Wed, 23 February 2022
Interview: Oscar nominee Ariana DeBose is ready for her close-up and in 'West Side Story' she shines bright
Ariana DeBose is a triple threat force to be reckoned with. From the moment she arrives on the screen of Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of the classic musical West Side Story, it is clear we are in the presence of singular talent that expertly performs any task she is assigned. Since the film’s release, she has become an overnight sensation and the front-runner to take the Best Supporting Actress prize at this year’s Oscars, but if you have followed her career, it’s not surprising that she is in this position.
DeBose began her career in 2009 as a contestant on the dancing show So You Think You Can Dance, where she finished in the Top 20. She then landed roles in musical productions of Bring It On, Motown, and Pippin, where she landed the understudy role and eventually, for Pippin, was the star of the show. These projects led her to the part of “the bullet” in the ensemble of the Broadway phenomenon, Hamilton.
From her time on Hamilton, she moved on to playing Disco Donna in Summer: The Donna Summer Musical, where she landed a Tony nomination for Best Featured Actress in a Musical. With this, DeBose was able to make the transition to the big screen and small screen, with prominent roles in Ryan Murphy’s The Prom and Schmigadoon! from AppleTV+.
But it’s with West Side Story, and her layered, energetic, passionate interpretation on Anita, a role made famous by the legendary Rita Moreno, that has brought Ariana DeBose the most praise and accolades of her career to this point. And with her Oscar nomination, she is the first Afro-Latinx actor to be nominated for an acting prize, as well as one of the few nominees in the history of the Academy Awards to be openly out as a member of the LGTBQ+ community. This brings enormous pressures and power being in this position, but after speaking with her, it is clear she is taking it all in as gracefully as one can be at this monumental moment in their career.
Within the first moments of speaking with her, I marveled at how down to earth and open she is. As the conversation started, DeBose arrived on the zoom humming a song with subtle lyrics about getting set up for our chat. About five minutes in, as she is answering a question, her Airpods went out, and as she responded, she quickly configured her settings, all the while staying focused, smiling the entire time. Midway through, her cat started to crawl right next to her and she grab it and put them on her lap as we finished out our time together. Completely comfortable and authentic, she spoke to me about her love of musicals, the important relationships with her West Side Story co-stars, what she is going to look for in future projects, and so much more.
By the end, as we parted and exchanged goodbyes, she struck me by the way she said goodbye, as if it was a friend saying goodbye to someone they know, someone they will see again down the road. In a world that is harsh to navigate through, DeBose shows in this interview, and the variety of others she has done throughout this awards season, that her kindness, relatability, and comfort within who she is is infectious and leaves you with a smile on your face and a warm heart. Good things happen to good people, and Ariana DeBose is beyond good, she is phenomenal. I hope our paths do cross again; till then, here is my full conversation with the recent Oscar nominee.
Mon, 14 February 2022
Interview: Oscar-nominated hair and makeup artist Donald Mowat on the greatest challenges on designing 'Dune' and how he found out about his nomination
Last week, when the Academy announced Oscar nominations, hair and makeup designer Donald Mowat was on set in Spain, hard at work on his next project. When he found out that his fantastic work for Dune was nominated, it was the culmination of over 35 years of incredible creations being celebrated for the first time by his peers. For Mowat, an Academy member who over 20 years, he couldn’t believe it happened, and still can’t we I spoke with him recently, but takes a lot of pride in this honor because it’s for a movie and team he truly loves.
Known for working with actors Mark Wahlberg, Daniel Craig, Ryan Gosling, and Jake Gyllenhaal as their make-up artist, and being the department head for movies like First Man, The Fighter, Skyfall, Prisoners, Sicario, and Blade Runner 2049, Mowat’s dedication to his craft has garnered praise by many in the industry, thus making him one of the most reliable artists working today in the business. On Dune, he and his team’s collaboration built upon their director’s vision to create unique looks for each character and the story they are telling. Between extensive research and detailed “vision boards,” they were able to successfully separate the work on this film from any of the previous versions of Dune we had seen before.
I sat down with Mowat back at the 2021 Middleburg Film Festival, right before the release of the film and before he and his team have gone on to win award after award for their work on Denis Villeneuve’s sci-fi spectacle. In this interview, I asked him about his reaction to being nominated for his first Oscar nomination, what Dune has meant to him, his team’s work on the villainous Baron Vladimir Harkonnen (Stellan Skarsgård), dealing with weather difficulties on shooting on location in Budapest, and his excitement for working on Dune: Part 2. And while he’s a little nervous about the outcome of the Oscars in late March, he is mostly excited to get back together with Denis and the team behind Dune one last time to celebrate their epic achievement.
This audio interview, which runs 51m, might contain spoilers, so if you have not seen Dune, go watch the film and come back to this conversation.
Dune is available to buy on Blur-ray and DVD, as well as to own or rent on all VOD platforms. It will return to HBO Max in March 2022.
Thu, 3 February 2022
Interview: TCM host Dave Karger on '31 Days of Oscar,' the shape of this year's race and his own Oscar origin story
Dave Karger is a host on Turner Classic Movies (TCM), including the network's annual 31 Days of Oscar, which kicks off on March 1 this season.
An award-winning host, interviewer, and entertainment expert, Karger began guest hosting on TCM in 2016 and was named an official host in 2018. He has made more than 200 live appearances on NBC’s Today show and also serves as a Special Correspondent for IMDb. In 2018 he co-hosted ABC’s Live from the Red Carpet on Oscar night.
In 2015, Karger received the Publicists Guild Press Award honoring the year’s outstanding entertainment journalist. In 2014, he was named one of OUT Magazine’s “OUT 100,” acknowledging the most influential people in the LGBT community.
From 2012 to 2016, he served as Chief Correspondent at Fandango, creating and hosting the original video series “The Frontrunners,” which received a 2013 Webby Award nomination for Best Variety Series. Before that, Karger spent 17 years as a senior writer at Entertainment Weekly, where he wrote more than 50 cover stories on subjects including George Clooney, Angelina Jolie, Elton John, Taylor Swift, Johnny Depp, Denzel Washington and Carrie Underwood.
In 2012 and 2013, he was the Academy’s official red-carpet greeter on Oscar night and only the third person ever to hold that post. Dave graduated cum laude from Duke University.
I sat down with Karger to talk about 31 Days of Oscar, the look of this year's race, the changes in the Academy over time and his own Oscar origin story.