Thursday, June 20, 2013

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Thursday, April 18, 2013

Supanova Supastar-Guest: Andy Mackenzie

Looking through Andy Mackenzie’s resume is like looking through a gang lord’s rap sheet.

Mackenzie has played all types of bad guy imaginable, from drug dealers through to thieves and everything in between. Currently in Australia to promote his latest film – Sushi Girl, which has him playing perhaps one of the most intense bad guys he has yet to play, Mackenzie takes the time out to talk to Rachel Barnes about being typecast and getting to work alongside the actors behind some of Hollywood’s most iconic characters.

Mackenzie has been switching from television to films and back since the beginning of his career. Even though he has worked on some massive television shows from Big Bang Theory toTrue Blood, Mackenzie says the strict scheduling of TV work is not his cup of tea.

“Film stuff is more fun for me, especially in a role like Sushi Girl where it’s kind of a big chunky role so I can actually collaborate with the writer and the director and kind of make something cooler than what is on the page, as opposed to TV where you just want to do it and get out,” he says. “So I enjoy film stuff more.”

Despite the constant movement between the two mediums one thing has remained the same. Mackenzie definitely looks like a bad guy and he has used that to his advantage, playing some of the baddest characters on screen.

“I love playing the bad guy ‘cause it’s so not me so it’s fun for me. I get into some weird dark zone and pretend,” he laughs.

Although it is unusual to find an actor who likes being typecast, Mackenzie is an exception to the rule.

“I am typecast right now at this point and I don’t mind,” he says. “My hair’s long and you can’t really mistake me so when you need somebody like that they call me. It’s kind of a choice that I’ve made so until something comes up that they need to shave my head and clean my face up then I can do whatever. It’s been working well so I don’t know why I would want to change it up.”

And he’s right. Mackenzie achieves possibly his best work yet as one of the lead characters in a film that has taken the film festival circuit by storm – Sushi Girl. Despite an R18 rating on the film Mackenzie didn’t hesitate to commit to the film.

“I picked up the script and I think I got to about page three and I sent them an email saying “I’m in!,” he laughs. “As an actor like this there’s always a project that you’re waiting for or you’re looking for or you’re hoping that something like this will come along. And this came along.”

Mackenzie is not surprised that reviewers are comparing the films’ director – Kern Saxton to Tarantino.

“This is absolutely in that same vein. Kern is weird like that so he’s going to have a great career that’s starting with this movie,” he says.

Mackenzie was so keen on the role that when he signed on there was nobody else in the cast. In fact, the films’ director, writers, and producers were going to film the whole movie over one weekend with friends just for fun. However as the film picked up more and more attention, the cast quickly began to fill with several big name actors. The group spent over a year together getting to know each other before filming even began.

“When we were about to shoot we had seriously gotten my icon dream. It’s me walking into a room where I’m surrounded by Candyman, Luke Skywalker, Atreyu, Frank the Bunny, Lawn Mower Man, Machete, Kyle Reese… this is like ‘woah’,” he laughs. “And here I am, nobody, and I gotta be this badass around all these badasses. So it was a lot of fun and it was pretty cool.”

The cast and crew became one big family over the process and Mackenzie says everyone is excited about meeting up in Australia.

“They’re my best friends right now, I see them every week and it’s been three years since we started talking about this movie,” he says.

This will be his first time in Australia and he simply can’t contain his excitement, but you won’t find Mackenzie cuddling any koalas.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do but I’d love to do some shark diving,” he laughs.

You can catch Andy Mackenzie with entire cast of Sushi Girl at Gold Coast Supanova on April 19-21. Don’t forget to check out the film at the Gold Coast Film Festival on Friday April 19 and Saturday April 20 at 9pm.

Supanova Supastar-Guest: James Duval

Supanova and the Gold Coast Film Festival have joined forces this year to bring the coast one of the best ‘Supastar’ guest line ups that the events have seen. The cast and crew of Sushi Girl– a film that has been said to have so much gore it would make even Tarantino blush – are all hitting our shores for the film’s Australian premiere. Rachel Barnes speaks to one of the stars of the indie film, James Duval about his out-of-the-ordinary role in the movie and his struggle with finding work as an actor.

Starring in films from the likes of Independence Day and Gone in 60 Seconds through to indie classics like Donnie Darko, James Duval has had a very diverse career as an actor and this time it’s no different.

“I’ve been very fortunate over the years to be able to shop around and be in different movies from studios to independents, to genre hoppers and horrors and all types of drama and comedies and I’ve had a really great time,” Duval says.

Despite this Duval says he doesn’t really prefer one type of film over the other.

“When I was younger I did prefer to do little indies and it was fun to go and get on a big set and do things like Independence Day or Gone in 60 Seconds and then go back to these little tiny movies like Donnie Darko where we would be utilising every single resource we had and then still trying to come up with something. What I realised is that I don’t have a preference, I like to do both actually. I just like to work,” he laughs.

With work as an actor always very temperate, Duval is more than excited about the success of his latest project – indie film Sushi Girl. Duval didn’t even hesitate to take on the role of Francis in the film despite the R18 rating and the intense script.

“I read the script and I kind of found it exciting to play the character Francis,” Duval says.

“It’s not a part that I normally would do and in that sense I think I’ve been very lucky, instead of being typecast into one role, I’ve had the opportunity in Francis to grow out of it and tackle various different roles. It’s probably one of the best experiences I’ve had,” he says.

The cast and crew of the film quickly became like family with Duval unable to pick any favourites among the team. “It’s a smorgasbord of favourite actors,” he says.

“I ended up working with some of the best actors ever growing up, and now still, and we’ve all become family – more than just friends. What more could you really ask for? Well, I guess that you guys like the movie,” he laughs.

And if the film’s recent success in the film festival circuit is anything to go by it looks like Duval will be getting his wish. Shooting eight films between the time he had finished shooting Sushi Girl and the time that it hit the festival circuit, Duval was just simply excited to share a film he truly loved with the world.

“That was a pleasant surprise. I was just hoping that people liked it,” he says. “Because I love the movie so much and I love the guys so much it’s exciting for me to meet everybody who loves the movie. There’s nothing better than talking about it,” he laughs.

Duval will get to talk about the film as much as he wants when he hits our shores this week in the lead up to the Gold Coast Film Festival and Supanova. Duval is also excited to meet all of his Australian fans and to get to catch up with people he has worked with in the past or connect with people he wants to work with in the future.

“The thing about Supanova is that there are a couple of other friends that I have worked with over the years so I’ll be happy to be seeing those people and uniting with them as well as mySushi Girl family,” he says. “From Eliza Dushku through to Natalia Kenya, I’ll get to meet these other actors and I’m a big fan of their work.”

In Australia for the first time, Duval is ready to hit our shores. “From everything I’ve head I’m sure it’s going to be an incredible time,” he says.

You can catch James Duval alongside the entire cast of Sushi Girl at Gold Coast Supanova on April 19-21. Don’t forget to check out the film at the Gold Coast Film Festival on Friday April 19 and Saturday April 20 at 9pm.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

PREVIEW: Supanova — Rupert Young (No Longer Attending)

Knight in Shining Armour

*Unfortunately both Rupert Young and fellow knight Eoin Macken have cancelled their tour with Supanova due to scheduling conflicts but Australian fans of the series will be able to meet at least one knight in shining armour as Sir Percival – played by Tom Hopper – will still be attending the Brisbane event.

The widely anticipated fifth season of Merlin finally makes its way back into our world. Now, Rachel Barnes gets every girl’s dream come true. She talks with a knight in shining armour, Rupert Young — the actor behind Sir Leon — about reliving his childhood fantasies and riding the wave of a successful TV series.

When you picture a knight, you think of a tall and handsome man wearing shining armour, holding a sword and a shield, standing in front of a dastardly enemy, without even the slightest glint of fear in his eyes. Although Rupert Young looked the part during his first day on set, he was anything but the fearless knight. Young recalls only having one line to say. “I had to interrupt the scene and say, ‘The king commands your presence immediately,’ and I opened the door and went: ‘The king — uhh…’ — and my chain-mail was pounding away and I was absolutely terrified,” Young says. “To be honest they were all very sweet but I was just very scared. Luckily the next day I went in and I had one word which was ‘here’. I managed to remember that,” he laughs.

Rupert Young

Young originally auditioned for two roles, both of which were only supposed to be small parts. But after landing Sir Leon and filming his scenes he was told they might bring him back. “This literally tiny part has become the knight that is Sir Leon now,” he says excitedly. “It’s been a nice journey, not knowing when I’m coming back and for how long. To get to the end of series five and still be there, I feel very lucky.”

Young says playing a knight is a childhood dream of his and he has loved every aspect of the journey. “I remember when all five of the knights got together for the first time. We rode into the castle in France with our capes on and there was a group of nine year olds just looking at us with their mouths open, going, ‘That’s so cool.’ It really was. We were all going, ‘I know. Look how cool we are.’” Young laughs. “It’s brilliant. You get to have sword fights and you get to do things that I remember loving every minute of when I was a child.”

With the filming of season five finishing and the first few episodes screening, Young says this season continues to push the boundaries. “I think it goes on routes that no one would quite expect. Some things happen that are quite shocking,” he says. “It’s definitely the darkest yet”

The success of the show grows with each season and, though Young thinks its popularity could be attributed to both the picturesque knights and the element of fantasy, he believes there is a deeper connection for fans. “A lot of people at school who feel different or have a tough time and get no credit at all can relate to Merlin,” he explains. “He gets bullied by the knights. Arthur is mean to him. And he always saves the day without any thanks. The reason that the show is so successful is because of that underdog character that people identify with.”

Supanova runs in the RNA showgrounds from Friday 9 Nov through to Sunday 11 Nov. Check out for more details

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

PREVIEW: Supanova and Gareth David-Lloyd

British Institutions, Fandoms, and Sci-fi, Oh my!

Torchwood star Gareth David-Lloyd talks to Rachel Barnes about why he enjoys the science fiction genre, his success with Torchwood, and how he relates to being a part of a sci-fi fandom.

Having acted since he was just a kid, Gareth David-Lloyd is no stranger to the power of a good story. Whether he is on stage performing to a crowd, or waiting for the television ratings of his latest endeavour, David-Lloyd doesn’t prefer one medium over the other. “It’s all storytelling. It all has its rewards,” he says.

Despite his long background in theatre, it wasn’t until 2006 that David-Lloyd landed his first regular role in a television series — Torchwood. He could not have been happier. “I was huge into sci-fi, especially Star Trek The Next Generation when I was younger. Obsessively so to some extent,” he laughs.

Although too young to follow all of Doctor Who’s changes, David-Lloyd was well aware of the franchise. “I knew it was a great British institution. It was a great honour to be a part of it,” he says. “Originally my role was called Idris Hopper,” he laughs. “When I got the role they gave me the name of another character I had played in a different show, so it was almost like they were giving me my character back.”

Gareth David-Lloyd

David-Lloyd knew the show was going to be successful before he had even auditioned, but had never imagined it would succeed as it did. “With it being a sort of dark and adult show set in the universe of Doctor Who, it sounded really exciting,” he says. “The amount of success is quite overwhelming.”

His resume filled to bursting with sci-fi related projects, David-Lloyd admits that the genre has quirks like no other. “There’s always a little bit of extra fun with science fiction because you let your imagination suspend a little bit more.”

The quirks don’t stop there; fans of the genre can become deeply engaged with particular niches within the community. “I think the reason sci-fi fans become so invested in the characters and stories is because of the great escapism, which envelopes people. It’s the same reason I really got into Star Trek. The worlds are so far removed from reality that it’s not merely escapism. It’s escapism that walked right into another universe.”

David-Lloyd joins the guest list of Supanova for the third time and couldn’t be more excited to meet more of his Australian fans. “I’d say all Torchwood fans are the greatest fans. Some actors give horror stories about their fans leaping over tables and exposing themselves and doing things like that but all the Torchwood fans I have met have been great. There’s never any fears.”

You can catch Gareth David-Lloyd at Supanova in the RNA showgrounds from Friday Nov 9 through to Sunday Nov 11. For more information check out

Rachel Barnes is a freelance journalist and aspiring author. When she’s not writing she spends her time playing Roller Derby or American Football.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Road to an AIDS-free world

MELBOURNE: The World AIDS Conference is held every two years and aims to not only increase awareness about HIV, but to also find that elusive cure. Held in Washington this past July, the conference once again brought scientists and patients together, inspiring the hope of an AIDS free world. Rachel Barnes spoke to conference attendees, Professor Sharon Lewin from the Burnet Institute and Matt Dixon from the Victorian AIDS Council.

Co-head of the Centre of Virology at the Burnet Institute and Director of Infectious Disease at Alfred and Monash, Professor Sharon Lewin is a key player when it comes to challenging HIV. Professor Lewin not only works as a scientist in a laboratory researching the disease but she also actively works as an infectious disease physician with HIV patients. Professor Lewin has been attending the conference for 20 years: “The World AIDS Conference is a real landmark event for all people working in HIV,” Professor Lewin says. “It’s often not the peak scientific conference but there’s a lot of detailed scientific information presented and it’s a really important conference to track how we’re going and see the really important changes in the field and how to implement them.”

Despite a previous lack of scientific content at the conference it is now a place where scientists can meet up and network their ideas. However, the event still continues to push its original key goal of equality.

“The conference has fought for reducing stigma and discrimination for years,” Professor Lewin says. “It’s been a hallmark agenda of the International AIDS Society and of that conference.”

Every conference celebrates people with HIV and strives to show the world that they are not second class citizens. As well as this, there are two other main themes at the event; one of these is the importance of finding a cure for HIV and how this would make a big difference to the strategies of getting people on treatment.

“If you can find a cure it means that people don’t need to be on treatment for forty to fifty years, they might only need to be on treatment for five or ten years and that would free up a lot of capacity and money to treat more people,” she says.

However, until this is found there are actually current ways to control HIV, which can essentially rid the world of AIDS. While current treatments do not mean the end of the HIV virus, it does mean those who can access treatment can hope to live relatively disease free.

One of the main goals at the conference is to reduce new infections to 50% by 2015. We know that we already have the tools to do this, what we need now is to figure out how to actively get people tested, finding people that are positive, getting them in care, and keeping them on treatment.

“One area we really need to work on is increasing testing... If we could do that really effectively everywhere we could basically eliminate AIDS,” Professor Lewin says.

It’s no question as to whether or not Australia is doing this effectively, we have an extremely low infection rate with basically a steady one thousand new diagnoses a year for the past ten years. The question is, how we can do this even better?

“Although our infection rates are low we need to look at ways as to how we can get that even lower,” Professor Lewin says. “How we can test people earlier and that could involve home based testing or rapid testing. Starting treatment at the right time and keeping people in them.”

Although HIV is considered to be low prevalence in Australia, it is high prevalence in certain risk groups and Professor Lewin says we need to change the approach we have been using for the past ten years if we want to get our rates even lower. With HIV in Australia predominately found in gay men, Professor Lewin says the message has to get out to them.

“Gay men are in a very significant high risk group and they should be investing in more aggressive testing,” she says.

“Because once you get tested then you know what your risk is, you can access treatment which reduces your risk of transmission and you can access treatment which reduces your risk of getting sick.”

The Executive Director of the Victorian AIDS council, Matt Dixon went to both the World AIDS Conference and the Global forum on MSM [Men who have Sex with Men]. The Forum is a pre-conference meeting that concentrates on gay men, MSM and trans people.

Dixon agrees with Professor Lewin and believes that we need to focus on assisting those in high risk groups. Rapid testing could be one answer to this issue as it enables people to get a test result in twenty minutes rather than the current two weeks. Though Australia does not have access to it yet, Dixon is hoping this will change soon. “We are hoping to work with the Victorian Government and other partners to do a trial of rapid testing in a community setting,” he says.

One of the things that excited him most about the conference was learning about new prevention developments.

“It was very useful to hear more about PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis) where a person who is HIV negative may take antiretrovirals in order to protect themselves from becoming HIV positive. We are keen that trials of PrEP happen in Australia, so we can work out how it should be used and who it would be most useful for.”

Despite the new research and treatment options, Dixon says that high HIV rates are found in gay men because of the negative impact of restrictive laws and cultures. He believes this can all be changed by non-clinical treatments.

“The answer to HIV lies as much in human rights and equality as it does in vaccines or treatments,” he says.

With the situation in the worst HIV affected nations getting better each day, it may only be a matter of time before we see an AIDS free world.

“We know what to do and now we have to work out how to do it and how to make it sustainable,” Professor Lewin says.

Even in the worst effected nation we are starting to hear some great success stories. Though 80 percent of people living with AIDS are located in Africa, the number of new infections has been reduced by 20 percent and the number of people on treatment has increased. With this kind of news coming from the worst affected country, it would seem we are at the very least, heading in the right direction.

World AIDS Conference 2014 will be held in Melbourne. For more information:

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Queer lives on TV

Packed with a talented cast and recognised for what could be the perfect mix of comedy and drama, the UK television series Lip Service came onto the scene after The L Word left it and has filled the void in many lesbians’ lives. The co-creator Harriet Braun talks to Rachel Barnes about making the series, the difficulty of living up to fans’ expectations, and the show’s uncertain future.

How did it feel to know that you had a lot of the LGBTQ community eagerly waiting for the show and how does it feel to still have the same energy from the show’s fans today?

I think when we were actually making the show, I had to put those expectations out of my mind or I might never have written anything. But then when we were approaching the first episode airing, it did suddenly hit me, and I got very nervous. So I was delighted when so many of the LGBTQ community embraced the show. It’s a wonderful feeling as a writer, to realise you’ve created characters and stories that so many people engage with, and that they’re enduring in peoples’ imaginations.

Is it true that the BBC came to you and asked you to create a UK-based lesbian drama and if so why did they choose you to take on the task?

My first ever film script had lesbian characters in it, and years ago I co-created a series called Attachments that had a lead lesbian character. I was actually asked to do the show by Derek Wax, an executive producer at Kudos, the company who make Lip Service. He’d seen some of my work and realised it was something that might interest me. He’d been talking to Anne Mensah at BBC Scotland, who was also keen on doing a project along those lines. At that time The L Word was just finishing. I was a bit concerned about following in the footsteps of a show virtually every lesbian had seen. I chewed it over for a while and then I thought - why not? There are countless dramas with groups of straight characters, so why not another lesbian show? I also knew this would be set in the UK and come from my imagination, so it was bound to be different. Ultimately it was too good an opportunity to miss out on.

How did you find the cast? Was it a hard process finding people to fill the roles you had in your head?

It was a fairly lengthy process. We were keen to cast people who weren’t already household names, and we auditioned a lot of people for the first series. So yes, it’s a hard process in that it can take a while, but when the right person turns up they tend to really stand out. It pays not be too invested in exactly what a character should be like, because sometimes you realise what you imagined you wanted doesn’t work as well as a different interpretation.

It is almost inevitable for this to happen but how does it feel to be compared to The L Word? Was it a show you were inspired by, or something you wanted to be distanced from?

The L Word paved the way and I was definitely inspired by how real and felt the lesbian relationships depicted were. That blew me away. I always hoped that the two shows could co-exist. That people could enjoy both shows, and that Lip Service would be judged on its own merits, in the same way loads of straight audience members enjoy different dramas with straight characters.

With season one having a good reception, were you nervous about releasing season two or was it a relief to get it out there?

I’d got most of my nerves out the way the first time round, so I was actually much more relaxed this time. I realised that there’s no point in worrying, you can only do your best and then hope it chimes with the audience.

Looking back on the show and after hearing fans’ reactions to the show, is there anything you would go back and change? Any characters you would have make different choices?

I think to be a good writer/producer, you need to listen to your audience and look at what worked well and what worked less well, both in your eyes and in theirs. That said, I try not to dwell on the notion of changing what’s already happened, I tend to use the criticism positively to move forward and incorporate what I’ve learnt in future work.

Is there going to be a third season? If so, is there any inside information you can give us? And if not, is there any chance of a concluding movie or web series in the future?

Understandably people are really keen to know if there’s going to be a third season, but I’m afraid I just don’t know. We’re waiting for the BBC to tell us. Until we know about that I don’t think we can really think about alternative plans.

Finally, if you could date one of the girls in real life who would it be?

All of the characters have a bit of me in them, so I don’t think I’d date any of them as it would be like going out with myself!