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Interview | Nadia Alexander Discusses Not Okay and Working with Zoey Deutch

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Searchlight and Hulu’s Not Okay premiered on the streaming service on July 29. This is a sharp satire that, for the first time to my knowledge, satirized the current influencer culture where YouTubers are giving reviews of Jordan Peele’s latest on social media. The film stars Zoey Deutch as Danni, a writer-turned-influencer after she photoshops a luxurious life in Paris. But what begins as a white lie becomes a house of cards that get stacked too high as she befriends Rowan (budding star Mia Isaac), who is a trauma survivor and a teenage activist.

I spoke with star Nadia Alexander about her role as Harper, Danni’s co-worker who’s skeptical of her actions. She’s incredible in the film and I was fortunate enough to get to speak with her about the evolution of director Quinn Shephard, working with Zoey Deutch and Mia Isaac and her perspective on a certain day of shooting.

Zoey Deutch in the film Not Okay. Photo by Nicole Rivelli. Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2022 20th Century Studios All Rights Reserved

Coastal House Media: Hi, Nadia! It’s nice to meet you. Congratulations on the film and your engagement — I saw that on social media, ironically. I loved your performance in the film because the whole time I was watching, I was waiting for your character, Harper, to inevitably knock down Danni’s house of cards. I’ll touch on that scene in a little bit, but to start, what has this press tour been like for you? I know you had a theatrical screening of the film last night.

Nadia Alexander: We did. We had two, we did one in LA [and] that was the first time that we got to watch it with an audience, which was really exciting because I have actually seen the film probably about 30 times at this point [laughs] because when your fiancé is the director, you end up spending a lot of time in the editing room and watching cuts and watching different versions of the film, so getting to see the final product and hear other human beings laugh that isn’t just me because I continue to laugh at the jokes every time I watch it [laughs], which is a little bit ridiculous. But that was really special, and we had a lot of friends out there that came to support and that was really wonderful.

I mean, it’s really interesting because of the social media following that we’ve built up throughout the process. Like the screening that we went to last night, there were people who were like, “I’ve been following this movie since the blonde Dylan O’Brien TikTok,” you know? And having people who have been invested in the project for like a year without even knowing what it was about until the trailer dropped a month ago, that has been a really interesting experience of getting to watch people get excited and then hopefully not disappoint them when they get to see it on Friday.

CHM: I got to speak to Quinn yesterday about her transition to now being fully behind the camera — as you know in her last film, she also starred in it — but you’ve acted in both films and I’m just curious, did you notice any differences in her as a director from her first to her second film?

Quinn Shephard and Zoey Deutch in the film Not Okay. Photo by Amber Asaly. Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2022 20th Century Studios All Rights Reserved.

Alexander: Oh yeah. I mean, obviously, she’s still very young — she directed Blame at 20 [and] she directed Not Okay at 26 — but I think in a lot of ways, she’s already so confident and knew exactly what she wanted on Blame, but to get to see her execute it on a much larger scale, especially because Blame was made for very, very little money and this was made for a little more than a little money, and being able for her to be able to say, “I want a hallway with red lockers,” and you just get the hallway with the red lockers, I think getting to see her step into this bigger position of power has been very inspiring to me.

And I think in terms of her technique, because she came from an actor’s background, she is an “actor’s director” and she’s always able to sort of tailor her directing style to each individual actor’s needs. And it’s very interesting because I’ve changed a lot from what the actor that I was when I did Blame when I was 21 to now [playing] Harper at 27 and her being able to shift with me. And she also puts me on tape for every audition that I do, and we have such an easy language between each other where I kind of know what she wants before she’s come up and told me in a way that during Blame, I was like, “I don’t know what I’m doing,” and “I don’t understand this character, help me,” and I think there was even more trust this time around.

Warning: light spoilers ahead for Not Okay.

CHM: I wanted to talk about one scene in particular when two characters have a confrontation in the office. I spoke to Quinn about this yesterday and she told me that it was all improvised between the two characters. So I was curious, from your perspective, do you remember filming that scene in particular? Did you know what to expect from the actors, what they were going to say, and how much could you hear from being outside of the office?

Alexander: Yeah. I think that it was really interesting because I remember just reading that scene I felt like I could see it so clearly and watching it in real-time [and] I was like, “Yeah, this is exactly how it should feel,” [and] the office space that we ended up using for the film was just incredible and the glass and all of it was just so filmic to me and I was really excited to see that scene. We could definitely hear more [than] you can — they edited the sound so that you couldn’t hear as much — [but] we got quite a lot of the incredible improv work that they did.

And Mia being literally 17 years old when we were filming, the power that she was able to have and keep in that head space was just incredible to watch. I was just like, “This girl.” I knew before I saw a single daily or any of the footage, I was just like, “She’s such a star, I’m honored to be in this child’s presence.”

Mia Isaac in the film Not Okay. Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2022 20th Century

CHM: And what was she like to work with? Because you said it yourself, she was 17 when you guys filmed this and she’s had two star-making performances this summer with Don’t Make Me Go and now Not Okay. What was it like to kind of be there early in her career?

Alexander: You know, [I’m] on the Mia Isaac hype train before everyone else. Because Quinn [Shephard] is my partner, I got to watch all of the tapes that came in for Rowan, and I remember so distinctly Mia [Isaac] was tape #10. We were taking notes, watching the tapes and it’s interesting because as an actor, of course, you always want to do your best and get the job. And even if you’re like, “Oh, I might not be right for this; I really want to try,” it’s interesting when you’re on the other side of it, you’re really looking [and] you’ve had this picture of this person and you’re like, “I don’t know who she is, but I’ll know her when I see her.” And as soon as Mia came on —it was the spoken word [scene], the one that’s on the laptop — it finished [and] we both had tears in our eyes and we were like, “That’s it. That’s Rowan. That is exactly who I’ve seen in my mind for the last two years.”

I mean, Hannah Marks and Quinn [Shephard are] the first people to put Mia out there in the world [and] I cannot wait to see what she does with her career. I think she’s going to be such a huge actor and I know she wants to get into writing and directing, and she’s a brilliant, brilliant person, and I love her.

CHM: You share a lot of scenes with Zoey Deutch in the film and I just wanted to ask you about that scene where your character confronts her. You lay down the ultimatum like such a boss, so what was that scene like to shoot?

Alexander: That was a tough scene because it was the first scene that I had to shoot. And I was like, “You hate me. Wait, where is the love? Seven-year relationship and this is what you give me? You make me do the hardest scene first? [laughs]” So that was a tricky one also because I’d known that monologue for two years at that point. That monologue has not changed drastically since it got into the script, so I think getting it to a place where it felt fresh was hard. But Zoey [Deutch] was so phenomenal in that scene and gave me a lot to work off of. I think helped me find all the colors again, just because like seeing her, she’d do a take and she would just look pathetic and Quinn would be like, “I just want you to like, almost pity her a little bit in this take,” and Zoe would immediately give me that. So that was awesome.

CHM: One final question I have for you is: Is directing a movie in the cards for you?

Alexander: You know, I would write one, I might consider producing one, [but] I’m not sure I can do the directing thing. I think [you wear] too many hats. It’s like [being] in the kitchen when you have to [do] like 400 things — I can’t do that in the kitchen, like I can’t. I boil the pasta by itself, then I make the vegetables, so I think the way that my brain works versus somebody like Quinn [who’s] able to do so many things at once. I’m kind of better if I just focus on one thing. Never say never, but it also might be a bad movie if I direct it. 


Not Okay is streaming on Hulu now.

FILM RATING

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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