Catching Up With Nana Ponceleon About Her Upcoming Acting Endeavors And Projects
Nana Ponceleon is an extremely gifted actress who is constantly taking on challenging roles and reinventing herself to prove how serious she takes her craft. We recently caught up with her again, where we discussed some of her favorite projects over the past few years -and what she has coming up. Here is what she had to say:
Hi Nana, it’s great catching up with you again. Since we last spoke, what have you been up to?
Wow! So many things have been going on since we last met. I will try to be brief. I have worked on 19 additional projects, not including theater or commercials over the past couple of years. Shows like The Perfect Murder where I have been a principal role in 3 different episodes -and I have also had lead roles in feature and short films as well. I have been a principal actress in many commercials for brand names like Johnson & Johnson’s Zyrtec, Glamour Magazine, Clairol, Michelob, Safe Auto, NY City Government, and many others.
I am also writing a feature film which is based on a real event in my life. You will hear more about this next year -more so because it will be a very controversial and impactful story, based on how a very corrupt law enforcement organization in the country, didn’t do what they were supposed to be doing, protecting and finding justice.
I have also started my own channel and show called ‘Act Feminine’. This project is very dear to my heart because it is also based on my own personal experiences and what I have learned over the years. The show is in the very beginning stages but we have major plans for it’s evolution.
Do you feel like you have grown a lot more as an artist over the years, through your experiences?
Absolutely yes! My growth has been in every area of my life. However, particularly my acting has evolved in ways I didn’t imagine possible.
I have become a much better actor, more grounded, more secure, more natural -and I am able to prepare and learn much faster than I did before. I am sure this has come about because I am now acting more and more frequently than before and another reason of course, is security and confidence. I have a much better understanding of the craft and the business side of the entertainment world, which helps tremendously when it comes to doing what you need to do as an actress. Having said all this, I also know that the learning process will never end. Ever!
What has been one of your favorite projects to work on so far?
This is a tough one because every project has its magic, its challenges, and its rewards, which are usually all fantastic. But I will tell you about 2 -one of which is the reason you and I are talking again now. The first one is a project I have done with Columbia University where they hired me last year to work on 4 episodes for a program called “Grief Therapy”.
The idea for this is to help train and create awareness on the subject of grieving parents and I was hired to play the role of a therapist who was helping a father who lost his child. The reviews and comments were so positive, so I was hired again this year to film eight (8) more episodes. Many real therapists who have seen these episodes commented that they thought I was a real therapist -maybe I was a little! I have had therapy myself and I am devoted to helping people live more fulfilled lives through my storytelling life. Therefore playing the role of this therapist who had to help a father deal with the loss of his son, came to me as a gift.
I also had the opportunity to learn directly from the creator of this groundbreaking therapy Dr. Katherine Shear. This treatment has been widely adopted in the US and around the world.
The other extremely interesting project I did was with Newsday, a leading American daily newspaper that primarily serves Nassau and Suffolk counties and the New York City borough of Queens on Long Island. I was hired as an actor to work undercover in a very long and detailed investigation on discrimination in the real estate industry in Long Island. I was hired as an actor to impersonate potential home buyers in order to see whether they treated white Americans differently than minorities.
This investigation lasted 3 years and was first published with the results being released to the public two weeks ago. I couldn’t talk about this project until now because it was an ongoing investigation up until recently. I was given a false name, created a false profile and life just like undercover investigators do. It was the ultimate character to play. The acting had to be so convincing that no one could suspect I was not “Rita Viloria”.
The very first day I had to go to the headquarters before going out on the field; in order to learn my script, memorize my new name, phone number and address, create my fake family profile and go out with a camera in my bag and a phone that was not a phone but a recording device, it was really scary. I had never been so scared of acting in my life. I really felt they could see in my face I was really not Rita Viloria, and I had no boy as an only child, nor did I live where I said, etc, etc.
I learned so much about acting and about myself, that I will forever be grateful for the opportunity that Newsday gave me. The investigation uncovered a definite bias towards white America -you can take a look at the full report on the Newsday website.
What has been one of the biggest highlights/achievements of your career?
I have been an important part of two films which have been very successful. One is a Venezuelan film called La Hora Cero (THe Zero Hour) and the other was Let’s Play Dead Girl.
La Hora Cero is a film by Diego Velasco, a writer and director who has worked with US national networks like MTV, TLC, Discovery, NBC, Spike, Disney, and CBS. This film had record breaking sales at the time of its release in Venezuela and was called the first action movie in Venezuela’s film history. I had the honor to play the role of Karla, a nurse which was given the responsibility of taking care of “La Parca’s” daughter (La Parca is the lead in the movie). I spent a month on set with a fabulous lineup of some of the best actors in the country, most of which have gone on to be great actors in many countries around the world.
La Hora Cero won many international awards in renowned film festivals and was purchased by HBO -and secured distribution in four continents.
Then Let’s Play Girl, a film by Christian A. Morán, an award winning filmmaker who directed and wrote the screenplay of this great movie. This was my first involvement in the horror genre and is unfortunately, based on the real life story of a horrible attack on a teenager, Consuelo, by two of her best friends. I was honored to play Anna, Consuelo’s mother and share the screen with a fabulous actress like Laura Guzman.
This film has received over 20 nominations and won over 15 awards to date. I am extremely honored to have been able to be a part of such an amazing group of actors and crew members.
Who has been one of your favorite actors/filmmakers you have worked with so far and why?
I will have to say Zapata, “La Parca”, the lead actor of La Hora Zero, has to be one of the most interesting actors I have worked with thus far. Zapata played the role of a mercenary who kidnapped an entire hospital, holding everyone in it hostage -in order to save the woman who was pregnant with his baby girl. His character was in many ways heartless and fierce.
La Parca’s body was full of tattoos, including the names of all his victims. His tattoos started on his head all the way to his stomach where he had the tattoo of a gun. He had the numbers 666 and skulls everywhere and you could say death was his companion. But the most interesting fact was that the only tattoo that was not make-up for the character in the movie, was the tattoo in his arm with the names of the victims. All other tattoos on his body were really his. He was one very intimidating person in real life if you just saw him and never talked to him.
I had the privilege to have lunch for many days with him and a month of shooting, which allowed us to talk a lot about life and death. He taught me more about life, through his views about death, than any person had ever done before. He saw death from so close all his life by living in the ghetto, that every day was a gift and a blessing. He lived each day as his last, because where he came from, that was something certain -you never knew if you were going to be able to wake up the next morning.
What other projects do you have coming up?
Like I mentioned before the Act Feminine show is under development right now and changing and evolving everyday. Let us see where the next year takes it. Also a very important one is my film Doubt of You. This film due to its very personal nature will be a great challenge for me, the subject is a very sensible one not only for me, but I am sure it will be for the audience as well.
The fact that I will be exposing a very serious subject with law enforcement, will be something that will interest people I am sure. However, I will need to raise funds to actually make the movie -which will be a great challenge for this process. I am more than ready to embark on this journey with the support and help of so many friends and family -and also with the great support of fabulous people I have met in the industry over these wonderful years working in the US.
What is your best piece of advice for aspiring artists?
First, make sure you really love acting, telling stories and impacting people’s lives through the screen or the stage. Be absolutely certain that the “why” you want to do this is strong enough, motivating enough to you; that you will be able to withstand the effort, the work, the rejections, the doubts, and the obstacles you will face along the way. Only a huge WHY will make you push through everyday.
Then prepare, prepare, and prepare everyday. Train your acting muscles the same way you would train your body to become the highest ranking person in any sport. It would be safe to say that, very many actors feel you just have to work on the script you are given for a certain part, play the character and then forget about acting until the next gig. Well if you don’t exercise your acting muscle regularly, there may not be another gig. Most other artists train regularly, almost everyday — like musicians and dancers — yet actors feel we don’t need to do the same. Well, yes we do!
Learn the business side of the “business”. This is a business as well, no matter how much you want to see it as an artistic endeavor only. This is no different to a small or large company, which sells products and services. In your case, YOU are the product. You need to market yourself, sell your product and solve people’s problems. You must make everyone who buys your product, “you”, want to do it again and again and again. So always go above and beyond in every project you work on. Leave an impression, preferably a great one, so the director and the casting agency want to call you again -should an opportunity that fits your profile arise.