ED- The Eerie Digest is really excited to interview a close neighbor of mine, young actress Stephanie Rigizadeh. Stephanie, it is really great to interview such a new face in East Coast acting. What influenced you towards this career?
SR- My Mom always says that in the beginning it was her idea; but as I’ve grown older, I’ve realized it’s been really only my idea to pursue a serious film and television career. My first experience in showbiz was when I was 9 months old. My mother registered me to participate in a talent show in Baltimore. I was one of the five finalists in the baby category. Although I was a preemie when I was born, I was always a happy baby who loved to dance and sing in front of others.
When I was about 4 years old, my parents took me to a restaurant that had been set up with a stage for musicians. When I saw the stage, I ran up, took the microphone, and started to sing. I loved the attention I received from people dining there. I knew from an early age, that I love to entertain people. I would sing, dance or act anywhere in order to perform in front of others.
My biggest treat was to watch “Barney and Friends”, and at that tender age, I had memorized all of the songs and dances in their shows. I think watching the Barney kids gave me the inspiration to be an actor and singer myself. I know, it sounds weird, but what else can a kid watch on television when they are 4 years old?
I am grateful to have a mother who supports me in every way as I couldn’t live without my passion of acting and singing. I strive every day to improve my craft because I love to own my performances, but most of all, I love to see my audience totally happy and satisfied.
SR- When I was in elementary school, a group of kids and I auditioned to perform together at a talent show, but we didn’t make the callbacks. So, I decided to audition again, but this time by myself. I was given a spot in the show and I actually sang Hank Williams Sr.’s “Lovesick Blues”. Mom dressed me up as a cowgirl with a cute hat and cowgirl boots. The audience loved the performance and that encouragement gave me a lot of confidence to continue performing. I knew that I could make the audience very happy. From that moment on, I performed at every talent show at the school as well as other venues in the area.
ED- Your first film was ‘Deadlands 2: Trapped’. Tell us all about the film and the part that you played in it.
SR- Yes, Deadlands 2: Trapped was my first film. I had been doing a lot of theater locally as well as industrials and videos, but I wanted to do film and television. My Mom decided to look for gigs for me on Dragonuk, a Yahoo mailing list, and found Deadlands.
Trapped follows six strangers who seek refuge inside a local movie theater (Cineplex in Hagerstown, Maryland), when the US Government purposely unleashes a new biological warfare weapon on the residents of this small city for the purposes of experimentation. During the 6 hour siege, they plot and plan an escape to safety, but have to deal with the zombie threat lurking outside the secured doors. So, my role as a Zombie was to chase and scare the moviegoers to death.
This wasn’t a big role, but being my first one, I will always think of this fondly and probably laughing a lot about it too. I’m very grateful to Gary Ugarek for giving me the opportunity to be in his movie. I had so much fun!
SR- I thought the make-up artists were brilliant! When everyone was all made up, it was truly a horrific scene, but the funniest thing to watch too! We were totally unrecognizable. The best thing about this experience is that Mom lost her fear of terror films as she saw the make-up artists putting make up on the actors and realized that they were actually real people. It was great.
ED- As your first film experience how did you find working with the cast? Did you also have a mentor to show you the ropes?
SR- One of the things I loved the most about working in this film was working with the wonderful cast. I was the youngest Zombie, so everyone was so welcoming and supportive. We filmed all night long and each time we were called to shoot a scene, even if it was cold and dark outside, everyone was ready to go. Director, Gary Ugarek, was phenomenal. His mother would cook lots of pasta for all the crew and cast. Yum!
I did not have a mentor, but I have had training by awesome teachers. I’ve received training from casting director, Sareva Racher from Pat Moran & Associates, among others. My ideal mentor would be the one and only Meryl Strepp. I hope that someday I will be able to ask her to mentor me. She’s the type of actor I work very hard to emulate.
SR- Hard to Be Me (directed by Erik Cieslewicz) revolves around Kevin Hamilton, played by Edward Robert Bach, a second year art-college student, who likes to express himself through his art. The feel of the show is a mixture of the best comedy-dramas from the past three decades. The characters are family-oriented which one can really relate to in real-life situations. Kevin Hamilton is a shy guy. When his Communications 101 teacher turns out to be the intimidating Dr. Candice Wilkes, played by Kelli Biggs, rather than a lowly grad student, Kevin is thrown for a loop. For Kevin, though, things go from bad to worse when Dr. Wilkes assigns a weekly video-log instead of a final exam. Suddenly, not only does Kevin have to use coherent words to pass his course, he must do so on a weekly basis while mastering the technology. Please check out the website: http://hardtobeme.tv/
I play Clementine who is one of the most empathetic characters in the show as she escapes into the intrigue of Kevin’s life just as much as the audience. Her endearing nature is very “girl next door” and she has certain sweetness to her that she is not really aware of (which makes her more charming). Through the course of the pilot, Clementine emerges as the emotional center of her group of peers as they all watch Kevin’s first vLog; she is more concerned with being true to herself than trying to act cool and uninterested in seemingly “boring” subjects to most teenagers.
I loved being a part of this project. Director Erik Cieslewicz is fantastic. I also tremendously enjoyed working with the writer and executive producer, Edward Robert Bach. These two gentlemen are truly incredible. They are surrounded by people who are genuinely interested in seeing this project take off, such as Virginia Ryker, the project’s brain, who’s in charge of legal, publicity and everything else.
I have high hopes for Hard to Be Me. We had the premiere at the American Film Institute in Maryland and the pilot was picked at the “Lakeside Festival” in Michigan; the “Park City Musical and Film Festival” in Utah; and the very prestigious “New York International Independent Film and Video Festival”. I invite your readers to become fans on our Facebook page: http://facebook.com/hardtobeme. By the way, I just heard that Paul Oehlers, composer, won Director’s Choice Bronze Medal for Excellence” (Short Film Category) from Park City Film Music Festival for his work in Hard to Be Me. Congratulations Paul!!
The story line on Toe to Toe is more dramatic as it is about the love/hate relationship between lacrosse mates Tosha and Jesse, two senior girls at a competitive Washington, D.C., prep school. Tosha is a fiercely determined African American scholarship student from Anacostia, one of Washington’s poorest areas, while Jesse is a privileged, but troubled, white girl from Bethesda, who deals with promiscuous tendencies that pull her toward self-destruction. The two have a close and genuine friendship on the field, but that bond is tested when the obstacles presented by societal circumstances threaten to tear them apart. Inspired by the disturbing fact that interracial friendships end at age 14 for 87 percent of American teenagers, Toe to Toe is a powerful reminder of the transforming power of honesty and the way that those who test us often make us better.
Toe to Toe is a Pureland Pictures directed by brilliant director, Emily Abt. My role was very minimal. However, I always gain as much experience as I can with every project I’m involved in. This film went to the Sundance Festival and has been presented at several film festivals.
SR- Collide was a project that took very little of me. At that time, I really wanted to gain as much experience as I could. When I became a part of this film, it had almost finished filming so I was only used in a couple of scenes shot at a local restaurant. The movie deals with a teen that dies of a drug overdose and the persistent efforts by his father to engage the DEA in solving what he thinks is a crime committed against his son.
ED- Not one to sit on the side-lines you also have a part in the up-and-coming film ‘Time Refugees’ This is extremely exciting and I would not mind if you can give us a peek inside this project.
SR- Sure! I love talking about Time Refugees. I play Isis in this action/adventure Sci-Fi movie. Isis is the ship’s “know-it-all teenager. My on-screen father, Ryker (real name Carlos Roman) is the writer, director and owner of Roman Pictures, an award-winning independent movie production company in Virginia.
Isis is thoroughly human in a physical sense, her mother (who is now deceased) arranged for her daughter’s genetic makeup to be intellectually superior, and to be devoid of some human emotions. Though her father (Ryker) did not willingly agree with this plan of action, her mother believed this would ultimately help her daughter make more logical decisions and perform better as a scientist. Please check the website at http://www.timerefugeesmovie.com/
Although “Time Refugees” takes place in the year 2010, the set-up for the story begins shortly after the Cuban missile crisis ended, with the United States developing a new mission known as “Project Elite.” This was an ambitious attempt, for the times, to create a series of 4-passenger spaceships, with the intention of sending an Elite group of people away from Earth in the event of an imminent nuclear exchange. This Elite Group will hover over Earth until the nuclear exchange ends, then find a safe area to land and survive.
In the year 2000, a scientist working for NASA is recruited into Project Elite. By this time the project has expanded into using the latest technologies available. This scientist reveals this top secret information to a close friend. In a matter of months, with the help of a foreign billionaire, an underground private project is started, using the exact specifications used by the government.
The story becomes even more interesting as we are now in the year 2110 in which Project Elite has continued and developed immensely, using technology not released to the general population. Meanwhile, the private group’s underground replica project has continued, now in the hands of the original founders’ grandsons and granddaughters, with the exception of the billionaire’s son, Cortez, who continues to heavily finance the project with the condition that he goes in one of the ships.
As the US reaches DEFCON 1, the private project with 19 men, women and children from various ethnic backgrounds, each excelling in various fields, take off from earth aboard 7 ships, led by Ryker. Ryker’s genetically engineered daughter, Isis (played by me), is among the group, and serves as one of the ship’s scientists.
I found the idea for this film totally interesting and I fell in love with the script as soon as I read it. I love the futuristic concept of the whole thing and the fact that actors get to wear cool gear, just like in Lost in Space of years ago.
ED- Stephanie, you have a definite plan for yourself and you are paving a path towards a successful career. I hope that you can continue to share your adventures with us and we wish you all the best. Thanks you for your time with us.
SR – Thank you for the wonderful time, Joe. I truly enjoyed talking with you and I am thrilled to be a part of the Hollywood Insider’s Eerie Digest Magazine. I will keep you up to date with my career as I want your readers to know about Power of Purpose, my next film. Stay tuned.