Women are also sorely underrepresented in the world of screenwriting and producing, and accounted for only 10% of writers and 15% of executive producers in 2013, so there is a lack of strong female voices in the vast majority of screenplays being produced.
I had the privilege to interview Natalie Faye actress, writer, and producer from Singapore. She graduated in acting from Lasalle College of the Arts (in Singapore) and from the method acting conservatory at Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute. She also studied English and Creative Writing at Harvard University. Currently she is the Creative Director and Co-Founder of Lickety Split Productions in NYC and dedicated to diversity, equal opportunity, and women in film and television.
What inspired you to become an actress?
I started acting at a pretty young age, appearing on Disney Club Singapore as a child and performing in school plays. But I wasn’t a hundred percent sure it was something I wanted to make a career of. Growing up, I went through phases of wanting to be an author, geologist, paleontologist, fashion designer, pilot and astronaut. But when I was 16, I tagged along with one of my friends to an audition for the Singapore Repertory Theatre. I guess I wound up auditioning by accident but got into the company, and that was that. I’ve been acting professionally since then. There was never just one moment that inspired me to act but I’ve always loved escaping into other worlds – be it through acting or writing.
With your production company Lickety Split, you support diversity, equal opportunity, and women in film and television. Can you share why this is so important and what issues you have come across yourself as an actress?
I think every actress in America can relate to being sent a casting breakdown, and seeing that all the plum roles are for men, while the female leads are one dimensional stock characters described merely as ‘the girlfriend’, ‘the love interest’, or the ‘femme fatale’. Their roles are defined in relation to the male characters instead of being independently fleshed out. Of course, this is not the case with every production but it happens more often than not. Women are also sorely underrepresented in the world of screenwriting and producing, and accounted for only 10% of writers and 15% of executive producers in 2013, so there is a lack of strong female voices in the vast majority of screenplays being produced.
If you are a minority actor, you also face the issue of being cast as a token representation instead of being offered the part simply because you were the best. There are casting breakdowns that specify each character’s race, even when it has no bearing on the story or the actual role. Many minority actors get stuck with parts that are defined almost entirely by stereotypes of their ethnicity or sexual orientation, and in comedy, this is even used as the butt of jokes. I co-founded Lickety Split Productions to work on inclusive projects with diverse casts that more accurately reflect the American landscape we live in.
What are the benefits and problems of being typecast?
Back in Singapore, I went through a period of being typecast as a melodramatic, emotional type on television, and for a while, all I was getting were tragic parts that required me to break down in every other scene. I enjoyed some of them but ultimately, I wanted more variety in my work and I had a hard time getting seen by casting directors for comedies – I was only being called in for the tragic roles. Eventually, I was cast in a few sitcoms but it took a lot of work to be viewed as a comedic actress as well. Typecasting is one of the realities of the industry and it’s something that works both for and against you. On the one hand, being viewed as a certain ‘type’ by casting offices and directors presents you with a strong identity you can book roles with. On the other hand, as an actor, you’re inherently aware that you have a broader range and more to offer than that. In the past year, I’ve been cast in a slew of quirky bohemian roles, which were fun to play and probably close in spirit to who I am. But recently, I played a criminally insane mastermind in Three Blind Mice, which was very different. I’ve also just been cast as a nerdy video game designer in an upcoming film, Princess Simulator. Getting to branch out is amazing and it feels like I get to stretch my legs a little bit.
Can you tell us something about your upcoming projects and your comedy pilot, The Loft?
The Loft is about a seemingly wholesome girl from Ohio who moves to New York City. After falling prey to a classic bait and switch Craigslist scam, she winds up living in an illegal dump of a loft apartment with three roommates from hell. As the show goes on, we find out that she’s not at all what she seems. It’s a bit of a mystery that gets unravelled! I play one of the crazy roommates – Rosalie, a kleptomaniacal hippie in an open relationship. Aside from The Loft, I’ve also been working on a few other projects – Oranges in the Lemon Grove, a multi-platform production focusing on the themes of cultural alienation and dissonance, a stage adaptation of Dorian Gray, in which I play Sibyl, and The Fame Game, a feature film about the girlfriends of a rock band on the rise, who use social media to catapult themselves to Internet celebrity status.
What accomplishments are you most proud of?
I love being at a stage where I’m comfortable feeding my need to create my own original work while juggling an acting career. The Loft was the first project I created, wrote, and produced, and I have several others in the works.
I’ve also had black thumbs my entire life. Every plant entrusted to my care dies a horrible death. I’ve killed three cacti. So, I’m very proud to announce that a spider plant in my living room is still alive after six months. A friend of mine claims they’re practically impossible to kill, but people say the same about cacti, so we’ll have to see…
Do you have any advice for readers who want to enter the profession of acting?
I’m kidding. Sort of. Have the hide of a rhinoceros. Without a thick skin, the capacity to handle rejection, and the ability to laugh at your own flaws and insecurities, the industry can be a brutal place.