Yesterday, I watched a movie called Gimme Shelter on Netflix. I didn’t realize that Vanessa Hudgens was actually in the movie until I started it, and even then, I questioned whether or not it was her. Now, my only references to her work other than the High School Musical franchise, was Sucker Punch. That being said, I didn’t really have any high expectations. I’d heard of the movie briefly before, but didn’t get a chance to catch it when it was in theaters. That being said, Netflix is a wonderful invention. Based on a true story, Hudgens plays Agnes “Apple” Bailey, a pregnant runaway teen. The film co-stars Rosario Dawson as her drug-addled mother, Brendan Fraser as her well-to-do biological father, James Earl Jones as a compassionate priest, and character-actress, Ann Dowd as Kathy, the woman who runs a shelter for homeless, young mothers.
The role of Apple is a far cry from Hudgens’ current project as the title character in Gigi on Broadway. Her portrayal is riveting, raw and honest. She gave the role everything her talents could provide, had the dialect down, and was vanity-free. She really shines and seems to leave the Disney star behind with this role. In a key scene in the hospital, Hudgens spars with James Earl Jones and holds her own against the industry veteran. That scene itself pretty much sealed the deal for me, giving me a new found respect for an actress who has often been simply labeled a teen star. Although the film could sometimes have the feeling of a Lifetime movie or even reminiscent of Precious, it is well executed and performances elevate it to a level that makes it worth a watch. It’s currently on Netflix and I am glad I stumbled upon a gripping tale with amazing performances.
What do I have in common with Steve Martin, Tina Fey, James Franco, and Andrew McCarthy? We’re actors who are also writers. You read that correctly, Andrew McCarthy is, in fact, a writer. He’s an award-winning travel writer. Check out some of his stuff on National Geographic Traveler. Now, I’m not talking about actors who all of the sudden want to “write” their memoirs, and get a ghost writer to do it for them. I’m talking about people with actual skills, who do their own writing. As a matter of fact, Tina Fey and Steve Martin actually STARTED OUT as WRITERS. I’m guessing they did it while they were pursuing acting as well, due to the fact that they are in both realms of the industry. Granted, there are those actors who have also written screenplays or stage plays, and blogs, but that’s a different type of article all together.
I started acting when I was around the age of 8, maybe 9. But I started making up stories as soon as I could talk. I even had an imaginary friend when I was 5 who I would tell my stories to. Her name was Jinglelyn, and again, I was 5. When I actually learned to read and write, writing took a back seat to performing onstage. I had found my passion for storytelling on stage. And I loved it. It’s my first love. Telling stories, no matter what shape or form, is what I love.
What I find funny now, is the fact that my parents kept giving me journals on my birthdays or Christmas, and I never really used them. I wasn’t really a “dear diary” type of girl anyways. It seemed sort of silly to recount my day on paper. I started writing short stories and plays, and when I got to high school, I helped start up the creative writing club at my all-girls, Catholic high school. I wrote stories, parts of novels I was working on, and seriously wanted to become a writer and an actor when I grew up. I was involved in anything creative. I sang in choirs, acted in the school plays and wrote stories. My English teacher even gave me a writing award my junior year of high school. When I got to college, I majored in English because I love the element of story-telling, plot and characters. I thought it would help in the acting realm because I was able to learn about the different things that make up a good story. It was sort of like four years of script-analysis. I acted throughout college, even directed. My senior year of college, I got my first headshots and auditioned at my first major theater convention, which led to moving to NYC to study at Circle in the Square Theater School.
Within these past six years, I have been acting and putting writing on the back burner. I got my union cards and even pursued stand-up. The closest I came to writing, before starting this blog, was stand-up comedy, which I still love because you can create your own material. I started this blog because I wanted to get back into writing, and I wanted to write something from the perspective of an actor who was going through the ups and downs in their career. Not someone who is washed-up and giving advice. I’m still in the trenches and being in a career “lull,” I have been writing about what I love. Movies I love, movies I loathe, anything and everything that has to do with the industry, with a unique perspective. It seems like I’m in good company of those who came before me. If you use all of your talents, it can lead to something. What that is, I don’t know. But I am pursuing my writing and my acting. So I guess I can add a back-slash to my job description. I’m a writer/actor. And I’m so glad you are reading my blog. Thanks.
Long before Abigail Breslin got an Oscar nomination for Little Miss Sunshine, and before Damian Lewis played a Marine in television’s Homeland, the two starred in a little known indie film called Keane (2004.) Lewis landed his part on Homeland because the producers were so impressed with his performance in this little-known film. Currently, it’s available to stream on Netflix, and I saw it a few years ago (before Homeland was a series, actually) and fell in love with its simplicity. It’s psychologically thrilling, and proof that a little movie can yield big results for actors. You never know what may be just around the corner, so don’t knock a project just because it’s small.
From Netflix: After losing his daughter in a Port Authority bus terminal, distraught New York father William Keane (Damian Lewis) befriends Lynn Bedik (Amy Ryan) and her 7-year-old daughter, Kira (Abigail Breslin) — but can he really be trusted? Keane uses alcohol and drugs to numb his pain, but Kira helps him break through his haze and open his heart to new possibilities. There’s just one catch: Keane’s daughter may have never existed at all.
Damian Lewis is fantastic in the film, and now that I think about it, I never even realized he was British when I first saw it. Abigail Breslin was still young enough to play cute and adorable children, and now she’s in the new film The Call, and growing as beautiful as her talent. I saw her onstage when she did the Miracle Worker in 2010 on Broadway. It was her first stage production, and as such, I picked up on some flaws, but overall her acting ability translated to the stage. But let me say this: Abigail Breslin is meant to be on film. She knows how to act on film. She’s been doing it since she was extremely young. This movie is proof that she had talent even at a young age. Damian Lewis does a fine job of acting with her and Amy Ryan. It’s obvious why he got his part in Homeland because of this. He plays all the colors of his character: the sane, mentally ill, and frustrated father just to name a few. This film is definitely worth checking out.
For my fellow actors, and especially those familiar with the “sound exercise” in Method acting, the following scene is a great example. Basically, the exercise deals with an actor singing moment, by moment, line by line, pacing themselves over the course of the verse/song. Throughout, one’s emotional state might change drastically. I have done many an exercise where I am crying by the end of it. This scene with Damian Lewis is a great example of that exercise in action.