters reveal aspects of his own personality and his own life circumstances that he isn’t always aware of.

Playing the part of Isaak was unlike anything Wagstaff had ever done and his audience reaped the benefits. Beyond the props and the realistic sets, he enjoyed the deeper realities that Isaak’s character unveiled.

“It is certainly important to educate people of the horrific situations that occurred in the Warsaw Ghetto in 1942. To this day, many people don’t actually know what really went on. At the core of it for me, however, are the broader realities rooted in the lives of everyone who lived through the tragedy that was World War II. The underlying truth in the film is that we, as human beings, always have a choice – no matter how dreary the situation you are in. Even in the face of death, you can turn around and take a stand to bring about a change in the world. One small act can make a profound difference in the life of someone else. Isaak makes that small step and I find it so important to teach the world that one small bout of courage can carry a very long way,” said Wagstaff.

The film’s writer and director, Charles Copsey, had the distinct pleasure of witnessing Wagstaff become Isaak on-screen and inspire his audiences to find Isaak’s courage within themselves. He values the opportunity to work with profoundly talented actors like Wagstaff and the success that they bring to his scripts.

“Working with Scott was a great experience. His commitment to the film went above and beyond what was expected of him. He put time and effort into his role to ensure that he and his fellow actors were remaining true to the facts of these very sensitive, historical themes and topics. His passion and aptitude are key to the positive influence that he had throughout production. Scott was always challenging our progress and development and he is a delight to have on set,” told Copsey.

Ultimately, there are parallels that can be drawn between Wagstaff’s passion to inspire his audiences through his performances and Isaak’s inspiring discovery of his inner courage. Regardless of the hardships that an individual may be going through, Wagstaff understands the importance of persevering in the face of adversity. He hopes to motivate other aspiring actors to push forward when faced with a challenge and to rely on themselves to create their own success. If his career has taught him anything, it is that at the end of the day, he is more than just an actor. He is an artist and by allowing his creativity to carry him to great lengths, he has found satisfaction in his career.

“Make your own work. Don’t rely on Casting Directors and Agents to be your gatekeepers. Those relationships definitely help but you will find power in seeking out stories that you are passionate about and by surrounding yourself with like-minded, creative people who will help you move forward to be considered for future projects. Be fearless,” he concluded.