LORENZO “TOTO” FERRO – THE STAR OF LUIS ORTEGA’S “EL ANGEL”

Buenos Aires, 1971. Carlitos was a seventeen-year-old with movie star swagger, blond curls and a baby face. Together with his friend Ramon, the two embark on a journey of discovery, love and crime in Director Luis Ortega’s breathtaking film “El Angel,” produced by the legendary Pedro Almodovar, a twisted “coming of age” tale based on the true crimes of the “Baby Faced Monster” Carlos Robledo Puch.

Lorenzo “Toto” Ferro plays the titular character of Carlitos in a very memorable and haunting acting debut. Luis Ortega, Lorenzo Ferro, and the talented cast behind the film take us on a beautiful journey into the half-real half-imagined life of one of Argentina’s most famous killers. We had the chance to speak with the young actor about his newfound fame, growing up around the movie-making business, and his future as an actor/rapper.

Interview by Rene Garza
Transcribed by Daniel Gomez

“El Angel” is your first leading role as an actor, as well as your first feature film, how did you find yourself in an audition for this role and were you surprised when you got it?

My father actually told me about the film. He said they were looking for someone to portray “The Angel,” but I really didn’t know his story or who he was. But I did a lot of research and went to a casting the following week. The week after, I got a call that the director wanted to meet with me. I ended up doing seven call-backs until they said “you’ve got the movie,” and that all took about six months.

Were you surprised when you landed the role? Or having gone through seven castings, did you feel that you were going to get it?

Well, I was going to be very sad if they said no. (laughs) Obviously I was surprised, I had dropped everything to be in the movie, without knowing if it would ever happen. It was blind faith.

Good, you have to give it your all.

Yes, you always have to give it your all.

Did you always want to be an actor? Did you have interest in movies or theater growing up?

Acting interested me because my father is an actor. I remember as a kid I went on to movie sets where he was filming. He always showed me movies or took me to the movies. So unconsciously I started to be interested in that world…and obviously the theater too, but more movies. As a kid I would ask my dad to watch three movies a day. I remember that when I was 6 years old I got to see “Kill Bill”, and we went to the cinema to see it. Later, when all this (El Angel) happened, I thought maybe it’s in my blood or something… or, let’s say, it was ingrained in me.

How did you get into the character of Carlitos? Even though in real life he was a notorious criminal, did you relate with Carlitos on some level?

Well…after the initial six months of casting, I worked for another seven months with the director Luis and an acting coach. The three of us met almost every day to read the script, to dance, to shout, to do everything. Luis would put a camera in front of me and say “go and try to break into this house” and we filmed it, we documented it. Then, little by little, the three of us got into the skin of the characters… He is so simple yet so complex, at least that’s how I see him… And it helped listening to Luis talk all the time, all the information he threw at me, and his thoughts on how he saw the character. What I really had to do to get into the character was to get rid of the pressures I put on myself and laugh my ass off, as if there were no problems in life. I was looking at life through rose-colored glasses, more or less how I think Carlitos is.

Are you personally interested in crime? Did you find the material fascinating?

Yes. I mean, I’m interested, but not so much that I’d be a criminologist. Those stories attract because they happened in real life and could have happened to you. And that really draws you in and gives you goosebumps, and it’s very rich material to make movies with. Crime is much better to do on film; unless you want to go to prison. (laughing)

How was your experience working with director Luis Ortega?

The truth is that it was great because of his process. We became friends, we became like brothers, and when we started shooting the film we were like siamese twins. If he was scratching, I was scratching. (laughs) With just a look we already understood what one or the other wanted. Then a bond of friendship formed through the work, it was like getting on a boat in which we only reached land when we wrapped filming, receiving the love from all the people. But the experience was the best, and I think that that is what I take away most of all. Maybe it will never happen again, but for now it’s the only movie I have done, so that’s my idea of what it’s like to make movies.

The main character is a beautiful and famous killer/thief, did the material intimidate you?

Ah no! To tell you the truth, you have to open your wings and let yourself fly like…a proper angel… It did not scare me; it intrigued me more than anything because one tries to understand these kind of people, but one only has assumptions. We will never know how it is, and the good thing is our movie is pure assumption. We did not want to get to the real case; Luis based the story on that picture of Carlitos coming out of the patrol car, the one that looks like a criminal shampoo ad. (laughs) The truth is that it did intrigue, it did not scare me, it made me curious.

Carlitos sees himself as a spy for God, how did you feel about his views of human nature vs Christianity? Did you find it difficult to separate the two?

Yes and no. You see, if you judge the character then things will go wrong. It is better to put on their skin and their shoes, because if there is distance between you and the character then that will be seen in the film. You have to stop judging because otherwise it will be seen in the camera, regardless of whether it is moral or not, you need to understand it. Even though acting is a job, it’s also a game, and if you do not let yourself play…then you have to rethink why you are doing it.

Do you have a role of your dreams?

I’m not sure “of my dreams,” but I would like to do Joker’s childhood for example, eh…and also maybe a gymnastics teacher addicted to heroin.

Do you have a director that you would like to work with?

Here in Argentina, I would like to work with Luis again, maybe with Lucrecia Martel, I’m interested in her films, she has a lot of personality. If we’re speaking in the United States, I do not know; I have a huge list of directors. I saw a new director, who was an actor, called Paul Dano. He made a cool movie called Wildlife, so if I go to the United States I would like to work with Paul Dano.

Many of the actors you worked with in the film are veteran actors. Did some of them take you under their wing and teach you some things? And what was the best advice you received from them?

No, it was not exactly like that, but they gave me all the experience they had through a glance. They did not need to say anything, just watching them I already understood what the situation was like, and  at the same time, I helped them too because I had the fresh perspective of a child who had never made movies. It became something reciprocal, we fed off one another, some with the freshness and others with experience.

Did your dad give you advice on acting?

Yes, but not on acting. As every parent gives advice, he did not give me advice on acting or working, but about life. If I try to explain now, it would take three hours or more on the phone.

Pedro Almodovar and his company were the executive producers for “EL ANGEL;” was he on the set?

Not on the set, but he was present in France and in Spain when we screened the film. I had the opportunity to meet him, not in the manner I would have liked, but what little I learned about him is astonishing; you see that magic that he has from afar.

Were you a fan?

Um no, to tell you the truth, no. I don’t know even know if I  am now, but I do not have to be a fan of his films. I’m a fan of his career, maybe of his imprint. But I have not seen all of his movies, I saw some, and the ones I saw I like. I would have to see them all to be able to say it, but they have a lot of personality.

In what movies or television programs can we expect to see in the future? Or what upcoming projects can you tell us about?

The truth is that I have enough circling, but I still do not know which ones to say yes. So I better not tell you anything, so I do not lie to you. What I can tell you is that I am currently making rap music with my friends, and between November and December we are going to drop a mixtape. I am the rapper and my friends are producing.

How do you feel about all the attention the movie is getting in Latin America?

It is very difficult, because I became famous over night, and I don’t know if that’s what I want… But hey, it’s also great because people received the movie with a lot of love. On that note I’m very happy, but on the other hand I’m a bit paranoid.

But there have been many actors who also make music, do you think that makes it easier?

I did rap before I made the movie, but after the movie I forgot about it a bit, and once I finished and was able to get the weight of the movie off my shoulders, I started doing music again. I knew I wanted to make music, even before being an actor.

Will you concentrate on one or the other? Or see what comes your way?

I don’t know if something is more important than the other, but the importance that one assigns to something gives it importance. I think both are like therapy.

There’s a phrase in the movie that says “I am a thief by birth” do you think that life is predestined from birth?

Ehh… no. I do not think so…uhh, maybe in my case, yes, but no, no. Like I was saying before, it’s just an assumption, but I don’t think it is destined from birth. I know that everything we do is a gift. There are people who would die to find it and live being a slave of the system.

Carlitos based his life on destiny, what is Toto’s destiny?

The destiny of Toto is: to continue working, to continue being happy, to get together with his friends, and to make more music.

“El Angel” is released in US theaters November 9.

WEB EXCLUSIVE: WICKED LITTLE TOWN

PHOTGRAPHER: Erika Astrid | STYLIST: Jahulie Elizalde | MODEL: Indiah @ Women360
HAIR: Evanie Frausto | MAKEUP: Leilani Sunglao | RETOUCHER: Oleg Palchyk

Dress by Ellery, Earrings by Victoria Hayes

Dress by Livne, Earrings by Shiny Squirrel

Dress by Roberto Cavalli, Shoes by Gucci

Dress by Roberto Cavalli, Shoes by Gucci

Dress by Ulla Johnson, Earrings and Brooch by Shiny Squirrel, Shoes by Michael Kors

Dress by Cheng

Dress by Bibhu Mohapatra, Earrings by Laruicci

Dress by Cheng

Dress and Shoes by Gucci, Earrings by Laruicci

Dress by Michael Kors

Bodysuit by Livne, Earrings by Laruicci

Bodysuit by Livne, Earrings by Laruicci

LOS ANGELES FEMALE FILMMAKERS FESTIVAL

This weekend Passerbuys and Women & Film will present the first annual Female Filmmakers Festival (FFFEST), a 3-day screening and talk series dedicated to celebrating accomplished female filmmakers and empowering women who want to break into the industry.

FFFEST will take place from October 12th through October 14th at the Downtown Independent theater in Los Angeles, California and will foster a community for female filmmakers to share resources, guidance and inspiration.

FFFEST’s diverse program includes feature-length such as the critically-acclaimed SKATE KITCHEN directed by Crystal Moselle, the award-winning MOSSANE directed by the first Sub-Saharan African woman director, Safi Faye  and short films such as the premiere of MAVERICK by Cara Stricker. Between screenings, FFFEST will host exclusive talks featuring some of the top women working in the contemporary film industry such as Sarah Finn (Casting Director, Black Panther), Lake Bell (Director, In A World), Jameela Jamil (Actress, The Good Place) and Natalie Farrey (Head of Vice Film) as they provide answers to the most pertinent questions facing women working in film today.

The primary mission of the Female Filmmakers Festival is to inspire more women to make films by celebrating the women leading the way, and by creating a space where women can share information amongst each other.

FFFEST has also teamed up with women-owned and women-led fashion brand VEDA to create custom merch for the festival where a portion of proceeds from every sale will go to Camp Reel Stories.

“I founded Passerbuys out of a desire to have women share resources and information amongst one another. As a lifelong fan of cinema, it felt natural to transfer such ethos to a film festival. There are a number of great organizations supporting women in film, and I see FFFEST’s role as a space to bring them together and hopefully become a tradition to celebrate and support female filmmakers.” – Clémence Polès, Founder of Passerbuys and Co-Founder of FFFEST “Women & Film was created to celebrate the women directors that have paved the way as well as the trailblazers and contemporary women of cinema. Our goal is to act as both a learning tool and source of inspiration among filmmakers, both accomplished and budding. We want FFFEST to create a sense of community for women in film in the hopes that more stories by and about women get made.” – Natalie Fält, Founder of Women & Film and Co-Founder of FFFEST

“Women are responsible for creating some of the greatest works of film in the history of cinema, yet the mass media has rarely depicted or celebrated women behind the camera. In response to that, we saw FFFEST as an opportunity for our audience to celebrate the women who’ve made strides in film and continue to today, and to inspire budding women filmmakers to join the industry and share their stories.” – Mimi Packer, Co-Founder of FFFEST

“We have stories to tell and we have a different perspective. Women in general tend to be more emotionally connected and in-tune with their surroundings but the demands of life can cause creative complacency. fffest was created to reawaken these hidden narratives and provide a platform to inspire more women to bring their stories to life.” – Dasha Faires, Co-Founder of FFFEST

For more information, please visit https://fffest.org/

HARI NEF X HILTON DRESDEN EXCLUSIVE

Actress, model, and bona-fide trendsetter Hari Nef has made her feature film debut this week, in the electrifying social media horror movie ‘Assassination Nation.’ She stars as Becks, one of four high school girls caught up in a violent frenzy of small-town hysteria after a mass leak of private cell phone data. Hilton Dresden sat down with her to chat about the nuanced role, her dream collaborators, and how she’s carving her own path in Hollywood.

Interview by Hilton Dresden

THE MANY FACES OF DOMINIQUE FISHBACK

Jacket by Carolina Sarria

Photography by Dustin Mansyur | Styling by Julia Morris @theindustrymgmt| Interview by Benjamin Price | Hair by Monae Everett | Makeup by Daniel Avilan using MAC Cosmetics @theindustrymgmt

Talent: Dominique Fishback

Dominique is a theatrical chameleon. Whether playing a prostitute in 1970’s New York on HBO’s The Deuce, or a high school girl in a violent and disenfranchised neighborhood in the upcoming The Hate U Give, or playing in a series of sketch comedies in HBO’s midnight show Random Acts of Flyness–Fishback effortlessly glides between personas. Born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, Fishback started her artistic path in her local elementary school. Dominique has propelled herself both onto the silver screen and onto one of the most globally recognized cable networks as an inspirational young voice.

The Hate U Give, Random Acts of Flyness, Night Comes On, and much of Dominique’s personal writing and performances celebrate diversity and critique the constructed barriers between us. The writer, actress, and artist clearly has a wide breadth of talents, but what is truly spectacular is her ability to apply these to helping shed light on systemic problems in our society. Watching Dominique perform is a true joy, as you are immersed into the world of the characters she embodies and witness a complex array of emotion enfold on screen. Here, with Iris Covet Book, Dominique dives deep into the many layers of social discourse in her work, her roots as a child drama queen, and her plans to change Hollywood.

 

Jacket and Skirt by Victoria Hayes

We recently attended a screening of The Hate U Give and your performance felt so natural that it made me wonder how you first got into acting. Were you always a natural?

When I was 10 years old my mom said I was so dramatic and should give acting a try! She really believed that I could do it which was awesome! I had been writing little poems and I wanted to perform anyway. My mom tells stories of when I was 5 years old and pretending that I was the Wicked Witch of the West saying, “I’m melting! I’m melting!” When I was 10 I auditioned to be part of a children’s theater organization called Ta-Da! I auditioned three times but never got accepted…but 10 year-old Dom didn’t let it stop her, she just kept going! We got pulled into one or two scams after that, but when I was 15, I got into a company that requires you to write and perform your own material which I think helped make me into the artist that I am today.

But you know there is so much rejection and hate out there with actors, especially on social media. Everyone has an opinion or something to say about your performance, your look, or a mistake you make. It’s hard; you need a tough skin.

Speaking of exposure, social media, and having a tough skin–do you think your exposure in The Deuce and The Hate U Give has changed  your day to day life or are you still that girl from Brooklyn?

I’m definitely still that girl from Brooklyn!  Sometimes I bump into people from my childhood who say I still look the same and are surprised to see I’m still down-to-earth, but I think I am really a chameleon personally and professionally. But because of The Deuce I have had some people come up to me on the street, as well as my episode on (HBO’s) Random Acts of Flyness. I have been receiving such a great reception.

It seems like you are cast in roles that exist in chaotic and disadvantaged environments – playing a sex worker in The Deuce in 1970’s New York, convicted felon in Night Comes On, and a young girl in a rough, drug-filled neighborhood in The Hate U Give. What attracts you to these roles and what would you say is the common thread with the characters you like to play?

The characters really find me, and they refuse to let me go! For Night Comes On I was introduced to the character and the story after playing Darlene on The Deuce and I didn’t want to be typecast into tough characters all of the time because I am fun and silly…but I took the weekend and read the script considering what my agent was saying, and I just really felt like I had the experiences and authenticity to really go after this character! But I love to play dress up and dance and perform too, which I think really shows another side of me, like the photoshoot we did for this. When I was a kid I would watch I Love Lucy, and Lucille Ball was a big inspiration for me and I would stay up and watch her until 1:00 am every day! I would love to do a show like that, whether I write it myself or not.

Dress by Kelsey Randall, Gloves by Livne NYC, Earrings by Laruicci

Bralette, Pants, and Clear Jacket all by Livne NYC

It sounds like you really are a chameleon and are interested in so many genres! So back to The Hate U Give and the messages and layers that it has within it such as racism, police brutality, Black Lives Matter, etc. — how did that layer of commentary affect your performance?

Well, actually, I have a one-woman show that I wrote and have performed for the past 5 years called Subverted where I play 22 different characters, and it’s about the destruction of black identity in America. The show has a slavery-era side and a modern-day-era side, and both comment on issues like police brutality, education deficits, lack of healthy food in areas like East New York, Brooklyn where I grew up. So I was already very aware of these issues and the injustices that African Americans experience, and that I experienced, in my neighborhood or when I was working at the local movie theater just praying and hoping to be on the screen. When I was at Pace University I was often the only African American person in my classes. I remember in one of my classes this caucasian boy said that African American males in low-income communities would not be stopped by the police at random if they “dressed normally.” I was infuriated, choking on my words, debating with him, and I realized that no one around me could understand my point of view, so instead of getting mad and yelling and cursing I decided to use this as an opportunity to start my one-woman show, educate people, and have them watch and relate to a character who they normally wouldn’t. Just like the few scenes of Khalil in The Hate U Give change the way you see the representation of him later on through the movie. I graduated from my high school as valedictorian in Brownsville, BK, but when I got to Pace I was admitted as below average in a curriculum for students who needed more academic attention. Then I looked around and realized that these schools only prepare you for colleges at the same level…but we need to overcome this adversity and talk about this issue on a bigger scale.

I think The Hate U Give really achieved that and personally it took me from laughing to crying to anger…What are the main points that you want people to take away from the movie?

I would want them to take away the moments where they felt sad for Kahlil, where they laughed with him and saw his eyes twinkle at the beginning of the film, and when another (police brutality) event like this happens in America they can care about that victim in the same way. I really believe that art changes people’s minds and hearts the most and gives power to our feelings. Being able to see it, not just hear a name or see a mugshot, is so powerful.

Jacket and Pants by LEHHO, Gloves by Livne NYC

Jacket and Skirt by Victoria Hayes

As a woman of color, how do you feel about the changing castings and views of POC and women in Hollywood?

I definitely believe that it has changed over the years, and as a younger person I can sometimes only see the injustice because that’s all I know, but when you ask people who came before and hear their stories then you can really see how far we’ve come. I have been honored to have my first feature film on demand and online called Night Comes On, starring myself and this 10 year old African American girl named Tatum Marilyn Hall, and it is great to be able to watch African American girls not have to be super funny or sexy in a film, but that wasn’t possible a few years ago. It was still hard, and the director would tell us about how difficult it was to get funding with the subject matter, and as a female director, but we are fighting the fight and are very hopeful.

I am very excited to see Night Comes On, and hopefully it just means we will see even more diverse story-telling in the future. What would you want to change or add to the world of film and television if you owned a studio?

I would want to tell more stories about African Americans and people of color and celebrate diversity from the casting to the writers’ room. I don’t want to have the question of “What was it like working with a female director?” Like why does that matter if you are a woman or a person of color? I really don’t know though, and I am just researching, writing, and taking it day-by-day. I just finished writing my feature film that takes place in 1968 which is about a male Black Panther who falls in love with a girl who isn’t a part of that culture and over the course of the film they learn more about each other, and I think that is an important story to tell.

I hope we can see that soon! What can you tell us about upcoming roles or screenplays that you are working on?

The Deuce is coming back September 9, and then The Hate U Give comes out so of course I am very excited for both of those opportunities! I am very excited about my role in Random Acts of Flyness on HBO, and it’s just a really fun way to show different sides of myself as an actress. I am excited about the projects I am writing and being seen as a writer for theater, films, and graphic novels. I am excited to start my own production company one day and have longevity in the industry as a CEO.

Jacket by Victoria Hayes

WEB EXCLUSIVE – ON THE MOVE

VICTORIA HAYES jacket

Photography LILY & LILAC (@lilyandlilac)
Styling TATIANA CINQUINO (@tatianacinquino)
Model ROSE SMITH @ Marilyn Model Management

VICTORIA HAYES jacket and pants

VICTORIA HAYES suit  | HUF striped sweater | RAF SIMONS for ADIDAS slides | & OTHER STORIES socks

JOHN PAUL ATAKER coat | HUF button up shirt | GEORGINE pants | GUCCI loafers

JOHN PAUL ATAKER coat | HUF button up shirt

ANNA SUI @ FRAMD STUDIO Eyewear | VICTORIA HAYES jumpsuit | GUCCI loafers

FIORUCCI @ FRAMD STUDIO Eyewear | VICTORIA HAYES top | JOHN PAUL ATAKER pants

 

 

STYLIST OWN vintage shirt | KYLE’LYK jumpsuit | CAROLINA SARRIA fur & denim jacket | GUCCI loafers | & OTHER STORIES socks | STYLIST OWN earrings

GALILEO @ FRAMD STUDIO Eyewear | VICTORIA HAYES top | KYLE’LYK denim jacket and pants

GALILEO @ FRAMD STUDIO Eyewear | VICTORIA HAYES top

THE ORIGIN OF LOVE: THE SONGS AND STORIES OF HEDWIG – INTERVIEW WITH COSTUME DESIGNER ERIK BERGRIN

Photographs of Hedwig by Mick Rock | Talent: John Cameron Mitchell | Interview by Benjamin Price | Costume Design by Erik Bergin @ The Industry MGMT | Video by Brian Lynch and Pier 59 Studios | Production by Liz Vap/FeralCat Productions | Wig and Makeup by Mike Potter using MAC Cosmetics @ Ray Brown | Costume Assistant Lauren Hoffman | Makeup Assistant Andrew D’Angelo 

John Cameron Mitchell rose in the world of cult-entertainment after directing, writing, and starring in the award-winning film Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001). His Broadway production of Hedwig garnered him a 2014 Tony Award for Best Revival of Musical and a Special Tony Award for his return to the role in 2015. His seriously impressive depth of work includes the improv-based film Shortbus (2006), and 2010’s Rabbit Hole starring Nicole Kidman which scored an Academy Award nomination for her role. He executive produced Jonathan Caouette’s Tarnation (2004) and has played recurring roles in HBO’s Girls, Martin Scorsese’s HBO series Vinyl, The Good Fight and current season of Mozart in the Jungle. Mitchell has also been busy behind the camera directing and co-writing the film adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s punk-era How to Talk to Girls at Parties starring Elle Fanning and Nicole Kidman.

“At last! My journey to Oz, long-deferred by silly obstacles like unemployment and air fare, is a reality! I shall strap on a Cubist corsette and chromium wig, regale you with haphazard stories from 55 years of fake rock stardom and wail your favorite Hedwig songs like some kind of wonder woman within. Please prepare for my eminent arrival”, Mitchell said.

Producer David M Hawkins said, “John Cameron Mitchell is one of the great artists of our generation – a multi-award winning writer, actor and director. I first saw him on Broadway as Dickon in ‘The Secret Garden’ in the early 90’s and next in his Tony winning rock star turn in ‘Hedwig and the Angry Inch’. Since producing Hedwig in Australia in 2006 I have become good friends with John, our connection means the world to me. We have talked since 2008 about a concert tour to Australia and at last the stars have aligned. We intend to bring a decent hit of the Greenwich Village vibe to Oz. I am so very excited to share  this incredible artist with my country. You are in the best hands for one hell of a ride meeting the original Hedwig, and the man behind her!”

We had the chance to interview the artist behind the transformational costumes, Erik Bergrin, and discuss Hedwig, lucid dreaming, and finding inspiration as a bored teen at Blockbuster.

Photo by Eva Mueller at the artist’s studio

What was your inspiration behind the costumes for the tour?

John came to me and said he was thinking about a costume that had this cubist, geometric, Trompe-l’œil, black and white thing happening that wasn’t Hedwig but Meta-Hedwig. As in, it has some reference to Hedwig in the costume and there should be panels that are removed during the show to become more boy in the end. He mentioned there was not going to be a built set, but that the costume should act somehow like a set–which was the sentence that made me convulse with excitement. I love doing huge wearable things, which I think is one of the reasons he came to me.

Initially I made tons of drawings of huge pieces on wheels that would drag behind him. All of these outfits packed with tricks such as a gigantic overcoat that would slowly come apart and piece by piece be thrown onto a giant magnet board behind him to reveal a story on the inside. Or this huge mirrored contraption that would come out backstage and be placed around John, and he would spin in a circle and the drawings on the costume would come to life in an animation reflected through the mirrors of the contraption. But I had to edit it down after every meeting and not let my imagination get carried away. I knew he was going to the Sydney Opera House, so I thought it would be fun to play with multiple overlapping triangle shapes. Basically my inspiration was working in these parameters, but still making it my own.

How did you get involved with the project?

I met John years ago as an extra on one of his films, “Shortbus.” We stayed in touch and I guess he thought of me after seeing the pictures from my latest art exhibition, Shadowwork. It is a series of 9 large figurative fiber sculptures, each about 7 feet tall. I have a background in costuming and I work as a costume tailor for Broadway shows, so I think it was the combination of my large costume work and the fact that I know how to create for the stage. I was working on the costumes at the same time as preparing for Shaddowwork. At a meeting with John, I met Mike Potter who did the wigs, hair, and makeup for Hedwig since the very beginning and we became very close. He was helping me with both shows and I was helping him with sewing the wigs. We worked closely, bouncing ideas off each other, so the wig and costume were from the same world. It made the whole process such a blast!

How did the idea of the gender binary and Hedwig’s transformation from female fantasy to undressed man come about?

I always felt that the film is more about finding yourself and less about gender or another person that can define you.

And speaking of Mike Potter who has been with the show since the beginning, the film and original show, I will quote him as a more qualified source…, “It’s like she gradually sheds her armor. Her costume and hair are almost a defense mechanism. But she comes to realize she doesn’t need any of the things that she think she needs. i.e. all her artifice, in order to be whole. She’s only whole when she’s stripped bare. It’s like being reborn.”

How does the idea of Hedwig’s iconic character come into the costume construction?

Hedwig was always famous for her brilliant handmade-style clothes and is now busting out on an international stage. Enjoying the spoils of her riches, she is debuting a next-level, more mature, steel-hued Meta-Hedwig look. Shining like the brightest star. The tour is called The Origin of Love, and when the show opens John comes out singing the titular song. The sleeves open up to reveal the faces from the origin of love animation, and when closed the front of the sleeves form Hedwig’s tattoo. Mike Potter’s wig and makeup are classic Hedwig, but aged to show her impending mortality, as he says in the show.

When you began your artistic career making costumes for the clubs in NYC while in school, did you ever think it would become a career in fine art/ performance?

I don’t think so? But I’m not sure because I never really had any goals. Which I know is unusual to say, but I never really did anything with a goal in the end. I started sewing when I started making costumes. Eventually, I put a book together of the things I made and got hired at a costume shop my friend was working in. Then I hopped to other shops and spent a long time working with really brilliant tailors. Every day I used to leave feeling terrible because I was working with super talented and experienced people and I wasn’t able to do anything properly. That kind of experience really humbles you when trying to learn. It taught me to put severe focus into everything, because I never wanted to have that feeling of a broken spirit when I left the shop. I soon realized that the fear of not wanting to feel like that caused a snowball effect that grew until it was impossible to do anything right. As soon as the tiny seed of fear was planted, I kept at it and at some point something shifted, and I can’t at all tell you when, but things seem to work like that with me.

Some of Erik’s early sketches of Hedwig’s transforming costume

Can you elaborate on how your background/education in psychology influenced your work on Hedwig?

I would say everything in my life up until I made this costume are causes and conditions for the way I designed it. All of the experiences in my past have subtle effects on how I design, so its difficult to distinguish how each particular experience directly influences me. I can, however, tell you that my psychology education brought me to my study of eastern philosophy and meditation, and lucid dreaming. One instance where lucid dreaming directly influenced the costume happened a couple of weeks into the project..

I was hitting a block when I was sketching. When I get stuck sometimes I’ll turn to my dream practice for advice. I do several exercises during the day that help me become aware of the fact I am dreaming when I am asleep. When you’re in a dream you’re in a subtle part of your subconscious, so there are all of these practices you can do to explore the darkness or shadows you have lurking in there. I was in the middle of a dream that had my best friend in it, who I have a deep and long history with, and I became lucid and turned to him to ask for help.

I turned to my friend and said, ”What should I do with my project?,” In a quick and desperate manner, because I wanted the answer before I woke up. Every time I leaned in close to ask him this question, his face morphed into wolf features. He wasn’t answering so I asked again, “WHAT SHOULD I DO WITH MY PROJECT?” The wolf morph happened again, and again he didn’t answer, so I asked a third time and this time we fell together off of a balcony to the ground floor. We were looking at each other and he said to me,”This is all I ever wanted. For you to be nice to me…” I completely froze and remained still for a minute, just staring, and it generated this incredibly raw feeling of tenderness. I immediately had my heart broken open. I woke up after a minute or so and even when recalling this now I get choked-up. It left me in a sensitive and vulnerable state. I woke up a minute later and the strong feeling was still there. I knew what I had to do was stop working from a mass of thoughts and references and just hold this feeling to guide my mind to make the decisions. I made some drawings from this place of vulnerability and it all came together that day. I trust any design that comes from that place. I had so many moments like that when I was making, “Shaddowwork.” These experiences have taught me my creativity is best accessed from a place of vulnerability and tenderness.

What was it like working with John Cameron Mitchell?

Magical. He’s the perfect mixture of professionalism and fun. He is super sharp, always coming up with new puns. Working with someone who can bring a costume to life so magically is so valuable. I had my idea of what the costume would look like on him, and then he would try it on and animate it in a whole new way. You just have to surrender to the magic because it’s so much greater than anything you could have come up with in your head. It forces you to detach yourself from your original ideas. Something like that can only come from someone who has the magic.

When did you first watch Hedwig and the Angry Inch (the movie or the Broadway adaptation) and what did you feel from that experience?

I think I was 18 on a really boring vacation in Florida with family, and I rented it from Blockbuster video. VHS. My sister fell asleep and I watched it alone, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it the next day. I don’t think I fully understood all of it, but was so mesmerized by the way it looked and sounded, that I watched it a couple of times in the 2 days. The songs stayed with me. I got the soundtrack and the more I listened to the soundtrack the more I wanted to watch the film, and the more I watched the film the more I wanted to listen to it.

What was it like working with the legendary rock ‘n’ roll photographer Mick Rock?

It feels like you’re working with a legend. Reading about his background and everyone he’s been on tour with and the iconic shots he has photographed, it’s all in him as soon as he walks in the room. He had amazing stories; I could listen to them all day.

What was the inspiration behind the photoshoot and video?

The goal was to really capture this next interpretation of Hedwig in an amazing way. This is a whole new direction for the character, which was truly born for The stage. Mick Rock, who already shot one of the penultimate Hedwig photos as well as so many other iconic rock photographs, was the perfect photographer to capture it.

As an artist and costume designer, what is your goal with each piece? What do you want the viewer to take away from your work’s message?

I definitely made Shadowwork as a way to get something out of me. I know there are ways to merge the dream state and the conscious state. I’ve read a lot of about it and have experienced glimpses where the lines were almost blurred. It’s like lucid dreaming. When you become lucid in the dream state you can call out to different shadows in your subconscious. Shadowwork was one of my ways of doing this in the waking state. Building this series of my own mental hell in order to get it out and confront it. So one of the larger goals is to merge the dream state and the waking state.

For this costume, I think I just wanted to live up to the legacy of Hedwig and make the fans excited and proud.

What can we expect next from you? Are you going to collaborate further with John Cameron Mitchell on any other projects? Or Mick Rock?

I am currently doing a book called WORDS AND PICTURES  about my Shaddowwork series consisting of stories, drawings, and photos… and about John and Mick: I HOPE SO!!!!!!!!

WEB EXCLUSIVE – LEX SCOTT DAVIS

Leather Jacket by All Saints, Bra by For Love and Lemons, Vintage Leather Pants

Talent: Lex Scott Davis | Photographer: Raul Romo | Stylist: Mimi Le | Hair Stylist: Malaika Frazier | Makeup Artist: Rob Scheppy @ The Only Agency

Lex Scott Davis started off as a dancer but soon diverged onto the road towards acting in commercials and television and eventually starring in one of this summers blockbuster hits. After landing the role of Toni Braxton in the television-movie Toni Braxton: Unbreak My Heart, the snowball started rolling and Davis’ career has taken off. Now starring as the lead heroine in The First Purge, Lex Scott Davis is a no-nonsense force on-screen, and her performances in The First Purge and SuperFly have proved that Davis is here to stay.

In this exclusive interview with Iris Covet Book, we learned more about her role in the latest installment of the Purge thriller franchise and how the film and her character resonated with her personal story.

Where are you from originally?

I’m originally from Baltimore, Maryland, then made the move to Philly, then New York, and now Los Angeles. The move to New York was challenging in the beginning,  especially when you don’t have family there. New York wasn’t necessarily the safest place either. Living in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn and commuting to work in the city everyday was a culture shock, but also a great growing experience.

When did you first know that you wanted to go into acting?

I went to Drexel University in Philadelphia and majored in dance and physical therapy. I started to grow out of it; I didn’t see the longevity of becoming a dancer. So in my third year in the program I decided to leave and move to NYC where I started acting classes at the New York Film Academy.

Was there a certain incident that confirmed in your mind you needed to pursue acting?

When I begin to realize that dancing had a cap to it. I think after a certain age you either become a teacher or a choreographer and I knew that wasn’t what I wanted for myself.  I understood from a very young age that I loved performing, so for me it was like ‘what can I do that will allow me to perform for people the rest of my life?’ and the answer was acting. You never run out of opportunities as an actor. They will always need some 80-year-old black lady to come in and play someone’s grandma, you know what I mean? (Laughing). 

How do you compare the differences between living and working in New York versus Los Angeles?

Well, they were two totally different experiences for me. NY was really about school and learning the craft of acting and when I moved to LA it was all about auditions and hustling for the jobs. When I first moved to LA I realized I wasn’t really as prepared as I would like to have been. I knew I couldn’t just dive straight into grabbing a professional acting job. I definitely had to work my way up with commercials and stage plays until I eventually found my way into the audition for the Toni Braxton biopic which was the first real opportunity within my first year of living in LA.

Dress by Stella McCartney

Leather Jacket by All Saints

How was it to work alongside Toni Braxton on the production of her biopic?

When I booked the movie my manager called to tell me I had to be on a plane to meet her in Vegas the next day.  I attended her show that night and she pulled me up on stage. That was our first time ever meeting. She was very involved in all the pre-production, table reads, and made herself available to us if we ever had any questions. She would do whatever it took for us to get to know her. I choose to be more of an observer and watched her every move, even when she didn’t know she was being watched (laughs). I wanted to see how she interacted with people and the little nuances that she does.  I think I learned more about her that way.

Tell us about your latest film The First Purge. What should fans know going in?

Well I think each Purge is a stand alone story, so you don’t have to see the previous movies to understand this one. And this is the prequel, so it’s setting you up for the previous ones. It’s not a horror slasher film like some would assume, it’s actually way more evolved. The film is more of an action thriller and has a refreshing storyline where we get to see young black people being the hero’s of their community. It’s really fun to watch and I don’t want to give too much away but it’s very exciting. Oh, and the music is DOPE.  

Tell us a how you prepared for your role in The First Purge?

This role was so hard, and I fought very hard to get it. I went in to audition at least four times in a pretty rigorous process. In terms of preparation–I felt I could really relate to the script because of how I grew up, the people I grew up with, and the circumstances these characters lived with that were very relatable to me.  I’m from Baltimore and was raised around the circumstances of lower income neighborhoods.

So you felt a strong connection to your character?

It’s a relatable story. Nia’s story isn’t exactly my story or how I grew up but it’s definitely a story that I know and it is close to me. I think it’s relatable to any woman in this scenario.  Nia is taking care of her brother and her household. She’s working multiple jobs to make sure her family is supported and is a strong voice for her community. I know a lot of women who are that person. Women who are trying to make things work despite their circumstances, who push for resistance against the political matters at hand that are up against them.

Bikini Top by All Saints, Pants by Stella McCartney, Heels by Jimmy Choo

Jacket by Stella McCartney, Bra by Thistle and Spire, Pants by COS

We get to see a small glimpse of you as an action hero in The First Purge. Do you see yourself playing more parts like this?

Yes, definitely. I remember one of my earlier experiences that made me want to be an actor was when my mother took me to see Tomb Raider when I was young. Seeing Angelina Jolie in a kick ass role made me say, “Oh my god, I want to do that!” She was so beautiful and so physical and strong, and that was something I could relate to at the time because I had the dance background. To see her on the same playing field as men, and showing that dominance and strength, was amazing to me.

Is there a favorite movie that you would love to star in if there were ever a remake?

I would love to be in a role similar to Charlize Theron’s character in Monster.  To be someone that is so put-together but then stripped down from all of that and completely raw. Seeing a different component of her level of acting and the layers and complexity of the role is to bring truth to the story. It’s equally as beautiful as when she’s all done up and doing her J’adore commercial. It was just a brilliant film. My mother showed me that film years ago. (Laughs)

What advice would you give to aspiring actors?

Even while Toni Braxton happened for me within my first year, a lot of people didn’t see the other side when I was working at a salon. I worked for a massage therapy office, I was driving a Lyft–there were so many things going on. It certainly wasn’t easy. Yes, I acknowledge it was quicker than some to obtain, but it certainly wasn’t handed to me. There was a lot of hard work in between.

Nothing is by coincidence, and I’m a firm believer that if you truly love and are persistent in the thing you know you can do, then keep on doing it. What people don’t always see is that on a day-to-day basis actors are handed a handful of auditions a week and it only takes one of those for something to happen. My advice would be to keep being persistent and to not be defeated by the ‘no’s’. Remember those ‘no’s’ are leading up to that ‘yes’, and it’s not by coincidence. Maybe the role that passed on you allows you to find a role thats going to catapult you into that big break. Everything happens for a reason.

Bra Top by All Saints

WEB EXCLUSIVE – HIGHER LOVE

Coat by Philipp Plein

Photography by Dustin Mansyur | Styling by Marc Sifuentes | Grooming by Nina Soriano | Production by Ben Price | Video Director of Photography Johnny Vicari | Model Dagsen Love @ Wilhelmina Models
Photographed at Baby Love Studio – Brooklyn, NY

Jacket by Coach, Vintage T-Shirt, Jeans by Levi, and Boots by Vintage Gianni Versace, Ring stylist’s own

Jacket and Pants by Zara, T-Shirt What Goes Around Comes Around, Cuff and Bandana stylist’s own

Coat by Philipp Plein

Shirt by Philipp Plein, Scarf stylist’s own

Jacket by Philipp Plein, Shirt by Versus

Jacket and Jeans by Coach, T-Shirt and Necklaces stylist’s own, Boots by Philipp Plein

 

Jacket, Cummerbund, and Pants by Moschino, Boots by Vintage Gianni Versace

WEB EXCLUSIVE – RED HOOK VIBEOLOGY

Dress: Kelsey Randall, Shoe: Acne, Fanny pack: Manokhi

Photographer:  Kimber Capriotti @KimberCapriotti
Model:  Barbra Lee Grant @barbraleegrant @newyorkmodels
Casting:  Chad Thompson @communa_k
Stylist:  Molly Haring @Mollyruthharing_styling
Makeup/Hair:  Sarah Bednar @Sarahbednarmakeup
Digital Tech: Evan Lubinger
Photo Assist:  Jillian Bresin

Dress: Kelsey Randall, Shirt Layer: Han Wen, Shoe: Acne, Fanny pack: Manokhi

Top: Han Wen, Pant: Victoria Hayes, Belt: Jivomir Domoustchiev, Shoes: Marco De Vincenzo, Sunglasses: Han Wen, Bag: MM6 Maison Margiela

Dress: Kelsey Randall, Turtleneck: Han Wen, Shoe: Dorateymur, Head piece: Miu Miu

Dress & Skirt: Han Wen, Trench Coat: Han Wen, Shoes: Han Wen, Sunglasses: Oakley

Top: Kelsey Randall, Jacket: Victoria Hayes, Pant: Marques Almeida, Shoe: Dorateymur, Hat: Marni