How did you get into acting/what made you want to be an actor?
I always had an affinity for performing when I was younger. I’ve also been a huge fan of film throughout my entire life. I recall some of my fondest memories staying up late watching movies with my father. Usually, stuff mom would never approve of haha. When I was a child, my parents had me play all the sports (I suppose to keep me out of trouble and focused) and I eventually settled on figure skating. In hindsight I realized that I enjoyed getting out on the ice and putting on a show for the audience.
Years later, in college, I took a theatre class which I LOVED. The teacher mentioned that I should pursue a career in it, but when you’re from the midwest of the US, you don’t even think of a career in entertainment as a possibility. After I finished studying at the University of Delaware, I had a stint in the restaurant business. Unfortunately, that ended badly for me… but it brought me to a fork in the road of life. I decided if I was going to have to completely start over, I was going to do the thing I wanted to do most. Two months after my diner closed, I went back to school to study Acting for Film at the New York Film Academy.
What was the first tv show/film you appeared in?
My first mainstream film appearance was as “Ivan” in “John Wick”. Prior to that film, I had done a plethora of independent projects, including some that I produced myself.
What was your favourite tv show/film that you appeared in?
To be honest, I’ve really enjoyed every project I’ve worked on. Equalizer 2 was a huge step for me and it was the longest I ever spent on-set. I enjoyed every second of it. Working with Antoine Fuqua and Denzel Washington was a literal dream come true.
Is there any particular show or film, that you’ve not yet been in you’d like a role in?
Hands down… 007.
You’re Ari in the new Equalizer 2 film. I have to ask, what was it like working with Denzel Washington?
Denzel Washington is arguably one of the best actors on the face of the earth. He’s a force of nature and so incredibly focused. There is no slacking when working with him. You have to bring your A-game. Working with a legend like that just forces you to be the best you can be. I’m forever grateful that I was given the opportunity.
You’ve made a film about a boxer that develops lupus ‘Standing Eight’ what made you want to make the film?
“Standing Eight” is an award winning short film about a professional boxer who is forced to retire after being diagnosed with Lupus. The idea for “Standing Eight” developed from my production team wanting to do a small project together. My mother has SLE and has been fighting it since before I was born. I witnessed her battle the disease for as long as I can remember. I boxed competitively as an amateur in my 20’s but had yet to be cast as a boxer which I found frustrating from a professional standpoint. We decided that we wanted to do something that would carry some weight and combined two aspects of my life to create a project that was deeply personal.
Why did you decide to make the main character in Standing Eight a male?
Having witnessed my mother’s journey as a lupus warrior I figured I would be the best fit to play a character afflicted with the disease. Also, only about 10% of those affected by lupus are males and there is literally nothing out there for them. The journey is hard but particularly for men. For this project specifically, it just made sense across the board.
Will we be able to see ‘Standing Eight’ in the UK?
I will be releasing the film on Amazon for rent and purchase in the US in Nov 2018, but I have to look into availability via the different international regions.
You’re now very involved in trying to raise lupus awareness, what motivates you to do that?
My mother is my motivation. She’s had lupus since before I was born. My earliest memory is actually asking my father where she was while she was hospitalized. Growing up, I didn’t really realize that our family’s lifestyle wasn’t “normal”. The constant hospital visits, the chemotherapy.
My father is her rock. He has been there for her through everything. I’ve never met a man as loyal and supportive as him. They bicker as any couple does, but when all is said and done, they have a deep bond. When you meet my parents, you realize quickly that they were meant to be together.
As I got older and more mature, I realized how challenging any activity was for my mother. When I was in college, I wrote a paper on Lupus and that was really an eye opener. The more I learned about the disease from a scientific standpoint I realized exactly what was happened to my mother’s body.
Fundraising for “Standing Eight” was really a turning point for me. After meeting other lupies and seeing how the disease affected their lives, I knew we made the right decision. The lupus community needs strong voices with mainstream appeal to raise awareness. I feel like this film is a step in the right direction. A small step, but still a step.
What are your ambitions as far as lupus is concerned?
I want the general population to immediately understand the ramifications of the disease. I feel an effective way to do that is through film as a medium. Using lupus as a plot device will answer questions, but also raise questions in the audience’s mind. The end goal is increased lupus awareness. Increased awareness means increased funding which means increased money for research and God-willing… a cure.
What are your professional ambitions?
Currently, I’m working on a feature length film with many of the same elements as “Standing Eight” titled “Clinch”. I’m working hard on seeing this project come to life because I think it’s crucial to bring the affects of SLE into the mainstream conversation. Outside of that project, I’ve written numerous other feature length films. My goal is to create enough name recognition that I am able to see those films come to life.
A huge thank you to Kazy for agreeing to be interviewed and for heading up this years Lupus Awareness Month Campaign for us.