Chat w/ actor Jeff Lima - "it’s an actor’s responsibility to be involved"

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Jeff Lima, is a New York City-based actor who is best known for his recurring role as Leon Cruz on NBC’s Chicago Fire.

Jeff got his start in theatre at the age of 11 after gaining acceptance to the “by audition only” junior high school, Tito Puente Performing Arts Academy. Jeff was immediately immersed in the teachings of Meisner and Stanislaski with ambitions to secure a seat in a premiere performing arts high school. His tenacity and diligent preparation earned him a seat at the Talent Unlimited High School where he’d study theatre all throughout his high school years. Fortunately for Jeff, preparation met opportunity. The year right before high school, Jeff landed a role in a short film titled ‘Gowanus Brooklyn’, which would later become a feature length Oscar-nominate film. He embarked upon his high school years having already starred opposite Ryan Gosling in ‘Half Nelson’.

During his tenure at Talent Unlimited, Jeff was not allowed to audition for any professional productions, as is the case with most Manhattan performing arts high schools. His insatiable approach didn’t allow him to align himself with the aforementioned school policy. Jeff would often sneak to auditions and one in particular would serve as the catalyst he’d been hoping for!

During an audition in which Jeff spent about an hour with the director and producer during a first session, a spectator observed from afar. At the conclusion of the audition, that spectator followed Jeff to the elevators and asked that he submit his headshot and resume to her agent for consideration. The spectator would go on to win the 2015 Emmy for best Actress in a Comedy Series… it was Gina Rodriguez!

Having remained a client with the agent to whom Rodriguez introduced Jeff, he secured a commendable amount of work in film and television. Jeff has guest starred on CBS’s Blue Bloods, Netflix’s The Get Down, and NBC’s Taxi Brooklyn. He eventually landed a series arc on the HBO mini-series Show Me A Hero and currently recurs on NBC’s Chicago Fire. 

Jeff hopes he can be as influential as many of the educators he’s come across. He is a founding member of the Achievement Lab After School and Summer Camp, which serves 150 at-risk children, annually. Currently, he is shopping to finance short films penned by serious filmmakers. His goal is to identify films that are prevalent to today’s society, and to see the films to fruition.

We talked to Jeff, and here are the excerpts:

  • What do you love about being an actor?

I love that I can be a catalyst for someone feeling an overwhelming emotion. Those instances wherein we’re consumed with feeling are scarce. We don’t feel enough. We go through life being numb.

But in those moments in which we’ve fallen in love like Glen Close in Fatal Attraction or when we’re stuttering from shock after cheating death like Tom Hanks in Captain Phillips, we’ve reached a level of living that is incomparable.

I love that the art of acting affords this to me. If I can stir an audience’s inner being, I’ve done my job and I’m happy because I know how rich it is to be moved by a performance. As an actor, I get that platform.

And, as an actor, I love having a makeup artist- and if you’ve judged me for that- wow!

  • Why do you think it’s important for actors to be involved in social issues? What are the causes/ things you are passionate about?

Without trying, actors influence. This holds for both actors who take action and those who are ok with inaction. None of those two approaches are more powerful than the other. For that reason, it’s the actor’s responsibility to be involved.

A certain somebody recently made the decision to break their career long silence on politics and it resulted in a surge in voter registration.

Our convictions on all issues are probably as unique as a fingerprint. Whatever our convictions are, we should be part of that conversation.

Something that plagued me as child was bullying. Here I am years later, an actor, and I’m active in the discourse on bullying. It’s my social responsibility. I can affect change.

  • Whats your practical advice, based on your own experiences, for other aspiring minority actors.

I always ask myself if I belong in certain rooms. I’m sure folks who aren’t part of a minority group don’t feel this way, at the same frequency.

Now here’s the issue I take; if I’m part of a minority group and I’ve merited access, then I must be pretty darn good. But I struggle with the practicality of this theory. Too often I’m inundated with thoughts that lead me to believe that I am not deserving. Instances in which I walk into a room not questioning myself are rare but feel great.

Being part of a minority group means overcoming a lot of hurdles but it really makes all the difference in the world to remember that you belong exactly where you are. Your work has earned you the right to be in that place. Embrace it.

  • What are your favorite films and filmmakers?

I like a lot of old movies. Its hard to find someone who will sit with me to watch Sophie’s Choice, Scent of a Woman, and other oldies.

Oh my god- I’m obsessed with Stanley Kubrick. I could watch The Shining and Eyes Wide Shut everyday! His films are hypnotizing. Maybe I just like an eerie movie score!

  • What’s your most favorite and least favorite things about NYC?

My favorite thing about NYC is that you can literally walk to any audition, in character, drilling lines, and no one will look at you twice. We all assume the next person is crazy.
My least favorite thing is the parking. The parking restriction signs are like reading an algorithm. There’s a fire hydrant every 20 feet and the traffic agents are relentless- God bless them. You don’t know true heartbreak until you’re running late to an audition and realize your car was towed.

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Here’s the full audio/podcast of our conversation with Jeff.

Chat w/ Faraday Okoro, director of 'Nigerian Prince'

NIGERIAN PRINCE, directed by Faraday Okoro, is the first winning film from AT&T Presents: Untold Stories created by AT&T and Tribeca. NIGERIAN PRINCE follows Eze, a stubborn first generation Nigerian-American teenager, and his cousin, Pius, a desperate Nigerian Prince scammer. After Eze’s mother sends him to Nigeria against his will, Eze retaliates by teaming up with Pius to scam unsuspecting foreigners in order to earn money for a return ticket back to America. The film is currently in theaters and available on demand.

We had a chat with Faraday, here are the excerpts.

  • How did you come up with the idea for this interesting and compelling tale of deception, passion, and self-discovery?

o    The idea came to me while I was working in a computer lab in college. I realized I could tell a story that was both thrilling and personal. 

  • What was the most challenging and most rewarding part of making this film?

o    For me, the most challenging part of filmmaking is finding funding. The most rewarding part is screening the film.

  • What role does being from an immigrant family, and being a person-of-color play in your storytelling?

o    It plays a huge role. I want to tell films that not only included people of color; I also want to portray them honestly.

  • What's next on your plate?

o    I’ve started working on several new projects. Since I’m still developing these films, I can’t talk about them just yet.

  • What are your favorite filmmakers, films, and TV shows?

o    The Remains of the Day, Schindler’s List, The Thin Red Line, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Animal Kingdom, Michael Clayton, The Apartment, The Verdict, Half Nelson, Chinatown, Dr. Strangelove, Jackie Brown, Crimes and Misdemeanors, just to name a few.

  • What's your practical advice to other aspiring filmmakers and storytellers?

o    I think aspiring filmmakers should learn about the history, craft, and business of filmmaking, and watch as many films as they can. Also, I think aspiring filmmakers should soak up as much knowledge (politics, literature, sports, music, science, etc.) as possible in order to tell stories that are thought provoking and entertaining.

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ABOUT FARADAY OKORO

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Faraday Okoro is a New York City based Nigerian-American filmmaker. Named after Michael Faraday, a 19th century English physicist and chemist, the idea of pursuing a career in science has been instilled in Faraday since birth. Though, despite his upbringing and name for that matter, Faraday was inspired to pursue a career in filmmaking after watching 20 minutes of the film Road to Perdition.

He graduated cum laude from Howard University, a historically black college in the heart of Washington, DC. At Howard, he was awarded the Trustees’ Scholarship, which allowed him to attend college tuition-free. Currently, Faraday is completing an MFA in filmmaking at NYU’s Graduate Film Program, where he is a recipient of the Peter D. Gould Scholarship.

Faraday’s debut short film Full-Windsor has screened in 14 major film festivals, including the Los Angeles Film Festival, Austin Film Festival, Chicago International Film Festival, Seattle International Film Festival and the Montreal World Film Festival. His short film Blitz premiered at the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival and was also selected to the Palm Springs International Shortfest. Additionally, his work has aired nationally on PBS Television and GaiamTV, and is streaming online via Indieflix. In 2016, Faraday was included in MovieMaker Magazine/Austin Film Festival’s 25 Screenwriters To Watch list.

Faraday is the inaugural recipient of AT&T / Tribeca Film Institute’s ‘Untold Stories’ prize, a $1 million production grant intended to support underrepresented filmmakers in the making of their first feature film.

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You can listen to the full chat/podcast of our conversation with Faraday below (updated 10/26).

 

A chat with Gurinder Chadha, director of Viceroy's House

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Gurinder Chadha is one of the UK’s most proven and respected Film Director and Producers. Her award-winning films – Bend It Like BeckhamBride and PrejudiceAngus Thongs and Perfect Snogging, and others – have earned over $300 million. Her latest film – Viceroy’s House, Starring Hugh Bonneville, Gillian Anderson, Huma Qureshi, Manish Dayak and Om Puri – releases worldwide on September 1, 2017.

We had an opportunity to talk with Gurinder, where we discussed about what inspired her to make this film, what were the challenges and lessons of making this film. She shared her thoughts on Indian history, and her own history as a Kenyan-British-Indian. She also talked about diversity and inclusion in Hollywood and her own struggles, even today. And at the end gave some wonderful advice on how to support and promote diversity and inclusion.

Watch the video below for the full interview:

Viceroy's House is British-Indian historical drama film directed by Gurinder Chadha and written by Paul Mayeda BergesMoira Buffini, and Chadha. The film stars Hugh BonnevilleGillian AndersonManish DayalHuma Qureshi, and Michael Gambon

Checkout more at the link below:
http://benditnetworks.com/filmography/viceroy/

And checkout the movie trailer below:

A chat w/ Anupam Kher - Acting, Hollywood & his 500th film "The Big Sick"

ANUPAM KHER is one of India’s most prominent actors. He has performed in over 100 plays and has been featured in over 500 films. Besides working in Hindi films, he has appeared in many acclaimed international films such as the Golden Globe® nominated Bend It Like Beckham, Ang Lee's Venice Film Fesitval’s Golden Lion-winning film Lust, Caution, and David O. Russell's Oscar®-winning Silver Linings Playbook.

He co-stars in Kumail Nanjiani's "The Big Sick" with happens to be his 500th film. For Nanjiani, there was a sense of purpose in approaching veteran Indian actor Anupam Kher to play the role of Kumail’s father, Azmat. “I’ve been a fan of Anupam my whole life,” Nanjiani says. “I had asked my real-life dad who he wanted to play him. He said ‘Anupam Kher.’ I said ‘Perfect. My first choice too.’ From then on, I only ever saw Anupam in the role and we pretty much wrote it for him. But he found such specificity in the role and brought so many ideas about how our particular relationship worked.”

Art Shrian had an opportunity to talk to him, for MyNewYorkEye. Here are the excerpts:

Art Shrian: Congratulations Anupam on the wonderful "The Big Sick". And thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us.

Anupam Kher: Thank you so much! It’s wonderful to be here and be part of this film, it’s my 500 th film.

AS: I was going to say that. 500th film! Congratulations! That’s mind blowing!

AK: Yes (laughs)

AS: In your humongous career, you’ve played every kind of roles. And you’ve played lot of fathers too. So tell me what attracted you about this role personally?

AK: I have done this film, to make a son’s wish come true. So there is no professional reason. Kumail’s father, when Kumail asked him, who do you want you to be played, and he said, Anupam Kher. And Kumail did not know how to get in touch with me. So, Kumail’s friend turned out to be my distant cousin Priyanka Mattu. So she called me by and she said, there is this actor called Kumail Nanjiani. I’ve not seen Silicon Valley and other things, so I didn't know about him. I was wondering, why does he want me? So she told me the story that his father wants you to play that role. So I said, okay, give me Kumail’s number. She said, no no, let it be professional, I mean, you don’t have to, let them reach out to you (laughs). So I dialed Kumail’s number, Kumail thought somebody was playing a prank with him that Anupam Kher was calling him up. But he said, I will call you back. And when he called me back, I said, “Look, do you want your father’s wish to come true? And I am the person who can make that wish come true. So, I am doing the film.

AS: (smiles) Okay, wow.

AK: It was as simple as that. And I said, let’s work on the script later on, if I don’t like certain portion of the film, or if I don’t like the role, then we will work on it, but I don’t want to decide after I’ve read the script. I'll do it your film. So, that’s how it was decided. It had nothing to do with acting capabilities or the role, it’s done for emotional reasons.

AS: Wow, that’s a wonderful story, thank you for sharing that. So did you make any suggestions or incorporate any changes to your role afterwards?

AK: Well, in the first draft, everybody’s character were very well edged out and had all the details etc. But I thought, the father’s character was, father and mother’s characters were hurriedly written, it did not have that similar kind of weightage. Even though, film, does not require that. So we exchanged some mail, I gave him some ideas and they were generous enough to incorporate those suggestions and make them up with new scenes. So finally, I think, it turned out to be what it is. It was great, I think. They were all so open to suggestions at the time of the shoot, rehearsals, it was great. I think, a confident director always is open to suggestions.

AS: I really like it, especially your role as well, the scene that really stood out, when he is leaving and you know, you come out with the mom-made things and you’re handing out and she’s seeing from the car. That particular scene really stood out, for me, because you bring in so much depth, there is not a lot of dialogue in there. But you’re feeling everything. You can feel the pain and pride that you feel in that moment for your son, which is amazing. You really make that wonderful.

AK: And incidentally, that was the first scene we shot of mine, on the first day of shoot. So that scene was shot first.

AS: (laughs) Oh wow! That’s how films work, alright. First is last and the last is first! 
You’ve done several International films all over. But it’s a very important film in America. This normalizes brown and muslim? A brown guy falls in love a white girl and what happens then. Yet It’s not about him being brown but just a love story. And it does that beautifully. It also brings in other aspects of, how the family gets impacted. So working on this project, what was your perspective?

AK: I think, South Asian families mostly react in a certain manner. Its tradition, its certain way of life, etc. But one does not read a script from that point of view. Every film at the end of it is story-telling and then the other interpretations come in. If there is a cause, if there is that, you make a documentary about it. You don’t need feature film. As you can be making the most amazing film, but it does not have a soul or it does not have a story telling, it does not work. So, yes ofcourse, it [subject] was important. Also, I did not want to make it into a cliché kind of a thing. I didn’t want it to make a stereotype. So I liked that aspect of it. It did not have stereotyping.
But yes, I personally feel that the most important thing in the world is compassion in today’s time. Compassion, togetherness, the language of love, so all these things are very important. But they cannot be told because you think that they must be told. They can only be incorporated if the work is, if the story is, interesting. So that’s what worked well in this film's favor.

AS: It absolutely does work, you’re doing an amazing job. So, you have played a variety of characters that are so different from each other. From comedy, to villain, to character roles etc. Can you share  where does that truth and honesty comes from. How do you make them all so real and believable.

AK: I think, my brief to myself is all these people are real. All these people, their emotions, their ups and downs, their highs and lows, are real. They are people. And I have to make them as closer to reality or as real as I can. That’s what acting is all about. That people have to have livability. And I have not worked so much in terms before I got into movies, I am from drama school. And if I don’t do that, you will not ask me that question. So I do it for my own survival (laughs). I always wanted to be different. My job, is to sort of make it as closer to reality as possible. Of course, I’ve done comedy, and things like that. Yeah, even if it’s idiotic, all kinds of exaggeration, I do it with conviction. Because I love life. I enjoy being an actor and I enjoy being who I am.
Also the other thing is, I run an acting school "Actor Prepares" in Mumbai for the last 14 years. My brief to actors is and to students is that, “You should be ready to make a complete fool of yourself. Then only you will be able to find the nuances of acting.” So, I don’t take myself seriously as a person or as an actor. So that makes my job easy and I am not scared of failure. It’s your fear of failure which makes you, sort of, be a little more careful in life, also in acting. That you want to be, you want to sort of make it, “Oh, it should work!”. But I also believe that when you are competent, you can never be brilliant. So, it’s okay to be bad, because no actor, writer, poet, artist has always given best work. He can only try it. So that’s what I did.

AS: That’s so true, and I don’t think that there are many actors who can match that  variety of the work that you have. So what about your favorite actors, like in India, or in Hollywood for that matter?

AK: Performances are favorite. I have loved performances of various actors. My all time favorite is Brando, De Niro, Al Pacino. But that doesn’t mean that younger generation hasn’t done some amazing work, I think Bradley Cooper was superb in Silver Linings Playbook, you know. And Leonardo Dicaprio was superb in so many other films.

AS: Last question Daniel Day Lewis, just announced that he is going to quit acting. You have done over 500 films already. Do you ever feel like that? Do you feel that I should quit? Or if not, why?

AK: No, I respect Daniel’s decision, that’s how he wants to lead his life. I want to keep on working as long as I can. Its, I think, to me, work gives the best self-motivational things, I enjoy working. So, I will want to work as,till 90-95 whatever.

AS: And we look forward to keep seeing you. So thank you so much for talking. Congratulation on your 500 films. 

AK: Thank you Art Shrian.

SYNOPSIS: Based on the real-life courtship between Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon, THE BIG SICK tells the story of Pakistan-born aspiring comedian Kumail (Nanjiani), who connects with grad student Emily (Kazan) after one of his standup sets. However, what they thought would be just a one-night stand blossoms into the real thing, which complicates the life that is expected of Kumail by his traditional Muslim parents. When Emily is beset with a mystery illness, it forces Kumail to navigate the medical crisis with her parents, Beth and Terry (Hunter and Romano) who he's never met, while dealing with the emotional tug-of-war between his family and his heart. THE BIG SICK is directed by Michael Showalter (Hello My Name Is Doris), written by Emily V. Gordon & Kumail Nanjiani, and produced by Judd Apatow (TrainwreckThis Is 40) and Barry Mendel (TrainwreckThe Royal Tenenbaums).

Directed by: Michael Showalter
Written by: Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani
Produced by: Judd Apatow and Barry Mendel
Starring: Kumail Nanjiani, Zoe Kazan, Holly Hunter, Ray Romano, Aidy Bryant and Anupam Kher

Official Site: www.TheBigSickmovie.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thebigsickmovie/
Twitter: https://www.facebook.com/thebigsickmovie/
Hashtag: #TheBigSick