Actor Spaces had a coffee break with the talented 25-year-old Pretoria-born actress and producer Lindi Cecile, who has been making waves in Hollywood. She’s worked on a couple of short films, new media content, web series and theatre projects already and is already one of the most sought-after SA actors in Hollywood right now.
1. We are in a new normal, how have the restrictions around Covid-19 impacted your day to day routine?
Before the pandemic, my schedule was something like this: On days when I was not filming or performing, I would do preparation for my next project. I’d do my self tapes or go to in-person auditions, have a production meeting or rehearsal for whichever film project I’m working on at the time, head over to a Yes-And-the-Kitchen-Sink improv troupe rehearsal and catch mine or a friend’s play or film screening in the evening. This year, I have adapted my routine to the current climate. Even during this time I have still been working on something every day. Self-taping was already a popular form of auditioning pre-pandemic, but now the majority of auditions have moved online. I have been submitting self tapes, filming projects following SAG-AFTRA’s strict safety protocol, and attending virtual film festivals. I’ve also been creating my own content and studying up on my craft even more. Many of the film festivals where my films are playing this year have gone online to ensure the health and safety of the audience. This is the case with the White Deer International Film Festival, the Top Shorts Film Festival where I won best actress for “You Up?” , the Sweden Film awards and Hollywood Just4Shorts Film Festival, where “You Up?” also landed the winning spot. Strict social distancing measures have been put in place for when we are onset – and this is how we will film my upcoming projects, including the series version of “I’m Press.”
I am also excited to attend film festivals such as the Austin After Dark Film Festival in Texas, and the Halloween International Film Festival in North Carolina, both of which recently chose “You Up?” as part of their official selection. I was really looking forward to attending the Cannes Short Film Festival where “You Up?” received another official selection in person, however this festival has also decided to go online due to COVID-19.
2. What does it take for an Actor to make the choice of moving abroad to further their interest in Acting?
The choice is easy when you are very passionate about something. A Talent Scout chose me for an opportunity in Los Angeles. I knew that it was the best place to add more to my skill set.
3. What rude awakening did you experience moving to Los Angeles?
When I first got here, I was alone in this brand new place. I had to learn many lessons. It took time to find my people, my true support system. Today, I am so grateful for the community I have here. I could not have asked for a better network than the one I have now. Now it feels like home.
4. How can an Actor maintain sustainability?
These 4 things in particular have been the pillars of my success as an actor:
Character duality: I can play multiple different sides of one character. In “A Long Time Ago” I played Portia Longfellow and I played her portrayal of Luke Skywalker. In “A servant of two masters” I played Beatrice Rasponi and I played her portrayal of her brother Federico Rasponi. Similarly, I can play opposite myself – two characters interacting with one another. This is difficult for an actor to do because usually you would have another actor’s performance to draw from, and you truthfully respond by listening closely to them. I can create an emotional arc for two characters interacting with each other while it is filmed at different times.
Versatility: This is a big strength that sets me apart from other performers. I can do Shakespeare one day and an action film with stunts the next. I can work from deep truth and vulnerability, but I can also do comedy.
Castability: I know my playing types well. I have a wide range, but I also know the strengths in my wheelhouse and I capitalize on them. I am good at auditioning – I know the process like a well oiled machine. But I am also very fortunate to have this pattern in my career where I get cast on projects based on the performance in another. I am very grateful for that.
Work ethic: I am always working on my craft. When I’m working on a project I do everything for that character, I live and breathe them. I like Lee Strasberg’s Method. It works for me. In between projects I still work on my skills and stay informed to keep up with changes in the industry. Acting is a business, and it is so important to understand that business if you want to be successful.
5. “You Up” is your brain child, why is it important for an Actor to create original work?
As actors, we wear many hats. The more familiar you become with the jobs of each person on set, the better you can serve each department as an actor, because you’ll know what they need from you. I have worked behind the scenes and familiarised myself with several duties from other film departments so that I can do my job better. If you are familiar with how the editing process works, it influences your acting choices. Because I have been at the writer’s table, I have that experience to understand scripts better. I can more easily read between the lines to decode what the writer aims to communicate. Because I have been in the directors’ chair, I have a better understanding of what they mean with certain directions.
The vision for “You Up?” was to tell a story about the importance of mental health. The protagonist struggles with insomnia and deals with the abusive voice of her anxious subconscious in a series of events which unfold throughout the night. We hope to show the complexity of a character who has kept a large part of her personality suppressed in the form of a villainous, spiteful and chaotic visitor. Mental health is just as important as physical health, and in the case of insomnia, the two incidentally coincide. The film also explores anxiety about various subjects, including the unavoidable passage of time, the themes of incompletion, visibility and avoidance, as well as the psychology of how our childhood monsters manifest themselves in our adult lives.
I loved working on “You Up?” because it required so much of me. I was playing two characters opposite each other, one with an American accent and the other with a South African accent. They are the complete opposites of one another and I had to switch between the two characters several times a day during filming without much preparation time in between, so I had to be on top of my game.
6. What acting tools can you guide the aspiring Actor to take on?
I would suggest getting into improv. Improv has contributed greatly to my acting abilities. I have been a part of the Yes-and-the-Kitchen-Sink (YAKS) improv troupe for the past 2 years, performing in improv shows at the Groundlings theater ever since. The troupe is directed by Suzanne Kent – she was one of the original members of The Groundlings in the 70’s. Thanks to my work in this troupe, I’ve also worked with Emmy award winning actor and comedian George McGrath. The relationships I have formed with the two of them are very dear to me. The Groundlings are known for providing SNL with cast members. Melissa McCarthy and Kristin Wig were once Groundlings too – in fact, this is where they met each other. Comedians like them, as well as Tina Fey, Amy Poehler and Phoebe Waller-bridge have influenced me greatly as both an actor and a writer.
Get to know your brand and your playing types. Work on those strengths. I know that my strengths are, amongst others – accents, improv, comedic timing and a sensitivity for vulnerable characters. Always do your best, because one opportunity can lead to another. The two upcoming TV series that I’m working on now – “Borders” and “Cat and Mouse” are roles I got after the producers came to see “A Long Time Ago”. Truly accept and embrace who you are, because I have learned that my specific life experience, characteristics and skills have contributed uniquely to every role I play and that is how I ensure that I bring a next level of success to each production that I am a part of.
7. Will you be coming back home to share your experiences, if so, how and when?
I’m very happy in the USA. I get excited when I meet another South African here because I know that the talent coming from our country is extraordinary. I worked with another South African on the film “Cricket Man” which has done so well at festivals this past year. “Cricket Man” won big at the New York Film Awards and the Festigious International Film Festival Los Angeles for Best Parody. It also won the Los Angeles Film Awards and scored a “Best Comedy” win at the Vegas Movie Awards. I also have another friend from South Africa in the YAKS improv troupe with me. We are a comedic bunch, South Africans.
8. Sadly, the issue of security for our female Actors on set is still a challenge, what advice can you give to us fighting this?
It is the responsibility of everyone on set to report any inappropriate treatment. It is up to those in power to stop taking advantage of others. Yes, as women we have to stand up for ourselves, but at the end of the day men have to stop their harassment and mistreatment of women for anything to change.