This week’s feature sees post hardcore performers Tzarina and NY band RODERIK quiz each other on their influences, how they have found working during a pandemic and the all-important topic of new music.
Tzarina: Congrats on the release of “Save Me.” Can you tell me a bit more about the song? The writing process, production, etc.?
RODERIK: Thanks guys! Yeah, it was definitely an interesting process. The initial riffs and melodies for the song were actually started mid-late last year. We entered the studio around January to start recording this song, but due to the pandemic, we didn’t finish the song until about mid summer. It was by far the longest time I’ve ever taken to record a song, so there was a lot of tweaking and stuff throughout that long wait time.
RODERIK: What does “Tzarina” mean and what was the main influence behind the band name?
Tzarina: Tzarina is basically just a Russian queen. So like in the old Russian empire, the royal family had a Tzar (also commonly spelled Czar), to which his bride was often referred to as Tzarina. I went down a really intense history rabbit hole on pre-WWI Russia and watched a couple documentaries where the term was thrown around. It sounded musical so I basically told the guys one day we were changing the band name.
Tzarina: How are you all getting by as a band with the current state of the world and the pandemic?
RODERIK: It’s definitely weird. RODERIK is basically a band made up of some of my best friends, so we all really get along well, but it’s really a strange situation that we can’t all get together and jam, write together, or even just hang out. Other than that, I REALLY miss playing shows. I’ve been impatiently waiting for shows to start up again, but I’m happy to stay on the cautious side until they can safely do so.
RODERIK: I know we’re all pulling for shows to come back, but when they do what’s the first venue you have in mind for your first performance back?
Tzarina: Somewhere in Bowery. A bunch of the local clubs on the LES. Outside of that, my hometown of New Haven in CT has some pretty legendary venues like Toad’s Place and The Acoustic.
Tzarina: What are some of the musical influences that inspired you to piece together this band?
RODERIK: Oh man, way too many to list. We went into writing songs for this band with an open mind. I feel like a lot of artists try to focus on one primary genre, but for us, there’s no limit on what influences go into our songs. Some of the biggest ones are probably My Chemical Romance, Too Close to Touch, Point North, Lauv, Ruel, Dance Gavin Dance, and even Mac Miller.
RODERIK: I know for us, the pandemic has really changed how we function as a band. We’re so used to getting together and hashing out new songs, or just jamming for the fun of it. How has the pandemic impacted your band in general?
Tzarina: To be honest, outside of affecting how we were going to record the album not much else has changed. We have been having regular rehearsals to make sure that our live show is on point and ready to go as soon as it’s okay to do so. We’ve also just been trying to hammer out the content to round people up and keep them interested in what we’ve got going. I’ve been toying with the idea of our first show being a live stream but I’d want to do it right. Lights, good audio and video, etc.
Tzarina: Can we expect any more new material in the near future?
RODERIK: Yes, absolutely you can. We’re constantly writing and working on new material. You might even see a new release as early as November. 😉
RODERIK: Now that ‘Deadsong’ is out, what do you guys have planned for next?
Tzarina: Hopefully playing a show sooner rather than later, but just like everyone else, we’re playing it safe and waiting. It’s kind of ridiculous, I’ve been seeing bands on DIY touring forums actually asking for other bands to come on and support shows that are happening in states where the COVID numbers are through the roof. For early 2021, we’ll be releasing the second single with a video and then hopefully we’ll have a better idea on timing of the things opening across different states (in a safe way). We’d like to finalize the album dropping around that time.
Irina Proskurina is a wildly successful international model turned author, founder of the UMMA bot, and CEO of Forma Model. Born in Stavropol, Russia, Irina first came to the United States when she was 19; she has since worked her way to the top and become a very successful businesswoman. She now uses her wealth of experience to educate aspiring models on how to make it as a model in the United States and to encourage them to never give up on their dreams. We had the opportunity to conduct an interview with Irina Proskurina and ask her a few burning questions about her journey.
How did you get into modeling?
I am from the small town of Stavropol in Russia. There, when I was a student, they asked if I wanted to work as a model at an exhibition. I agreed and earned money from it which was a lot for a student back then. All I had to do was just stand there and smile. I realized that this is how you can earn money. I made a portfolio with a local photographer and flew to New York on a J1 visa for a student exchange program and got a job in a kindergarten. At the same time, I went to auditions and looked for an agency and jobs.
Did you receive any advice or have a role model when you first began modeling?
I knew that there are supermodels like Claudia Schiefer and Naomi Campbell, but I thought these were unattainable peaks. Unfortunately, I didn’t get advice from anyone, so I lost a lot of time on unnecessary people and projects. I would have appreciated even time when I was just starting out to have gotten advice such as I now give to novice models.
What is your favorite thing about your career?
I do what I love and I get paid for it. I get to meet famous people. Each new shoot or show is a new team of creative people. As a result, you get beautiful photos and videos. What else can you dream of!
What is the most rewarding part of your career?
I am always aware of the most fashionable trends since my profession obliges me to look well-groomed and beautiful. It’s not always easy but it’s worth it.
Did you ever want to be anything else or did you always want to model?
Yes, I had a plan B. I graduated from the Faculty of Journalism in Russia. I also received an MBA in New York. I worked in finance for three years, but this was not for me at all. So, I started my own agency and went back to fashion.
Did you ever think about giving up when you began modeling or were you always committed?
Yes, there were such thoughts. When I wasn’t booking jobs and being denied, these thoughts came more often. But what you need to understand is that they refuse you not because you look like that, but because at the moment they are looking for a different type. So, I always tell novice models to never give up.
What inspired you to create the UMMA bot?
First of all, the bot determines your model type. People assume that a model is a tall and thin person. But this is not so. There are more than 30 different types in modeling. There is plus size and children and hair models and adult models and much more. Therefore, before giving up and abandoning your dream, you need to determine your type and just contact the right agency that deals specifically with your type.
What are some of your favorite hobbies?
Reading. I read a lot, I can read two books at once. As soon as I finish I start a new one. Well, just this year my book, “How to Become a Model in America” was published.
What is next for you?
Now, I have decided to launch my agency’s franchise. I want it to be in many cities. So that every person who wants to become a model has such an opportunity.
How has Covid-19 impacted your current/future plans?
I myself was ill myself in March. And of course it was impossible to arrange any photo sessions. So, I launched an online course. Anyone can take it, there are 30 lessons and more speakers. I am very pleased with this project.
We hope you enjoyed this interview with Irina Proskurina and learned more about the modeling industry.
Today we want to share an interview with Kezii Curtis, an actor in the film Charm City Kings. Charm City Kings is a coming-of-age story about Mouse (Jahi Winston), a 14-year-old from Baltimore, who becomes involved with an infamous Baltimore dirt-bike group, the Midnight Clique. The movie won the U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Prize for Ensemble Acting at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and offers a gritty look into the crossroads young Black men find themselves at in communities that are difficult to navigate. Kezii Curtis stars as Mouses’s friend Sweartagaud, a typical 13-year-old who just wants hang out with his friends and crack some much-needed jokes. We had the chance to ask Kezii some questions about the movie (out now on HBO Max).
What originally drew you to Charm City Kings?
Everything. The story, the script, the incredible talent attached (Caleeb, Will and Jada Pinkett-Smith) were just the icing on the cake!
How did you get interested in acting? Do you remember the pivotal moment that influenced your career decision?
My older brother (Mekai Curtis) was on a TV show when my family first moved to Los Angeles. One day we were visiting him on set and I got a chance to see how it all worked. I said to my parents, “I can do that.” They believed in me and here we are!
Did you have a favorite moment on set?
There were so many, but if I had to choose… it would be in-between takes when we would make up our own raps and jokes. Some of the stuff we came up with was really good! “Barz” is what we would all yell when someone said something really catchy. (I’m still thinking of coming out with a mixtape. LOL) Seriously, there was never a dull moment when we were all together and that just made the time so fun.
How would you describe your character, Sweartagawd? In what ways do you relate and differ to your character?
I would describe Sweartagawd as the calm in the storm and the voice of reason between his polar opposite friends, Mouse and Lamont. Sweartagawd is the glue that unites the trio. He is the lighthearted logical one of the three and the comedic relief. He is a lot like me in that we both like to crack jokes, goof off, and just have a good time with friends.
Who are your role models?
Some of my role models are Denzel Washington, Michael B. Jordan, my older brother Mekai Curtis, and the person who discovered waffles.
What does the movie mean to you?
Charm City Kings is very meaningful to me. Aside from it being my biggest role to date, it allowed me to portray a role that was equally challenging and fun. It also has such a powerful story line with a thought provoking ending that leaves the audience emotional and most importantly thinking. I feel it was a great way to “start” my film career. More importantly, this was a story that needed to be told. Far too often, the behavior and interests of Black boys are criminalized. In other neighborhoods, they have found a way to incorporate the interests of their young people by building arenas for bike racing or skate parks for skaters. I hope Charm City Kings continues to highlight the disadvantages of people from inner cities so that change can happen. I know my castmates and I are getting a lot of slack for our lack of Baltimore accents, but I hope the people of Baltimore are proud of the job we have done to bring needed change to their city.
What are a few things that you hope audiences will take away from Charm City Kings?
I hope audiences take away the story of hope and second chances. I hope the audience can see past the fast bikes and understand the message that is in the movie. Often times young Black men come from circumstances that leave them at a crossroad in life, where either decision they make is crucial to their future. I hope it highlights why bike culture is so popular as it has become an outlet for people who ride to feel free. I hope young men like myself see how important decisions are and I hope older men see how important male role models are for young people.
Outside of acting, what else are you passionate about–hobbies, charities, etc.?
In addition to acting I enjoy producing music, playing the piano and bass guitar, and recently the harmonica. I also have been thinking about doing stand-up comedy because everyone tells me I am funny. (I have to get some material before I give it that my all.) Also, I have been writing, producing, editing, and directing a parody series with my siblings on YouTube. I also really enjoy drawing.
What’s next for you?
There is so much I would like to accomplish in the near future. I would love to film another movie. I would even love to get the chance to star in a more serious role. Last year, I was cast in a pilot that did not get picked up, but I loved the vibe of the multi-cam series. I honestly cannot wait for a new series regular role.
Isabella Barrett does it all! This former Toodlers and Tiaras star is taking over the world from skin care to TV to jewerely! The 14 year old self made millionaire talks to us today about how she made it all happen.
Maya: How did you go from Toddlers and Tiaras to where you are now?
Isabella: It’s hard to believe Toddlers & Tiaras marked 8 years since the show this past June. It was an amazing launching platform for me and I went on to be on Bravo TV Game of Crowns, Get Made Global, Kid entrepreneurs, the movie EIGHT, and now I am just finishing a new show coming out on Amazon Prime called Next Big Thing NYC. I also have had my companies Glitzy Girl, Bound by the Crown & House of Barretti.
M: Can you tell us about Amazon Prime’s new show Next Big Thing NYC
I: Next Big Thing NYC is about 8 Teens who are on their come up in different fields. The cast ensemble consists of a rapper, an R&B singer, Miss Teen CT, An Olympic aspiring figure skater, A famous teen DJ, A millionaire, an actress, and an influencer. The cast is all connected in some way like a family and with family comes drama. Don’t miss the full season premiering September 25th.
Photo: Jared Siskin
Wearing House of Baretti
M: You’re only 14 and have accomplished so much. How do you handle it all? Do you make time to just be a teenager?
Photo by Brett Martelli
I: Everything that I do really revolves around being a teen. From my clothing line to my skincare to my character on the show everything is Teen-based. Aside from business and travel, I love jet-skiing, 4-wheeling, acting, and modeling. I was cheer captain last year for my school and ran track, but now with COVID we don’t really know how sports will go this year.
M: What’s the number 1 piece of advice would you give to other teens trying to make it?
I: My number one piece of advice is if you’re passionate about something and want to try it, DO IT! Being young gives you the opportunity to try and fail many times. The best way to describe that is there is a lot less at stake when you’re young.
M: What’s in store for you in the future?
I: I really think we are living in a time of change and I can see myself definitely continuing to make or invest in brands, concepts, and ideas that move me. I see college in my future and just so many amazing experiences to learn and grow from.
I also really want to adopt my first dog. I am hoping for a Lab or a golden retriever. I am very annoying when it comes to animals just ask all my friends. I can’t help but stop and talk to every dog I see and will definitely be joining a dog park walking club when I get my dog.
Isabella Blake-Thomas is a young actress with an impressive resumé. Most recently featured in the upcoming Disney program, “Secret Society of Second-Born Royals”, Isabella plays the Princess January. “Secret Society of Second-Born Royals” premieres September 25th on Disney+.
Cliché- Isabella, how does it feel to be so heavily involved in the entertainment industry at such a young age?
IsabellaBlake-Thomas: I feel incredibly blessed. It’s an industry that I love and so to be in-front and behind the camera on all levels is very unique. Being able to experience all aspects allows me to be a better and more considerate actress. I really enjoy the writing and the pre-production of projects. It’s incredible to have an idea and then see it fully blossom into a finished project. Running a production company with my Mom and her team means that I can also learn from the ground up and so I can help and mentor others who want to be involved from a young age.
Cliché- Does it ever feel hard to balance music, acting, producing, writing, and activism while also maintaining a life outside of these things?
Isabella Blake-Thomas: They all flow very well into each other. I enjoy writing, this can be scripts or for my music. I find a subject matter that can make a difference and so I create a role that I can play which is related to a cause I’m passionate about. The music is necessary for the film and is a good outlet to be able to make even more noise around an important issue. The project becomes my life. The rest of the time I get to read, write create and just be. Giving me the space to then get ready for the next project. It’s true what they say that if you do what you love then you don’t work a day in your life.
Cliché- As a young woman with a voice in the media, which you have used to speak about about mental health recently, what would you say drives you to use that voice for good? Do you have any inspirations that make you passionate about particular causes?
Isabella Blake-Thomas: I am the ambassador for suicide awareness with an incredible non-profit called Awareness ties. Mental health is such an important thing to talk about because so many people struggle with it. I have had 5 people close to me in the past few years who have taken their own life so I am very passionate about helping people who are struggling, to see that it’s okay to not be okay.
Cliché- Is working with Disney something you are excited about? If so, was there anything in particular that was exciting to you about the process?
Isabella Blake-Thomas: Disney is an iconic family and one that everyone, whether you’re in the film industry or not, wants to be a part of. We all grew up with Disney movies and so to suddenly be in one is quite literally, a dream come true. One of the things that excited me were the costumes. Disney princesses are known for their gorgeous wardrobes so when I got to try on incredible clothes and handmade gowns, I felt like I was living in a fairytale.
Cliché- What was it like working on a Disney set? What was your favorite part of filming?
Isabella Blake-Thomas: It was magical. We filmed in Toronto for two months so the cast and crew all became like family. We would hang out after work and on the weekends and we made so many great memories. My favorite part of filming would be the stunts. We all went through training to make sure we were prepared for any stunts we had to do. We did have stunt doubles for some of the major things but a lot of the free running stunts and the ones where we had close ups, was all us.
Cliché- You play Princess January in Secret Society of Second-Born Royals, did you find it easy to step into this role? Do you have anything in common with your character? What qualities, if any, do you see in yourself and in her?
Isabella Blake-Thomas: It was easy to become January because I essentially got to create her from scratch. I was able to create a backstory, mannerisms, reactions and little things that made her really come to life. One of my favorite things to do was create a family tree for her so in my mind, I had full awareness of who she was and where she came from . January and I share lots of things. First of all, we look identical… *wink wink* second of all, we are both extroverted. January and I were both home-schooled and we love being happy and smiling, in fact we are known for it.
Cliché- Your previous work includes a diverse list of television productions, including Shameless and Doctor Who. Is there anything different about working in a production more geared towards a younger audience?
Isabella Blake-Thomas: Definitely. The way people work is different. If the subject matter is for an older audience then as a young actress, the producers really protect you. Often there’s someone on set to make sure the actors are comfortable with the scenes they are doing, regardless of their age. However, if you’re part of a project that anyone could watch then you get to see all aspects. Also your acting styles are different. For a younger audience it’s slightly bigger and there’s more movement because it’s what attracts a child to watch. When you’re acting for adults, your movement is smaller and less noticeable because adults like not being distracted from the story. I was lucky with Secret Society because it was a combination of both. I was able to have the comical moments and beats but I was equally able to stay real and honest to my character and her journey.
Cliché- As a rising star, what do you hope to do in the future? Do you have any dream roles that you aspire to play, or upcoming projects that you are excited about?
Isabella Blake-Thomas: I’m always excited about the future. I have some wonderful projects that I’m working on including a children’s TV show called “Captain Jemma and The Space Pirates.” I love working and so I’m always thinking about my next roles. A superhero would be brilliant, I also enjoy playing iconic characters from History. I would love to be directed by Steven Spielberg or Quentin Tarantino.
Cliché- You are part of a production company, Mother & Daughter Entertainment, that focuses on making “content that matters”. What are some of the responsibilities that come with being a founding member of a production company with so many outlets, such as a podcast, music, and publishing?
Isabella Blake-Thomas:I oversee a lot of our projects “from script to screen” as they say. I’m also responsible for creating new projects and I’m heavily involved in the ideas. We want them to be something that can make a difference in the world. It’s important that all our voices are heard and we take that as a huge responsibility. I’m very proud to be part of such a forward thinking female led company.
After two successful seasons, Selling Sunset returns August 7th. Star Romain Bonnet talks to us today about everything from season three, to married life, to how he feels about all the drama. Read on for the inside scoop!
Maya:Selling Sunset has been a huge hit. How has the success of the show impacted your life?
Romain: So far so good. We get recognized quite a bit each time we are going out of LA and so far, got a lot of love from people watching it.
M: You’ve transitioned from pastry chef to model, and now you’re moving into the real estate game. What led you to make this change. How has the transition been?
Photographed by Shawn Chavez
R: I came here as a pastry chef and also modeled, but it didn’t go the way I thought it would. Obviously, I was still modeling but it wasn’t enough, and I needed something more.
Being around the Ogroup made me start something I never even thought about it and I started to really like it. I’m thankful that these people, that I can call family now, gave me the chance to prove myself. Working right now as a project manager remodeling houses and condos, as a model and obviously in the show…. I’m working like crazy between all of this, but I just love it and love the fact that I get to challenge myself every single day.
M:At the end of season 2, viewers got to see you and main realtor Mary Fitzgerald, get married. Now that you are entering the real estate industry, what does this mean for your relationship and the show in season 3?
R: Well we have plans with Mary to work together. Could be a better duo between us two. We are planning on flipping houses really soon. Mary will take care of getting good deals and selling and me, remodeling it. Can’t wait for our first project and to see how far we can get together.
M:How has married life been? What plans do you and Mary have for the future?
Photographed by Shawn Chavez
R: We have been just slammed with work, both of us. Having completely different schedules, it has been hard to spend time together and with COVID-19 stopping us from being able to travel or even go to our honeymoon. Definitely looking forward to being able to travel again and spend some quality time together after all this crazy time with work.
M:We all saw the drama play out between you and Davina during season 2. What’s your relationship like now?
R: I’m someone really straight forward and do not let anyone toxic or negative presence in my life. I didn’t have anything against her before and once I saw the real her, I definitely did not want her anywhere in my life. Once I flip the switch it is over and won’t come back on it. Someone that can do that and is supposed to be your friend are nothing, but bad people, and I rather make it stop right away.
M:The question on all our minds: How are you so cool about Jason and Mary’s friendship?!
R: I know a lot of people have been wondering, but fortunately, I got super close with Jason right away to a point that I would never worry or be jealous of them. I, myself, am best friends with one of my exes. As long as neither of them ever makes me feel disrespected or feel like I have to worry, I’m totally fine with it. To be honest, if I didn’t get as close to Jason as I am today it could have been a bigger problem, but definitely not now.
We sat down with up and coming actress Molly Evensen in ‘An American Pickle’ with Seth Rogen premiering this August. The actress got her start at an early age through theatrical groups and soon moved to Los Angeles to pursue film and television. Beyond acting, Evensen commits herself to UNICEF’s Unites Team and hopes to one day be a Goodwill Ambassador. The actress is clearly on the rise as she takes up the big screen. For now, her new film, ‘An American Pickle’, will be the first HBO original film under Warner Max film label, premiering August 6th, 2020. Here is what she had to say on the film.
Cliche Mag: Talk to me about your work and character on the upcoming HBO Max original, ‘An American Pickle’.
Molly Evensen: I play Clara, Herschel’s very enthusiastic intern who essentially runs the pickle company in exchange for college credit. Her job gets pretty complicated when she realizes Herschel’s morals and social views are a bit dated and not acceptable in modern times. She struggles with how to explain to her boss who lived over a hundred years ago that his opinions aren’t exactly kosher now. This leads to some unfortunate predicaments and moral dilemmas for Clara. I found out I booked the part on a Thursday afternoon and flew out to Pittsburgh the next morning at 4am. It all happened very fast so I pretty much had the weekend to prepare. But Seth and my wonderful director, Brandon Trost, were aware that ‘An American Pickle’ is my first big feature film so they gave me the space to learn and ask any and every question along the way. I don’t think I can ever thank them enough for showing me the ropes.
What was your favorite moments on set with co-star, Seth Rogen?
Never in a million years did I think I’d be making my debut opposite Seth Rogen, but here we are. My first day happened to be the first day of the whole shoot. I heard Seth’s laugh from a distance, you can’t mistake that laugh, and next thing I knew, he came right up to me in his full Herschel garb, shook my hand and said, “Hi Molly, I’m Seth and I’m so excited to work with you.” Somehow I played it cool on the outside, but on the inside I was anything but cool. Honestly, it’s hard to pick a favorite moment because the whole experience is so special to me but…if I had to choose, we shot a scene late in the evening on Halloween outside in a park in the rain. In the scene, Clara is dictating back a list(you’ll understand more when you see it) Herschel had her type for him. Simon, our writer, typed up a new list, which I wasn’t allowed to read until they called action. So my reactions were very genuine to these rather extreme things I was reading out loud for the first time. We laughed a lot that night and it’s definitely something I won’t forget.
Who else do you hope to work alongside as your career progresses?
Oh gosh, this list could go on and on. I really admire people who wear more than one hat creatively. It’s actually a goal of mine to be a multifaceted creator like Seth who produces, writes, and acts. I’d love to work with more individuals who do that, like Olivia Wilde, Margot Robbie, Reese Witherspoon, and Dakota Johnson.
What are your favorite roles to play? What role would put you outside your comfort zone?
Comedy is my forte. It’s something I’ve always enjoyed, but especially awkward, sometimes uncomfortable, and dark comedy. I don’t know why, but I really enjoy sitting in the discomfort of it all. I relish in the awkwardly long pause. So because of that, I gravitate towards characters who are more of the underdog or the train wreck who’s trying really hard.
As for a role that would put me out of my comfort zone…something emotionally heavy, and honest. I think to be really raw and vulnerable requires a lot of bravery. I would love the opportunity to sink my teeth into something like that.
What inspired you to pursue film and television over theatre?
I’ve always wanted to pursue film and television, but I grew up in Colorado and there really isn’t much of a film industry there. So instead, I did theatre and once I finished school, I packed up my car and moved to Los Angeles. I still have a deep love for theatre and would love to be back on stage somewhere down the road.
Do you hope to incorporate your passion for music into your work with film and television?
Absolutely! I’ve actually been working on a musical dark comedy script about camping and backwoods cults that I’m hoping to produce in the not too distant future. I would also really love to play a pianist in a project someday and put those skills to use.
You are involved with UNICEF. Tell us more about this and why are you so passionate about this organization?
I’m a member of the Los Angeles UNICEF Unite team. Essentially our goal is to advocate politically for change and to raise funds to aid in UNICEF’s work overseas. But really that’s just the beginning of what I hope my involvement with UNICEF ultimately will be. Eventually I’d love to be a Goodwill Ambassador.
As a bit of backstory, my Mom is a nurse and my high school was just down the road from the hospital she worked at. So I’d go there after school to wait for her in the newborn intensive care unit while she finished up her shifts. I’ve always admired how she helps people. I actually thought for a brief period of time that I wanted to be a nurse too…except I hate needles. But I have a passion for helping and especially helping the most vulnerable: children. I believe children transcend politics and that they should feel safe, have access to an education, clean water, and vaccines among other things. Children are the future and so many of them are suffering for reasons that we have the power to change. UNICEF is a beautiful nonpartisan organization that works tirelessly to provide for children and families in need.
Tell us a bit about yourself. How do you spending your time away from acting?
I grew up in a very outdoorsy home and have always had a deep appreciation for nature. So outside of acting, I love camping and hiking. I actually just spent some time in Olympic National
Park and in the Red Woods for the first time (socially distanced of course) and they were both just incredible. But other than that, I also really love music, which was briefly mentioned above. I play piano any chance I can get and also recently picked up the guitar just for fun. I quarantined with my family in Colorado for a few months and my Dad and I built a ukulele together, which was a really fun project. Now I’m back in LA teaching myself to play and probably driving my neighbors crazy.
What is next for Molly Evensen?
That is a really great question with the world the way it is right now. While there’s not anything set it stone, I’d really love to be cast in some sort of dark comedy, book adaptation, or limited series. Who knows! The sky is the limit and this only the beginning. But in the meantime, I sincerely hope you enjoy ‘An American Pickle’ and that it can bring some joy in a time where joy is greatly needed.
If you don’t know Lesa Wilson, you will soon. With three projects coming out in July alone, this southern belle is one to watch. Wilson, known for her role as ‘Bobbie Burman’ in CW’s “Stargirl,” is moving into film with her roles in “Coins For Love” and “Stars Fell On Alabama.” Today, Lesa talks to us about everything from her new movies to her southern roots, to her passion for the environment. This well-rounded actress does it all!
Maya: July is a huge month for you, with three projects coming out, what has it been like transitioning from role to role?
Lesa: It’s been a lot of fun! I find a piece of each character that I can relate to and I lean into that. Humans are complex so the variety of characters has just allowed me to explore a lot of emotions and experiences on screen.
M: That being said, what is your favorite kind of character to play?
L: I love playing characters that are up to no good; the troublemakers. It taps into the part of me that wants to be more of a rule-breaker because I’m so much of a rule follower in real life.
M: Through these various projects, you’ve got to work with so many different people. Who do you feel like has influenced you the most?
L: Meg DeLacy – primarily because we worked so closely together during Stargirl and became friends. Her approach to the work is casual and relaxed. I think that’s something that most actors miss. You do your best work in a relaxed state. She’s really mastered that. It’s fun to watch and it makes for a fantastic scene partner.
M: “Stars Fell on Alabama.” is premiering in July 2020, what type of person is going to love this movie?
L: Anyone who loves a feel-good, family movie. It’s a project that I’m proud to be a part of. I know my parents will really enjoy watching it. I’ve always wanted to do work that my family can watch and enjoy, so this one is really special for me.
M: Director V.W. Scheich described the film as ‘a love letter to the south.” I know you’re from the south, were Miss GA USA, and you’re an activist for Environment Georgia. Did your love for the south influence your role as Rachel?
L: Of course! I’m a born and raised Georgia girl so Southern hospitality and warmth is in my bones. Rachel is the kindest, most southern sweetheart that you’ll ever meet. She’s the girl that you know you’ll come across if you live in a small southern town, and you will probably want to be best friends with her.
M: You also have the movie “Coins For Love” coming out in July 2020. Could you tell us a little bit about that film and your character?
Angela Murray Photography
L: Coins for Love is the sequel to a film called Coins for Christmas, which is also on TV One. The story follows Madison (Essence Atkins), a single mother, and her boss Alec (Stephen Bishop). There’s the potential of love between them, but my character, Shellee, is running interference. She’s Alec’s ex fiancé and has her sights set on winning him back. Madison’s ex-husband is also trying to get her back so there’s plenty of drama, some tears, family, love and a heartwarming resolution.
M: What kind of work are you looking forward to doing in the future? What is your dream role to play?
L: I am excited to play characters that are complex and have layers that unfold throughout a season or throughout the course of a film. For me that would look something like Erin Brockovich. That would be a dream role for me to play especially considering my passion for environmentalism.
M: What is next for Lesa?
L: Once we get beyond Covid-19, I’m jumping right back into acting, but right now I just have to wait until it’s safe to work again. In the meantime, I’m working on creating a web series of short segments on environmentalism. It’s called Going Green. I’ll be sharing small changes we all can make to help preserve the health of our planet. I hope it encourages people to think about the greater impact their individual choices have on the environment.
Sitting with the co-founder of Chatbooks, Vanessa, in a noisy, yet quaint coffee-shop in Union Square, my eyes were opened to a new world. Guilty, as many in my generation are, of snapping hundreds of photos in any given week, letting them pile up on my phone’s SD card and never sharing them outside of my phone – many of us have promised ourselves when we have time we will organize them. With the emergence of the Cloud, and other electronic back-up devices, many have learned the hard way that in this digital age, you must back-up! Especially if you use a digital camera that requires a compact flash or SD memory card. The best Micro SD cards have every type of memory card you can think of at affordable prices.
But what happens to all of those filtered selfies, vacation photos, and snaps of friends on a spontaneous night out? They often get lost in the cyber world. Never to be printed, and soon to be forgotten. A busy mom of seven, Vanessa contributes the idea to start her company to her family. “Scrapbooking was my hobby as a young mom, and my first three children have very well documented childhoods. But my seventh child didn’t even have one printed photo!” In this digital fast-paced world it becomes increasingly difficult to scrapbook, a tradition in her family for generations, so she needed a super simple way to translate all those iPhone photos to a tangible item to be shared with family and friends.
Founded in June 2014, about 1 million books were sold in their first year. Understanding the millennial tendency to spend more time editing their Instagram posts than curating a family Scrapbook, Chatbooks makes it easy by connecting the App right to your social media accounts, and My Favorites on your phone. For only $8 for a 60 page 6×6 book filled with your favorite memories, the decision-making is almost erased. Everyone can be a contributor to the creation of the memories, allowing multiple people to add photos to a new edition.
Looking to document a whole summer in one book, or add some extra flair, Chatbooks has an option to create a Custom Book, with added photos and a hardcover. For mindless magic, setting up the Chatbooks Ongoing Series service, you are able to create amazing books automatically, receiving notifications as you get close to 60 so you can edit or add captions. If you want the book as is, you can just sit back and it will ship as soon as it is ready, with no shipping fee! It is almost too good to be true.
While Vanessa attributes the business idea to being a mother, and not wanting to let the memories slip away, Chatbooks is the perfect solution to millennials and entrepreneurs everywhere. The ideal client is anyone with a smart phone, which according to PC Magazine, will be 70 percent of the global population by 2020. For small business owners, stylists, and artisans – it serves as the ideal solution to displaying your work to potential clients and employers.
Life in Pieces is a comedy series on CBS in its fourth season. The show chronicles the lives of the Short Family as the large three-generation family delivers heartwarming, hilarious and awkward moments to viewers! The all-star ensemble cast includes Colin Hanks, Zoe Lister-Jones, Angelique Cabral, Betsy Brandt and is led by the legendary Dianne Wiest and James Brolin. Ana Sophia Heger plays Lark Short, the youngest star in the series and the adorable child of Greg (Colin Hanks) and Jennifer Short (Zoe Lister-Jones).
The young scene-stealer began auditioning for roles at the age of three and landed her first ever role as Lark! If her acting skills aren’t impressive enough, Ana is also fluent in German and is currently learning Spanish and French in between Preschool and dance classes!
Image courtesy of Life in Pieces / CBS
We had the chance to discuss her role, how she got into acting and what she likes to do when the cameras are off:
Cliché: This is your first acting job! How have you enjoyed being a part of Life in Pieces?
Ana: I love acting and enjoy being on this set so much because they are all so nice to me! I love seeing everyone! It’s my favorite activity!
Your parents on the show are played by Zoe Lister-Jones and Colin Hanks. What is it like working alongside them?
I love it because they always make jokes or do silly things. I also learn a lot, because they do something different [with] each take.
Image courtesy of Life in Pieces / CBS
How did you get your start into acting? When did you discover it was something you enjoy doing?
My Mom tells me that a lady discovered me at Starbucks. Suddenly I start to go to castings and Life in Pieces was one of them. I have always enjoyed acting, even before [getting discovered at] Starbucks, I make up stories to act out at home.
Your father is an actor. What acting advice has he given you?
Learn all my lines, really listen to my scene partner, so that I can respond naturally and not be over the top. He always makes sure I understand what the scene is about and helps with all my questions.
What’s your favorite part about acting?
I get to be somebody else. I love being creative and using my imagination!
Image courtesy of Life in Pieces / CBS
Tell us about your character, Lark! What do you like about playing her?
I like how Lark can be very silly and how different she actually is from me. When Lark finds out that her Mommy has another baby in her tummy, she is NOT at all excited, but when I found out my Mommy is pregnant in real life, I was very happy. We are quite different.
Other than acting, what are some hobbies you have?
My favorite thing other than acting is painting. I also enjoy my dance, piano and tennis lessons. I love trying many different activities!
What is it like auditioning for roles? Do you ever get nervous?
I get so excited, that I really do not feel nervous. I also love meeting new people and each casting is fun for me.
What has been your most interesting scene to film?
I loved all my “Potty” episode scenes. I had to pretend that Lark is not potty-trained yet, but I was already trained in real life! It was so much fun!
Image courtesy of Life in Pieces / CBS
And lastly, tell our readers why they should watch Life in Pieces!
I love that all the actors are so funny and that it is about a big family who really loves each other.
Life in Pieces airs Thursdays on CBS 9:30/8:30c.
You can follow Ana and see some behind the scenes glimpses of her work on Life in Pieces on Instagram @AnaSophiaHeger
Interview with Ana Sophia Heger: The young star of Life in Pieces: Featured Image: Courtesy of Rochelle Brodin / Shandrew PR
Grant Eadie, better known as Manatee Commune, grew up as a classically trained musician in Spokane, Washington. After becoming completely enamored by classical music, he moved into the electronic scene. His songs have rich textures and layers that are in part inspired through his upbringing in classical music. He mixes organic sounds from nature with electronic elements that create smooth tracks that have been described as “groovy.” His songs have such a relaxing feel to them while also being exciting and keeping crowds engaged during his live shows. He’s becoming a staple in the electronic and dance community touring with big names such as Odezsa, performing at festivals all over the US, and being named “best electronic artist” by Seattle Weekly. His latest single “Growing Pains” is the final song to be released from his album PDA which releases Friday, May 3rd.
Listen to Manatee Commune’s latest track here:
Cliché: Can you tell me a little bit about your background as a classically trained musician? What pulled you into this creative world?
Grant Eadie: When I was a kid I was mildly obsessed with Celtic music. As early as I can remember, I wanted to play the violin and begged my parents to let me take classes. When elementary school rolled around, I finally got the chance. After that, I couldn’t get enough and wanted to play everything I could and to be the best at it.
In high school, music was literally the only thing I cared about. So I just soaked up everything I could in my little town of Spokane, WA. Then I discovered electronic music and my inspiration skyrocketed. I did my best to figure out how to make that kind of music myself and the rest, as they say, “is history.”
As a fellow violist, I really appreciate your use of viola throughout your songs, it’s not something you really hear all too often! Can you tell me a little about your instrumentation and choices behind it? It’s such a great mix of organic and electronic that creates such rich textures.
I think my classically trained background has given me the desire to make rich, four part harmonies and create sweeping, cinematic sounds. I find that strings usually accomplish that so well, especially when performed live. And I’ve noticed the richness of the sound that comes from human touch and I try to make it a point to at least perform all the parts of my productions, even if they are “synthetic” in nature.
Reading about your writing process for your song, “I Can Dream” feat. Effee, and how it all started with a beautiful spring day in Portland, it’s evident that you are inspired by the world around you. What would you say inspires you the most? Do you have a specific writing process or does it happen differently with each song?
Each song has its own unique inspiration. More often than not it’s captured in a small field recording that establishes the mood and then I tweak to blossom into a full blown track. The subtle details in the space inspires me the most. When I can close my eyes and listen to my surroundings and an immense feeling of calm washes over me, I know I got the right “sound” — like when you notice rain blowing through the leaves or the creak of a porch swing swaying in a gentle breeze.
You’ve collaborated with artists such as Marina Price, Effee, Flint Eastwood, and others. Who else would you love the opportunity to work with?
My ultimate wish list would definitely include Chelsea Cutler, Emily King, BAYNK, Chrome Sparks, Raveena and Tom Misch.
Your live sets are so interesting to watch because you’re the one making it all happen. What are some of the challenges you face when your performing live? What’s your favorite part about performing live?
A major challenge is maintaining the energy level. Performing live, triggering visuals and engaging the crowd requires tons of focus. Keeping all these moving parts well oiled while maintaining my stage presence is both invigorating and a little lonely sometimes.
My favorite part of performing live is hitting the drop with a full room of people and watching the anticipation on the crowd’s faces morph into blissful expressions as their expectations are surpassed and they find themselves lost in the music and the experience.
You’ve got a tour coming up this spring with Geographer. What are you looking forward to with this tour? Any stops along the way you are particularly looking forward to?
I’m so excited and honored to be supporting Geographer this Spring. Not only to be back on the road, but to debut bits and pieces of my new live set to the fans and cities I’ll be performing at for the first time. Off the top of my head, San Francisco and LA are the 2 stops I’m really pumped about. And I’m going to pull out all the stops to make those shows really special and memorable.
Apart from this upcoming tour. What else can listeners expect from you coming up in the near future?
I’ve got a full length album,PDA, out May 3 on Bastard Jazz with tons of featured vocalists. Dropping some limited edition, autographed white vinyl too for the project. The music video for my 4th single off the album, Growing Pains, premieres in May. Also did a special mixtape for Apple that drops a week or so after the album. Festival dates at Lightning in a Bottle, Shambhala and a few others this summer then my headlining tour this fall/winter and a special NYE 2019 performance. And most importantly, I’ll be documenting the process of growing out my mustache on the ‘gram!
Manatee Commune will be on tour this spring. Check out his website to see if he’s coming to a city near you!
Actress Helen Highfield stars on I Ship It, a series that first aired on CW Seed. The show gained such a following that the network decided to air the second season on television. As for Highfield herself, she’s determined to create a different narrative about female characters on television and movies. We chatted with this funny, free-spirited talent to discuss her hit television series, whether or not she has any regrets, and if there are any dream roles she wishes to take on.
Cliché: First off, thank you so much for taking time out of your schedule to answer my questions. It is greatly appreciated! Now, from what I gathered, not much is written or known about you. So, if you don’t mind, I would like to use this interview as a way for people to get to know who Helen Highfield is! Let’s start with your upbringing. You’re from Ithaca, New York. Would you say you had a relatively normal upbringing? Tell me about that.
Helen Highfield: Of course, thank YOU! Well, I was born and raised in Ithaca, NY – a small liberal university town with a bumper sticker that reads “Ithaca: 10 Square Miles Surrounded by Reality”. And, of course, there’s the more famous one: “Ithaca is Gorges” (cause we have quite a few). I’d say I was pretty lucky to grow up there because there’s a ton of support for the arts and a big mix of people who live there because of Cornell. We Ithacans have a lot of hometown pride.
How did you get bitten by the acting and performing bug? Was it a particular show or film you saw that resonated with you the most?
I always loved going to see theater and watching movie musicals like Singing in the Rain but I was mostly focused on singing for a long time. I sang in several choirs and I got into acting by doing all the school musicals starting in 8th grade. In high school, some friends told me about The Actor’s Workshop of Ithaca, a local acting class they were in, and it sounded absolutely terrifying but I gave it a try and fell head over heels in love with it. I was always a bit of a perfectionist and I remember leaving that first class thinking “this is the first thing I’m willing to be bad at and I think that’s important.”
Tell me about your time in school. Did you ever feel out of place? Were you ever bullied? If so, how did you overcome that and what advice would you give to kids who are going through the same thing?
I was very lucky in this regard cause I had a couple of besties who had the same interest in theater and music as I did and that’s all that really mattered to me. I was never really worried about joining a certain group and preferred to get to know people individually. The best advice I can give is: focus on finding your people. Your people will be kind and laugh with you at the same dumb stuff and share your interests. The mean people aren’t your people.
Since beginning your acting career, you’ve guest starred on a number of highly successful television series such as Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Criminal Minds, and Rizzoli and Isles. Which means you got to work alongside some pretty powerful actors such as Mariska Hargitay, Joe Mantegna, and Angie Harmon. What lessons did you learn from these people in particular that you have taken with you in your life and career?
Unfortunately, I didn’t have scenes with those folks – though I fully geeked out at Chris Meloni (a fellow alum of The Neighborhood Playhouse) on my way to set! I think the main thing I took away (and continue to marvel at) from those first few jobs was the overwhelming sense of community that comes through on set. It’s so exciting to experience how everyone there is happily focusing their job so it can all come together. I think it’s an important lesson to understand that it’s such a collaborative effort and your acting is only one part of a much bigger machine.
In 2016, you began portraying Ella on I Ship It. What drew you to the project and the character of Ella? How do you see yourself reflected in Ella?
I’d actually randomly stumbled upon Yulin Kuang’s (creator of I Ship It) YouTube channel a year or so before I auditioned and I loved her work. When I auditioned, I had this weird feeling that I somehow recognized the character but I didn’t make the connection till the callback that this was the series iteration of her short film by the same name. I loved how messy and determined Ella is. And of course, was really excited about singing in a show – it was my first time recording! There’s definitely a lot of me in Ella. We’re both ambitious and can get kinda intense when we’re going after something we want. We both feel a lot of feelings. Though I think Ella is a lot more impulsive than I am. I think that’s part of what I loved about playing her.
The first season aired on CW Seed and was so popular with audiences that the show has graduated to airing on television? The premiere date is April 10th. Why do you think the show resonated with viewers the way it did?
Yes! Starting April 10th, it’ll be available for 2 weeks only on CW Seed before it moves to broadcast later this year. There’s a lot of fandoms out there but not a lot of content about the fandoms themselves so I think Yulin tapped into something special with this show. Ella is a fangirl who writes fan fiction and in this season, our show takes place in an alternate universe (a popular fan fiction trope) so we get to play with the musical genre in a whole new way. No more nerd rock, just full on musical moments. Our composer, Brian Grider, did an excellent job and I think the music in this season is even better than the last!
According to your website, you say that a career goal of yours is to “play smart, sophisticated, sexy women who have fun with language”. Elaborate on that? What does that mean for you personally?
Haha, yes! I’ve just seen way too many parts for women that aren’t very dynamic or interesting – they just ask the male characters “what do you mean?” to propel the plot. All the women I know are WAY more interesting than what’s largely been portrayed in TV and movies so it’s really exciting to see the shift that’s happening in Hollywood. My current obsession is Pen15. Those characters are so beautifully written and acted and I see the complexity of my female friends in them. I just want to work with great writers who write multifaceted female characters! That’s another reason I loved playing Ella – she’s so honestly ambitious, a quality we still sometimes vilify in women when we really shouldn’t. And as for the “sexy” part… I like the idea of playing women who are at home in their bodies in a way that doesn’t need to be their one defining quality as decided by the (often) male writer. Sexy is just a confidence in oneself.
What is the most surprising self-realization you’ve had?
Oh man, they’re all surprising! But let’s go with the realization that my perception of things is the only thing I can truly control and so I get to have a lot of choice in how I see my life. It’s pretty empowering to realize that I get to choose how I react to life’s ups and downs.
What’s one thing you did in the past that you really wish you could go back and undo, or do differently?
Oh man. I think I’d go back to 18 year old me who’d just moved to NYC to go to acting school and was low key terrified and I’d give her a hug and tell her to breathe. Not sure she/me would listen, but it’d be worth a try!
Finish this sentence: I am most fulfilled when ______.
I’m able to find balance and create boundaries. I’m guilty of putting other people’s needs ahead of mine a lot but I keep learning (and re-learning and re-learning…) the lesson that when I make time for self-care, I’m a much better version of myself to everyone around me. I now literally set alarms to remind myself to eat because I can get the suuuuper hangry!
Are there any particular dream roles that you see yourself portraying? Why do you see yourself in those roles?
When I saw August: Osage County on Broadway, I got really excited to act for a long time and get to play some badass ladies like Barbara. I’d love to play her in that play someday.
Finally, what kind of legacy do you wish to leave behind? What kind of message would you like to get across when all is said and done?
Oooooh this is deep. Ya know, I don’t feel like I have any big ambitions for changing the world purely with my acting. Of course, I’d love to be remembered for a large body of inspiring acting work, but mostly I think we influence the world in much smaller interactions. I think we can all spread kindness daily and inspire those around us by offering ourselves compassion. I was introduced to the Marianne Williamson poem “Our Deepest Fear” when I was in acting school and I just love this line: “As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.”
Thank you so much for speaking with us!
Thank you for having me!
Be sure to catch I Ship It airing right now on CW Seed. It will remain there for two weeks before moving to the CW Network later this spring! To stay up to date on all things Helen Highfield, follow her on Instagram and Twitter.