Kit ‘n Kaboodle w/ RYAN KRUGER

My third installment of the Kit ‘n Kaboodle is a conversation with yet another multi-talented actor/writer/director – Ryan Kruger.

Ryan’s Bio:

Ryan Kruger was born just outside of Liverpool to a South African father and English mother. His obsession with film started at the age of 14, when he acquired a JVC MovieVideo camcorder and feverishly filmed his friends and family in a series of “movies”. Exploring themes of criminality, wacky relationships and action driven plots, he slowly began to nurture his narrative style and soon found his passion in the art of storytelling. 

Bored to death with the mundane realities of high school, Ryan graduated and jumped at the opportunity to obtain his acting diploma from The Guildhall School of Music & Drama. To fill his time he took on a personal project: a gritty reality-type show called GTV!

For three years Ryan delved into the underbelly of the live music scene, filming with some of the world’s biggest rock bands. Juliet Lewis and the Licks, Misfists, Slipknot and Black Flag allowed Ryan to venture into the unknown and the outcome was a sobering, yet hilarious glimpse of the ridiculous life of a rock star.

Shifting his focus back to acting, Ryan landed a few small roles on shows like “Shameless” and “Hollyoaks” as well as feature films, taking notes from veterans like academy award winner Danny Boyle on the set of “Millions”. This was his first film school and he sponged all the information he could about life on set, the creative thought process and the dynamic between director and actor.

Hoping for bigger opportunities, Ryan headed to sunny South Africa and enrolled at Cape Town’s AFDA Film School where he ultimately received a bursary to complete his honnours in Directing & Writing. Not being one to stand still, Ryan quickly made his connections while studying and approached bands to direct their music videos. His hard work payed off when local rock band – Taxi Violence – announced Ryan as the winner of their music video competition due to his unique concept and treatment. Many claim “The Turn” to be the start of Ryan’s signature style and narrative and the work just kept on flowing after the release.

Today, he is known as the top music video director in South Africa and has conceptualized and directed over 75 music videos for SA’s most prolific artists.He’s won numerous awards over the years (both locally and internationally) including a SAMA (South African Music Award) for his work with internationally acclaimed rock band, Prime Circle. Also in his trophy case are 2 Short & Sweet awards, and even the Afrikaans community has embraced Ryan’s work and awarded him best music video of 2015. 2016 saw him nominated once again for Best Music Video by the SAMA’s and he’s hoping to walk away with another one.

Sometimes dark, sometimes light – Ryan’s directing style is dynamic, fresh and specially focused on narratives: Whether it’s an interesting, yet straight-forward story or a collection of compelling visuals that portray a story. With an extensive background in acting for film, television and commercials, Ryan understands what it takes to get the desired performance and places special emphasis on characters and their levels of depth.

Ryan has acted alongside the likes of Sacha Baron Cohen (whom he also assisted during the filming of Grimsby in Cape Town), Johnny Vegas and some of SA’s most prolific actors and uses this experience to craft his skills as an actor-director, always ensuring his talent feels comfortable and supported. From a visual perspective, Ryan’s experimental flair has led to some striking compositions and his portfolio is testament to his versatility: a visual chameleon with an ever clear idea dancing around in his head.

Heavily influenced by the films of his childhood, Ryan’s style reminds of 80’s cinema in all it’s various forms. He mentions Spielberg’s work as his first love in film and consequently finds himself fixated on interesting characters, real-feel production design and stories that transcend across cultures, ages and gender. Often placing extraordinary  circumstances into real- life situations, Ryan finds great pleasure in contrasting big concepts with the rawness of human behavior and emotion while placing special emphasis on the aesthetic of his work. Effortlessly switching from gritty, edgy and dark to commercial and clean-cut, Ryan’s strength lies within his adaptability and is constantly striving to perfect his craft by openly exploring different styles.

With his mind set on his first feature film, he has several scripts in development and exciting collaborations in the pipeline. Broadening his horizons to the commercial world, Ryan is also set on creating compelling content for agencies and their clients. A true talent and a refreshing addition to the film industry, he’s definitely a filmmaker to watch.


Our Conversation:

Hi Ry, thanks so much again for agreeing to have this conversation with me. A little background of our own history – that is, our friendship – is that we’ve been friends now a few years. If memory serves me correctly, it all started with a “little” music video you directed for the South African band Prime Circle called “Doors” – which is mentioned in your Bio above. The video starred many South African actors, including Sean Cameron Michael, Alex Anlos, Graham Clarke, Leon Clingman, Grant Swanby, Sabine Palfi, Joe Vaz and Brandon Auret, all of whom I didn’t know well at the time, but many have since become great friends.  It’s because of that video and song that Prime Circle is one of my favorite bands, and you’ve become someone I consider a dear friend. 

Since we’ve been friends, you’ve gone on to do more music videos, for which you’ve won some awards, as well as some acting projects. You’ve written screenplays and also have your own production company – Enigma Ace Films. Before we get into those, let’s start with the basics…

Dani: Your Bio gives some fantastic insights into who you are, and what you’ve been up to. I found that I couldn’t shorten it in any way because it tells some great tales of how you have gotten to the point you’re at now. So, as we seen, you wear many “hats”.  That is, you’re an actor, a screenwriter, producer and a director. Am I forgetting anything?

Ryan: Well I mainly consider myself an actor/director. I’ve done both for as long as I can remember, but I do write and produce everything I do. Sometimes I co-write with a few other writers, but only on feature scripts.

Dani: Do you have a preference to which hat you like to wear?  (besides the one you are always photographed wearing 🙂 )

Ryan: The great thing about my directing is that I create my own stories and characters, which I love. As a actor, we can’t really choose those roles that come to us – we either get the part or we don’t; and most of the “meaty” (of substance) characters are from overseas.

Dani: How hard is it to juggle so many hats?

Ryan: It’s hard, but I seem to manage – if I am not doing the one thing, I am doing the other, so there’s a nice balance at times. But writing takes time, and sometimes it’s hard to be in the mood to do it. (Dani note: I hear you on that one, Ry, from one story teller to another)

Dani: You’re originally from Wallasey, a town in the United Kingdom not far from Liverpool, but you’ve been living in Cape Town, South Africa for several years now. What enticed you to move from the UK to SA?

Ryan: Well, my father is from SA and have family here, but not in Cape Town sadly – I’m all alone here. 😦  I came to Cape Town a lot to visit and every time I came here, I ended up directing music vids or acting in a few films. I ended up getting more work here than I did in the UK, so I decided to just move here as the work was good.

Dani: As we talked about above, you are also an actor. I recently had the pleasure of seeing the North American debut of Christopher-Lee Dos Santos’ post-apocalyptic film Last Broken Darkness in which you not only played one character “Ghost” – a British soldier – but also in a surprise twist, a second character named “Lone Man”.

 I will say that in speaking with the audience after the showing of Last Broken Darkness, none of the audience, except myself, were aware that those two characters were played by the same actor. I think that’s a great statement to your abilities.

  • How did participation in this film come about?
  • Did you know early on that you would be cast as two characters?
  •   Was I hard to play two different characters – whom we see one to be a good character and one a bad one?
  • I know that you’re close friends with several of the actors in the film, as well as the director, so did you have a lot of fun making this film, despite the hard work?

Ryan: A while back ,when Chris was making (his independent film) Angel of the Skies, he wanted to put me in the film, but they didn’t have a big budget, so they couldn’t fly me down. 

As time past, I new Chris was starting up production with Last Broken Darkness and we ended up chatting again. Chris sent me the script and was keen to get me in the film. When he sent me script I was on my way back to the UK, so I had a long flight to read the script and let it all sink in; and to pick some characters out that I liked to audition for. I ended up picking my first choice – Loneman – a Southern guy. I just really loved this character and I knew how I could play this character straight away. I also picked out another character – just to be safe – as I didn’t know who Chris had already cast and for which characters.

So, I picked out American soldier character – Ghost – who got to shoot a shit load of the infected (Dani: 🙂 ), and was in a decent amount of scenes. When I got off the plane, I rang Chris and said I love Loneman and Ghost is cool. And sadly, he said someone is already playing Loneman, so I was really let down. Chris asked me to send the self tape for Ghost when I could. A bit of time passed and I still didn’t send the self tape for Ghost – I think I was still a little bit down that someone had Loneman already. But after a month, Chris rang me and said if you want to audition for Loneman I could – the other actor can’t play him as he’s busy on another project. So few days later, I sent a self tape for both roles. I ended up making Ghost English (nationality, he means) just to make it very abstract from Loneman. And when it came to the Loneman self tape, I dirtied up my face, put my hair down and put in some fake teeth I wore in a Samsung commercial I did few years before, which I thought would add nicely to the character. And I just tucked that top lip up. I sent it through to Chris, and he gave me a call – he said he loved it and that I just brought these characters to life. Then he said, “You sounded totally different, looked totally different – you got both roles!” which I did not expect at all. So that was a big surprise and I just had fun with both characters, especially Loneman – some crazy scenes in the film. Yeah I think if people don’t know I’m playing two characters then I’ve done my job well 😉

But over all, it has to be one of my best times on set – such a great crew and super all-star cast, which I’ve worked with some of them many times before, but also my close friends. So, what could be more better than making movies with friends and having a lot of fun on set? Working with Chris was awesome – great guy – and one to watch out for.

Link to Last Broken Darkness Director Sneak Peek (credit to Christopher-Lee Dos Santos):  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PfZrY4rt8g4&t=2s

Dani: Much of the acting community in South Africa seems very close knit, despite many of you often going out for the same roles. Does that affect your friendships in any way?

Ryan:  It happens, at times, but the best man gets the job for that character; it all depends what they looking for. I think most of my close acting friends are complete opposites of myself, so we’re never really up against each other.

Dani: On top of acting, you’re also a screenwriter. I know that you have a film that you’re working on getting backing for called “Edge of Chaos”.  What can you tell me about the film?

It’s set in a broken-down future, after the great collapse and people just try to survive in this savage world. We follow a ordinary man on his quest to rescue his wife after she has been taken by bounty hunters. The film is almost like a modern day Western really – following our hero’s journey.

Here is the link to the teaser trailer/proof of concept for Edge of Chaos – written by Ryan and Benedikt Sebastian:  www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tj1B8QnLwkw

Dani: I also know that you’ve been working on what you described to me as your “passion project”. Is that Fried Barry? Can you tell us about that?

Ryan: Yeah, I decided to go back to some of my old roots and just doing some more stuff in my style that I miss. Just some cool dark edgy stuff, with characters. One of the reasons for doing this project is because it’s just for online and I don’t have to think about it not playing on TV, or thinking they may not play it. So, I have full creative freedom, with no restrictions. It’s a chance to get more creative and not having to think about the music for a change, or tying to make a story fit like music videos. The plan is to direct 6 experimental films and only release them all at the same time at the end of the year, and have a exhibition.

Stills from Fried Barry:

Pic #1 – Ryan and actor Gary Green                 Pic #2 – actor Gary Green as Barry

Dani: Besides “Doors” you’ve done music videos for several South African bands or singers such as Monark and Ross Jack. Some are dark. Some are more lighthearted. But all are visually breathtaking, which I feel adds to the enjoyment of the song.

  1. How do you get your inspiration for what concept you would use for a video?
  2. I assume budgeting may also be an issue and has to be considered. What have you done to deal with such things?

Ryan: Every time I get a track, I will always ask the artist to send me the lyrics and tell me what the track is about to them – what it means to them. And then I take that and come up with my own concept, but I’ll be on the right path because I know the feel they want behind it. Most of my inspiration has to come from 80s cinema I love 80s films. I truly believe we lost a lot in cinema over the years. It’s all about the VFX sadly with most films now and not about the characters. But, that’s why TV is so much better now.

Dani: Speaking of “Doors”, which has won several awards, including Best Music Video of the Year in 2015 at the SAMAs (South African Music Awards), as well as being nominated (also in 2015) for Best Music Video of the Year at the MTV Africa Music Awards, it was recently announced that it was selected by the London Golden Scout International Film Festival. It must be exciting to know that all of your hard work is being recognized.   What has been the best surprise for you relating to the recognition your projects have received?

Ryan: Well, winning the SAMA for Best Video Director of the Year was great and getting a MTV nomination was great also. My last award that I got in Liverpool was a great award to me: “the Alan Clarke Achievement in Film”. Alan Clarke was a UK director back in the day and his family sponsored the award ,and I really love the films Alan Clarke made, so it was a great award to win. A great honour. 

Alan Clarke’s IMDB:  http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0164639/?ref_=nv_sr_1

“Doors” Music Video:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t5Lz5LykdK4

Stills from “Doors”:

Pic #1 – SA Actors Grant Swanby, Brandon Auret and Pope Jerrod

Dani: In December 2016, you went to Germany on a “tour” to talk about your directing, music videos and film. What did that entail and what was that like?

Ryan: Yeah, was great! I went to 7 different cities in Germany – to all the different SAE film schools to talk to about my directing work and working in South Africa. It was great to pass the knowledge on, and was a bonus that I could get to see Germany as well. Berlin was very cool place.

Dani: Do you have a dream project that you would love to do if given carte blanche on budget, location and cast/crew?  Tell us about it.

Ryan: That would be giving away a secret great story and great twists – a very dark film to do, which makes it very hard to get made, but I haven’t seen a film like it.

Dani:  What about a dream role to act in?

Ryan: It’s a hard one to answer – just something I could sink my teeth into. I am a character actor, so for me when it doesn’t look like me or sound like me, I dig it. haha

Dani: Personally, besides Doors, one of my other favorite music videos you’ve done is “Soldier” by Monark. Visually incredible, along with the beat of the music, it’s breathtaking. What have been some of your favorite music videos to shoot?

Ryan: Yeah, Doors – for me – was a big one; was a lot of fun and hard work. Soldier came out great – it’s probably one of my videos I least crit when I look at it – just fitted so well with the track and complemented each other.

Dani:  What do you think about all of the remakes that Hollywood has been doing lately?

Ryan: They been doing for years – the only difference is the remakes are coming out quicker and the original film wasn’t even that old.

Dani:  What’s up next for Ryan Kruger? Projects in the pipeline?

Ryan: Has to be a FEATURE FILM – I’m putting all my eggs in one basket at the moment. And working on my experimentals, here and there.

Dani:  Lastly, a little fun I like to call “Take Five”:

Ryan:

  1. Three words YOU would use to describe you?  Chilled, driven,  passionate 
  2. Favorite animal? A Elephant – never forgets  
  3. Favorite book?   “The Philosophy of Time Travel” by Roberta Sparrow 
  4. Favorite non-work related thing you like to do? That’s a hard one – all I do is work; need to get a hobbie, I think. But I do enjoy spending time with my son “kitty”
  5. Favorite braai food? And would you share it with me? NO, get your own food – this burger is mine!!!!!!!!!

Ryan on social media:

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/RyanKrugerOfficial/?fref=ts

Twitter: @ryankrugerthing

Instagram: ryankrugerthing

IMDB:  http://www.imdb.me/ryankruger

YouTube:


A huge thank you (again) to Ryan for giving us some much insight into his multi-directional career and his experiences to date. I’ve enjoyed learning even more about my friend and what goes on in his equally (to mine) busy mind.

Best wishes on you continued success, Ry – now and on all your future endeavors. I’ve enjoyed watching from the sidelines and look forward to many, many more of your projects. xo

Until next time, thank you for stopping by. Feel free to drop me a note and let me know what you think.

Love and blessings to all,

dani1

PS:  I am, however, noticing a pattern with my “friends” with whom I’m having these conversations – none of them are too excited to share their favorite foods with me. Boy, you think you know someone…

Kit ‘n Kaboodle w/ MEG RICKARDS

I’m very honored that my second conversation on Kit ‘n Kaboodle is with Meg Rickards, director extraordinaire!  Thank you, Meg, for taking the time out of your enormously busy schedule to talk to me about your latest project – Tess.

Meg Rickards

Meg’s Bio:

In 2015 Meg directed her first fiction feature, Tess – a gritty story of a sex worker’s journey to shedding misplaced guilt. Prior to that, she co-directed the award-winning documentary feature 1994: The Bloody Miracle. Her miniseries and tele-feature versions of Land of Thirst were translated into several languages and distributed widely. Meg holds a PhD in Film Studies from the University of Cape Town, studied at London Film School on a Commonwealth Scholarship, and completed the Writers’ and Directors’ programmes at the Binger Film Lab in Amsterdam.

Our Conversation:

Hi Meg, thank you again for agreeing to do this with me. We “met”, believe it or not, nearly three years ago when Sean Cameron Michael introduced us by tweeting about a film that you wanted to make called “Whiplash” based on the book by the same name by Tracey Farren. Unfortunately, before you could get the film off the ground, another film came out by the same name and you were forced to change the name of your film to “Shushh”. In the end, the film was named “Tess” after the main character in the film.

All this time later, we’ve become friends and I’m happy to say, your film is completed and it’s making waves. I was sorry that I wasn’t able to make it to one of the premieres last year in South Africa; based on discussions with others who have seen it, it would have been worth the long trip to see it.

Thanks so much, Dani, and for being part of the Tess journey through your generous support on Thundafund, South Africa’s answer to Kickstarter!

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Dani: It‘s been a long journey for you to get Tess made. You were heavily involved from the start from the fundraising, up to and including your role as the director. What were some of the challenges you faced getting Tess made?

Meg: The funding was the absolutely biggest challenge! I got told ‘No’ umpteen times, and had to develop skin as thick as a rhino to keep going.

Dani:  Can you tell us what Tess is about?

Meg: Tess is about a Cape Town sex worker who falls pregnant, and has to fight to keep her past from swallowing her whole.

Dani: Tess was filmed in South Africa – in Muizenberg – a suburb of Cape Town. You did something extraordinary as the director of a film – you walked from Cape Town to Muizenberg in a petticoat and covered in bruises – a distance of nearly 26km (~16 miles) to show the plights of abused women.  What was your experience with that journey?

Dani: See the trailer for Tess here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AMsk3wGkcaU

Meg: It was an extraordinary day. Along the way, strangers stopped me. One woman flung her arms around me, saying: “You look like me before I left my husband”; others assured me they would leave “one day.” Yet another wept: I reminded her of her mother, and she’d felt so helpless as a child to help her.  Schoolgirls snapped photos on their phones, amazed that whereas the women they knew covered their bruises with scarves and makeup, I showed mine. Of course my bruises were easy to display, precisely because they were fake — something I kept pointing out. When I reached Muizenberg and stepped into the sea to wash them away, I was more determined than ever to make the film.

Dani:  What made you decide to take such a journey?

Meg:  For a long time our film was stuck in the funding doldrums. At our wits’ end we had begun a crowd-funding campaign but needed to extend our reach beyond our own circles…. We decided on something in the spirit of performance art, to embody the film’s premise — about “breaking the silence” and “shedding the shame.”

Dani: Meg’s journey received some well deserved coverage. Check out this news article about her incredible walk for more details: http://www.news24.com/Video/SouthAfrica/News/Find-out-why-this-woman-walked-26kms-dressed-as-an-abused-woman-20140814

Dani:  Not surprisingly, Tess has wowed audiences and critics alike in its cinematic showings – both with the exclusive premieres in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban, and at film festivals, and opened in theatres across South Africa on February 24th. It’s also garnished some wonderful awards – can you tell us about some of those acknowledgments?

Meg:  Since the film opened in South African cinemas on 24 February, we’ve been really overwhelmed by positive responses from both critics and audiences – to our enormous relief and joy! Tess won the awards for Best South African Film at the Durban International Film Festival, as well as Best Actress and Best Editing. The film was also awarded Best Cinematography, Best Actress and Best Editing at the Silverskermfees in Cape Town. The film has played in festivals in New Delhi, Brussels and Gothenburg and will play in Dortmund in April and Madrid in June. Our best news is that the film was recently picked up for international distribution by The Little Film Company (Los Angeles/ London).

Dani:  Tess stars Christia Visser, whom you’ve stated was the perfect “Tess” but I understand there was a moment when you weren’t sure she would do the film. How did her finally becoming Tess come about?

Meg:  Christia initially turned down the film, as the subject matter was so difficult and different from the romantic comedies she was starting to become well known for.  I wrote her a long letter and we went for coffee which turned into a three-hour conversation. By the end she’d changed her mind, and never looked back! She took on the part with enormous courage and conviction.

Dani:  Many would be surprised to find out that you had your daughter play the role of the young Tess. How hard was that for you and her given the intense subject of this film?

Meg: I cast my very young daughter as young Tess for very practical reasons. I didn’t feel I could ask another mother to let their daughter play in scenes about abuse. I knew I could keep her completely safe and contextualize the scenes in a way that wasn’t dark or scary for her at all. For instance, I got her to think about tricky things in her own life – for instance when she fought with her best friend or her toy broke. She accordingly looked pensive and sad in the shots.  Child abuse is so rife in South Africa, and since I became I mother, I’ve stayed awake many a night worrying about bringing a daughter into this world. So in a sense, I made Tess for my daughter.  It was my way of speaking out. Anyway, my daughter had a great time on set and ate so much strawberry yoghurt it’s lucky she didn’t get ill!

Dani:  Tess was a pretty heavy movie – both, I imagine to shoot and to watch. Did you do anything on set to keep it lighter between shooting scenes?

Meg:  There was a great rapport on set, actually!  Plenty of joking around – as much as is possible when you are working on a very tight schedule (24 days).  The sound recordist turned out to be an excellent masseur and was giving people massages on set if there was ever a moment to spare!

Dani:  And what’s next for Meg? Do you have any upcoming projects you’ll be working on, or are you still in “Tess” mode?

Meg:  Our company has very recently acquired the film rights to British Michela Wrong’s novel Borderlines, a political thriller set in the Horn of Africa. So I’m busy writing the first draft of the adaptation.

Dani:  Lastly, a little fun I like to call “Take Five”:

Meg: 

  1. Three words YOU would use to describe you?

Stubborn, warm, a bit crazy

  1. Favorite animal?

Our two labrador-collie dogs!

  1. Favorite book?

Ah, gosh, I have so many favourites – but the best one I’ve read recently is A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara.

  1. Favorite non-work related thing you like to do?

Hiking, cooking for friends and spending time with my children. Very occasionally I paint!

  1. If you had a chocolate bar, would you share it with me?

Depends if I were pre-menstrual or not! 🙂 

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Like Tess on Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/Whiplashfilm/?fref=ts

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A huge thank you to Meg for taking us along on the incredible journey into her thoughts on Tess and her movie making experiences. It’s been a great pleasure to watch from the sidelines as Meg has taken Tess from script to the big screen.

Best wishes on the continued success of Tess, Meg, and all your future endeavors. The world needs more extraordinary women like you; it would be a far nice place. xo

Until next time, thank you for stopping by. Feel free to drop me a note and let me know what you think.

Love and blessings to all,

dani1

Kit ‘n Kaboodle w/ STELIO SAVANTE

I’m very pleased and honored that my very first “interview” is with my friend Stelio Savante. Enjoy!

stelio1

Stelio’s Bio:

Audiences are most familiar with Stelio from his critically lauded portrayal of gangster Joe ‘The Boss’ Masseria in AMC’s miniseries “THE MAKING OF THE MOB: NEW YORK, his ensemble lead character ‘Bull Brittles’ in SONY’s STARSHIP TROOPERS, his recurring role as ‘Steve’ in ABC’s UGLY BETTY, his role as French art thief ‘Stefan’ in Disney’s Suite Life On Deck (the Life of Zach & Cody) and from his recurring ‘Faster Than Light’ character in the CALL OF DUTY: INFINITE WARFARE videogame.  New York and Los Angeles theater audiences also know Stelio from his role as Bolivar Arellano in ‘110 STORIES’, starring opposite James Gandolfini, Samuel L Jackson, Melissa Leo and Susan Sarandon at the Public Theater and NYU Skirball and opposite Ed Asner, Michael Beach, John Hawkes, Mira Sorvino and Diane Venora at The Geffen Playhouse and Ebony Rep Theater. Stelio will next be seen opposite Brian White in the drama MEDIA produced by Cathy Hughes & Sheila Ducksworth, premiering on Feb 25th on TV One and in the feature JO THE MEDICINE RUNNER starring opposite Matt Dillon and Jim Caviezel.

This American Movie award winner, SOFIE winner, Golden REMI winner & SAG Nominee was born & raised in South Africa. For his portrayal of gangster Joe ‘The Boss’ Masseria in AMC’s miniseries “THE MAKING OF THE MOB: NEW YORK”; Previously TV’s Sarah Bunting stated ‘Stelio is reminiscent of James Gandolfini, I liked a certain gravitas-emblance that I saw in Stelio’. His portrayal was also praised by The Examiner’s Diane Zoller Ciatto. Further lauded reviews in South Africa & the UK for his portrayal of a ruthless policeman in the South African film COLORS OF HEAVEN, premiering on Netflix on Feb 15th. A recurring cast member of AMC’s THE MAKING OF THE MOB, ABC’s UGLY BETTY, & NBC’s MY OWN WORST ENEMY, with a healthy staple of guest star roles including opposite Bradley Cooper, Alfred Molina & Angela Lansbury on LAW & ORDER SVU.

Stelio can now be seen in five new films most recently released in theaters & on VOD/Netflix/iTunes: Rudolf Buitendach’s African film, WHERE THE ROAD RUNS OUT, Level 33 Entertainment’s BLOOD IN THE WATER, Lionsgate’s family film ARMY DOG, Peter Greenaway’s EISENSTEIN IN GUANAJUATO (Golden Bear Nominee/Berlin 2015 ) and South African film COLORS OF HEAVEN.  He has a long list of Off-Broadway credits, & lead & supporting roles in studio films & US & world-wide distributed indies &, in Rudolf Buitendach’s sex trade thriller SELLING ISOBEL premiering at Raindance & in Peter Bishai’s high concept thriller RAPID EYE MOVEMENT opposite Francois Arnaud & Reiko Aylesworth.

Additional video game credits include: Command And Conquer Red Alert III and Uprising opposite Jenny McCarthy, Call Of Duty Modern Warfare, Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon, Mass Effect, Uncharted 3, Uncharted 4, Midnight Club, Army Of Two and 40th Day.  Stelio lives in Los Angeles with his wife & daughter.

Our Conversation:

1) You have a project premiering on TV One this Saturday, February 25th at 8/7c called MEDIA. It stars some very talented people, including yourself, such as Brian White (Scandal, Chicago Fire), Gary Dourdan (CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Being Mary Jane) and Penny Johnson Jerald (24, Castle). And Pooch Hall (Ray Donovan), he’s awesome.

Can you tell us a little about what MEDIA is about? Yes, but I’m going to use a blurb from TV One as it is far more eloquent than anything I could say to answer your question: Directed by Craig Ross, Jr., “Media” is described as a riveting story of a wealthy family battling the competitive challenges of keeping their status and position in the communications industry. Passion, intrigue and murder become a lethal recipe for powerful matriarch Jackie Jones and her children. Portrayed by Penny Johnson Jerald, Jackie is the founder of Jones Universal Media Properties, known as JUMP, the world’s premier urban media conglomerate. A family tragedy forces her son, prominent lead city attorney and prosecutor Michael Jones, played by Brian White, to abandon his political aspirations and take over the company, just as a ruthless rival challenges JUMP’s longtime domination of a lucrative industry. Michael is confronted by sins of the past, and the dangers of the present when Jabbar Randolph (played by Gary Dourdan), CEO of JUMP’s biggest competitor, is released from prison. Grabbing back the reigns from his brother, Will, played by Stephen Bishop, Jabbar embarks on a mission of revenge, betrayal and corporate intrigue.

Get your first look at MEDIA:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mx1lPgnhlXM

MEDIA trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uv7QPRuUuvw

media-cast

2) What about your character on MEDIA? What’s can you tell me about him? I’m portraying Howard Boston. An imprisoned underworld power-broker that has a long history with Michael Jones (Brian White) and uses that history and his contacts as leverage to work a deal playing the system that might have screwed him in the first place. Howard is highly intelligent, international (wait and see) and not your ‘run of the mill’ villain.

3) You recently attended the NAACP Image Awards with the cast. What was that like? It was an honor, a huge honor to attend such an important show with my fellow cast.  I’m so grateful to TV One, to Cathy Hughes and all her producers for having me as a guest.  The day was filled with humor, love and emotion, greatly moving speeches, it was classy, sexy, exciting, educational, and wonderful seeing friends from over the years, just an awesome experience…I felt so incredibly alive. I’d been to the SAG awards before as I was nominated with fellow lead cast on Ugly Betty, but the energy, the electricity in the air, the appreciation of great artists whose voices have needed to be heard…that was much more so evident at the NAACP Image Awards. 

4) MEDIA is a TV movie but I heard that it now may be made into a television series. Is that true? Yes, that is true. As you’ve probably now seen and heard from several reliable sources and interviews; Media is now a series. Stay tuned for more details in the coming weeks but I can confirm that Media is definitely now a series.

5) How has it been filming MEDIA with this cast and crew? A rich, highly memorable and rewarding journey. I’m blessed to part of this for many reasons. We have a visionary, supportive producing team (Cathy Hughes, Sheila Ducksworth, Susan A Banks, and more), creative team (Craig Ross Jr and Kevin Arkadie) and cast and crew.  Everyone took their job seriously but not themselves. There were no egos, just a collaborative team effort in the pursuit of artistic integrity and excellence that I’m confident will elicit a great response from the audience based on several screenings and Q&A we’ve already had. I’ve known Brian White for a while now, and what a stand up guy.  Former pro football player, Wall Street broker, successful and talented actor and producer with a great brain, a family man,  he has it all. And we got to mix it up a little…I enjoyed taking many risks working with him in our scenes, thanks to our amazing director Craig Ross Jr and gifted writer, Kevin Arkadie.

6) How is MEDIA different from other projects out there?  Media is defined by its honesty. The audience is brought into a world where all the characters speak in their own language, and have a journey that is expressive and unique to their culture without having to apologize for it; and without having to be defined or mischaracterized or stereotyped by someone outside of their culture.  Hats off to the entire producing and creative team. Craig brought it home as our conductor!

7) You recently had a movie you shot in South Africa, your original homeland, premiere on Netflix here in the US and the UK, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand called Colors of Heaven.  Yes and Netflix Latin America too. Can you tell me a little about it? Colors is based on the true story of Muntu Ndebele whose life was changed forever by the Soweto Uprising of 1976.  It takes place over a few decades and deals with his friendships and love interests; and it is ultimately a story of love conquering hate.  Shot on 35mm film, directed by NY based Canadian director Peter Bishai which I thought was a brilliant choice (not having an SA director because it needed to be provocative and made for a US audience).  Too many South Africans on both sides have a complex about Apartheid and are very immature about putting it into art; because they expect to see it told a certain way.   So they have a complex about Apartheid the same way that the US did about Vietnam. But out of complex based on atrocity rises the art that is Full Metal Jacket, and Platoon.  And in SA’s case; Colors Of Heaven.  We’re excited to be on Netflix and are very grateful for the tremendous critical support from journalists and film festivals alike.  I would sum the film up as Slumdog Millionaire meets City Of God with a hint of Romeo and Juliet.

Colors of Heaven Trailer:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vXQDIOncvKY

8) You’ve been acting for some time now and have a large body of work.  Yes, there were over two decades of theater and dedicated studying of the craft from a raw level to a far more refined form of storytelling in NY before I moved to LA.  In Deborah Kampmeier, Robert X. Modica and Bill Alderson, I’ve been lucky to study with the best of them. Although I was born and raised in South Africa, I did no acting there. I studied and learned and continue to study and learn my craft here in the States.  Around 80 or so film/tv projects and probably close to 100 plays in the last 25 years (I just finished another production of the play 110 Stories, this time with Mira Sorvino, Robert Forster, Mark Pellegrino, Nicki Micheaux, Diane Venora and others) and I have NY and LA to thank for that.

a) what character do you feel was the toughest for you to change into? Three roles where I’ve portrayed real people. Bolivar Arellano in 110 Stories, Joe Masseria in AMC’s The Making Of The Mob, and David Sarnoff in Nat Geo’s American Genius. There’s such a fine line of feeling the responsbility of bringing authenticity (of the pulse and the heartbeat of the core of the real men and what drove them); and then making it my own and leaving everything else behind. But I embraced the terrifying cliff fall and ultimately it set me free in the role everytime.

b) what is the most extreme change you had to make for a role (personality, body weight etc)? For the role of Joe Masseria on AMC’s The Making of The Mob I gained around 25 pounds. I was so so close to playing the same role on Boardwalk Empire but my reps told me that at the last minute, someone closer resembling Masseria got the offer. I didn’t want that to be an issue this time around.

c) what is your favorite role that you have done? Tough one to answer. Toss up between the Martin character in Where The Road Runs Out now showing on Netflix (I got to improvise and be loose and silly and not care) and the Nate character in the upcoming film Avalanche (the character is not the usual alpha male that I play; he intellectualizes everything first and I liked going against the grain of the natural instinct of most of the characters I’ve played the last twenty years).

9) Can you tell me of any upcoming projects you have? Yes. Several soon to be released films. Jo The Medicine Runner opposite Matt Dillon and Jim Caviezel, directed by the brilliant David L. Cunningham. No Postage Necessary opposite George Blagden (Vikings, Versailles), Michael Beach (The 100, Pitch)  and Charleene Closshey (An Evergreen Christmas) directed by Jeremy Culver. Rapid Eye Movement opposite Francois Arnaud (Blindspot, The Borgias) and Reiko Aylesworth (24) , directed by Peter Bishai, and the above mentioned Avalanche opposite pals Gideon Emery and Autumn Withers and written and directed by Todd L. Green. Moving forward I have an offer on a series shooting in Colombia for a week but cannot share anymore info than that.  I’m also a recurring character on Call Of Duty named ‘Faster Than Light’ and I’ll be taping that for months to come.

Anything else you’d like to add? Yes. A big thank you to Danielle Reaume. For being a real person. For caring, for listening, for being there. You haven’t asked any questions about my struggle with Celiac Disease and Hashimotos disease which have not only changed my physical appearance, but also presented huge challenges with struggles in the form of major depression and suicidal tendencies (thank you Hashimotos disease for that). But you were there for me in my darkest days, my wrestle with self-hatred, my struggles with my demons, and in my days of recovery after my solitude.  Thank you for that Danielle, thank you for being you. Thank you for your heart. I would recommend to anyone with depression, specifically artists….request a brain chemistry test. Learning about your serotonin and gaba levels can change your life for the better.

Lastly, a little fun. I call it  “Take Five”

  1. Three words YOU would use to describe you? Unpredictable, passionate, spiritual
  1. Favorite animal? Elephants
  1. Favorite book? The Bible and Animal Farm
  1. Favorite non-work related thing you like to do? Traveling, Hiking, but quality time with my daughter dwarfs everything else.
  1. If you had a piece of biltong (South African beef jerky), would you share it with me? Heck no, I don’t share my biltong or my droewors with anyone lol.

Stelio can be found on the follow social media sites:

IMDB:  http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0767445/

IG and Twitter:  @steliosavante

Facebook: www.facebook.com/steliosavante

A short montage of 15 clips of Stelio’s work can be found here: https://vimeo.com/204115827

And there you have it, folks. Directly from the man’s own lips…err…fingertips. 

I want to thank Stelio for his honest and informative responses, and for kindly accepting the position of “guinea pig” for my first Kit ‘n Kaboodle conversation. He is one of my favorite people on this planet, and I wish him nothing but health, success, joy, love and peace for the future. And always.

Incidentally…I’m fine with Stelio not sharing his biltong. Yuk! 🙂

Until next time, thank you for stopping by. Feel free to drop me a note and let me know what you think.

And if you know of someone in the “arts” – actors/actresses, musicians, screenwriters, literary writers – and you’d love to see them interviewed, please have them drop me a note or send me their contact info.

Blessings to all. 

dani1