Josef Altin plays Ryan in season 2 in
Netflix’s Chewing Gum. Altin surrounds
himself with sensible characters and comedy that shapes the British comedy style
by putting a unique twist to the preparation of what goes on behind the scene.
ATM: What can one
understand about the role of your character?
JA: I played a twenty-year-old young man
called Ryan that lived nearby on an estate with his mum. He finds it hard to
find work because of his criminal background, so he works for his stepdad
sometimes which is Tracey’s father’s furniture removal company. Work is up and
down, so Ryan is always looking for other easy ways to make money to
ATM: What is a day of
shooting like? How you continue to
immerse yourself into life?
JA: You get picked up by one of the production
drivers or taxis in the morning. You get driven to the base where you got the
production trucks, makeup and hair trucks, costume trucks, and the trailers for
the actors. You are met by the 2nd AD who welcomes you and shows you to the
trailer. They tell you that the call sheet is in there for you or they hand you
one. The call sheet has the times to be in hair and makeup and when to get into
costume. The ADs always make sure you are where you need to be because
sometimes, they might want you to get ready earlier or later than that time.
So, in the meantime, they ask you if you want breakfast and usually, you can
get something to eat. Once the time has come around to see hair and makeup and get
into a costume, you typically have a bit of time before you go to set to
rehearse and film.
When you get to set, you have a rehearsal with
the Director before you do a crew showing which is mostly everyone who has to
be behind the camera when filming. Or a closed set just requires the minimal
possible crew in the room to make it more comfortable for the actor if there’s
a tiny bit of nudity going on for a bit of the scene in which one of our scenes
had in Chewing Gum. You would then get ready to block the scene and have
another rehearsal with our sound packs attached to our waist or attached to our
ankle to be prepared to shoot the scene. Once shot, the Director decides if
they want to go again or not. If their happy and everyone else is happy, then they
move on. If not, they continue filming with the amount of time, they got left
to get what they need.
ATM: How did the
behind the scenes affect your experience as an actor?
JA: When they are happy, we move from a wide
angle to the characters point of views. Once the cameraman, sound, and others
have captured every actor and their happiness with the scene, we move on
with the other scenes on the schedule for that day. And if you still got scenes
to do, sometimes they’re right after each other, or sometimes you have a little
wait until you are on set again. Everyone breaks for lunch and goes back
to set after or waits at the base until you get called again.
When filming has wrapped, you go to makeup and
hair to clean up. Then you get changed in the trailer you’ve been put up in and
hang your costume up for the costume department at the end of the day or leave
some separately for the wash. Once changed your transport usually has arrived
to take you back home and you get handed a call sheet or get told a call sheet
for tomorrow will be emailed to you soon or tonight for tomorrow if you got any
ATM: What is your
connection to your onscreen character in comparison to the main character?
JA: My character Ryan is the stepson of and worked
with Tracey Gordon’s real father part-time. You find out in a later episode 6.
But for now, Ryan was first seen hanging about smoking against a wall on the
street near the estates in series 2 episode 5. Cynthia spots him and likes the
look of him. Cynthia went up to Ryan and said she was lost but she was
lying. He directs her, but Cynthia wanted him to
take her. They get to the flat and Cynthia asks Ryan up into the flat. Once
inside she asks Ryan if he wants to have an alcoholic drink while Ryan looks
around at the room surrounded by the message of “I love Jesus.”
They have some awkward small talk and Cynthia
comes out and asks him if he wants to have sex. He finds this really weird and
he thinks he’s being set up by a hidden camera show. But Cynthia is serious and
there’s no hidden cameras, so he goes with it as a nonbeliever of him being set
up. After they have sex Ryan says he feels tired and goes to sleep and Cynthia
goes to sleep in another room with a big smile on her face. When Cynthia wakes
up the next day, she realizes Ryan has gone and then notices she have most of
the flat’s belongings!
Later, in episode 6 we realize Ryan didn’t
know Tracey was related to Cynthia as Ryan and his stepdad has come to deliver
some cheap furniture to Tracey’s mum because she was recently robbed. But who
is there standing next to Tracey when we arrive with the same stolen
Her sister Cynthia, and it dawns on Ryan that
he just robbed Tracey’s mums house. Tracey was played by the talented and
lovable Actress Michaela Coel & Cynthia was played by the talented and
lovely actress Susan Wokoma.
ATM: Does your
character seem to find more jobs to help him survive that are noncriminal or
more when they are criminal?
JA: Because of Ryan’s past it’s hard for him to get the job he wants. He does have
a criminal record. He’s not going to
give up trying to find one as he wants to change his life around. He still
results back to criminal jobs only when the opportunity arises when no cash in
hand jobs are around. He’s looking into going to college to train for a
plumbing course when he gets around to it and survive on any money coming in the
ATM: How would you
describe Cynthia’s curiosity? What is your character’s thought process about
JA: Ryan finds Cynthia’s curiosity a bit weird
at the time, but he loves her characteristic of acting
straightforward. My character’s thought process about women is that he has
always been brought up to respect women and to never lay a hand on a
ATM: What is your connection with other female filmmakers, and how are you working to empower women in this industry?
ET: It was always super important to me to be surrounded by other female filmmakers. It is a very natural thing for me to create film with other women. I needed to fight for people’s attention, and I needed to fight when I started my career as a producer for men to take me seriously. So, it is important for me, but it is not a new thing. I started the production company on my own as a woman and asked another female producer to join me. It is important to create something together, and it is important to take a female approach when it comes to filmmaking. I also started to direct and have recently finished my second documentary with another female director. So, I am not just a female producer, but I am also a female film director. It is wonderful that I am around another female director as I love to make films with other women.
were the times you felt men did not take you seriously because of your gender?
ET: Also because of my age. I was very young when establishing MovieBar, it had just come out of film school, and was in my early to mid-20s. It is unusual for someone who is under the age of 25 and a female to establish a company, so it was the gender and the age. I was 100% confident that men wouldn’t take me seriously. I always needed to put extra effort and time into what I did for people to take me more seriously. Now that I have started to direct recently, I am facing the same problem. I needed to face the fact that some men just think women cannot direct. They thought we could not direct our documentary, it was an insult. Why do you think we need help? We never turn to you to ask for help. Why do you come to us offering help in directing when we never asked? I started out fresh as a director. Even recently, I witnessed some prejudice with this from people who are probably not experts in this field. “These chicks cannot direct.” When people noticed the success we gained in Europe for our documentary series, things started to change, and people started to take us more seriously.
you feel like the 1% during the start of your company because you were going
against expectations? What was the journey like for you to know you could do
Experience helped and gave me the confidence to know more about filmmaking.
Also, gaining more projects and trust from people. When you begin something,
you probably have a lack of confidence, so gaining experience helped me. When I
was calmer with my knowledge and had more confidence in myself, then I could be
more aware of who took me seriously and how I should act. I also had more
positive feedback than negative feedback and could deal with it easier after a
did you daydream or visualize while sitting in the seats of your film school,
as far as your career and the film business goes?
ET: I was thinking about Hollywood. When I was a freshman in film school, one of my producers turned to the entire class to ask, “Who spoke English? Who wanted to come for a summer job on an American shoot?” I raised my hand because I did speak English. I wanted so bad to know how to become a trainee. At 20, during the summer, I found myself on this huge American shoot. I was serving coffee to Mr. Ben Kinglsey and Patrick Dempsey. This is how I started my film career as a trainee. It was a wonderful experience because I saw some fantastic and phenomenal actresses. I have a theatre background, so I was interested in the acting. It was an amazing experience. Because of this American film shoot, it helped me to find myself in the film business. I really dreamed of making it in Hollywood, and today, here I am.
Explain the start of the preparation for BP Underground and introduction to
meeting your co-director.
ET: My background is in television and directing. So, I always had this creative aspect in me, even after becoming a producer I still see myself as a creative producer. After being a part of so many countless projects creatively as a producer, I found an urge I had not mastered. I met this woman named Anna who would later become my director for the BP Underground series. We knew each other briefly, but we met at a concert. She started to tell me about this idea of hers to portray certain sub cultures of Hungary. I told her I had the same idea because this is where I came from. If someone is connected to any of the sub cultures, then they really shape you. After becoming old enough, I felt cathartic in a good way about where I came from and what was important at the time. Every youngster belongs to certain music sub culture, but why? How? I wanted to portray it. We teamed up, and the rest is history.
misogyny infused in Budapest’s music similarly to how it is in American hip hop
come from Budapest, which is such an interesting spot in the room. We are
literally on the edge of east and west. My country became westernized thirty
years ago. I was already alive and only in elementary school, but I remember
the regime change portraying in the music subculture. This was not just hip hop
but hardcore punk. This was in the 2000s. Again, we are talking about the
American pop culture genre that some youngsters on the other side of the world
think is fascinating, and here they created their own version of the American
sub cultures. Both hardcore punk and hip hop are so deeply rooted into American
society. Everything that came from America back then seemed cool over there,
but they added their own voice to it, which was very different. When we are
talking about hip hop, I do see a lot of similarities in our music. For
example, we have Romani and Gypsies. It gave the Beastie Boys a legacy, which
is why white men can rap. We touch all these topics and others.
During the 1990s and early 2000s in Budapest, what were the main musical themes
present in the music?
were chaotic times. The regime changed a couple of years before. There was a
sense of hysteria that was going to be in our democracy. A lot of lyrics
touched on social justice, drugs, poverty, teenager problems, and depression.
There were other genres of hip hop, like the little gangster scene. Some songs
were funny and sarcastic about things in society. Also, in both sub cultures,
unity was important and wanting to feel like they belonged somewhere. You could
feel anger and frustration in the hardcore punk movement. These are the topics
now that come to my mind. There were a lot of questions about the future of
Hungary and society. Where would the society go?
are some of the interesting aspects of the dark anthology series The Field
Guide to Evil?
ET: I am the producer for the film The Field Guide to Evil. This is a horror movie, and the director is Peter Strickland. It is a film with eight sequences, and every sequence is about a folk story filmed in the director’s country. The folk stories are somehow horror related and very dark. Each of them is very brutal and executed in a very fascinating way. It is an art-house project. I oversaw the sequence directed by Peter Strickland. He is very well known in the indie world, and he is married to a Hungarian woman, so he picked a Hungarian folk story. Our sequence is called “The Cobblers’. It was so much fun!
does the horror in the film represent about Hungary?
ET: In every nation, folk mythology has darker aspects. It is very interesting to feel in any given nation’s consciousness, in a way. It is a fascinating topic. As a Hungarian filmmaker and person, it is very interesting to see the dark side within our mythology. These are the stories not being told to children, and you do not necessarily hear, but they still exist. What is interesting in the Astoria or Polish sequence is that we had so much in common, even though I did not know about this sequence and was not involved. The American sequence was also so different and interesting, and there is an American twist to it. It was very modern and contemporary compared to the European sequences that took place during the 19th century. You could not tell, but it was all ancient stuff vs. the American.
does living as a Hungarian woman mean? What are the average expectations or
views put on Hungarian women?
feel like Hungarian women have to fight for their rights. I am very sad to see
that we are not represented as well in our parliament. I am very sad about the
situation of Hungarian women. Domestic violence should be treated differently
and taken more seriously. It is such a tense issue for me. We should have more
female role models and more female leaders. We do not have a track record of
female leaders. For me now, living in the United States, it is refreshing to
see that the United States is on a better stage. However, we do have a lot of
successful female artists in Hungary, but it is still not enough. We should be
more present in the political field and every other field. We should be paid equally
and taken more seriously. Hungarian society needs more projects.
were your role models?
this is such a nice question. One of my role models was my mother for sure.
Aside from being a mom, she was a successful medical doctor. This was in
addition to being a mother, a wife, and being in a hospital all the time. She
managed it. My other role model was my aunt who is a very successful actress in
Hungary. We all grew up watching her movies. She was involved in the show
business, and this was what I saw as a young child. I saw her movies and
visited her at the theatre. Both were very super successful in Hungary and were
you could morph these two inspirations into a slogan, then what would it be?
was momentous for me to see a woman achieve her dreams. They both gained
tremendous success in their fields, and they were independent. For me, it was
being an independent woman, to decide to fight your destiny, and your own
actions. These are very important issues, and they both represent independent,
successful, and strong women.
were you able to hold on to these inspirations, while most Hungarian women did
not have access to those types of inspirational women?
ET: It is
about education. Hungarian education for women should be changed. Women should
get more respect and equal rights. Things are changing slowly.
does combining the topics of war, love, and amusement parks help to make a
stronger film narrative in Swoon? Also, what is your relationship to these
ET: It is a Swedish film, and I am producing it. It is Swedish life based, though I am not Swedish. It is a romantic love story, but it more reflects Swedish society, iconic places, and topics. It is about a Swedish amusement park in Stockholm, which has been the capital for 200 years. I am not Swedish, but I am honored these people choose me to be a part of their time. I will travel to Stockholm for the premiere of the movie in two weeks, but culturally, I am not connected to it because it represents a different country. I learned so much on this project about Swedish society.
These topics are adjoining in a way, unfortunately. It is important to discuss. It is an individual question about what you want to say in your movie. What is the movie saying? I believe in messages and that you should make a movie because of a message. You should not make a movie because you want to pose as a filmmaker. I know so many people that are just in the industry for the pose. I hate people like this. You should be in this industry if you have message or if you have something to give. Not because it is cool, but because you do have something to say. Unfortunately, there are always wars for a revolution. If you have specific message for a specific war, then it is great to make a movie about it. I come from a world where we had a lot of wars, revolutions, and battles. Nothing is stable. Our neighborhood is former Czechoslovakia.
a war next to my country in the 90s, which is insane in a neighboring country.
Love is something that is interesting for all of us. Amusements are a great
idea that we captured in this feature film Swoon. Besides this, I would
not use an amusement park, but it is deeply related. It is an element for the story.
It is about two families and their amusement parks and is sort of like a Romeo
and Juliet story in a way. I hope there is going to be an English version aired
in the United States.
are ways you are looking to share your European skills with American indie
filmmakers? Also, what are your upcoming projects and workload?
ET: After my premiere, I have to go to Hungary to receive a big award. It feels good being a part of something when coming from nothing. Now, I have many things on my desk. I am involved in projects in the United States. I am trying to share the bridge between European and American filmmakers. I am trying to work on co-productions together. I have so many projects going on. I am involved in a documentary, a huge feature film, and they are both American. I am also developing written content, and I have meetings. I just want to show American indie filmmakers they should come and collaborate with European filmmakers because it is beneficial to everyone.
has your upbringing as a Hungarian city girl shaped you into who you are today?
ET: Wow. I can appreciate things more compared to America. When I was born in Hungary, there was socialism. It was not like a poor country, but it was not a wealthy country either. For certain items as a teenager, I needed to travel to Astoria to buy them. Teenagers are enthusiastic about certain things. I still sometimes shop in United States on the quantity and choices. How many cornflakes are on a supermarket shelf? These certain things I am not used to. I am an 80s girl. In the 80s, even though I was young, I witnessed that art has a part in criticizing society. You can make a change with art. I saw this when I was a young girl. My father was a playwright and a director of museums. I grew up with a Bohemian family and intellectuals who made a difference in culture under socialism. I inherited it. Art is such a strong tool if you use it in the right way. It is definitely from where I grew up.
did you view the United States?
United States was the land of opportunities. I know the Unites States has its
problems, but it still is an existing democracy. I come from Europe where
democracy is not always that obvious. I love the United States. I was eleven
the first time I was in the United States. I had an uncle who lived in Chicago.
He invited me, so I spent an entire summer there. It was the end of the 80s. It
was such a huge difference for me coming from socialist, communist Hungary to
the United States.
differences did you see at eleven years old?
ET: I felt like kids in my age range were much freer in a way. Back then, I did feel it was a much wealthier place than the country I came from everything was existing, and everything was here. Everything is quite fascinating. I remember when I was eleven, and we went to Toys R US, and I freaked out. I was like, “This cannot be true.” I was so into music. This was the MTV era. I was like, “Oh my god. MTV!” I was just watching all the music videos and brought tons of music in every form.
did you tell your Hungarian friends about your venture in the United States?
were so jealous because I got home with so many American clothes. They liked
me, but they were jealous. Thank you for the brilliant questions, I enjoyed
talking with you! These were such relevant and eventful questions.
Christine Toy Johnson stars in Marvel’s Iron Fist and Lifetime’s You. Christine speaks with ATM about her obligations to acting, poetry, and shooting at night on set.
Explain your technique to acting.
CTJ: Since I am a writer and an actress, I tend to approach characters from the same angle in finding out what makes them tick. What are their motivations, obstacles, and objectives? This is a very basic acting 101 thing, but this is the place to start. I then like to look at the character’s subtext, the underbelly, and motivations. What the character’s central wounds are and the things that affect them — also, the things that affect the things around them, their decisions, and actions. I also have a list of questions that I like to ask myself to get to know the character. This is both from an acting point of view and if I am creating the character. What are the things they battle to achieve? How do they evolve in their revelation, as they go through the arc of their story?
Why were most of the episodes for Marvel’s Iron Fist shot at night?
CTJ: We shot a lot at night because the exteriors in New York City were important to the storytelling. There were some times when I went for a normal television call time at 6 am. There was a time where the call time was 1 am. New York looked different, and the streets were quiet, and they could get the atmosphere they needed. The traffic is less busy in the wee hours of the morning. It is true when they say the city never sleeps. The neighborhoods were scouted out to make sure there was no traffic. The city was never completely dead. I got on set from 3 am to 4 am in the morning. There were always people out. It was easier for them to manage and get the light and the soundscape to be quieter than in the middle of the morning or even at dusk. The light and the sound would change. They would make sure the street we were shooting on was locked down.
Also express how you changed and what you learned throughout these four months?
CTJ: This was my first time working on a project for such a consecutive period of time. I have done different shows over some time, but this was more concentrated. I learned how to concentrate differently and how wonderful it was to establish this kind of family on a show. Also, how you can discover along with the writers how your character changes. When first starting to shoot in January, I did not know how my character would develop. The writers knew the arc of the story. As the story continued to shoot, we all learned different things and the elements contributed to the characters and the storyline. We all learned something new when working on the show.
What does your character say about a woman that can take charge?
CTJ: It says a lot. It says a woman can overcome whatever obstacles she has and to do what is right. Even if some mistakes might be made along the way. A woman can stick to her guns and retain her sense of what is right.
How can someone like your character give both families and work attention
without making the partition between the two wider?
CTJ: Women are the multitaskers of the earth. We just figure it out. I know I feel very strongly about the importance and the ability to make priorities and that they get done. Intrinsically, I will say women are great multitaskers. It is certainly true of this character I play on Iron Fist.
As the poetry teacher to the female lead in Lifetime’s You, what are some poets
that interest you?
CTJ: Oh, good question. Emily Dickinson. Her poem I dwell in Possibility “I dwell in Possibility – A fairer House than Prose –More numerous of Windows –Superior – for Doors – Of Chambers as the Cedars –Impregnable of eye –And for an everlasting Roof the Gambrels of the Sky – Of Visitors – the fairest –For Occupation – This –The spreading wide my narrow Hands To gather Paradise.” I love the idea of dwelling in possibility. There are so many times with everything in the world and life; we can as is our human nature dwell in fear and the idea of lack. I like the idea of dwelling in possibility and knowing there are infinite possibilities out there that we can take if it is intentional.
Yes. If you want it, then go get it.
CTJ: This is right. This goes back to your question about being able to balance everything. I did not mean to be glib about us being multitaskers. I think it is true. It comes from an intentional commitment to making things happen and not being afraid of not being able to do it. But knowing you can do things you set your mind to do. You have to make space for it, but it is possible.
The fear sometimes leads you closer to accomplishing what you need to
accomplish. Have you ever heard of her poem ‘Success is counted the sweetest?’
CTJ: No, but I want to know it.
It is also a poem about Emily Dickinson, and it happens to be my favorite. She
talks about a courageous army and a dying warrior. The moral of the poem is
saying that only a person who has suffered true defeat can understand success.
So, meaning a person who fails and fails is the only one that knows success at
its finest — not the person that barely fails.
CTJ: This is certainly true. Also, the idea that you can’t appreciate what you could have until you have not had it. This probably is not what Emily Dickinson was meaning.
No, she says a line that relates to exactly what you are saying, but she says
it in an Emily Dickinson way.
CTJ: I am a big believer in gratitude. Also, in acknowledging the gift that you have and the potential, you can live up to. Being mindful of this is a driving force in my life and career.
In You, at what point does his deep infatuation become an obsession and love
comes out the picture?
CTJ: This is a tough question. This is probably different to everyone. The circumstances of the show are pretty unusual. I do not know how to answer this. I would hope that the love between them comes when it is mutual and when they have gotten to know each other very well in a compassionate and human way. Obsession develops when someone is focused on their lens and needs. When it is a mutual relationship, the people care about each other. Obsession seems to be one-sided.
How would you classify this deep infatuation with the lead character?
CTJ: This character Joe is sure he knows what is best for Bec. This drives him to do all of these things for her. For example, he kills one of her ex-boyfriends because he thinks he is in the way. Joe thinks he is doing the best thing for her. It is not only a feeling that he wants to be with her but a certainty that he knows what is best for her. He is what is best. He is going to remove any obstacle that will keep them away from each other. This is where I said it was one sided. He has not checked in with her to see if she wanted her ex-boyfriend dead. He just decided this would be a good thing. Once it becomes a little unbalanced, then you are tipping the realm of an obsession.
ATM: How was your late mother, Celebrity Hair
Stylist Rosita Mendoza, an inspiration in your career? How did she influence
IC: I do not have
children in real life. I take the role as Alba after her and the way of how she
would have said something. She was very humorous and eccentric, and Alba does
get like this. My intentions and reflections come from her. I hear her voice as
ATM: Why do you believe the American
television strays away from addressing concepts such as an older woman’s
IC: This is a great
question. It is not only sexuality, but mostly on older women, period. It is
the very ageism of living in this country, and also working in Hollywood. I
cannot complain because they have given me a chance to play this character that
is kind of out there. They put her in situations where you would have never
seen an older woman be in, let alone an older Latina. I am grateful for the
writers, grateful that they have rallied around Alba’s character and that they
are exploring her sexuality among other things.
She is not this one-dimensional character.
You will see some of
it in the coming season. I told one of the directors, “I do not feel the
same because my body is not the same. I do not feel as attractive”, and
this happens to a lot of us in our older ages. We feel less attractive, and
this is how society positions the way you think. I do not feel this way all the
time, but Ivonne feels very sensual with her age. They take many great strides with
Alba in trying to break this ageism mold about an older woman being sensual,
but other things remain in place. They sometimes ask me to do things in a
certain way while playing Alba even thought I would do it another way, closer
to my reality.
I am an older woman,
but I am still young in my mind, so I use modern references. I have to keep in
mind that this is Alba, and that her life is different than mine. She was
exposed to different things than me growing up. When going through these
choices they go “Can you do it more conventional?” It is sometimes not a
conventional way when I’m delivering the lines like my mother would have. She
was a very independent and vocal in the way she lived. She was very successful
in her career.
Alba does not have a
care in the world. I try to infuse this strength in her. This is the thing with
older characters. You are supposed to be ridiculous because you are older. Older
equals ridiculous and out of touch. It is ageism. Now they have a chance to
explore the sexuality of the character on Jane
the Virgin, especially in the season coming out in January.
ATM: What are your views on how your character
progressed? How did it end last season?
IC: I was in shock. We
did not have this page of the script. I was blown away by the episode as I was
seeing it. Writers went full on Telenovela style, which in Spanish is totally
different than what we are doing in North America. Even though you are doing a
Telenovela in Spanish and keeping it campy, you are not playing over the top
and campy. It is the norm to have this style in the Telenovela. We play it knowing
we are keeping the campy and over the top. I cried and was happy the actor
playing Michael was working again when Michael appeared at the end. It seemed
like a little bit of a fantasy when he came back and reappeared. It was real. A
lot of the characters in the plot of the show had to do with the reason he did
not die. You see how he died, and you see more implications. It all makes sense
and it will be interesting to see how he comes back for all the actors,
especially Jane’s character.
ATM: How has your acting technique change from
when you started to what it is now?
IC: I have been doing
this for so long it becomes second nature because you are in it. While young, for
your instrument as an actor to recognize the signals of where it has to go
emotionally, physically, mentally in my characters you do not enclose anything.
You do all the exercises constantly, you write on the board, and then you
accomplish them. You achieve another goal and then do another technique. I had
made a career in theatre first. This teaching gives you the opportunity to
develop your technique. I have been doing it since 1975, and it just becomes
second nature. You can look at a page and see the intentions and actions the actor
has to take. I am now in television mode. It does not have to look theatrical
but has to look like a slice of your character’s life.
I believe in dreaming
a lot in this craft. Some actors go: “It is what I feel.” Well, who cares what you feel. It is about
what the character feels and needs to have. I learned this at Stanford. I
graduated with the knowledge that went into both my mind and career. It becomes
a part of your DNA.
ATM: How did working with Francis Ford Coppola
reflect your career today and what would you tell him?
IC: I have never seen
Francis after doing the Godfather Part II. Can you believe this? I went to San
Francisco and did Mother Courage. I was doing Repertoire. I was Mother Courage.
I called his office because I wanted him to see me. I wanted him to know that he
influenced my life and career. I had never known how to become an actress. I
had never dreamed or known I had this in me. I wanted to experience and witness
what he provoked. That day, unfortunately he was out of town. I spoke to
someone in his office and said, “You have to tell him this is what he did for
my life. He changed my life forever.”
He was just looking
for a nightclub actor. After
meeting me, he decided to give me a name in the movie. This was for my first
credit. He knew that I had never done a movie before. He had the presenter say
the name of my character. This was very generous of him, and he did not have to
do this. He had the casting director call me specifically to say he did this
It took me a year and
a half to resign from my television show in Puerto Rico. It was a variety show,
which was on the air for two years. I had decided to become an actress. Everyone thought I was crazy to leave. When studying with
Lucille Ball and telling her this story, she said: “You left a banquet for an
empty table out here. You are truly ambitious.” I had never thought I was. I
was driven by the art and craft that I discovered in my soul and heart. This was
all provoked by Francis. By him just giving me this part in The Godfather II. I
wish I had the opportunity to see him and tell him this before one of us is
gone off this planet.
ATM: When did you become grounded in your
womanhood and sexuality?
IC: I was known as a
sex symbol in my country while I was younger. I rejected this for a long time.
Back then no one would take you seriously. Now, after the 90’s, I realized that
I have a right to express it. People think, especially with Latino characters,
that somehow you are a hot young chick and the hot tamale while younger. Then,
they cast you as an apron-wearing grandmother who dresses in white clothes. She
is always feeding the family and does not bring anything to herself. She does
not have boyfriends or any form of sexuality. I realized this, which is why I
strive to look for it in the characters that I play. It is a stigma that we
have for older women. I look at Ivonne, which is myself, and I am a very
sensual woman. It doesn’t have to do with being alone or having a boyfriend. You
do not have to have a boyfriend to be sensual. You have to have your
authenticity and be your authentic self. Some women are taught to
Not me. I am not going
to be asexual in anything. I am going to be wonderful and fabulous. I am going
to show my body and that I am in shape. I have never done anything with my face
to become younger. You can be fabulous with just wearing your wrinkles and
showing how mature you have become. You earned it. I try to bring my true self,
and people on the show know this.
ATM: What were the social norms regarding the
social construct in civilization for how women were positioned during the
time you emerged into adulthood?
IC: Women were very
restricted. I believe in the social revolution of feminism. I have partaken on
this movement since moving out here to the States. I grew up during the time of
the 60’s when you were supposed to behave in a certain way. I had a boyfriend
during this time and was going to marry him. I was a Psychology major at the
University of Puerto Rico at this time. I had to dress like he wanted me to
dress. I had to put on the makeup he wanted me to put on. I had to do my hair as
he wanted me to do my hair. This was normal. It was okay for the man to tell
you what to do, what to say or not…so you would not embarrass him or his
This was how I was
brought up. At least in the 60’s. I joined a beauty contest because I needed
money. I wanted the money to do my master’s degree and this made us break
up. He just did not understand how or why I was going to be parading in a
bathing suit in front of thousands of people. He thought this was degrading the
name of his family. Oh no. It was to the point where he would supervise and
approve how I looked before we went out.
This is when I broke
out of this mold and said no more. I joined a hippy community for almost a year
and completely dropped out of society. I wanted to understand who I was in my
art and in my mind. I wanted to figure out what I wanted to do, not what my
mother, my boyfriend, or society wanted me to do. During the 60’s, it was very
hard as a woman to do this. You were accused of being immoral. You were accused
of many things, but it did not matter. As long as I knew in my heart the truth
of what I was being fed into my head, I had to look for my part in my journey.
It was very different.
I look through the
pictures of me as a fashion runway model at this time. We used to dress wearing
little gloves. There was a photo of me on a Pan American airplane and we are
there with our gloves and hats. You had to dress up to travel. It was a
different time when I was brought up. This was exactly it. You were not
supposed to have opinions or be vocal because it was not lady like. Believe me,
it was a very interesting time to live in.
ATM: This sounds very strict, and that women
were voiceless in the pursuit of their identity.
IC: Yes, we were like
a second-class citizen for sure. You at the time accepted this position as the
norm. There are still women who do. This is incredible. This is the 21st Century,
and there are women who still behave like this and who believe this is the way
to live, to please others and society. Unbelievable.
ATM: How do you feel the integration of
Telenovelas into American entertainment has changed the view of television in
IC: There are a lot of
Telenovela style shows coming into American television. Examples include Jane
the Virgin and Ugly Betty. These are shows in Spanish that come from
Venezuela and Colombia. The shows are brought here, and they get Americanized.
You cannot do the original because it does not have the same understanding of
how we think in society. It is interesting to see that there is a lot of
prejudice taking place against Hispanics, but yet, these Hispanics shows are
becoming hits in North American television. It is so ironic and interesting.
They are Hispanic
shows except ones they get adapted into the United States they become
Americanized Hispanic shows.
My character was not
an immigrant in the original Jane the Virgin because she was in Venezuela. My
character was created as an illegal immigrant to add to the American landscape.
They have me speaking only in Spanish. This is another reality out here for
Spanish people of the first generation. These are shows coming from Latin
American and now they are influencing American television.
These shows have
changed the style for many other shows. It is like a Telenovela, but then it is
not. To me, it is not, but a Telenovela interpretation. This show is a Dramedy.
These shows were like serious shows in the Latin society. Jane the Virgin was
not a comedy, and neither was Ugly Betty. Here, she ended up working on Madison
Ave. It is interesting about the take of these shows when they are adapted to
the North American market. I like the idea that in North American shows, the
Latino American family are here in the United States as normal people. They are
not only in gangs, drug dealing, or being criminals. They are hard working. An
important part of society to raise their family like any other Northern
American family would do.
ATM: What is next for you after Jane the
IC: My plan, if I do
not get another show after playing Alba on Jane the Virgin, is to move to
Puerto Rico. My mother left me her house after she died. I also invested in
some real estate. I would like to stay here
and make some films. I am interested in the community of filmmaking over here
and creating stories. This is my plan, but you must always believe that God is
in charge. You have plans and then God has other plans for you. I would like to
live six months here and six months there to take care of my spirit. I long to
be in my country and to smell the air. I long to see the green of the
landscapes. I will live to contribute to my fellow Puerto Ricans and to my
Sydney Viengluang plays Dr. Sun Mei in Syfy’s Z Nation. She was introduced in the third season as the head of the Pan Asian American army. Viengluang talks with ATM about her role, series themes and breaking barriers.
ATM: Why are science fiction and
action your favorite genres?
SV: You do not have to live on
earth with science fiction. Growing up I always loved the shows that used more of
the imagination than the real world. These are shows like Star-Trek and others.
For some reason, on other Syfy networks shows there tends to be diverse
casting. We have an African American woman lead on Z Nation played by Kellita
Smith. There is so much diversity in the science fiction world as far as
casting. This is because “aliens” can be different colors. They all do not have
to be like white America. I like science fiction, the use of imagination, going
out to the different worlds, and galaxies. Futurist topics to me have always
been interesting to me. I have always loved action. I grew up as a tomboy. I
always liked to do physical things and things like riding my bike. The stars in
the action movies would always kick bad guys’ butts. These were the T.V. shows
and movies that I was always drawn to.
ATM: Wouldn’t the stereotype or
what we consider as a “tomboy” today get seen as being inclusive?
SV: Nowadays people want to see kick-ass and bad ass women especially for people of color. I just watched the trailer for the new Men in Black movie starring Tessa Thompson. She is playing one of the agents. I was like “Go, Tessa!” This generation is much more open to seeing strong, capable women that do not need to be saved by a man — also, the man being their knight and shining armor. This genre now you see as one of my favorites Jessica Jones. Back in the 90s, it was Jennifer Garner in Alias. These are the types of shows that I grew up watching and still watching. This generation is more open-minded and inclusive in wanting to see strong female characters because this is who we are and that is who they are. It is more inclusive and reflective in this day and age.
ATM: How can futuristic things like
yourself further one’s imagination regarding thinking outside of the scope of
what is presented to us humans?
SV: People who think outside the
box are people who probably had a wild imagination as a child. They are
creating these worlds because sometimes people have the talent. Some people
have the talent of saying “I am going to make this alien world. I am going to
do make Star Wars.” These are things that were never imagined before, and this
is a great talent to have. The writers and creators who can create this world
have an extraordinary imagination that normal people probably have but do not
tap into. This is because they already have the “think outside of the box” mind
frame — this where they can go outside of the box in passing.
ATM: What has been your furthest
thought that would be considered outside of the box?
SV: Being an Asian American woman and
pursuing an acting career is already not typical and outside of the box. This
is already very rare. This is already something within itself that is showing
people that this is outside of the box.
ATM: How does the show Z Nation add
to the American Science Fiction television series?
SV: It is one of a kind of a show. I always go to diverse casting. Karl Schaefer who is the creator and show-runner could have made Kellita’s character a white woman. She is the lead of the show. He could have cast everyone white. This is the POV of the show. This is the landscape of T.V. and science fiction. It has everything for everyone it is not just different races, but it has different age ranges. We have comedy, drama, humor, and other things. This is why we resonate with families. It is a zombie apocalypse and horror. This is why you see families who are fans say, “they get together every Friday night to watch it.”
ATM: This show is the new norm for the next generation and just
became the norm for the previous generation. The plots and themes that are
emerging which would be the norm for your son or daughter, what do you think
they would say about it?
SV: They will probably look back
and laugh at us just like we did of what Hollywood was 50 years ago. When you
read about Hollywood 50 years ago, and it was rare to see anybody of color. If
it was, then it was very stereotypical. We would get white washed were
a white person would play an Asian person. This was ridiculous. The sons and
daughters of this next generation will look back and say “Are you serious? You
guys were having trouble finding Asian American actors. There were biases. It
was hard for Asian Americans to find third-dimensional roles.”
Gwen McGee gives insight on her role as a medical examiner on Criminal Minds and explains the deep-rooted psychology on why people might like to play deranged characters on television shows like Criminal Minds. McGee also has a recurring role as a judge on Days of Our Lives.
ATM: Was there any other shows before Criminal
Minds that centered around the psychology of a criminal?
GM: I watch a variety of shows that deal with
criminals. You are interested in psychology as an actor. There is something
that happens to them that turns them. This could be the death of a parent as a
child or some abuse as a child like a guy who likes to kill women. He probably
did not have a good relationship with his mother. Maybe a girlfriend did him
wrong, and this twisted him wrong. The root of his thing would be rejection.
These are all negative and evil spirits. When you are a criminal, you never
think you did anything wrong. You always have a justification. This is why people
love to play those characters because they are also juicy and fun. They always
have wrapped mentality. Even in the episode I did, the person figures the
husband is cheating. Her answer is to kill everybody. “Ok lady.” These are
ATM: The psychology behind their crimes that is
deep-rooted in them mostly derived from their childhood?
GM: Childhood or adulthood. It could be all the
way up from their 20s. They have some trauma that was never resolved.
ATM: This is sad.
GM: It is totally sad. Even people with
relationship issues that have been burned by someone. They think “I will never
trust like this again.” They messed up all their relationships instead of
owning it. “I got burned in a relationship, and now I am going to move on.” This
is not how they think logically. They think “This is never going to happen to me
again. I am going to get them first.” It is rooted in evil or unresolved
emotions. It is always the good thing to forgive and let go. There is no
perfect person. You have to forgive, or it just eats you up.
ATM: It interesting when the killer on these
shows forget they did the crime. They say “Oh, it was not me. I did not do it.”
GM: Some people have split personalities, and
this comes from trauma. So, to survive a trauma, you might go into another
character. For them, it is a split personality. “Joe did not do it, but Tommy
did.” It is another way of getting into another space going into the dark side
to commit something like that. You have to think there are a lot of loose screws
with people that do this type of thing. I would think they never got any
psychiatric help or basic therapy. They do not know how to do it. Maybe they
never got exposed to it or thought it was an option. You have talk or vent it
out. You can write a letter to vent and not mail it. I have done this a lot
(Laughs). You feel so much better once writing the letter and then you move on.
There is a lot of violence in this world.
ATM: How does the style of the director make
your role on Days of Our Lives conveyable to the audience or viewers watching?
What level of aggression do you take on as a judge on this show? How would you
say black women judges or black judges are portrayed on American
GM: Soaps’ actors are some of the hardest
working actors ever. A script a day. Directors style vary per episode.
They all follow format there. Rehearse and shoot. Listen and keep order. I
demand professionalism in my court as Rose Duncan and usually get it due to my
tactic to take how they act in court into my decision. Reality show judges are
different from real judges. It’s up to the individual actor to portray the
judge as they see fit with direction from the director or producers. Pray, I
get it right. Power can corrupt you know.
ATM: What did you envision your life at 21? What
emotions did you possess?
GM: I set out to be a movie star after getting
out of drama school. Read books on how to do it. Started in New York and
what they taught in school–How to act and what you encounter, — the Business
of acting –was two different things. Even thought about teaching the
business of acting but maybe they have added those classes by now. Universities
do a disservice by not teaching the BUSINESS of acting.
The highlights of living in New York was getting
cast in Do the Right Thing by using persistence on Spike Lee and New
Jersey Drive directed by Nick Gomez. Getting cast as one of the original
members of Breakfast Time with Tom Bergeron and Laurie Hibberd when they
launched the FX Network. In Los Angeles, the director who helped me a lot
is John Terlesky. He cast me in two lead roles in Malevolent opposite Lou
Diamond Philips and my first episode of Criminal Minds. John rocks. Rap started
to become hot. Saw LL Cool J in concert. Loved his energy.
Nowadays, it’s good for actors to know basic
filmmaking. I took a class in that and loved it.
Helps you express yourself as an artist. I shot
a documentary short called SISTER CARE which won Best Documentary in the 2018
168 film festival. I was very happy about that. It’s edgy and basically
about the impact of street drugs on the family members that must take care of
them after something goes wrong with their body or brain, i.e., MS or Dementia.
Perseverance. Sheer determination. (This will be
needed throughout any career) Then my mentor at the time told me
God would help me with my career. That was groundbreaking news
to me, and I started going to church. There were Broadway people in church and
actors and musicians in New York. That helped tremendously in those early years
and still does. Actors must get a handle on rejection- it’s part of the
business. Church and or bible reading helps.
ATM: Why do you feel
this show Hawaii 5-0 deserved to get a reboot?
DK: Hawaii 5-0
is one of those shows that has everything going for
it. There’s just so many elements involved: a procedural
investigation, lots of action, lots of mystery,
international intrigue, global conspiracies,
diversity, the buddy partnership & banter, playing with
time, strong relationships, and interesting dynamics between all
the characters. And the location…so many possibilities given that it’s
all filmed in Honolulu. And, it feels fresh because it’s not NY
or LA or even “anywhere USA.” Also, the location being Hawaii opens
the atmosphere to a world that audiences both love and want to be a
part of. And it’s not all sandy beaches and surf; there’s a gritty
underbelly to Honolulu, and the show takes the audience there too.
There can be large
cityscapes and action sequences, plus remote and exotic locations. But most of
all I think it comes down to the chemistry and the
relationships between the characters, and the
many, many directions the writers and producers take the show.
They allow it to have lighthearted moments and silliness along
with all the action sequences, drama, suspense, etc., but they also
acknowledge serious issues that first responders deal with every
day. Domestic violence was one of the themes of the
episodes I was a part of.
ATM: What does the
reboot entail about the appearance of police shows on television?
DK: It is a great
addition. It a show that deserved a reboot. You have a great cop, first
responder show. This is the heart of this show. It is set in Hawaii, and it is
so much they get to do with it. This is what makes the show very special and
unique. They have such a great and diverse cast. They have taken the genre and
have made it its own. I do not think there is any show out there like it.
ATM: What is the
difference in the landscape of LA, NY, and Hawaii that changes the atmosphere
of this police show?
DK: There is only one
Hawaii. There is something special and magical about Hawaii. It is exotic,
beautiful, unique but it also the United States. It is grounded in an area that
is familiar and that we know. A lot of people call it the United States. Where
else do you have this? Nowhere. It adds a sort of backdrop to the show. There
are not afraid to show the darker side to Hawaii. It is not all palm trees,
ocean waves, and beaches. There is a real gritty underbelly to Honolulu. They
have big city problems. The first responders have real urban issues that they
have to deal with. The show ties these in all along the way. This could be
terrorism, drug-related issues (drug dealing, drug smuggling, or drug
addiction). The show capably tackles these things. There is poverty, and it has
ATM: The man you
were ten years ago, do you feel you were in the mental headspace to play
your role now?
DK: That’s an
interesting question. I think so, but it would have been different.
The past ten years have had a strong impact on who I am as a person,
and that informs how I portray any role I take on. I’ve had a lot of
growth as an actor in the past ten years, including opportunities to play some amazing
roles in TV, film, and particularly theatre, and those experiences
influence how I portrayed Ray Gardner on Hawaii Five-0.
Ten years is a lot of
time. I think for myself I have been very fortunate to play a lot of characters
along the way — every opportunity you have whether you are playing the heroes
or someone who is battling with their demons. Ray Gardner is battling with his
demons. Unfortunately, takes it out on the people around him and the ones he
loves the most. This gives you a lot of insight. As an actor, every character imprint
themselves on you in some way. This becomes a resource that you can use in the
ATM: What have you
learned about life in ten years? Who were you ten years ago?
DK: Like with
anyone, ten years of time comes with lots of life experiences, professional
experiences, knowledge, maturity, confidence in who I am and perspective. The
biggest change in my life over the past ten years is that I’m now a
father of 2 boys, and that absolutely shifted my life and perspective in
so many ways, and ultimately informs and permeates the characters I play.
ATM: When did it become
more about what you can contribute to your character than just playing a role?
DK: In whatever medium you’re acting in, it’s all about the process of collaboration. There are so many people involved who have so much at stake, and as an actor, you are one of many people helping to tell a story. There are the writers, the director, and other actors. But also, there’s the DP, the camera department, the grip and lighting teams, and the sound recording all working to frame the story. There are the set designers, the make-up & hair artists and the wardrobe stylists that shape the visuals. There’s the editor, the sound mixer and all the post-production that goes into craft how this one story will be seen. In my opinion, it’s all about working together to tell the story. As for what resonates most with me when I’m watching something be it TV, film, or theatre, it’s honesty and truth. I was very fortunate to work with such high caliber talent on Hawaii Five-0 — working first with Peter Weller who was directing, and then with Alex O’Loughlin as he made his directorial debut this season. They’re both such accomplished actors, and as directors, they speak an actor’s language. It’s a pleasure to work under those kinds of circumstances – they were always driving for truth in tackling some very intense scenes, and some very important issues’ including violence against women.
ATM: How do you immerse
yourself in an atmosphere with the other actors on this show?
DK: For me, it’s all
about the preparation; the work you do before showing up on set.
If you come to work prepared, knowing what you want to
accomplish and have a strong point of and you
can balance this with a willingness to
adapt — to take what the director and other
actors are giving you — then you can be fully
immersed. If I’ve done all the hard work before filming, it’s just a
question staying focused and engaged and responding now to what
I’m being given.
During a big
confrontation scene between me and Scott (Caan), I came in
prepared, I’d done my homework, so I could let all that work go, and just exist
in the scene. It was a night shoot, and Alex had all these great ideas and
insights into the character. I took what I could from those ideas and
just played them as honestly as possible. We went through some basic
blocking, and then Scotty and I just worked the scene. He’s so good and so
committed to his character, it made my job a lot easier. The scene
evolved with each take, and it resulted in it being one of my favorites from
ATM: In being an actor,
how do you not allow your male ego to take its course?
DK: While you wouldn’t
know it from the characters I tend to get cast in and play, I’m a very
down to earth person in real life, so it’s not an issue. I do think
you have to have a healthy dose of ego and confidence to do anything well, be
it acting, directing, writing, cooking, teaching, curing cancer…you get the idea.
Stephen Bishop plays a loving husband to his on-screen wife Madison in Til Death Do Us Part. Bishop’s character takes an unpredictable turn that puts viewers in a shocking experience.
ATM: Do you believe what a child
experiences in their childhood affects how they maneuver throughout their
adulthood? Meaning they mirror the same behavior seen in their household.
SB: The way I look at life in
general: children are born as blank data cards. The parents are in charge of
programming the data cards. The person is only going to turn out as good as
their programmer. If while they are being programmed, they see violence and see
this is the only outlet for frustration, then that is going to be programmed
into their psyche at some level in my opinion. So, it is going to be there. It
is either going to realize as the wrong thing later in life, suppressed, or it
is going to manifest into the child’s adulthood. This is what it is programmed
to do. This is one of the default settings of what they see growing up. It is
hugely impactful and influential what the child sees in the household growing
up and what is programmed into the child’s date card.
ATM: How would you perceive the
character’s perception and the idea of a marriage?
SB: Everyone is one of their best
behavior in the beginning. It is the honeymoon stage. This person does not
trigger any of their insecurities or tendencies to lash out. Once the honeymoon
stage is over, they are immersed in a living environment for an extended amount
of time. These things start to become more agitated. You are living with
someone who only has the lash out program, and this is when that happens.
Madison became submissive because he has a domineering leader personality. She
fell into the position of “I am just going to follow the lead”. When she
questioned him and his leadership, this is when it triggered his insecurities
and his default setting. He ended up lashing up.
ATM: What do you believe your character’s idea on love was regarding connecting it with another woman?
SB: He has a good idea of what love
is, and he truly loves Madison. He is fully in love with her at the beginning
of the movie. He is doing everything he can to make her happy and make her feel
she is the queen of his world. He does not have any real perception of it, but
I think he has problem-solving issues. Because of his experience as a child, he
only saw one way to solve this problem. Remember the conversation he had with
Malik Yoba’s character; my character is a control freak. He is in control of
everything in his life. When something shows him that he is losing control, he
only has one program that he can click on, and this was the lash out of the
program. He does not have any other resource.
ATM: What were your mental
techniques to embody this character while reading the script?
SB: I did not think about any
techniques. I allowed myself to go into the darkest recesses of my personality.
Everybody has darkness in them. Things are balanced by light and dark. We do a
great job of suppressing our dark side because they are not sociologically
acceptable. We all have them. I gave myself permission to go to the dark side
and let the dark side live on the surface for this time. Not knowing it would
be more difficult to get out of than I anticipated. I let my dark demons live
on the surfaces of these moments. I had to expose raw nerves and keep them on
the surface. I did not go fighting people on the street. I was on edge and
irritable. It took me a couple of weeks to come down from this.
ATM: What can a person take from this roller coaster ride that
your character pulls on?
SB: The viewers can take the
perceptive of never knowing what kind of demons someone is dealing with under
the surface. Their life may look to be perfect, and they may look to have
everything in order with their ducks in the row. Underneath this, there is a
cauldron of insecurities, vulnerability, and anger brewing that one thing could
set off. Do not think because someone’s grass looks green that there are no
problems. Michael had a very good life that most men would aspire to have. He
has a great job, beautiful wife who was about to have a child. He still has the
darkness. You never know what someone else is going through.
It is good for everybody to be
kind, attentive, and empathetic to each other. We need to see how we can make
people’s lives happier and not agitating and pushing buttons. Also, hating and
antagonizing. There is a lot of antagonizing going on in the climate we are
going living in right now. A lot of people because of their social media
platforms are afforded the luxury of talking shit to people that they think is
going to be any consequence. You do not know where that agitation will take
that person in real life. The cat is way out of the bag. My one voice is not
going to stop people from antagonizing on social media. It is a good idea to be
aware of what the repercussion could be.
ATM: What is your character’s sort after taking on happiness?
SB: If it looks good on paper, then you should be happy. You have a beautiful house; you have beautiful clothes, beautiful wife, then you should be happy. The way he relates to Madison “Look at all I have done for you. You are not happy. Are you serious? How could you not be happy? Look at your life?” This is not everything, but this is his take on it.
Leonardo Salerni plays a male
escort and helps the main character in Postcards
from London find his way. He speaks with ATM about the culture in Europe versus
the culture in the United States.
ATM: Do you feel there are more hidden ways of living than what
is shown to us?
LS: The main character is
discovering life. He has been in a small little town in the suburbs in London.
He has always been in this little village. He makes this step to see what is
outside of this village. He entered a situation where he finds all the evil and
all the people who want to use him. I had a similar experience while moving to
New York at 20. It was wow for me moving to New York at this age.
I was having experiences and
falling my instinct. Everything was a discovery. I do not think it is good or
bad. You get both when you enter this life. You become more aware of what
surrounds you and different people. It is about discovering life. This happened
to my character before. He is more aware and has more experience because he has
already discovered a lot of the world that surrounds him. The main character is
now going through it. I can see in him how I was years before.
ATM: Do you agree that working as a male escort is defining a
LS: These are escorts that go with
men. I have read things about male escorts that go with both men and women.
They did not see themselves as this or that. For the money, they go with men.
For the money, they go with women. It is like a job. In this case in the
movie, we have our clients as most men. I would not be in a label that this is
a gay-oriented movie.
ATM: How can life be perceived differently by someone
living in a small town versus someone in a big city?
LS: A guy that comes from a small
town and goes to a big town is like an alien. Someone that comes from another
world completely. It’s something that is never seen. Like in the 30s, 40s, and
the beginning of the century when a lot of Italians used to go to New York. They
would arrive at the skyscrapers and say, “wow we are in a completely different
world.” They were discovering for a part of the world that was not even in
their imagination and not possible. It is the difference with someone who grows
up in a world where this is normal. Like if someone grew up in London, then it
is normal for him to see drag queens or two men holding hands with each other.
This does not happen in a small town.
ATM: What does the constraints put on the male character expose about the body? Is his body still seen as a body or an object?
LS: We are playing with our body
and selling our collection. You do not have that much time to get consumed
after a while. You have time to say you are doing your best for these five
years. You get as many clients as you can and get the money and do other
things. The clients may want someone in the business that is younger, prettier,
and smarter. You see in the scene for a small period. People want something new
and not seen before. You get five years and then you have to let go.
ATM: How does the exposure of the art dictate how one might want
to view this film?
LS: It has never seen a movie
representing live paintings. The main character’s fantasy is getting inside of
the painting with his trans state. We got inside the painting and performed it.
I have never seen a movie that takes you inside the painting or the painting of
a specific artist of the 15th and 16th century.
You get a different perspective of the art inside and out.
ATM: What differences did you discover about how a female escort moves her body compared to a male escort in this line of work?
LS: We are male, so because of this
we have a more active kind of role. For women escorts, they are received. As
male escorts, you have the chance to be the one that is in control. Let me
think about this for a second.
ATM: What comes to your mind when thinking about a female
LS: A female is wanting to sell her
body and offering love for money.
ATM: What about a male escort?
LS: The same concept of course.
ATM: I would think there is a difference in their approach and
how their clients approach them.
LS: The clients are different
ranges of ages. You get a young guy who wants to experience women. They pay the
escorts for sex. You get the old man or the 40-year-old man. For male
escorts, you get to arrange things with much older range of ages. This is the
difference. The clients are older and what something else other than sex. They
want a relationship with the person they are paying with. They want
conversation and dinner. Because the range of ages is different, you get
different conversation. I have never really thought of it. It is very far from
who I am.
ATM: For example, there is a party, and you see a female escort.
Whether they are male or female, their approach is different. They
will call her names to get her attention. Whereas, for a male escort, they will
use nonverbal communication vs. with a female escort they will
use derogatory names to get her attention. How does the main character and your
character embody his male sexuality?
LS: The main character Jim is a
very attractive male, young man, and of course he wants this as a tool to
express his sexuality. My character knows he is attractive to other
people. This creates a flow in me in this way. Sometimes you get excited or get
horny or get drawn into. You are desired. The way people desire me is exciting
to me. It makes me feel like I am in a power state. It makes me feel like I
have power over someone because someone is drawn to my sexuality and my
aspects. This creates a gain of power over someone. You have power over someone
that is desiring you.
ATM: The person that is desiring you takes a submissive role.
You are taking the powerful role knowing you have the power to play for the
emotions. You know while they desire you, they are not mentally themselves. How
would you define a male’s sexuality? A male uses his wits, word play and looks
to get a girl.
LS: A female does the same, doesn’t
ATM: A female might show more of her body to reel the man in. It
is not the same when a woman does it. Do you think there is a difference in how
they approach sexual encounters?
LS: This is subjective. Each one is
different — there people that use it to seduce to look weak or look
non-defensive. Some people are seduced with looking strong and powerful. It
works for both women and men. There are some women that seduce that men think
are powerful women. There are some women that seduce by being more passive. You
The way men seduce tends to be more
upfront and active. They are the ones that do the first steps and wants to look
strong and brave. It has changed through the years. From my experience as a
straight man, I have been seduced by women. This would not have happened 50 years
ago. It was not allowed for the woman to seduce directly. In the 60s, in Italy,
it was the man that made the first step. The image is seen as the women taking
power in themselves. It happened to me. A woman seduced me and made the first
step. It was something usual up until 40 years ago in the world. I never heard
of a woman making the first step. Hearing stories of my dad or my grandma, it
was always the man making the first step.
ATM: Yes, it has changed. Some men might be intimidated by the
look of women which makes them not talk. It makes it so that the women have to
approach them to say, “Hey, I like you.” The guys have become shy.
LS: Guys are always shy.
ATM: Or intimidated. If you see a nice woman, then it might make
LS: Oh. I would think twice before
going up to her. I would think she is too much for me.
ATM: How would you describe the energy in Italy’s family style?
LS: In Italy, the dinner table and
family is like a ritual. Food is like a ritual. Someone has been prepared by
the mother. To be eating and sharing something with the family is a big
tradition for us. It is very English in a way as it is shared in the movie. It
is just Jim and his two parents. They are eating English food. It looked cold.
As for me, there are four siblings. In the past, I had dinner with my
grandmother and aunt. People are shouting at the table. There was chaos and it
was like a scenario. It was kind of midland England cold. It was very
ATM: You all do not sit in separate rooms to eat?
LS: No, never. Not in a million
times. It happens sometimes. Sometimes my mother would say let’s watch the
Simpsons. It was kind of a big event. For the rest of the times, we turned off
the times to be with each other. Now, if I am checking my phone for dinner, my
mother is like put away your phone. Do not use your phone at the table while
ATM: What are your observations on London in their family style?
LS: I have a few friends from
London. I have never had dinner with them in a family setting. It is a much
more international city. Families are more open to other cultures rather than
midland England. These are the culture side scenarios. The English people I
know are more open to different cultures. They live in a city with different
cultures. They are used to seeing and living in a multicultural society. It is
ATM: How do you see America right now in your own words?
LS: I used to live in New York for
almost three years then I moved to San Diego. I did drama in New York at
Strasburg. I loved to be there. It was the best time of my life to be in New
York. There is a kind of similarity in the film. I had just arrived in New
York. I was drawn to the lights, partying, sex, and discovering different people.
I was kind of a Jim in the film. I was going through the whole process of
discovering myself. Now, it has been five years since I have gone to the United
States. I have been busy here. I did not have time to go to the United States.
ATM: To catch you up we have a new government.
LS: The United States is in a very
difficult movement culturally and politically. I left just before the storm. I
lived there during President Obama. It was good. Now it is very hard for you
being represented in the world by such a man. I am sorry for you. I feel pity
for you. You have a big cultural representation. You have Hollywood, and you
create big artists. Now, being represented by this man is the opposite of what
most of the people in the United States want to be represented by the world.
New York is not America. San Diego is mostly Republican. There is East and West
Coast midland. I did a road trip from San Diego to Miami. When you drive
through East and West Coast you understand a lot of things.
I drove through it for hours and
hours with nothing around. There was only a McDonalds, a gas station, and a Waffle
House. I started to think who lives here and what is their reality? They are
surrounded by nothing. What is their daily life? How do they think? It is
fascinating. It is a completely different way of living than growing up in
Europe. Think about someone who lives in San Antonio, Texas who never left the
United States. What is their reality? What do they know about the world? I
read something like 70% of the U.S has not left the country. This was years
ago. Now, it might not be like that. Where are you from?
Richard Clarkin plays David in the film Great Great Great. His character influences the female to think about her self exploration with life. The film takes you back to the foundation of love and shows people who grow out of love with each other. Clarkin speaks on the American relationship and its culture.
ATM: Explain how your character complicated the main character’s
struggles with love and how to commit.
RC: I played a former lover of the
lead character in Great Great Great played by Sarah Kolasky.
They have a history where they had a passionate affair. He is the hire at her
workplace. He is the manager of the office. They rekindle that part of their
history. It is consensual. My character is single, in his 40s. This is not laid
out in the script, but we talked about him having an ex and some kids. There is
a strong sensual attraction between them, but he is looking for something more
meaningful and permanent.
He is direct about rekindling what
they had. He wants a serious relationship with his one. This is the sum and
sketch of what he is about. He is successful, demanding in the workplace, and
very upfront about what he wants and needs. He is at the point in his life
where he wants to cut through the bullshit. He does not get what he
wants. He lets him go and makes it clear. She is not in it for anything more
than just sex. She holds the cards. This is not something he is used to. What
did you think about the movie?
ATM: It is interesting to see both main characters’ values intact
and then change. It is like her parent’s divorce was a lock for all the things
inside she has bottled up about the relationship.
RC: It is her movie. She carries the movie. She is in the driver’s seat. She is confused and does not know which way to go. She has a guy that loves her. Seemingly, a good thing on a plate with engagement and the prospect of marriage. She makes choices that seem wrong and will put her in an emotionally complicated state. Somehow, she navigates through this. As a character, I am in support of her journey. She kind of makes a fucked-up choice in choosing to get back in the affair with him. The fiance finds out, and it gets messy and ugly. We make strange choices in our journey in this life that surrounds us with people that say this is wrong. You should not be doing that, but she does. She owns it in her way.
ATM: How was love broken down in this movie?
RC: I am not sure if the movie
breaks down love. My character David and she does not say we explicitly love
each other. We are all searching for love. We are hard-wired for love. This
could be a romantic relationship, friends, family, or children. We naturally want
to find a soul male or an anchor where we are our best selves. This is what my
character is looking for as he is progressing. This is what is operating in
him. For Sarah, we live in a society and culture where engagement and marriage
are an expected road for happiness and kids and a nice home.
There is a possibility for women
where the road they take is not necessarily a straight line. It is not for her
and not for a lot of women. Men and women grow up with this notion of true love
and conventions of society such as marriage, rings, and weddings. It is almost
an external expectation. There could be a love that is true as any that does
not involve rings or marriages. It is just two people who decide they want to
be together. They hold one to their love and nourish it in their way.
It is an expectation of society vs. what is necessarily operating in Sarah’s
character. She has girlfriends that are excited about the shower and plans. She
is not ready to anchor herself just yet.
What are your thoughts about how it
breaks down love?
ATM: The film adds an exploration to love after the divorce
between her parents does not require a self-exploration. She goes searching for
the good in life. She comes up with concerns and questions. He is confused
about these findings. If love gets shattered, then we see the effects of it. If
she would have known about the divorce, then they would have never broken up.
Why? Because they were safe. They were in their unit. They were them. They were
one. The cancellation of someone’s love broke the unit. When you focused on
someone else connection, you miss what is around you. It is like when you are
watching television in the living room.
You are so engrossed in what you are watching that you are not
aware who is walking around you. This is how a relationship works. The two
people in a relationship are a euphemism for engrossing in watching the
television. Think about when you realize what is around you when watching
television. You get distracted. This is when the relationship and love are
shattered. You start to suddenly come up with things that are wrong, and that
needs fixing. In this case, this was the finding out about the divorce.
RC: There are certain consequences
that she makes with my character, her girlfriends, and her fiancé. People can
surprise you, can’t they?
ATM: Yes. When you are in a relationship everyone’s notion, for
the most part, is that is it will lead to marriage. You are bonded with this
person. You are supposed to feel safe, and you tell this person everything
about you. But, on the other hand, this person can wake up and not want to be
with you anymore. You will have to deal with it. From one night to the morning,
they become a stranger. This can hurt.
RC: This is very true. Sometimes a
person, like this movie, could have another movie going on in their brain or a
different story. The other one thinks everything is great. You can never fully
know a person. It seems. They could have another agenda and story. We have all
heard about relationships where there is a partner that disappears and shocks
the person that is left. They say they did not see it coming. It is amazing how
good we are as actors in our relationships.
ATM: Let’s say this couple in the film had gotten together at
17. People experience tremendously different things in their lives. Some can be
an emotional trigger that changes them forever. This could be death, rape, or
substance abuse. The divorce event happened, and it could be sad. Mom and Dad
are getting a divorce. This could change a person. If the male had been in a
car accident, then his life is significantly also changed. They become two
different people. We live in a society and culture that says either though you
are different you must stay together and work out the kinks. But why? We
individually are different. They will not be the same even if they stay
together while at the age of 35.
RC: True. This is why you often get
advice not to settle down young. You do what you need to do and have your
adventurers. Once you get whatever you have to get out of your system, then you
have to get yourself to people. This is a part of deciding to settle down. You
do change. I went down this road with this person.
ATM: What happens with the new you come along, and you have to
fit it in with your lover’s standards? You have this new identity playing out
with this person. This person does not understand you because of this new
RC: It is wonderful to have talked with you. You are aware of this film. This is a small low budget Canadian movie. It has picked up attention and notice. Hopefully, we will premiere in LA or NY in the future. People think it is a relationship movie or character study. Or about superheroes. There are not a lot of audiences for these types of movies anymore. The landscape has shifted — a woman having an exploration within her boundaries. I am a big supporter of indie films that tell stories that used to be big.