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Najarra Townsend interview

Date of publishing: 5th May 2008

Najarra Townsend interview Dedicated to acting as a craft, driven by a passion for artistry, Najarra Townsend is on a career path that couldn't be further from Hollywood starlets that are the stuff of tawdry tabloids. Natural, gifted and most of all, very real, Najarra aspires to greatness on film, the stage or in the recording studio. This young woman from Southern California is making her mark with every challenge and will soon be seen in a number of fall releases, including a lead role in "Strange Angel," which has premiered at the Ojai Film Festival in October 2007. Born and raised in Santa Barbara, Najarra was a child model as a toddler, also performing on stage in local productions, and before her teens was earning acclaim for a sophistication beyond her years. At ten, she made her big screen debut in the suspense/horror film "Menace" followed by other movies, including the probing drama "Cut." In her early teens, Najarra appeared in various stage productions as well, from musicals to dramas while studying with the LA Talent Academy at the Musicians Institute, performing with "LA Hip Kids" production company and also pursuing her musical heart with her own group, Flavor. Najarra's performance in the Sundance and Cannes-winning "Me and You and Everyone We Know" in 2005 drew international acclaim. The LA Weekly named her role as one of the Top 10 Great Small Performances for "frankness, innocence, snarky humor, vulnerability and girl-power defiance". Najarra has also appeared in many notable short films, including "Secrets," which recently won best drama at the Hollywood Digital Film Festival and Antonio Rivero's "Electronica," screened at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival. Upcoming projects for Najarra include lead roles in "Tru Loved" as the title character, the mystical adventure "Dreams Awake," the stark social commentary of "Life Without a Modem", the ensemble piece "President's Hotel" and the thriller "Darkness Visible" opposite Sean Young.

Read more about Najarra on her official websites:
www.najarra.com / www.najarratownsend.com
This interview has been conducted late 2007.


Najarra Townsend interviewGilles Nuytens: Okay, first of all, I’m interested by the number of movies you’ve done this year. I’ve counted nine on your filmography. How do you manage your time this year with all of this work?
Najarra Townsend: I don’t even know. I just do it somehow. I guess I schedule things well. But I’m working constantly. I never stopped working. I love it.

Gilles Nuytens: How do you manage to get so many roles this year? It’s a lot of work. It’s quite impressive to see someone in so many, many movies in only one year. It’s like one movie a month.
Najarra Townsend: I guess it kind of is, isn’t it? I don’t know. I guess I’m just working really hard. It’s good. I love it. It’s fun.

Gilles Nuytens: Did you get all of your roles by auditioning, or did you get any roles by simply knowing people, or someone offered you the roles? How did you get your present roles this year?
Najarra Townsend: Most of them were just through auditions. There were one or two that I had worked with the people before, so they just brought me on again. But again, most of them were auditions.

Gilles Nuytens: Which of the roles you’re doing presently had the most impact on you and your career?
Najarra Townsend: Most impact, I would say Tru Loved. That’s a film I just completed and I’m actually just about to see it, which is really exciting. But it definitely had an impact on me. It changed me--for the better, definitely. I had an amazing time and I learned a lot on that set, so it was good. It’s one of my favorite films ever.

Gilles Nuytens: Can you speak any bit about the role you played in this movie?
Najarra Townsend: Yeah! Tru Loved. It is about a teenage girl named Tru who moves from San Francisco with her two moms to a conservative, subburbany area and it’s just her dealing with the discrimination she gets because her two parents are gay. She goes to the Gay-Straight Alliance. She’s really just trying to raise awareness throughout her school and let people know that it’s okay to be gay or lesbian, and you can have a support group about it, and you can be open. It’s just a really, really good film with a really good message. And I play Tru, Tru of Tru Loved. So, it’s awesome. It comes out the beginning of next year, I believe. Watch out for it!

Najarra Townsend interviewGilles Nuytens: I think you’re shooting another movie right now. Is that a movie called Darkness Visible (note: the title has changed to "Haunted Echoes")? And what is it about?
Najarra Townsend: Darkness Visible I just completed. It’s a ghost story about a husband and wife who lose their daughter. Their daughter is murdered. They move to a new house and they believe it is haunted by their daughter. It’s a very, very well-written script. It’s very creepy and good.

Gilles Nuytens: And what is your role on that? Which character do you play?
Najarra Townsend: I play Julie. She’s the next door neighbor and she knows the previous neighbors who lived in the house. She talks about them and how creepy they were. I just play the creepy next door neighbor.

Gilles Nuytens: Do you like fantasy movies or more genre movies?
Najarra Townsend: I love dramas. I love psychological films, thrillers. Horror movies are always fun. I would probably say drama and thrillers.

Gilles Nuytens: I also see you play in a movie called Dreams Awake. What can you say about this movie?
Najarra Townsend: Dreams Awake is a very spiritual film. It’s about a family and this journey that they go through, that the mom is going through. Emotional breakdown and mental breakdown. We go on a vacation to Mount Shasta—which is where we filmed the film--and it’s just really a film about spiritual awaking. It’s a very interesting and good film.

Gilles Nuytens: You also have been a singer, writer, and a model. You’ve been involved in every aspect of the business. What aspect of each of these jobs do you prefer? What aspect of being a singer do you like? What aspect of being a model do you like?
Najarra Townsend: I love song writing. I love being able to get your feelings out on paper and putting it into a song. I think that’s just an amazing thing to do. With modeling, I love photography. I love taking pictures. I love art. So I love to see if it’s possible in a photo shoot. And acting, well, I love being in front of a camera. I love everything about it. It’s like therapy. It’s definitely my favorite thing to do ever.

Gilles Nuytens: You've done some writing. Can you speak a bit about your interest in writing?
Najarra Townsend: Mainly I just do song writing. It’s a good release. It’s a great way to get your feelings out on paper. I love it. It can definitely be hard because you’re sharing a part of yourself with people. So, sometimes it’s hard to actually let people listen to your music, but I love it. It’s good.

Gilles Nuytens: You started to learn acting by watching Peter Pan. Is that true?
Najarra Townsend: I did see Peter Pan. I saw Peter Pan when I was three at our local theatre company, the Santa Barbara Civic Light Opera. I just fell in love with it. I wanted to do it. I was like, “Oh my gosh! I need to be on stage and need to do be doing that!”

Gilles Nuytens: What do you think about choosing your career when you were three?
Najarra Townsend: I never thought about anything else. It wasn’t even that I chose it; it was this is what I’m going to do, this is what I have to do. I adore it so much. I think I made a conscious decision of it when I was seven. I was like, “yeah, I’ve been doing this for years now and it’s all that I want to do.” But at three, it was just a necessity; I just had to be doing it.

Gilles Nuytens: I read in a previous interview that your mother was not involved in the cinema business. So I’m wondering, how did you, being so young, how did your mother help you in becoming an actress?
Najarra Townsend: She was very supportive. She never pushed me to doing anything and always made sure that I wanted to do it. Just very, very supportive. She was willing to drive me anywhere. She was out of the way, but made sure everything was okay. Without her, I definitely couldn’t have done anything that I’ve done, so I am very thankful to her.

Gilles Nuytens: I read on your website that you have a lead role in a movie called Strange Angel, but I haven’t found a lot of information about this movie, just the teaser on your MySpace page. Can you speak about your involvement in this movie?
Najarra Townsend: Strange Angel was an independent film I did at the beginning of the year. It’s an amazing, amazing script and one of the best scripts that I’ve read in a really long time. It is about a stalker, but I don’t want to call it “stalking” because it’s more like just people watching. It’s a very interesting, very psychological film. I was the girl being stalked and my character had a lot of emotional problems. It was a really good role to do. It was kind of emotionally draining, but it was definitely fun.

Gilles Nuytens: Generally, before playing a character, how do you prepare yourself mentally to be in the role?
Najarra Townsend: I usually just make sure I have all my facts fully straight. I make sure that I know my character’s life and what they’ve gone through. If I’m dealing with a problem in a film, like say I have an eating disorder, or I have some kind of other disorder, I will research it and try my best to understand it and experience it without actually doing it. I just make sure that I know all the details that I need to know and make sure I bring a little of myself into the character, so I can be the person.

Gilles Nuytens: I haven’t seen in your biography any directing. So you do a lot of acting, writing, singing, but not yet directing. Is that something you’d be interested in the future to try to do?
Najarra Townsend: I don’t think that I am ever going to be that interested in it. It’s a completely different side of the business. I don’t see myself doing it, but maybe in the future something will change, and I’ll be like, “Yes! I want to direct!” But as of right now I’m happy acting.

Gilles Nuytens: If you were given the opportunity to play a character of your choice in the movie of your choice, what would you choose to play?
Najarra Townsend: Oh wow. I haven’t thought about that. Really, I haven’t thought about a certain character I’d want to play. I know I want to do films that mean a lot to me and have messages that I support. I definitely want to do films that are important to me, but I haven’t thought about a certain character that I’d want to play. That’s interesting, I should.

Gilles Nuytens: What was the most challenging part of a scene you had to do for a movie?
Najarra Townsend: Ooh, that’s good. Most challenging? I mean, so many roles are so challenging in different ways. I had to play characters that are suicidal before and that can get really challenging to put yourself in that mindset. It’s an amazing experience going through things like that. My character in Strange Angel tries to commit suicide at the beginning of the film. That was definitely a challenge getting myself there.

Gilles Nuytens: Would you be interested in playing in TV shows? I see on your filmography you played mostly on movies or TV movies, but I don’t see TV shows, so is that something you’d be interested in doing?
Najarra Townsend: Yeah! Definitely! If the right TV show came along I would love to do that. I’ve just been so focused on film, but I haven’t actually given it much thought. I am definitely open to it, of course.

Gilles Nuytens: Do you watch a lot of TV shows, or is there a TV show you’d be interested in to be part of?
Najarra Townsend: I don’t watch that much TV, but there are so many good shows out there. I’ve heard a lot about Heroes. I think Heroes is a great show. And 24. And I love HBO and Showtime. I’d totally love and support those networks. But I haven’t given that much thought to exactly what show.

Gilles Nuytens: Heroes, yeah. Most of the actors I’ve asked this question reply Heroes. I love Heroes, too.
Najarra Townsend: That’s good!

Gilles Nuytens: What can we expect from you in the next year? What are your future projects?
Najarra Townsend: I have lots of different things coming out next year. I’m way excited for next year. I recently just finished a movie called We Are the Mods. It’s all about the Mod scene and Mod culture and it’s very fashion driven. So that should be a really, really fun film. And I’m just about to start filming a film called Marin Blue and that should be coming out at the end of next year. That’s exciting, too. I have lots of things coming out. It’s going to be a really exciting year.

Gilles Nuytens: What so far in your career are you the most proud of?
Najarra Townsend: I’m really the most proud of Tru Loved. I’m definitely extremely proud and excited for that film. It was one of the most amazing experiences and has such a good cast, such a good crew, and an amazing script that left a good message. I’m very proud of that film.

Gilles Nuytens: In general, what makes you choose a role? What do you like?
Najarra Townsend: The script has a lot to do with it, of course. The first time I read a script, if it feels right then that’s awesome. That’s how I know I want to do it, really. I have to be able to see myself in the role, be able to know that I can do it. It just has to feel right. I’m big on having things feel right. So if it feels good, I’m all for it.

Gilles Nuytens: Are you satisifed with your career so far? If you were to change something, what would you change?
Najarra Townsend: You know, I really wouldn’t change anything. Definitely not so far, I wouldn’t change anything. I’m very, very happy. I’m thrilled with where I am. I feel so lucky, so I wouldn’t change a thing. I just enjoy every minute of it.

Gilles Nuytens: I read that you are going to get your driver’s license for your birthday next month. Is that still current?
Najarra Townsend: Yeah! You know, I’m thinking about it. I’m not the best driver, but I’m going to try to get it. It’s kind of scary and it’s a very big responsibility. It’s like the last step of being an adult. Like I’m going to drive, you know? It can be scary, but I’m excited. I think I’m going to try to get my driver’s license for my eighteenth birthday, oh goodness!

Gilles Nuytens: Is there anything to add or say about a movie or anything you’d like people to know about you?
Najarra Townsend: Goodness! I don’t know. I think you covered a lot. I’d just say that look out for the films we talked about. You covered a good amount of stuff.

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© 2007-2008 - Interview by Gilles Nuytens
Transcript by Jennifer Redelle Carey
© Photos are courtesy of Najarra Townsend


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