Whenever I get to meet or talk to an up-and-coming talent in the entertainment industry, I always try to find that moment in their work. You know, that moment when you first started to remember their name or you recognized them by just their voice. Often that moment comes as a show-stealing supporting character or, and this is what I find more often, they get to really flex some acting muscle in a well produced indie flick.
Regarding our next guest to the interview sofa, I feel the latter is where you’ll find her mainstream milestone. You may know her from roles on shows like Once Upon a Time or Hemlock Grove, but if she’s not already on your radar, her work in the recently released No Way to Live will definitely add her to your celebrity vocabulary.
Freya Tingley plays Nora, who’s navigating interracial love in the 1950s American Southland while also mixing in a touch of Bonnie and Clyde in this part crime-drama part thriller. But if you can’t wait for No Way to Live to get aquatinted with Miss Tingley, then let us handle the introductions. Here’s my chat with the very sweet, very talented Freya Tingley.
onFiction: If you don’t mind starting at the beginning, what was it that gave you the acting bug?
Freya Tingley: I took a commercial acting class when I was fourteen that was encouraged to me through a modeling agency, and it was from that day forth I thought, “Wow, I really like this.” I’d done some theater before that, some drama classes that were more theater based, and so when I did a commercial workshop in front of the camera it was very different, I thought, and that’s what I gravitated towards.
oF: A big project out for you right now is No Way to Live where you’re playing Nora. What kind of character is she in the film?
FT: She is a southern belle type of girl. Sweet, innocent and basically taking on the stereotypical housewife sort of role.
oF: As the performer, what did you do to get into the right headspace for Nora?
FT: To me it was about really understanding her motivations, what’s the driving force behind why she does what she does. So I read a lot of books about those sorts of characters and watched films, a lot of noirs that had femme fatales, and drew inspiration from that.
oF: There’s always challenges, what were some of the obstacles when working her out?
FT: Probably her emotional level was the hardest to me. Because she is multi-faceted and she’s a bit of a dichotomy, it was trying to figure out the two sides of her and really delve into that.
oF: As you worked that out, what did you learn about her?
FT: Basically just understanding that everything she does comes from a place of what’s best for her survival, and a real struggle for survival, a desperation for survival and going to any length to attain that. That’s what I learned.
oF: No Way to Live has some powerful subject matter that is still very relevant today. What do you draw from when depicting such a controversial era?
FT: Being from Australia it’s very different because we don’t have that same history, so for me I didn’t have anything personally to draw upon. But I have enough information and enough education to know what happened here in America. And I didn’t have to think about it too much. It does play into the story, but I really only think about what my character is concentrating on.
oF: What’s the feeling like between takes when you’re shooting the more intense and charged scenes? Does it help if someone’s cracking jokes or do you stay in the moment?
FT: I’m very much the kind of actor, I click into character and when I’m in character I’m fully there, and when I’m not playing the character I’m fully myself. I don’t need too much time to sit there and ponder what we’re about to do. I do a lot of preparation in advance so when I get to the set I can just go in and out.
oF: So no method acting for you?
FT: No, I’m very anti-method [lots of laughing]
oF: Jumping back a bit, what were your goals for Nora based on first reading the script and how did that change once you started shooting?
FT: I read the script about four years ago, by that point I’d been living in L.A. for three years, and I immediately gravitated toward the material and really interesting characters. When I first read No Way to Live I couldn’t believe it, it was the best script I’d read in three years of being in L.A. I had to play Nora. I decided I had to play her, I had to be her.
So I read the script a few times before the audition, really made sure that I fully understood where she was at emotionally and her motivations. I don’t think too much changed between when I first read the script and when I was cast about a year later. Everything that’s still on the page is still the same. Right before shooting I tried to acquire as much information, in addition to what I’d previously researched, but nothing much changed. In the script the character was originally written as a blond, so I went and bought a blond wig for the audition. But then when I sat down with the directors once I was cast they said, “No, just keep your natural brown hair.”
oF: On something like this where scripted elements are very specific, do you get a little room to improvise or to push the character in different directions than what was on the page?
FT: David [Guglielmo] and Nick [Chakwin], the directors, are amazing writers. They’re such incredible writers. Their dialogue has a real flow and a real rhythm to it that when you have the right actor speaking those lines it has a beautiful way about it. I never felt like I should change a line or anything, I loved the dialogue, I think it’s amazing.
oF: When you’re working on a film like No Way to Live, which will reach most of its viewers digitally, does that type of distribution change anything about how it’s being made?
FT: No, it’s very much the same. As you’re making the film you’re not really thinking about, in advance, where it’s going to end up. You just concentrate on making the movie and it’s not until after you wrap that you’re like, “OK, what are we gonna do with this movie now?”
oF: You’re coming up in a era where social media and fan accessibility is almost part of the job. How have those types of interactions impacted you and your work?
FT: I think I got the biggest part of my fan base from doing Once Upon a Time. By the time I had come onboard there were so many fans engaging with the show and the actors already. So when I became an addition, some came onboard and decided to follow me.
oF: You’ve already performed everything from the dramatic to the supernatural, is there a type of material that’s your favorite?
FT: I don’t have a type of material that’s my favorite. I don’t even have a type of character that’s my favorite because I really love movies. I love all genres and all time periods. So really what I look for when I want to do a script or want to do a movie, I’m looking for really great writing. But it could be any genre. Yeah, I just look for really great writing that has interesting characters and a great story.
oF: You mentioned writing when picking a project and the writing on No Way to Live, do you maybe want to do some of that writing in the future?
FT: I did write a script last year, actually. But it’s not something I’m concentrating too much on right now because I just love acting and that’s my focus. But I think eventually, down the line, I really would love to delve in and direct something that I’ve written.
I’ve learned a lot in the past year about how directing is such a visual art form and I love painting. I paint a lot and I’ve learned that each frame of a movie is not unlike a painting where you think about composition and lighting and the colors and how best to communicate what you’re trying to say through those different aspects.
oF: Besides in No Way to Live, where else can fans see you that you’re allowed to tell us about?
FT: I have a small role in a movie called Spinning Man staring Guy Pearce and Pierce Brosnan. I did get to work with Guy Pearce, who’s also a fellow Australian. He’s a really great guy.
oF: Throughout all the interviews and media coverage, is there anything you didn’t get to talk about that fans might want to hear?
FT: Probably that I’m just really excited for people to see No Way to Live. You see so many movies on Netflix, indie films, that are being made and they just churn them out – there are some really great ones and some not so great ones – but what I think is different about No Way to Live is that David and Nick are people that really bring a vision to their movies. They really know what they want, they know what they want to say, and they really are highly skilled at what they do and know how best to communicate that. And also they’re really smart, there’s so many layers to No Way to Live beyond just the surface of what you see. It’s a movie for all people to watch and enjoy. It really takes you on an adventure. I really think it’s something that, when it is on Netflix one day, people will click on when they’re scrolling on a Friday night and click it, watch it and really, really enjoy it.
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