Glenn Close Honored by Museum of Moving Image

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Originally published on The Knockturnal

The iconic Glenn Close can truly be anything-- sensual or plain, mother or mistress, Shakespearean or fantastical, kind or cruel. Last night, the Museum of the Moving Image recognized Close's versatility and quiet brilliance by honoring the famed actress and producer at their annual gala Salute.

Close's expansive decades-long career in film, tv, and theatre is staggering even to Close herself. "I still feel 18," Close joked on the red carpet. Close counts her first film--a role that landed her an Oscar nomination-- The World According to Garp among her most memorable works, alongside The Big Chill, Fatal Attraction, and Dangerous Liaisons. Close's second screen title, the 1984 TV movie “Something About Amelia” about sexual abuse, is also close to her heart. "I think it was the first TV [show] that actually had a hotline afterwards. I was proud to be part of that," Close said. Her hit show "Damages" is another television highlight: "that was an amazing ride."

Close has made a splash this season with the critically-acclaimed The Wife, portraying the stifled partner of a Nobel Prize-winning author. The story of gender roles within a marriage intrigued Close, drawing a personal connection from the star. "It was kind of the story of my mom's generation, and certainly my mom," Close mused. "She was a brilliant woman who had all kinds of potential. She basically sublimated herself to my dad and to her family and yet didn't have any personal fulfillment. We can nurture our kids and we can support our husbands but we also have to fight to have personal fulfillment to have a full life."

Guests applauded Close's celebrated roles, from The Big Chill, The Natural, Sarah Plain and Tall, Albert Nobbs, and 101 Dalmatians, among others. The theme was clear: Close's characters are always strong and independent, and The Wife is no exception.

Fellow actors showered the star with praise, from the ever-charismatic Ethan Hawke introducing Close's "electrifying" performance in The World According to Garp to a video tribute from Michael Douglas admitting her audition for Fatal Attraction was the "bravest and most powerful I've ever seen and I'll never forget." Former co-stars and friends Rose Byrne, Bobby Cannavale, Christopher Walken, Tate Donovan, and Kevin Kline added to the celebration.

Broadway veteran Jim Dale reminded the audience of Close's theatre triumphs and multiple Tony Awards. Since sharing the stage for the musical "Barnum," Dale considers Close--or "Glenny" as he lovably calls her--a lifelong friend. "Over the years Glenny not only blossomed but she really took over the whole garden," Dale explained. "I've just been blown away by the talent this lady has."

Other Broadway costar Bob Balaban joked that Close created the term "bunny boiler," now found in the Oxford Dictionary, after her turn in Fatal Attraction.

Close's The Wife costar Christian Slater introduced the star to accept her award. "She is a tour of tour de forces," Slater gushed. "I was privileged to be part of The Wife with her."

The six-time Academy Award nominee was as graceful and beautiful as ever, thanking the "incredible institution" of the Museum of the Moving Image for the honor. "This is actually a very emotional event for me," Close admitted during her acceptance speech. "Getting an award like this in the town where I started means a lot. To see my friends as part of this tribute-- I was just thinking that those of us in this profession, we make these amazing friendships because we go through a journey where we have to trust each other immediately. My fellow actors, you have to trust to go to the places you are asked to go to. And that trust, the intensity of that experience for me and for all the people that you've seen-- [Bob] Balaban and Jim [Dale] and Christian [Slater]-- we will be friends for life because it creates a bond that is unbroken and time doesn't matter because we experienced something phenomenal together. So the first thing I want to do is thank my friends who were in all these movies and plays with me. I wouldn't be here without them."

Close credited past directors for believing in her during moments "devoid of inspiration," from István Szabó (Meeting Venus) to Adrian Lyne (Fatal Attraction), Stephen Amis (The Real Thing) and Björn Runge (The Wife). "I've always thought of myself as a meat and potatoes actress," Close humbly stated. "It's because I've had so many brilliant people constantly whispering in my ear that I'm here today."

Close also thanked costume designers and makeup artists, most notably Albert Nobbs wigmaker Martial Corneville, as "invaluable collaborators in creating characters."

Yet Close, with the grace and wit expected of a queen, emotionally revealed her awe at the honor itself. "It's humbling and kind of confusing trying to figure out what to say when given an award like this," Close admitted. "I don't feel wise or particularly insightful. If anything I feel more aware of the fragility of it all."

Close took a similar approach toDangerous Liaisons director Stephen Fears when he was asked about his stylistic choices with the film. "The fact that my very subjective choices that seemed like a good idea at the time have actually added up to a body of work that matters to people is something that I'll never get used to," Close tearfully admitted.

Close also spoke to the Museum of Moving Images' Teen Council who was in the audience. "[It's] important in a city wherein a lot of our schools we don't have arts at all. That's important, and what you say is important. Your lives and your voices matter because you're going to change the world," Close said.

Close closed the ceremony with meditations on her career. "The most precious things we have is time and our lives are the sum of how we choose to spend it and with whom," Close explained. "For me, the process is everything-- choosing projects I believe, involving people who I can't wait to spend time with, to play, to try to get it right. That is the ultimate luxury. To be given an award like this for something that already makes me so deeply happy and fulfilled is truly an embarrassment of riches."

The Museum of Moving Images series "Getting Close: Ten Great Performances by Glenn Close" presents screenings of Close's iconic roles. Visit http://www.movingimage.us for more information.

Why You Need to Take Risks to Succeed, According to Top Female Bosses

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Originally on Marie Claire

With more women than ever rising to the top of their fields, there's never been more inspiration at hand for pursuing your own career dreams. But despite the (much-needed) positive momentum, it's easy to let the fear of failure stop you from taking a risk—which top bosses Francoise Brougher (COO of Pinterest), Karen Plotkin (SVP of Dell), Jenkey Rubio (Co-Founder of Away), and Rose Schooler (Corporate Vice President of Intel) know is key to success. At the 2018 Marie Claire Power Trip conference, an exclusive two-day networking event designed to empower and inform women, the four women shared their own missteps on their paths to disrupting major industries.

“I don’t like the word ‘failure,’” Schooler explained. “It’s about becoming a better organization moving forward. We can leverage learnings—and build a whole new business around it.”

In fact, industry disruption is dependent on missteps, according to Plotkin. “Everything is ripe for disruption,” Plotkin said. Yes, even a multibillion-dollar company like Dell. “It takes tenacity. Knowing it is the right thing to do and not breaking away from that," Plotkin added.

Meanwhile, Away co-founder Rubio doubled down on the importance of staying true to your convictions. “I was friends with so many people in business school that were trying to map out what industries to disrupt,” Rubio remarked. “There’s no way you can build something successful if you don’t actually care.”

In order to revamp your industry, risk-taking has to be built into the daily routine, the women agreed. “There is no such thing as day-to-day business," Brougher says. "You have to be creative every single day."

To that end, Brougher says she makes sure Pinterest is a safe space for her staff to generate new ideas. "I think a good way to really enforce this creativity is to provide a structure,” she noted. “Creativity is unleashed when you provide this canvas.”

The four panelists agreed that taking chances is necessary on the road to success, in one way or another. So, with that stamp of inspiration, tell that small voice to go away: You should take the leap, no matter what.

Jennifer Cheon

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Originally on Trend Prive

Actress Jennifer Cheon knows how to use her voice. The star of the addictive Syfy series "Van Helsing" fights monsters on the screen but also stands up for LGBTQ rights and acceptance. Cheon sat down with Trend Prive before the season three premiere of "Van Helsing" to discuss her personal belief in the supernatural, how Sarah Connor inspired her career, and her touching mission to dismantle bullying in our society. Cheon embodies a real world action star: fearless, empathetic, and above all, kicks ass.

1. How did you first become interested in acting?

I have always been a performer as my poor family will tell you. I would never stop singing and dancing, but what really sparked my love for acting was Terminator 2. I took one look at Sarah Connor, and thought she was the coolest human ever! There was a 20 min BTS after the movie that caught my attention, and I would watch it over and over again. Seeing how movies were made was what made me want to be in the business.

2. From "Arrow" to "Minority Report," your roots in Hollywood have been predominantly TV. Are you more drawn to that medium, as opposed to film?

I’m drawn to all mediums, whether it’s TV, film or theatre. I want to do both, so happy I have had the opportunities to. I didn’t really plan for my work in TV to start first, but it has worked out that way, and I’m not complaining about it. I know I’m very lucky to get to do what I do every day.

3. Your TV show "The Drive" dealt with heavy issues like sobriety and adversity, and you won a Leo for your work! How do you tap into such dramatic emotions?

I think it’s important to sympathize with your character, to leave judgement at the door and really feel. Gina had so much going on, and so much she was trying to push forward through, even though she felt she was on a hamster wheel.

4. How did working on a web series like "The Drive" differ from a traditional TV show?

Well "The Drive" has a really low budget. It wasn’t as glamorous as other shows I have been on, but it was such a great memory I will always cherish.

5. "Van Helsing" has such a cult following on the Syfy channel. Do you believe in the supernatural?

Hell yes!!!

6. In a previous interview, you said you would love to be in a Tarantino film. Which is your favorite movie of his, and what would your dream film with him be like?

Oh man my favorite is "True Romance" or the "Kill Bill" volumes. I think he and I would have a great collaboration on a fun story about a kick ass woman on a mission, whether it’s for love or hate.

7. William H. Macy is such a tremendous dramatic actor. How was working with him as a director for a comedy like "The Layover”?

What a legend! It was the first time I was working with a director I knew first from his work in front of the camera. I loved how he could speak both languages… instead of TELLING you what he wanted he could just simply DO it.

8. What genre of film or TV do you find most satisfying to act in, or watch?

I love all categories of film and TV. I love "Ozarks", The Girl Bosses, Marvel/ DC movies, Christopher Nolan movies, Alejandro Gonzales Iñárritu films, and the 007 films. I have always wanted to be a Bond Girl. I also love Indie art as well. I would be honored to work on any of those types of projects!

9. I know you are very vocal about gender equality and LGBTQ rights. What inspired you to speak out on those issues?

I know what it’s like to be hated on, dismissed, ignored, abused, or bullied. I hate that typically people's first reaction is to hate on what they don’t understand. I feel like the Universe gave me an opportunity to have my voice heard, so I want to use my voice to educate people on how our differences is the magic of being human. You can hate things if you want too, but why lead with that? Why do we choose to lead with hatred instead of encouragement and love ?

10. It was stated that you suffered from bullying in school. How do you harness that experience in your acting, as well as activism?

It’s funny how those years of you are growing up can leave such scars on your heart. I use my art as a way of dealing with it. Whether it’s dance, painting, singing, or writing. A lot of my sadness comes from those days, so I feel like I want to do what Carrie Fisher once said, “take your broken heart and turn it into art”.

11. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Oh man …. Hopefully on a beach eating fresh coconuts, and sipping some sort of drink with an umbrella on it. Preferably with a cool project/ job waiting for me back in the “real world”. Staying employed would be rad!

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Jae Suh Park

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Originally on Trend Prive

Actress Jae Suh Park was destined to be a screen star-- well, at least destined be a dinosaur. Her impressive acting career ranging from guest spots on "How I Met Your Mother" and "The Mindy Project" to her starring role on Netflix's "Friends From College," all surprisingly stem from a convincing turn as a dinosaur in a second grade play. "When I was on stage, I really believed I was a dinosaur. It felt like more than just pretend," Park explained. "From that moment on, I was on a quest to find out what that feeling was. It turned out to be called 'acting', and I was hooked."

Park began her career in theatre: college plays, community theatre, and even a role on a murder mystery-themed dinner cruise. Yet her work in sketch comedy is what stuck professionally, landing her spots on TV sitcoms and pilots. "I don't know if I'm drawn to comedy as maybe comedy is drawn to me," Park admitted. "I think sometimes when you do comedic roles, people think of you for other comedic roles, and then you start being known as a comedic actress. I'm not complaining-- I love comedy, and I think great comedy is based in and has great dramatic moments. And I love making people laugh."

Park's role as Marianne in the Netflix hit series "Friend From College," co-starring Cobie Smulders, Keegan Michael-Key, and Fred Savage, came just as easily from Park staying true to herself. "I just went in and auditioned," Park explained. "During the session, the casting director told me to read the character as myself and not what I thought she should be. It was incredibly freeing to hear that."

After not hearing from the casting director for months after her audition, Park was surprised when her lawyer called about negotiating the contract for "Friends From College." "I was like, 'why are you negotiating a contract? No one told me I got the job!'" Park joked.

Although yoga instructor Marianne is described as a bohemian free spirit, Park herself remains more sensible. "Marianne says and does a lot of the things I wish I could. She's me on my fiercest day," Park said. "I do relate to her desire to keep the friend group together, and make sure that everyone is good. Classic middle child syndrome."

The platform of Netflix greatly differs from traditional television network shows, both in terms of release schedules and shooting timetables. The shorter seasons, unbound to seasonal scheduling, allows for shows to remain "fresh," as Park explained. Park also credits Netflix for nurturing artists' visions. "I think Netflix does a great job of giving artists the freedom of expression," Park said. "They are a lot more hands-off than network shows. There's a trust and confidence there that artists appreciate."

Park herself is intimately familiar with the structure of network TV, outside of her numerous guest roles. Park's husband, Randall Park, stars on ABC's "Fresh Off the Boat," entering its fifth season this fall. "Fresh Off the Boat" is the first American television sitcom to star an Asian-American family for more than one season. The groundbreaking show arguably pioneered the discussion for Asian casting diversity within Hollywood, laying the groundwork for this summer's breakout film "Crazy Rich Asians," starring Randall Park's "Fresh Off the Boat" costar Constance Wu. Park, a Korean-American herself, applauds the inspirational success of the film. "It just goes to show you that people want diversity, and want to see different standards of beauty represented on screen. I know it's not just Asians or Asian-Americans going to see the film....It's great for the community as well as society to represent diverse faces as three-dimensional characters," Park mused. "I'm excited to see what the buzz does for Hollywood."

And don't count Park out for a guest role on "Fresh Off the Boat." "I'd love a guest role on "Fresh Off the Boat"! My reps are on it," Park joked. "My husband and I have actually done a lot of little things together, and I love working with him so maybe one day we can do a big thing."

Yet the greatest collaboration for Park and her husband to date is their five year-old daughter. "[Motherhood has] made me a better actor, and it’s made my career more fulfilling," Park reminisced. "Your priorities shift so you don’t take everything so seriously. I think it gives you a deeper well to draw from emotionally. There are certain feelings and emotions I would have never known before becoming a mother."

Park also became inspired to pursue all-natural organic products after realizing she was expecting. "It all started when I was pregnant with my daughter. Of course I wanted to take care of myself and was careful about what I ate, but I didn't know that certain chemicals were absorbed through the skin and ended up in the bloodstream, which you share with your baby," Park explained. "I became obsessed with reading labels and researching ingredients. I think it's important just to be conscious of what's going into your body."

Park focused on changing her skincare and cosmetics products, shifting to brands like GreenBeauty. "I've been slowing replacing skincare and beauty products over the years but it's not always easy," Park admitted. "All women want results. Luckily there are comparable and even superior non-toxic products now, and they are getting better and better. I think a lot of major beauty companies are following suit."

Park embodies her conscious living outside of just cosmetics. "I'm constantly turning off lights in the house, lowering the dimmer and turning up the temperature. My husband is always telling me it's so hot! I'm big on energy conservation, or maybe I'm just cheap," Park joked.

Her awareness extends to food and disposable plastic waste, as well as fluoride consumption. "We're moving into a new home soon and the previous owners were super conscious of making their home green," Park explained. "They put in a Reverse Osmosis Filtration System to remove the fluoride in the water...I never knew that our water has fluoride in it and that might be bad. Think about it: toothpaste has fluoride and if you read any toothpaste label, it will clearly say 'do not swallow.'"

Park's passion for making the world better continues into her charity work with Best Buddies, a non-profit organization fostering friendships with developmentally challenged individuals and assisting in employment opportunities. Park credits one of her "Friends From College" costars for introducing her to the organization. "[Best Buddies'] mission is to establish a global volunteer movement that creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment, and leadership development for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities," Park stated. "Especially in this social climate, what a beautiful way to celebrate inclusion and love."

Looking to the future, Park hopes to expand her career, perhaps even returning to the stage where her dinosaur method moment was born. "I'd love to do a great play," Park said. "If the right opportunity were to come along, I'd love to do it."

But for now, Park is focused on the simple things: "laughing and being fluoride-free!"

Catch Jae Suh Park on Netflix's "Friends From College," premiering season 2.

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AnnaLynne McCord

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Originally on Trend Prive

1. What inspired you to transition from a modeling career to acting?

I dreamed of being an actress since I was 9 years old. The modeling helped me save money for classes and make my move out to Los Angeles.

2. You have starred in so many huge TV shows, ranging from Nip/Tuck to 90210. How does TV differ from film in your experience?

For me as an actress, it doesn’t differ. I have my same process as I do whenever I take on a new role.

The filming process is quite different, however. It’s typically a very different style and tone. The film is a director’s medium. TV is a writer’s medium. On a film, everyone defers to the director for the overall vision of the project. Directors and department heads defer to the “Creators”/Executive Producers on TV. And on both film and TV, when I’m working, everyone defers to me! (That’s a joke! Or… is it?)

3. You’re known for playing “bad girls.” What has been your favorite role to-date?

“Favorite role” is difficult. “Liza” from ‘68 Kill’ is my favorite wild and crazy psychopath. ‘Excision’s’ “Pauline” is my favorite deeply personal role. My character “Naomi” in ‘90210’ was my favorite mimicry role. I just played my little sister Rachel every day for 9 months a year for 5 years. My role as “Eden Lord” on ‘Nip/Tuck’ is perhaps my overall favorite if I were forced to choose one. It launched my career. It was a show I already loved. Eden was an incredibly delicious, dark, devious and yet clearly pained character to play. Also, in one of the most memorable moments, Nip/Tuck Creator, Ryan Murphy sat down on set with me, crossed his legs and very seriously told me, “Eden Lord is who I picture myself as.” Day one of filming. No pressure! I hope I lived up to his desires. 🙂

4. “Excision” gained a lot of buzz for your haunting performance. How did you tap into playing such a disturbed character? Are horror movies more fun to act in?

There are ‘actor-y’ answers and then, there are ‘AnnaLynne’ answers. Actor-y answer: I love to challenge myself. I wanted to prove that I could do more than my notoriety for 90210 may have suggested. AnnaLynne answer: I tapped into playing a “disturbed” character like Pauline because many disturbing things have happened to me since I was very young. This is just the truth from which I do not shy away. If the performance felt real that is because at its core it was real. History repeats. Art imitates. Same shit different setup. Art versus reality melded into one.

5. In 2011 you starred in the adapted off-Broadway play “Love, Loss, and What I Wore.” Do you think you’ll return to the stage?

The stage was my original love. And, we always feel the beckoning of old, untainted, pure love. If and when the opportunities present themselves I will be elated to continue my love for this craft on the stage. Much respect and gratitude to the late Nora Ephron. It was such an honor to be one of the last few to showcase Love/Loss in her final days.

6. Your charity work is extremely inspiring. What draws you to giving back, and how do you select the organizations you work with?

My second (perhaps, now my first) passion has become my work as president and long-term ambassador for Together1heart, an organization working with a ground team in Cambodia fighting human trafficking and educating against it on a global scale.

I have been through deep suffering throughout my early and well into my adult life. So much healing has come to me through the support I never knew I would find when I got on a plane to Cambodia 9 years ago to presumably “help young girls victimized by sexual slavery and violence.” As it turns out they were (and are the ones) who saved me. They taught me what love is. They help me see the much-needed sliver of light at the end of a very long, dark tunnel. They and their founder, Somaly Mam, are my heroes.

7. The St. Bernard Project, dedicated to assisting victims of Hurricane Katrina has been a cause of yours for a number of years. Did your upbringing in Georgia contribute to the compassion for the Louisiana residents?

No. My ignorance did. I went to see a friend who was working in New Orleans about 2 years after the storm. I thought I would go visit the areas being rebuilt. I got a taxi (this was before Uber) and much to my driver’s dismay, I asked to go to the Lower Ninth Ward. He fought me on it (which I never recommend). I won that argument and off we went. Upon arriving I realized he was right. The Ward was a wasteland, a ghost town. It reeked of death, desolation, and despair. I’ll never forget the feeling and its effect on me. Here was a city in my country that resembled the streets of those corrupt Third World countries whose people are left by their governments to fend for themselves. How could I have been so ignorant? How did I not know? These questions led me to Zach and Liz founders of the St. Bernard Project. They had taken on the demanding task of providing support to the parish, and their efficient and effective approach has now been duplicated numerous times over. They are two of my heroes and my friends! The survivors of Katrina reminded me that family is everything but we need not rely on DNA. I am thankful I have DNA siblings who double as my chosen “family.” Angel, Rachel and my favorite little man in the world, my 4-year-old little brother, Jonny is my everything for whom I would do any and all things necessary (including mixing all of my craziest roles in film and tv and coming after anybody who would think to hurt them) Ha! And that is exactly how the survivors of Katrina are. They banned together and they are forever strong.

8. You’re currently the president of Together1Heart, with board member

Susan Sarandon. How did the organization come to be? What does your position entail in the fight to end slavery?

Susan has been a huge supporter by Somaly, the founder’s, side since before I came on board nearly a decade ago. I began as an ambassador raising funds and awareness within the US and abroad. As President, I further those efforts by overseeing and keeping a pretty heavy hand in all of the events, programs, and partnerships. This side of things has taught me a lot. Every decision I make I know that a little life hangs in the balance.

9. I know you have spoken out on sexual assault and domestic abuse, and shared your personal experience. What are your thoughts on the Times Up

movement within Hollywood?

I am, indeed, very vocal about these topics and have been for some time. I’m currently undergoing EMDR and a flooding of lost memories have come back to me only adding more drive for me to continue raising this collective voice. It is about accountability. It is about ownership. We must stop teaching little girls not to “get themselves raped.” We must teach little boys “not to rape.” Predators are often psychologically traumatized individuals whose dissociative nature combined with a need to feel power replay the cycles of their own abuse from the standpoint of the abuser. These individuals need help as much as the ones they are victimizing. We must stop these atrocities at their root cause. We must stop creating rapists and bullies and traffickers. EMDR is a major key to healing the body cycles which cause the history to repeat and repeat throughout a person’s life. I wish every single person who has suffered trauma could have access to this remarkable treatment.

 

10. The No More campaign has partnered with Me Too. As an ambassador, how

important is it for celebrities and influencers to use their status to

speak out against social issues?

I hope EMDR can be accessible to all survivors of trauma but they can’t receive what they don’t know about. My platform gives me an opportunity to say highlight the importance of treatments like EMDR, answer questions one only ever ask in their hearts and be given the chance to reach people I’ve never met around the world so they can potentially get the support that they need. Nothing makes me happier than to reflect on my 9-year-old self’s dream to become an actress seeing now what the dream has led me to. It is our responsibility as artists to challenge society. I dare society on a daily basis. I make my own rules, and I live by my own code of honor. A big part of that code is my deep desire to share the keys to freedom that I’ve found. On my brain were invisible chains but my girls in Cambodia taught me how to set myself free. It has become my life mission to pay forward what they have given me.

11. Where do you see yourself in 5 years, both professionally and

personally?

Professionally, I have my private thoughts, and I protect them as I have learned some things are better shown in action versus said with words. However, what I will say is this: I will tell the stories that no one wants to tell; that no one wants to be told. I will peel back the layers and get down to the truth. I will never stop searching, growing or learning. Knowledge is, after all, my first love. I want to bring the science of suffering in layman’s terms to the masses in the hopes of showing that shame can’t be a shame when it’s just science. Neuroscience is my undying hobby. It has taught me a million times over the most important lesson for a survivor: it is not my fault.

Personally, 5 years from August 16, 2018, a day that holds monumental weight for me, I want to be sitting on a beautiful boat on a beautiful lake with Jonny, Angel, and Rachel in shared sibling silence commemorating our will as siblings to survive everything so long as we survive together. Maybe if I’m really lucky that “lake” will be a river in Cambodia where my families can combine.

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Cameron Boyce

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Originally published on Trend Prive

Cameron Boyce is anything but your typical child actor turned TV star. You have seen Boyce in the Disney Channel show Jessie; the comedy hit “Grown Ups 2” and most famously the teen fantasy films “Descendants.” Boyce is just getting started: Boyce will star opposite Ginnifer Goodwin in the highly anticipated ABC series Steps, and was recently casted in the indie film “Runt.”

Boyce became interested in acting at a young age, finding his creative voice at age 10. “Ever since then I’ve never been able to picture myself doing anything else but being in this creative field,” Boyce explained.

The child-acting path is not for the weak of heart, though. “Thinking about the fact that I didn’t get to regular school or have a prom or have a traditional childhood in a lot of senses is sometimes intimidating when I’m in the real world,” Boyce admitted. Yet his “butterfly effect” path has shaped him for the better, both as an actor and as an individual. “I think being a professional at such a young age has helped me develop into someone who sees things a bit differently: challenges have become opportunities, fantasy has become reality in a lot of ways. I do think that I see things on a broader scale because of the experiences I had early on.”

Boyce’s largest role to date has been that of leading man Carlos in “Descendants.” The film spurred a recent sequel, with the teen fans craving for more. “Personally I think the reason a fantasy story works is that it’s driven by truth,” Boyce said. The relatable story-line for the characters, albeit in a fantastical world, touches viewers. “I’ve always felt that “The Descendants” has been a sophisticated kids franchise because of the message,” Boyce mused.

Most importantly, though, Boyce has used his success and influencer status to draw attention to those in need. His work with the Thirst Project, a non-profit to provide clean water for developing nations, won Boyce a Pioneering Spirit Award, with Boyce raising over $30,000 for the organization to build two wells in Swaziland. Boyce is drawn to the charity and to the passion of their advocates and philanthropists. “Their passion has led them to save thousands of lives,” Boyce said. “You can’t put a price tag on that.”

Boyce’s humanitarian mission extends outside of the Thirst Project to encompass all charity efforts, big or small. “I’ve had some amazing role models that have taught me the power of charity, and I couldn’t be more grateful to be in a position to influence people with my voice,” Boyce expressed. “Changing lives is something that everyone should strive to do in his or her lifetime.”

Boyce hopes to create on his own terms as an artist and continue to change the world for the better through charity work. “I want to fulfill my right brain as much as possible, and make an impact on people.”

We cannot wait to see what Cameron Boyce does next.

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Logan Miller

Originally published in New York Moves Magazine

Logan Miller truly is a chameleon. The humbly charismatic 26 year-old actor can transform into a range of cinematic roles, ranging from love interest Kent in "Before I Fall" to school bully in the upcoming film "Love, Simon."

Miller learned to adapt to changing environments at an early age. After being born in Englewood, Colorado, the Miller family moved to New Mexico and Minnesota before settling outside of Dallas, Texas. His nomadic youth was due to Miller's father's job at Campbell. "My father was making sure the entire Midwest had their sodium intake with their soup," Miller joked. "He was just spreading the warmth of soup."

Miller credits his eclectic childhood as the foundation for his versatility as an actor. "With acting, I have to work new people all the time, so moving quite a lot as a kid made it easy for me to adapt to new surroundings," Miller explained.

By age 12, Miller had recognized his passion for entertaining others. An avid cartoon fan—his favorites include "Johnny Bravo" and "Ed, Edd, and Eddy"-- Miller started dressing up as his animated heroes, creating home videos with neighborhood friends. Miller soon enrolled in an acting summer class, resulting in a contract with a Dallas-based agent. Miller's professional acting career began with local commercials, but truly took off with his role in "Ghost of Girlfriends Past" alongside the "wonderful" Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Garner, and a then-unknown Emma Stone. "I was then pretty confident this is what I wanted to do," Miller said. The same year the film premiered, Miller landed his own Disney Channel television show, "I'm in the Band." Miller was only 17, and already gaining traction as the boy-next-door within Hollywood.

Miller is thankful not only for his leading role as Tripp Campbell in "I'm in the Band" but also his older costars for shaping his outlook on the industry. "A lot of these guys who were on the show had been [acting] for so long that they said 'don't expect too much. Don't get in over your head'," Miller mused. "They gave me a great street schooling."

According to Miller, the success of "I'm in the Band" was limited, rather than an overwhelming success like other Disney Channel shows like "Hannah Montana" or "Suite Life of Zach and Cody." However, this was a blessing in disguise; Miller, a newcomer to the industry, wasn't immediately typecast. Unlike his other Disney Channel costars, Miller did not have to fight against the stereotype of the network. "I got a really lucky break where I wasn't immediately know for [Tripp Campbell]," Miller explained. "It wasn't something I was holding on my shoulders."

Yet like Tripp, Miller too plays in bands. Miller's previous group Johnny Madrid, which lasted for two and a half years, had multiple releases and played in classic venues like Whiskey A Go Go. Today, Miller is launching a collaborative "band of sorts" with local Los Angeles rapper Clistun. "I'm just trying some new experimental stuff," Miller added.

As for his film endeavors, Miller has been on a roll. An indie darling, Miller is a constant fixture at famed film festivals Sundance and SXSW. He admits he prefers SXSW, but only due to its proximity to his Texan hometown. And, of course, its eclectic mix of music, film, and technology—much like Miller himself. One of Miller's four films being released this year, "You Can Choose Your Family," premiered at the recent 2018 SXSW Festival.

Miller's favorite role thus far was also a festival release at Sundance Festival in 2015, "Take Me to the River." The independent film centers on a homosexual teen, played by Miller, living in California who travels to the Midwest for a family reunion. Miller's character Ryder anticipates being ridiculed for his sexuality, but rather is forced to expand his own misconceptions when a family secret is revealed. Miller resonated with Ryder's worry of not being accepted for his choices. "My family was also from the Midwest and I kind of did something a little bit different with all this," Miller explained. "I came to California and tried to be an actor, and all that was a bit strange for being a boy from the suburbs in Texas."

Miller's upcoming film "Love, Simon" similarly deals with teens struggling to accept their identities. "Love, Simon," the story of a homosexual young man preparing to come out in a high school with teen bullies, peer pressure, and unrequited love, echoes the theme of understanding much like "Take Me to the River." The film is light in tone but lofty in subject matter. This dichotomy allows for important political and social topics to be discussed in an accessible manner. "The movie just gives you a day in the life of someone's situation. And whether it be gay, straight, bisexual, transgender, whatever, the main thing we can kind of relate with is that everyone is going through their own thing," Miller said.

Director Greg Berlanti drew on his own high school experiences for the film. "I think Greg's intention was to make a film that was light even though it was talking about a specific topic that is very current in social politics," Miller stated. "The movie at the end of the day brings an undertone of acceptance throughout all of it, and it does it in a way that doesn't pry or push you in any direction."

Miller himself hopes the film will set a precedent for other movies with diverse leading characters. "I hope this movie leads to future generations not being afraid to tell a story," Miller mused. "It's great that we were able to make a movie that stayed conventional but also broke conventionalism in a way by having its lead character be of homosexual orientation. It doesn't have to be a gay-centric film just because there's a homosexual protagonist in it, or antagonist or whoever. We don't just have to put these gender norms on something just because they are who they are."

The highly-anticipated film also stars Nick Robinson of "Everything, Everything and "Thirteen Reasons Why" actress Katherine Langford—two pieces of cinema that also deal with accepting struggles. This emphasis on millennials in the forefront of social acceptance also parallels our modern times. With the teenage victims of the Parkland school shooting exercising their freedom of speech to criticize politicians and gun control policies, millennials are more powerful than ever. Yet to Miller, it is still a battle for young people to be heard when it matters most. "The biggest thing we as millennials face is having power within your voice," Miller said. "I think we're starting to see that shift change. We're seeing kids, high schools, that were part of these mass shooting voicing their opinions now on Capitol Hill. I think it's amazing. The big change that's happening now is the fact that you don't have to be 50 years old to start in politics.... There needs to be less ageism. We can all come together as a community and listen to the voices of the younger generation because they're going to be there longer than some of these other generations." According to Miller, all issues come down to society adapting to hold value in the voices of millennials.

Miller uses his voice not only for political activism but also within the film industry. Miller brings his childhood love of cartoons to life by doing voice-over work for Marvel Heroes videogames and television shows "Fineas and Pherb," "Ultimate Spider-Man," and "Guardians of the Galaxy." "Voice-over work is probably the most amazing gig as far as the entertainment business because you can wear whatever, be whoever, but change your persona entirely," Miller said.

The voice-over community, although a large part of film, is often not held with the same esteem as on-screen acting. "It is absolutely overlooked. There's a good 20 to 30 [actors who] are in everything you hear—cartoon, radio, anything for that matter. They kind of just get to stay under the surface. It's a very interesting career. I'm very lucky just to be a small part of it." Miller has worked with some of his personal voice-over heroes like Tom Kenny who voices Spongebob and Tara Strong of the "PowderPuff Girls" series.

 Like all celebrities, Miller is more recognized for his face rather than voice. His four-episode stint on "Walking Dead" spurred multiple fan encounters. Even today, Miller is still identified as his character from the show. "It was such a great opportunity to do [Walking Dead]," Miller said. "It was always really fun too to kind of see the story progress."

Due to the cult following the show, actors on set were only given scripts the day before shooting to limit possible plot leaks. Miller learned about his character's fate in real time of the show. "When my character finally kicked the bucket, I was just as shocked as everyone else was," Miller explained. "That was what was kind of fun about it, being able to tell the story as it happens and not knowing exactly what is going on. I think that actually helps with character development in some aspects too."

Miller will continue venturing into horror action roles with the latest Blumhouse film, "Prey," slated to be released this summer. The film was shot in the jungles of Malaysia, and Miller reminisced about the exotic adventure of being on set: "It's crazy, the fact that I'm swimming in the ocean after I've just fallen off a boat, that I'm doing all these running scenes out in the jungle and all these monkeys watching us like spectators excited the set is coming to the locals. It's hilarious."

Miller credits producer Jason Blum, founder of Blumhouse, with breaking genre tropes in the industry. Blumhouse funded "Get Out," an Oscar contender this year. "Back in the day people would see horror films as kind of within the B genre or in some way a camp or cheesy thing but it's with the times," Miller said. "Everything's changing, sometimes for the better. I'm very happy to be a part it."

When he's not traveling for film shoots, Miller spends his spare time camping or skiing. Currently Miller is also creating a television show with his comedy collective DCS, Discount Channel Station. "The whole thing is just to make some of the worst television you've ever seen—intentionally, that is," Miller joked. DCS is just one of the many ventures Miller hopes to pursue.

"I've got thousands of dreams and aspirations, and I hope that they all pant out," Miller laughed. On a serious note though, Miller wants to continue working on meaningful films, either studio-financed or independent. But Miller doesn't only want to act in these movies. "I would love to be in control of the stories," Miller explained. "I'm kind of focusing on that a little right now with trying to create my own television series, working towards that and hopefully doing some directorial things in the future as well. But that takes time. I want to do it the right way."

And with Miller's adaptable innate talent, there is no doubt he will.

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Ben Rappaport

Originally published in New York Moves Magazine

Ben Rappaport might be the most likable man in Hollywood. The 31 year-old leading actor deeply connects with each role he plays, diving deeper than the script to research the world his characters live in. And his new ABC TV show For the People is no exception.

Rappaport realized his passion while attending high school in Texas. A naturally-gifted artist, he played guitar and created visual artwork. Yet a school production of "Romeo & Juliet" unearthed an interest in acting. "[The play] was being done in a very cool way, where the Montagues were goth kids and the Capulets were really preppy. For whatever reason I really connected with that," Rappaport reminisced.

Rappaport credits a supportive teacher for nurturing his interest in acting. "I had a great teacher that really believed in me and took me aside one day and said, 'I think you could really make a life of this and I believe in you,' so I really went for it," Rappaport explained. "I did that classic thing of being bit the bug." Rappaport went on to attend Juillard and was trained in classical theater. "It's a lot of Shakespeare, poise, speech, and movements. It was very heavily theater-trained." Juillard also brought Rappaport to his family roots in New York, where he still resides today in Midtown. 

Post-graduation, Rappaport was working odd jobs like selling water in the aisles of the Broadway Theatre. "I was doing the whole pounding the pavement New York acting thing and just trying to make ends meet," Rappaport said. His first acting role was in the off-Broadway play "Gingerbread House" starring Bobby Cannavale and Sarah Paulson. Rappaport also was featured in "Picnic" alongside Sebastian Stan and Maggie Grace. "I really started my career in theater," Rappaport explained.

Yet Rappaport's big break was with the TV show Outsourced in 2010, two years after graduating from Juillard. "It was my first TV pilot season where I was going out for a lot of things consistently and this project came along that I really connected with," Rappaport said. Rappaport was cast as the leading man in the NBC comedy series without any television experience, besides a Kay Jewelers commercial. "I was just sort of thrust right into it.  It was a crazy experience."

Rappaport loving views the one season of Outsourced as his "main training round" of on-camera acting. "I got a crash course from that season with what on-camera acting is and how to conduct yourself on set and how everything works and what all the terminology is," Rappaport said. "It was a great experience all around because I also met some of my closest friends on that show and relationships I still have to this day. It was just a huge milestone for me."

Since his charismatic turn as a romantic comedy leading man, Rappaport guest starred in hit TV series like Mr. Robot, The Good Wife, and Younger. Rappaport connects with each of his roles, consistently doing outside research to further understand his characters' backgrounds. Rappaport selects his roles based on the script. "It comes down to if the story is something that's interesting or challenging," Rappaport explained. "There's also got to be something about the character that I can connect with on a personal level, whether it be a trait of the character or a situation that the character is in. For me, it all starts with me bringing my own life experiences to whatever work I do."

Thus far, Rappaport's turn as Seth in For the People is his favorite character to date. "I really connect with his core being," Rappaport said. The show centers on the federal Southern District Court of New York, following an ensemble of lawyers. Rappaport brought his knowledge of the courts from his experience on The Good Wife to the role. "Just doing the research and challenge of learning the legal system and the legal jargon is really fun for me," Rappaport said.

For the People creator Paul Williams Davis is himself a lawyer, and the show incorporates real legal situations within the television drama. "The show really highlights the justice system in that it focuses on both sides—the public defenders and the prosecutors," Rappaport mused. "It really allows the audience to see everything from both sides and question themselves about what they agree with and what they don't." But that doesn't mean the show is just all legal jargon and heavy cases. "In conjunction with the high stakes drama that it is, I think it's very funny," Rappaport said. "Our creator [Davis] has a strong sense of humor, and I think it comes through in the show."

Rappaport's character Seth is a rookie prosecutor trying to assert himself. "We meet my character Seth at a point where he's sort of a fish out of water in terms of the prosecution," Rappaport explained. "The prosecutors are like sharks and he's a little guppie, trying to keep up. He seemingly doesn’t have the same level of aggression that they have." Yet Seth's growth is what draws Rappaport to the role. "There's a moment where he truly able to prove himself to his colleagues in terms of why he's there. There's sort of an understanding and a moment of respect for Seth, so I'm excited for people to see that. It's been such a great arc and journey."

This growth, according to Rappaport, is what makes television so unique. "What I really love about TV is the ability to play the same character in a lot of different circumstances and be able to have a character grow over time," Rappaport said. "That's something you don't necessarily get to do in theater or in film. It's liberating and exciting and constantly challenging."

His passionate enthusiasm for both his characters and field is what makes Rappaport so humbly relatable. Rappaport seems to carry each of his characters with him, learning more about both the world, like the legal system, or himself.

His turn as Perchik in the 2016 revival of "Fiddler on the Roof" similarly resonated with Rappaport due to his own Eastern European Jewish heritage. "There was a ton of research involved in that because it takes place in a very specific time period, in a very specific time of history," Rappaport, a self-described history buff, said. "I never realized the parallels between my family coming to America and 'Fiddler'. I had such a personal connection to it." Rappaport's heart was with that show—literally. He proposed to his longtime-girlfriend Broadway veteran Megan Kane while in "Fiddler." They married last fall.

Perchik in "Fiddler" spoke to Rappaport not only in history but also in his moral compass. "Perchik is a character who's completely driven by social activism and fighting for what's right," Rappaport said. "Playing that role actually I would say made me more woke even more so than I was before that...I am often influenced by the roles that I play and the worlds they inhabit, for sure."

Rappaport, similar to Perchik, chose his upcoming movie role in Ask for Jane due to its commentary on the social issue of women's rights. Ask for Jane chronicles a group of women in Chicago in the 1970s who created an underground network for women to receive illegal abortions. The film, inspired by a true story, is slated to be released later this year. "I think Ask for Jane is coming out at a perfect time," Rappaport said. "It really is hard to believe that we are having a resurgence of these issues in fighting for these basic rights."

Rappaport believes Hollywood needs to share stories that shed light on the current political issues at hand. "The general zeitgeist of our country stems from pop culture and Hollywood, and Hollywood has a responsibility to speak out on what's right," Rappaport explained. "We've seen especially this year the issue of sexual harassment in the workplace and the pay gap between men and women. Those are the two glaring issues in the film and television industry today. I think that's parallel to what's going on in the country today as well."

Rappaport admires those who are speaking out on the wrongdoings, and victims who are seeking justice. "It's really amazing to see these people stand up for themselves and for the community of those who have been abused. I'm excited about this movement in terms of Time's Up and Me Too particularly inspiring the rest of the country and other industries to stand up and fight back."

Rappaport chooses his characters with the current state of both the industry and the country in mind. Each character he selects carries weight within the commentary of society to make a difference. "I think the thing about all the characters I've played that are involved in politics or involved in the legal system is that it really comes down to the universal human experience, and I definitely relate to that."

Moving forward, Rappaport hopes to shift to doing behind-the-camera work to control what stories are being told. Rappaport executive produced and co-starred in Landing Up, a drama written, directed, and starred in by Stacey Maltin. The film was a Soho International Film Festival selection, and also will be released in 2018. "I would love to someday produce more, and also direct. I'm hoping to direct a lot in the future," Rappaport said. He admires For the People executive producer Tom Verica for his work as a producer, actor, and director. "There's something about being an actor first. There's a sort of intimate understanding of how actors think," Rappaport explained.

But most importantly, Rappaport loves his work. "I really love my career. I love what I've been doing in the last decade."

And, as always, Rappaport hopes to continue learning. "One of my favorite parts of what I do is that I'm constantly faced with new material...Your learning and growing doesn't stop just because you leave school. And acting is the perfect profession for that."

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Tania Raymonde

Originally published in New York Moves Magazine

We watched her grow up on "Malcolm in the Middle," battle for her freedom in "Lost," and solve cases in "Death Valley." Tania Raymonde was born for the screen. With stunning beauty and humble charm, the actress is a force to be reckoned with.

Raymonde grew up in Los Angeles, but was close her to European ancestry. Raised by French and Russian Jewish parents, Raymonde was encouraged to be passionately outspoken. "The French raise their kids in a very adult way in terms of exposing them to pretty much everything right away," Raymonde explained. "I grew up in a very adult household where real conversations were happening about everything. So for me, I saw the world very young the way it is, without all the fucked up parts cut out just to protect me. I'm really thankful for that, and I think that's how the European mindset really differs from the traditional American way."

Raymonde's creative freedom stemmed from her exposure to an array of artwork. "I was allowed to watch any kind of movie I wanted to, read any book as soon as I wanted to. There were no restrictions to content when I was young." Even Raymonde's schooling was in French at Lysse Francais, where she majored in philopshy and literature. She dreamed of one day continuing her schooling in France. "In an alternate life I definitely would have gone and done my studies [in France]. I love it over there."

But fate stepped in and Raymonde was swept into her true calling: acting. "I think it was just an imaginative period for me as a little kid. There was a drama program one year in fourth grade that put on a school production of The Wizard of Oz and from there I just sort of segued into a professional child's acting career." Yet Raymonde is not your typical child star. There were no tales of drama or misbehavior. Instead, Raymonde was immediately smitten with the industry. "I loved it from the beginning. That's how I started and I've pretty much been doing it ever since."

Raymonde's career has mainly been in television-- a choice, she says, due to the depths of the medium. "The limitations of a hour and a half long movie...it's very hard to portray a character with a certain amount of depth because of the pace count. With TV, you get to listen to someone's entire story over a whole year, and that's fascinating."

Her age has landed her in the midst of the Golden Age of television, a creative paradise for story-driven actors like herself. "The most innovative stuff is happening in TV. They're taking so many chances in television in terms of how to tell a story that you could play the same character present day, then play that same character in a flashback the jump to the end of their lives in another episode, or even play that character in an alternate version of their lives like I did on "Lost." It's a really exciting time to be an actor playing a character on television."

Raymonde's current television role as sympathetic prostitute Brittany Gold on "Goliath" continues in the vein of progressive TV characters. Raymonde was cast even before lead actor Billy Bob Thornton was on board to play shady lawyer Billy McBride. The latest show by famed television creator David E. Kelley, "Goliath" creates a world of scum and sleaze while unveiling the deeper truths of tortured characters. "The amazing thing of working on ["Goliath"] is that no one is really defined by what they do. The creators really wanted to emphasize that every person is just a person, and that their humanity in the character is really what matters above all."

And Brittany Gold is no exception. For Raymonde, playing Brittany is a dream come true within itself. "I always wondered what it would be like to play this kind of character, to get into the mind of a call girl." Raymonde wanted to fully inhabit Brittany and understand her choices that led her to that profession. "I didn't really want to pigeonhole my preconceived ideas of what a hooker would be like because that just didn't make sense to me," Raymonde said. "I kind of looked at Brittany as just a street-smart lost girl who is trying to get her life together, with a drug addiction among other things. But deep down she's a smart person and a good person but just has maybe had some shitty experiences in her life." And no, she did not watch other portrayals of prostitutes. "I'm super thankful that I didn't watch every version of Pretty Woman that I could, you know?" Raymonde joked.

Of course, nowadays it's not too far-fetched to imagine someone slipping into various forms of prostitution. Since playing Brittany, Raymonde has even noticed how the line into paid sex is becoming more and more blurred. "I drive down Sunset Boulevard every morning to the studio and I see these big billboards advertising these things called sugar models or sugar babies online, which are basically college-aged girls at Ivy League schools that are trying to make a little bit of money on the side," Raymonde explained. "But it's kind of a form of a mutual financial arrangement that may or may not include sex, and it's completely accepted and promoted by social media as a form of prostitution. And you see young, smart girls who are probably moving onto law school who are doing this and seem to have no problem with it."

Raymonde credits the self-promotion of social media with this rise in questionable pursuits for money. "Now with social media and Instagram and the way that people have a tendency unfortunately to exploit themselves online already anyway, it doesn't seem like such a far jump to kind of get involved in this world. So to me that kind of took the taboo out of Brittany being a call girl or an escort because she's kind of just a young woman doing what a lot of young woman do. That was a wild realization."

Currently it's these lines of work that even further complicate the hot-button issue of consent. "I think also it's complicated now too because there are so many discussions now about consent and sexual abuse and sexual harassment. Yet if you look at something like this sugar models example, that in a sense is completely acceptable and yet we have so many problems now about people finally coming up about sexual harassment in the workplace. That's a little complicated," Raymonde mused. "And then also if you look at it from the perspective of a professional escort, there is no question of consent." Raymonde is quick to clarify she does not necessarily endorse prostitution, however. "It's a horrible job, there is no question. I don't think there's an escort on planet Earth that enjoys their job. But if you think about it and flip it, at the very least she's getting compensation for what she does. And she's setting the rules as much as she can for what she can and cannot do," she said. "I'm not saying it's female empowerment but at least she's in control. And also if you consider that a legitimate business and she's a freelancer or a private contractor and in the same way that someone decides to stay at home and work from a home office, then you can rationalize that it's pretty much the same thing."

Perhaps it is Raymonde's upbringing that allows her to see both sides. "I think the Western world and America in particular has a very deeply engrained Puritan mindset because of the way this country began, and that reinforces this taboo against sex, against women who are empowered by sex, against women who choose to have sex for a living," Raymonde explained. "But then at the same time if you really look at it, the sex industry itself worldwide is responsible for some of the most egregious human trafficking and child sex slavery. Even in this country alone, the amount of money that somebody can make off of human trafficking with a woman is in the hundreds of thousands per woman. It gets really complicated, and I think the second that you make it legal, it makes all of the nefarious side of it much more permissible. And that is happening everywhere. But this country still definitely has a very strange love-hate relationship with this issue."

This isn't Raymonde's first time playing a woman caught on the other side of the law. Raymonde's turn as convicted murder Jodi Arias in Lifetime movie Jodi Arias: Dirty Little Secret in 2013. The made-for-TV movie was filmed in just 12 days while the court case was simultaneously playing out. "It was a wild ride," Raymonde recounted. "In the U.S., it was like a tabloid media sensation. You saw it every single night on television. It was like working with a very topical thing as the story was unraveling. It was a really strange experience."

Raymonde again found herself trying to find the humanity in a character. "At that time, people were dead-set against Jodi. She was one of the most hated women in America at that point. It was fascinating to play her, especially at that time." Raymonde focused on finding herself within Jodi. "I had to block a lot of that stuff out because everyone was saying 'guilty, guilty, guilty.' And this really wasn't about the murder necessarily-- 2/3 of the movie is pretty much kind of a love story. It shows the depths to which a young, very lonely woman who believes she's in love will go to to stay with the man she believes she should spend the rest of her life with," Raymonde explained. "It was a really complex character to crack. And the last thing I wanted to do was to be influenced by the public opinion of what people thought of Jodi Arias, so in that way the script was really successful in showing her humanity. My only concern was to try and make her into a real person and not vilify her more than she already was. What she did was reprehensible but she was really fun to play."

With both "Goliath" and Jodi Arias: Dirty Little Secret TV productions, Raymonde feels connected to the direction that television is going. "At the moment it just seems like the stuff that I'm reading in television is most exciting," Raymonde said. "And the quality and caliber of creators and film directors and actors that are on television right now are the ones that you would never have a chance of working with if you were on film."

Along with the vast array of additional streaming sites and platforms for television, there are more opportunities to both reach more consumers and also explore groundbreaking storylines that would otherwise not be appropriate for cable audiences. "Goliath," for example, is an original Amazon production, allowing for the show to play with less-than-savory plot lines. " 'Goliath' this season takes a lot of risks," Raymonde teased. "This is a really fun chapter in the 'Goliath' universe with some really fun new characters and a great villain this year. I'm excited by these scripts."

Raymonde also credits Amazon for the fluid format of the "Goliath". "It is just wonderful working on this show. I see how improvisational it is and how open to just exploring the characters in different ways the creators of the show are. It's almost experimental," she said. "It's been a wild, awesome, collaborative ride, and I've never had more fun I think on any project I've ever worked on. I've very thankful."

But original streaming content is just beginning, Raymonde promises. "I'm sure in a month from now some completely unknown network and some unknown studio will start as the next Amazon or the next Hulu and we'll have a smash hit that no one saw coming that everyone will watch," Raymonde joked. "I think the accessibility of it is such a democratic way of getting TV out there."

"Goliath" has also acted as a platform for Raymonde to work with other female filmmakers, such as director Dennie Gordon. "I hadn't worked with a female director since I was 14 years old," Raymonde explained. "It just shows you still even to this day how rare it's been for the most part for women even to be directing these big time TV shows and movies. So for me, that's long overdue. Working with women, female producers, female directors, it's a completely different experience. It's so fun for women to work with other women and amongst women. So to me, any opportunity to do more of that is exciting as a female creator and as a female performer. 'Goliath' across the board is one of the most respectful, coolest group of people."

Yet the industry still has a long way to go, from including female directors to equal pay among genders. "I think there should be more opportunities for women who very much deserve to be in positions of power where they can express their own talent and creativity in ways that might haven't been able to before because of social dynamics and these kind of boys club," Raymond said. "Any moves towards equality, in any way, across the board, especially in terms of sexual discrimination with salary, is a 100%. There's no version where this is a bad thing. It's about equality amongst people in general, and you can use women as an example but this helps the whole business and people and industry across the board."

And for Raymonde, a lot of this progress can only be made by women. "Equal pay or women's rights or women's rights to vote, up until someone spoke up against it--a woman--it wasn't even a feasible reality and things would have continued as they were. You think about women in France, they even didn't get a chance, the right to vote, until the 70s! It's wild. We still have a lot of catching up to do."

Raymonde urges women in Hollywood to support one another. In a business focused on appearance and rife with rejection, Raymonde believes there is always a sisterhood to be found. "The nature of being an actress...there's a lot of insecurity involved in that. The business sometimes is designed to make you doubt yourself or feel less than. It's just the cutthroat aspect of working in show business," Raymonde explained. "I accept this with open arms, I asked for this and I love it. But that is a side of it. So I think as sort of an insecure young actress, I spent a lot of time worried about that. So this now is invigorating and it's empowering and the moment you start to believe in yourself, it changes everything actually. And all it is, is a mental decision to trust yourself and it gives you courage."

Looking forward, Raymonde has many goals in mind. Her upcoming film about the 1821 war for Greek independence, Cliffs of Freedom, will be released later this year, with the next season of "Goliath" underway. And of course, there always is Paris in the back of Raymonde's mind. "Paris is undoubtedly my most favorite city on the planet. There are so many directors in France that I would love to work with. There aren't many American actors who speak French who want to make movies in France. That's a big goal of mine. I would even love to do a play in France one day," Raymonde expressed.

Now seems like the perfect time for Raymonde to make the leap into the international market, with Macron as France's president. "This is the first time I went with pride as a French citizen and said 'please, please let this happen,'" Raymonde recalled of voting for Macron. "I treated myself to a huge icecream afterwards."

Until then, Raymonde has been working on her "ultimate dream role" passion project, a film about blues singer Amy Winehouse. "I'm trying to put together a script and some cool ideas on how to tell her history and approach producers for that," Raymonde explained. "It's been an ongoing dream of mine." With her dark hair, high cheekbones, and lean frame Raymonde has a striking resemblance to the deceased powerhouse star. Raymonde's approach to Winehouse's story, though, is what makes her project unique. "The documentary was wonderful and showed a little bit of her humanity. But I would love to make a movie that finally portrays her as who she was, a real human being, and try to really dig deep down into her relationships and how things went wrong and what made her so troubled. I'm fascinated my her. And the music, my god. Even if I'm in a restaurant and they're playing her music on the radio, it gives me chills. There's something about her that was so powerful."

Raymonde continues to take Hollywood by storm in unexpected roles and strong female characters. Yet even as her career shifts, she knows right where she'll end up. "At the end of time, when I've finally lived my life and it's almost over, I want it to end in a little apartment in Paris."

C'est la vie. 

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Zoe Lister-Jones

Originally published in New York Moves Magazine

Brooklyn-raised Zoe Lister-Jones has outspoken artistry in her blood. The daughter of two artists, Lister-Jones was raised to express herself.  The multitalented actress, writer, director and producer has created a vast array of works, ranging from recurring guest roles on "Whitney" and "New Girl" to starring in films Lola Versus and Breaking Upwards. Currently Lister-Jones has a leading role on hit show "Life in Pieces" opposite Colin Hanks. 

Yet with her stardom came a calling to fight for what she believes is right. "I was raised by people who are pretty vocal when it comes to issues of social justice, so I think it's always been something I've been passionate about—lending my voice to causes," Lister-Jones explained. "Now that I have a platform to do so, it's not only a passion of mine but it's a responsibility." 

Today, Lister-Jones uses her creativity to march for women's rights and speak out against gender pay gaps. Lister-Jones credits her mother for opening her eyes to the array of injustices, particularly gender discrimination. "My mother is a feminist and raised me to look at the world through a lens of focusing on gender and equality," Lister-Jones said. "I think right now gender and racial inequities are the things I feel most passionate about." 

Lister-Jones even participated in the Women's March last year with her mother in Salt Lake City during the 2017 Sundance festival premiere of her film Band Aid, which she wrote, directed, and starred in. The romantic drama was Lister-Jones' directorial debut, and stars Adam Pally, Fred Armisen, and Brooklyn Decker. Lister-Jones was adamant to have an all-women production crew for the movie due to the lack of female representation on sets. "I think for so many women on film crews, they are one of a handful, if not the only, woman a lot of the time.....I think something really magical happens when women get together and I wanted to see what that would feel like in an artistic context," she said. "The energy on set was so amazing. I think it was exciting for all of us to do something none of us had experienced before. It exceeded all of my expectations." 

Although Lister-Jones has not been a victim of any extreme versions of discrimination herself, she still acknowledges the need for change. "I think all of us as women across many industries experience microaggressions on a daily basis. I think right now I'm just in awe of all the women who have spoken up and continue to speak up. I hope it encourages more and more women to do the same because we've been silent for much too long," Lister-Jones mused. 

Lister-Jones also cites the mounting pressure on Hollywood to alter attitudes and offer more women jobs within the industry as a beacon of hope. "Incentives like 50/50 By 2020 are actually actionable," she explained. "I think it can be easy to talk about things but then you don't see actual change being affected. I think right now it's one of the most exciting times, at least in my lifetime, to make potential history and to see women be to voice their stories and actually be heard." 

Lister-Jones herself, however, was at first wary to enter the entertainment industry. She knew intimately the struggles and sacrifices of working in the arts. "I had always loved acting but didn't want to pursue it professionally because I was very aware of the realities of an artists' life because my parents were artists. There was no romanticization of that life for me," she said. After receiving an acting scholarship to Tisch School of the Arts at New York University, Lister-Jones' parents insisted she attend. "I was apprehensive to go to a conservatory training because I was putting all my eggs in one basket. It was actually my mom who encouraged me to go. It was great to have [my parents] as that kind of support system." 

Lister-Jones started her career on stage, with two Broadway shows---"Seminar" with Jeff Goldblum, and "The Little Dog Laughed" with Johnny Galecki—and two off-Broadway productions, "The Marriage of Bette and Boo" and "The Accomplices." Lister-Jones also produced, wrote, and starred in her own one-woman off-Broadway show "Codependence is a Four Letter Word," which was a New York Times Critic's Pick. 

She then entered the world of television, with roles on "Whitney," "New Girl," and currently "Life in Pieces." She prefers the pace of TV and stability it provides. "I've been working in television for many years now. Especially as a person who creates work, TV is a really nice way to have a steady job and then the hiatus to go do my own stuff." Lister-Jones has also written, directed, produced, and starred in a variety of films during her TV career. "I've been fortunate enough to be able to have that balance and to wear those two hats," she said. 

Lister-Jones is currently shooting the third season of "Life in Pieces." She originally agreed to the role due to its script and costars. "It's an amazing cast and great writers," Lister-Jones explained. "Plus I get to work with one of my idols, Diane Weist." 

Off the small screen, Lister-Jones continues to flex her creative talent by writing her own films. "I love writing and directing my own work, and I'm also excited to work with other writers and directors as an actor. I just continue to seek out stories that feel relevant and exciting and then create my own stories that do the same." Her current balance of creating independent film while starring in a television sitcom is her ideal situation. "I'm excited to pursue both with equal passion, but obviously creating my own work is incredibly important and a special experience for me." 

Lister-Jones frequently also works in tandem with her filmmaker husband, Daryl Wein. The pair have collaborated on co-writing Lola Versus, which Wein directed and Lister-Jones starred in with Greta Gerwig, and Consumed, a film Wein directed Lister-Jones in which they also co-wrote. The duo even worked on film Breaking Upwards together, playing themselves in the fictionalized re-enactment of their open-relationship beginnings of their courtship. 

Lister-Jones recently also completed her next project, a yet-untitled screenplay that is in the same vein as her past female-focused work. "I'm always committed to telling stories that center around the female experience, and I think that in this story intersectionality is also something I'm interested in exploring," she hinted. 

The ever-busy Lister-Jones joked that even she can't take a real, work-free vacation. Her latest trip with husband Wein to Ireland was also a journalistic project; Lister-Jones chronicled her getaway in a travel diary for Vogue. 

Her constant work, however, is in part due to the times that we live in. Lister-Jones has a lot to say through her art. "I think it's a terrifying time and an inspiring time," she explained. "It's an interesting intersection of the two. Trump's presidency is inspiring people to action in a way that I haven't seen in my lifetime in this country. I think that's the one silver lining. But it's also a pretty dark time for this country, and I think that we'll be feeling the after-effects for many, many years." 

Lister-Jones continues to use her artistic creativity to speak out against wrongdoings while exploring what it means to be a modern woman. Her work is created in an era that needs such a voice, and her talent and passion resonate among viewers everywhere. 

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Camila Mendes

Originally published in New York Moves Magazine

Camila Mendes is living every 22 year-old's fantasy. The recent NYU Tisch graduate graces the television screen every week as vixen Veronica on hit CW show "Riverdale" featuring characters from the iconic Archie comics. But really she gets to hang out with swoon-worthy K.J. Apa and Cole Sprouse. Not a bad first job.

Mendes luckily graduated a semester early from college, and after an "anxiety-ridden" casting process, she landed the lead role of sassy, complicated Veronica. "I lost a lot of sleep, shed a lot of tears," Mendes joked. "It was very intense, but that is kind of what we sign up for when we decide to be actors."

Just in its first season, "Riverdale" has already captured an entire millennial audience, filling the gap that "Vampire Diaries" and "Gossip Girl" left, as Mendes explained. A dark spin on Archie comics, the show features a modern interpretation of redheaded Archie (K.J. Apa) torn between seemingly-innocent Betty (Lili Reinhart) and sensual Veronica (Camila Mendes), with his best friend Jughead (Cole Sprouse, unrecognizable from his "Suite Life of Zach and Cody" days) standing by—all while Riverdale investigates a teen murder. Definitely not as happy as the 50s comics. 

As "Riverdale" grows and flourishes, so does Mendes. At first, the grueling television filming schedule was a stark change from the Tisch School of the Arts theatre screen-acting classes. "With theatre you get like months of rehearsal time. And shooting a television show, you rehearse it two seconds before you shoot the thing!" Mendes said. "You really don't have the luxury of preparation like you do in theatre." But during the first season, Mendes adapted. "[It] was like a muscle I was building—like trusting yourself and being able to act quickly and make choices quickly."

Mendes also mastered the role of social media transparency that accompanies such fame, crediting her "second nature" of social media since having grown up with it. "I don't feel like [social media] should be something that anyone should overthink," Mendes said. "For me, I try my best not to overanalyze my posts and just post things that feel true to me, and also promote the show. As long as people find the balance, social media doesn't have to be overwhelming."

Mendes even looks to technology platforms as opportunities for more content. "There's so many different forms of media consumption, like the possibilities are endless." She is particularly interested in the future of virtual reality as entertainment. "I think that once virtual reality becomes more of an acceptable art form, I think there can be like great arts there."

Mendes is a true millennial, traveling to her own independent rhythm. Due to the transitional space in both her life and "Riverdale," Mendes is floating between New York, Los Angeles, Vancouver, and Brazil. "I don't have a home right now," Mendes laughed. "I'm a nomad." Which makes sense given her family's history of traveling. Her parents were born and raised in Brazil, then leaving to Tokyo for her father's graduate school. They then settled in Virginia, where Camila was born. At ten years old, she and her mother moved back to Brazil for a year. Mendes lived in the capital city of Brasilia, which is shaped like an airplane with areas named for parts of a plane itself. Mendes stressed that Brasilia is not a representation of Brazilian culture but rather a "glorified suburb" that was built in the 60s. She attended an American private school, but even then there was a strong Brazilian culture: healthy cuisine and emphasis on family. "It's like the little parts of their culture that I admire so much. It's like a community."

Mendes's own family remains a strong foundation for her. She goes back every year to Brazil to see her extended family—all who watch "Riverdale." "They're so stoked for the show! They watch it together every week...and they send me videos of the dubbed version, which is hilarious."

Her immediate family in the U.S. also has always been "incredibly supportive." Mendes cites her mother's observation of her enjoyment of acting as setting her on the path to stardom. After moving to South Florida in sixth grade, Mendes's mother enrolled her in an arts school. "We had a lot of talent and inspiration there, and that sort of inspired me to try acting as a career, as a future." After this realization, Mendes's father discussed with her the risk of entering acting as a career but assured her they were "100% behind you in all of this." Mendes is "forever grateful" for her parents recognizing her dream. Her strong family support system is evident in her work; a Tisch professor even once told her he could hear their support in her voice while acting. "I think the fact that they were supportive allowed me to have this emotional creative space, this freedom to really explore [acting] as a career and not have anything holding me back."

Even though Mendes has already reached success, she is just entering the world post-college. " "Riverdale" sort of put me after college so I'm like, I didn’t even get a chance to really experience life and like auditioning without school being my main focus," Mendes said. Mendes hopes to do voice-over work for animation, either in TV show or film. "[I'm just] getting my foot in the film industry and [would like to] do an indie or something. Like something very different from "Riverdale." No wrong answers! Well, maybe some."

Much like any other 22 year-olds, she is still figuring out life, ranging from politics to career. "I don't think I had the capacity to process everything that was going on politically during what was a very difficult time—or a very stressful time, I should say—in transitioning from college to shooting a television show full-time." Yet while Mendes was on set in Vancouver, she became close with other cast members and discussed politics daily. "I went to the Women's March with my female castmates, and we had a blast. It was empowering," Mendes said. "We were in Vancouver and we didn't even think that there was going to be a march and then one of our directors on the pilot was in town and he went and then the moms on the show went and we sort of marched together. And in that way, I feel like [politics] can kind of bring people together. And the more people you have on your side, the better. And you feel unified and have a purpose." Mendes admits she doesn't consider herself an activist and was hesitant to become involved in politics but the march just felt right. "I want to dig deeper into that realm [of politics] for sure."

Mendes credits her role on "Riverdale" and position as a young 22 year-old actress as an influence on politics. "There's a responsibility too in playing these characters who are very strong young women," Mendes said. "Now we represent women and we kind of want to promote that, we want to promote that sense of strength in young women."

Mendes definitely has a bright future ahead of her, even though she is new to the Hollywood scene. Although that is surprising in her confident and talented turn as Veronica. "You're always learning. And every project, you're going to learn something new," Mendes said. She's excited about her future, and we definitely are too.

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Ali Fazal

Originally published in New York Moves Magazine

Ali Fazel knows how to transport an audience. Bollywood star Fazel makes his historical film debut opposite the iconic Judi Dench in Victoria & Abdul, a modern take on Queen Victoria’s relationship with her Indian confidante Abdul Karim. The film, slated for a September 22 release, is a biographical drama based on the book of the same name by Shrabani Basu. The weight of the story is not lost on Fazel. “The British not too long ago left us with a constitution with a lot of stuff that was written in. You don’t really forget what went on for so many years,” Fazel said. “It’s an interesting time for this [movie] to happen… especially here in India.”

Fazel won the coveted role of Abdul after a last-minute audition in India. “I did two scenes. I didn’t forget about it but it was almost after a month before I got the next call,” Fazel explained. Yet the story itself touched him more deeply than even Fazel had anticipated. “Those just two scenes had done something. It’s a really interesting story. I didn’t even know if I’d get the part but I started to read about it.”


The casting process continued for another round in London, which Fazel had never been to before. “This was the craziest process I’ve been through for a role,” Fazel said. “The first time I met [director] Stephen [Frears] he was sprawled across a couch. He was sort of half-listening. But that’s Stephen. He’s always listening, genius.”

Fazel knew he wanted the role soon thereafter. “By the sixth or seventh reading, I felt invested,” Fazel remembered. Then I got the call of course. The casting director said ‘you’re accepted. We’d like to have you on board.’ And I remember I had her repeat that three or four times.”


Karim was only 24 years old when he arrived in England from Agra as a ‘gift from India’ to Queen Victoria. The implications of race, prejudice, and absolute power is the center point for the film. “Victoria was really ahead of her time. In a time of oppression and racism, when an Indian servant was a servant, [Abdul] was allowed to sit at the table,” Fazel said. Within a year of Karim’s meeting with the Queen, he was considered a powerful figure in court and taught the Queen the languages of Urdu and Hindi, as well as traditional Indian customs. Karim and his wife were given residences on the main royal estate as well as land in India. Karim even bore medals and carried a sword in court. There is much speculation as to the depth of the Queen’s relationship with Karim; letters between the two were often signed ‘your loving mother’ or ‘your closest friend,’ even on occasion kisses.

The close relationship between Queen Victoria and Abdul Karim made for an intimate professional partnership for Fazel and Dench. “They shared something really special. She learned Urdu for him. It makes you think, are they lovers? Was it a mother-son relationship?” Fazel explained. “I just felt Victoria was very caged….I’m not drawing comparisons but it made me think of Rumi. His writings were all for one man. He was in love with him. He had a family, he had kids, but it was for show.”

In real life, Fazel’s Queen Victoria was “so much fun,” at times even acting like a kid. “She became a friend,” Fazel said. “She’s a legend. She takes you into her arms. She is the most loved woman in Britain.”


From a professional standpoint, Fazel could not have been more thankful to have such a masterful costar. “When your costar is that impeccable of an actor—it’s Judi Dench!–it makes me look good,” Fazel joked. “I just wanted to help her. She’s a pro. She would know her lines, and therefore I would know my lines. By the end of it, I knew the whole damn script!”

Fazel fell into acting…literally. “I was at boarding school and very into sports but I broke my arm and that’s how I got into debating and acting,” Fazel explained. “The Tempest was playing at school and my friend told me to check it out.” After attending college in Bombay, Fazel transitioned from stage to screen. “I did a cameo in film that turned out to be one of the biggest hits in Bollywood.” From there, the rest is history.


Fazel’s studies continued when he was tasked to delve into the unique Victorian era. I was supposed to read the book. Fazel initially told the crew that he had read Basu’s book but later admitted to reading it only after filming. “Lee [Hall] had written a wonderful script so I wanted that perspective,” Fazel said. “But I had to read a lot more books than I imagined on the history of the 1800s. I had to know the history of before and after what happened.”

The weight of portraying a real person was not lost on Fazel; he not only wanted to understand the political climate and customs of that time but also the inner thoughts of his character, Abdul. “That was more important to me than reading– going back to finding out what this man’s thoughts were, what his habits were. Over 150 years, there are a lot of myths happen. Especially someone like that in India. I know because I’ve spoken to these people later—I’ve got versions of this, how what he was. But I at least knew I had the skeleton in place.” Fazel even practiced Karim’s handwriting from letters that the film’s art department provided.

Fazel credits the intricate costumes for the film as the best way to find his character. “The costumes really helped. I know it sounds so superficial but it’s really true,” Fazel said. Costume designer Consolata Boyle created unique period outfits that were authentically accurate. “It used ot take me an hour to get ready because they would stitch me in every time into those costumes because we couldn’t have a modern hook,” Fazel explained. “It was new, it was a new process. I was learning all the time.” The costumes were even displayed at the Osborne House from July to September.

Fazel’s portrayal of the past only pushes his future forward, with a sequel to his hit film Furnkey also being released in September. Fazel is even looking to move from India to Los Angeles. “For Indian films, I have come to a place where I can always do that even if I’m out. That’s home. I’m supported here and they’ll have me back,” Fazel explained. “I love what’s happening in L.A. and all over and definitely want to be a part of that.”

The historic racial tensions of the film contextualize the Victorian era’s strictly conservative world. Yet Fazel describes the movie as a deeper take into human nature and relationships. “Even though the film is set in [oppression], when we look past that, it’s essentially about people,” Fazel mused. And Fazel is definitely one of the people we are going to watch.

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America's Got Sam: How Sam Morril Rose to the Top

Originally published on Trend Prive

Comedian Sam Morril always knew he was funny. And being a regular at the famed Comedy Cellar is, well, just a cherry on top. “I don’t have a great answer for why I became a comic,” the boy-next-door handsome 31 year-old mused. “I think you do what you’re good at at a young age, and I just started really young.”

Morril’s first gig was at age 18; he was underage even for some of the bar venues he was performing at. “I remember my first gig was horrible,” Morril admitted. “But I got a hint of something and I chased that.”

The now-full-time comic did a lot of “part-time menial work” before breaking into the business. “I wasn’t good at stuff,” Morril joked. “I worked at a catering company for a month and I remember buying a suit [for the job] and then I didn’t make any money doing it. It wasn’t a good investment. Morril even worked as an academic tutor for a year. “I was so bad, it’s embarrassing,” Morril laughed. “Kids would ask me stuff and I’d be like ‘that’s a great question. Sorry I have to go to the bathroom’ and look it up. Then I’d be like ‘wait you didn’t know that?'”

His first “splash” onto the national comedy scene was winning the prestigious Atlanta-based Laughing Skull Festival. The prize: a year’s worth of touring on the road. At 23, Morril was officially a working a comic. A few years later and Morril was performing stand up sets for Howie Mandel and George Lopez on season 11 of “America’s Got Talent,” on “Late Night with Stephen Colbert,” and being featured on “Conan.”

Today, he has a residency at Comedy Cellar and is featured in at least three shows a night, sometimes going into the early hours of the morning on stage. Morril also tours nationally, opening for Amy Schumer in arenas and headlining his own shows in comedy clubs throughout the U.S. Morril met Schumer through mutual friends comedians Rachel Feinstein and Mark Norman. “[Amy] is so cool. She’s just like ‘do whatever you want,'” Morril explained. “She’s so generous.”

Morril, a New York native, has lived in almost every neighborhood of the city: Chelsea, Upper East Side, Upper West Side, and Brooklyn. “I’ve learned that as long as I’m on the island, I’m OK,” Morril joked. A self-described neurotic, Morril can’t see himself leaving New York. After attending college in New Orleans during when Hurricane Katrina hit, he moved back to the city and graduated from New York University. “It’s part of me, the city. I’m very New York in how I act,” Morril said. His stand-up material comes from observations, life stories, and “things that hurt.” Morril credits himself to making light of darker emotions: “you make them feel good because you made a good joke.”

The die-hard Knicks fan hosts his own New York sports show “People Talking Sports” on MSG network, with guests like Justin Long, Latrell Spreewell, and Michael Che on weekly. Morril invented the casual format of the show, and has full reins on its creative direction.

Morril’s favorite platform, though, is stripped down comedy clubs doing the stand-up that he loves most. “Certain clubs just do it the right way. The make you feel valued,” Morril said. “I’ve done shows in every bad venue you can imagine, so when you do a show and they make you feel valued, you feel it.”


Morril’s favorite club to perform at happens to be in Madison, Wisconsin. “It’s a college town. They’re smart, they get it. I love the Midwest,” Morril said. “They’re not connected to the entertainment world. In New York or L.A. sometimes, they’ll gasp. In the Midwest, they have real problems, they have real lives, people there work blue collar jobs. They make for really good audience members…they seem like they’re not as easily offended.”


Like most comedians, Morril’s sets are provocative, and that’s on purpose. Morril discusses gun violence, sex, and other topical issues. “I definitely poke a bit,” Morril said, the son of lawyers. “There’s a bit in my special that will definitely get some blowback but I’m OK with that,” Morril explained. Just for context: that bit is about the headline of a baby getting eaten by an alligator at Disney in Florida.

But like all great comics, the true meaning of a joke lays beneath the surface. “It’s really about a woman who got very upset after one of my shows and sent me an email,” Morril disclosed. “She was so angry that it was almost like it had to be a bit. It was kind of a canvas for what became a bit but it’s not really about that.” The line in question: I don’t want to come off as a wacky right-wing nut job but I do think if that baby was carrying a gun he’d still be with us. But as Morril explained, it’s “not about that event. I’m not attacking the child or the mother of the child. I’m attacking the woman who took it upon herself to be a social justice warrior.”


Looking to the future, Morril hopes to be performing in front of larger audiences. “I want my own cable sitcom show,” Morril said. He has a pilot in the works. “It’s something I put a lot of work into. With the garbage of TV, I don’t think it takes too much to stand out,” Morril said. “Are you going to watch ‘Young Shelton’ for the rest of your life?” Morril hopes his sitcom will follow the likes of the Larry Sanders Show in comedic brilliance.


From stage to screen, Morril has the talent and humor of a star. You will know the name Sam Morril.

 

 

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Menlo School grad lands role in Dreamworks' 'The Help'

Originally published in The Almanac

At 6, she moved with her family from Palo Alto to France, where they drove around the country in a VW van before settling in a small town in the Alps. At 8, she was a von Trapp child in a local Washington state theater production. While she was at Menlo School in Atherton, she and her family played beach-goers in the 2004 sci-fi action film "Dinocroc."

And now, Ahna O'Reilly is breaking into the Hollywood spotlight, with a supporting role in the Dreamworks' production of "The Help," based on a 2009 debut novel by Kathryn Stockett. The film is due to be released Aug. 10. 

The novel centers on the concept of opportunity, and Ms. O'Reilly, a Palo Alto native, seems to be seizing it. 

The petite, charming Ms. O'Reilly began her acting career as a child, and in a somewhat accidental way. "One summer, we were in Washington state, and we didn't really have many friends there," she says in an interview. "It was just me and my two little sisters, and there was this regional theater company starting up."

Her mom suggested the kids audition and maybe this could be a summer activity for them. They did, and wound up playing the three young von Trapp children in "The Sound of Music."

"Ever since then, since I was 8, I wanted to be an actress," Ms. O'Reilly says.

Returning to Palo Alto shortly thereafter, she continued her acting work, taking drama courses at Menlo School during high school, and later driving to San Francisco to participate in acting classes with her younger sister. 

"I just always knew, since I was little, that that was what I wanted to do," she says, while sipping a cappuccino at Mayfield Bakery in Town & Country, one of her favorite local spots.

After graduating from Menlo School, she moved to Los Angeles to go to the University of Southern California. But after a year, she left USC to pursue acting.

"I think a lot of students, when they graduate from college, suffer from figuring out like, 'What do I do with my time?' ... I experienced that a little bit earlier."

She threw herself into finding a good acting class. "I knew I had to study (acting)."

Being a Northern California native, she had a rough transition into the LA lifestyle. "At first I didn't love LA -- I think because I love Northern California so much. But I love LA now. If you give it a chance, and can get over the traffic, it's a really interesting city with so much to offer."

Each day varies for her, with auditions, agent meetings, and classes at UCLA.

"Sometimes I can have three days and have nothing planned, or I can go through a week and have two to three auditions a day."

Her schedule varies by time of year. If it's during the TV pilot season (April), and she's going for a role, "it's just crazy," she says. "I'm up at 6 and in bed at 6, and just learning my lines."

However, she says, she still tries to live with a routine structure. "It mostly comes from me, and then whatever meetings or auditions I have thrown in there. No week or day really looks the same."

Her first credited acting job was in the 2008 film "Just Add Water," starring Danny DeVito, Dylan Walsh and Jonah Hill. She played a "cracked-out" pregnant teenager. "And don't blink, 'cause you'll miss me. I'm literally in it for two seconds!" 

In "The Help," she plays a Southern housewife alongside actors Emma Stone, Sissy Spacek, Viola Davis, Bryce Dallas Howard, and Octavia Spencer. This all-female ensemble brings to life the story of a white college-educated young woman, Skeeter (played by Ms. Stone), returning home to Mississippi in 1962, and refuting the unspoken prejudices that deal with African-American household workers -- "the help."

With the nagging of Skeeter's mother (played by Ms. Spacek) and help from maids (played by Ms. Davis and Ms. Spencer), Skeeter challenges the local white social hierarchy, in the persons of Hilly (played by Dallas Howard) and Elizabeth (played by Ms. O'Reilly). 

Ms. O'Reilly credits friend and actress Octavia Spencer for helping her land the part. 

She met Ms. Spencer during the making of the 2009 film, "Herpes Boy," a festival favorite by Byron Lane. Ms. O'Reilly has her first "fleshed-out" role in the film, and Ms. Spencer co-stars.

"If I hadn't done ('Herpes Boy'), 'The Help' probably wouldn't have come my way because Octavia (Spencer) was the one who first called me with the part. She told me: 'There are so many female parts in it, you have to get in that room!'"

In fact, without Ms. Spencer's help, Ms. O'Reilly doubts she would have even auditioned. "The way it works with big movies like that with such a hot title, if you're at a big agency, they see all the girls from that agency. And I was not at a big agency; I did not have a very long resume. I did not have anything to get my foot in that door. So it was really Octavia being like: 'You've got to see this girl.' All of the stars aligned thank God!" 

Ms. O'Reilly entered her audition for "The Help" with excitement. "I got all dressed up in 1960s clothing and did my hair -- it meant so much to me from the beginning."

It's easy to imagine the petite, blonde Ms. O'Reilly being transported back to an era of Southern subtle elegance. During the shooting, she moved to Mississippi for three months and lived with Ms. Spencer. "(Octavia) kind of took me under her wing."

"I've always been drawn to the South and fascinated by it. This was my first time being in Mississippi. I loved it. It's very different from here. There is such a rich, complicated history, which is what the movie is about."

The bestselling book "The Help" was the first novel by Kathryn Stockett. As Ms. O'Reilly explains it, the story "got tons of rejections." The author said to the cast: "I never thought anyone would read it."' And now, says Ms. O'Reilly, "it's this huge phenomenon."

"The Help" director Tate Taylor and Ms. Stockett were childhood friends, and grew up together in Jackson, Mississippi, where the novel takes place. Due to these connections, Ms. O'Reilly says, there was "such a family feel" when filming the movie. Ms. Stockett's daughter Lyla also appears in the movie adaptation in a cameo role as a young heroine Skeeter. 

The atmosphere on the set was comfortable and fun, says Ms. O'Reilly. "Everyone got along so well. We're all friends. It was kind of like being at summer camp in a way."

Now that "The Help" is finished, she is open to a variety of acting projects.

"I would love to do theater, and live in New York someday. Movies are what I grew up with -- movies and theater. ...We didn't have a television when I was little, so I just didn't grow up with (TV shows) as my acting inspiration."

Upcoming projects include independent films "I Am Ben," costarring another Menlo School alum, Elyie Yost, and "Girls Girls Girls," a compilation of eight short films entirely written, directed, produced and edited by women. Ms. O'Reilly stars in one short directed by her former "Herpes Boy" co-star Beth Grant. Ms. O'Reilly's vignette, "The Perfect Fit," also stars her friend, Octavia Spencer.

"I want to do anything," she says near the end of an hour-long interview. "I just want to do things that are good, with good people, that are inspiring."

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