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on transfering his success in russia to a career in america

on her new role on the 100 + her love for cartoons

on reviving her role of caroline forbes + her career goals




on keeping his head down + his plans for 2018

on nicky, ricky, dicky & dawn + what’s next for her

on their decade-long hustle + the success of “make you mine”




on her stumble into acting + the new season of shadowhunters

on moving behind the camera + his roles in blockers + riverdale

on her academic aspirations + netflix’s revival of lost in space


on her life in israel + the new season of greenhouse academy


publisher, editor, photographer, designer, writer












COVER/PAGE 30: Dress by CURRENT AIR; Belt by LOVESTRENGTH; Shoes by KATHERYN AMBERLEIGH CONTENTS/PAGE 38: Top by JOHNNY WAS; Pants by AQUA; Scarf by FLYNN SKYE; Shoes by KEDS PAGE 33: Shirt by WAYF; Jumper by FLYNN SKYE; Bracelets by PEGGY LI; Choker by BRACKEN PAGE 34: Bodysuit by FLYNN SKYE; Pants by LULUS PAGE 36: Coat by CADIEUX; Jumpsuit by KAREN ZAMBOS; Bracelets by MELINDA MARIE PAGE 39: Dress by CATHERINE GEE; Shirt by SKIES ARE BLUE

alex sparrow Words by MARISSA JOHNSON Photos by CATHERINE POWELL

Alex Sparrow is already one of Russia’s biggest names and now he’s taking America by storm as one of the stars of Lifetime’s UnREAL. Stepping into the spotlight at only 15 years old, Alex began his career on Russia’s X Factor and established himself as a superstar, going on to make hit records and write soundtracks for major Russian films. With a viral video for his single “She’s Crazy But She’s Mine” and plenty of accolades under his belt, Alex is now coming to American film and television, and even releasing an English album. Alex cur04

rently plays the resident bad boy on UnREAL, a talented dancer named Alexi who is competing for Serena’s (Caitlin FitzGerald) heart on Everlasting and providing plenty of drama and surprises throughout the season. After overcoming a stroke at 25 Alex is stronger than ever and doesn’t plan on stopping anytime soon, with more movies and music to be released in the near future. Growing up in Russia, did you always know that you wanted to be a performer? When did you start to make

singing/dancing a career? I grew up in a family which had more kids than money, but since I was 6 I started to learn how to play the accordion, and at one point my father decided to sell his car, which was one of the major sources for feeding our family, in order to be able to buy me an instrument so I could go as a kid to professional music contests. So, I started to perform on stage as a musician very early, but I had another passion which was soccer. At the same time, I played in the local junior team, and when I was 15 and just

before one of the international accordion contests, I injured my finger at the soccer game and realized I had to choose between being a musician or a [soccer] player. I chose music and never regretted it as it gives me an incredible chance for creativity and energy exchange with the audience when you are coming on stage. There is nothing on earth which makes me feel more happy and complete than this. What was your experience on Russian TV like? When I came to X Factor, I was 15 and already had won numerous music and singing competitions, but it was the first time I was on TV and exposed to the cameras. So that was the moment I understood for the first time what it meant to be an artist who is recognized on the street and be the one who is watched with expectations and interest with what he will do next. That was the beginning for me. And 10 years later, at Dancing and Skating With the Stars I was already an artist who had expectations and a star status. I perceived everything around me completely differently, but still worked without sleep and was wanting to win, because it’s in my DNA. After finding so much success in Russia, was it a natural transition to move over to American entertainment? If you dream, it should be a real big dream. For a guy who grew up in a big family where there were lots of children and love but very little money, I have

already achieved a lot and my life is already like a dream. For a guy who survived a major stroke at 25 and could not talk and move, and now is a part of a great American TV project and writing music that is becoming popular on different continents, my life is already like a dream. Returning to your question, whatever I have achieved I was right away putting my goal to the next step higher. So, I was ready to move on and get to the new level. And as soon as I was cast for UnREAL, I knew immediately that this is what I needed in order to develop and move forward, as an actor, because the character that I was lucky enough to portray in UnREAL is an example of exactly what the profession of an actor is for and why this profession requires such self-giving and immersion. How did you end up auditioning for UnREAL? You will not believe me, but it was the first part in my life that I got without anyone meeting me in person. I sent my self-tape and was invited to L.A. for the casting appointment. But I was in the middle of shooting in a European project as a lead, so I could not go. I knew that there were hundreds of competitors for this role, and was sure that as I couldn’t come there was no chance. And I was greatly surprised to get the contract as an answer. That was really amazing. So I was blessed to have a chance to work on this great project, and it was an amazing experience for me. Alexi is one of the most dif-

ficult characters I’ve ever portrayed in my life, and it’s one of a few I ever played who has nothing from me personally. Nearly none of the things he does, I have done or have ever experienced in my life, so it was very interesting for me as an actor, and hard not only morally but also physically. For the scene in the theater I rehearsed ballet dance on my own for two months and lifted huge dumbbells in between shootings to be able to lift the ballerina on one hand and repeat it for another 350 takes if needed. What can we expect from Alexi this season? My Alexi is the most unpredictable character of this season. He’s an explosive and even dangerous guy, charming and full of vices, so he will surprise you a lot this season, as much as he was surprising me! His heart is broken by a woman whom he still loves, and can not let go. But first of all, he is an artist of insane talent and passion, a man with an incredible inner drama, in the final stage of self-destruction. What else are you working on this year? This year I am planning to shoot my first feature film based on my own script, hopefully - with one of my favorite Hollywood actors as a lead. And after that I will sit down with my computer and write music for this film. I am blessed to do only do what I love, and to have my passion to be my job. And, talking about music, I [will be] releasing my English album I wrote in collaboration with RedOne. NKD NKDMAG.COM


alisha wainwright Words by CARLY BUSH Photos by CATHERINE POWELL Glam by CAMILLE THOMPSON


You may know her as Maia Roberts, leader of the New York werewolf pack on Shadowhunters, but Alisha Wainwright’s journey into the entertainment industry was not nearly as straightforward as you might expect. In fact, she never expected to be an actress. With a background in the sciences, she claims she never prioritized acting. While she was involved in costuming in her high school’s musical theater program, she was always too afraid to get on stage. “I wanted to be a part of it because all of my friends were, but I couldn’t sing. I was relegated to the background. I didn’t mind, because it was creative and fun,” Alisha says. It wasn’t until five or six years ago when her “shift into acting” occurred, solely as a means to an end. At the time, she was living in San Francisco, where steep rent prices forced her to seek out innovative ways of making extra cash. “I met some people who encouraged me to do some hosting and tutorial videos for Facebook ads and pitch decks for new tech companies in San Francisco that paid really small numbers,” she explains. It was enough to supplement her income as a waitress, and as it turned out, she was a natural in front of the camera. She quickly landed a national commercial. Suddenly, professional acting seemed like a legitimate and credible path. “My career shifted at that point,” she says. She began to buckle down and hone her craft, taking acting classes. Still, Alisha hesitated to make the move south. “I was in San Francisco for

about a year and some change,” she laughs, remarking that it wasn’t until her roommate, a model determined to pursue her dreams in Los Angeles, encouraged her to pick up and move with her. Thinking it would be a “fun adventure”, and knowing that if it didn’t work out she could always return to San Fran to pick up another job in the restaurant industry, Alisha weighed and the odds and ultimately made the most worthwhile decision of her life. “It’s been a fun adventure,” she laughs, “Just not in the way I ever expected.” Alisha now has a unique platform. The introduction of Maia’s character in the second season of Shadowhunters was groundbreaking. It is still fairly unusual to see a natural-haired black woman represented on a mainstream American series in a way that doesn’t feel like tokenism, and Alisha is well aware of the importance of what she is providing the black community by portraying Maia. Fortunately, Alisha, the daughter of Haitian immigrants, did not face a large amount of prejudice in her younger years, largely due to her supportive and highly diverse community. Growing up all over South Florida, where multiculturalism was normalized and the majority of her peers were also children of immigrants, she learned early on that her race did not have to define her nor prevent her from achieving her wildest dreams. Throughout her formative years she witnessed a lot of immigrants striving to “create their

own American dream” in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles—and as a result, Alisha developed confidence in her own abilities, in spite of a lack of representation of people of color in the media. “Honestly, growing up I never saw a lot of myself—people who looked like me—on TV, but I didn’t let that stop me from thinking that I could get that myself,” Alisha says. Maia is not only a key player in the Cassandra Clare series The Mortal Instruments which the Shadowhunters series is based on, but also a fan favorite. Since Alisha was cast in 2016, the response from the show’s devout fanbase has been over-whelmingly positive. “I think the moments that have really stuck out to me have been when fans have come up to me in person that are from the underrepresented communities — people in the queer community, people that are minorities — coming up to me and telling me that they’re just glad this show exists,” Alisha reflects. Prominent and influential series like Shadowhunters are certainly increasing visibility of diverse characters and spreading awareness, but there is still a long way to go. As such, many young people from minority groups still struggle with their sense of identity, wondering how they could possibly rise above the institutional biases that limit their opportunities. Alisha has sympathy for young people in this situation, and offers a simple piece of advice to those who lack self-confidence. “Firstly, I would say that I understand what it’s like to not see NKDMAG.COM


yourself represented. I would also say that you know the creativity within you. All it takes is to take small, incremental decisions to act on them. Just having a diary, writing stories that are interesting to you or relevant to you, or making sketch videos with your friends if you’re interested in acting or the TV world,” Alisha says, “We have so much at our fingertips that we can create our own stories so easily that all you need is an iPhone and daylight, you know? And I think that starting small and then reaching out to people in your own community to find camaraderie is what will help give you a platform to then create your story.” As she worked hard to create her own story, she also made it a priority to absorb as much literature as possible. For anyone else, transitioning from Silicon Valley tech tutorials to the role of a streetwise lycanthrope was a bit jarring. However, by the time she was cast, Alisha was already wellversed in the paranormal genre, having been a fan growing up. She notes that her childhood obsession with Anne Rice novels provided her with extensive knowledge of vampire lore and explains that she watched 1990s paranormal television series as well. “One of my favorite shows growing up was Buffy. And so it’s funny that, years down the line, I’m a part of this sort of fantasy genre in my own way,” Alisha laughs. Joining the complex and immersive Shadowhunters universe felt natural and comfortable to her given her background. Alisha was more than happy to 14

jump aboard and join the cast of high-profile actors. There was, however, one downfall. Shadowhunters is filmed on location in Toronto, Ontario, where the weather is an unfortunate side effect of lower shooting costs — and occasionally forces the American cast into hibernation. “Season 2 was a lot like summer camp,” Alisha says, “Because it was warmer, and a lot longer, it felt like — so we were a lot more social. This year it’s been a lot colder, so we’ve been inside more often, staying warm on our couches, going to L.A. a lot — which is what I’ve been doing to keep myself grounded. I don’t really do winter. But I’m trying to make the best of it. Toronto is the most beautiful city in the winter… if you choose to see it that way.” Season 3, which premiered on March 20, is off to a promising start, and Alisha is certain that fans will be pleased with the direction the show is headed. For many audiences, the appeal of the paranormal drama is the delicate balance between the everyday struggles of the characters and the escapism provided by the brutal on-screen action. The writers haven’t sacrificed one for the other, but Alisha feels there will be a focus on emotional developmental and relationship drama that previous seasons have steered away from. Fans of the show and book series are familiar with the Downworlders: supernatural beings, including vampires and werewolves, who are allied with the titular Shadowhunters. Will the third season explore the Downworld in

more detail? “This time around, I really feel like we’re going to start to understand the dynamics that make the Downworld function—and dysfunction,” Alicia teases. Most of Maia’s storyline this season will revolve around the Downworld. However, Alisha is more enthusiastic about the interpersonal and relational subplots that will play out over the course of the season. “Fans will find that really interesting, because it goes beyond just trying to fight some bad entity — although there is a lot of that this season — and more character development,” Alicia says. She says with confidence that fans will be treated to “just as much demon-slaying” as everyone has come to expect from Shadowhunters, but there will also be an interesting exploration of how the characters’ romantic relationships “actually work”, and how they attempt to manage them in the midst of their extraordinary circumstances. “How do Simon and Maia maintain their relationship? If they go on a date, what are the repercussions? They’re both coming from that mundane world, trying to reconcile the things that are happening around them, you know?” Alicia ponders. With shooting for the current season completed, what are Alisha’s plans for the rest of 2018? She intends to travel throughout Southeast Asia, primarily Vietnam, during her downtime. Plus, like everyone else, she’s hoping for a fourth season of Shadowhunters. “I wish I could offer that spoiler!” she laughs. NKD



Morgan Wallen is country music’s newest superstar. He’s written some of this year’s biggest hits and now he’s climbing the charts with his single “Up Down” featuring Florida Georgia Line. Born and raised in the mountains of Sneedville, Tennessee, Morgan started singing at an early age in the church where his father was a preacher. Growing up, Morgan was passionate about music and sports and learned to play the violin and piano but eventually gave up music to focus on sports when he was 8-yearsold. Up until the end of his high school career, Morgan’s focus was solely on baseball. “I played over 100 games a year, that was my plan, I was supposed to go play baseball in college and then I ended up getting hurt,” he says. After a career-ending injury, Morgan rediscovered his passion for music. “I was trying to figure out what I was going to do so I started writing songs and learned how to play guitar,” he says. Despite his love for music, it was still devastating to give up the sport that he’d dedicated his life to, but through it he found inspiration. “I’m a person of faith so I was definitely questioning, but I think that’s where my first songs came from,” Morgan reflects. During the transition from playing baseball to pursuing music, Morgan’s mother became his biggest

supporter, “I would play my songs for her and she would give me enough courage and confidence” he says. With her encouragement he eventually he began playing for friends at bonfires and continued playing music at his church. In 2014, Morgan’s mother signed him up for the auditions for NBC’s The Voice, and with his friends and family by his side he ended up making it onto Usher’s team. “I’d never played a show or anything. I’d never even had a crowd, it was either my family or my church,” he says. While he was on The Voice, he was encouraged by the coaches and producers to perform pop music, but it wasn’t until he performed a country song, a cover of “Stay” by Florida Georgia Line, that he truly felt like he’d found his footing. Even though he was eliminated from the competition after that performance, Morgan didn’t regret his choice. “I’m just glad I went out doing what I wanted to do, but I got to meet a lot of people through that experience.” After his final performance on The Voice, Morgan gained the attention of a booking agent that also worked with Florida Georgia Line and Jason Aldean who believed in his music and offered to work with him if he made the move to Nashville. In July 2016, Morgan packed up everything he had and,

with the help and support of his parents, made the move. For his first few months in Nashville, alongside a team of mentors and fellow songwriters, Morgan bunkered down and focused on writing new music and developing a unique sound and style as a new artist without playing any shows, and by the fall he signed a record and publishing deal with Big Loud Records. In 2016, Morgan went on his first radio tour to promote his first single “The Way I Talk” and quickly gained the attention of country music fans everywhere. “[The radio tour] was cool for me because the only places I’d ever really been were Tennessee, Florida, The South, and California for The Voice,” Morgan says, “So it was cool for me to go around the country to all of these places I’d never been and meet all of these people I’d never met before.” Morgan’s first single was successful enough to put him on the map and led to him getting the opportunity to open for Florida Georgia Line on their arena tour last year. During their tour, Morgan and Florida Georgia Line teamed up for “Up Down”, which has made its way into the Top 20 on country radio. For Morgan, remaining true to himself and doing things on his own terms was the most important part of his introduction to the muNKDMAG.COM


sic industry. He didn’t try to keep pace with anyone else’s achievements while he was trying to establish himself as an artist. “I didn’t pay attention to anybody else – I just went in and did my thing/ I didn’t want to keep up with anyone,” he says, “These songs make me feel something, hopefully they make somebody else feel something, too.” When he’s writing songs for other artists, Morgan admits that it’s sometimes hard to determine which songs he’ll keep for himself and which one’s he’ll give to other artists, though some of his songs he’s easily handed over. “There has been a few where I’m like, ‘OK, don’t let anyone touch this’.” For one song in particular – Jason Adlean’s “You Make it Easy” – the decision was simple. Written with Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley of Florida Georgia Line, it was originally intended to be an FGL song, but ended up being the lead single for Jason’s new record, instead. “I grew up listening to Jason Aldean so I was very OK with letting that one go,” Morgan laughs. This summer, Morgan is heading out on his first stadium tour with Luke Bryan and Sam Hunt. As for the rest of the year, Morgan says that, if he doesn’t get added to another major country tour this fall, he plans to stick to doing his own thing and focus on big plans for 2019. NKD 08



lola flanery Words by BRITTANY LANDAU Photos by CATHERINE POWELL


Whether she’s fighting for survival in a post-apocalyptic world in The 100, ruling over the Seelie Court on Shadowhunters, or just heading to class with her friends, 12-year-old Lola Flanery puts everything she has into every role that she plays – both on and off screen. Lola was born in Los Angeles, but her family moved to Toronto when she was 3-years-old, where she began to dip her feet into the entertainment industry. “Occasionally, I would do some modeling, but when I was about 9 years old, my modeling agent signed me up for an acting class just to see how it would go,” she explains. Three weeks and a few new friends later, Lola realized that acting was for her. “I gave it a shot, auditioned for an acting agent, and that went super well, so that’s how I got into acting. For the past three years, acting has been my life,” she says. Shortly after, Lola went to her first audition for a horror movie called Lavender and got the role of Alice. “Beginner’s luck,” she jokes. Lola describes the film as “a very scary movie with a different kind of subject matter”. From that point on, her love for acting only grew. Shortly after Lavender, Lola was cast as Reese Witherspoon’s daughter in 2017’s Home Again. “She’s a very amazing and talented woman and she stands up for what she believes in,” Lola says of Reese, “Playing my role in Home Again was very different from what I normally do because Isabel is kind of a shy, nervous girl. It was out of my comfort zone, but Reese was always there and she was always very happy and fun to work with,” she says.

This Spring, Lola can be spotted across television screens as both the Seelie Queen in Shadowhunters and Madi in The 100. “When I first booked the role of Shadowhunters, I was so confused about what the character was because she is like a fairy queen that’s like a billion years old, but it’s so rad,” Lola says of the Seelie Queen. As for her character on The 100, she can’t give away everything just yet, but promises that “she’s going to be the most awesome 12-year-old you have ever met.” She immediately connected to her castmates and feels right at home on set. “They’re all super nice and welcoming. It’s like a new family,” she says. With The 100 being filmed in Vancouver, Lola is close to her friends, but still finds it hard to create a balance between her school, home, and work lives. “I had to be in Vancouver for six months which was a very extended period of time. I think the hardest part wasn’t so much being away from my friends and family, but was probably schoolwork and catching up with it while also keeping on top of work,” she says. “It is hard because there’s two different lifestyles you’re living school and work - which is a very unusual combination. I think it’s just handling management of your time, which isn’t normally something a child has to learn, but as my mom will tell you, I am not the best at it. I’m trying. It’s a work in progress.” Despite the challenges she faces, Lola wants to keep acting in her future. “I want to do more of the roles that I am doing now. I’m used to just being a sister or a kid

version of the main character, so I really enjoyed playing my characters on Shadowhunters and The 100 since they’re not your average little kid,” she says, “I think I want to do more of that to get more out of my comfort zone and be more adventurous with it.” Eventually, Lola wants to transition to a different entertainment role. “Acting is definitely something I want to continue and pursue, but what I do want to be eventually is a director. I want to make my own movies and film my own movies,” she admits. While Lola chases her big dreams, getting an education is still very important to her. “When I first started out, I always thought, whether it be in high school or college, that I would take a break from acting to focus on that general aspect of school since it’s so important. Schoolwork does come first. I hope to go to high school and college and get the basis of life down, but I definitely want to keep acting,” she explains. However, Lola knows she should focus on just being a kid for now. She still enjoys hanging out with her friends and binge watching cartoons, just like any other kid her age. “I really love cartoons and I have been getting a couple of auditions for voice acting roles which is pretty cool because you get more channeled into your voice rather than physical movement,” she says. “I really like silly little cartoons, which my mom despises. I really like South Park which isn’t really for my age, but nonetheless, it is an animated cartoon. My guilty pleasure is Spongebob Squarepants. I just really like your average kids cartoons.” NKD NKDMAG.COM


lizzy greene Words by ELIZABETH FORREST Photos by CATHERINE POWELL

Teen actress Lizzy Greene’s life changed when an agency came to one of her childhood theater performances. Immediately, they liked what they saw. They asked her mom if they could sign Lizzy, and their attendance ultimately led to the audition that got her onto her dream network, Nickelodeon. She auditioned for the role of Dawn in the series Nicky, Ricky, Dicky & Dawn. “I was telling myself ‘Listen, I’ll go in there and give my craziest, best performance or I’ll leave regretting that I didn’t’,” she remembers of preparing for the audition. There were no nerves, only excitement, and she landed the part. Dawn as a character is so similar to Lizzy herself that it often doesn’t feel like she’s doing any acting at all on set. Lizzy describes Dawn as “very outgoing, very confident, and the glue that holds the family together”. As a network, Nickelodeon often writes characters around the actor or actress. Because of this, Dawn didn’t require much writing at all because of all of the similarities between her and Lizzy. Lizzy also co-starred in Nickelodeon’s Tiny Christmas, a movie with a message of acceptance and remembering to never judge a book by its cover. In Tiny Christmas, Lizzy’s character Barkley was nothing like a character Lizzy has ever portrayed. “She wears a fanny pack; that explains how crazy she is,” Lizzy laughs.

Barkley was a challenge because she was such a polar opposite to both Dawn and Lizzy herself, but she enjoyed the opportunity to play a new type of character. Barkley had a great sense of humor, and an end scene gets serious and allows viewers to learn more about why Barkley is the way she is. At 14, Lizzy has work days that can last from seven hours to nine and a half hours, depending on whether it is a rehearsal day or a shooting day. She travels between living in Los Angeles to act and Texas to spend time with her family, so she is always on the go. The long days and constant traveling is made easier by the people she works with on set. “I would go for sushi every Thursday at lunch time with Allison [Munn],” Lizzy remembers. Allison (who plays Lizzy’s mom on the show) wasn’t the only cast member she would get along with; Lizzy was close to everyone and credits those around her for teaching her everything she knows about acting. In addition to enjoying the job itself, Lizzy draws inspiration from her fans and loves to meet them. She likes to listen to their stories and learn about which episode of Ricky, Nicky, Dicky & Dawn are their favorite. One recent, memorable fan meeting took place outside of a roller skating rink. When Lizzy was leaving, fans of the show began to recognize her and wanted to take pictures with

her. One fan had a birthday that day, and after staring at Lizzy shocked for a few moments, she came over to Lizzy and jumped on her to hug her. “That’s why I love my job so much,” Lizzy says, “Because I can touch people like that. They get so happy when they see me, but at the end of the day, I’m just a kid that was picked from a small little town in Texas.” Since Nicky, Ricky, Dicky & Dawn has reached its end, Lizzy is thinking more about the future. Professionally, she looks up to Ellen DeGeneres and Oprah Winfrey as her role models because they are confident, driven women that make it their goal to help others. In the future, Lizzy would love to play a more mature character and is interested in playing confident, empowering characters similar to those of her role models - and she would also love to do her own stunts. “They would always want to get a stunt double for me, and I’d say, ‘no, no, no I can scale the building!’” Lizzy remembers. (For liability reasons, that hasn’t happened yet, but she hopes it will become reality one day.) Lizzy has also given some thought into whether she would prefer to stay in television or move onto working more in film. Television and film are two completely different worlds based on the camera shots: movies are typically shot on one camera, while television shows are often shot with multiple cameras. “With a multi-cam show, you go much faster NKDMAG.COM


with all your angles at one time,” Lizzy explains. “With a single cam shoot, it takes a lot longer. Doing one scene will take all day.” That said, Lizzy loves them both and is open to both in the future. When she’s not acting, Lizzy loves gymnastics, boxing, swimming and wakeboarding. However, the last time she went wakeboarding, Lizzy suffered a concussion. Though her brother works at a wakeboarding park in Texas, she’s waiting a little while to get back into that. “But if I do miss one thing about normal life, I miss soccer,” she admits. “I miss the whole team effort thing. I was always a midfielder or forward and I was like a little stick of dynamite.” She’d love to get back into that in the future. In addition to her love of sports and staying active, Lizzy is a huge fashion fan. Rihanna, Zendaya and Beyonce are her fashion icons, and she’s a self-professed brand snob. “What I mean by that is that I know a lot of brands. I’m always pointing out people to my mom like, ‘ooh I love those pants - those are Gucci,’ and she’s like ‘Elizabeth, chill,’” Lizzy explains. This special interest is especially beneficial to her when attending award shows because she knows how to style an outfit herself. And in the future, Lizzy would be interested in modeling. When asked more specifically about her professional future, Lizzy stays vague. “What can I say without giving anything away?” she asks. “There is some talk right now about the future. I can’t say with whom, but overall, I have really exciting things in the work that I would love to talk about. Expect something different, something that I’ve never done before.” NKD 20



graham phillips Words by IAN HAYS Photos by CATHERINE POWELL

Setting himself apart from the start, Graham Phillips is the only member of his family to born outside of Oklahoma. Born in the Orange County arts hub of Laguna Beach a precedent was set at an early age. Graham’s first introduction to the arts was through singing. “I was kind of a spazz growing up. I had a lot of energy and I didn’t know where to put it. I sang a lotsinging in the church,” he says. This progressed to him landing the role of Tiny Tim in A Christmas Carol at Madison Square Garden when he was only 10-years-old. It was a mind blowing experience. At an age where often any attention is felt as good attention, Graham reveled in the spectacle of it all. But as he began to take it more seriously, he began to appreciate the stage for the art form it truly is. His first revelation came when he played the title role in The Little Prince with the New York City Opera. Even at the age of 12, his higher instincts acknowledged he was engaged with something special. It became increasingly clear that Graham would be working and performing in New York on a consistent basis. Luckily, his father was able to work in New York when need be. And you didn’t have to twist the arms of the rest of his family to take a trip out of The O.C. to the city. It allowed him and his family to get out of the bubble and just see more. The tipping point came when he starred in 13 on Broadway as Evan Goldman. He starred alongside Max Schneider and Ariana Grande, to name a couple. “That was the gig that got my family to get an apartment out there. And for me, it was a hoot because it was with a bunch of other kids my age just out of puberty. Just imagine the potential for drama,” he 24

laughs, “There was always something going on. But, it’s totally bizarre how this 13 cast really became a crew.” They still meet up a decade after the fact. School yard drama has been left in the dust. Graham even partnered with former cast mate Eamon Foley to start a non-profit theater company. The now good friends reconnected at Princeton working on shows and various performances together. Based in New York City, Grind Arts Company, has been a place for them to “explore more exotic, eclectic, cathartic forms of theater.” It’s a way for him and others to explore characters outside of standard TV, movie, and stage performances. There is a focus on using multi-media components in shows. These collaborations and explorations allow Graham to focus on the heart of why he does what he does. Being one-dimensional may pay the bills at times, but every artist knows there is always more to be found. With the closing of 13, Graham went back home for one semester of a normal high school experience, and then found out he got the part of Zach Florrick on the award winning show, The Good Wife. While the show satiated his appetite for acting, he was either working on the show or catching up on his home schooling to get his high school diploma. While still working on The Good Wife, Graham decided he was going to attend college and act at the same time. “I wanted to be in a normal social situation. To meet new people exclusively from work or go to the tennis club just didn’t feel right to me,” Graham admits, “So, I started to look at schools near the city. I fell in love with Princeton. It allowed me to have a clear divide between that work

scene and school life; no muddying of the waters.” With his role on The Good Wife wrapped up and college officially completed, there was nothing keeping graham tied to the east coast. He spent the majority of the past decade there and was looking for a change of scenery. He also wanted to start writing and directing with his brother. L.A. bellowed its siren call so Graham came back to his west coast homeland. Graham recognizes L.A. is built around the film industry; while those secure in their jobs can live wherever, if you want to build a base, you need to eat, drink, and sleep Hollywood to make the proper connections. With his brother at his side, they now have a film entitled, The Bygone. “It’s a neo-western thriller that takes place in North Dakota in one of these areas of the fracking boom. It’s in the middle of this rush that brought in tens of thousands of allmale oil workers. And with that wave came violence, crime, trafficking- the same thing that happened in the gold rush, but our modern iteration of it,” Graham explains, “And Native populations have been hit the hardest by it. So the film focuses on ‘how far have we really come since that post-colonial and manifest destiny era.” For Graham, he sees the Western as historically whitewashing events, propping up the white knight and all people of color are reduced to savages. Graham’s thesis at Princeton was on native resistance to colonialism and exploring and disproving the stereotypes of their culture and society being under-developed when compared to the European immigrants. In The Bygone, a struggling young rancher loses his mother to a car accident. He is weighed by the guilt




of having been the one driving. He meets a Lakota-Sioux girl being trafficked around the work camps. They connect, feeling as though their home is not their any longer. The story follows them growing together and over-coming those struggles in their own ways. “It was a big undertaking and we are so grateful to have worked with the caliber of actors that we worked with,” he says, “The aesthetic is that of a colonial fairytale. All the out of focus elements in the background look like a pastel painting.” This blend of form and function allowed for Graham and his brother to get the allusions to old westerns while keeping the story significantly modern. Graham is a gear head. His love for cameras, film, and the tech behind them provided insight into how he could accomplish what he wanted with the cameras and lenses he had. Like all artists, Graham is never one to settle on one project at a time. He is starring in Blockers, out April 6th. In the movie, three high school senior girls make a pact to lose their virginity on prom night. Their parents find out and go on a full out hunt to stop anything of the sort from happening. Graham plays Austin, one of the three “suitors”. He’s actually in a relationship with his prom date and Graham sees his character as the classy one of the guys. “Seeing John Cena and Ike Barinholtz riff off each other was so entertaining. It was so nice to be in a comedy and improv environment again,” Graham reflects, “I love the whole idea of John Cena being the stay at home dad worried about staying fit for his bread-winning wife. It plays on some of those gender tropes. All the female characters talk openly

about sex in a way that traditionally you only see men do. I think it will be refreshing for audiences to see.” This is the polar opposite of his storyline and character, Nick St. Clair, on Riverdale. “That guy is the epitome of why we need the ‘Me Too’ movement,” Graham says, “I just felt icky, just playing it. It’s a good challenge to play a character like that. You know it’s a character that nobody is going to like. So, you have to distance yourself from how people feel about the character your playing. Even his name sounds like an asshole.” With the storyline dealing with sexual assault and abuse, the timing just happened to fit when the Harvey Weinstein allegations came to light. With large base of younger viewers, it shed light on a situation that many of them may not have been informed about and how heartbreakingly common it is. Predators get excused left and right for a variety of reasons. And Graham believes it allowed his character to be one more grounded in reality. While his character fits the archetype, archetypes exist for a reason. Graham Phillips is working hard for a reason. All paintings have a backside that never sees the morning sun. Whether it’s through exploring the extremes of multi-media usage for the stage, creating a feature film, or casting a shadow on your television screen, Graham is searching for more. Disparate ideas and bodies of work have a way of finding one another. Tracing the threads between these works a bigger picture begins to manifest. And with the earnest heart Graham puts into his work, it won’t be long before the intersections of his multi-faceted artistic endeavors reach that desired cohesive state. NKD NKDMAG.COM


ariel mortman Words by NICOLE MOOREFIELD Photos by CATHERINE POWELL

While most people spend their early 20s just planting their feet in the real world, 24-year-old Ariel Mortman is already exploring the globe and thriving in her dream career as Hayley in Netflix’s Greenhouse Academy. Born in New York, Ariel lived 26

in the states until age 10, when her family moved to Israel. “My mom’s Israeli and my dad’s American, and they decided that they wanted to live here,” she shares. Ariel discovered her love of acting in high school, but her career was postponed by mandatory service in the Israeli army. “At the age

of 18, everyone here is enlisted,” Ariel explains. After completing a year in the intelligence, Ariel taught refugee preschoolers for another year before finally getting into acting professionally. She moved to Tel Aviv and in 2014 landed her first major role as Maya in

the Israeli Disney series North Star. The show ended after two seasons, and while on a three-month backpacking trip in Japan, Ariel began auditioning for Greenhouse Academy. “I didn’t really have anyone to self-tape with, so I would find random people at the hostels I was staying at,” she admits. Although she first auditioned for the role of Jackie Sanders (played by Jessica Amlee), Ariel ultimately booked the role of Hayley Woods. A unique amalgamation of teen drama and futuristic technology, Greenhouse Academy is perfect for the whole family to enjoy. After their mother’s trip to space goes gravely awry, siblings Alex and Hayley Woods enroll in the prestigious academy their mom once attended, only to discover conspiracy within the walls. “Someone said that it’s like Gossip Girl meets Harry Potter,” Ariel recalls, and agrees is a good description. Along with Waldorf-esque drama, students are split into the Ravens and the Eagles, similar to Hogwarts houses. An American remake of the Israeli series Ha-Hamama, Greenhouse Academy is set in southern California (although the show films in Tel Aviv). When cast as Hayley, Ariel watched some of Ha-Hamama for the plot but refrained from contacting the original actress because she “wanted to find my own way of playing Hayley and sort of understand the character on my terms,” she explains. Though the American plot closely follows its predecessor, Ariel would love to see new characters introduced if Greenhouse Academy continues past Ha-Hamama’s three seasons. “Just having Reina (Hardesty)’s character, Aspen, come in made a good impact,” she imparts. “Even though she’s supposed to be the evil one, she’s probably one of my favorite characters on the show.”

Additionally, Ariel would love to see two houses mix and characters switch teams, if only for the ensuing drama. Of all the cast members, Ariel is closest with Finn Roberts, who plays her brother Alex on the show. “We automatically connected even just through the audition process,” she reveals. After the stressful final auditions, the pair went to a record shop together to detox. “We sort of bonded the second we met and we’ve been best friends ever since.” “The second season was definitely a lot more fun to shoot [than the first],” Ariel shares, because so many new relationships were explored. Throughout Season 2, Hayley grows closer to Brooke (Grace Van Dien), whereas “in the first season we barely interacted, we just sort of hated each other on the side.” In addition to working with more of the cast, Ariel adds that Season 2’s plot was especially exciting to film. “The drowning scene that I had was actually the most difficult scene I’ve ever had to film,” she recollects. Although there was a talented crew ensuring her safety throughout, “there’s no fake way of drowning,” and she had to spend 8 hours flailing in the ocean for the scene. Despite the trauma she went through, “it was definitely fun as an actor to get an opportunity to do something like that.” The experience instilled in Ariel a love of stunt work and she aspires to one day expand her horizons to film, especially action movies. Along with her career goals, Ariel hopes to spend more time traveling, as it is “one of the things I love doing the most,” she remarks. Some of her favorite trips so far have been to London, Paris, and Japan. As a seasoned traveler, the worldwide reaction to Greenhouse Academy

was the most exciting part of the experience for Ariel. The morning after its release, “I woke up to messages from kids saying they finished the show,” she remembers. “I’m so grateful to all of the kids that watched it.” Despite her initial attraction to Jackie’s character, “I’m probably a little bit more like Hayley,” Ariel confesses, and while the role of reformed juvenile delinquent Jackie Sanders is certainly exciting, Hayley Woods is arguably just as cool. “She’s very real,” Ariel relates. “I feel like she represents something.” On one hand, Hayley is a tough girl with strong convictions. “She’s strong, and she’s independent, and she’s not afraid to say what she thinks.” On the other, Hayley can be vulnerable and break down. “She lets herself feel what she feels, and I sort of like that,” she elaborates. “Just because she feels sad or cries doesn’t make her any less strong.” What makes Greenhouse Academy unique, Ariel articulates, is that “all the characters on the show have a lot of colors. I don’t think that there’s any one character who’s the bad one [or who is] the good one.” As the show progresses, she adds, viewers are able to look past a character’s exterior to see his insecurities and where his behavior stems from. The show’s characters, she postulates, are what viewers love about Greenhouse Academy. “[Kids can] relate to it because everyone has different sides. Everyone could be a little bit mean sometimes,” but still have a good heart and honest intentions. In addition to delivering dynamic characters, the show teaches important lessons like friendship and collaboration. “Even if it is a competitive school, you understand that in the end, they’re all there to help each other.” NKD NKDMAG.COM



It was only a year ago that the world said goodbye to Caroline Forbes as the pop-culture phenomenon The Vampire Diaries aired its final episode. Candice King hung up her fangs and left the world of Mystic Falls behind her as she and her family relocated from Atlanta to Los Angeles. But alas, vampires never die and starting April 18th, Candice’s fangs are back in place as she joins the The Originals for their final season. Born in Houston, Tex., Candice was quickly moved to Orlando, Fl., where she grew up singing. She started taking lessons when she was 7 and immediately informed her mother that she was starting a girl group and auditions were the upcoming weekend. “We were going to be the next Spice 32

Girls, of course,” she laughs. Music quickly took over and Candice dabbled in everything from vocal groups to bands to writing her own music. With the blessing of her “very supportive parents”, Candice came out to L.A. when she was 16 to take meetings and signed a development deal, which took her out of high school halfway through her junior year. It was music that led her into acting, as her label saw the opportunity for cross promotion. She quickly booked an independent film and immediately fell in love with being on set and bringing a character to life. “Music became more of a business to me and bringing in the business element kind of crushed my creativity in the long run,” Candice admits. So she made the deci-

sion to push forward with acting and after more than a decade in front of the camera, her flame for it has yet to burn out. She jumped into acting classes and took odd jobs in-between roles to stay afloat, and then when she was 21 booked the life-changing role of Caroline on The Vampire Diaries. Prior to booking the show, Candice had made a list of all of her acting goals and – because she is an avid television fan herself – one of them was to be on a show that lasted 100 episodes. The Vampire Diaries signed off with 171. “I knew I was signing a six-year contract and I loved all of that,” she says, “Even now, I know that a lot of actors are not as excited about a television series that would last a long time, but I really loved it.” Despite her hopes

and her excitement, Candice had no way of anticipating just how massive The Vampire Diaries would become or how long it would run. While filming the show’s first season, the cast existed in a bubble in Atlanta and were not tuned into the excitement that was brewing across the globe for their little show. And despite Candice’s series regular status from Season 1 onward, the billboards and press spots featured two vampire brothers (Damon and Stefan Salvatore, played by Ian Somerhalder and Paul Wesley, respectively) and the girl they were both in love with, Elena Gilbert (Nina Dobrev). “Just to speak for myself, I felt like I went to work every day – and it just so happened to be on a television show – and then I went home,” she says, “And every once in a while, I’d pop into L.A. and feel a little fancy. But life wasn’t that different.” It wasn’t until a trip to Europe that Candice fully understood the scale of what she was doing. “Being recognized in a country that you don’t live in and you don’t speak the language? That made me realize that this is global,” she says. When the show wrapped production in February 2017, Candice had no idea she would be returning to Atlanta a few months later to reprise her role in The Vampire Diaries spinoff The Originals for their final season. “When Vampire ended, it was just supposed to be a quick little pop-in to say goodbye to the Caroline and Klaus [Mikaelson, portrayed by Joseph Morgan] storyline

for the fans. We all felt that it would be really significant and important for anyone who supported – or ‘shipped’ as the kids say – those two together,” Candice admits, “And then one thing led to another, as it usually does with Julie and I. A couple bottles of wine later and I’m in five episodes of the show.” On a personal level, Candice found the opportunity really wonderful to really close out a chapter of her life that was a lot more emotionally significant than she realized. “It was eight years of my life. I was pregnant there, I was a mother for the first time for a whole year while working fulltime there. A lot of big life changes happened while working in Atlanta and on that show, so it was nice to slowly say goodbye to the character a little bit more,” she reflects. Candice will appear in five of the final 13 episodes of The Originals, and promises that her appearances finally “gave life to a relationship that fans have wanted for so long”. Following The Vampire Diaries’ series wrap, Candice forced herself to take some down time. “I would love to say that it was so easy and wonderful and blissful, but I realized that sometimes it’s a bit of a bumpy landing into that blissful state of appreciating downtime,” she laughs. During the show’s last few seasons, Candice was splitting her time between Atlanta, where she worked, and Denver, where she lived with her family. The King clan – which consists of Candice, her husband, Joe, her two step daughters and her

baby girl, Florence – made the official move out to California six months ago. “That last season was such crazy hours and just being a first-time mom and trying to navigate all of that… I really wanted to push myself to find my calm and find my breath and be with my family,” she says. For the first time in nearly ten years, Candice had full control over her schedule and wanted to take advantage of that while she could. Candice describes the final year on The Vampire Diaries set as “personally educational”. One of her goals going into the last season was to soak everything up because the entire cast and crew knew well in advance of production starting up that this would be their last ride together. “I wanted to enjoy it and I wanted to appreciate the fact that we all got to be a part of something that’s bigger than ourselves,” she says. While the end of The Vampire Diaries was a chance for Candice to say goodbye to the on-set family she built within the TVD cast and crew, her arc on The Originals was her final swan song for Caroline Forbes. While there are rumors of another potential spinoff circling, Candice confirms that her time as Caroline has officially come to a close. “It was a different feeling. The last day on Vampire Diaries was so full of tears and mixed emotions, and a rollercoaster itself throughout the whole day,” she says, “But being able to go to New Orleans [for The Originals series finale] to watch and celebrate friends and people that I’ve NKDMAG.COM


known for so many years close out their show was just such a joy and an honor to be there.” Caroline’s journey within The Originals is “very much tied to Klaus”, Candice admits. Klaus’ daughter Hope (Danielle Rose Russell) attends the supernatural 38

school that Caroline and Alaric (Matthew Davis) run, and that forces a reunion years in the making. “Julie Plec [the creator of The Vampire Diaries and The Originals] always had a very clear idea of what she wanted for Caroline and Klaus together,

and it wasn’t exactly always in line with what the fans wanted for those characters,” Candice says, “She wrote very important moments that she wanted for those characters, but I think she also gave a lot to the fans and what they wanted to see.” Viewers will finally be able to see if a relationship between Caroline and Klaus can work, taking into account the events of The Vampire Diaries finale in which Caroline’s husband Stefan dies. Despite both series coming to a close, they are still finding a new audience every day with the help of Netflix and other streaming sites. And while some aspects of the show may end up feeling dated, Candice does feel that there is a timeless feel to the world of Mystic Falls as well. “The foundation of the show was built on love and loss and grief, and I think those human emotions that ran pretty consistently throughout the series is what’s going to make it timeless,” she says. She also attributes the pace of the writing to the show’s need to be binged. When people stop Candice to talk about the show she always hears the same thing: “I just couldn’t stop watching it.” Now that her time as Caroline is officially, officially over, Candice is looking ahead to her future in acting. She compares the process of finding a new character to play to finding a soulmate. “Caroline felt like my soulmate, in a way,” she admits, “So it’s kind of finding that electricity with another character.” She finds herself fortunate to be looking for a new project in a time where the entertainment

industry is making an exciting shift – especially towards female-driven and female-produced content. But nonetheless she is easing herself back into the world of auditioning. “I keep having to remind myself that when I auditioned for Caroline I had a Blackberry and MapQuest printouts, so the times have changed a little bit,” Candice laughs. Like many women, Candice felt emotional in the wake of the #MeToo movement. “I’m grateful that my daughter and my step daughters will have a chance at perspective, and be able to enter adulthood and womanhood hopefully more enlightened – not to speak for anyone else – than I was. More secure, more confident, more protective,” she says, “I’m hopeful that these are the beginnings of new times and how women are treated generally and how for men and women that abuse and assault is just not tolerated.” While many actors may choose to veer away from television roles after spending eight years on one series, Candice is all for committing to another show. “I watch more TV than I do movies, to be honest, and I like the idea of having that built in family,” she says. She notes, though, that television is changing. While 22-episode orders used to be the norm, many networks are opting for 10-13 episode seasons – which allows actors time to either work on other project or spend time with their families. “I don’t know that world at all. We were working nine months out of the

year – which is incredible,” she says, “But it is a different business in terms of how people are watching TV and the structure of TV.” But that’s not to say she wouldn’t sign onto a film if it was the right fit, either. “I hate saying that there are things that

I won’t do or things that I would only do, because I could completely fall in love with another supernatural-based drama – but I would like to take a break from drinking fake blood,” she laughs, “My running joke with my team is I would love to just laugh.” NKD NKDMAG.COM


high valley



High Valley is a country duo comprised of brothers Brad and Curtis Rempel, and their career is one that’s the result of 11 years of hard work and dedication. They’ve toured with superstars like Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, released EPs and albums, and played shows all over the globe – and they’re not stopping anytime soon.

“I was selling trucks for Dodge for six years and my bosses would let me in my office make cold calls to music festivals and radio stations and everything,” Brad explains. “We got told ‘no’ many many, many, thousands of times and then every once in a while, someone would say ‘yes’ and we’d take around three months off of work and go tour and

doesn’t realistically happen so quickly. “It’s been, I would say, a slow climb from then until this last year and all of a sudden it kind of cranked wide open,” Brad says. “Every year was great. Every year was better than the previous year, but it was slow and steady. So when people are like, ‘Hey, you have to be

“It ’s been, I would say, a slow climb from the until this last year and all of a sudden it kind of cranked wide open.” Brad and Curtis grew up in La Crete, Alberta, Canada with their four siblings. They describe their childhood as one filled with music and guitars in the home, since both of their parents play – so it was only natural that they gravitated toward music. In fact, the earliest version of High Valley began when Brad was 12 years old and Curtis was 6. High Valley transitioned from an informal band to a serious career over a decade ago.

then come back to work.” This continued for several years, and while Curtis was still in high school and Brad was working, they decided to focus more of their time and energy on building their career. Eleven years ago, Brad quit his job and Curtis completed his high school education on the road. Their success didn’t happen overnight, nor did it occur after a year or two. It took even more time, and they understand that success

patient,’ in this business, we’re very familiar with it.” High Valley slowly gained more popularity in Canada, and then America when they moved to Nashville, Tennessee. 2017 was arguably one of their most significant years. Last year, they played sold out shows in California, toured with Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, were nominated for three Canadian Country Music Association



Awards, and went on their own tour presented by SiriusXM. Tours and nominations aside, one of the biggest indicators of the duo’s growth is the way people have responded their music. “It was the difference of people hearing our music and saying, ‘Cool, I like you guys’, to people hearing our songs saying, ‘Cool, I know every single world to that song “Make You Mine”, I’m going to sing it loud, I’m going to go nuts when you start playing it, I’m going to line up for hours to meet you after’.” Brad says. In 2007, they released their debut album, Broken Borders. Nine years later, they released an 11-track album titled Dear Life. When Dear Life was released in late 2016, “Make You Mine” had already become one of their biggest songs. “We had tried for so many years to get on radio by listening to country radio and trying to make country radio sounding music and we were really bad at it and it didn’t work,” Brad admits. “With ‘Make You Mine’, we kind of just quit and said, ‘Let’s do what we already did growing up – play that bluegrassy stuff that sounds like a hymn we would have sung at church.’” “It’s so old that it’s a brand new song, but the melody of it is so old that it feels like you’d known it your whole life the first time you hear it,” Brad says. Most recently, High Valley traveled to Europe for the third time and performed shows in Scotland, England, and Germany. At this point, they’ve come to expect high energy from their “hardcore” European fans who know “every

word to every single song.” “It’s more aggressively passionate,” Brad explains. “The weirdest thing was when ‘I Be U Be’ had not been recorded yet, there was an acoustic video of us playing at a radio station on YouTube and so we go to Europe and we’re in London playing this song that literally is not even available on iTunes, and they sang it word for word. It was the weirdest thing. I guess they just do their research hardcore, which is amazing. It makes us very excited to go back.” When Brad and Curtis wrote “I Be U Be,” they weren’t trying to appeal to a specific group. They just wanted to release a song that felt natural and genuine to them, and their instincts clearly paid off. “The impact that Brad just described, having the fans or anybody that’s heard it for the first time, that’s the same impact it had on me when I heard it the first time, when it wasn’t a hit,” Curtis adds. “It was just familiar, almost like comfort food. And I just love that sound and that vibe and the positivity in the sound and the lyric.” With country music constantly evolving, many are quick to judge artists for creating songs that “aren’t country enough,” and blurring lines between genres. But for Curtis and Brad, they have a clear sense of their identity as a duo. “We want our fans to know that we have a variety of music,” Brad says. “We also want to do what we do well. There’s a difference between exploring new options and just new identity. We have a very strong identity. We know what we love. We know what we do well, and we know what fans expect

from us and we try and fit everything not quite inside the box, because we always want to push the boundaries a tiny little bit.” They also welcome the opportunity to work with others, regardless of what genre they come from. It’s about being willing to experiment and strike a balance between new sounds and familiar ones. “I try hard to write with people who will stretch our music as far as possible and then I come at them with my very old school thoughts musically and lyrically, and the combination is hopefully a song that’s very true to us, but maybe expanded us in a direction we hadn’t gone for,” Brad explains. “That’s the goal, at least.” “We like to think that our music has a very strong country identity, but it has all kinds of pop flavors in it through the production,” Brad adds. “We didn’t grow up with pop music or TV or radio or anything. We don’t necessarily know what’s cool. We’re just trying our best to do what we think is fun and real for us and other people that are in charge of making it fit in 2018.” As 2018 progresses, Brad and Curtis look forward to performing at summertime festivals and county fairs, writing music, and recording new material. Regardless of what they end up doing, they’re going to do it with a strong sense of identity and passion. “Good country music is when an artist is honest about who they are, what they’ve experienced, what they love, and that’s different from artist to artist and I think that’s something that country artists are pretty religious about – just singing the truth,” Curtis says. NKD





If you haven’t heard of her yet, you certainly will soon. 16-year-old actress Mina Sundwall is geared up to bring television classic Life In Space back to, well, life. As a child of an Italian mother and Swedish father, Mina’s parents were set on providing the New York City native with an international upbringing. After living in Paris for a year at the age of 10, she also studied at a boarding school in Spain for five months at the end of her eighth grade year. Growing up, Mina was known to tell a white lie or two. It was all part of her storytelling repertoire. “In elementary school we’d always have show-and-tell every week where you’d be like, ‘I’m doing this this weekend,’ and everybody would always say, ‘I’m having a sleepover’ or ‘I went to the zoo,’” she recalls, “I said my mom is quitting her job and going to open a candy store. Everybody in the room was like ‘What is happening?’” Mina and her family then began to consider if acting was something she would be interested in and could take seriously. (Cue the open casting calls.) Soon after, she booked with an agency and hit as many auditions as she could. At the age of 7, she acted in a small role in Celebrity Ghost Stories and realized she was on her destined path. Fast forward to 2016, Mina was cast as Penny, the quick-witted middle child, in Netflix’s remake of Irwin Allen’s 1965 sci-fi classic, Lost in Space. Despite being only 16, she’s familiar with the general premise of the show prior to reading the script thanks to various pop culture references, such as ‘Danger, Will Robinson’. Lost in Space is centered around the Robinson family who must flee Earth as it deteriorates from irreversible

environmental changes, a prevalent theme covered in today’s disputes and an issue Mina believes should be taken “much more seriously”. As they flee to the new space colony, trouble arises and the Robinson’s find themselves stuck on an undiscovered planet, having to learn how to survive on their own. Mina has enjoyed taking part in Penny’s journey of personal growth and development. Initially, Penny struggles with feeling a bit out of place, but by the end of the first season she evolves in her own self confidence. “When we first get to the planet, it’s very much live or die. So I think everybody comes into this mode of, you know, finding the best solution as fast as possible,” Mina says, “But when things get a little more settled in, it’s more about finding who she is and finding out that she’s stronger than she thinks she is.” Penny’s character development and sarcastic jabs were leading factors in Mina’s attraction to the script. “I was so immediately drawn to it because it was exactly my kind of humor and what I love to do. But mostly just that within the first script was such a roller coaster of emotions. By the end of it I was like, ‘Wait a minute’,” says Mina. We see Penny very shaken at the start, but she transforms through a self-actualization type process and realizes she’s so much stronger than she thought. “She [Penny] can do so much more than she would have ever expected to, both physically saving people and what she can put herself through, but also mentally, who she thinks she is and how secure she is with herself,” Mina adds. Being a sci-fi centered series, Lost in Space boasts some heavy special effects ranging from robots, spaceships to the planet itself. “You have one

X here and one X there the director goes, ‘OK, this one is where this thing blows up drastically and this is where a bunch of people die so look and feel.’ And I’m just like, alright, sure, let’s work with it,” recalls Mina. This type of acting comes with a learning curve, and understandably so. In many ways, all aspects on this type of set are choreographed in order to achieve the stimulating sensation viewers get when watching. “It’s every little movement working together with lights and effects and green screen and the camera and making sure it’s so precise and so specific that everything is perfect,” says Mina. Filming for the series took place over six months in Vancouver. Finding, and sustaining, a healthy balance between work and schooling proved to be somewhat of a challenge for Mina. ”The hardest part was kind of going into this immediate, not being in school, putting your mindset to something different, which is something I’ve never done that drastically before,” she says. As a student who takes quite a liking to learning, Mina plans on attending college and studying psychology, which she believes plays a role in the craft of acting by “looking at everything that’s wrong and different moods and disorders and how we think and what we think.” In terms of what’s ahead, Lost in Space promo, college prep, and maybe even a service trip to Ghana this summer are all on the calendar. Mina’s dream role? Well, she’s a huge Black Mirror fan. “I would love to do something with the whole concept of whether or not people can see you through the camera on your laptop, on your phone and see everything that you’re doing at all hours.” Who knows, that might just be in store for her. NKD NKDMAG.COM



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NKD Mag - Issue #82 (April 2018)