Tag Archives: South African Actresses

Actress Michelle Howarth to share important world issues in TV show ‘Hummingbird’

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Michelle Howarth

Growing up in South Africa, Michelle Howarth started acting as a way to express herself. The country has eleven official languages, and communication barriers often arise. Being on stage, she found she was able to transcend this obstacle and connect with her audience no matter what language they spoke. The arts, she found, can relate to any person. Film and television are enjoyed around the world, in every culture. This reality got her hooked, and her natural talent and creative instincts are what allowed her to rise to the top of her field, making her one of the best actresses to recently come out of South Africa.

“I wanted to be a professional actor because I knew I was obsessed with the craft and wanted to mold it into my career. I wanted to specialize and fine tune my acting and creativity to the point that I am able to create films and performances that resonate globally. I was big into physical theatre growing up, and that medium especially is able to communicate across transnational borders and cultures. I wanted to be able to do this on a global scale through film and television and tell stories that would otherwise go unheard. I wanted to be a professional actor to be a part of an artistic process that initiates conversation, understanding, empathy and insight across the globe,” said Howarth.

The twenty-five-year-old actress has done just that. Through her work in several successful projects, she has captivated audiences around the globe. She has had a leading role in films and television series such as Just Animals, Parenthood, Talk Stew, Shameless, King Krule, and Jackson and Randall, as well as stage roles in Angel Academy, Chicago, Ivy, and Hanamichi. Howarth consistently impresses not only audiences, but her colleagues as well. Sonja Smit, the director of the touring play Villian in which Howarth was the star, says the actress’ performance greatly contributed to the success of the play.

“Michelle has the rare ability to truly inhabit a character, always merging naturally into the character’s personality without losing any of her inherent “star power”, an ability that was on full display in her extraordinary lead performance in Villain. It is this exceptional quality that has allowed her to become one of the most exciting new faces in theatre and independent cinema over the past several years, and there is no doubt in my mind that her career will only go from strength to strength,” said Smit.

Despite such success, the highlight of Howarth’s career comes from her work in the highly-anticipated new television series Hummingbird. The series tells the story of a group of American teenagers that go missing in the United States. Detectives look into the disappearance of these teenagers and see that, although they disappeared independently of one another, there are similarities between the cases. After further investigation, one detective in particular notices a thread between each case. Each one seemed to be very active online and in each case met a member of an extremist group in Syria, and went over to Syria to do their Jihad and join ISIS. The show reveals the psyche of each individual and the process of their decision to now be a part of ISIS.

The story is incredibly timely, given the war against ISIS and terrorism that is taking place around the world, with such divisiveness on how to handle people that make these decisions. Not only is the show based on true events, it will be shot in a realistic way, and each actor knows the responsibility they carry with their portrayal of their characters. Howarth wanted to do her part to enlighten audiences on such an important issue.

“It is an important story that needs to be told, and I am proud to be a part of a show that is didactic as well as entertaining. I believe the show will shed light on socio-religious and economic issues and help initiate conversation and critical thinking around said issues,” she said. “I believe it can create a basis for conversation and debate around the subject matter on a global platform. I also believe it will give insight to a world far removed from most people and hopefully offer understanding of that culture and religious practice.”

In Hummingbird, Howarth plays the pivotal role of Cassandra, one of the American teenage girls who goes missing. It is later discovered that she met an older man online and after falling in love with him, was flown over to Syria to do her Jihad and join an extremist group. She is one of the girls who they are able to find. However, unlike the other girls, Cassandra refuses to come back to her family and the United States. Cassandra is strong willed and happy in her decision to convert to this new religion and live this extremist life.

Howarth’s portrayal of Cassandra will allow the audience to witness such a journey and possibly understand the reasoning behind it. Cassandra reveals the extremities and consequences of social media and online interactions. She shows the journey through the psyche of a young teenage girl who goes to extreme lengths for the man she loves. Through her portrayal of Cassandra, Howarth will allow viewers to witness the practices of the Jihad and life in Syria, as well as what it would be like for a female member of an extremist group such as ISIS. The role of Cassandra is vital to helping reveal why these girls made the decisions they did and how their lives ended up.

The show is expected to be an instant hit, and Howarth’s portrayal of Cassandra is a large part of that. The story is something viewers around the world want to know more about, and Howarth will help audiences gain insight into such troubled mindsets.

“In today’s world, there is much turmoil regarding this subject matter, and this series dives into these issues. The story is important because it may help one experience and understand a world we are removed from and its practices and realms,” she concluded.

Audiences have a lot to look forward to from the South African native. Beyond Hummingbird, be sure to check out Howarth in the upcoming film Madness Descending, which will be released next year.

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Natasha Khan Mayet is one Indian Actress Making a Huge Splash in Hollywood!

Natasha Khan Mayet
Actress Natasha Khan Mayet shot by Paul Smith

When internationally acclaimed actress Natasha Khan Mayet was growing up in South Africa, she knew her future would be a creative one. Since beginning her acting career over a decade ago, Natasha has become known for her roles in Mother, May I Sleep with Danger with James Franco and Tori Spelling, Metropolitan Detective, and 2 For Flinching. In a time when actresses like Priyanka Chopra are protecting national security in Quantico and Deepika Padukone is making moves in XXX: The Return of Xander Cage, Natasha Khan Mayet proves actresses of Indian descent can make it in the big time on a global scale.

One of her most recent projects, Trafficked, is proof of her incredible accomplishments as globally renowned actor. In that film, Natasha shares the silver screen with Golden-Globe nominated actress and American movie star, Ashley Judd, well known for her roles in the blockbuster Divergent franchise, Olympus Has Fallen and Double Jeopardy. Natasha admits that Judd is “one of [her] favorite actresses,” so it’s no surprise that she’s proud of the esteemed production. The story of Trafficked concerns three girls from America, Nigeria and India who are trafficked through an elaborate global network and enslaved in a Texas brothel, and must together attempt a daring escape to reclaim their freedom.

In her key role as a woman who is kidnapped by Albanian mercenaries and sold to a group of Italian men, Natasha steals the audience’s attention every time she is on screen, such is the power of her captivating performance. She proudly explains that the filmmakers needed an “Indian woman with strong acting skills,” and that she was the only actress who fit the bill.

Given the critical impact her scenes have on the film’s plot development, it’s easy to describe her role as the heart of the film. The emotional depth of her role and its critical importance to the film’s story was clear while shooting. Natasha tells us how “[t]he scene where we were tied up and at the mercy of the Albanians was pretty raw, and as I stood there tied up with other girls we literally felt as if we were their prisoners.” She goes on to say that “the scene became so real…a couple of us were already crying because the moment was so real to us.”

Not only was Trafficked shortlisted for the Sundance Screenwriters Lab, it was written and produced by Siddharth Kara, author of the internationally acclaimed book Sex Trafficking: Inside the Business of Modern Slavery. Kara is also a leading professor at Harvard and a lecturer at UC Berkeley, attaching greater credibility to a film project that not only brings an audience to tears, but has a politically charged message that will ensure its global success.

Further to that, Natasha confirmed her exceptional acting skills in Trafficked by working alongside award-winning director Will Wallace, who won a feature film prize at WorldFest Houston for his hit comedy Cake: A Wedding Story, starring Major Crimes and The Closer TV star, G.W. Bailey. Another one of his projects, the romantic drama Red Wing starring Hidden Figures star Glen Powell and the late Bill Paxton, was an additional credit to why Natasha was so excited to play a critical role in Wallace’s latest project.

Natasha’s authentic relationship with her craft is reflected not only in her involvement with Trafficked, but the diverse range of roles she has played in a number of other high-profile film and television productions. She explains that “acting constantly challenges me,” and that “it allows me to explore the different aspects of myself, grow and constantly evolve, and tell a different story through each role that I play.” So while Trafficked represents a recent silver screen highlight of which Natasha was a key reason in its success, she is also experiencing extraordinary triumphs on the small screen too.

Film Poster for
Film Poster for “Trafficked” directed by Will Wallace

Most recently, Natasha was seen playing the critical role of Helena Michaels in the Amazon-Prime original series Music & Murder. Appearing alongside Atlanta TV star Tony Scott, the formally-trained actress added a great depth of intrigue as the mother of lead character Chastity Michaels, and thus provided important emotional life to a storyline about a talented music video producer who avoids life on the streets and finds success, only to be framed for murder.

In further support of her reputation as an actress capable of playing complex and fully-rounded characters, much like her South African compatriot Charlize Theron, Natasha plays reporter Angela Lee in the upcoming television pilot Stimulus. In this provocative series, Angela is torn between reporting the news and uncovering the truth, in a story that raises significant questions relating to race, politics, religion and prejudice.

Clearly, Natasha’s recent work shows she is an actress who sticks to her artistic values. She elucidates that she loves “any project or role that challenges” her, and that it’s crucial for the production to “tell a story that is in some way important and conveys a message.”