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Hero Fiennes Tiffin Talks First Love, Diane Kruger, Wanting to Branch Outside of the Romance Genre and Teases After Ever Happy

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After a lovely conversation with First Love director, A.J. Edwards last week, it was great to speak to the lead actor, Hero Fiennes Tiffin. You may know him as the heartthrob lead in the After films (2019-2022), Hardin Scott, but his turn in another romance film, First Love is a great performance to watch for those who are unaware of his work. He’s a lovely gentleman and I cannot wait to see where his career goes.

I spoke with Hero about his experiences on First Love, specifically working with Sydney Park and playing Diane Kruger’s son, but he also spoke about his upcoming roles, wanting to diversify from the romance genre, and gives a little tease as to what’s to come in the fourth After movie, After Ever Happy.


Coastal House Media: Hi, Hero, it’s a pleasure to meet you. How’s your day going so far?

Hero Fiennes Tiffin: Good, pleasure to meet you too, Andrew. The sun’s out in London, which doesn’t happen often, so I’m happy.

CHM: Before we get too far into this interview, what led you to take on this role in First Love?

Fiennes Tiffin: Do you know what? That’s a really good question. I’ve done a bunch of romance films called the After franchise, and I was keen to start exploring other genres and then I’ve got another romance come through and I was out to my agents, “Guys, I thought we were trying to move away for a bit,” and they said, “Just read it, it’s a great script, great director.” And I read it and it was a great script with a great director. So I thought I’d always give the time to talk to A.J. [Edwards], the director, and when I did it was his belief in the project and specifically belief in me that kind of persuaded me to do it.

I think I was quite ready on that call to say, “I’d love to keep doing romances every now and then, but I think I’m quite keen to diversify my portfolio by doing different genres,” and yeah, it was his belief in the project and belief in me, I guess, that led me to say yes. And yeah, I don’t regret any of it. I was so, so lucky and happy and learned so much working with all those actors and with A.J. [Edwards].

CHM: Do you recall your first zoom meeting with A.J. [Edwards] by any chance? I spoke to him last week and he vividly remembers that and I just was curious to hear your perspective.

A still from First Love. Photo courtesy of Vertical Entertainment.

Fiennes Tiffin: Yeah, I do. I remember it very well. I was in the hotel room in Wales that I was staying in while I was shooting The Loneliest Boy in the World. And again, he might not know this, but my perspective was very much: “I’m going to hear him [out] and let him persuade me and stay open-minded,” but I kind of entered that call being aware that I might not want to do another romance so soon off during the back of [the] After [movies], but again, in the first minute and a half, his belief in me is kind of what persuaded me to do it, so I remember that call distinctly.

CHM: You just mentioned how many romance movies you’ve done, but what do you hope that audiences take away from First Love and find unique about it?

Fiennes Tiffin: Well, I think the difference between specifically First Love and the After franchise [is] that they’re completely different sides of the romance coin; the character specifically the character I play in First Love, Jim, is so different to the character Hardin in [the] After [movies]. And I think the dynamic of their relationships [are] different and just how they tell the story. I mean, you can have a genre movie [be] completely different from another movie in the same genre, and I felt like if I was going to do another romance [movie], it was important that it was the other side of that coin, which First Love definitely was.

CHM: Shifting gears back to A.J. [Edwards], I know you talked about his belief in the project, but what was unique about him as a director, as opposed to maybe some others you’ve worked with? And was there anything that you learned in particular from A.J. [Edwards]?

Fiennes Tiffin: All my experience as an actor has come firsthand on-set — I’ve never done any training. A.J. [Edwards] is a little bit old school in the best way and quite experimental and testing and I think he knows the project so well. [And with] his editing background, he knows how he’s going to piece it together. He would throw out some things here and there, like say we had a couple of hours free, he’d be like, “Let’s do post-breakup,” and instantly, just like that, [you’re] making [things] up as you go. So very improvisational and [he’d] just chuck you in the deep end, which I think you get some great stuff out of it.

Also, [having] the ability to just work without having to worry too much about continuity is so freeing. I think nowadays when you work with a bunch of cameras [it] is so important to make sure [that you] sip the water on the same line and do the actions at the same time, which can sometimes take away from the performance because you have to juggle so many different physical things in your head and beats to get. But A.J. [Edwards] allowed us to just live it and just say, “Do you want to do that scene completely differently?” [and then on] take two [say], “Do whatever you want,” and that allowed such a spontaneous, real, authentic kind of performance [that] made me feel so free, and I’m really proud of the work. I think his style was different and I can actually speak for a while about how kind of different he is to every other director I worked with, but I loved it.

To sum [it] up in a nutshell, [it] is just so freeing. There [are] no limitations on what you can do or when you should do it, he will make it work. If you can put the performance out there, he’ll make it work within the film.

CHM: I want to talk a little bit about Sydney [Park], who you share a lot of your screen time with. Could you describe her in three or fewer words as a screen partner?

Fiennes Tiffin: I’m going to need more than [three words] — I can’t do it in three or less. She’s so fun to be around. It’s kind of nuts, I don’t know how she’s always so positive on-set. It feels like she’s done this a million times and she just enjoys it and has fun with it.

She [will be] joking around, doing accents, playing around, and then, “Action,” and she’s straight into character. I think all the actors on it were amazing to work with, but Sydney [Park] just kept me in a good mood, she’s so positive. And just like I said, she feels like she’s a veteran. I mean, she’s obviously so young and new to the game, but she’s clearly had enough experience to feel so comfortable and that kind of has a knock-on effect on you. I feel like everyone around someone who’s comfortable and happy on-set kind of feeds into that as well.

A still from First Love. Photo courtesy of Vertical Entertainment.

CHM: Did the chemistry come naturally for you guys? Did you guys have to hang out a little bit before the production?

Fiennes Tiffin: We hung out a little bit. We didn’t get too much time, but we went to grab some food and we played a bit of golf with a bunch of other people through[out] filming, but we didn’t get too much time. I think we just naturally got on quite well, which was good [and] I hope that shows. We’re both Scorpios as well, so that might have something to do with it [laughs].

CHM: One of the established actors in First Love is Diane Kruger. Not many people can say she played their mother, what were some memories you had working with her? And did you learn anything working closely with her?

Fiennes Tiffin: There’s a scene in the film where she starts to get a little bit emotional and I genuinely forgot I was acting. I felt like I was [in the] front row at the most amazing theater performance and I suddenly realized, “Oh my God, it’s my line!” and I’ve just been so absorbed in having this front row view of such an incredible performance. Everyone on it was so great in that own way [and] I’ve only got great things to say about everyone, but I think Diane [Kruger] was really aware of her talent going in and that was a big part of taking [on] the project like, “I’m playing Diane Kruger’s son.”

A still from First Love. Photo courtesy of Vertical Entertainment.

I feel like at this stage, I’m always so keen to work with great actors like her [Diane Kruger] because I know I’ll learn so much and I really did. I was lost for words at some points; the way she can just turn it on and off. It was a pleasure to play her son.

CHM: What’s your favorite memory attached to the film? It sounds like you guys had some fun off-set, but what was your favorite memory?

Fiennes Tiffin: I don’t know if I have a specific thing, but I just enjoyed the whole process because we shot in L.A. [and] I stayed 20 minutes from where we were. And I’m sorry, I’m not specifically answering your question as to a specific thing I loved, but the general thing I love so much was just how it felt like we were making — in the best way — a fun movie with a bunch of friends who had come together. Every location we’re shooting is 10, 15 minutes from somewhere else, and I’m sure we did everything by the book, but we definitely made the most of having a small crew and the ability to just be like, “Let’s shoot over there,” and “Let’s shoot over there in natural light,” and everyone was so collaborative; it just felt like we were doing it for fun, not work. I think the general vibe [and] feeling on-set was what I remember distinctly as the most fun.

CHM: Do you remember the scene where your character takes Sydney Park’s character on their first date by the water? A.J. [Edwards] had described that day and I don’t know what your perspective as an actor [is] compared to his, but I think if I’m not mistaken, you guys had to shift to that location. I don’t know if you were aware of that. Do you remember that day at all?

Fiennes Tiffin: Yeah, I think [that] for the actors, [it] felt really freeing and liberating and we’re [just] doing this [and] that. I’m sure for [the] producers, it was a nightmare because you’re constantly having to adapt, improvise and overcome. But that location is so beautiful and it just felt, again, like we drove an hour down that way, we saw a beautiful spot [and said], “Let’s go shoot there,” and that authentic nature of coming to the location the same way the character would had a domino effect all the way down to [the] performance. I think all of the locations were so beautiful, I remember that day so well, and as I said, [it was] so fun for us, but I’m sure [that] for the producers, it was probably a bit challenging, logistically. But I’m so proud of all the locations and spots we filmed in.

CHM: Your character in the movie makes a mixtape for Sydney [Park]’s. Have you ever done that in real life?

Fiennes Tiffin: I’m so bad with playlists. I’ve got so many songs [but I] just think of it, search it, and then years later I’m like, “Oh, I haven’t thought of or heard that song in ages,” because I was too lazy to make a playlist. So no, that’s something that I should learn from Jim, the importance of making mixtapes and playlists. But A.J. [Edwards] actually sent us a Spotify playlist of the kind of music around the time [2008] that Jim would maybe listen to and that was really helpful to get into character. I think I can take a leaf out of A.J. [Edwards] and Jim’s book in that way.

CHM: If you were to make a mixtape for somebody, could you name one song that you would put on it?

Fiennes Tiffin: There’s a song by Sam Sparro called Black & Gold that I always forget to add to playlists and I always come back to; it feels kind of timeless, so maybe that one.

CHM: I don’t know anything about the After movies, quite frankly I get them confused with Linklaters’ Before trilogy, so could you give me a little bit of an elevator pitch for these films?  

Fiennes Tiffin: Listen, I think the fanbase of the books specifically, and then the films secondarily kind of speaks for itself in a way that I think the story is so brave in showing a relationship that is so far from perfect [yet] both parties worked so hard to make it perfect. I think the fanbase speaks so loudly in terms of how much people resonate with that and how much criticism you can get for portraying a toxic relationship. But no one wants to watch a film where everything goes right, do they? So I think that kind of teeter in the balance between documenting a relationship that’s challenging where both parties try so hard in that poignant, important part of your life when you’re coming of age; similarly to First Love.

I think [the] After [movies are] definitely high-stakes, dramatic [movies], you know? Everything is turned up to 10 out of 10. If you’re looking for a steamy romance, I don’t think you’d have to look much further than [the] After

CHM: If I’m not mistaken, there’s a fourth one coming out this year, correct?

Fiennes Tiffin: Yes. I honestly lost count at this point, but there is; I’m really happy.

CHM: You mentioned there’s like a rabid fanbase so could you give me any sort of tease for what’s to come in this?

Fiennes Tiffin: I think naturally, as you know, people who have read the book know we’re coming to an end. If there’s anything that’s in the books that you think should be in [here], that probably [will] be in this one.

Without saying too much, we are coming to an end, so I think if you’ve seen the first few, you definitely need to see this one. And if you haven’t, then you need to go to watch them.

CHM: You mentioned wanting to kind of get out of the romance genre a little bit, do you have any other projects coming up that maybe aren’t in the romance genre?

Fiennes Tiffin: I definitely do. I shot something in South Africa called The Woman King, which I’m so excited for. And again, I learned so much working with some amazing actors on that [film such as] Viola Davis, Lashana Lynch, Sheila Atim, Jordan Bolger, John Boyega, yeah, I can’t wait for that. That’s very far from a romance, especially [with] my character, so [I’m] happy to diversify the portfolio. I think that one comes out around mid-September.


First Love will be released in theaters and on demand on June 17 by Vertical Entertainment.

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Andrew is an entertainment journalist and film "critic" who has written for the likes of Above the Line, Below the Line, Collider, Film Focus Online, /Film and The Hollywood Handle among others. Leader of the Kaitlyn Dever Fanclub.

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Interviews

INTERVIEW | ‘A Dance of Memories’: Jaclyn Bethany and Greta Bellamacina on Crafting ‘Tell That to the Winter Sea’

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Tell That to the Winter Sea
Jaclyn Bethany and Greta Bellamacina (Photo Courtesy: Diana Patient and Instagram/@gretabellamacina)

Tell that to the Winter Sea is a beautiful exploration of love, feelings, and unresolved emotions. Directed by Jaclyn Bethany, we follow the intertwined lives of Jo and Scarlet, two friends grappling with the echoes of their past. Set against the backdrop of a girls’ trip to a serene country manor, the film sensitively navigates themes of love, friendship, and the passage of time. Additionally, it captures their emotional journey with raw authenticity and builds a genuine connection with viewers.  As Jo (Greta Bellamacina) and Scarlet (Amber Anderson) confront their unresolved feelings amidst the celebratory atmosphere, viewers are drawn into a world where every glance and conversation reverberates with unspoken yearning. It is undoubtedly one of the finest movies of the year and explores the enduring power of love.

I was fortunate enough to talk to the director Jaclyn Bethany and co-writer/star Greta Bellamacina about the heartfelt film. During the interview, the duo opened up about the film’s narrative and how dance became such a huge part of the story.

Tell That to the Winter Sea

Greta Bellamacina and Amber Anderson in a still from ‘Tell That to the Winter Sea’ (Kaleidoscope)

Aayush: What inspired you to create a story primarily focusing on the intense friendship and first love between two female dancers? 

Jaclyn: That’s a great way to start because it seems like you summarized the story there. I think it’s inspired by Greta and I’s relationship as friends and also sort of how we’ve seen each other grow and change, we’ve been friends for a decade or more. And also as collaborators, we sort of circled each other’s products, she acted in a couple of sorts of mine, and I had a kind of history and love with the UK. We sort of, have the same sort of values and aesthetics and we’re interested in the same kinds of stories. I think it was a natural sort of collaboration to tell the story of two women going through this sort of second coming of age as friends and you know, who have a deep love for each other no matter how you want to read that.

Greta: I think it’s also interesting how, as people we carry, you know, these younger versions of ourselves inside of us everywhere we go. But we evolve as people and experiences naturally happen. But, when you go back and you’re reconnected with the people you grow up with, you know, you resort back to, essentially parts of themselves again, and something is interesting how you’re haunted by the people you were growing up, and you know, what you choose to hold on to your memories and know those intense relationships you have, and life happens, but they kind of never leave you. That kind of was one of the big inspirations.

Aayush: Why did you choose a quiet Catholic school as the setting for their childhood and teenage years? 

Jaclyn: The way we told the story was sort of through these glimpses of the past and memories, and there was a big sort of difference between how they were. They’re the same people, right, but how they were when they were teenagers, how they are now and sort of figuring that through the line. And Greta and I were interested in sort of their feelings sort of being constricted in this Catholic school environment because if they did have feelings for each other as women that will be on friendship, it was sort of, you know, could become taboo, looked down upon which obviously, it shouldn’t. Because Amber’s character, Scarlett, was sort of not as cool in that sort of high school way that Joe’s character was. That kind of created, this tension when they were sort of at the school, and then they would be in the dance studio together. They were able to, you know, just be friends and be free. I think that we’re looking at a specific moment in their life at that time. So I’m sure that the girls hopefully became less mean, as we see later in the film at the hen party. But so I think we were interested in sort of the secrecy and the intimacy of the relationship and the school environment.

Greta: I think school becomes such a, you know, it’s such an integral thing, your whole identity is kind of formed by it. And, you know, you see glimpses, of Joe’s character, where, you know, the friends are saying, like, oh, you know, her, and they kind of question that. And I think we kind of liked the idea that you know, when you do something like a dance class out of school can be life-changing, you can be the person you dreamt of being, you know, there’s a flashback where you see them talk about who they will become when they get older, and they have these big dreams. So I think it’s sort of, it’s nice to keep the innocence of that and, and then show there sort of the relationship.

Aayush: The relationship between your character and Anderson’s character is really poetic, yet very complex. How did you approach portraying the complex and evolving relationship between Jo and her best friend? 

Greta: Well, a lot of it was about how to convey the unspoken, because obviously, you see this tension build-up. They get reconnected after all of this time and there are lots of open questions that haven’t been answered and time has passed. So a lot of it is about the internal monologue you’re having with yourself, you know, the things you want to say, but can’t say. So a lot of the process was thinking about, you know, of course, you want to just express everything that you can’t, because, you know, you’ve essentially become a different person and, it would be bizarre. So, I think a lot of getting into character. One of the kind of the important ways to do that, for us was that, we did a lot of dance rehearsals before we started filming. And then we built up this sort of physical intimacy, where we had this unspoken relationship. Then, when we were filming something, you know, present-day real-time, we had a really shared history that felt real. So that helps get into character today.

Jaclyn: I think it’s also interesting, because, you know, the film does have this time lapse and time jump, where the friends kind of become a little bit more estranged. And I think having them sort of have that shared experience and do those dance rehearsals which sort of reflected their teenage time together. Yeah, and then but have, you know, not knowing each other super well. So there was still like, sort of a distance naturally of trying to figure each other out and how each other worked. And that was like, that was, you know, beautiful to witness. And I think that translates on-screen.

Aayush: Dance is a very important means to tell the story in the movie. When we see you and Anderson moving, we realize what it means for both of these ladies. So, what kind of dance training or preparation did you undergo to convincingly portray Jo’s dance talent?

Greta: When we were in sort of the early processes of writing the film script, and thinking about how we were going to convey the innocence of their relationship growing up, and without wanting to reveal sort of them, like their relationship, that sort of sexual intimacy, we wanted to find an innocence and keep this sort of, you know, the dance, is it open to interpretation. So I just finished filming a film in Italy and the film was predominantly told through movement. So at the time, I was very inspired about, you know, how you convey these complex emotions through movement, without saying anything. And I think that was kind of one of the big inspirations of the scriptwriting element. But then, I guess, when we started practically doing it, a lot of it was listening to songs from the early 2000s. Getting into them as teenagers and things they would naturally listen to, and, and, you know, the innocence of just making up dance routines with your friends. And because that was kind of a way to, it’s like it’s got, it’s almost like its own foreign language in itself. But also, we wanted to keep this motif or something that kind of expresses that physical intimacy.

Jaclyn: When we started writing, even the early drafts, this was always prevalent in the scripts that Joe and Scarlett had some sort of language through dance. And that changed as we went on. But I also grew up doing ballet. I think, like I was saying, there is sort of this natural sort of competitiveness that happens through that. And it’s, you know, very specific to the female experience because your bodies are changing as you’re, you’re doing this sort of ritualistic dance every day after school or whatever. I think we were interested in carrying that aspect over into the film, but also because it is such a visual film in such a visual medium. You have the opportunity to express things not necessarily just with dialogue or words, but through your body and the kind of even the subtle glances between them. So we worked with a choreographer named Sarah Winter, who was phenomenal. I think they all had really sort of mapped out the journey through the dance because each dance feels distinct and comes in a special different part of the film. So I think we sort of collaborated t to bring to light what is in the film through dance.

Aayush: The movie is not just about women meeting to celebrate their friend, it’s much more than that. It’s about women talking about their struggles, their love, and their feelings. However, at the core is this beautiful relationship between two women. How did you navigate portraying the balance between the larger themes while still ensuring that the core relationship between the two friends remained the focal point and heart of the film? 

Jaclyn: We were interested in some sort of setting where all women come together. And one of those settings is like a bachelorette or a hen party. But we wanted fun moments of that, of course, because that’s just a natural part of that experience. But it was sort of within the sort of larger context of the relationship of Joe and Scarlett. We wanted to make sure that that storyline didn’t take away from the relationship between our protagonists. And these additional characters are a beautiful addition to their journey. I think when we were filming it, we stayed close to Joe and Scarlet’s experiences, so that you were kind of never hopefully never taken out of their journey and light through this weekend, and sort of how they are in front of their friends and how they are when they’re alone. Because I think it’s, it’s quite different. And I think we were just looking at that storyline as a compliment and revealing more about their relationship and how they are with each other, and then how they are with their girlfriends.

Greta: I think it’s interesting, because the sort of the ensemble cast of the hen party kind of tells you bits of information, missing information about these characters that you’re trying to piece together, through real-time watching them. But really, our kind of aim was to show you know, the complexities of just time and you know, identity and the people we could have become, there’s kind of there’s a sense of loss in it because it says it’s a bittersweet ending, because you see, reality versus younger dreams. So it’s kind of trying to keep hold of those two, being on this precipice of you know, in your 30s. And obviously, things are changing again, but bringing everyone back together and learning, almost learning the story backward.

Aayush: Amber and you, Greta, have such a beautiful chemistry in the film. It is visible in every frame you share. So, how was it working with Amber?

Greta: She was wonderful and she understood the character from the beginning. I think, just from our first session in rehearsals together, we were lucky because we were able to build this physical intimacy together. But also, because we weren’t speaking, it was all about the body. So when we were filming and had to kind of have this distance, that it was, it was great, because we were able to have that shared physical history, but then also not keep stuck some things back. So, it was wonderful just having that time together really before we were on set.

Jaclyn: Amber immediately responded to the script, and was very enthusiastic and was, you know, just responsive to the fact that this was told from a unique female experience. I think she and Greta are very different and they complement each other and in a beautiful way as well. And I think she’s, you know, a wonderful actress, and I had seen her in Emma and it was great to work with her and we’re so lucky to have her a part of our story.

Aayush: Jo’s struggle to reconcile her past with her present is beautifully presented in the film. Her emotions are raw and she is still dealing with the loss of her first love. What aspects of Jo’s emotional journey resonated most with you? 

Greta: Well, I guess now when I am reconnected with people from my past, and they share photos of me and I kind of, and I’m shocked to see the person. They are the visual reminder of what I used to wear or you know, everything it’s sort of, you know, I think it’s this sort of reminder of, you know, it’s like that John Ashbery poem, so many lives, we could have and we do have within us. So I think that was also quite crucial and Joe’s character having her like, visually different in the flashback, she’s got like this kind of early 2000s wig, and she sort of very much into that era.

Aayush: How do the themes of letting go of the past and embracing new stages in life play out in the film? What message do you hope the audience takes away regarding these themes?

Greta: I well, I hope it’s just a Universal film of friendship and love that people can connect to, but have, you know, an honest, complex portrayal of women and their stories.

Jaclyn: It’s interesting to have made this film, in September 2022, and then come back and look at it, and talk about it now, because the film is about to release. What I do feel about this film is that it’s timeless and I hope that anyone who watches it can see a part of themselves in our characters, and hopefully, we can also inspire some young women to go out and make their films and find their voices.

Tell That to the Winter Sea releases in UK theatres on May 31.

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Charlie Michael Baker: Journey of Autism, Social Media and Working with Kylie Jenner (EXCLUSIVE)

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Charlie Michael Baker and Kylie Jenner

At just 17, Charlie Michael Baker is giving his all to change the world. Baker is a renowned author, entrepreneur, actor, and journalist and he is on a mission to help millions of people suffering from autism. Charlie Michael Baker previously told Costal House Media he raised over £400,000 to help people with autism. He faced many challenges since childhood but his determination and perseverance were the key to his success.

Baker is a Social Media sensation with over 1.2M followers on Instagram. Charlie Michael Baker is one of the many influencers being bullied on social media every day. He receives 300-500 rape and death threats daily!

Charlie Michael Baker

Charlie Michael Baker

We had the honor to connect with Charlie Michael Baker. You can read our conversation below.

Nikita Pahwa: Congratulations on launching your new book! What can you tell us about it?

Charlie Michael Baker: So my new book is about social media, specifically, the dangers of social media. All young kids now want to grow up and be ‘famous’ but don’t know the bad side of it all. I was one of those kids, I’d always wanted to be famous, it’s something I’d always dreamed of!

NP: How do you deal with death and rape threats?

CMB: The short answer is, I don’t, really. I stopped reading my DMs a few months back because of it all. I don’t deal with negativity and there’s too many trolls to block each and every one, so they all just get ignored.

Charlie Michael Baker Social Media and I

Charlie Michael Baker Social Media and I (Photo: @kaybeephotography2 on Instagram)

NP: What advice would you give to people in similar situations?

CMB: I’d say don’t listen to them, do what I do and just don’t read them. It’s better that way. What you don’t see can’t hurt you!

NP: If you could say one thing to people sending you threats, what would it be?

CMB: Without ruining my career *lol* I’d say just to be a bit kinder. If there’s something going on in your life that you’re not very happy with, ask someone for help. Speak to someone you trust rather than swaying to a life of being a keyboard warrior. It’s not nice!

NP: Is your new book related to Charlie Baker: Autism and Me?

CMB: It is! It will be written in the same – ish way BUT Charlie Michael Baker Social Media And I will be exclusively E – book sold on my website charliembaker.net.

NP: Are you currently working on a new venture with Kylie Jenner?

CMB: I am! We’re working with the same brand – glow beverages. We’re working alongside an NBA star too whose name I cannot remember for the life of me – oops lol.

Kylie Jenner and Charlie Michael Baker

Kylie Jenner and Charlie Michael Baker

NP: Are you planning to collaborate with more celebrities in the future?

CMB: I love working with celebrities. Mostly just to see what they’re like to be honest. Kylie is so nice though honestly I keep messaging her life updates!

NP: Last question, is it true that you’re working on the Charlie Baker: Autism and Me movie? Are we going to see it on the big screen?

CMB: Yes, it is! I’m filming something very very special this year with Creation Media 22 which should appear on Netflix and Prime Video which is so exciting! It will be my first time in front of an actual TV camera so it’s a bit different to daily vlogs!

You can get your Charlie Michael Baker Social Media And I E-copy on March, 1 for £0.01 (yes, a penny!). Get your Charlie Baker: Autism and Me copy on Amazon.

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INTERVIEW | ‘The Tiger’s Apprentice’ Stars Brandon Soo Hoo and Leah Lewis Discuss Representation, Positivity, and the Power of Belief

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Tiger's Apprentice
Tiger's Apprentice (Paramount+)

Paramount’s latest animated flick ‘The Tiger’s Apprentice’ has finally been released and garnered positive response from everywhere. Adapted from Laurence Yep’s beloved children’s book series, ‘The Tiger’s Apprentice’ brings to life the thrilling journey of Chinese American teen Tom Lee (portrayed by Brandon Soo Hoo). He is suddenly thrust into a realm he once believed existed only in bedtime tales. After a tragedy strikes his family, the young man discovers his identity as a Guardian. Subsequently, he is mentored by the mystical Tiger Hu (played by Henry Golding) to confront the evil Loo (portrayed by Michelle Yeoh). In between all this chaos, he develops a special friendship with a girl named Rav (played by Leah Lewis) who helps him in defeating the villain and saving the world.

It is one of those films that you can enjoy with your family. It is tender, beautifully crafted, and encourages you to think about how traditions play a crucial role in everyone’s lives. In this exclusive interview, Brandon Soo Hoo and Leah Lewis share their perspectives on the film’s themes, the significance of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) representation in media, and the impact of portraying multi-dimensional characters. The actors delve into the importance of maintaining positivity in the face of adversity, believing in oneself, and breaking stereotypes in the entertainment industry. From challenging outdated narratives to normalizing cultural heritage, Brandon and Leah express their excitement for viewers to experience the film’s adventurous and tender journey of self-discovery.

Tiger's Apprentice

A still from ‘The Tiger’s Apprentice’ (Paramount+)

Aayush Sharma: ‘The Tiger’s Apprentice’ is a mixture of so many great things love, care, culture, and family. But for you guys, what was the one thing that made you relate to this story and made you proud? And why do you think that particular thing is so important for people to see?

Brandon Soo Hoo: One of the favorite things that I related with my character was Tom has uncanny ability to maintain a positive outlook when things get really tough. And so, you know, he’ll drop in a humorous little quip here and there in the face of adversity. I think that’s such a powerful way to confront anything challenging because life isn’t that serious. And, if you really lean into the negative, and if you really lean into the dark side, I feel like it can really corrupt and taint you. I believe maintaining that light and positivity around you is like the ultimate protection that you have, from the dark stuff when life kind of gets you down. Because if you let life get too dark, then you won’t let enough of your inner light kind of radiate outwards and do what it needs to do. So, you know, hold on to your light, hold on to the positivity. I feel like it’s contagious. It’s very, very healing.

Leah Lewis: I think, for me, one of my favorite things about this film that I would take away, is really learning how to believe in yourself. And I know that’s such a simple statement, but it’s a big loaded one for me. I really feel like when it comes down, to believing in yourself, it’s the things that you care about, the people you care about, where you came from, where you’re going. You see this character, Tom, struggle with believing in himself in any aspect. I think that’s really important too. And I think, when you can believe in yourself too and present yourself, honestly, and vulnerably, that’s also when you find other people who are right for you in your life. You see Tom eventually learns how to be himself, and because of it, he fits into this Zodiac and kind of ends up finding a community that he never would have expected. So, I think that aspect is important for me.

AS: So, you know, besides showing so many great things, this is also an Asian story. The characters, the cast, the makers, and most of the people involved in this project, have an Asian background. But you know when we see the entertainment industry, we still see a lot of talented Asian actors stuck in a kind of stereotype. And they are cast in one kind of role. For you guys, how does Asian representation in movies intersect with a broader discussion about diversity and inclusion in the entertainment industry?

BS: I mean, it’s 2024, we’re past the era of having Asian people playing just submissive roles or playing like the tech support. I think that right now is like a renaissance for Asian entertainers and Asian artists to showcase that we are multi-dimensional people, that we can be the hero, we can be the cool guy. It’s all that stuff is like, we’re really seeing Asians being at the forefront of stories like that. And it’s so important because growing up, if you don’t see all of those things represented in media, it’s kind of hard to feel like, you can see that in yourself. So, it’s almost like this conditioning that we received from a really young age. So right now, we’re trying to reverse engineer all of that by showing you can be the hero of your own story, you know, you can save the day. And you could be more than just like whatever aesthetic or face that people want to put on you. You can kind of step out of those boundaries and as a human being, you can do whatever the heck you want. So, I think that it’s so important for us to be able to share with you all.

Brandon Soo Hoo (@brandonsoohoo/Instagram)

LL: I agree, I think, we’re living in a day and age where we’re moving towards a place where representation isn’t such a flashy, flashy thing. It’s a necessary and needed thing that should already be kind of embedded into our society. So, it’s a huge win for the AAPI community any time there’s an API lead or like, especially something like this film where it’s completely eccentric. But I also think the more and more we start to see those projects, like, it’s important to be able to normalize the difference in all these characters. You know, when I also look at, the list of like, Caucasian actors, I can think of an actor for every kind of character. I’m like, oh, yeah, I know, this actor played that, and this and that. But you know, for Asian, that’s been a long time coming, where it’s like, oh, it’s only Michelle Yeoh, who plays that or like, you know, we have the designated person who plays the geek or the kind of hero or like the dark character. And what’s so cool about this film, too, is like, Tom is just, he’s a cool, regular guy who hails from Chinese American culture. This film shows heritage and culture in a way where it’s so normalized, and just so kind of nuanced. I feel like that sense of representation is so cool for the people at home who are like, hey, casually, I like this guy, or I know those kinds of traditions, and I love the way he builds in this theme because I feel that way. I don’t know, I just, I also wish I had something like this growing up too. But like, now is the best time to see people that look like you, speak like you, or act like you on screen. It really recovers that belief in yourself that things are possible for you. Like we all watch TV. We all care about these characters to feel seen and feel like you know, you have a voice out there somewhere. There’s nothing better than that feeling. So, I hope that this film does that for a lot of people to me.

AS: You guys are working with such huge stars. Michelle Yeoh, Lucy Liu, Henry Golding, and more. What was your reaction when you heard these guys will be in the movie?

BS: Man, I mean, the reaction was and still is just like, almost like a surreal disbelief. I was like, these are people that I watched growing up when I was little, I was like, dang, these are some huge Asian names. They are the biggest names in our community. So yeah, I told my parents immediately about, like, who’s going to be in the project, and we all just like giggled about it together. So, I think just immense pride. It’s such a celebration, and it’s such a win, not just for me and my career, but it’s such a celebration for the Asian community. It’s like, man, look at all of us, like, together just being badass Zodiac warriors.

LL: I felt the same way. I mean, honestly, I tend to do this thing to where if someone tells me like this person is who you’re working with. I’m just like, wait, what? And I’m still like that, you know, like when we were able to even see Sandra Oh, at the premiere of like, let’s go, oh, my God, like, that’s really freakin’ cool. It’s also just like, I think it’s a really proud moment to finally see all different generations of AAPI actors coming together on one screen and to be able to see that there is space for more than just one or two. This whole cast is like a chock filled with it. And everyone is so talented, it’s been an honor. I’m really proud to be a part of it.

Leah Lewis and Sandra Oh

Leah Lewis and Sandra Oh (@leahmlewis/Instagram)

AS: The film has finally been released and it has opened to great reviews. If anyone hasn’t seen the movie, what’s your advice to them? And why should they watch ‘The Tiger’s Apprentice’?

BS: What do you what are you waiting for? Get in there. Watch this movie. It’s special, it’s beautiful. There’s something in there for everybody. And yeah, I think you’re really missing out on something that’s, that’s really beautiful and important. So go check it out. I hope they get to watch it with your family because there are a lot of beautiful lessons in there to share. So, go go check it out. You have to.

LL: It’s like, it’s a cool, like, genuinely cool. It has Steelo to it. Adventurous, tender film about finding yourself and I know we all want to do that. So, you should totally watch it and I hope you find a bit of yourself in this cool tender film.

‘The Tiger’s Apprentice’ is currently streaming on Paramount+.

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