Bow down to the future titans of fashion, whose diverse designs find their inspiration in sea creatures, seductresses, and Solaris.
In September 2012, New York–based Spanish designer Sabela Tobar graduated from the ArtEZ Institute of the Arts in the Netherlands. She’s since been hard at work on her debut collection, “Waltzing Lights,” which was inspired by the lifecycle of jellyfish. “The growth process, the metamorphosis, is what I wanted to represent in the clothes,” says Tobar, 28. “I’m also fascinated by the duality of these beautiful creatures being so deadly.”
Juun.J’s Spring/Summer 2013 collection from was inspired by Akira Kurosawa’s mob film Drunken Angel. Many of the designs, at once militaristic and androgynous, embraced a lighter color palette, but 44-year-old Korean designer insists nothing will ever replace black. “Black will always be the new black, no matter how many years pass,” he says. “Still, khaki is very chic.
Canadian designer Ryan Mercer, 32, presented his first collection last year at London’s Royal College of Art graduate show. “I mixed tailored and cropped pieces with oversized jackets that have an ’80s vibe,” says Mercer, who was influenced by films like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. “There were a lot of leather jackets in that film. The work of artist Josef Albers inspired the bold color blocking, and I tried to maintain a strong, saturated sense of color by primarily using leather and python for the garments. I also introduced texture by edging certain pieces with leather cording.”
Born and raised in Switzerland, 25-yearold Cosima Gadient presented her debut collection as part of the graduate show at Basel’s Academy of Art and Design. Titled “GENEV.,” the collection exudes “danger and passion,” according to the young designer. “She’s a femme fatale characterized by her power, intelligence, and coldness,” says Gadient of the “GENEV.” woman. “Her appearance is mysterious and sublime. You’d better watch out—she’ll ruin you to get what she wants.”
AISLIN G FARRELL
At 24, Tokyo-based British designer Aisling Farrell has already shown her designs to critical acclaim at 2012’s London Fashion Week. Of her latest collection, the Central Saint Martins College of Arts and Design graduate says, “It’s based on the natural phenomenon of static electricity. My primary aim was to harness this force and the interaction between different materials at an atomic level to create a kinetic display.”
Since graduating from London’s Central Saint Martins College of Arts and Design, Milan-based Sergei Grinko has displayed his collections during Milan Fashion Week and has been featured in Vogue Italia. “It’s called ‘Solaris’ in homage to the celebrated 1961 novel by Stanisław Lem, says Grinko, 39, of his Spring/Summer 2013 collection. “Solaris is the story of profound harmony between a human being and nature. It’s a philosophical work first, and a captivating narrative second, in which we’re meant to contemplate the miracle of Earth and its trees, flowers, rivers, rain, and leaves. Nature manifests in the clothes through prints on silk that pair botanical colors like lavender, peach, and pale green.”
After years fronting hardcore punk band Shrine, Xan Cassavetes has become a movie director. Today, the oldest daughter of indie monoliths John Cassavetes and Gena Rowlands will see her film Kiss of the Damned debut on American silver screens. (It premiered at the Venice Film Festival, last fall.) The film, a modern take on ’70s erotic horror films, is lead by Josephine de La Baume and Milo Ventimiglia and sparked with all kinds of sexual intensity. Set on a grand Connecticut estate and peppered with all the gore and X-rated sensuality characteristic of the genre, Damned follows Djuna and Paolo, de La Baume and Ventimiglia respectively, as vampire and freshly-turned lover exploring the affection and primalism of their heightened, non-human romance. Here, Cassevetes discusses de La Baume’s lush and haunting look, growing up in film, and her slow path to the director’s chair.
Tell me why you chose this genre for your first narrative feature.
It’s the first film I could get made. I was going to make another film at the same time, but it just didn’t feel right, and so in a very short amount of time I got this spontaneous desire to write this other script for a location—the location of the house in the movie. And in three weeks, I wrote that, and instead of making the other film I made this one.
What were some of the themes you were looking to explore when writing this script?
Well there’s two. One was the idea of two sisters who were victimized when they were young. They were children bitten at the same time, and [it’s about] how one takes that experience and becomes sort of embittered and not comfortable with the light side of herself, and the other one isn’t comfortable with the darker side of herself which is there, so she tries to hold on to being a human. It reminded me of myself, and I think everybody—that there is a part of you that tries to be a certain kind of human intellectually and emotionally, and then there’s a primal side in us and the two sections are always in the same human being. The other theme I wanted to explore is this idea of love. Because love, I feel, is this volatile, sort of strange beautiful trick that’s played on us, and you can see somebody, and depending on that time in your life and what’s transpired in your life at that moment, and you can see an incredible amount of relatedness and attraction to someone which justifies great recklessness that can evolve into love.
How did Josephine and Milo get involved?
I didn’t write the film with anyone in mind, but I envisioned it with specific out-of-time actors that didn’t look like regular actors. Josephine was someone I became aware of afterwards. Her face is the most beautiful and timeless face, and she turned out to be an an incredible actress, and Milo, the same. I didn’t know so much about him as an actor, but I visually thought he would be great, and I had no idea how great he would be when I got there.
What was your relationship with film growing up? Did your family regularly watch movies together?
No. They were working a lot of the time, and I was doing my normal kid things, and they were good parents, but they weren’t like, “Okay. We’re cinephiles. Let’s sit down and watch cinema.” They didn’t do that. We did have this amazing channel in the house called Z Channel and it had every European film, softcore European porn, every vampire movie, every big Hollywood movie, kung fu movies—every single range of films. It was this insane channel that everybody had and everybody watched in LA. And I grew up watching that, so I saw basically 90% of everything I’ve ever seen between the ages of 12 and 18 on that channel. By having it in the house, it became a sort of education.
You only started exploring this medium and making films in the last decade. Did you have no interest in filmmaking before then?
No, not at all. I was in a band in L.A. for a really long time in my 20s, and then I started making my own videos, and then I started making other people’s videos. Then I quit my band and had kids, and the only way to keep my sanity was to go and take a break and write when they were sleeping. And so I started writing screenplays that way, and then I thought I want these made into a movie, and then I thought, I don’t want anyone else to direct them. So that’s how I started realizing that that was what I wanted to do. If I had been in my 20s, it wouldn’t have gone that way. I think because I had a lot of experience at the time, it did. I was no longer a child.
What was the best piece of advice your parents taught you about filmmaking?
Obviously, as you can imagine, I’m a fan of their work and their films. Just growing up around them, I saw them get trashed by critics and people. A lot of times these masterpieces of theirs got decimated, and I saw their attitude dealing with that—like, whatever. It was disappointing, but they had confidence even if other people didn’t understand that what they were doing was valid and good. As it all turns out in the wash, most people think that now as well. It was always a relief for me to know that, and I’m not comparing myself. You just have to take chances and not be afraid if everybody understands. Not all people will get or like what you’re doing. It’s a drag, but it’s not definitive. It doesn’t mean that what you’re doing is not legitimate. I think that’s the greatest comfort I got from being exposed to their career.
Do you plan on collaborating with your family?
There’s a trend. Right before this, I was going to do an anthology movie with my sister, Allen Hughes, and Jonathan Collette. We were each going to do a segment of a movie together, and Zoe and I worked closely on that movie, but I think it was too art-y. [Laughs] The concept was too art-y and it wasn’t able get off the ground. We’re not planning on it, but our roads do cross sometimes as far as making things. Then again, my brother and my sister are such individuals. I don’t think either of us really want to share a head when it comes to what we have to express, but we’re all very interested in each others stuff, and always share what we’re doing with each other.
If Drake set the tone for post-Degrassi success, then Landon Liboiron is next in line. The 22-year-old actor is part of a young ensemble cast in Netflix’s newest original series, Hemlock Grove, out tomorrow. The elegant horror, based on Brian McGreevy’s bestselling book of the same name, is brought to us by Eli Roth, who directed the pilot and exectutive produces the show. Roth famously promised a werewolf transformation that “would really fuck up an entire generation.” Liboiron plays said werewolf—human name, Peter Rumancek—a Gypsy trailer trash kid embroiled in a deliciously gory murder mystery. We caught up with the young Canadian recently to talk Hemlock Grove, picking Eli Roth’s brain, and achieving Drake-status.
So, did you read the book?
The day after I booked it, I started reading the book. I finished it in a couple days. It’s about as complicated as the show is. It’s got a lot of thing going on underneath it. There were times I had to stop and read back and make sure I was following everything. Brian [McGreevy] is such a crazy writer, and he has a very, very interesting view on the world. It shines through in his novel.
What was the audition process like?
I live in Canada, so I put myself on tape and they called me down to LA for a test screen with Bill Skarsgård. And then after that I found out I booked it.
Describe in one word the feeling of getting a lead in a TV show—and please don’t use the words awesome and amazing.
One word, huh? Exhuberating? [Laughs]
We’ll take it. Tell me about working with Eli Roth. He has a pretty special brain for horror.
He has a pretty special brain, indeed. He has an incredible wealth of knowledge about film, and he’s particularly well read in this genre. He was just a very enthusiastic guy on set. He was very polite to all of us, and asked all of us for any input that we wanted to bring to the characters and to the scenes. He was willing to just bounce things around while we were working on a scene. That to me is the most important thing for an actor looking for a director, in that he just kind of let us play and backed us up with his knowledge of film.
What direction did he give you in terms of the character?
[My character] Peter is a free spirit, and so [Eli] literally just let me be free. Every once in a while he’d be like, why don’t you tone it down here, or why don’t you do a little more here? He really didn’t try to put any of the actors into any corners.
How does one get into gypsy werewolf character?
With Peter, the whole werewolf part of life is simply a part of life. It’s just who he is. It’s not a curse or anything to him. In fact, in the book, there’s some really funny ways that Brian uses the werewolf for Peter as kind of an escape. Actually, there’s a great line, “I’m done solving human problems with people skin.” He sometimes wishes he could drop the face of the human more often to be the wolf. And I think this is why Brian was so smart in using the gypsy culture as the werewolf character. Learning about the gypsy culture, it’s such a romantic kind of poetic way of life, and Peter’s such an outsider outside of all worlds. It’s the same thing as being a werewolf. It’s almost a beautiful way of life to be a werewolf. It’s a good thing.
What was the process like becoming Peter?
Brian recommended a lot of books on the gypsy culture, and I just read as much as I could. I even had the opportunity to drive down to Eerie, Pennsylvania, where I got to meet real gypsies. They weren’t your full-on fortune telling gypsies. They were integrated into society, but they knew the language of the gypsies, and their grandmother didn’t speak anything but Romanian and Gypsy. She was this beautiful, sweet old gypsy. Me and Tiio Horn, she plays my gypsy cousin in the show, we both drove down there together. We sat with them, ate Romanian food, and drank moonshine. We learned about the culture and asked as many questions as we could. Gypsies have a lot of habits in their day-to-day life, and they have a lot of rituals that they find very important like having clean hands before eating.
What was your first ever role?
The first role I booked on a show, I didn’t get paid for it, but it was this really cool independent film called Broken House. This director in Vancouver was working with kids in a juvey, detentional center, and in order to get these kids, who were in there for some serious shit, to get active and doing something creative, he wrote an outline for a script with them, and then he brought in actors and we improvised the whole thing according to the story.
Was that intimidating?
It was, and it was terrifying too. My mom was around, because I think I was maybe 13 or 14 when I did it. Some of the kids in there were just bratty fucking kids, but then there was this one kid who was extremely polite and put together. He would hold doors open for my mom. So she talked to one of the security guards and she was like, that one boy is so nice. I can’t believe he’s in here. What did he do? And the security guard just kind of went, oh, you don’t want to know. In fact, he’s the one that’s in here for the worst crime. Once he turns 18, he’s going straight to jail. It was just creepy, and there were moments when you were in a room with kids that weren’t a part of the project, and they would walk in and the energy of the room would change.
On the topic of Degrassi, are your ultimate career hopes and dreams Drake-level?
Well, I haven’t dabbled in any rap like that. [Laughs] I think for Drake, or Wheelchair Jimmy, I think he’s been extremely humble with his success. The things that he sings about and the things that he raps about, I think it’s really just about the art to him. I think that’s why he was such a fresh face, because he was really bringing back such an old school vibe to it, and I guess that’s how I want to approach my career in acting. It’s not so much about the success, but my own fulfillment of my craft.
Photo by Adam Fedderly.
Season 1 of Hemlock Grove premieres on Netflix April 19.
French DJ-producer Breakbot, neè Thibaut Berland, master of saccharine disco funk grooves and remixes, has just seen the physical US release of his latest album, By Your Side. In honor of the occasion, we asked him to send us his favorite jams, and he obliged. Hear them all below, glowing commentary included.
Lamont Dozier, “Trying To Hold On To My Woman”
Just heard this track on the radio in California last week, it gave me some serious goose bumps! I think Lamont is a genius.
Willie Hutch, “Give Me Some of That Good Ol’ Love”
When Jackie Brown came out I was 16. It made me want to see every blaxpoitation movie ever made especially the ones with Pam Grier. This sexy track is taken from the Foxy Brown official soundtrack.
Chic, “Soup For One”
Sampled in the planetary hit “Lady” by Mojo, this track by Chic never gets old, thanks to Nile Roders’ attention to details.
Ray Parker Jr & Raydio, “For Those Who Like To Groove”
I think the title speaks for itself.
De Barge, “Stay With Me”
When I hear this tune, I can’t help thinking about my good friend Kiri from Japan ending his set at 5am in Kyoto, and the amazing ramen we had after.
Mary Jane Girls, “Candy Man”
Perfect feel good track, I could listen to it every day (and I almost do).
Rose Royce, “Wishing On A Star”
Always loved this track, there’s something very sad and powerful about it. There’s nothing quite like feeling that a song can understand you.
Gap Band, “Outstanding”
Summer is coming! ”Outstanding” is a perfect BBQ tune! The drum loop at the beginning is a classic drum break.
ELO, “Last Train To London”
Felt a little blue this morning. When you wake up because your job sucks and you don’t want to go ? Next time just listen to ELO very loud. It won’t make your job better, but you will be ALL RIGHT.
An actor’s career is defined by moments, pivot points that swing their career higher and instances so heavily meaningful Facebook is unworthy. Of those André Holland, of 1600 Penn fame and NYU tutelage, has a few. His first film was a Spike Lee joint, Miracle at St. Anna. His latest 42, has him in the power-wielding shoes of Wendell Smith—the man little known to have put Jackie Robinson on the radar of Brooklyn Dodgers General Manager “Bushy Brows” Harrison Ford, and into the major leagues. On the eve of embarking on the film’s premiere circuit, Holland made time for BULLETT to pick through the crossed paths and select film sets that have put his career on the rise.
In 42, you play Wendell Smith, a pretty legendary guy, was that a heavy weight to bear?
It was. I had heard the Jackie Robinson story a lot growing up as a kid, but I’d never heard of Wendell Smith. Then I got the script and started reading through it and doing research. The more research I did, the more amazed I was at this dude. He was an incredible man. So I felt a growing sense of responsibility to honor his legacy and also to introduce him to the world, because so many people don’t know who he is or the contribution that he made. If he had not done what he did, I don’t know that Jackie Robinson would have succeeded in the major leagues. I met with Rachel Robinson [Jackie Robinson's widow] early on, and she said the same thing. She doesn’t know if it would have worked.
Biopics have the difficult job of mimicking reality. This film specifically took many, many decades to get made because of Rachel Robinson’s dedication to authenticity. How do you think the finished product lived up to its story?
I think it lived up pretty spectacularly, for a couple of reasons. First of all, Jackie Robinson is such a complex man and he had so many different things happen in his life—from baseball, to his upbringing, to his military service, to his involvement in the civil rights movement. There’s so much that you could have captured with this man. But I think what Brian [Helgeland] the writer-director did was very smart. He just focused on this year and a half, two year period that really was defining for Jackie. What this movie does wonderfully is that it captures the love story between Jackie and Rachel, which was beautiful, and it also does a good job of showing who the man was and what he had to put up with, what he had to endure. It doesn’t really pull any punches in terms of the ugliness of the racism of the time. It’s very easy to make a film and make it a good old American tale of this man rising to the occasion and beating the bad guy, but the bad guys not being that bad. In this film, Brian [Helgeland] gives a really wonderful sense of authenticity to the time period and the way people actually thought and behaved and the things people said. That’s what I think the movie does well. It really captures that time. You walk away from it feeling, wow, that man really was special, not just because we say he is.
Perfunctory co-star question: how was it working with Harrison Ford?
It was really great. Harrison is a class act. I think there was a little nervousness before he got to set because obviously he’s a legendary actor. But as soon as we got there, he was just talking to everybody and having a few laughs. And obviously, he knows his craft, he knows his work. Being on set with him, being in a scene with him, you just feel like, okay, this is going to be just fine, because this man knows exactly what he’s doing. So in addition to it being a fun experience, it also was a lesson. I feel like I learned a lot from working with him.
They say you learn something new on every project you do. What have you learned here?
A couple things. One, I was reminded of how important it is to really stand behind what you believe in, to really hold fast in what you believe, even if its not necessarily popular. The other thing I learned is more micro. I learned as a young actor, the kind of work that I want to be doing. The kind of career I want to have is one that allows me to be a part of projects like 42, that have a real, wonderful story to tell and have something to say to modern audiences. It has the potential to actually impact peoples lives, particularly young people. So I feel like it has probably changed the trajectory of my career. My taste has become more refined after having worked on this project.
Sounds like it was a pretty inspiring set to be on.
It was amazing. I’m originally from Alabama, and we shot part of the film in Birmingham the town I grew up in, literally five minutes from my parent’s house. We shot on Rickwood Field, which is the oldest ball field in the country. It was the home to the Birmingham Black Barons, a Negro League team. I grew up playing baseball on that same field. So that period when we were in Alabama shooting at Rickwood, my parents were there too as extras sitting in the stands. And we were on this field where Satchel Paige played and Babe Ruth played. It was just one of those special, special moments. Really beautiful.
One of your first film roles was Miracle at St. Anna. A Spike Lee movie so early in the game, how did that happen?
First of all, I went to NYU for my Masters and Spike teaches in the graduate film program. I would see him in the hallways and he would occasionally have these little events, these round table discussions. At one in particular, he had Denzel Washington come in and they had a discussion and they invited a small group of students to come and be a part of it. So I met him in the halls of NYU. Then he was meant to be directing a play on Broadway a few years back, and I auditioned for him for that play. After I auditioned for him, my agent called and said, hey Spike wants to offer you a part in his movie. So that was that.
What was the actual experience like?
We shot in Italy, in Tuscany. We were there for about two months, and again it was also one of those experiences where you’re telling this important part of history, this very important story. And we were secluded on the side of this mountain, living like soldiers doing the whole thing. [Laughs] It was really cool. That was also my first time being on a film set, so it was just—wow, this is what I want to be doing.
Sounds like you went full method—
Yeah, we all went pretty method. [Laughs] We were the Buffalo Soldiers separated from everybody else and doing that actor thing where we only eat certain kind of foods and trick ourselves into believing that we’re actually there.
You’ve done theater, television, and film, which all work an actor at different speeds. Which do you prefer?
It changes. Theater is what I started out doing, and that’s my first life. I think it will always be a part of my life, but film is something I’m becoming more and more interested in and attracted to. TV is great as well. It has its advantages, but at the moment, I would say theater and film are what I’m most excited about.
Your Wikipedia page mentions a positive review from the New York Times. How important is a positive review from the New York Times?
First of all, I’m surprised I even have a Wikipedia page. [Laughs]
You weren’t aware of it?
I didn’t know I had a Wikipedia page ‘til three days ago. But yeah, the reviews in New York can be harsh, because a lot of people read it, and they have a lot of bearing on whether a show is going to be successful. For me, when I first came out of NYU, I was very lucky. I got a play called Blue Door. It was a two person play and I think there were 22 or 23 characters that I played throughout the course of two hours. That’s very much what I do. I’m very into playing different sets of characters, so it was just very suited to my skill set. And [New York Times theater critic] Charles Isherwood came and saw it and gave it a really, really wonderful review. That helped me get my next play and get a small part in this. Since then, knock on wood, Isherwood has been very kind to me over the years. I should probably send him some flowers or something.
Is having a Wikipedia page a nice little professional marker for actors? “Strangers are looking me up on the internet. One step closer to the dream.”
No, I don’t think so. To be honest, it’s not really important to me. I guess I’m happy to think that some people somewhere care about who I am, but it’s not really a big deal.
What’s up next?
The very next thing I’m doing is “Hamlet.” I’m going to Italy at the end of May and we’re going to spend a month and a half putting together the play, in which I’m playing Hamlet, my dream role. There’s also a couple film opportunities on the table. Hopefully whatever comes along after “Hamlet” will be something exciting and challenging the way 42 was.
42 premieres today. See the trailer below.
Finding a properly themed spot to interview actress Tatiana Maslany—whose black and white three-eyed face has been plastered all over New York subway stations—proved challenging. But since her new show, Orphan Black, drips with sci-fi elements, we meet at Forbidden Planet, New York’s mini sci-fi/fantasy mecca. Orphan Black, BBC America’s new original series, is a thriller with clones, in the first episode alone Maslany plays three including the bedgraggled, troubled lead Sarah who discovers a fellow copy and takes up living her life, enduring the fast-moving repercussions. With clones come sci-fi, and so we met at the comic book store where, one rainy New York afternoon, clad in a fur topper, Maslany spoke earnestly and hilariously about being a female leading a show, cartoons, Toronto (“like New York, but without all the stuff”), her upcoming film starring opposite Richard Dreyfuss, and Orphan Black, which had just wrapped its first season two weeks prior.
Are you a sci-fi fan?
Yeah. Some stuff I really loved. I was obsessed with zombies for a while. Shaun of the Dead was once my favorite movie, because it’s funny and also I was terrified and sobbing at some points. I just think it’s so brilliantly done.
How sci-fi does the show get?
It goes pretty sci-fi. It is sci-fi but it’s mostly like a backdrop to the thriller. To me, it’s always been more a character piece, but maybe that’s just because I’m playing so many characters, that I’m never thinking, I’m doing a sci-fi show. I’m doing a character-driven drama.
There are a lot of entertaining points in the pilot—a sex scene, suicide scene, a vomiting scene. What was your initial reaction to the script?
I loved it. I was obsessed with it because I’ve never read a script like that. I had never read a character that made me so hungry. I just wanted to play her so badly. She isn’t just a damsel in distress, which you usually see. There’s more to her that isn’t defined by her sexuality or her gender. It’s just human behavior, and I was just really drawn to that.
How did you approach the project – what was your jump off point?
It was about finding out what the worldview of each of the characters was and nailing that down. Then I could work within that, as far as my physicality goes and my aesthetic goes, because you know, so much of how we walk through the world is based on how we grew up. The way we see the world: if it’s a frightening place for us or if it’s filled with opportunity or possibility, or if we see it in a really scientific analytical way, and I don’t think each character saw it in a singular way, but there’s a central drive to the characters.
Did you have an input on the looks?
Yeah. I definitely did. Have you ever seen This is England? I watched that, and that’s not necessarily even the social group Sarah would have been a part of, but it’s just that flavor that’s a bit different from here. So I talked a lot to the creators about that style.
Obviously you’re not British, but you’re hired by BBC to play a British character. Was that intimidating?
Sure. A lot of my friends are from the UK. So I’ve heard the sounds, and I’m a big fan of The Streets and Dizzee Rascal. His accent is not even close to what Sarah is, but there’s just something about him telling stories from that world that was like my in, and same with The Streets. I don’t know if you know him at all, but his names Mike Skinner he’s from the UK. He’s a rapper, basically a storyteller. He barely raps, he just kind of talks over beats. But he talks about a long of the situations that Sarah would have gone through or lived in in working class UK.
How does it feel to be leading your own show?
It’s daunting. It’s only now that I’m feeling the pressure, in a weird way. While we were shooting, I just focused on what we had to do next. That’s what it was about and I was just excited to be doing it. I wasn’t like, oh, then I’ll be doing interviews and all of that. It didn’t even get caught in my mind. It’s so weird to be in New York, because I’m from Toronto. It’s an insane responsibility, because I am carrying a few of the leads,.
I saw you did improv for a while, were you considering a career in comedy or was that just good practice?
Well it was less comedy. I think inherently improv becomes funny because it’s spontaneous, but it wasn’t dramatic either. Our focus was more so making a one act play. It was less game-y. It was more character development over an hour and a half.
And you had to improv all that?
Yeah. It’s so fun though. All of us were actors so it was another fun way of making work for ourselves and playing characters we don’t get to play.
How long did you do that for?
I did that for 10 years, professionally. We performed all over Canada and a few places in North America. I went to improv camp. That was my childhood. Not even childhood though, I’m saying that as if I was a kid. I was an adult, 17, 18, 19.
What was that like?
It’s like dork heaven. It’s just a bunch of kids doing really stupid shit on stage and they all get to be together and they’re all making out. They’re all hooking up.
Living the dream.
Exactly. [Laughs] Exactly.
You won a Sundance Film Festival Special Jury Prize for Breakout Performance in 2010, what effect did that have on your career?
It was really unexpected. It was this tiny thing we shot in Newfoundland, and probably before this show, the most exciting thing I’d gotten to work on. So I never expected it to be seen, but to have Sundance see it and completely reinforce what I had done, it was completely amazing. And things just started to precipitate. Doors were open for me, and then they shut. That’s how it is. It’s there for 20 minutes and then you’re nobody again, and that’s fine. That’s just the nature of the industry. You’re the next blah, blah, blah, but then that dies away and then you’re just back to the work and working hard and auditioning like everybody else.
Do you have plans to come out to LA?
I went out there for a week to just feel it out. I guess it’s a necessary evil in a way. It’s not necessarily my favorite place, but there is a lot of cool work that’s goes on there.
How does Toronto compare, then?
Toronto’s like New York in a way. Was it Tina Fey who said, “It’s like New York but without all the stuff?” [Laughs] That’s very, very much it.
What do you have coming up next?
I just shot a movie with Richard Dreyfuss called Cas & Dylan. I don’t know when that’s coming out, but it’s this buddy comedy road movie.
And you’re the buddy?
I’m his buddy. We’re the unlikely buddies. It was such a bizarre surreal moment. And it’s so funny because the thing I knew him from was James and the Giant Peach. I know him from everything, but he’s the centipede. So me and my brother were like, “Oh my god, you’re working with the centipede!” [Laughs]. He’s brilliant. It was a dream to be driving in a car with him, doing scenes together.
Orphan Black premieres Saturday March 30 at 9/8 c on BBC America. See the trailer below.
Photography by David Slijper
Styling by Andreas Kokkino
Grooming: Sarah Sibia at See Management
Makeup: Itsuki at The Wall Group
Set Designer: Amy Henry at CLM
Manicurist: Kiyo Okada at Garren NY for Chanel Beauté
Models: Robert Laby at DNA, Guerrino Santulliana at New York Model Management
Casting: Edward Kim at The Edit Desk
Photographer’s Assistants: Maia Harms and Tom Rauner
Stylist’s Assistants: Adam Ballheim and Keesean Moore
Retouching: The Little Agency
Location: Dune Studios, New York
In Gimme the Loot, Tashiana Washington plays a tagger from the Bronx with the kind of balls every New Yorker dreams of. The film, which won last year’s SXSW narrative grand jury prize, follows a two-day urban odyssey, and features Washington and Ty Hickson as two teenage graffiti artists, Sofia and Malcolm, out to get at their rivals and bomb the Mets Home Run Apple. But first they need to raise the $500 price tag to get into Citi Field. In its span, Gimme the Loot, directed by first timer Adam Leon, runs like a picture book of urban love, unrealized for now, filled with long cuts of the duo trekking through muggy downtown streets and rooftops—making moves, talking shit. Washington’s Sofia is especially charming with a performance that registers in the vein of Marisa Tomei circa My Cousin Vinny—feisty and magnetic. When we spoke to the actress on a recent break from her film festival tour, she discussed the film’s whirlwind success, getting tuned into graffiti culture, and acting hard.
Are you a New Yorker originally?
I am. I was born in Manhattan, but I was raised in Queens. I lived in Flushing Fresh Meadows, not to far from St. John’s.
How much tagging had you done before the movie?
I hadn’t had any experience with the art of graffiti. We had a great instructor come in. He’s done graffiti for years. His name was SP1, and he taught us about the culture of graffiti, the lingo, as well as the different styles and how to write graffiti.
The tagging that you are seen doing at the start of the film, how much of that was you?
I blended the colors together, but SP1 did the outline for me, because sometimes my lines would be a little bit crooked. Of course, since these kids have been doing it for a while, we wanted it to look good, so I would blend the colors together on the inside. I did half the work.
You beat out 500 girls for the role. What was it about Sofia that you were able to connect with so well?
When I read the sides, I fell in love, because the typical roles I usually go for are nothing like this. And I wanted something that would challenge me, be different, be almost like a 360 for me. I wanted people to see that I can play girly as well as tomboy. I wanted people to see my acting range. One thing I realized later in the script was that we both try to strongly be outside of ourselves and hide our feelings. Sofia’s someone I wish I was more like because of the way she expresses herself and stands up for herself. I’m more timid and humble, and I’ll hold my tongue and hope for the best sometimes, but I admire her courage. Since I don’t have it in real life, I got to play like I do. That really attracted me to the role.
What message does her tomboy style send?
I do think Sofia has a soft feminine side, but I think because she loves graffiti and is a high school kid, I figured she’s not concerned about doing make up and having a tight outfit on. I feel she’s more concerned about getting great tags all over the city, so she can get respect as a dope graffiti writer. I think as she gets older she may evolve into being more feminine looking in the way she dresses, but I think for now, her main focus is having more fun and writing all around the city.
You had a great back and forth with Ty throughout the movie. How much of that was scripted and how much was ad-libbed?
Actually 98% of the film was scripted, which was crazy, because when I read it, I was like, who wrote this? And then when they told me Adam, I was like seriously? That showed me how talented he is—to be basically the opposite of Sofia and nothing like that script, it’s so funny to me. As far as my chemistry with Ty, I auditioned three times. I didn’t read with Ty until the last time, and they had us go out and do a screen test, and I was nervous but it came off great—the way we played off of each other. We had scene rehearsals before we started shooting, so we were able to find the tones in the scenes and if we had any little tweaks that we needed to work on, we were granted the time on that. I think that’s another reason why it came of so well onscreen.
The film won an award at last year’s SXSW and now Rolling Stone just gave it a near perfect review with 3 1/2 out of 4 stars. Had you anticipated that the film would gain this much attention?
Me personally, no. The film completed superseded my expectations. I remember when we went to South By, our director Adam Leon said, “Don’t expect anything. We’re just happy to be here. I don’t want you guys to be upset if you guys don’t win. If we win great, if we don’t so what we’re just here to have a good time.” And then when they announced that we won, he was the first one jumping up like a jelly bean, so exuberant. I wanted to say, “I thought you said don’t expect anything?” [Laughs] And then from there LAFF, Cannes, Deauville France. It just went to a festival in Frankfurt. This film has taken me all over the world. I would have never expected that, but I’m really happy it did.
How was acting in your first lead role?
Well when I read the script and saw that I was the lead, I didn’t feel any pressure like oh my god it’s all upon me and Ty, my co-star. Usually, I have smaller supporting roles, but it was no pressure. It was so much fun getting up every day and going to set. We had fun, and it went by really quickly. I was happy one of two parts at the center of attention, because I’m like yes, this is my time to show people that I’m a great actress, modestly speaking, that I have range and I can do this. I was just really happy to have that chance.
How long have you been acting?
I would say since I was 12, I’ve been auditioning since I was 4, but I was really more into modeling from 4 to 12. Then I started booking more when I was 12 or 13.
What’s your ultimate dream?
To be an all around entertainer. I sing as well, but I’m like hey why not do both. At the end of the day, I consider myself a storyteller so whether that’s through singing or acting, I just want to entertain people and make them smile and give them something to enjoy and forget about their problems for however long I’m on the stage.
I just did a commercial with Jimmy Fallon for Capital One, and I’m in the recording studio. I have auditions later in the month, but for now, we’re very heavy promoting this film.
Gimme the Loot premieres March 22 at the IFC Center. For more on the film see the trailer below.