She’s the new kid on the block and hails from the city known as ‘sleepy hollow’. She’s a movement specialist, award-winning actress, model and mother. This multi-talented lady has us star struck! In this exclusive interview Danica De La Rey chats about life as an actress and her latest film ‘Asinamali’.
Q: Danica! Thanks for chatting to us at Prompt Side. With so much happening in your life, we just had to get in touch to catch up. Tell us, who is Danica De La Rey?
Who is Danica De La Rey. Wow, that was super profound. I’m just a plane Jane that loves being barefoot and becoming someone else sometimes… but, I think for the most part, that remains to be seen. Still finding my way around myself.
Q: When did this passion for performance begin, and how has the journey been thus far?
I wouldn’t call it a passion, a passion is something that grows on you. Performance grew with me, it was a daily part of my life from a very young age. It came naturally for me to turn to dance, acting and writing to cope. At the time I didn’t realize that I was acting. Dancing. Writing. I was just coping. In fact I never thought I was really good at anything when I was younger until I had to do my first English oral in grade 4 I think? I was always somewhat withdrawn but when I stepped in front of the class, something happened, my teacher and fellow classmates saw it too. It’s been a lifestyle; a part of who I am. From a very young age I naturally turned towards the expression of myself.
The journey has been a difficult one. It is a daily struggle to be able to work as an actor, or any type of artist for that matter. BUT, being able to literally place a part of your soul in the world, is beautiful. So the journey thus far has been just that… A beautiful struggle.
Q: Could you tell us a bit more about your training, if any?
The only formal training I’ve had was at DUT Courtyard Theatre for a few months after I finished high school, but that was it. However, I’ve never let my lack of training become a crutch. I ask a lot of questions and learn something new about my craft everyday. Observing the human condition is very important to me. I like to sit in my emotion and the emotions of others.
Q: Would you say that performing for stage and film require a different set of skills? Why?
Absolutely. Stage is amplified. Everything is so much bigger, bolder. Depending on the play, your body has to become so many things. Its a constant go, no cuts, no turning back on decisions, just go. Stage challenges an actor holistically and even when the play is a certain genre, sometimes you tend to have to dig into other methods of acting to support your character and fellow cast mates. Transformations happen in front of the audience. The blood, the sweat and the tears are sometimes more real than the audience thinks. On stage, you bring the audience to you with your actions, no matter where in the auditorium they sit, they will feel a closeness to you just by amplified emotion. They become a part of the play and its process.
Film, and any screen work at that is often static I feel. You sometimes have hours to walk in and out of your character between sets and scenes. Takes, direction, set, lighting, art department, hair and makeup, wardrobe they amplify the world you are creating in front of the lens. The camera angles control the way the audience will see you, facial expressions etc are often very toned down in comparison to stage (a problem I have since my face naturally does gymnastics when I speak) In front of a camera I feel more mindful. On stage, I feel more free.
Q: So, you’ve recently starred in Asinamali, directed by Oscar nominated director Darrell Roodt. How did you land the role and what was it like working with such big names in the industry?
Asinamali. Wow. Having the opportunity to work with such a dynamic duo like Darrell Roodt and Mbongeni Ngema was surreal. Darrell Roodt, is a master of direction behind the lens not only locally but internationally. Mbongeni Ngema is a king of workshop theatre, musicals, a master of the stage and written word. Having a close collaboration between these two mediums of acting was such an incredible experience, it was a beautiful marriage between film and theatre.
The journey of Asinamali began when I was put forward as a recommendation after I received a Durban Mercury Theatre Award at the end of 2015. Clinton Marius and I met at the Durban Mercury awards, he and William Charlton-Perkins were Mr. Ngemas publicists at the time. They are the ones who suggested me for the role. Originally based in KZN, I made my way to Johannesburg for the screen test, and in July- August 2016 I was on set as Soweto, a young MK soldier who was an inmate.
Q: Could you tell us more about the character you played?
I played Soweto, an MK Soldier, imprisoned in the apartheid era for her part in the struggle. When I read her, she didn’t have much dialogue, but she possessed a power beyond words. Every one of her scenes painted this silent strength and hope within her, but it was masked by her tough exterior. She was very layered, hardened by her journey but still a woman, with hope that she might see the love of her life again. She is the love interest of the lead character, Comrade, played by Mbongeni himself. The moments that they share are brief and controlled but show the audience a deeper love and connect through a time of struggle. Becoming Soweto challenged every part of my being, physically, emotionally and psychologically. Playing Soweto taught me a lot about myself too, I think as an artist, every character you play should have that power.
Q: Apart from acting, you are also known to be an incredible dancer and choreographer. If you had to choose one, which would it be?
WHOAH… Hehehe, to be honest I am more of a freestyle movement kind of girl. Choreography scares me. So to answer your question I would say I am on a different tangent altogether.
Q: Rumour has it that you are also an aspiring writer. “Roses are red….(and go!)
Hey, you stole that line from somewhere! I am very much into my poetry though and working towards composing something that integrates movement and acting to one of the poems I’ve written. Stay tuned!
Q: What next can we expect from you professionally?
Goodness, in this very unpredictable industry it is very hard to say, although I would like to do more work as an actor on stage, there is something about the rawness and process of becoming a character theatrically that I find so beautiful. I have also grown very fond of film since working with an incredible cast and crew on the set of Asinamali, so I’m tapping into the universe to ask for more film work too.
Q: Favorite actor or role model?
That changes regularly. However more recently I would say Alicia Vikander. Her role in ‘The Danish Girl’ really was intriguing. I like her command and natural connect with the characters she plays. I also really appreciate Sean Penn and his craft, he is explosive! But there are far too many actors to mention… my ultimate role model is my beautiful mother for reasons that would take a lifetime to explain, but the gist of it is this, she understands my journey as a human being and she accepts it all.
Q: Any advice for aspiring performers out there?
It’s okay to say no. Do not make money the object to what defines your journey. Self respect and respect for what you do as any type of artist will get you where you need to be. Being an artist and being a celebrity are two very different things, make sure you know exactly what you want from what you do. Trust yourself (and this is one I battle with). It is probably going to be one of the hardest careers you follow, it will almost always throw you a curveball, but if it is truly what you love, you will enjoy the ride every time.