Edoardo Ballerini

EdoardoBallerini Interview

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Institute: What made you take the career path as an actor?

Edoardo: It’s an odd story. I was studying Latin in Rome the summer after I graduated from college and I saw an call for American actors. It looked intriguing, and I was bored, so I thought I’d check it out. From there, it all kind of rolled. I ended up joining that theater company of ex-pats, then came back to New York and started studying, and before I knew it I was on a set. I’ve never looked back.

Institute: Can you tell us about your character Frank Goodnight in the BBC drama Ripper Street?

Edoardo: Frank Goodnight was an absolutely delicious role. Two parts bastard, one part enigma. Without giving too much away, he’s a Pinkerton Detective that has a backstory with Homer Jackson (played by Adam Rothenberg), and ends up traveling to London to settle a score. I had a wonderful experience on “Ripper Street.” The cast, crew and director were all brilliant. I didn’t want it to end.

Institute: What attracted you to the part?

Edoardo: First off, I was delighted to be asked, When I read the part I started salivating. There was something that ran deep in Goodnight, something that made him who he was, and I wanted to find it. And I like playing bad guys. They’re more challenging. You have to find a way to be liked while you’re disliked. If an audience just hates you, you’ve failed. You have to find something appealing and intriguing, even if the part calls for you to do awful things. It’s a tricky balance. It can be much tougher than playing the hero.

I also particularly love period pieces, and I’ve done a few now (HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire,” the feature film “No God, No Master” with David Strathairn, my own short film on Rudolph Valentino, a pilot last year for ABC) and I’d known about “Ripper Street” for a while. It had also been a lifelong dream to work in Europe. I grew up between New York and Milan, and I practically moved to London years back, but never actually worked abroad. On top of all that, “Ripper Street” filmed in Dublin, which was a further treat for me. In a different life I was something of a James Joyce scholar, so I got to plunge back into some of my old scholarly pursuits while I was there. It was a perfect combination for me.

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Institute: Do you ever become emotionally involved with your characters?

Edoardo: When I was younger, I did get caught up emotionally with my characters, yes. Less so now. Years ago I did a film called “Dinner Rush.” I played a chef. Danny Aiello was my father, and one of the story lines was our battle for the restaurant. When we wrapped filming, I walked off the set and started weeping. I’d lived in the character for weeks and it was like he died. I’m still enormously fond of that film.

Institute: Does your costume complete your character transformation?

Edoardo: Costumes, especially in period dramas, make the man. They really do. When I first got a look at myself in Frank Goodnight’s clothes for “Ripper Street” I thought, “Oh, hello. There you are.” I’d say the same about sets, too. When I saw the backlot at Clancy Barracks in Dublin, I could see the world in a way it was impossible to before.

Institute: Do you have any great inspirations?

Edoardo: I take inspiration wherever I can find it. I think that may be the Joycean in me. Putting together seemingly random and disparate pieces into a big puzzle in my head. A guy standing on the subway platform can be as moving to me as a Picasso or any other great work of art. If I get to the end of the day and feel like I haven’t been inspired, I know that I just wasn’t paying attention.

Institute: When was the first time you realized you wanted to become an actor?

Edoardo: As I say, I kind of slid into becoming an actor. There was no single “Aha!” moment where I thought I had to be on stage or on screen. But I do remember my first time on a professional set. It was the show “Law & Order.” I was playing an autistic boy, and I was petrified. To the point where I could barely do anything. When we finished filming the first day, I went back to my trailer to get changed. There was a knock on the door and Matthew Penn, the episode’s director, was standing there. I thought maybe he’d come to tell me I’d been fired. Instead he smiled and said, “You did great today.” That might have been the moment I realized I could do this.

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Institute: Could you single out a person who has had a profound impact on you in the last 5 years?

Edoardo: Picking one single person is tough. The last five years have been quite transformative. They’ve been shaped by all sorts of people – friends and family, colleagues and strangers, and full of triumphs and failures. I made some bold changes to myself and my life, my work and career, and I’m happy to say that a lot of what I’ve set out to do, I’ve been able to do. I’m looking forward to the next five years.

Institute: Do you have a preference when it comes to TV, film and theatre?

Edoardo: I prefer film, to be honest. Stage is marvelous, but has never felt like my true home. There’s a decided thrill and magic to live performance, of course, but for whatever reason, it never really got its hooks in me. Television is a great place to work, especially on the cable shows, but can get bogged down by its own formulas after a while. Even the best of the best shows struggle to stay fresh, it seems. But film is where the grand experiments can really take place, particularly on the independent level. That’s what has always interested me. I’d rather try something and have it fail, than do the same old thing over and over.

Institute: How do you keep yourself occupied in-between projects?

Edoardo: In-between film and tv projects these days I do a great deal of narration work. I’m pleased to say that a book I voiced last year called “Beautiful Ruins” was twice cited as “Best of 2012,” first by Salon.com, then by Audible.com. It’s a whole new branch of my career, and I’m loving it. Every project is a one-man show. Beyond that, I have film projects of my own that I’m either in post-production or pre-production on, so there’s never a moment’s rest these days.

Institute: What are you working on at the moment?

Edoardo: I have two main projects right now, one is a feature film called “Omphalos” that is nearly complete. A brilliant young director named Gabriel Judet-Weinshel wrote it, and we produced it together. The second is a film project still in its infancy, but that I’m hoping to shoot over the course of the year. It’s one of those grand experiments I mentioned earlier, so we’ll see where it leads. Other than that, I’ll just keep looking around and enjoy the inspiration all around me.

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Scott Lipps

Institute: What is your diary looking like at the moment Scott?

Scott: Managing talent every day and running ONE mgmt. I usually have 5-10 meetings a day with ad agencies, photographers, models, etc. Going on shoots, a bit of travelling for work, attending fashion and cultural events. Basically 24 hours of nonstop madness… that’s my life.

Institute: How was NYFW for you and your models?

Scott: It is always a lot of work, but if you break a few new clients every season its worth it. The market in NY is flooded with models from all over and from quite a lot of agencies…thankfully we had Marine, Elsa, Sarah Engelland and some others do very well…from the YSL exclusive to other great shows…

Institute: It’s clear to see you have a great relationship with your clients. How do you create the perfect balance of business and pleasure?

Scott: You always have to maintain a level of professionalism on top of the business, but we are like a family, so I’m lucky to have such a close relationship with them all…ultimately you see your team and the models more than you see your actual family so it’s important to get along well.

Institute: What qualities do you look for in a new model?

Scott: There’s not one thing, but personality, proportions and that certain star quality are super important. Sometimes you just know it when you see it…a year and a half ago when Carola walked in, we all knew she had the “it” factor. Since then she’s done 4 international Vogue covers.

Institute: Who are the ‘Ones to Watch’ from ONE?

Scott: Sarah Engelland who did a worldwide YSL exclusive in Paris this season, Chloe was in Bazaar this month and did a shoot for Uniqlo, Marine who had a great show season, and, of course Carola.

Institute: Do you have an all time favorite model?

Scott: I think Christy Turlington is such an iconic talent and one of the sweetest people I’ve ever met but of course all of the models we rep at ONE are my favorite!

Institute: What has been a stand-out out moment in your career so far?

Scott: I think the fact that we continue to sign A-level talent like Karolina Kurkova and that we are expanding into so many areas of the business that others have not, from social media to building real brands with clothing lines, fragrances, cosmetic deals and licensing deals. It all keeps it exciting.

Institute: What is the secret to your success?

Scott: Not sleeping! And working 24-7.

Institute: You also play the drums in Hole, can you tell us more about that?

Scott: It’s been an amazing experience. I played in front of maybe 40,000 people with Kanye West and The Black Eyed Peas last year with HOLE! We aren’t in a touring cycle, so there have been just a few shows this year and some recording, but when we do, its on a massive level and amazing.

Institute: How do you find time to play in a band and run one of the most successful modelling agencies in the world?

Scott: Because we have only made a few appearances in the last 15 months it’s been totally fine to juggle both, plus I don’t sleep!

Institute: You spend a lot of time in LA. What made you set up your offices in New York?

Scott: I actually don’t spend too much time there anymore, but I used to live there. And for the celebrity endorsement things we do, I need to be there every now and then, and to sign talent etc. But NYC is the epicenter for fashion, hence, our office is here.

Institute: What has been the most surreal experience since starting One Management?

Scott: The fact that we have survived and prospered where others have not, and we continue to grow and expand.

Institute: How do you feel when you see actors/actress’s becoming the face of fashion campaigns?

Scott: I think it’s a natural evolution and part of the process… models still sell well and its Ok to have a healthy balance.

Institute: What can we expect from One Management in 2013?

Scott: How much time do you have? More branding, expanding, and lots surprises to come.

Institute: What is an average day for Scott Lipps?

Scott: I think the above mentions it all but 80% fashion, some film, tv and cultural worlds and a bit of music thrown in for good measure!

Institute: Favorite fashion designer?

Scott: Love Rag & Bone for guys, think Balenciaga for women is great.

Institute: iPhone or Blackberry?

Scott: Love Macs, actually addicted too but Im a Blackberry guy. I couldn’t send 3000 emails a week on a Iphone….unless they design real buttons!

Institute: Do you have a favorite city?

Scott: LA….who doesn’t want to wake up in the sun everyday?

Institute: Favorite hotel?

Scott: Love the Hermitage in LA for the service & the Sunset Marquis for the Rock ‘n’ Roll aspect.

Institute: Favorite restaurant?

Scott: Could be Sugarfish in LA, Brentwood…Sushi at its finest!

Institute: Signature scent?

Scott: Water? I’m not really a big cologne guy.

Institute: Style icon?

Scott: Love cool Brit rockers like Paul Weller etc but wouldn’t say I dress like em.

Institute: Home is?

Scott: NYC & occasionally LA.

Institute: I hate?

Scott: Fake people.

Institute: I love?

Scott: The beach & sunshine!! And music of course, fashion, film, food!

Institute: Latest purchase?

Scott: My golden goose sneakers from Aloha Rag.

Institute: Currently listening to?

Scott: My new recordings with HOLE, coming out soon!!

Institute: You can never have too many?

Scott: Great leather jackets.

Institute: Beauty Tip?

Scott: Sleep.

Institute: Favorite Website?

Scott: Still going through my Twitter obsession & if I’m a bit biased, POPLIPPS.

Institute: Most inspiring person you met?

Scott: Steven Tyler.

Institute: Highlight of your career to date?

Scott: If you manifest it, it will happen… Having ONE management for nearly 11 years…

Institute: Favorite person to work with?

Scott: Anyone with a vision….creativity.

Institute: What are your thoughts on fashion?

Scott: Constantly evolving….I love where it’s going technology wise.

Institute: Where do you think trends are created?

Scott: With visionary people.

Vincent Piazza

Some preliminary things to note about Vincent Piazza: he’s perhaps better known as Lucky Luciano on the hugely popular HBO TV series Boardwalk Empire. More importantly, we’ve come to learn that he’s supremely charming and real in person. His first dream was to become a professional hockey player before he incurred an injury that rerouted his path towards acting (there were certainly a lot of life decisions going on at the time as well). Born and raised in Queens, he’s a true and proud New Yorker.

Institute: Are the reasons why you act nowadays pretty much the same as why you went into it in the first place?

Vincent: Absolutely. I was given the right advice when I started out and my heart is still in the right place. I was immediately aware of the fact that it’s a very serious craft. It’s about going down this journey where you’re never quite sure where it will dump you. It’s something that you need to make peace with, which took some getting used to. My perception of the business have certainly changed, but not the reasons why I became an actor. It’s nice to remind myself of that week to week.

Institute: What were those words of wisdom you received early on?
Alice Spivak, my acting coach who I met at the beginning of my career, wanted me to be rooted in the classics. She introduced me to the great influences of modern storytelling: writers, playwrights, actors, films and directors that I need to study in order to understand where it all began and where it’s headed. You can’t just get caught up in contemporary projects, which can feel rootless. It’s important to become familiar with the history of cinema and step into the journey that way.
You played hockey prior to pursuing an acting career.

Vincent: I did. If someone had asked me what my dreams are years back I would’ve told them it’s to become a professional hockey player. In an odd way, I guess acting kind of filled that void for me. It was through acting that I found a way to activate my mind and body that’s similar to the thrills I would have playing a contact sport.

Institute: It was an injury that took you out of hockey?

Vincent: It was partly an injury and partly perspective. I didn’t exactly have the kind of physicality that was required, especially at that age, to play hockey and I had a recurring shoulder problem. I got knocked around pretty good. [Laughs]

Institute: Do you mind going into more detail about this transition you made? How did you apply the aspirations you had for hockey to acting?

Vincent: They’re similar in the sense that they’re forms of entertainment. What’s interesting is that as I got more and more into acting, I discovered how presence and team play that was required in sport translated into working with an ensemble cast. It’s critical. Sending someone a pass isn’t any different from connecting with a team of actors. Presence is required because, otherwise, you get knocked on your ass. If your mind isn’t in the game, you can get hurt or get benched. There are certain principles that remained the same in that way. There were also things that took some getting used to, which made it very different. For instance, the results aren’t quantifiable in acting, performance and obviously storytelling, because there’s a certain level of subjectivity there. In hockey, you have stats and definite wins. This makes sense in my mind as I’m saying it, but I hope it’s clear to you.

Institute: When you’re handed a given screenplay, what are some initial thoughts and/or concerns that you have in regard to the material?

Vincent: Typically what I do is read and reread the script as many times as possible. I read it from many different perspectives. First I just read it—the story—without thinking too much about the work. In the second pass, I try to read it as the character. Then you begin to ask other questions with each new pass, these existential questions. Why is this story being told? Why is my character in the story and what sort of impact does he have on the story? You start to build the general architecture of it.

Institute: What did you find in common with Lucky on Boardwalk Empire?

Vincent: That’s a great question. Does he come from a good family? Is he ambitious? Was he maybe an athlete? What’s his work situation like? What’s his love life like? That’s when you determine whether you’re really close to the guy. But even if you feel very far from a character, you try to figure out how to make a connection. When you get new pages week after week on Boardwalk Empire, you can see the pixels of these relationships. Growing up in New York was a big benefit because it helped me understand a lot of the cultural fears, and how different races and ethnicities interact with each other. Luciano grew up in a much tougher city than I did, but you start to understand it. My father’s a Sicilian immigrant who made a similar journey as Luciano. My father’s journey was certainly in a much more advanced time, but the heart of it is still there. I was able to identify with that side of my family through this series. It was a great opportunity because I not only got to know my father so much better, but I became more knowledgeable about my heritage as a whole.

Institute: It’s a tremendously personal project for you now.

Vincent: It really is. What’s ironic about it is that this is the first Italian-American character that I’ve got to play. I had fears and a reluctance to play one up until this point. I felt like the views of these types of characters were somewhat limiting. But if there’s an opportunity for me to go for a project like Boardwalk Empire, why not do it? [Laughs] You dive into the belly of the beast. It has been an unbelievable education.

Institute: Was it a standard auditioning process for Boardwalk Empire?

Vincent: Actually, it was a bit unorthodox how this happened. I always like to keep busy and happened to be between projects where I had some time on my hands. I remembered working on a play called Gentle People in my scene study class, which featured a gangster character that ran the waterfront and started sweeping this girl off her feet. I thought it was such a cool part and I wanted to develop a real, classic Italian gangster for fun. Then I came across a book featuring children’s stories from 1915 or something like that. I then noticed what they were teaching kids at the time and it was pretty backwards. “Children should be seen, but not heard. Little girls should know their place. Boys should never tattle on their friends because there’s no honor in it.” [Laughs] I took that story and decided to turn it into a monologue where this classic gangster talks to his young son after he’d gotten into trouble at school. I asked my friend director to shoot it. My agent held onto it for some time and maybe a year or two later she called me up saying, “You’re not going to believe this, but Martin Scorsese and HBO are looking for a young Al Capone and a young Luciano. I sent them your tape.” From that, there was an immediate interest.

Institute: That’s incredible. You just never know where something will end up.

Vincent: Totally. No work is ever wasted. No new experience is ever wasted. It’s all going into some cosmic bank account.

Institute: How do you keep yourself occupied between projects?

Vincent: I haven’t quite figured out what to do about that. So many people tell you to relax, but I have a hard time relaxing. I always try to have a bottomless list of things to do. I always feel like I have to this, “this” meaning a list of books to read or certain movies that I’ve been meaning to watch. I just start to pace a lot at that point. [Laughs] I get this anxious feeling inside me because it seems like I’m just burning minutes. I feel like I’m wasting time when I don’t necessarily need to relax a body that isn’t exactly weary. I need to be doing something.

Institute: Do you have a preference when it comes to TV, film and theatre?

Vincent: I’m in the middle of a TV job right now and I’d never been married to anything this long before. That in itself has been an amazing education about endurance and trusting the hands that you’re in. I’ve had the opportunity to settle into that a little bit more this season on Boardwalk Empire. Typically I like working on plays and films because you can formulate an arc for your character. You know going in what needs have to be loaded at the beginning and the middle in order to reach the end. Going into TV with this show, I didn’t necessarily know what fruit it would bear.

Institute: How much do the writers let on at any given time when it comes to something like Boardwalk Empire?

Vincent: I usually have certain historical guidelines and there are milestones that I know we’re going to hit for my character. We know when Luciano gets arrested and when he forms certain partnerships and relationships, but how we get there is a different story. It’s a challenge! We had a rough parameter in the first season, but after wrapping the pilot with Mr. Scorsese, he had mentioned to me that I would eventually hook up with this mother, even though I didn’t enjoy the idea of that too much. He gave me hints about the trajectory of the season and it was enough for me to go on. When the pages start pouring in, you sort of figure out what will probably happen and you get the bigger picture. Understandably, the writers are very secretive because they want the show to be entertaining. Also, they want the luxury of being able to reinvent things based on how the viewers react to certain things. I’d imagine that they sometimes want to change things and don’t want to feel married to any particular thing. I’m really in no position to speak for them though. I just go page by page and use my instincts the best I can. You really end up trusting the writers and the directors, hoping that they won’t ever let you fall off the ledge.

Institute: How do you cope with the unknown?

Vincent: It’s terrifying! [Laughs] The philosophy that I had come up with was that I needed to know everything in order to act like I know nothing. In the case of something like Boardwalk Empire, I know nothing and I need to act like I know nothing. It took a little bit to get familiar with that concept.

Institute: What’s on your plate at the moment?

Vincent: We’re in the middle of working on the third season of Boardwalk Empire and we want to wrap that up by early-to-mid September. It’s quite consuming. I’m in this film that’s currently in post-production called Three Nights in the Desert. I’m just keeping an open mind to see what beckons. I’ve also been writing a lot.

Institute: I take that to mean you’re writing screenplays.

Vincent: Absolutely. I have this story that came to me while working on the show. I’m in the process of turning a treatment into a full-blown feature. It would be a period piece as well. It has been a great process and a whole lot of fun. I absolutely want get behind the camera down the road. It’s my feeling that you can spend years and years writing and rewriting something to find your voice as a filmmaker.Hopefully I’ll start to get into that in the next 10 or 15 years.

Christopher Abbott

Christopher Abbott bristles at the thought of taking his profession too seriously. “In the grand scope of things, it’s a silly thing to make a movie or to do a play,” he says in that self-effacing manner we’ve come to associate with unpretentious, if not sensible, actors. A conversation with the 26-year-old plays out similarly to how he approaches his craft, which is to say that he’s present, polite, unhurried and measured when he speaks. But even when Abbott tries to downplay his current level of success and fame—he’s one of the stars on HBO’s hit TV series Girls—it’s difficult to impeach the fact that it takes a certain kind of unique talent, passion and, crucially, the drive and the patience to make a mark in the film industry.

2012 has served Abbott rather well from the get-go. This January marked the 28th edition of the Sundance Film Festival—an annual landmark celebration of American independent film, not to mention a proving ground for previously little-to-unknown talent—where the actor was chosen as one of the seven fresh faces of the year by Gen Art and 7 For All Mankind. The festival has continued to put the spotlight on people that stick their heads above the parapet—Abbott’s fellow Martha Marcy May Marlene alums, actress Elizabeth Olsen and director Sean Durkin, are but two recent examples. Up next for Abbott is the release of another feature film called Hello I Must Be Going, which premiered in the U.S. Dramatic Competition at Sundance this year.

Institute: Are you currently shooting new episodes of Girls?

Christopher: I’m not personally, but I know they’re currently shooting new stuff. I actually go back in a few weeks to shoot. I’ve done little stuff here and there though.

Institute: You have a prominent role on Girls now, but you previously took on smaller parts on things like Law & Order and Nurse Jackie. Are you getting comfortable with the work schedule that comes with TV?

Christopher: Well, we shot the first season of Girls last year and the workload was a little bit different for that because I was also doing a play at the same time for several months. It felt sort of intense for that reason. I guess it was a bit overwhelming at the end of the day, but I kind of liked it. I would literally shoot the show during the day and do the play at night. Other than that, the vibe on the set of Girls wasn’t stressful at all. Lena [Dunham] and Jody Lee Lipes, the cinematographer, both came from the independent film world, so they wanted to keep things mellow on set.

Institute: Were they very revealing about your character arc on Girls before you signed onto the show? What did you know about Charlie going in?

Christopher: Lena writes from personal experiences. She writes about the people she meets and the people she’s known for a long time. I auditioned for the pilot and didn’t have too much to go on initially. When I went into audition, Lena was there in the room and she gave me a bunch of character descriptions, but that’s about it.

Institute: Tell us about the evolution of your character in the first season. And where do you think Charlie is headed in season two?

Christopher: During the first season, I think the evolution was that he’s in this conflicted relationship with his girlfriend Marnie. He was really blind to what was actually going on between them and quite naïve in that sense. As the relationship went on, Charlie started to realize his role in that sort of one-sided, volatile relationship. He didn’t like that after realizing what was happening. With the new season, I don’t know much yet. I haven’t read the scripts and really don’t know what happens.

Institute: There are people out there who really love this show or hate it for whatever reason. Either way, why do you think this show attracts so much attention?

Christopher: I think it’s because the show is so specific. The situations that take place are pretty minute, but in a good way. Lena’s really good at taking everyday situations that might be fleeting for a lot of people and blowing it up into this thing. She really has a knack for putting things under the microscope, fully realizing that these seemingly small moments are actually significant. These moments, for her, tell us how we grow as a person and how it affects us. I think we can all relate to something like that because the situations are so recognizable. And even when certain things aren’t recognizable to us, it’s entertaining to watch anyway in a voyeuristic way.

Institute: You started out in theatre.

Christopher: I did for the most part.

Institute: Why did you choose theatre over TV and/or film at the beginning? Was this a conscious choice that you made?

Christopher: It wasn’t so calculated. I was in New York at the time and theatre just happened to be around so prominently. I started going to these big open calls for plays while in school and got to know a lot of theatre people in New York. It just started snowballing like that at the beginning. I guess I grew up liking film more, but I really enjoy theatre now. I would love to keep going back and forth between everything.

Institute: You worked at a video store when you were younger. How did something like that shape and influence your dreams looking back?

Christopher: I was 14 or something like that when a friend of mine got me a job at the video store he was working at. It was this small, family owned video store in my hometown. I became really good friends with my friend’s family and continued working with them—my friend eventually opened up a wine store and I worked there too. I worked many different jobs growing up. I didn’t necessarily think about acting at all even though I liked watching movies.

Institute: You were the toast of Sundance this year. Hello I Must Be Going was chosen as the opening night film and they named you one of seven fresh faces. What does something like that do for an emerging actor?

Christopher: I really don’t know… I’d say not particularly anything. [Laughs] It’s certainly nice, but I don’t like to dwell on things like that. I absolutely love Sundance. I think the programmers are so smart and it’s a lot of fun to be apart of. More than anything, I like the idea of communities. I have a lot of musician friends and enjoy the idea of festivals because you get to check out your friends playing here and there in one location. And then you play a show and your friends can come see you. When you go to a film festival, it works the same way because you can go see the films that your friends made and they can come see yours. There’s a lot of room for dialogue.

Institute: I met Drew [Innis] at Sundance two years ago.

Christopher: One of my good friends!

Institute: I met him through Dominick [Volini] from Baron Wells. Then I met Brady [Corbet] and Elizabeth [Olsen] through those connections. Sundance feels so small when you create that community for yourself.

Christopher: It’s a family thing. I met those guys really early on. I met Brady and Sean [Durkin] a year before I joined Martha Marcy May Marlene. We all became such good friends.

Institute: How did Hello I Must Be Going come to you?

Christopher: It was another auditioning process. I enjoyed the dynamic between the character that I play and the one Melanie Lynskey plays. I thought it was a unique and specific relationship. The broad picture is this big age difference between the two characters since I play the younger one. Personally, I was more attracted to the idea of these two confused people trying to figure out their lives together.

Institute: Your character in the film comes to the realization that he doesn’t want to act anymore because he was only doing it to make his mother happy in a lot of ways. What did your own parents make of your decision to act?

Christopher: I started acting kind of late so I really hadn’t thought about it until I went off to college and took an acting class. I was an adult by the time I decided to pursue acting so my parents were supportive. They always let me figure things out on my own.

Institute: What other aspirations did you have prior to acting?

Christopher: That’s the weird thing about life because there are little decisions you make that will either take you down this road or that road. I thought about starting a landscape business with a couple friends when I was still in college. I think being a landscape architect could’ve been nice. Realistically, I think it’s healthy not to get so obsessed about having this or that career path. In order for me to stay happy in acting, I need to consider it as just part of the pie and not have it be the whole thing.

Institute: A lot of actors tell me about their downtime between projects and how excruciating it can be sometimes. How do you fill that void for yourself?

Christopher: I play music. I go upstate a lot to visit my sister. I don’t like feeling stagnant and do whatever necessary to not feel that way. That’s really important to me.

Institute: What are some of the biggest misconceptions about the film industry from a working actor’s point of view?

Christopher: I’m still learning a lot about how this whole thing works and what it all means. [Laughs] Maybe one big misconception would be that it’s this flashy world. There’s a part of it that’s that way obviously, but it’s really not in a big sense especially when you’re starting out in something like theatre in New York. The theatre world here’s pretty contained and there’s a sense of community to it. We get together to show the same play every night, which seems absurd in itself, but it’s a beautiful thing when people pour their heart into something. In the grand scope of things, it’s a silly thing to make a movie or to do a play. But who knows? Everyone has a different take on it. I think it’s a powerful thing to commit to something that deeply.

Institute: Is it difficult watching yourself onscreen? Do you get very critical?

Christopher: I used to be a little bit more critical of myself, but you just have to take in the fact that you did this thing at a certain point in your career and learn to live with it. I guess that’s part of your job as an actor because you just want to keep growing. If I get critical about my past work, it’s more about looking back and trying to learn from those experiences. I don’t have too hard of a time in that sense.

Institute: When your agent sends you a screenplay, what normally catches your eye first?

Christopher: Initially and instinctually, you look at the role you’d be playing first and consider if it’s something you can actually take on. You also look at the bigger picture and see how it will be executed. When you’re a part of something, you obviously want it to look cool. [Laughs] I look at who’s directing it and who’s shooting it. How the movie will look is kind of important to me. Film is a collaborative thing and there are so many factors that play into it that determines how it will turn out. Basically, you want it to be a really good movie. It’s important to look at who else is working on it.

Institute: Where do you see yourself going? I’m not trying to ask you the 5 or 10-year question, but you must have an inkling of a trajectory for yourself with the screenplays, the meetings and the reactions you’ve been receiving.

Christopher: I think it’s a dangerous thing to try and plan a legacy. I try not to set a particular path for myself. As you go through this process, you become more knowledgeable about how things work. When I was younger, I thought that every good thing that happened to me was for a reason. You get this job and think all the planets have aligned. Then you begin to realize that it’s not like that at all. There’s a danger in getting too caught up in yourself and losing the muscles that you once had in order to continue being an actor. I really mean it when I tell you that I didn’t get into acting with this idea of being in movies or creating a name for myself.

Institute: What does acting offer you?

Christopher: I was actually talking to my girlfriend about this and she made it clear to me. She said, “The way you approach acting is from a social studies standpoint.” It’s really about meeting interesting people and studying human behavior. I don’t believe in the aspect of fame where some people feel like they’re somehow owed something. It’s a terrible thing. “I deserve to…” No, you don’t. [Laughs] If you get to do something that you love, enjoy it because it might not last. If you lose it, you lose it.

The Maccabees

Is there anything more rewarding than discovering new talent? At Institute, we are always on the lookout for those ingenious gems on the verge of some sort of greatness. We also recognize that as eager as we are to help these artists, we selfishly thrive on their creative energy—we need them as much as they need us.

As current sonic obsessions go, we’re head over heels about The Maccabees these days. Already a sizable force in their native UK, the five members that make up the indie rock outfit—Orlando Weeks, brothers Felix and Hugo White, Sam Doyle and Rupert Jarvis—are quickly gaining momentum on a global scale. With their new album, Given to the Wild, we find the band shining at their brightest and most beautiful. This fall, the lads will embark on a much-anticipated U.S. tour in support of Florence + the Machine. For this young, still growing band, the sky is the limit.

Institute: Walk us though the process of choosing a name for the band. Was there an overall concept that you had in mind?

Orlando: We didn’t really have a concept. We were just trying to find something that sounded different. We had some bad ideas initially. [Laughs] A friend of ours happened to flip through the biggest book he could find in the room and picked a word out of a random page with his eyes closed. That’s how we got the name.

Institute: It literally could’ve been anything.

Orlando: It could’ve been. [Laughs]

Institute: It’s like getting a tattoo almost. You make this decision and live with it forever.

Orlando: I guess it’s like getting a tattoo in that sense, but you learn to live with it and commit to it. At the end of the day, it’s just a name.

Institute: What can you reveal about your writing process? Is it a spontaneous thing or do you have a set routine?

Orlando: Originally, we were just hashing stuff out. With this new record, everyone was recording things and sending stuff to each other. It was less claustrophobic in that way. I think we’ve seen both sides of the coin now. I think we’re going to aim for the middle ground with each new album where we play live to each other as opposed to making demo recordings. You have these scribbling of ideas, sometimes for things that you never thought would make it onto the record, but they end up making it onto the record by happy accident. We’re trying to find that balance.

Institute: What were some of the initial discussions that you had as a band about this new album Given to the Wild? Did you want to explore certain themes?

Orlando: I don’t want to disappoint you and don’t know if you interview bands where you have these big discussions about what the context is going to be for a record, but I feel like we’re far too disorganized to have those kinds of discussions We’re writing all the time and come from different starting points. Once we go through a filtering process, it’s just the way it is. That’s what our band sounds like.

Institute: This new album is not only beautiful, but every song seems to belong there. How do you find that kind of cohesiveness?

Orlando: You start with two or three songs that set the tone we’re all happy with. During the recording process, you try and persuade everyone that other songs feel like that. That was one of the biggest challenges with this. It was hard to get that cohesiveness and make it feel like a whole record. We didn’t want a collection of ideas and cherry pick from hundreds of hours of recording that we had done individually.

Institute: How did you all come to meet each other?

Orlando: I’ve known Felix since he was about 12 because he was my little brother’s best friend in school. Then I met his brother Hugo. We all lived within a 20-minute walk of each other growing up. South London is a smaller community than you might think. Everyone seems to know everyone somehow.

Institute: What’s the dynamic like in the band these days?

Orlando: At the moment… I don’t know. Our bus almost crashed over the weekend. We were camping out at a UK airport because there weren’t any planes flying out. There’s plenty of stuff for us to kind of work through together in that sense. You know when to leave someone alone, put them on your shoulder or take them out for a drink.

Institute: Going from obscurity to notoriety as a band, what has surprised you?

Orlando: That’s a big question. I don’t know… You stumped me there.

Institute: Were there any unforeseen instances that surprised you along the way?

Orlando: I guess I just try not to be surprised ever. At the end of the day, we choose to do this because we’re our own masters. One of the nice things is that there are the four of us and we can share everything together. Anything that comes as a shock or a surprise, you can even it out a little bit in that sense.

Institute: I was talking to Felix about this briefly when you guys were in New York: is it jarring to perform to 10,000 people at Alexandra Palace one day and come here and you’re at Webster Hall playing to maybe 300 people?

Orlando: Not at all! I say this because it’s true. We could have a terrible gig playing to 10,000 people and have an amazing time at Webster Hall. It can have so little to do with the number of attendees and have so much to do with the atmosphere. A gig is a gig. The numbers don’t really play into how good or bad it goes if that makes any sense.

Institute: What’s normally going through your mind when you’re up onstage?

Orlando: At the start I’m hoping that nothing breaks and then I’m hoping I don’t forget the lyrics. Quite often I’ll spot someone who seems to be having the best time or the worst time in the audience. Depending on how I’m feeling at the moment I’ll decide to concentrate on either or. But I try not to do that normally and not think at all.

Institute: Can you recall something unexpected that you’ve seen in the crowd while playing a show?

Orlando: I’m not good with those kinds of questions. [Laughs]

Institute: It’s never easy putting yourself out there, in any creative pursuit. It’s so easy to want to distance yourself from something you made that speaks to a totally different point in your life. Does this ever come as a worry?

Orlando: I don’t listen to any of our old stuff. I think I’ve listened to all of our albums collectively maybe once or twice. When we were writing our first record, I could see how self-conscious I was about my voice, but I’m less self-conscious about it now. All you can do is look at what you’ve done before and what you felt comfortable with. What did I take pleasure from? You just want more of the same things that satisfied you. If there’s a way to express something that you’re uncomfortable with, you’re going to do it again. I try to find what made me happy before and repeat that.

Institute: Do you road test songs before heading into the studio?

Orlando: With this new record we didn’t do that at all. In the past, we wrote songs and played it live before going into rehearsals to see what made everyone start yawning or whatever it was. [Laughs] I think that’s why this record sounds so different. We were thinking about how it would sound live after it was all done and over with.

Institute: You guys tour a lot. How does something like travel influence your music?

Orlando: Our last record was recorded on our tour bus. Some of the broad stuff was recorded while we were traveling from this place to that place. Sam is working on something at the moment that was inspired by the sounds that a crossing sign made in Australia. [Laughs] I don’t know how much travel really plays into it, but considering the breadth of the world we’ve seen, it has to inform the music in some way.

Institute: How did Florence + the Machine enter the picture? How is it that you got to know Florence and you’re now gearing up for a tour together in America?

Orlando: It was through a singer friend, this really sweet man that we know. He knew her because he shared management with her I think. I think they went to school together. Then I started bumping into her at different things. I was astounded by her as a performer and her extraordinary voice. I’d done some work for the people in charge of putting together the artwork for her album Lungs and this guy suggested me. I made her lungs look like old punch bags on the album cover art.

Institute: It’s striking imagery. It really grabs you.

Orlando: It’s a really beautiful photo.

Institute: What are you most looking forward to when it comes to this upcoming tour with Florence in America?

Orlando: I hope that Florence feels like she chose well. If she goes away thinking that we were the right fit, I’ll feel happy.

James D’Arcy

Institute: What was the most memorable on screen performance you saw growing up?

James: I had never seen Dustin Hoffman in anything and saw him in both Rain Man and Midnight Cowboy on the same day. That pretty much fried my brain. I just couldn’t believe it was the same actor. Or indeed that either of those parts had actors in them at all. I assumed they’d got someone autistic to play that part in Rain Man

Institute: You are currently filming Cloud Atlas – How is that going and can you tell us about your
character?

James: It’s going great. It’s hugely ambitious and I’m having a blast on it. I play 4 roles. Well, 3 actually, but one of them I play at both 30 in one story and 70 in another. Every day there’s some one who is so heavily disguised that you don’t realise that you’ve just spent 10 minutes talking to a major film star.

Institute: Do you like to rehearse a lot before shooting scenes or prefer to experiment and improvise on set?

James: That’s really the Director’s call – I like it either way. There can be real benefits to either approach.

Institute: You play Mr Zimit in The Philosophers, how did you become involved in the film?

James: Well they offered me the role and simultaneously sent pictures of the locations we would be filming in. And so having seen those, I was desperate for the script to be half good! But to my total delight, it was a complex, interesting, challenging and rather epic indie…

Institute: What has been the most challenging role to date?

James: They all present different challenges, but Sam in Screwed was certainly a stretch vocally.

Institute: Could you single out an actor or film that had a profound impact on you in the last five years?

James: I would have to say Ryan Gosling. He’s the classiest actor I’ve seen in quite some time.

Institute: What has been a stand-out out moment in your career so far?

James: The Venice Film Festival last September was pretty good. The crowd went as mad as I’ve ever heard a crowd when Madonna arrived on the red carpet…

James Badge Dale

At 35, James Badge Dale has secured a special place for himself in the sprawling landscape of American television. Previously known for filling the hand grenade of a man prototype on such shows as CSI and 24—Keifer Sutherland memorably took an ax to his hand in the season three finale—Dale’s emotionally devastating portrayal of Private First Class Robert Leckie on HBO’s hit miniseries The Pacific confirmed the actor as a viable leading man. In 2012, Dale is set to cement his silver screen cachet with a string of roles in hotly anticipated films starring opposite the likes of Brad Pitt in World War Z and Denzel Washington in Flight.

On the day of our meeting in New York City, it’s the sea trapped in Dale’s eyes that we find most striking; blue eyes that harden, twinkle and melt as he recounts intimate stories. Unlike his onscreen ramrod personas, Dale, in person, carries an unimposing vibe. There’s no doubt that the actor’s adaptability and lack of self-awareness has much to do with his bohemian upbringing, having grown up in what he himself refers to as “a crazy, gypsy-like household of actors, dancers and loony Broadway people.” Boasting a successful career that spans over two decades, Dale is surprisingly free of any bullshit—that’s his undeniable charm.

Institute: I was eavesdropping on your conversation with the publicist earlier. You’ve been shedding a lot of weight for a role?

James: I’m about to do this movie called Flight where Denzel Washington plays an airline pilot. He plays this severe alcoholic and drug addict—he’s fucked up! [laughs] He does lines of cocaine before getting on a plane to fly people. There’s this great moment in the script where Denzel ends up in the hospital after a plane crash and a cancer patient talks to him about luck versus fate, God, being present in your life and taking things for granted. I was immediately attracted to this role, but they told me I wasn’t right for it. I told them I would read for the role they originally wanted me for if they give me a shot at the cancer patient role and they agreed. Robert Zemeckis is directing it and we shared long conversations about this part. He knows I have a long history of cancer in my family. I’ve watched people pass around me, including my own mother. It’s an important role to me because there are personal things that I wanted to work out for myself. Ultimately, Robert said the role is mine if I lose the weight, so here I am fifteen pounds lighter! I’m so miserable right now.

Institute: How did you go about losing all this weight?

James: I’m on an all-liquid diet this week. I’m drinking a lot of healthy juices. I was talking to a good friend of mine who went on 700 calories a day to lose weight for a role.

Institute: Is this Michael Fassbender?

James:  Yes! I have no idea how he did that. I tried it, but noticed that my level was at about 1200 calories a day. If I run six miles every day, I burn 1200 calories and I’m at zero. I’ve been eating a lot of vegetables, chicken, fish, nuts and berries. I eat like a bird.

Institute: What was it like to work with Michael on Shame?

James: Michael is one of the most focused, consistent and present actors out there. He’s remarkable. It was an education for me to say the least. Actors that emerge from the English drama system have a different work ethic. They’re steady. It was a little daunting because I play the obnoxious guy to Michael’s quiet guy. You literally show up on set to shoot five pages and Steve McQueen doesn’t do any coverage. There was a lot of improvisation involved. For example, if we’re sitting here talking, he has a camera way over there by that van and comes up with this crazy angle—this is how the entire scene plays out. If you drop a line, there’s no safety net and you messed up big time! Steve will come up to you and say, ‘I don’t like the dialogue. Just make it up!’ and I’m sitting there freaking out. Some actors are really good at that, but I still struggle with it. I spent a lot of time trying to make Michael laugh during the shoot and I got him to laugh once. [laughs] It only took me four weeks…

Institute: Were you a big fan of Hunger prior to working with Steve and Michael?

James: I’ll be quite honest with you—I knew of Hunger, but hadn’t seen it. I received a phone call saying Steve made a movie called Hunger and that I needed to read the script for Shame immediately. I met with Steve the following day and got the job halfway through our meeting. I looked over at the casting director—Avy Kaufman has been a great friend and supporter of mine for the past ten years in New York—and she was shocked. I left immediately because I didn’t want to say something stupid. If he can make a decision that quickly, he can change his mind just as fast.

Institute: You seem to take on the darker films with heavy subject matter and testosterone-driven TV shows.

James:  Am I drawn to it or is it drawn to me? I try to do the lighter stuff, but they won’t cast me. I did The Conspirator last year with James McAvoy and Robin Wright, which Robert Redford directed. Avy said there were two roles in mind for me, so I could read the script and choose the one I liked. There was a funny guy character and the darker guy, and I wanted to do the lighter guy. At that point, Robert told me I could just have the darker role and I wouldn’t even need to read for it. So as much as I try, I keep getting offered these kinds of roles.

Institute: How did you get your start as an actor? You were only 10 years old when they cast you in the Lord of the Flies remake.

James:  come from a family of actors. My mother was an actress and a dancer on Broadway, and my father was a dancer and an actor on Broadway as well before going into choreography. I grew up in a crazy, gypsy-like household of actors, dancers and loony Broadway people. It was their way of life and I didn’t know anything else. For Lord of the Flies, I was sitting in my English class in elementary school one day and they pulled kids out to audition for a movie. It sounded exciting to me. Talk about a movie that draws you in! You’re getting sent off to an island for four months to run around a jungle. I literally ran around in my underwear climbing trees with a bunch of other kids acting like total lunatics. [laughs] It was one of the greatest experiences of my life. But I eventually noticed how it started to feel like work. When you’re 11 years old, you don’t want to show up to work. I stopped acting and played hockey after that. It wasn’t until I was 21 that I started coming back to acting. I saw Judith Light in the play Wit at the Union Square Theater in 1999 with my father after my mother passed from cancer. When I saw Judith—she had known my mother—playing this woman dying of cancer, I grieved properly for the first time. It touched me and that was the moment I decided to act for the rest of my life. I realized that acting isn’t something to play around with and you have to treat it with respect.

Institute: That marked a huge turning point.

James: It was monumental.

Institute: How did you end up doing so much TV work?

James: So much TV work! [laughs]

Institute: TV seems like a huge investment for any actor because they own you for however long.

James: You sign a contract and they really do own you, but I’ve been very fortunate because I’ve signed two long-term contracts in my life—“24” and “Rubicon”—and gotten out of both after one season. They were both good experiences in their own right. Television has come a long way and there are a lot of good roles out there, but you could be stuck playing the same character for a long time and maybe there’s no end to that story. The biggest regret I have about “Rubicon” is that we didn’t end it. Sometimes you do these shows and you don’t have the opportunity to get closure. Stories are supposed to have a beginning, middle and an end. A number of my friends are on successful TV shows that run year after year and we always have this conversation. It’s an odd thing that can happen to an actor on television. You get into that second year and it’s like, ‘I’m doing the same material over and over.’ Actors get lost because of that. They might be millionaires living up in the Hollywood Hills, but you know they’re going absolutely crazy.

Institute: Do you find it more difficult shedding the characters you play on TV once it’s over since you’re expected to explore that part for such a long time?

James:  I’ve never really had that problem. “The Pacific” was tough because it was a 10-month commitment and we were shooting the entire time. We all had trouble coming down from that experience because it was so immersive. It enveloped all of us and we had trouble grasping what had just happened to us. I had never done a job like that before and probably never will again. In some strange way, it reminded me of the Lord of the Flies experience. They pick up twenty guys and drop them off in the middle of nowhere. “The Pacific” is obviously a darker story, but some of the circumstances were the same.

Institute: I don’t know if there’s any truth to this, but apparently you were picked on in school after Lord of the Flies came out?

James:  Everyone asks me about that! I don’t know how that story started. I probably said something… Kids will tease you for just about anything. Of course kids teased me! I was running around in my underwear. It was the perfect setup. But I don’t want to speculate. I’ll just say that I didn’t enjoy the attention. What I found is that—this holds true today—people know you from your work and they have an immediate reaction, be it good or bad. What I found most uncomfortable was that people who I didn’t personally know somehow thought they knew me. It felt so wrong. It’s one of the big reasons why I shied away from acting when I was younger.

Institute: What can you reveal about World War Z?

James:  It’s all about the zombies. I think they’re still shooting that one. They were moving the production to Hungary when I left. I was with them for a month.

Institute: Who do you play?

James: I play another military guy—the last military guy, I promise! [laughs] “The Pacific” beat it all out of me, but when World War Z came along, I had to do it. When else are you going to get a chance to do a zombie flick with Brad Pitt? It’s really unique and different. I play an Army Ranger in it. My guys have been hunkered down in the military prison fending off zombies—as you do—in a zombie apocalypse. We had so much fun and it was just fucking weird to be on that set.

Institute: How do you want to navigate your career from here on out?

James: I’ve always wanted to do a western and it looks like I’ll be doing The Lone Ranger this year. I’ll get to ride a horse. I hopefully won’t kill myself doing it. I enjoy stuff like that. The truth is, I’m still young and I’m not married. I don’t even have a girlfriend right now. It’s just my dog and me. Now is the time to travel around, live like a gypsy and be free to explore different roles that come my way. And it’s not so much about staying away from military roles, I’m happy to do it if it’s risky and different enough. My goal is to continue growing and expand as an actor by doing different types of things. Everything adds to your toolbox.

Aleksa Palladino

When Aleksa Palladino arrives on the set of our photoshoot in Brooklyn, New York, her disarming charm is intoxicating. There’s an easygoing spirit and quiet confidence about the emerging 31-year-old actress who speaks softly and seems to lack the domineering ego that one might assume pervades most actor archetypes. Her smile, when it flashes, is entirely genuine. Her singular voice, slightly raspy with a hint of an accent—she’s a native New Yorker—is instantly memorable.

Onscreen, Palladino excels at inhabiting characters that are at once damaged and dangerous. She’s effortless in her ability to radiate emotions like a filament about to erupt, with a tenderness and honesty that gives her a gravitational pull. With a long list of leading roles in independent films under her belt, she’s perhaps best known for playing Angela Darmody on Boardwalk Empire—Michael Pitt’s dreamer wife who was unexpectedly gunned down in the hit HBO series. Palladino’s career continues to soar towards a brighter future in 2012, not only in film but also in music as she commands the stage as EXITMUSIC with her husband, Devon Church.

Institute: What can you reveal about your background?                                                                      Aleksa: I was born and raised in Manhattan. My mom, my grandparents and I all lived in the same apartment. It was a pretty unique experience because everyone was an artist of some kind under that same roof. Both of my grandparents were painters and my mom was an opera singer. When you’re raised in a house full of artists, everybody is very similar in that they’re very invested in their own creativity.

Institute: How did acting become your life passion? When did you first realize that it was something you could pursue?
Aleksa: I actually started acting and playing music at the same time when I was really young, but it’s difficult to pinpoint a definitive moment when I decided to pursue them. I knew fairly early on that I wanted to find an outlet where I felt comfortable expressing the deep emotions I didn’t feel comfortable expressing in my own personal life. I was drawn to the performing arts because it allows you to explore intricate feelings under the guise of being somebody else.

Institute: You were just 14 when you landed a starring role in Manny and Lo opposite Scarlett Johansson. How did that happen?
Aleksa: I had auditioned for this casting director, Ellen Parks, a year before Manny and Lo—it was my first audition and I didn’t get the job—and she had always remembered me. Ellen looked up my family in the phonebook and she basically told my mom that there was a part I might be really right for. When I first read the script, I was terrified because I didn’t like the prospect of being rejected if they didn’t like me for whatever reason. I was never an outgoing kid or necessarily drawn to the spotlight. I never partook in school plays because I dreaded things like that.

Institute: What would you say was the most significant thing that you took away from working on Manny and Lo?
Aleksa: It started my life down a path that I didn’t necessarily anticipate. I was always more certain that I would become a musician. The thing about acting is that it really takes you to a place where you can analyze the human experience. To be given a gift at 14 to become an actress where you’re forced to either sink or swim was invaluable to me. Manny and Lo was really the beginning of my conscious life in that way.

Institute: What do you make of the choices that you’ve made thus far in your acting career?
Aleksa: The things that happen along the way always change your options when you’re an actor. I always aim to work on things that seem genuinely interesting to me. I was definitely limited in my choices before Boardwalk Empire came along. That show changed the quality of my options. I had done a lot of independent films for years, but I was still stuck in this weird limbo where you feel like you’re clearly part of the business, but you can’t move up—it’s a holding pattern. I’m also an adult now so that shifts a lot of things. When I was younger, the huge guiding force of what not to do was how embarrassing something might be for me. As an adult, and especially as a woman, you’re more in tune with the things you want said or represented through your work. I’m always on the lookout for roles that are written for a man that I can play as a woman. [laughs] I don’t want to be the wife, the girlfriend or whatever. Women are so much more interesting than that.

Institute: Your role on Boardwalk Empire seems like the perfect example of the kind of roles you’re after. It’s my understanding that you knew little to nothing about Angela Darmody going in.          Aleksa: I knew that she had a young child and that her husband or boyfriend was just coming back from the war. That’s literally all I knew at the beginning. Once I was offered the part, they threw one more piece of information at me, which was that she’s a painter. When you have three pieces of information to go on, the amount of research you do for a character is massive. You’re looking for enough material to build this person with. I used the little things that I knew about Angela Darmody to understand what was happening during that time period for women and for society in general. Angela is a social feminist as opposed to a political one because she doesn’t care about the right to vote as much as she wants the right to vote in order to live a fulfilled life. That is so beyond to me and I love it. Voting, for her, is merely a symbol and she simply wants the actual freedom.

Institute: How would you describe EXITMUSIC’s sound?
Aleksa: It’s like the question you getwhere your mind just goes completely blank. [laughs] I just hate all the options out there. I don’t like descriptions like “shoegaze” or “female-fronted”. We get all kinds of stuff. I feel like our songs have more urgency than something like “shoegaze”. We don’t sing lullabies, so that word doesn’t feel right. I think if I had to classify my own music and feel good about it, I wouldn’t be making the kind of music that I want to make. There’s a lot of flavor in it.

Institute: Would it be fair to say that it’s brooding? It seems to me that you’re somewhat drawn to the dark side, both in film and music.
Aleksa: I have this kind of heaviness that I don’t know how to get around. I don’t even know that I try to get around it anymore. The weight of being a human is the most breathtaking thing and the most horrific thing. I’m constantly trying to understand whether life is good or bad. Are people good or bad? Am I good or bad? I guess it’s both, always. The things that have made the biggest impressions on my life have always hurt coming in and shocked the system. I don’t know how to write songs about wanting to dance at a party. [laughs] I guess I’m just a grumpy kid.

Gillian Zinser

Institute: Do you remember the first time you realised you wanted to become an actress?
Gillian: My mum took me to see ‘The Fantastiks’ off broadway when I was a kid and the opening scene was a girl my age praying at the foot of her bed pleading “Please God, PLEASE! Please don’t let me be normal!” I was an awkward kid trying to figure out where I fit in, and watching that character in that moment was so comforting and inspiring at that age where I felt so much pressure to conform to the ‘norm’ but didn’t really want to or know how to. The relief and inspiration that that one simple scene gave me was probably the first time I realized how powerful, effective, and inspirational performance could be.

Institute: Could you single out an actor or performance that has had a profound impact on you in the last five years?
Gillian: I dont know about five years, but some of the most influential performances in my lifetime have been…Kate Winslet in Eternal Sunshine of a spotless mind Audrey Tattou in Amèlie Diane Keaton in Annie Hall Annette Bennington in Running with Scissors Juliette Binoche in Lovers on a Bridge Ryan Gosling in Lars and The Real Girl

Institute: What can you reveal about Liars All?
Gillian: Obsession. Ego. Lust. Revenge. Murder.

Institute: You play Missy, can you tell us about the character?
Gillian: Missy was a hard character to understand let alone empathize with in order to play her. She’s a dark creature, a wilted flower suffering from manic depression.

Institute: Do you like to do a lot of research into your roles?
Gillian: Yes. Although I’ve yet to work a role that requires the depth of research I’m eager to challenge myself with.

Institute: Do you ever become emotionally involved with your characters?
Gillian: Inevitably.

Institute: What was the most valuable lesson you learnt from being on set?
Gillian: Technicality, professionalism, and the importance of being a team player. I find there’s just absolutely no room for ego in this business.

Institute: What do you look for in a character or film?
Gillian: Meat. Dimension. A la ck of comfort. Something I’ve yet to fully explore within myself.

Institute: What are your thoughts on fashion today?
Gillian: I wouldn’t say I take fashion very seriously. I just look at it as another daily form of self expression to have fun with. I find inspiration in my moods and throw on what makes me feel good.

Institute: As an actress do you feel more aware of the way you dress?
Gillian: Perhaps less so. I get so used to people dressing me for the characters i play that when its time to take the costumes off and slip back into my own skin, i’m only left with the energy to be as comfortably myself as possible.

Institute: Where do you think trends are created?
Gillian: Through the infectious confidence of those unafraid to beat to their own drum.

Institute: Do you have a favourite fashion designer?
Gillian: Balmain. Zac Posen. Chloe. Kimberly Ovitz. Rick Owens.

Institute: Top five fashion essentials?
Gillian: Chuck Taylors. Leather biker jacket. Red lipstick. Old Levis . White Hanes t-shirts from Target.

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