The ‘Tungsten Butterfly’ – She sings, she dances and she’s a mean hand with a pair of broad swords! An Urban Life exclusive with rising starlet Selina Lo.
They say good things come in small packages, and at 5.4”, with her petite frame and cute disposition, Selina Lo is just that. Given that she is known for her martial arts skills, at first glance she doesn’t exactly hit you as a particularly intimidating figure. But don’t let the cuteness fool you, because underneath that beguiling fragility lies a powerhouse with over 16 years of hand-to-hand combat and weapons training behind her. Basically, she can kick your arse, and then some!
It’s hard not to warm to Selina instantly, as I found out when we first met on location for the cover shoot. With her bubbly personality and playful character, it didn’t take long for the crew to take shine to her either, which meant we had a lot of fun on set. So when we arranged to meet for coffee and to do the interview a few days later, it was smooth sailing right from the get-go.
We missed our first appointment due to two castings running late in to the day, so of course my first thought was to ask how they went, the day before we met. “They went well, thank you”, came the cryptic answer with a smile. And no amount of probing could get anything more out of her. Already fielding questions like a seasoned pro I thought, and quite rightly so, as it’s a busy time for the young actress who is about to get a lot of media attention from all quarters.
Having just returned from a four year stint working out in Asia, Selina has a better celebrity profile out there than here on her home turf in the UK. But that’s all about to change with the forthcoming release of the Scorpion King – The Book of the Dead (Dir: Roel Reiné), the third instalment of the Hollywood blockbuster, currently in post-production.
Born in Edgware, but having grown up in Hendon in North London, where she spent most of her childhood, Selina went through school completing her GCSE’s whilst practicing and competing in martial arts every weekend. She’s also a trained singer (grade 8) and has studied at LIPA (The Paul McCartney Academy for Performing Arts), Sylvia Young and the English National Theatre. “I got a scholarship from one of the best drama schools (GSA and Mount View), but when I got in, I thought it is what I wanted to do, but now I just want to get out there in to the real world.”
Best known for his roles on the small screen, Adrian Holmes is about to go global with a number of major Hollywood productions under his belt this year. Having made his mark in hit television series such as Supernatural, Human Target and Smallville, the British-born, Vancouver-based actor is now making his transition on to the big screen in Hollywood.
Currently in town promoting the release of Red Riding Hood, I couldn’t pass on the opportunity for a very last-minute interview with him for this edition. And, after a few frantic emails and phone calls between here and LA, we finally arranged a time to meet at the Criterion in Piccadilly.
Adrian Holmes was born in Wrexham, North Wales and lived in Liverpool until the age of five. It was then that his mother decided to join her twin brother and re-locate to Vancouver, which has been home ever since. At the age of 11, he was cast as the Lion in a school production of The Wizard of Oz, from where he caught the acting bug. “It was my first big production”, says Holmes. “And after the show this girl came up to me and asked for my autograph. I remember thinking it a little strange, as I’m not famous, but knew from then on that this is what I wanted to do. You could say I got the bug”.
Raised in a single-parent household until the age of nine, when his mother re-married, Holmes grew up being the middle child, with two younger half brothers and an older step brother and sister. “I went from having all the attention to having to fight for it” he says wistfully. You wouldn’t think he was the shy type, but during his childhood years he was and would do Michael Jackson and other impersonations to entertain friends and family to compensate for it. “Acting was like an outlet for me. It allowed me to express myself and come out of my shell. It gave me a voice when I felt I had none”.
Then high school and theatre school followed, taking acting roles in between, which started with his entry into television in 1991. But the route to academia was quite different, as Holmes graduated from nursing school in 2001, following in the family footsteps – there were many nurses in the family, including his mother. “God has a funny sense of humour because as soon as I graduated from nursing, my acting career really took off. But the reason I did nursing, even though my passion was in acting, was to have something to fall back on and have that peace of mind”.
Well, it seems safe to say that the nursing profession might not be his calling anytime soon, if recent roles are anything to go by. Amongst these is Frankie & Alice (Dir: Geoffrey Sax), which went on limited release in the US earlier this year. The plot revolves around a young woman with a multiple personality disorder, played by Academy Award winner Halle Berry, who also produces the film (and got a nomination for it at this year’s Golden Globes). “Yeah, I play her love interest which was incredible. Halle’s a great actress and I have always been a huge fan of hers, so to not only work with her, but to work with her so close was a great opportunity. And of course I get to kiss her, which not a lot of actors can say!” Indeed, and even though the part was fairly small, it was none the less integral to the plot and one that’s really sparked off a lot of interest. Not a bad thing, considering Halle Berry’s stature as a leading lady and the fact that 95% of the male population would give their right arm just to be near her, let alone kiss her.
Frankie & Alice is swiftly followed by Red Riding Hood (Dir: Catherine Hardwicke – Twilight, Thirteen), with Gary Oldman and Amanda Seyfried, which goes on general release in the UK in mid-April (Leonardo DiCaprio is one of the producers). “I’m Playing the role of ‘Captain’, the right-hand man to Gary Oldman’s ‘Father Solomon’, the werewolf hunter”, says Holmes. “I had a lot of fun doing this and working with Gary Oldman, one of my favourite actors, who I admire and have a lot of respect for was fantastic. I learned so much from him, he brought a lot”.
One can’t help but make the obvious association of Red Riding Hood with Twilight, so aside from the shift from vampires to werewolves, what’s different about this film?
“Well, for one it’s a different story altogether. Yes Catherine Hardwicke is directing it, but the similarities stop there especially as it (Twilight) doesn’t have Gary Oldman in it! But really, it’s a classic fairytale by the Brothers Grim brought to life. You’ll have to go see it and make up your own mind”.
One of the world’s most original new recording artists? We think so. We talk to Grammy nominated US sensation, Janelle Monae
Recording Artist. Everybody knows what the term signifies but too many don’t understand what it’s supposed to mean. Over the years the transatlantic music industry has been punctuated with a whole host of manufactured acts, style over substance singers and ring tone rappers. Then, sometimes, we hit that exclamation point and suddenly we remember – the Recording Artist is why we love music. Step forward Janelle Monae, singer, songwriter, visionary, artist.
She’s already a rising superstar in the US and the underground buzz on her in the UK is set to carry her to the top of the charts here. Although originally from Kansas she found herself fulfilling her musical ambitions in Atlanta, via a brief flirtation with studying musical theatre in New York. It was in Atlanta she co-founded a creative collective called the Wondaland Arts Society and began to grow into her own style. She found favour with like minded Atlanta Hip-Hop stars like Outkast and it was their Idlewild project that represented her first real break (Wondaland Arts Society produced and featured on two tracks on the soundtrack album to the
movie of the same name). What caught the imagination of the US public is the many eclectic styles and influences that contribute to the Janelle Monae persona. In somebody else it might seem contrived, even disjointed, but here it seems organic and pitch perfect
– a lot of contradictions that shouldn’t work but do. “I don’t think about those things”, she tells me, “I’m always evolving as an artist and this is just the space that I’m in right now”. That ‘space’ also happens to be in the middle of a world tour promoting her new album, The ArchAndroid, the continuation of the story of Cindi Mayweather. First introduced to us with her 2007 EP, Metropolis: Suite I (The Chase), Mayweather is her android heroine and muse who inhabits a world based on the German science fiction silent movie classic, Metropolis. “The new album deals with self discovery and awakening. Cindi fell in love with a human on the first album and had to run because of it. Now she realizes she’s the ArchAndroid, rising above the division in the world to be the link between the
have’s and the have not’s”.
It’s at this point you realise that Janelle’s music has a lot to say, even if sometimes what she’s saying is not always entirely clear. On ArchAndroid, allegorical themes of perception, discrimination, oppression, hope and freedom are told in songs that range from the James Brown-ian funk of Tightrope (featuring Big Boi from Outkast), the big band sound of BaBopByeYa and the hybrid futuristic trip-hop of my favourite track, Wondaland – all told in a future world based on a 1920’s silent film. Don’t try and map your way through it, it’s better to just sit back, listen and let it all find you naturally. When I asked whether she ever ran into any creative roadblocks when combining so many styles, themes and genres her reply was a simple ‘no’, the kind of reply that tells you this is something she’s living, not marketing…
Click here to read the full article online.
You might think you would have to go a very long way to meet somebody who was born in the foothills of the Himalayas but who grew up in Canada. You might have to go even further to meet someone who was a combination of Indian, Chinese and even a sliver of Jewish heritage (hence the seemingly incongruous surname). Fortunately, I only had to travel as far as London’s Twickenham Studios to meet Karen David, the actress making a name for herself as one of the UK’s best talents. It was here that she was filming a new TV series for the BBC and as we sat down over lunch for a chat the phrase ‘small but perfectly formed’ came to mind, dressed as she was in a costume that was akin to Halle Berry’s in the X-Men movies. Despite the costume and the heat that day she looked very cool, in both senses of the word, and seemed to be enjoying her life. “Everything that I have wanted to do since I was a little girl I’m now doing. This is actually my day job and I feel blessed to be in this position in my life”.
Her journey seemed to have been set when, as a four year old, she was left in the charge of her older sister who refused to alter her viewing habits to accommodate her younger sibling. The film of choice that day was Xanadu. “That’s when I fell in love with all things Olivia Newton John. I wanted to sing like her and be in movies like her. That’s when I was bitten”. A number of other world renowned celebrities, like Gwen Stefani, seem to have shared this same epiphany in their own early years so she was already in very good company. She was also fortunate to have parents who, despite being from a traditionally academic background, encouraged her to commit to her ambitions and that’s exactly what she did – when she wasn’t trying to blend in.
“When I was growing up I was picked on a lot for being different”, she says, “My mother sent me to Chinese school when I was little but that didn’t work because all the kids thought I was too dark to be half Chinese. Then we moved to Canada where I had to learn French but couldn’t speak any of the languages in my heritage like Cantonese or Hindi. I was looked on as a bit of a freak of nature really but now that I’m older I really appreciate those experiences because it’s helped me not to be typecast as the ‘Asian’ actress”.
It’s certainly true that, whether by conscious design or unconscious projection, her CV certainly reads of an artist who has been given the opportunity to develop a broad range. By the time she was 17 she had moved from Canada to London to study acting and from her first film role in 2002 in the UK film Bollywood Queen, with James McAvoy, to Hollywood roles in Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins and Couples Retreat with Vince Vaughn, all bases were quickly being covered. Later this year she will even be seen playing a Spanish teacher when the BBC’s primetime drama, Waterloo Road, returns to TV this autumn. And, in perhaps her most significant role to date, she has even played a fictional ‘Akkadian’.
Click here to read the full article online.
Destined to leave the young girl image behind her, Andre Gayle meets Tamsin Egerton, the talented, supermodel-like English actress who grew up on the silver screen and is now on the cusp of international stardom.
There was a time when it seemed everything you knew about Tamsin Egerton revolved around her being a schoolgirl. She was still at school when she first started acting and the jealousy it engendered from her fellow schoolmates filled out the padding for many a column inch in various newspapers and magazines in her later years. Then, of course, she was catapulted onto the national consciousness playing a vampish schoolgirl in two successful remakes of the classic St Trinian’s movies.
But that was then and this is now. Now there is a palpable sense within the movie industry that Egerton is moving into a new phase in her career. Whereas she may not necessarily have been previously ‘typecast,’ in the strictest sense of the word, the roles that we have come to know her by did not have too much in the way of gravity to them and they were almost always of the light-hearted variety. With the release of the first St Trinian’s movie in 2007 that image of her was reinforced in the minds of casting directors and producers. She played the insubstantial but good hearted sex kitten, Chelsea Parker, one of the many kooky residents of moviedom’s notorious English boarding school for girls, but there was a downside to the publicity it generated for her. “I turned down so many roles in the first six months after that movie was released”, she tells me. “I didn’t like what I was being offered, it was all in the same vain as Chelsea. But, as a consequence, for the subsequent six months I didn’t work at all”.
At 17 it was a pretty bold move. A young working actress holds a ‘big break’ in one hand but swats away significant roles (and the rent money that comes with them) with the other? All in the name of long term career goals as opposed to short term success? Perhaps ‘bold’ doesn’t even sell it. It would actually be a very brave move for any self employed teenager, let alone one negotiating the cut-throat jungle of the movie industry but, as any poker champion will tell you, the more you bet on your own ability, the greater the eventual reward. Heading towards her 21st birthday Egerton is now starting to see the benefits of that early faith. The next year could turn out to be the defining period in her film career, the point at which, on screen, she turns from a girl into a woman – an actress into a potential leading lady…
Click here to read the full article online.