Having to juggle music and acting, Tisha Custodio’s days are always packed. In one of her more recent projects, she is a series regular on Disney+’s “Big Shot” alongside John Stamos. Despite the busy days, she finds time to replenish herself. This interview is all about Tisha Custodio’s fresh take on creativity.
1) You are a creative individual, in multiple senses of the term, as you act as well as work on music. Does acting and working on music simultaneously spread your creative energy too thin? How do you create enough balance?
Most of the time, music helps me wind down at the end of the day. Writing songs, or even just playing around with my guitar, helps me process my feelings/experiences more. However, there are some instances where I feel creatively drained. I think what helps me through these dips is the knowledge that most artists go through these periods and that I’m not alone. I recently went through a period of burnout, and it made me realize the importance of being gentle with myself and being ok with taking more breaks. Especially with music, it’s so easy to be obsessed with creating and getting better at your craft that it might feel like wasted time to do something else. But minimizing the other things life has to offer will make you feel burnt out more often and limit opportunities for creative inspiration.
2) What was your experience like on the sets of “Big Shot”? Could you give us an insight into the character of Carolyn Smith? How different or similar is she in comparison to you?
My experience on Big Shot was incredible. This is my first TV credit, and I feel so lucky to have this kind, talented cast to show me the ropes.
Carolyn, or Mouse, is the smallest and youngest one on the basketball team. She comes from a military family and is growing into her own throughout the first season. I would say we are similar in the sense that we work really hard to achieve our goals. I think the biggest difference is our age and where we are in life. Mouse is worried about getting straight A’s and receiving approval from adults and teammates. But I’m personally worrying about how to be an adult and not worry about what other people think.
3) How has your work life or your regular workday changed due to the pandemic and its consequences? How do you think the entertainment industry, as a whole, has been impacted by the same?
The beginning of the pandemic was weird because we knew we had this show to come back to but had no idea when we would be back. I had this unexpected hiatus and ended up spending more time with family and falling more in love with music.
I’m amazed at how the entertainment industry figured out all these new protocols to safely open back up. There are more things to worry about: PPE, separating production into zones, and enforcing social distancing. It is a little different than how we’re all used to filming, but it makes the process so safe during these times.
4) How has being an immigrant and a person of color impacted your work and your creative voice?
Being an immigrant has given me the ability to bring in a different perspective in the choices I make with my characters. It has made me want to bring Filipino culture to all my characters, so people that come from a similar background watching could feel seen in the media.
5) You are known to enjoy myriad genres of music. But what is your debut EP going to sound like? Are you done with any of the tracks yet? If so, could you share something about the process?
There are a couple of songs I feel are close to finished. But I am still mostly just writing a bunch of songs. It’s going to be acoustic-driven, indie-folk with a touch of jazz and r&b.
6) What’s next for Tisha Custodio? Do you have something upcoming that you would like to share with us?
Mostly writing songs! Hopefully a season 2 of Big Shot!
Kyle Klaus is not your typical actor. He hails from atypical acting roots, from a sector of work entirely unrelated to the screen, that is real estate. His business acumen has lent to becoming a millionaire by the age of 30 and starting a line of successful businesses in the NJ area. This smartly provided the cushion he needed to pursue the acting career he always wanted. Since, he’s premiered in “The Blacklist,” “Billions,” and “Homeland” among others.
Klaus discusses with Cliche Magazine the intersections of his dichotomous lifestyle.
Working in real estate was your solution to avoiding the life of the starving artist, but you’ve made quite a name for yourself founding Prestige Properties as well as becoming a millionaire by the age of 30. How do you feel about achieving such success at a young age? What do you attribute this success to?
I attribute my success to an insatiable hunger and drive for greatness. You get to a certain level and you’re still not happy with it. That is because it’s not about a destination, it’s more about growth. You are either growing or you aren’t. You are either improving or not. I’ve also always known that real estate was a means to an end – meaning that if I could keep working really hard and saving up, and making the right investments that it would set me up early on at a young age for later in life. Then when the acting projects and opportunities came up – I would be able to take those and not worry about what was next, or if it was going to be a hit, or if it was going to make my career take off. I would always be able to have something else there, and wouldn’t be worried about my acting career, especially since there are so many variables to whether you get a job or don’t, or you have a successful career and are famous or not.
What are some similarities and intersections you’ve found in acting and entrepreneurship? Are there things you’ve learned working in real estate and founding your own business that you apply to acting?
Yes, definitely. Probably the most apparent is that you are your own CEO. I know people say that about acting all the time, but I don’t know if everyone really gets it. In acting, you have to make sure you understand your audience, what they want from you, and try to give them some of that. Also that your “craft” is on point. That is just like your skills or quality in business. Also – there are many other things like dealing with people, organization, scheduling, and also hiring/ outsourcing things that will free you up for better uses of your time.
What are surprises about the acting industry that you hadn’t realized before entering as an actor?
I think the biggest thing is that you really don’t need too much to get started and be successful. You really just need your talent, a headshot that represents you well, and opportunities. That’s it. People get so caught up especially in the beginning that you need some amazing reel, marketing materials, all sorts of classes, etc. There are businesses that prey on the neediness of actors.
You’ve managed to find the best of both worlds in both finance and art, two dichotomous fields. Do you have any advice for those out there who are struggling with choosing between a realistic aspiration versus a creative passion?
This is just my opinion and I may be wrong about this – but I don’t think you have to choose. I think too many people allow others to affect their thoughts and their actions. I think it’s all just BS. It’s my hope that people can start saying “F.U.” to a stereotype. I can be an artist and I can be an intellectual. I can be creative and I can be a finance wiz. I can be a computer engineer and I can be a painter. Yes, they might be different sides of the brain you use, but why not work them both. I think it makes you more well rounded and I also think that you should strive to do something you don’t think ANYONE else has done just because it’s not the TYPICAL way to do things – from what you think or have been told.
You mention to Authority Magazine that you worry about the socioeconomic effects of wealth disparity on vital financial literacy and knowledge. How do you think that we can work towards solving this issue? Do you have any specific plans?
I really don’t yet. I know that I grew up not learning ANY of that stuff, and just through my own reading and learning have learned more real-world things that many of my friends that went to school for finance or economics or business have. With all the resources we have handy these days, I actually believe that people can learn and become experts in anything they put their minds on. Take for instance YouTube. Years ago we didn’t have this thing that we could just type into a search bar and find tips on ANYTHING you wanted. I know a lot of guys on there, including myself, teaching real deal type life financial lessons and I just hope that people that need it, find it. I mean – I just found a video last summer on “how to clean my gas grill” because I didn’t know and I figured I would just “youtube it” – sure enough, I found a perfect video with visuals. It’s out there and basically, anyone with internet access can watch it.
Are there any future endeavors – anything at all – that you hope to accomplish post-Corona?
Well, I really hope Corona goes away really soon for all the reasons possible, especially for acting. I miss so much being on set. I really have a lot of things I want to accomplish there and it hasn’t been easy and productions haven’t been going on as much because of corona.
Lastly, to paint a more humanizing portrait of you, I would love it if you could speed run through a couple of “favorites” so that readers get a better sense of who you are.
Favorite book: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck
Favorite piece of advice: Don’t talk about it, be about it.
Go-to Musical Artist/Album: Empire of the Sun
Favorite food: Porterhouse Steak Medium Rare
Is there anything else that you would like to say to Cliche readers?
You only have one life and there is an UNLIMITED supply of information out there at your fingertips. Whatever it is you want to do, but you may be feeling like you cannot do it – find ways to overcome those obstacles and focus on how to bring your dreams to life. Once you figure out how to overcome yourself, you can do mostly anything.
Disney’s iconic twin stars, The D’Ambrosio Twins, have been acting alongside one another for as long as they can remember. As actresses, singers, and and best friends, Bianca and Chiara D’Ambrosio have extensive experience in television, film, and music, and are most well-known for their roles as Frankie and Reagan on 19-time Emmy Award-winning series “The Bay” and for starring in its spinoff series “yA.” Additionally, they have been recognized for their performances in “See Dad Run,” “Nicky, Ricky, Dicky, & Dawn,” “Diary of a Future President,” and, most recently, Disney Plus’ new film, “To the Beat!: Back 2 School,” the sequel to the hit teen comedy, “To the Beat!”
This week, I had the pleasure of speaking with the twins about their prolific career paths and numerous professional milestones at such a young age. In this candid conversation, the twins reflect upon their journey to stardom as both independent actresses and partners in crime and share their most memorable experiences and lessons with their fans.
You’ve both been acting since the age of 3, when you were cast in the role of Summer Newman on CBS’ The Young and Restless. Please tell us about your experiences on a mainstream television channel at such a young age. Do you have any distinct or formative memories?
BIANCA: I was three years old when I started working on “the Young and the Restless.” I can’t remember much, but I do have memories of bonding with my on-screen parents playing Disney cards and eating candy!
CHIARA: Because I was so young on “the Young and the Restless,” I can’t remember a lot. I do remember fond memories of Michelle Stafford coming to our dressing room to see us before going to set. She would hold my hand and walk me to set sometimes.
On both The Young and Restless in 2008 and Parks and Recreation in 2009, you shared the role of Summer Newman and Lennon Parham’s daughter, respectively. What was it like to take turns playing the role?
BIANCA: It was fun! Chiara and I got to work together and experience everything at the same time.
CHIARA: Switching places with my sister while on set was super fun because we always got to hang out with each other and practice our lines with each other.
What was the best part of being cast together as twins from an early age? Did it ever cause confusion on set, or did it ever create any tension between you as independent actresses?
BIANCA: It never caused tension between us. We have always loved being cast together because we get to do what we love together. A lot of people got us confused on set, so we would just have fun with it.
CHIARA: Being cast together as twins has always been a blast. We get to work together in scenes and make life-long memories together. I don’t think that us being known as twins caused tension for us to book projects independently. I was lucky to work on Disney Plus’ show “Diary of a Future President” last year while Bianca worked on a film. We are happy for each other!
When did you start making music? Please tell us about your breakthrough song “Let Your Light Shine.”
BIANCA: We started making original music when we were seven. I love to play instruments and wanted to try singing for a change. I ended up loving it and combined my love for playing instruments with singing to create “Let Your Light Shine.” I knew that I wanted our first song to touch on the topic of bullying since we experienced that back in school, so after talking with our parents, we created the song!
CHIARA: We started making music by releasing our debut song “Let Your Light Shine.” We had been bullied at school when we were younger, so we wanted to create music to encourage others to tell someone when they are experiencing bullying. Our song reached a lot of people, and that’s when we realized how our music can inspire others.
Please tell us about the process of creating your first album, “Got You Covered.” What was the source of inspiration behind your album?
BIANCA: “Got You Covered” was a cover album we did to music hits from the 80s, 90s, and even 70s. My parents raised me listening to older music, and I developed a love for songs created in those eras. My sister and I wanted to do something fun with our music and decided to use our parents influence’ on us to create “Got You Covered.”
What is the best part of being twin actresses?
BIANCA: For me, working with my sister is an amazing experience. She is my best friend and I love that we get to work and do what we love together. Having those memories together on set is something I will remember forever.
CHIARA: I think the best part of being twin actresses is that I have someone who can experience the highs and lows of the entertainment industry with me, and I always have someone to talk to.
How do you differ as actresses and singers?
CHIARA: We differ as actresses because Bianca enjoys drama and single-camera comedy roles, while I love comedic roles. We differ as singers because Bianca’s voice is higher than mine. Bianca loves the piano and guitar, while I love the drums.
Photo credits: LastingLegacy PR
What is your single favorite memory from your career thus far, independently or as twins?
BIANCA: There are so many incredible memories that it’s hard to choose just one. I would have to say one of my fondest memories was back in early March of this year when we got to see ourselves on the big screen! We got to watch ourselves surrounded by our family, friends, and the rest of the cast and crew. It was a memory I will never forget.
CHIARA I have many favorite memories from my career as an independent actress and as a twin actress. My favorite memory so far in my career was when we wrapped filming yA and I shared a moment of celebration with my sister that has stuck with me since last year. We were so proud of each other and it was a magical experience.
You’ve both had quite a diverse array of experiences as actresses. What is your favorite character you’ve played?
BIANCA: That’s a tough one! I’m so grateful for every experience I’ve had, and It’s so hard to choose one. I would have to say it’s a tie between my character on “yA,” Frankie Sanders, and Donna from the upcoming film, “Slapface.” Donna and Frankie are two completely different characters who I loved equally. Frankie is the spunky twin who hides her feelings and puts her sister before herself. Donna is a mean girl who only cares for her sister and her best friend, Moriah. It’s a tie between those two!
CHIARA: Any opportunity I get to play someone else is surreal. My favorite character I’ve played so far is Regan Sanders from yA. Playing Regan was a wild ride. She is so similar yet so different from me as a person, so it was amazing to step into her shoes.
What’s the one biggest piece of advice you’d give to a fan looking to pursue acting and music?
BIANCA: To never give up. I know it sounds cliché, but it is so true! Giving up just puts you one step further away from achieving your dream.
CHIARA: My advice to a fan looking to pursue a career in the entertainment industry is to never give up hope. Sign up for classes or audition for school plays so that you get an experience of working on set. If this is something you really want to do, then go for it and don’t let anyone stop you
What’s next for you both?
Photo credits: Everett Wise
BIANCA: Right before quarantine, I had the chance to work with Justin Long, Judy Greer, and Melanie Lynskey on a comedy movie called “Lady of The Manor” which will be premiering next year. Chiara’s and my new show called “yA”, which is a spinoff of “The Bay,” will also premiere next year.
CHIARA: We finished filming yA last fall and are looking forward to the release. We are also going to be in a few episodes of “The Bay” coming up, so stay tuned if you want to see a little bit of our characters Frankie and Regan Sanders.
BIANCA AND CHIARA: Thank you so much for the interview. Happy Holidays!
Katya Bakat is a rising actress currently working on several films and television projects. She began her career originally as a model, doing beauty competitions until she was signed by IMG Models at the age of 14. She has since worked for several well-known brands, Pacco Rabbana, Armani, Lanvin, L’Oréal, and Bulgari Jewelry.
It was after she established herself as a model that Katya began to find herself gravitating towards acting. Since her transition to acting, Katya has just wrapped a role in the mega-budget action feature film, Angel Has Fallen, whichstars Gerald Butler, Morgan Freeman, and Nick Nolte. On the small screen, Katya has a lead role in the upcoming series Magic 7 and has filmed for pilot show a Shadow Wolves. She also has a starring role in Honeymoon in Paradise, a film about a group of reality contestants looking for love and fame at a luxurious resort set in Saint Lucia.
In our Q&A with Katya, she describes her transition to acting, exciting roles and what the future holds for this rising star!
Clichė:You were signed to a modeling agency at the age of 14 before gravitating towards acting. What is it about acting that made you want to pursue it? Has it always a passion of yours?
Katya: I’m a creative person and could never imagine having a repetitive monotonous work in the office. Being a signer, designer, painter, model [and] actor are classic examples of creativity. Modeling is a great opportunity for a young girl to become financially independent, create [her] own style, meet different people, cultures, travel the world and explore. It’s really amazing [and] motivating because you really have to take care of your physical look. Being an actress is a totally different dimension. I’ve never dreamed of being an actress. I thought that [I] had to be outgoing, very communicative and social to be able to portray someone’s life story. At some point in my life, [while] I was a professional model, I realized that I have this desire to open up, to show the depth of my character, vulnerability, and be able to experience the lives of different characters, times, cultures…at that moment I knew that modeling is not enough, I wanted to be an actress.
What has the transition from modeling to acting been like for you? Were there any obstacles you had to overcome?
It is an entirely different profession, which requires different skills. Models are trained for posing, which includes extensive training that teaches them to keep the best postures, mimic and move. It’s all about the momentum. Even though models have a certain advantage when it comes to becoming an actor due to their comfort in front of the camera, however, models are not familiar with important aspects of acting, like the ability to analyze a script, breakdown a character, and make appropriate performance choices. Acting is a long run. Actors should understand and provide an adequate reaction to what’s going on on the stage or on set. It requires an understanding of emotional and physical responses of your own and of others. It wasn’t that hard for me. I went to The Lee Strasberg Film Institute and Theatre in NYC. It’s a traditional classic “method actors” education. And I’m very grateful to all the teachers who helped me let my fears [and] my shyness go, and open my acting abilities and talent. I’ve studied different techniques and I’m still attending acting school here in Los Angeles.
Since your transition into acting, you have landed roles alongside big names like Gerald Butler and Morgan Freeman. (Angel Has Fallen) Are you ever nervous on set? If so, how do you calm your nerves?
It’s an interesting fact! Before I’m on the set, I’m practicing, getting prepared, getting nervous, it’s a normal process…but as soon as I’m on the set, I’m getting this inner confidence, calmness, and clarity. No matter who I’m working with, we are a team, who are working on the same idea, the same project. I’m always excited and ready to be a part of it! But in any stressful situation, I’m trying to find 5-10 minutes to meditate. It’s very helpful!
Your upcoming film Honeymoon in Paradise is about a group of reality contestants looking for love. Before taking on this role, were you a fan of reality dating shows?
Absolutely not. I’ve been invited a couple of times to be a part of the dating reality shows. I might sound naive, but I still don’t know if it’s all set up and the contestants have the scripts and play “the roles” or it’s real stories, dramas, laughs and falling in real love. Either way, it’s not for me! But to experience “the dating show” in the movie was really fun. A beautiful Caribbean island, an incredible team, very positive vibes, and professionalism!
What is the backstory of your character in Honeymoon in Paradise?
My character is Britney, bikini model, hot, but kind of a mean girl. She is competitive. She is self-confident and ready to achieve her goals no matter what, even if it can hurt some people. She is self-centered, but also flirty, playful and positive. Since it’s a romantic comedy, there is no real drama or psychological twists. So Britney is not an evil person. She is just a young girl who uses her charm, beauty and manipulative skills to play her game!
In addition to modeling and acting in films, you also have the lead role in an upcoming series titled Magic 7. How has filming a television series differ from acting in films? Which do you prefer?
I love it all. There really isn’t much of a difference, I think. Having a part in an ongoing TV show gives you an opportunity to have a really long term job. And if it’s successful and has high ratings it can last for years! There’s a considerable difference in that TV actors have a chance to explore their characters over multiple episodes and seasons. Often, if the producers and writers on a show are reasonably collaborative, the actor will shape the character as the show evolves.
You’re currently filming a fantasy film Empire Queen, can you tell us about your leading role in the film and what has filming has been like?
This film is produced by Christopher Dane Owens and Jason Schulz. It’s a beautiful fantasy film, let’s say [it’s] Harry Potter for adults! The Golden Age of Magic. Jason is my dear friend for years, we’ve been already working together on a couple of great projects, one of it was a short film “Fashion Assassin”. So he knew my professionalism, work ethic, and experience. So I was invited to be a part of this interesting project. The filming is happening in California, I’m playing the role of Terra Winter, a powerful witch. I really enjoy it.
You’ve taken on plenty of projects this year. 2019 seems to be a big year for you! Do you ever get overwhelmed with the amount of work you do?
I love it all. I’m ready for much more ahead. It’s my passion, it’s my vocation. I love to be proactive and create or be a part of some interesting projects.
In all of the characters that you’ve played, which one is the most similar to you and why?
Well, I haven’t played a part yet, where I can say that. All the characters I’ve played are far from my own personality. Maybe the witch Terra Winter, she has a kind heart, compassionate, all is about justice and protective to her beloved ones. These qualities are essential for me.
Lastly, where do you see yourself in 5 years? What is the biggest goal you hope to accomplish by then?
5 years from now, I definitely want to have a family and kids. It’s really important to me. I want to achieve a big success in the film industry and become a big actress. I want to work on big projects. You know there is a saying – “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars”. I also want to create a charity foundation for the kids.In my opinion, the greatest benefit of an actor has is the ability to participate in fundraising events and help people!
You can follow and check out on Katya on Instagram!
Sierra McClain cherishes the position that she is in. As a former child actor, she relishes the love and support of her family, especially her sisters, with whom she began her career. From a Tyler Perry lead film to Disney and now Empire, McClain has kept busy and done a lot in her 23 years of life. As Nessa on Empire, she is all grown up and making waves on the hit TV show as the character fans love to hate. We can’t wait to see what she does next.
Sierra McClainloves workingwith her sisters as much as you love watching them together. Her first role was a background role in a movie called The Gospel that her sister China was in, but the role she most remembers having an impact on her life was Tyler Perry’s 2007 film Daddy’s Little Girls, where she co-starred as a character named Sierra with her sisters, China and Lauryn, opposite Idris Elba. For anyone unfamiliar with the film, Sierra was one of the three girls that Elba’s character, Monty, was fighting for sole custody of. The movie was an emotional one, a tear-jerker with a happy ending.
“I think that movie laid the foundation for every other job I did after that because we were so young, but it was actually very complex,” McClain said. “We were telling a very serious story so the content was very real and it was very emotional. It was a role that we could really sink our teeth into. I don’t think we realized how deep it was until we got older.”
Denim jacket & pants: Res Denim, Earrings: Jewelry Bar USA
The sisters didn’t work together again until 2011 in Disney’s A.N.T Farm, which was a less emotional role. McClain considered it a mini McClain sisters reunion as far as acting is concerned. She enjoyed the fact that they were having fun in the role and had the opportunity to sing together. She fondly stated that her sisters are her favorite co-stars. Since Daddy’s Little Girls, McClain said she has learned a lot.
She approaches acting differently now as she tries to learn from the people around her and how to trust herself. Because she started out so young, she was focused on knowing her lines and what the director wanted, thus making her roles about other people. Now, she is learning how to step into the shoes of whoever she is playing and create a real character. She now views acting as a collaboration between the actor, the writer, directors, and anyone else who is involved.
This is one of my favorite jobs because of the marriage between acting and singing.
Currently, McClain is starring on the hit Fox TV show Empire. McClain plays Nessa, the newest confident and bold recording artist signed to Empire Entertainment, the show’s record company founded by Lucious (Terrence Howard) and Cookie Lyon (Taraji P. Henson). For her fans who knew of her first as a child actor, this new role she is in has been a bit of an adjustment for them.
“It has been an adjustment, I will say that. Not just for the fans but even for my friends and family,” McClain said. “I get a lot of phone calls like, ‘What? Who is that I’m watching on screen?’ so it took some getting used to. I don’t think I got any super negative comments as far as the transition. I think everybody sort of embraced it. I feel like people can’t stand Nessa because the stuff she does is very controversial.”
Woven Cardigan: Gudrun & Gudrun, Swimsuit: Tee Ink
McClain and her character share a love of music and that is one of the things McClain respects about her. There are many things Nessa does that McClain does not agree with and she said that sometimes it is difficult co-existing with her, but McClain understands Nessa has been through a lot. So, even though she may not always handle things correctly, McClain believes her decisions are based on her experiences and that even if she doesn’t always agree with the decisions she makes, Nessa stands up for what she believes in. The problem isn’t necessarily the character Tiana (played by Serayah), Mcclain said, but the fact that Nessa has the mentality of having to eliminate or step on whoever in order to get to the top.
“She has done some petty things, but it doesn’t come from a place of pettiness,” McClain explained. “She grew up around people who don’t necessarily play by the rules and they’ve kind of shown her by example that you have to do whatever it takes to get to the top. So, that’s the mindset that she’s adopted in the entertainment industry.”
Despite the actions of her character, McClain said the cast welcomed her to the show with open arms. During her first week on set, she said Jussie Smollett, who plays Jamal Lyon, spoiled her from the moment she arrived at the table read and has been kind to her. She promised that everyone has been taking loving care of her on and off set. This treatment was something she didn’t expect walking into a hit TV show with veteran actors like Taraji P. Henson. She walked on nervous and wanting to make sure she kept up with everyone, but they embraced her and treated her like she was a part of the family.
Music is a universal language so to be able to incorporate that in telling somebody else’s story is beautiful.
What new fans of McClain might not know is she’s a triple threat. She’s a singer, an actor, and she plays various instruments, but don’t expect her to choose, even if music was her first love.
“It’s funny because I used to listen to China doing interviews all the time and she would say, ‘Oh my gosh, I can’t choose. I have such a hard time choosing.’ And in the beginning, I would be like, ‘Really, man? It’s easy for me; I would say music.’ But now it’s funny because I’m in her shoes and I don’t know which one I would choose,” McClain said. “Music was my first love. I grew up around it, but I have a newfound respect and love for acting.”
Who doesn’t love the best of both worlds? And because McClain enjoys both, it is fitting that she is on a show like Empire where she gets to do both in almost every single episode. In many ways, the music on the show is a character in and of itself. The music either moves the episode ahead or reflects the plot as a whole or individual character arc. The episodes’ songs are almost always available right after each episode ends, giving the actors and their characters the chance to live outside of the show, as well as in it. Empire, in many ways, has created a platform for the actors to become as big as the characters they play on TV in the realm of music.
Pleated Dress: OTT, @ottdubai, Bra Top/Bottom Set: AMI Clubwear
“It’s a beautiful relationship between music and acting,” McClain said. “It tells somebody else’s story with songs driving everything. Music is a universal language so to be able to incorporate that in telling somebody else’s story is beautiful, especially when you’re so in love with music. This is one of my favorite jobs because of the marriage between acting and singing.”
When she wrapped her shooting for the show in Chicago in early March, she spent a lot of time talking to her family or having her mom come visit. When she wasn’t talking to her biological family, she was spending time with her Empire one. She laughed when retelling the story of how she would bother Ta’Rhonda Jones, who plays the role of Portia on Empire, and the fellow actress would cook for her. An admitted homebody, McClain said she tried to get out a lot and see the city on her days off.
Outside of the show, McClain has kept busy and is keeping hope alive that she and her sisters will work together again, though there are no set plans. They were doing music together for a long time and were signed, but then they began doing music individually. McClain would love to do a movie, a serious project or something “special” with them. Aside from planning new projects with her sisters, McClain was headed to film an unannounced project the day after this interview that she was very excited about. And although it may be awhile until we learn about it, we are very excited, too.
Leonard Wu is a talented actor with an impressive body of work both in film and television. He’s had roles in series such as Workaholics and Marco Polo, as well as appearances in the films 17 Again and Crush the Skull. Wu caught us up on his latest work, as well as what inspired him to be an actor, and why he loves acting. Make sure to catch him in season two of Marco Polo, which comes to Netflix on July 1.
Cliché: You attended UCLA and received a BA in English. What made you decide to go into the acting field? Leonard Wu: It’s kind of a strange thing. Acting is something that I had always wanted to do since as far back as I can remember. But growing up in D.C., it was just unheard of among my peers, and so it wasn’t something I really explored. As a teenager, I studied and performed Chinese Opera, and though I wasn’t keen on the singing/speaking roles, the martial arts and acrobatic aspects of it completely fascinated me. That was about the extent of it for me in terms of performing, but it really whet my appetite, and when I graduated high school, it was a pivotal moment where I said to myself, “Okay, I’m gonna get out of D.C. and head to Los Angeles to take a crack at this acting thing.” I think I kind of blindsided my parents with that, but they were supportive and told me to at least major in something that had some semblance of a practical application. So I majored in English, and every single opportunity I got, every free moment I had, I spent it learning and performing on stage productions all over campus. You have a very diverse body of work featuring both television and film. Is there one you prefer over the other? I think if you had asked me five years ago where I’d prefer to be working, I would have said “film” without skipping a beat. It’s amazing to see how much the industry has evolved and changed over that time. With the recent renaissance that has happened in TV, it’s just such an exciting space to be in and explore. Basic cable and premium channel shows have really pushed the boundaries in terms of what can be offered, and as a result, there is something for everybody, and at such a high caliber. So for the moment, I’m loving working in the TV arena. Do you have any projects in the works right now? I’m currently developing some TV projects, in more of a producing/writing capacity. They’re still in their infancy, but being behind the camera is something that excites me as much as being in front of. What is your favorite part of being an actor? This is a tough one. There is so much I love about being an actor, but if I had to pick one thing right now, it would be the characters that I’ve gotten to immerse myself in. It’s always fun to play something that is so far removed from who you are in everyday life, and really explore different aspects of yourself. Can you tell us a little about your character Orus on Marco Polo? Orus is a fierce and loyal warrior intent on bringing long-held traditions back to the people of Mongolia. We filmed in Hungary, Slovakia, and Malaysia, and I had to train heavily for the role. Martial arts, weaponry, horseback riding… the whole nine yards. I was very fortunate to be working with stunt coordinator Brett Chan and his amazing Hitz International Stunt Team. They were an integral part of helping me shape Orus. Your most recent film was Crush the Skull. What experience working on that film did you enjoy most? My role in Crush the Skull was just a cameo, but I was working with family, so it was an absolute joy to be on set. I had worked with Viet Nguyen (the director/writer) and Chris Dinh (actor/writer) on previous online projects such as Ninja Say What?!, which completely blew up and went viral, and we all had such a great time together that we were always looking for opportunities to collaborate. Fast forward a few years later and Viet and Chris are kicking ass and making their feature debut, and they asked us to come out and play again. I said, “Yes,” with no hesitation. The day we shot, it was like good ol’ times with the buddies. My scene was with Jerry Ying (also in Ninja Say What?!) and Chris, and we were sitting in the back of a car, just riding along this bumpy dirt road in the middle of nowhere, improvising for like three hours straight. I think that’s the thing I love most about being directed by Viet. He’s this master editor, so he’s cutting in his head as he’s filming, so when he knows he’s got what he needs, he lets you just go insane and do whatever. And, for me, I don’t get a whole lot of opportunities to improv in general, so I love it. What advice would you give to someone who is trying to become an actor? I think a lot of aspiring actors come into this town with a romantic notion of how they’re going to find success and fame. I totally get it; I think that a part of you always has to maintain that romantic notion, but it has to be tempered with pragmatism. Everyone loves an underdog story about the actress who had $15 left in her pocket when she got that huge role that changed her life forever. But those stories are few and far between, and the reality of it is, living in squalor isn’t particularly fun. So I have a pretty practical approach in terms of how I handle being an actor: if you can’t afford to eat or put a roof over your head, you’re not gonna be able to subsist and you’ll have no choice but to quit acting. If you’re able to do those two things, then you can keep fighting. The rest of it honestly is just details. Success may not happen in a month, a year, or 10 years, but if you are able to survive and continue to maintain a discipline in regards to how you approach acting, then you’ll find yourself making progress. What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given? My acting coach Stan Kirsch has said this to me on a numerous occasions: “Do not ride the highs and lows that come with success.” At the end of the day, I try to always remember that in order to help me stay even keeled. It’s a good way to keep this industry from driving you nuts.
Read more Entertainment Interviews on ClicheMag.com Leonard Wu Talks His Latest Role in ‘Marco Polo’: Photographed by Quavondo
Jay Ellis, who was born in Fort Sumter, South Carolina, began his career as an international print model. Since then he has turned into one of BET’s breakthrough actors, starring as Bryce “Blue” Westbrook in the television series The Game. He has also been seen on ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy, the CW’s Heart of Dixie, and CBS’ How I Met Your Mother. When this heart-throbbing actor is not filming, he enjoys playing basketball, cooking, playing guitar, and staying fit. He is also an advocate for community service, higher education, and motivating youth to pursue a career in the arts. Below we chat with Jay Ellis about his role in The Game and the rest of his rapidly growing career.
Cliché: Can you tell us a little bit about this season of The Game and where your character, Blue Westbrook, is with his career and love life? Jay Ellis: He’s trying to figure it all out. Is he in love or does he really see a future with Kiera, and what would his life look like without her? As for his career, I think he’s focused on doing what it takes to perform at his best on the field. He has also learned to be a better teammate in order to be the leader. What can we look forward to in the next season of The Game? [Laughs] More drama as always. But I hope we see these two (Kiera and Blue) finish what they’ve started. And I hope Blue wins a championship, but that’s the athlete in me. Can you easily relate to the character? I definitely think there is some relatability (is that a word?) there. [Laughs] I definitely can appreciate his passion for success, winning, and love. Where did your inspiration for acting come from? I love how powerful good acting can be. It literally can change lives in a single moment, and the effect storytelling has had on me made me want to pursue acting. Did you always know that you wanted a career in acting? Yeah. I think I was afraid to actually pursue it for a long time though. It seemed so hard and elusive, and I was afraid of failure. But it’s something I wanted since I was a kid. When you’re not busy working on set or at your pilates studios, what are some of your hobbies and favorite pastimes? Surfing, hiking… and I love music. I’m always trying to be a student of some kind, especially of music, language, and the world.
Jay Ellis Interview: A Man With Many Talents photos courtesy of Elton Anderson.