Tag Archive | "On The Rise"

ON THE RISE: Rudy Martinez On His Blossoming Career, Latest Projects and More!

ON THE RISE: Rudy Martinez On His Blossoming Career, Latest Projects and More!

Rudy Martinez is a ray of light in Hollywood. His killer smile, positive attitude and love for his craft has turned the heads of casting directors and fans alike. Born and raised in Los Angeles, California, he fell in love with acting at a early age and continued to pursue his passion professionally, earning a BFA in acting. After being signed with an agent during college, Martinez hit the ground running as soon as he graduated. While waiting for his agent to call with auditions that first summer, Martinez face painted at children’s birthday parties. He went on to book his very first professional acting job as a host job for the Disney Channel, where they flew him to Disney World to interview young celebrities and talk about the newest rides. Through the years, his resume grew with a plethora of noteworthy projects. He currently recurs on The CW’s “Jane The Virgin” as Rudy the P.A. and is best known as Marty on the NBC series “Heartbeat.” Additional acting credits include: ABC’s “Speechless,” Disney’s “Good Luck Charlie,” Nickelodeon’s “iCarly” and the film “Senior Moment.”

2018 is shaping up to be his biggest year to date as he recently joined the cast of Netflix’s critically acclaimed dramedy, “Dear White People.” Based on the 2014 film of the same name, the series follows a diverse group of students at a predominantly white Ivy League college, who are navigating various forms of racial and other types of discrimination. Martinez plays the character Wesley Alvarez, who is a love interest for Lionel (DeRon Horton) in season 2, which premiered in May of 2018. With roles like these, Rudy Martinez will continue to light up the screen and raise the bar on each project for years to come. Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with this star on the rise to discuss his journey as an actor, the challenges he faced along the way and the projects closest to his heart.

How did you get involved with the arts early on in life?

Always knew that I wanted to be an actor, but I tried other practical things first! [laughs] I tried majoring in psychology when I was in college. Honestly, I think I just wanted to help people and I think I found a different way of doing that. I was always attracted to performing and telling stories, so I went that route instead. When I was in college, I got my first agent and started going out on auditions while I was in school.

Which early project impacted you most?

I think the stuff I did when I was hosting for Disney was a big game changer for me. Prior to that, I didn’t know if I would be successful in this business. That was the first audition that I went to where the casting director really liked me and called me back. The first project that I was hosting for them fell through, but they really wanted me to be a part of their team, so they brought me back to read for something else and that ended up working out! I ended up going to Disney World and interviewing various Disney Channel celebrities. That was a huge moment for me because it was a big crash course in being on camera and all the preparation involved. I was really thankful to be on a set and learn how everything works. It allows me to figure out who does what and get my bearings in that environment. From there, I was little bit more prepared when I started doing scripted work.

Rudy Martinez is one to watch in 2018. – Photo by Ryan West

Who had the biggest impact on you in the early stages of your career?

My parents have always been so supportive! They never told me that acting wasn’t practical! I always kind of expected to have them say that to me at some point when I told them I was going to major in theater or pursue a career as an actor. They have always fully supported me and have always been happy to come see my projects whether they are in theater or on TV. They have been my biggest fans, so I have a big appreciation for their love and guidance!

You’ve been part of great projects. Was there a moment you felt like you came into your own as an actor?

After “Dear White People” came out in May, I’ve had some people contact me and tell me that they really appreciate my performance, particularly because it’s the only show that touches on a lot of social issues. I play an LGBT character on the show. So, I had a lot of people tell me it means a lot to them to see people like that represented on-screen, especially being in the Latino community where representation is very important to them. They’ve reached out and let me know that, so I think that’s the moment where I thought, “OK, this is exactly what I want to be doing!” I want to help people and represent characters that are important to them!

How did you get involved with “Dear White People” and what made it a role you were excited to take on?

I was a huge fan of the show before I auditioned for it. My manager got me an audition for it, I went to the audition and then I left town to attend a wedding in Portland. Of course, it’s always when you leave town that opportunities come! [laughs] I had to come back early because I knew it was a great part I did not want to miss out on it! I came back for the callback and then had a chemistry test with the actor that I play opposite of. Then I booked it! I was really excited because, in my opinion, it’s such an important show. It just speaks so frankly and candidly about the issues it tackles!

The show is well-written. What did you bring to your character that wasn’t on the original written page?

That’s a good question! One thing that I was really nervous about was that I wasn’t sure if the things I was doing would come across on camera. My character is written as being smart and fun but one of the things I tried for him was a little bit of vulnerability. He is in a romantic relationship with another character, Lionel who is played by DeRon Horton, and they are both on unsteady ground. They are not social butterflies and have not had these experiences yet, so it’s all very new to both of them! I tried to bring that vulnerability and uncertainty and I think it played!

Rudy Martinez – Photo by Ryan West

You’re absolutely right! What has been the biggest challenge you faced with this role?

You know, I’ve never really played romance before because I normally don’t get cast in those separate roles. I have an ease with playing the geeky guy, the office tech guy or the sidekick. I love playing these type of parts because I can really play at the comedy. This role is a stretch for me because I had never played the love interest. I think the biggest challenge was accepting that part of me and realizing that I could play a romantic role.

What is your typical process for bringing a new character to life?

The first thing that I do is journal as the character. I write down everything that is given to me in the script but from my point of view to get the details out like what I do and what I’m passionate about. When it comes to what’s not in the script, I fill in the blanks and make it up. Then I just kind of free write as the character because I think the most important thing is to develop an inner monologue for the character. I like to figure out who they are and what they’re passionate about so that if someone asks you a question as your character, you can easily improvise your line as the character. It gets your groove and that way when the cameras roll, there is not a lot of guesswork and you know what the character is feeling and what they’re going through.

Recently, you’ve been a part of another unique project — “Wood Boy Dog Fish.” I watched the trailer for it and was blown away by this project. Tell us all about it!

To start, it’s a puppetry piece but it also has elements of mask and is kind of a hyper-theater performance piece! It’s out there but it has a great story and a great team of people working behind it to bring it to life. There’s a part of me that is still that artsy theater kid, so when I was auditioning for TV and film, I was also looking for a project that would allow me to do some puppetry and work on that scale. I found this great company called Rogue Artists Ensemble. They do all the things that are right up my alley. I saw an audition for this play and I knew that I wanted to be in it, so I got into competitive mode! I auditioned, and I got the part! Theater is so much different than TV and film. This piece lasted for six weeks and we were doing it every weekend, so it really took a lot of stamina. You have to stay in shape and stay on top of your game. Also, the show doesn’t have legs unless people are marketing the show themselves. You have to get your family to come, invite your friends out and have them spread the word. In that way, theater is very different from TV and film, so you have to give it life on your own.

Is theater something you see yourself doing more of in the future?

I really try to pick and choose theater pieces that really speak to me, so it’s definitely something I want to be a part of but I’m a little more selective with the things that I take on. Like I said, it does take all of you and you have to be passionate and pour all of yourself into it!

We’re living in a great age when it comes to projects on film and television. Is there a role you are anxious to play?

That’s another good question. I really love comedy. Some of my favorite shows are the really subtle comedies; the single camera stuff with no laugh track. One my favorite shows right now is “Barry” on HBO. I love it because it’s dark, subtle and funny. I would love to be involved with a comedy like that!

Rudy Martinez stars in Netfix’s ‘Dear White People.’ – Photo by Ryan West

It’s definitely not easy to make a career for yourself in the entertainment industry. Where do you look for inspiration?

Right now, I’m doing this thing where I’m trying to watch movies that everyone has seen or recommended to me but that I have never seen before. I’m working my way backwards and finding some inspiring work by some great actors. I find myself saying, “I can’t believe I haven’t seen this movie!” [laughs] I might see a movie that Meryl Streep won an Oscar for and say, “Wow! She really was great in that. You can see she poured her heart and soul into it!” That’s what really inspires me! Acting is truly about pouring your heart and soul into a character, which then raises the level of the project.

Looking back on everything you created, I’m sure you see a lot of milestones. How have you evolved as an actor?

It is an evolution! One the things that I’ve been able to accomplish is being vulnerable and open as an actor. Coming from a theater background, I sometimes have the tendency to push too hard and to have a very presentational style of acting in the beginning. Now my work feels much more subtle. I think that’s something that comes from continuing to take classes. Acting is never over, and you never finish learning! You have to keep taking classes to get to that point. Not just acting classes, it’s improvisation classes, dance, commercial or anything else that could help you express what’s inside of you! You just never know what new ability you will unlock.

You are also involved with the Actors Equity Association, which does great work. As someone who is on the front lines in the industry, are you seeing change?

Yeah, I am! Actors Equity does so many great things for actors. I always knew that diversity in theater, film and TV was going to be a long game and a lot of hard work but it’s definitely better today than it was five years ago. I’m so pleased to see so many people of color have made it into the Academy, along with so many writers of color who have come up and written big projects. I’m very pleased with how it’s coming along!

We can look to you and the career you are building as an inspiration. What’s the best lesson we can take from your journey?

Oh gosh! For me, the best thing I’ve learned is to treat everyone with respect. It’s such a small world and you work with everybody. From one project to the next, you’re going to be working with the same talented crew members and writers. Everybody comes back into your life! Be happy, thankful and humble. Learn everybody’s name and don’t burn any bridges! [laughs]

Thanks for your time today, Rudy! I don’t know if you hear it enough, but you are doing great work and it’s inspiring! Keep up the great work and I’m sure we will cross paths again in the future!

Thank you so much! It was my pleasure!

Follow the continuing adventures of Rudy Martinez on social media via Twitter and Instagram. Catch him on ‘Dear White People,’ which is currently streaming on Netflix!

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IN BLOOM: Tayler Buono On Her Blossoming Career, Creative Evolution and More!

IN BLOOM: Tayler Buono On Her Blossoming Career, Creative Evolution and More!

Electro-pop artist Tayler Buono is more than just a pretty face. A multifaceted performer, she continues to push herself creatively and expand her creative horizons. Her latest single, “Something About You,” is a satisfyingly R&B-hued electro-pop jam, which recently debuted on Spotify and has amassed over 3.5+ million streams. In addition, she recently unveiled a hauntingly beautiful video in support of the single. The track serves as a fitting follow up to her saccharine, trap-infused bop, “Technically Single,” released in the summer of 2016. With smart lyrical content and infectious songs in her growing musical arsenal, Tayler Buono stand ready to take 2017 by storm! Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Tayler for a quick Q&A. In the interview, she offers a look inside her blossoming career, her songwriting process, her evolution as an artist and much more!

What are you first memories of music?

My first memories are sitting at the piano with my dad as a toddler making up little silly songs as he’d play.

How did you first start getting involved with the arts?

I started taking voice lessons when I was 8 years old along with acting and dancing as I was a part of a musical theater academy.

What can you tell us about the process of finding your creative voice?

I didn’t start to find my own creative voice until I started writing my own songs. I didn’t have the confidence or courage to sing for anyone until then. I wrote my first song when I was 14 right after I learned my first 4 chords on guitar.

Who were some of the performers and people behind the scenes who helped to shape the artist we see today?

Bono, Coldplay, Rihanna, One Republic, Ellie Goulding, Queen and Jessie J.

At what point did you realize music was something you wanted to pursue professionally?

I knew I wanted to pursue it when I started writing songs at 14.

Dedicating yourself fully to your art is a big step. Did you ever have any reservations about taking the plunge?

It was definitely overwhelming at first because I didn’t know where to start. It’s a tough industry because there’s not really a road map and there’s so many talented artists out there but I knew that I wanted to pursue it and had to find a way.

You are clearly very driven when it comes to your career. What has kept you inspired throughout the years as an artist and fueled your creative fire?

I’m constantly making new music and the music keeps me inspired.

You made the move from Florida to Nashville. How has that experience impacted you as an artist?

It’s grown me a lot because I’m constantly surrounded by other great artists and songs. It’s also led me to meet my current manager and team.

You recently released a video for your single “Something About You.” What can you tell us about the song and what it means to you?

“Something About You” is about a friendship I’ve had for a long time that turned into a romantic relationship because there’s something about this person that I’ve always been drawn to.

You also put out a great video for the single. What can you tell us about the process of bringing it to life?

It was a super spontaneous shoot. My videographer, Steven, and I just drove around LA and shot at different beautiful places we found. Steven is super talented and added the cool visual effects.

What can you tell us about the songwriting process for your music?

I write from an honest place and take pieces of my life and put them in my songs. I wrote “Technically Single” by reading the text messages in my phone and putting them in the song. It’s a pretty direct and honest song.

Your songs can be intense and very personal. Was it a difficult process to get to a point where you were able to bare your soul?

Yes. When I wrote “Technically Single” I was afraid of anyone hearing it because it was so personal and upfront. I waited a while before I let anyone hear it. It was really cool to see that a lot of people related to it and loved it.

In addition to your original music, you have released some great covers of some amazing songs. To you, what do you look for a song you cover from another artist?

I chose to cover the songs I did just because I loved the songs and felt like singing them that day.

How do you feel you have most evolved as an artist since you first started professionally?

I feel I’ve grown a lot. I’ve been writing songs since I was 14 years old so I’ve put in a ton of time and work towards this. I’ve evolved a lot as I’ve found my sound and voice.

What are the biggest challenges you face as an independent artist?

As an independent artist I’ve just had to be really driven and focused because I’ve had to be my own label and everything. The biggest challenge I’ve had has been finding ways to get things done on a small budget.

What do you consider your biggest milestones along the way?

My biggest milestone so far has been writing “Technically Single” and it passing 18 million streams on Spotify.

As an artist, so many things can be said about the current state of music. What excites about the music today?

I’m excited because there aren’t really any rules or limits to what you can create and pop music is constantly evolving and changing. It’s fun to try and create fresh, out of the box ideas. It’s exciting because everyday I have an opportunity to make something new and make music that I love. As an artist if you love the music you make chances are other people will to.

We are headed into 2017 in just a few short weeks. Where do you see yourself headed musically in the future — with short and long term?

I see myself putting an EP out in the spring of 2017 and touring. Then an album after that.

What is the best way for fans to help support you at this stage in your career? 

The best way for fans to support me is to share my music with their friends, follow my socials online so that they can stay updated and come to my shows in the future.

You can serve as a great inspiration for so many aspiring artists and young people. What is the best lesson we can take away from your journey so far?

Honestly I’d say to just be patient, be you, and never give up. Be willing to try new things, mess up, fail, start over, over and over again. No shame. Eventually something will click. You’re best bet is to just be you because you’re the only one that can do that.

Follow the continuing adventures of Tayler Buono! Visit her official website at TaylerBuono.com. Connect with her on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat!

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ON THE RISE: Lisa Heller On Her Creative Journey, New Music and Much More!

ON THE RISE: Lisa Heller On Her Creative Journey, New Music and Much More!


It’s no secret that marking your mark in today’s music industry is no easy task. In addition to talent, it takes hard work, determination, unrelenting drive and the ability of overcome the obstacles that come your way. Lisa Heller is a shining example of what is obtainable when you aren’t afraid to invest your heart and soul to make your dreams a reality. Her latest single, “Hope,” introduces her inspirational new song to the world. Born out of struggle, “Hope” is a spiritual transformation that allowed her to break down barriers, and move her life forward. 

Several years ago, Heller had a medical condition color her world as she woke up at an emergency care center with a diagnosis of Vocal Cord Dysfunction (VCD). Fortuitously, the doctor told her that singing would help treat the VCD because the act itself would relax her vocal cords. Embracing the advice, music became a therapeutic stress reliever, a creative outlet and her saving grace. With a newfound confidence, Lisa developed her inner voice, harnessing her intuition to effectively craft 4-minute vessels of the existential. Early songs such as “Close Your Eyes” and “Life on the Run,” which featured drummer Aaron Sterling (John Mayer, Taylor Swift, The Band Perry) and special guest guitarist Steve Fekete (musical director for Avril Lavigne), were her first forays in songwriting and ones which ended up being recognized with various accolades including being chosen as a Top Five Finalist in the “Performance Category” for the American Songwriting Awards, reaching the semi-finals of the International Songwriting Contest, and receiving a “Pop High Honorable Mention” by the faculty of the Songdoor Songwriting Contest.

These achievements caught the attention of producer Jim McGorman, known for his work with Sabrina Carpenter, Avril Lavigne, Cassadee Pope and Kate Voegele, and in January 2015, Heller went into the studio with McGorman to record 4-songs; “Hope,” “Firewall,” “Midnight,” and “Things You Never Said”. Jim warmly recalls the sessions, “I work with a lot of new artists, and Lisa sees things that others don’t. She is an incredibly insightful lyricist, making her songs unique and powerful. She has so many dimensions to her voice and, as a producer, it’s exciting to see where she takes each song.”

In conjunction with the release of the single, Heller has erected a virtual “Wall of Hope”, the foundation of a social community designed to foster faith and encourage hope by sharing inspirational stories. One such story is that of 4-year old Nicholas Higham. Lisa elaborates, “I wanted to connect with a few extraordinary kids who have overcome, and continue to fight through challenges, to help spread their stories of courage and bravery. Nicholas is a cute little boy who happens to have down syndrome. He doesn’t allow this to keep him from doing much, his smile and confidence is ever-present.”

In addition to the release of the single, Lisa continues to build her fan base with emotionally-electrifying performances. Fresh off an Acoustic Cafe radio show with songstress Rachel Platten, which reprised her inclusion on a similar invitation-only American Authors event at the Hartford HOT AC station, Lisa is gearing up for a four-month songwriting journey, traveling and performing throughout Australia from July through November, before returning to the studio in the new year.

Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently did a Q&A with Lisa Heller to get a glimpse inside her world, her songwriting process and what the future may hold for this star on the rise!


What are you first memories of music in your life?

My very first memories of music were listening to Dave Matthews and Five For Fighting on long family road trips.

Going all the way back to the beginning, how did you first start getting involved with the arts?

Everyone at school was required to take chorus. Singing came naturally and I fell in love with it right from the beginning.

What can you tell us about the process of finding your creative voice?

The process of finding my creative voice was a long time in the making. In high school I battled VCD (Vocal Cord Dysfunction) and it made it extremely hard to breathe while I ran track. The doctor recommended that I sing while I run because he said it would relax my airways. I started writing and was drawn towards singing sad songs; but learned that this didn’t make me feel any better and that the empowering songs were what gave me strength. By the time I wrote and recorded these new four songs for the EP this last winter, I was ready to empower others through my music.


Who were some of the performers and people behind the scenes who helped to shape the artist we see today?

One of the artists that I really looked up to is Christina Perri because her songwriting is so incredible and you can tell how carefully crafted each of her songs are. I’m also a huge fan of Demi Lovato and her extremely passionate voice and the honesty she demonstrates with her audience. I’ve also looked up to Rachel Platten and how she was able to give people strength through her “Fight Song”. It was such a thrill to get to meet and open for her.

You are clearly very driven when it comes to your career. What has kept you inspired throughout the years as an artist and fueled your creative fire?

My inspiration and strength come from the obstacles that I have had to overcome in my life such VCD, self-image issues and bullying. I have turned these negatives into positives and used the energy to fuel my creative fire.

You recently released a new single titled “Hope.” What inspired this song and what does it mean to you?

When I was writing this song with Jimmy (McGorman), I told him how I wanted to write a song that could apply to the majority of people without being too vague, and this is how we came up with “Hope”! The main line in the chorus “Hope, Hope for the best/ hope for the rest of our life/till the day that we die” came surprisingly quick and then we built the entire song around this passion of being hopeful when there seemingly might not be a lot to hope for. This really applied to my life when I was dealing with VCD and it felt like there were no solutions, so as we were writing this song, that was all I could think about.

You worked alongside producer Jim McGorman for this track. How did the two of you cross paths?

I have had a long-time mentor from CT, who actually directed my video (Kurt J Zendzian, now in Tampa) and he advised me that I work with a big-time producer and recommended Jimmy.

What did he bring out of you creatively?

Jim really help me find my “creative voice” and helped me figure out who I wanted to be as an artist. I remember standing in the recording studio after having laid down a new track, and Jim responds “You just found your voice”. It was such a defining moment. Jim is an expert in helping people define, develop and then refine their artistic voice.

In conjunction with the release of the single you created a “Wall of Hope.” What can you tell us about it and how the idea came about?

After my team and I decided that Hope would be the first single, I started hinting to my fans that “Hope” was the name of the first single off of my new EP. After seeing people’s responses on how excited they were to hear an inspirational song, especially with all of the current events going on in the world, I realized I had something more than just a song here. Then I randomly ended up on a link to Go Fund Me and started reaching out to people in CT to see if they would want to be part of this “Hope Wall” and no one turned me down!!!


It has received a tremendous response. How has that impacted you personally and in a creative sense?

It’s pretty incredible because now people are reaching out to me, asking to join the movement, and I never expected this to develop into such a community with a positive message. It’s amazing how music can bring people together. I have been able to meet some of these people- especially kids with life-threatening diseases and it has definitely touched me personally. Now when I sing in public, I think about these kids and how they might not get to live another year, or even another month. I have gotten really attached to some of the kids I have met, and I sing the song for them.

What can you tell us about the songwriting process for your music?

The songwriting process for my music definitely varies from song to song. I have had times where I’m driving on the highway and have to pull over to scribble lyrics on my iced coffee because that was all I had. There is something about writing versus typing that definitely helps a lot in the creative process because it allows me to write down my thoughts without committing to them. By contrast, sometimes I purposefully sit down at a piano and mess around with chords and riffs until I find one that feels right. Next I start humming along until I find a melody. Then I find one line that really sticks out to me–sometimes that’s the easiest part but other times is the hardest– and build the song around that.


Lisa Heller is truly a star on the rise!

When might we hear more music from you in the form of another single, EP or full length release? 

I have three more songs I am ready to release when the time is right. I have one song in mind that could work as my next single, but I would like to see where “Hope” takes us first before planning another release!

You did a cover of Demi Lovato’s “Stone Cold,” which is fantastic. What spoke to you about the song?

Demi Lovato is such an incredible artist. Her passion is incomparable. This song in particular and the fact that it is a simple ballad with such a powerful voice really spoke to me.

You are about to embark on a four-month songwriting journey traveling and performing throughout Australia. What has you most excited and how have you gone about prepping for the adventure?

I have always wanted to travel to Australia, learn the culture and meet people. I am actually extremely excited about performing in Australia. I’ve read that the music fans out there are very passionate and can’t wait to play for them. To be honest with you I’ve been so busy with this release that I haven’t had a chance to prep for the trip.

Lisa Heller’s single, “Hope,” is available on iTunes. Be sure to roller her continuing adventures online at these locations:


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ON THE RISE: Olga Fonda On Her Career, Breakout Role On ‘Agent X’ and More!

ON THE RISE: Olga Fonda On Her Career, Breakout Role On ‘Agent X’ and More!

Actress Olga Fonda

To say Olga Fonda is more than a pretty face is a bit of an understatement. Over the past several years, she established herself as an actress on the rise in Hollywood and is poised to become a breakout star in 2016. Quick witted, intensely driven to succeed and dedicated to her craft, she pours her heart and soul into every role, allowing her characters to spring from the screen. As her career comes into full bloom, her impressive work continues to excite fans and critics alike.

Her story begins simply enough, as she was born and raised in Ukhta, Russia where she was a competitive ballroom dancer who traveled the country. At age 14, she left her hometown for a year to be an exchange student in the United States. After returning home, she continued her education by studying business-economics at a university in Moscow. Because of her outstanding academic accomplishments, she was awarded the Presidential Scholarship, which enabled Fonda to finish her degree free-of-cost in the U.S. This brainy beauty began modeling after she returned to the States and was quickly signed by Ford Models when they recognized her star-potential.

Her big break came when she was cast alongside Hugh Jackman in the 2011 blockbuster “REAL STEEL.” Additionally, Fonda is best known for her appearance in FX’s cult hit “Nip/Tuck,” as well for playing fan-favorite Nadia, daughter of Katherine (Nina Dobrev), in the CW drama “The Vampire Diaries.” Other credits include some of the biggest shows and films of the last few years, such as “Ugly Betty,” “Entourage,” “How I Met Your Mother” and “Little Fockers.”

In 2015, the statuesque and stunning actress is quickly becoming a force to be reckoned with as she stars opposite Sharon Stone and Jeff Hephner, in TNT’s new drama “Agent X.” Fonda steals the spotlight starring as Olga Petrovka, a mysterious and fearless Russian spy who is continually followed by the danger and excitement of being the #1 target of Agent X (Hepher), whose existence is so heavily classified his existence and top secret missions are only known by the vice president (Stone).

Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Olga Fonda to discuss her journey as an actress, the process of bringing her characters from script to screen, breakout role on TNT’s ‘Agent X’ and what the future might hold for this star on the rise!

I want to give our readers a little background on you. What originally intrigued you about acting and made you pursue it as a career?

Olga Fonda

Olga Fonda

I started in the fashion business as a model and shortly thereafter I started doing TV commercials. That led to small appearances on different TV shows like “How I Met Your Mother” and “Ugly Betty.” Then, a friend of mine, set me up for an audition for a Russian ballerina for an independent movie called “Love Hurts.” He said, “I know that you have been taking acting classes and I know you also have a dancing background. Would you like to go and audition for it? You should call casting because they are having a hard time finding the right girl.” I said, “Why not?! That sounds interesting and fun. Let me try it!” I called and went in. Long story short, I got the role! I got to play a Russian ballerina in an independent movie directed by Barra Grant. That role kind of confirmed my love for acting. I really enjoyed being on set and playing that character. Right after that, I went out and got myself theatrical representation. Within three months, we booked “Real Steel,” “Little Fockers” and “Entourage” for TV.

That is an impressive start for sure!

It was very exciting!

When you made the choice to take the plunge and pursue acting full-time, did you have any reservations?

No. Not at all. I love being in front of the camera and I really enjoyed, at that time, doing commercials and that first movie. I really love everything about acting. It gives you the opportunity to play so many different characters from different backgrounds, who have different opinions and have great storylines. I went from playing a Russian ballerina to a wealthy robot owner in “Real Steel” to playing an international spy in TNT’s “Agent X.” It is never boring! It is always fun and exciting! I love it!

Were there any influences or mentors who helped shape the artist we see today?

I would have to say my biggest mentors were my parents. I am very close with my family and very close with my mom and dad. I appreciated that, since childhood, my parents trusted me with my decisions and always supported any decision I would make. I used to study for business management and business marketing at University and I had a full scholarship. When I made the decision to become an actress, both of my parents supported me. They said, “If that is what you want to do and what you really enjoy, don’t have fears. Follow your heart and dreams.” My dad is someone I have always admired because of his hard work. I admire his discipline and motivation. I think that combination of support from both of my parents has been really important when it comes to my acting career.

Olga Fonda as Olga Petrovka in 'Agent X'

Olga Fonda as Olga Petrovka in ‘Agent X’

You are clearly very driven when it comes to your career. What has kept you inspired throughout the years as an artist and fueled your creative fire?

I have to tell you, this business is not easy. There is a lot of competition and a lot of ups and downs. There are more downs than ups and you hear more no than yes. For me, the biggest thing that keeps me motivated is having moved from a different country to the United States at an early age. It gave me so many more opportunities for a better life but it also came with sacrifices. The sacrifices that I have made in the past are now worthwhile because I am now living my dream. I left my family behind, I missed a lot of birthday parties, weddings, family gatherings and those sorts of things. It is was hard because I am so close to my family. Being here and living my dream and building my career has been an amazing experience. Having left everything behind, it was great motivation to succeed and at some point there was no turning back because there had been too much sacrifice and too much time put into it. When you have a moment where you hear another no or it becomes hard, it becomes clear when you look back and see how far you have come and it inspires you to keep going. I am here to succeed and I am here for the long term!

A must watch series from TNT!

A must watch series from TNT!

That is a terrific way to look at it, Olga. You are doing so well! A great example of that is your starring role on TNT’s new primetime drama series “Agent X” as Russian spy Olga Petrovka. Tell us a bit about your character and being cast for the role.

I was in Atlanta shooting “The Vampire Diaries” when my manager called me in and asked me to make a soft tape, which I did. The next thing I knew, I was back in Los Angeles meeting with the producers and the director. I honestly didn’t think the meeting went that well! [laughs] I came out of it thinking, “Oh boy. I’m not sure if they like me.” [laughs] When I got a call from Blake Harris, who is the creator of the show, congratulating me on booking the role of Olga Petrovka, I was happily surprised! She is a great character! She is a lot of fun and she is intelligent. She lives her life fully and enjoys it. She also has great fighting skills and I find her very entertaining.

Do you and the Olga you play have any similarities? Did you draw from any personal experiences to aid in bringing her to life?

The role was very well written. I brought a bit of my personality into it. I work hard and at the same time enjoy life and have fun and we have that in common. She was originally just written for the pilot but the writers kept writing me in. I think my personality when mixed with hers really works, along with the chemistry I have with other characters. I am really glad they kept writing me in and it has been a wonderful experience!

Be it this character or any other, do you have a process you undergo when taking on a new role?

As any actor does, I break down the character to understand where they are coming from and where they are heading. You build off that to build their backgrounds, their relationships with other characters and on and on. It is a very interesting and creative process. This particular character, she is very good with her fighting skills, so I had to go and prep to get a better understanding of martial arts. I had to train myself a little harder.

Olga Fonda and Jeff Hephner in 'Agent X'

Olga Fonda and Jeff Hephner in ‘Agent X’

It is a very physical role in addition to the drama involved. What has gone into bringing that to screen?

There was a lot of training involved. I spent more time working out. I like to do my own stunts and I find it very interesting and entertaining but I can only do as much as they will allow me to do. We have a great team who does most of the stunts but I like to do as much as I can and volunteer myself to do those stunts. I have a background in martial arts and for years I have been working out with my friend, Xavier Declie, who is a master in kung fu. I have also taken classes on Krav Maga, along with boxing classes. The more preparation you have for these type of roles, the better it is because you want to play the character as real as you can and part of this character is that she has these really good fighting skills. I had to go and explore that field to make it come to life in a better way.

You worked with some amazing people in your career both in front of and behind the camera. What springs to mind as the biggest thing you learned about your craft along the way from these gifted individuals?

I have been so lucky to have had the chance to work with these amazing people. They are so talented and amazing professionals! I have learned a lot, to be honest. I think the main thing I admire about these kind of actors, directors and producers is that no matter how big they are, they are always so helpful and supportive of everyone on and off set. I think it is the greatest quality and I try to bring it as much as I can to my own sets.

Olga Fonda is ready for action in TNT's new series 'Agent X'

Olga Fonda is ready for action in TNT’s new series ‘Agent X’

The roles you have taken on as an actor have been very diverse, which is terrific. Any particular genre or material you are anxious to tackle?

Sure! I want it all! [laughs] I haven’t been doing this for very long but every job and character is a gift. I am very grateful that in this short period of time I have been able to do the job that I did and work with the amazing people I do. For the longest time, I wanted to do an action piece and now I am part of it! I am very excited! I also love drama, real-life stories, comedy and horror movies. Sci-fi would be another genre I would love to shoot! I would also love to play a hero one day, maybe a superhero! Maybe I could play someone who could fly! I think a superhero would be a very interesting role to play!

Absolutely! I think you would be perfect for it! Looking back on your career to date, what is your biggest evolution as a performer?

Right now, my biggest evolution comes with “Agent X.” I feel like with every job, you get more experience. I tell my friends that being on set is probably the biggest acting class one could wish for! To me, the more jobs you take on, the more experience you gain and the better actor you become.

Looking back on your career in the industry, what stands out as some of your creative milestones?

I am proud of every role but I think the biggest milestones are yet to come!

Olga Fonda shines in TNT's 'Agent X'

Olga Fonda shines in TNT’s ‘Agent X’

That is a great outlook to have, Olga! We are expecting big things from you! You can serve as an inspiration to young creatives. What is the best lesson we can learn from your journey so far?

Never give up! Never give up and always do everything you can to continue growing. I think when an artist reaches the point where they say, “There is no growth,” I think that is the death of creativity. Do anything to grow! Take language classes, martial arts classes, ballet classes, pottery classes, motorcycle riding classes, whatever gives you more experience and knowledge. There is so much out there to learn! As I said earlier, with more experience, you find yourself becoming more creative and can bring more depth to a character. I think fear is the one thing that stands in the way of a lot of people when it comes to creativity. Don’t have that fear and don’t be afraid of anything. Most importantly, keep dreaming!

Are you involved with any charities we could help shine a light on and help bring awareness to?

Yes! I have two charities I am involved with! My friend, Jason Thomas Gordon, is in the rock band called Kingsize. His grandfather, Danny Thomas, founded St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. They are leading the field in the way the world understands, treats and defeats childhood cancer. They don’t refuse any families and they do amazing work. Jason, as a musician, started a campaign called Music Gives To St. Jude Kids. I love supporting them! The other one I support is called The Heroes Project. I was introduced to the project by its founder, a dear friend of mine, Tim Medvetz. It is a great way to give back to those who help protect our freedom and those who have given so much of their lives for the rest of us to continue living our dreams. Tim works with wounded soldiers, some with post traumatic stress disorders and some with injuries to different parts of their bodies. He trains them and then takes them to seven summits and gives them a new outlook on life. That is another charity I love supporting. They do many different events. One is Cycling for Heroes on September 11th on the Santa Monica Pier. They are both amazing charities to support!

We are happy to spread the word on them! Thank you so much for your time today, Olga! It has been a real pleasure and we look forward to seeing where your journey takes you next!

Thank you so much for your time, Jason! I really appreciate it! Talk to you again soon!

Be sure to follow the continuing adventures of the amazing Olga Fonda via social media! Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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CHASING LIFE: Haley Ramm On Her Blossoming Career And Breakout Role!

CHASING LIFE: Haley Ramm On Her Blossoming Career And Breakout Role!


Haley Ramm has spent the better part of her young in front of a camera; honing her craft and making a name for herself in the entertainment industry. Over the past 12 years, as a result of her work in film and television, she has developed on of the most unique and impressive resumes any young actress could hope for. At only 22 years old, Haley has already worked with Hollywood veterans such as Jodie Foster, Sean Penn, Halle Berry and Hugh Jackman, and this list continues to grow. Ramm’s film credits include ‘Skateland,’ which premiered at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival, the feature films ‘Red State,’ ‘Rubber,’ ‘Almost Kings,’ ‘X Men: The Last Stand,’ ‘Flightplan,’ ‘Into The Wild,’ and a host of indies from her early years as the go-to child actress for some of the Southwest’s most creative young filmmakers.

Her innocent beauty coupled with her gritty roles makes her a standout among young Hollywood, last year Haley took her talent to prime-time with co-stars Italia Ricci and Mary Page Keller in “Chasing Life.” The series follows April (Ricci), a young woman who is trying to balance her career and family, and discovers unexpectedly that she has cancer. Haley stars as ‘Brenna,’ the rebellious teen sister of April. Ramm’s character will no doubt push the envelope on the show as ‘Brenna’ struggles with her sexuality, school and her secret sister ’Natalie Ortiz’ played by Jessica Meraz. Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently sat down with Haley Ramm to discuss her blossoming career, the challenges of bringing her character from script to screen and what the future might hold for both her and her character!

Haley Ramm

Haley Ramm

How did you get started with your career in the entertainment industry?

I started when I was around 6 years old in Dallas, Texas. I always loved performing and I was obsessed with movies and live performances. I was a huge fan of “Grease” and “That Thing You Do.” I really wanted to be Liv Tyler! [laughs] I’m also obsessed with the 1960s! [laughs] Watching Liv Tyler in that role was huge for me. I knew that is what I wanted to do. She seemed so relaxed and cool! My dad signed me up for an acting class and I fell in love with it! It was always a thing I have loved to do! I have always felt comfortable doing it and sometimes uncomfortable in the best way! It really pushes you when you are in an uncomfortable situation and allows you to learn about yourself! I came to it at that young age because sports were never my thing and I am not very musically inclined! [laughs] Acting has always been the thing I have really held on to! I convinced my mom, when I was around 11 years old, to move to Los Angeles for a short period of time. We were just going to come out for pilot season, like many kids do with their parents. Had I known how difficult it was going to be to come out here and pursue this, I probably would have passed! [laughs] I am really thankful that we were a little bit naive. From that point, I started booking small roles and became super consistent. I kind of couldn’t go home because there was always something new popping up! My dad and brother moved out here with us when I was about 16 years old. Now, we all live out here and we love it and I am still doing what I love! I realized what a sacrifice this was for my family but now, as I get a little older, it hits me even more. I am very thankful my family has always given me their full support!

Who were some of the other actors or mentors you looked to for inspiration?

As far as mentors, I have always had really good acting coaches who have become like family to me. It is a similar case with my manager. I have been with her since I was 11 years old. I feel like I have a bunch of second moms who have mentored and looked after me along the way! When it comes to actresses who have inspired me, I have a list a mile long. I have always looked up to Cate Blanchett and Meryl Streep. There are also young actresses like Jennifer Lawrence and other actresses doing these indie roles. They are my favorite films to watch. I am obsessed with Brie Larson in “Short Term 12.” I think I watched it three times in one day! She is so, so great!

You have quite a nice resume from your works so far. Along the way, you worked with some huge names. How have those experiences impacted you as an actor?

Haley Ramm

Haley Ramm

I think it really impacted me because starting at such a young age and working with actors who were so successful and talented. All of the roles I had in those films, like working with Jodie Foster in “Flightplan,” were very small roles but I was able to be on set for the whole month. “Flightplan” took place on an airplane, so for continuity reasons I had to be there every day. That was the best way to start out and it was such a great learning experience! Jodie Foster was so sweet and very aware of the younger actors on set. She would make a point to talk to us and make us feel really comfortable, which was super nice. Being able to watch her and being able to sit back without a huge responsibility was very much a gift. Then, working with Sean Penn in “Into The Wild,” I had a few small scenes. Some of those scenes were cut out because he had five hours of footage that he had to get rid of. He was so kind to me and really took the time to talk to me about the character and my feelings. He gave me tips and I felt like I really learned a lot from him even though it was such a small role. I totally appreciate that because all of it has stuck with me. I think a lot of people don’t take the time to perfect the smaller roles in the movies but I guess that is why he is so good at what he does. I have been very fortunate to work with the people I have gotten to work with and there are a bunch more I would love to work with! Hopefully, I will have bigger roles alongside them and continue to learn.

You have been very busy lately with your latest project, ABC Family’s “Chasing Life.” How did you get involved with the series?

Haley Ramm

Haley Ramm

“Chasing Life” started a while ago. It is something we all kind of laugh about at work. We started filming the pilot two years ago and we were pushed back due to scheduling. We didn’t know if they were going to pick us up. We have always been the show that has been pushed back but they care about it a lot, so they are very excited about it. It was all about timing! They wanted us to premiere at the right time. It has been a long time coming. We had filmed a lot of episodes before we even premiered. I think that by the time the show hit the air, we had just finished shooting our 20th episode. It was nice not having the pressure of hearing the reviews and what the critics were saying while we were going to work. It was nice because it was almost like playtime. It was our own little baby for a while until we finally got to share it with everyone. It is something I am truly thankful for and it is an incredible character to play. I love what our show is about and the topics we focus on. Playing a bisexual character has been really, really fun. It is great to see how responsive people have been and how people can relate to my character, especially teenagers who are actually going through what I play on TV. It is really fun to hear their responses and good feedback. It is definitely a show I am proud to be a part of because it means something to someone in some way. Whether it is being bisexual, knowing someone who has had cancer or being a caretaker, there are a lot of important topics addressed. The show has such a big ensemble with different stories and characters, I think there is something for everyone to relate to.

What did you bring to the character of Brenna that wasn’t on the written page?

Haley Ramm

Haley Ramm

When you are starting a new project, especially a TV show, you have no idea of where your character is going. “Chasing Life” is my first series regular job. I have done recurring roles, guest starring roles and movies in the past. In those cases, you have read the entire script and know where the character is going and what it is you are about to tackle. With this character, I always had a feeling that she was going to have some trouble ahead and have some of those teenager-ish aspects of it to conquer but I had no idea we were going to go into the whole bisexual storyline. I was talking to our producer and writers when we first started and asked them where the character was going. They mentioned that one of their family members is bisexual and one of the characters might end up being bisexual as well. I was hoping it would be my character because it sounded like a fun and challenging role to play. Several episodes in, I found out where they were taking it. I think what I have brought to it myself is that I have gone through taking care of someone with health issues. My mom was sick for a while and having gone through that personally and then being able to do the scenes with Italia [Ricci] and learning about her character’s condition was something I could really relate to.

When you take on a new character, do you have a particular process for bringing them to life?

Yeah. I do have somewhat of a process but it changes depending on who I am working with and what their process is like. When you are working with new people, you have to mesh together and see how they do things. I think the director’s energy kind of affects my energy and what I bring to the character. I do things like making up a backstory for the character to keep in my head. That always helps me bring a sense of realism to it all.

Where do hope the character might go in the future? What are your hopes and aspirations for her?

Haley Ramm

Haley Ramm

I hope that Brenna always stays true to herself. I think it is cool that she is 16 or 17 years old and is very comfortable being herself. That is the time where it is hard to be comfortable in life because you are changing so much and you don’t know what you want to do. It is a super weird time in life where you are figuring everything out or at least attempting to! [laughs] I hope that she continues to be herself throughout it all! I hope she goes to college. I think it would be cool if she turns her life around, gets more organized and becomes more of an adult. I think it would be cool to see her go abroad and maybe do something for herself! Focusing on school would be great for her! [laughs] She is all over the place now, so I think it would be cool if Brenna went to a really good college and surprised everyone! [laughs] I am excited to be getting back to work on the series. We have had a very long hiatus. By the time we go back in March, it will have been eight months. I am so excited to go back to work and see what they have written for us and what happens to all of the characters. I think there is going to be a lot of good, juicy stuff coming up this season! I couldn’t be more excited!

Looking back at your career, how have you most evolved as an actor?

Honestly, I think my biggest evolution is becoming more relaxed, comfortable and not overthinking everything. I think there is something beautiful about stepping into work and having a fresh mind and the view that anything could happen. When I was younger, I definitely over-planned, over-rehearsed and wanted everything to be perfect all of the time. Now, I have learned to go with the flow and take it all as it comes, whether it is in a scene or with life!

Haley Ramm

Haley Ramm

Is there a particular role or genre you are eager to tackle in the near future?

Yeah! Any type of period piece! I would love to play any character from the 1800s up to the 1920s or 1930s, all the way up to the 1960s or 1970s. All of them! I love costume design! I have always said that if I wasn’t an actress, I probably would have gone into costume design. I looked into it for a while and thought that it would have been super fun but to have the time to step away from the career you have been building and working hard on for years is very difficult. It is hard to take time off to pursue those endeavors but it is definitely something I am interested in!

When you aren’t focused on the series or other aspects of your career, what do you like to do creatively?

I really like writing. I have always loved writing but I haven’t been the most focused writer. My mom has always been a writer, so I grew up reading little short stories that she wrote. I do love it but it isn’t something I have pursued seriously, I think it would be cool to explore it more in the future, maybe when I feel more comfortable doing it. I enjoy vintage clothing and that world. I like hiking with friends and having interesting conversations. That is a fun thing, especially when you are in your 20s and trying to figure life out! [laughs] I think all of those are really good distractions for me!

Haley Ramm

Haley Ramm

You can serve as a great inspiration to young actors. What is the biggest lesson we can learn from your story so far?

Wow! I would say, keep your head up! If you have a passion, go for it. Make sure you really love it before diving in, especially when it comes to something like acting. It can take so much away from you in a way and bring you down so often because there will always someone there to knock you down, so honestly, if you don’t absolutely love it, it might not be worth it. Do what you really, really love and, if you truly love it, go for it!

Thank you for your time today, Haley! It has been a pleasure and we can’t wait to see what you have in store for us in the years to come!

Thank you, Jason! Thanks for taking the time to talk to me! Talk to you soon!

Connect with Haley Ramm via Twitter and Instagram. Catch Haley in “Chasing Life” Mondays at 9/8c on ABC Family. 

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