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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

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Ask anyone of my generation or younger, and they’ll probably tell you that James Garner is “the guy from The Notebook.”  My response to that  is, “WHAT?!”  Seriously though, today we lost another great: actor, James Garner passed away at the age of 86. To many, he wasn’t just that guy from The Notebook. He was Bret Maverick, and Jim Rockford. He was the unlikely movie star  with two purple hearts  from the Korean War. He appeared on Broadway, once, in a non-speaking role in The Caine Mutiny Court Martial where he learned and honed his craft.  In the 50s and 60s, westerns were big on television, and James Garner turned the character of Bret Maverick into an icon. He found television success again in the 70s as another icon, Jim Rockford of The Rockford Files. Even with his numerous  television successes, including an Emmy for The Rockford Files, he managed to find fame on the big screen too. He starred in  The Great Escape, and  received a Best Actor Oscar nomination in 1986 for Murphy’s Romance. In 1994, he starred in the film version of Maverick, with Mel Gibson stepping into the shoes of the famous gambler, and Garner as Marshall Zane Cooper. In his later years, he starred in The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, and yes, The Notebook. He was a versatile actor who needs to be recognized for his impressive career. Rest in Peace James Garner, you were my mom’s favorite actor.                                                              You were more than the guy from The Notebook: You were a Maverick.

This is a clip from Garner’s famed series, Maverick, with Clint Eastwood looking for some trouble:

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A year ago, I started a blog. I didn’t know where it would take me at the time, but I started it for fun. It so turned into something that I am very proud of.  Granted, I’m still at my day job, but I’ve been writing and acting over the course of this year, and it has really helped me center myself.  Despite the fact that some really crappy things happened last year that I am still dealing with, this was one of the good things. I’ve been able to merge my acting life with my writing one and do something unique that reflects who I am. I’m a movie geek, a writer, an actor, and a dreamer. I am so grateful to have subscribers and people reading this, I can’t even tell you how much it means. I am so grateful for all the positive responses and thought provoking conversations I’ve had this past year. Here’s to many more to come! 

Thanks for everything,

Stephanie

Some of the best of RantsReviews&Reels:

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Emilio Estevez Directed “The Way”
Three People at Casting Call
Auditions: The Uncommon Job Interview and Why They Are So Stressful
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Reduce Reuse Recycle: The Law & Order Guest Spot
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#BostonStrong: Why This New York Transplant Will Always Be a Boston Gal
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Early For Everything: What Acting Means to Me. Being an Actor with a Disability

 

 

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Putting My Professional Goals Out Into the Universe

252086_513561951716_7291_nI’ve always had a lot professional goals. Sometimes, it just takes the courage to go after what you want no matter how frightened you are. This year, I really want to make changes for the better, especially after all of the things that negatively impacted my life last year. This year, I am trying to stay as positive, happy, and healthy as possible in order to turn my career around. I want get things rolling by doing what I love and making a living at it on a more consistent basis. This business can be extremely difficult. Despite what people see on television with awards shows and red carpets, parties and the high life, it’s still a business. People have to make a living, and more often than not, it’s the people who aren’t  household names that I look up to most in the acting business. There IS a way to make a living solely by being an entertainer. I’ve seen it with a number of my friends. I decided to write this post because I truly want to make my dreams a reality and achieve my goals.

For a long time, I had fed into my self-doubt. There is no one to blame for that but myself. Oftentimes, I would blame the industry for putting such unspoken restrictions on my type as an actor. I have caught myself making excuses, and I really need to stop doing that. While, it’s somewhat unrealistic to stay positive all the time, I do want to turn that negative feeling that has been lingering for the past year into something joyous. I want bring my career to the next level. I could be worrying about my weight, the fact that I don’t have a “traditional” look, or the fact that I have been doing all of the footwork myself for the past six and a half years without the help of an agent. OR, I could totally revel in the fact that I’m NOT starving myself to fit some unrealistic Hollywood ideal, while still becoming more aware of my overall health. I could be proud of my look just as I am because my parents are really attractive people, so naturally, they made me look as unique as possible which is awesome. Lastly, I could be exceedingly grateful for how far I’ve come on my own without the help of an agent. And, I am proud of that. I think I’ve done a pretty good job. But I want more. I want to do what I love. I want to do voice-overs, I want to do television (I mean, hello, I would love to be on Blacklist), I want to do more film. I want to work.

At the same time, I’ve come to the realization that  I not only want, but need  to have someone in my corner. It’s been great doing it on my own, but I truly believe that I need the guidance of a manager and agent at this point. I’ve met agents and managers in the past who have told my look was unique and they would love to work with me, but they aren’t looking for my type right now, or they already have it. Representation can be a lot like dating. You’re either ready for dating and marriage, or you’re just not someone’s type.  This year, I hope I’m someone’s type.

There are certain shows I wish I could see again. Some I can, thanks to the beauty of Netflix and Youtube, some have been harder to find. But, I decided to compile a  list of shows I loved as a kid that make me want to go back 20 or 25 years. There will be a series of volumes with this in the next few weeks as well, so if you’re thinking of a show that’s not included in this particular list, just wait a while until part 2 for more shows!

Under the Umbrella Tree (1986-1993, from Canada): I LOVED this show as a kid. Imported from CBC in Canada, …Umbrella Tree aired on the Disney channel. Holly (a human), Iggy (an iguana), Jacob (a Blue Jay), and Gloria (a gopher). The show’s title is derived from the fact that the characters live together in a home featuring a prominent indoor umbrella tree.–Wikipedia

Sweet Valley High (1994-1997): Airing on mostly Fox stations and then UPN, this was my first foray into really being engrossed in teen drama. Granted, I watched 90210, but I was so young when it aired that I didn’t understand it. It wasn’t until my preteen years that this show came around, and it was one of my favorites. I also loved that it was originally a book series so I could “read along” with the series.

Grimm’s Fairy Tale Classics (1987-1988): Airing on Nickelodeon, this was what I thought anime was for the longest time. There is a special place in my heart for this show. And to be honest, I still enjoy finding clips of this on YouTube. Plus, it dealt with fairy tales, and I’ve always loved a good fairy tale. The quality of this series is amazing.

Shelley Duvall’s Faerie Tale Theatre (1982-1987) : If there were a gold standard for nostalgic television shows, this would be it for me. It was, and still is, one of my favorite series of all time. Ever. With all-star guest stars and wonderfully imaginative production values, this is series that can stand the test of time and be passed down. When and if I have children, they will be watching this on DVD. THAT’S how much I LOVE this show. You can find full episodes on YouTube, Netflix and Hulu. It still has quite the cult following 30 years after it originally aired too.

Welcome Freshmen (1991-1993): Airing on Nickelodeon, I was seven when this debuted, and to be honest, even I thought it was cheesy. At seven. That being said, I’d love to see it again, simply due to the fact that I’d probably understand it more now. Now that I look at the credits, Saved by the Bell & Welcome Freshmen must’ve had the same graphics designer. Oh, the 90s.

Hey Dude (1989-1991): Airing on Nickelodeon, it starred Christine Taylor before she was Mrs. Ben Stiller in her acting/television debut. It also made me want to move to the southwest and live on a ranch. Strangely, it’s also one of the series that made me want to act on TV.

Quantum Leap is an American television series that was broadcast on NBC from March 26, 1989 to May 5, 1993, for a total of five seasons. The series was created by Donald Bellisario, and starred Scott Bakula as Dr. Sam Beckett, a quantum physicist from the near future who becomes lost in time following a time travel experiment, temporarily taking the places of other people to “put right what once went wrong”. Dean Stockwell co-starred as Al Calavicci, Sam’s womanizing, cigar-smoking sidekick and best friend, who appeared as a hologram that only Sam, animals, young children, and the mentally ill could see and hear. The series featured a mix of comedy, drama and melodrama, social commentary, nostalgia, and science fiction, which won it a broad range of fans. One of its trademarks is that at the end of each episode, Sam “leaps” into the setting for the next episode, usually uttering a dismayed “Oh, boy!”–Wikipedia.com

There’s one thing Wikipedia left out. It’s one of the greatest television series to incorporate basic acting exercises. When actors were little kids, they probably played “make believe” like all the other children. What we actors didn’t realize at the time was, we were actually doing some of the most basic acting exercises. We’d play the teacher, the mother, even the animal. One of the theater/improv games I still enjoy is “freeze” where a performer is able to tag anyone out of the scene and start a new scene. Essentially, that’s what Quantum Leap was as a series. The main character is often disoriented and needs time to re-gain their footing and adjust accordingly to the circumstances around him. Scott Bakula played everything from a young kid, to an animal, even a different gender and race without the use of special effects or offensive makeup. He played the characters as they were, all of the time, we as an audience were seeing him as he actually looked. The most basic of acting games was now utilized in a complex television series.

What I love is that Bakula was able to play all these different characters while maintaining is primary character of Sam. However, the most interesting parts may just come from the supporting cast around him. The actors who had to act alongside Bakula and treat him as if he were a kid, woman, animal or gangster. It’s amazing to look at the series from an acting perspective because it reminds me of scene study classes. Part of me wishes that all series were as amazing as this one. If you’re an actor, watch it. It’s a great learning tool and a wonderful reminder how much fun pretending is.

Author’s Note: This was originally written on May 24, 2012, but it was never published on this blog.

Word to wise about me: I’m not your “type.” I never will be. I don’t fit into a clear-cut mold of ethnicity, socioeconomic background or physicality. I’m myself. Accept that. Love it. Take me for who I am (“Rent” reference, anyone?) Five years ago, I embarked on a journey that I’m still on. There have been and are (at least at the moment) bumps in the road. No road is easy, everyone will tell you that. Even those who become doctors and lawyers study their lil’ butts off to “make something” of themselves. Coming up in June, I will have been in NYC for five years and to me, that’s hard to believe and easy to understand all at once. My senior year of college, I auditioned at the New England Theater Conference (NETC) with what seemed like a thousand other actors. I managed to get two callbacks that day: I had a horrid one for the “Diary of Anne Frank” and quite a pleasant one for a theater company in NH.

However, nothing came of those callbacks…but, two weeks later, I received a letter in the mail that Circle in the Square Theatre School was there and wanted me to attend their summer intensive workshop. I FREAKED OUT. I’d always wanted to go to NYC for some form of education, let alone theater school. I still remember that day because I brought the letter with me to Hymnody class to show not only my professor, but friends as well. I was shocked. I even remember the phone conversation I had with my father. Nonetheless, it all worked out and I moved to NYC for what I thought would be a few months of intensive study. It was the most intense, fun, and rewarding summer of my life, and I STAYED in NYC. Who knew that I’d go from having one film credit on my resume to getting my union cards in five years?

The journey is far from over. In fact, for me, it seems to just be beginning. I’ve been studying for these past five years and working towards my dreams. Sometimes I forget that I got to NYC because, yes, I must have some talent in me after all. Over these past few months I’ve been auditioning like crazy. Going to EPAs, getting called in for film auditions. And sometimes I think things aren’t happening “fast enough” or at all for that matter. But what do I know? People could be sitting in a room with my headshot on a cork board debating whether or not to call me back. Who knows?

I’m coming to terms with the fact that sometimes, not knowing, is just fine. I’m a good actress. I’ve finally come to acknowledge it in a sense. I’m unique. SOMEONE will say “Hey, that’s the girl,” and cast me. SOMEONE will. I know it. I work too hard for my efforts to be futile. Something is coming. I just don’t know what yet. But I can rest easy knowing that every time I go into an audition, I get to do what I love. I feel alive. And I want to feel alive as much as possible. So God, and Uncle Steve…If you are reading this from heaven, help me make my dreams a reality. I’ve come so far already. Here’s to five more years in NYC and then some.

Since writing this article nearly a year ago, I have appeared in the play The Boy’s Next Door and worked on various television projects. Oh, and I also started a blog. 🙂