Akie2
Akie Kotabe (@AkieKotabe)

What happens when you’re majoring in computer science at the University of Texas in Austin and decide to change to theater after successfully auditioning for a student film, subsequently finding your passion in life? If you’re Akie Kotabe, it pays off. With roles spanning across film, television, and theater, Kotabe is currently co-starring with Oscar-nominee Salma Hayek (Frida) in the action/thriller Everly, coming to theaters Friday, February 27th. So, what’s it like to act alongside Salma Hayek? Well, apparently it’s pretty incredible. Playing a character known simply as Dead Man, many of the characters in the film, directed by Joe Lynch (Wrong Turn 2: Dead End) are referred to using descriptive monikers. Kotabe has a supporting role as a man who has become the target, along with Hayek’s Everly, of assassins and is left for dead. Trapped in an apartment, the characters are faced with dealing with their existence and survival, “Think Die Hard in a single room” Akie told me.

Based in both London and Los Angeles, Akie fell in love with acting in college when he auditioned for a student film on a whim and got the part. He says that he didn’t know anything about acting before that, but has since studied both at university and with various well-known acting teachers in the industry. This non-traditional trajectory into acting has proven successful for the Michigan-born, Texas-bred actor. He’s had guest spots on Mad Men, CSI: Miami, and Without a Trace. Kotabe also puts his bilingual abilities to the test where his roles may require him to have a command of the Japanese language and accent

However, he proves his versatility with quite an impressive filmography. Securing his first AFTRA gig (when SAG & AFTRA were separate unions) while still in Austin for the Jamie Kennedy Experiment, he says he’s had some interesting experiences. He got the aforementioned AFTRA show even after he accidentally bashed his face into a wall during the audition. Woops. We’ve all had weird auditions as actors, sometimes it’s the odd ones that pay off the most.

The passion that Kotabe has for acting is apparent when talking to him. As a fellow actor, we talked about our love for the craft, and the fact that being able to entertain people is one of the best things to be doing in life. Having gotten the acting bug in college, lived and worked in Japan, Los Angeles, and his current city of London, Akie says he’s enjoyed something different from every place he’s lived. He’s also learned from those places as well. From doing theater in Japan (both in English and Japanese) to film and television in Los Angeles and London, he tries to gain as much knowledge and wisdom as possible from the people he is surrounded by in the business. “You can learn a lot through the work” he stated, “It’s what gets me up in the morning.”

What was his favorite part of filming Everly? Well, everything. For Kotabe it was being part of a team and contributing to the bigger picture that was most exciting to him while filming in Belgrade, Serbia. I think we can agree that the best part of being an actor is the ability to be storytellers. I am fortunate enough to have the chance to tell Akie Kotabe’s.

Don’t forget to catch Everly in theaters Friday, February 27th.

Thank You Akie for being such a friendly and open fellow performer. It was such a pleasure to learn your story.

Follow Akie: @AkieKotabe & Everly movie: @everlymovie

For more information on Akie, you can also visit his website: Akie Kotabe

In the past few days I’ve felt torn. As an actor, I draw from my experiences both emotionally and physically. We all do that as actors. The difference however, comes with the fact that my muscle memory, my emotional memory, and the fibers of my being are inwardly different. By all appearances, I seem like your “normal” actor, but those fibers in my being would beg to differ. Born three months premature at one pound, ten ounces, with a mild form of cerebral palsy, I’ve had to deal with physical limitations that appear minor, and triumphs that would be considered obscure because “everyone can do that, right?” As a kid, even learning to skip was a huge achievement for me. Learning how to walk again at 13 was a mountain. From a sense memory standpoint, there are things I can bring to the role of someone who deals with limited mobility or physical pain that is unique.

The problem is, everyone can bring something to the table.  Part of me understands the critics, the people who say that they should have cast someone who “understands” Hawkings’ plight with ALS, but that would be, frankly, irrational. Eddie Redmayne did research, met with Hawking, and portrayed him to the best of his abilities. With that, he was awarded the Golden Globe, BAFTA, SAG Award, and ultimately, the Oscar. Hopefully Hawkings’ story, coupled with Redmayne’s portrayal, plants a seed. Maybe people will become curious and educate themselves about issues like ALS, Maybe they’ll look at Julianne Moore’s Oscar-winning performance for Still Alice and become aware of early-onset Alzheimer’s’ disease. It’s an actor’s job to bring truth to a situation to the best of their abilities.

I do believe though, that actors from all walks of life need to be seen, not just portrayed and represented. Their voices need to be heard. We as actors are supposed to bring truth to the screen, so let’s do that.

Selma director, Ava DuVernay, and her lead actor David Oyelowo (who portrayed  Martin Luther King, Jr.) got seriously overlooked this morning as the Oscar nominations were announced. Even though Selma received a Best Picture nomination, it failed to get recognized for its directing and acting efforts. Also on the acting front, Jennifer Aniston, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Amy Adams (who won the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Motion Picture Musical or Comedy) weren’t able to secure nominations. Clearly, Jennifer Aniston and her team have been campaigning for an Oscar nomination for a while. She’s received a SAG Award nomination, and it’s clear that whomever is in charge of her publicity, wants her to win. I think it’s safe to say that both Amy Adams and Jennifer Aniston lost their spots to Marion Cotillard this year, for a film I wasn’t even aware of called Two Days, One Night.

Another point that people have been making in various other blogs about this year is the fact that all of the nominees are in fact, white. Apparently, the average Oscar voter is 63 years old, white, and male. So there’s that…Also, what’s up with no nomination for the Lego movie?

2002 was the only year that Lauren Graham was nominated for a Golden Globe. That is a travesty to the acting profession. To this day, her work on both Gilmore Girls and NBC’s Parenthood (which is in its final season,) has pretty much been overlooked by critics. However, audience members, myself included, have certainly known of her massive talent for years. Graduating from Barnard College (Columbia University) with a B.A. in English, and her MFA in Acting from Southern Methodist University, she certainly had the training under her belt, and a wealth of experience long before Gilmore Girls hit the airwaves. However, when GG was finally brought to life, there was no better person to handle the fast-paced, complex, and witty dialogue of writer/creator Amy Sherman-Palladino than Lauren Graham.

Breathing life into Lorelai Gilmore, Graham demonstrated her extensive emotional range and comedic skills during its seven year run. Even seven years later, her acting on Gilmore Girls is still some of the best acting I’ve seen on television. She should have won an Emmy, she should have won a Golden Globe. Maybe, we can retroactively give her all the awards from the 2000s. If you haven’t seen Gilmore Girls before, sign on to Netflix and binge-watch the entire series. Do it now! You won’t regret it.

Mia Farrow as Daisy Buchanan in “The Great Gatsby” (1974)
Mira Sorvino as Daisy Buchanan in “The Great Gatsby” (2000)

This article was inspired by the fact that the movie posters for each of these films has the same font type. That, and the fact that my boyfriend was wearing a shirt bearing the cover art of the famed book, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald today. The iconic American novel has been adapted for the screen six times, including the soon-to-be Baz Luhrmann interpretation, set to be released this May. The first adaptation was a silent film in 1926, followed by the 1949 version starring Shelley Winters, and the most famous version, the 1974 film starring Robert Redford, Sam Waterston, Karen Black and Mia Farrow, with a screenplay by Francis Ford Coppola . The 1974 version won numerous awards, including: 2 Oscars, 3 BAFTAs, and a Golden Globe. Then, there is the 2000 television film version which aired on A&E, starring Mira Sorvino, Paul Rudd and Toby Stevens (Maggie Smith’s son) which, sadly, won no accolades. The reason was probably because, along with the script, the performances seemed like carbon copies of the ones that came before it.

Not only that, but the vocal characteristics for each are nearly identical. However, that may be due to the source material that F. Scott Fitzgerald provides. Source material, for us actors, is very important because it can tell us details about the characters that would otherwise be made up. Fitzgerald describes Daisy’s voice as, “breathless” and that her voice is “full of money.” This tells the actor how to perform the role to such an extent that some performances might seem similar, if not identical. Fitzgerald was extremely specific with how he wanted his characters to be perceived by readers. I am eager to see how Carey Mulligan interprets this famous role in Baz Luhrmann’s version.

I was unable to embed the video from the 2000 version, but you can click on the link and watch it here. For easier viewing, you might want to fast forward the video and start it at 3:27 or so, just get to the part with Daisy.

I was, however, able to include a  scene from the 1974 version:

In each clip, you can see that the vocal qualities of Daisy are nearly identical. Below is the trailer for the  updated film version starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Gatsby, Toby McGuire as Nick, and Carey Mulligan as Daisy. You’ll also notice in her exclamation of  the line, “Gatsby? What Gatsby?” is equally as similar as the previous two.

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s specificity with his character descriptions  led actors Mira Sorvino, Mia Farrow (and now, Carey Mulligan,) to interpret Daisy in similar ways. Not all acting is about creating. Sometimes, we just have to be the vessels for the director’s vision and the interpreters of an author’s description. In the end, they may turn out similar. That’s alright. It’s hard to interpret F. Scott Fitzgerald anyways, never mind adding a screenplay to the mix.

Viola Davis in “Doubt” (2008.)

To help those who want to win Trivial Pursuit, here’s some trivia about movies and actors you might find interesting.

  • 10 years before the teen phenomenon Twilight (2008), Reese Witherspoon, Susan Sarandon, & Paul Newman starred in a murder mystery with the same name, Twilight (1998.)
  • [on losing the role of Frankie, which had been written for her by playwright Terrence McNally (which she originated onstage,) to Michelle Pfeiffer in the movie version of Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune] “I thought it was wonderful to see a love story about people over forty, ordinary people who were trying to connect. We haven’t seen it before, and I don’t think we will see it with this movie Frankie and Johnny (1991).” It is actually known that Bates has lost several film roles adapted from plays in which she has originated roles (‘night, Mother also being lost to Sissy Spacek on film.)
  • In 1999, Judi Dench won an Oscar for Shakespeare in Love having only appeared on screen for 8 minutes (4 scenes.) For her 2008 performance in Doubt, Viola Davis was nominated for the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for appearing in two scenes. The second scene lasts 10 seconds and she does not speak.
  • Actor Hector Elizondo appears in nearly all of director Gary Marshall’s films, ” Appears in so many Garry Marshall films that his credit in the beginning of Exit to Eden (1994) was ‘As Usual… Hector Elizondo.'”
  • Before appearing in the 2012 film version of musical, Les Miserables, actor Eddie Redmayne won a Tony Award in 2010 for his role in Red…he won Best Featured Actor in a Play.
  • Actress Tracie Thoms, auditioned for the stage musical Rent 8 times without winning a role. She went on to star in the 2005 film version of the musical as Joanne. She went on to appear onstage in the same role in the final months of the show on Broadway.
  • Actress Julianne Moore didn’t make a movie until she was 29.
  • In the scene where Leonardo DiCaprio’s character Calvin Candie smashes the palm of his hand on the dinner table, the actor broke a glass under his hand and really began to bleed. DiCaprio ignored it, stayed in character, and continued with the scene. This take was the one used in the film.

Short films don’t get the recognition that they deserve. They are often the springboards for feature films.  The 2006 feature film Cashback, was actually the expanded version of its 2004 counterpart. In fact, the feature film version of Cashback includes the full 18 minute Oscar-nominated short film within it.  Short films have a running time of 40 minutes or less, and are fairly easy to overlook. However, many actors, from big name stars, to every day working actors, participate in short films. I have done several short films that can rival any feature film in terms of their quality and production values. They are fun and a great way for us actors to build our resumes.

The 2009 short film, The New Tenants, won the Oscar for Best Live-Action Short Film in 2010. It is a Danish Live-Action short film that stars name-actors like Vincent D’Onofrio (Law & Order: Criminal Intent, The Whole Wide World) Kevin Corrigan (The Departed, Superbad) and Liane Balaban (Last Chance Harvey.)

Summary via IMDB: A prying neighbor, a glassy-eyed drug dealer, and a husband brandishing both a weapon and a vendetta make up the welcome wagon. Set amidst the as-yet-unopened boxes and the hopes for a fresh start of two men on what might just be the worst moving day ever. Their new apartment reveals its terrifying history in a film that is by turns funny, frightening, and unexpectedly romantic.

It is definitely worth checking out. In fact, here is the film in its entirety. The running time is 20 minutes 41 seconds. And it’s totally worth it. From the acting, to the simple plot, to the cinematography, it’s a wonderful film:

Amara Miller and George Clooney in "The Descendants" (2011)
Amara Miller and George Clooney in “The Descendants” (2011)

There are cookbooks dedicated to sharing recipes from various films and television shows such as Downton Abbey, Game of Thrones, and Harry Potter (just to name a few.) It’s probably one of the most basic and necessary human needs other than breathing. Food, and the act of consuming it, is probably one of the most prevalent and consistent things seen in nearly every film, television show and even play. Yet, it’s one of the most difficult things to do while acting. I just did  a play this past December where my character ate for nearly the entire time that they were onstage. The challenge for me as an actor, was to time it out just right so that I was able to say my lines at the right moments, and eat at the same time. Believe me, in everyday life, the last thing you’re thinking about is whether or not you’re going to be the next one to say something, but having too much food stuffed in your face at the wrong moment on stage or film can be awkward . In dinner scenes, especially on film, you may notice that no one actually eats. And if they do, it’s little nibbles and tiny bites. Why? Because they have a scene to do and lines to say. They also have to do take after take, which means eating…and eating. Or does it?

There are several tricks that we as actors implore to make sure that we don’t gain a massive amount of weight or get massively ill during the course of filming. Often, there might be a cup or a napkin you can spit into in between each take. But sometimes, you really might be eating continuously. This can be a challenge for any actor, especially the kid actor. Kids love to eat. And as children, their eyes might be too big for their stomachs or they might not realize one crucial factor. They’ll have more than one take. They might have five, six or heck, even ten takes to do. This is where the tricks of the trade come into play.

George Clooney tells a great anecdote during his Inside the Actors Studio interview about filming a scene with Amara Miller, who played his youngest daughter Scottie, in The Descendants. It was Amara’s film debut, and as such, she was probably not thinking about the fact that she would have to do more than one take of a scene where she is having lunch with George Clooney and eating ice cream. And, George didn’t actually warn her that eating all that ice cream, take after take, would make her sick. So, at the beginning, she was scarfing down bowls of ice cream. One take, two takes, three takes…and by take five or six, she began to feel ill. Poor  kid. She should have paced herself. Maybe taken a few spoonfuls during each take. But that wouldn’t have been realistic. Kids love ice cream.
The story that George Clooney reveals is all too common with actors and food. Oftentimes, even as adults, we might get ahead of ourselves and make ourselves sick of whatever we’re eating. I did a film once where I was eating pizza, and I would just take little bites throughout the scene. One slice lasted me three takes. By the end of the work day though, I didn’t want to eat pizza for at least a month.

Yet, on film, and as an audience member, we might just crave what the actor is having to eat onscreen. And, audience members are the first to notice continuity flaws in film and television as well. A lot of the time, those flaws deal with food. In Pretty Woman, for example, during the breakfast scene, Julia Roberts is eating a pancake. Then, that pancake turns to a croissant in the next shot we see of her. Maybe they did the scene two different days, but whoever was in charge of continuity got the food wrong. It’s minor, and now part of film history. But, as an actor, I always try to make sure that I remember what I’m eating, what hand I have things in, and even how I’m wearing something. Someone out there will notice if it’s wrong, and they’ll blog about it.

There are countless scenes that incorporate food and to make the most of the different sub-categories of Food On Film, I’ll be talking about everything from dinner scenes to food fights and everything in between.

As a side note, one of my favorite local hangouts in my neighborhood is a local coffee shop called Darling Coffee. It’s run by two of the nicest people you could ever meet, and the coffee, along with the baked goods, rival any place in Manhattan. You’re getting top quality food and beverage in an atmosphere that’s friendly and creative. It’s my favorite place to go in my area. It’s my version of Central Perk from Friends I guess. If you’re ever in Inwood, at the tip of Manhattan, go there. It’s fantastic. And I’m addicted to their Campfire Cookies.