Italia Ricci – Chasing Life (TV)

June 10, 2014 by  
Filed under Interviews

In the new ABC Family TV series “Chasing Life,” Canadian actress Italia Ricci takes the lead role as April Carver, a 20-something year old aspiring journalist whose life takes an unexpected turn when she is diagnosed with cancer. In her career, Ricci, 27, has starred in such projects as the TV show “Aaron Stone” and the 2013 indie film “Don Jon” with Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

During our interview, Ricci talked about how realistic a show like “Chasing Life” might be in comparison to someone living with cancer and discussed why she thinks the “cancer drama” is something audiences will be interested to see.

The series premiere of “Chasing Life” airs June 10 at 8 p.m. on ABC Family.

Do you think a show like “Chasing Life” can properly portray what cancer patients go through?

The show isn’t all about cancer. From the people that I’ve spoken to everybody goes through it differently, so there’s no one way to try and show the world what somebody would be experiencing. So I did my best to play April as authentically as we can within the confines of entertainment television. I’m sure there will be some people who completely disagree with how she’s reacting to certain things physically and emotionally and then there will be some people who might say that’s exactly what they experienced or what they saw somebody experience. I hope people can at least understand. They’re going to know it’s still television. It’s not a documentary, but at the same time being on set doing some of those scenes, it does get scary when you have to remind yourself that you’re not sick.

How do you think the writers will keep a show like this from getting too dark or depressing with such a heavy subject matter?

People just have to take my word for it. It’s not depressing. It’s not dark. It’s not going to leave you feeling heavy after you watch it. The writers are so brilliant. They deliver the bad stuff or the dramatic stuff and then it’s right back at it just like real life is. There’s comedy in it and there’s so much more to it than the cancer. It’s about friendship and [April’s] family and her romance. There are episodes where you totally forget she’s even sick.

We’ve seen dramas where cancer is at the center of the narrative like in the film “50/50” and the upcoming “The Fault in Our Stars.” Why do you think this subject is something people want to see? Do you think it’s partly because most people know at least one person who has battled cancer themselves and they can sort relate to it?

As an audience member, I enjoy watching things that make me feel represented. I feel like people are interested in seeing this because no matter what role you play, there might be somebody you can relate to, whether it’s the mom of somebody who’s sick or the best friend or the boss. There’s something there where you’re like, “OK, I can relate to that and I feel that validation.” It piques a lot of people’s interest if they can find something they relate to. And then there are people who just want to feel like they’re not alone in this. They’re not. There are so many people that feel everything every character is feeling in the show. I’ve seen “The Fault in Our Stars,” and it’s pretty similar to our show. The types of cancers are different and some of the plot points, but it’s a wonderful movie and I hope people watch it. But “50/50,” when Joseph Gordon-Levitt and I had re-shoots for the movie, he actually is the one that pulled me aside and was like, “I think it’s amazing what you’re doing, but don’t forget that you’re not sick.” I never really took it to heart before I started shooting and now I’m so grateful he said that to me because, like I said, that’s sometimes the hardest part.

Do you feel because you’ve taken on a role like this means you now have a responsibility when you’re off the set to help with cancer awareness?

Yes, absolutely. As soon as I booked it, I was like, “What can I do?” It always felt like this massive dark presence that I was uncomfortable addressing or even looking at because I didn’t know very much about it. Now, it’s all about the awareness we’re bringing. We’re taking the power away from [cancer] and I think that’s great. When I first started shooting and even when I booked it, it didn’t really cross my mind that people would look at me and I would be taking on these responsibilities. I don’t want to screw it up. I obviously hope [this show] is going to help some people, but I’m still just a really lucky girl who booked a really great job.

Cierra Ramirez – The Fosters (TV)

August 2, 2013 by  
Filed under Chaléwood, Interviews

In the ABC Family series “The Fosters,” Latina actress Cierra Ramirez (“Girl in Progress”) stars as Mariana Foster, a 15-year-old girl adopted and raised by an interracial, lesbian couple. In its first season, the program, which is produced by Jennifer Lopez, has received backlash from conservative groups like One Million Moms. The group says “The Fosters” is attempting to “redefine marriage and family by having two moms raise…children together.” During an interview with me, Ramirez discussed how a show like “The Fosters” could help individuals change their minds on topics like same-sex marriage, and what she thinks about groups like One Million Moms trying to boycott the series.

Can you tell me a little bit about the reactions you’ve been getting from people about the themes of the show?  What kind of things have you been hearing, positive or negative?

The biggest reward I usually love as an actress is getting feedback and seeing different audience members relate to the character or the plot or anything like that. Thankfully, everyone has been so positive.  People have found this very relatable and universal. It’s really fun to hear lots of peoples’ stories and seeing how they can just interact with the show. It’s been a blessing.

Do you think a show like this can make people change their minds on the topic of same-sex marriage if they are against it?

I definitely do think that it could. It’s about time a show like this [is] on the air. There’s never been anything like it and it’s about time. It has perfect timing with everything that’s going on in the world and with Prop 8 and stuff like that. I think it can help people become a little bit more open to the idea of it, to same sex marriage, and the idea that families being raised in certain households like that do turn out all right.

How do you define “family” in this day and age?

This show, in particular, definitely goes along with the ABC Family slogan, “A New Kind of Family.” And that’s definitely what I think it is. But family for me is someone, or it could be anyone;  you don’t have to be related to them, just like in the show, but it’s someone or a group of people that will accept you no matter what, through thick and thin and will always be there for you and love you unconditionally.

The ultra-conservative group One Million Moms has boycotted the show because they consider it “anti-family” since there are two moms raising the kids. What are conservative groups who don’t watch the show not understanding?

I definitely think it’s just the openness. They need to have more of an open mind to something that’s such a big deal right now. It’s the biggest thing in the world right now.  It’s a big issue and it needs to be more open. That’s what I love about this project.  I’m hoping that it can get through to lots of different families and it can become a better issue.

The last time I interviewed you was for your role in the film “Girl in Progress.” What kind of film roles are you looking for now or what do you hope comes across your table in the next couple of years?

The roles I’m definitely looking for are generally the roles have been in. I’ve gone into different roles with the same mindset. I’ve loved taking on roles that have a very universal message that lots of people can identify and relate to – and at the end of the day can get people talking. I’m actually a very dark person so I really want to get into some really dark roles, maybe some thrillers. I’ve never done one of those, so I think I’d really want to get into that, but definitely something that would get lots of people talking.

As a young Latina in the industry, what do you think of a show that comes along like “Devious Maids” that portrays Latinas in that light?

I usually try to get into roles that are very universal. I try to stay away from those stereotypes, mainly because I just feel like every role that comes my way is a gardener’s daughter or something like that.  But, it’s just the way you make it. With “Girl in Progress” you saw, my mother was a struggling teen mother, who was struggling with two different jobs. She was a maid and she was working in a restaurant as a waitress. So, I mean it really just depends. I’m for them. I just try to stay away from them. I don’t really care for stereotypes.

Alfonso Ribeiro – Spell-Mageddon (TV)

July 26, 2013 by  
Filed under Interviews

Best known for his role as Will Smith’s brainy cousin Carlton Banks on the 90s TV comedy “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” actor Alfonso Ribeiro has stayed relevant in the entertainment industry by acting, directing and hosting a number of other projects over the last 17 years (Yes, it’s been that long since “Fresh Prince” ended).

In his most recent endeavor, Ribeiro is the host of the new ABC Family game show “Spell-Mageddon.” The show challenges contestants to spell words while under duress. This includes contestants going through obstacle courses, getting dumped into ice-cold water, and even experiencing a few volts surging through their bodies by way of electric dog collars strapped to their legs.

During an interview with me, Ribeiro, 41, talked about how important the actually spelling is to “Spell-Mageddon” and how well his “Fresh Prince” character would do on a show like this.

“Spell-Mageddon” airs on ABC Family Thursdays at 8 pm CT.

What do you think it is about these spelling competitions that are intriguing to so many people?

I think that people are fascinated with spelling bees. In real spelling bees where we have no idea what a word means, these young kids are able to know what the words are, understand the meaning, the country of origin, all of those types of things. I think it’s quite fascinating.

How is the spelling portion of the show different than something like Scripps?

I think most of those spelling bees are with kids. Our show is very different. We have adults doing it. What we do on our show that’s a little different is obviously we’re not taking words that people have never heard of. We’re taking words that people absolutely have heard and use on a daily basis and should know the spelling, but our distractions are what really take us in a very different way than those spelling bees.

Talk about some of those distractions. What are we going to see on the show?

We’ve got one game where we have a dunk tank and we’ve got these kick balls and we’re launching these kick balls into a bull’s-eye. Every time it hits the bull’s-eye our contestants get dunked into ice-cold water. We fill the dunk tank up with ice. Then we fill it up with water. We let it sit for 15 minutes so that it melts enough that it’s really just mostly super, super, super cold water. Then, we dunk them into this tank while making them spell. The reactions are hysterical.

Do you think people are going to watch the show for the spelling since it’s a little more lowbrow?

I disagree with the lowbrow aspect of that. Obviously, [real] spelling bees are maybe super-brow versus being an everyday show [like “Spell-Mageddon”]. I don’t think it’s lowbrow in any way because we’re not spelling “cat.” We’re not spelling “dog.”  We’re spelling “psychedelic,” “psychology.”  We’re spelling words that some people have a hard time spelling if they’re not good at spelling. It’s still difficult in many ways. The distractions are what really kind of keep the fun of the show going.

What other game shows that have aired in your lifetime would you like to take a stab at?

To be honest, mine would be the dancing and the singing stuff. Those are the things that I enjoy more than anything. The “Jeopardy” stuff is not really where I’m at. I like to use my talents in some way versus my brain. I think there are people out there who are smarter than me. So I let them do those types of game shows. I certainly enjoyed “The Price Is Right” growing up. I don’t do much shopping anymore. I’m fortunate enough my wife loves to do the shopping, so I would probably have a hard time with the prices now. The singing and the dancing shows were certainly shows that I’ve enjoyed. I did a show called “Celebrity Duets.” I actually won $100,000 for my charity. Those are the shows I enjoy.

How do you think Carlton Banks would do on a show like “Spell-Mageddon?”

I think Carlton Banks would win “Spell-Mageddon.” Obviously, he was super smart. He was still relatively athletic. He was unwavering in his convictions. I think Carlton would’ve done very well on the show.

Nikki Blonsky – Huge

July 9, 2010 by  
Filed under Interviews

In her new ABC Family show “Huge,” actress Nikki Blonsky stars as Willamina, an independent and overweight teenager who is forced to go to weight-loss camp by her physically-fit parents. While at camp, Willamina decides she will rebel by trying to gain weight instead of losing it.

During an interview with me, Blonsky, 21, who broke into the entertainment industry with her role in the 2007 remake of the musical “Hairspray,” talked about being a plus-size actress in cutthroat Hollywood and why she choses to advocate living life to its fullest rather than battling the bulge.

What are your thoughts on these summer weight-loss camps that are like the one featured in “Huge?” Do you think being shipped off is positive for a kid’s self esteem?

I think if the kid comes to the parent and says, “You know, I really want to go and lose weight.  I’ve heard about this camp and I really want to go and get fit,” then that’s perfectly okay. I think if a parent is sending a child it’s not as okay. If a parent is sending a child, it’s sending a message to that child that the child is not good enough the way they are to their parents.  There’s no worse fear, I believe, in my heart than not being good enough for my parents.

Obesity is becoming a major problem among teenagers in the U.S. today. Do you ever advocate losing weight or is it more about sending out the message of being happy with who you are?

Yes. I totally advocate of being who you are, loving who you are and living and let live.  Just love what God gave you because he gave it to you for a reason. You were made this way for a reason. If you were meant to be a six-foot tall, skinny blonde model, then you would have been. But I’m meant to be a 4’10 plus-size actress and I am perfectly okay and happy with that. I think we’ll all be okay if we all just accept who we are and love who we are.

How did you feel when they where shooting you for the show’s advertising campaign in a bathing suit?

I have to say it was the most freeing experience of my life to be out there with just a bathing suit. You don’t get barer than that unless you’re doing Playboy and that’s not happening anytime soon – not ever. Growing up you always have those little things like, “I’m in a bathing suit and I really want to go to the pool, or I want to go to the beach, but I don’t want people to see me.” A lot of kids and adults still deal with that. I dealt with that for a very long time until I got the part of Will and it said, “Day one, first shot of the day, she’s taking off her clothes, stripping down to her bathing suit, and doing a strip tease.” When I saw the posters I was like, “Whoa, I didn’t know that it was going to be just me in the bathing suit!” I’m really shocked because there’s a full one in Times Square. It’s really, really sweet.

At what point in your life did you feel like you were comfortable in your own skin?

Well, I have to tell you, I totally give all of that credit to my parents. They raised me [telling me], “You’re our beautiful little girl.” They would call me that every single day.  I would have to say growing up with that really helped. I’m 21 and they still tell me every day, “You’re our beautiful little girl.” I never saw my weight as an issue until I got to school and kids started picking on me and I was like, “Why are kids picking on me?” I didn’t understand it because I was told that I was beautiful at home. My grandmother, God rest her soul, she said to me, and this is something that I’ll take with me forever. She said, “Nikki, kids make fun of you because they’re insecure with themselves.” I decided if it makes those kids feel better about themselves by making fun of me and I’m totally comfortable with myself. That’s my gift to them.

Have you ever faced any weight discrimination in Hollywood?

Yes, I had an agent look me in the eye and tell me if I want to get roles in this town I needed to drop at least 100 pounds. I said, “Oh really?” She said, “Yes.” I looked at her and I said well you’re not my agent and I walked away from her because if you don’t get me then you don’t get why I’m the way I am than you can’t be part of my life. I am who I am and I’m proud of who I am and that’s just how it is.

So what goes through your mind when you hear comments like the one Howard Stern made earlier this year about Gabourey Sidibe and how she won’t succeed in Hollywood if she stays the weight she is?

I think it’s so ridiculous and just so hurtful to her. I would love to meet Gabourey and just hug her because I feel terrible that he said that. I’m so proud of her for her role in “Precious.” She is awesome and she is an amazing actress. I think it was a terrible, rude comment that he made. People like that need to curb their tongues a little more. Even if they have their opinions they should sometimes keep them to themselves because sometimes they can be really, really, really hurtful.  I don’t think that comment was necessary.