Interview: Brooke Lewis Bellas
Photographer: Birdie Thompson
Hair and Makeup: Allison Noelle
Soon to be seen in “The Second Age of Aquarius”, a comedy, with a little bit of a Sci-Fi twist and a lot of music, Brooke Lewis Bellas is a critically acclaimed Actress and Producer. She will be seen portraying the character of ‘Tawny Stevens’, a mom, stuck in the eighties as a New Jersey rocker mom.
Having more than 20 years of experience in the industry, Brooke Lewis Bellas has worked in some highly successful movies and television series, collaborated with some of the utmost renowned personalities such as Mark Ruffalo, Danny Nucci, Joshua Butler, Susan Lanier Bramlett and the talented David Alpay.
She was recently honored with the ‘Best Supporting Actress in a TV Series’ Award at the Northern Virginia International Film Festival for her portrayal of Jules in “Stripped”.
Brooke Lewis Bellas recently caught up with Deception Magazine in order to discuss significant insights into her acting journey, the most memorable moment of her journey according to her and what the fans can expect from her projects in the future!
Hi there! Thank you for joining us on Deception Magazine! What was it exactly that brought you closer to the field of acting?
As long as I can remember, I just knew in my heart I was destined to do something creative and expressive! I think, like many actors who have dealt with challenges in their childhood, I had a void to fill. I knew that I was destined to share my deep emotions and work in entertainment. I was a very emotional child.
I would literally sit in front of the television watching TV for hours, and I would put myself into the television series and talk to the characters, as if I were one of them. Clearly, I was nutty, and I still am! Then, I remember attending my first Broadway Musical, and I was hooked! In addition, I loved to emote and be artistically creative with dancing and music. The Arts truly helped me work through my insecurities and learn to be courageous!
Let’s talk about your upcoming role in the highly-anticipated streaming series “Red Rooms”. How did you initially perceive your character when you first read the script?
Red Rooms is such a unique streaming project, as it was conceived and completed out of “isolation inspiration!” It was also half scripted and half improvised, so we chose to cast actors who we knew could handle the acting challenge. In 2019, creator and director Joshua Butler and I shot a proof of concept for our project, which paid homage to his hugely successful film VLOG (2008) from the producers of SAW, which went on to become a hit TV series.
When COVID-19 hit Hollywood and we were all in isolation, I called for a production meeting, then suggested we use the footage we shot and attempt to experiment by filming each character virtually from their homes. Red Rooms stars horror genre film and TV veterans Brooke Lewis Bellas (iMurders), David Alpay (The Vampire Diaries), Suze Lanier-Bramlett (The Hills Have Eyes), Ricky Dean Logan (Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare), and Noah Blake (Teen Witch).
As an actress (many actors will attest to this), I do not always get to audition for, or act in, roles that excite or inspire me. Part of my goal with this project was to incorporate my vision and Josh’s concept, while offering actors, including myself, the opportunity to choose a character they would be inspired to play, and Josh and I would build around these characters and merge them into Josh’s script. I believe this is what drew us all to this artistic, low-budget piece. Josh and I had many discussions around what he would like to direct me in, creating a more mature, emotional, but less “character-ish” part for me to play.
In 2019, the topic that was everywhere in the media was the Me Too Movement, including an infamous Hollywood case, which inspired me to discuss the possibility of me stepping into the “female producer” version and to see where it would take us! I play Leilah Black, a very successful Hollywood Producer who has sexually assaulted male actors in exchange for roles. I will leave your readers with this for now!
You have over twenty years of experience in the entertainment industry and you have worked in everything from Mystery to Thriller to Comedy and many more. What genre did you have the most fun working in?
You know I am going to say that I had fun in all the genres I have worked in! Again, I am just grateful to be working at the thing I love! That said, my most fun projects and roles have probably fallen into the comedy genre or sub-genre in some way…you know, the fun character actress roles I so love to play! Naturally, a project that I am so proud of, which is also my alter ego, was born out of the horror genre love and fame…Ms. Vampy.
Ms. Vampy is a comedic mobster Brooklyn vampire with a heart of gold, and I have had so much fun with this character over many years. I also love that I was able to create something positive for teenage girls with her, including, not only a streaming series, but authoring my book Ms. Vampy’s Teen Tawk: There’s A Lotta Power In Ya Choices.
Another project and genre that I had a blast working on was the mobster/mafia/crime drama Sinatra Club, a film that I was fortunate to be one of the producers on, and one of the actresses in. This was a project that was a passion project for seven years. I found the script in 2004, we shot the film in 2009 and it was released through several channels in 2011. It was based on a true story about the night John Gotti became John Gotti, and the story of Sal ‘Ubatz’ Polisi.
I got to play Rosella, a comedic mobster gumada, and it was just an incredible experience, with the most amazing actors I could have ever dreamed of working opposite. Last, but not least, I have to shout out to another comedy/drama genre indie gem that I had so much fun working on… the role of Pam De Luca in the film ½ New Year (Amazon Prime). So, you can see that I tend to gravitate toward those comedy genre character roles, where I just think I have done some of my best work. However, the irony is that I love my dark, emotional drama performances I had the opportunity to play in Sprinkles and Psycho Therapy (Amazon Prime) more than anything, and I hope to have a lot more of them in my career.
Out of all the roles you have played, which role was the most challenging one according to you? How did you overcome the problems you faced while portraying that character?
To share some honest “Brooke” stuff with your readers, I have faced a lot of challenges with some challenging roles throughout my career. I am also one of those actors who is insecure, second-guesses herself and her choices, and likes direction! The only way to overcome problems and obstacles is to communicate your needs and face your fears! I have three films that come to mind, with completely different experiences and outcomes. One challenging role was when I played Tammy Hart, the televangelist with a heavy southern accent, in Ford Austin ‘s Dahmer vs. Gacy film.
This was an over-the-top horror/comedy, however, the role I played was intended to be comedic with character authenticity. I remember spending a lot of time working on my dialect (remember, I am a Philly/Jersey gal originally), and rehearsing with my director, Ford Austin, talking through the character and working through different angles of how we would create/layer this role, and have it feel and look incredibly real for a “big” televangelist that we modeled after Tammy Faye Bakker… and, have it still hit the comedic beats onscreen. As professional actors, we do not “play” comedy, we play truth and realness, and hit the comedic beats.
I remember when Ford was directing me, he started feeding me information about world tragedies that brought me to the point of internal sadness with pleading emotion, and that is how we got to that performance, which I feel was very successful in my career. That is a role I am incredibly proud of. Another role in which I faced the most challenges in my acting career, was Lori in iMurders, as I was also an executive producer on this film. This was one of the largest roles I had ever been offered in a respectfully budgeted film, and I was ensemble starring in it with hugely known seasoned actors and was very challenged by my own fears and insecurities.
I played young FBI detective, Lori Romano, opposite veteran great Tony Todd and other actors, including Frank Grillo, Gabrielle Anwar, and Billy Dee Williams, and I allowed my fears and the challenges of this piece behind the scenes to get in the way of my acting. To this day, I question if I was improperly cast in this role and maybe should have chosen a smaller/different role as an EP on the project.
I was trashed in a few film reviews, so naturally it challenged my confidence as an actress, but I picked myself up, kept moving forward, and committed to doing my best to learn from my mistakes. Last, but not least, another role that was incredibly challenging for me as an actress, and that I cherish most, was our short film Sprinkles that Roger A. Scheck wrote and directed for me. It was one of the most internally emotionally challenging roles I have had the gift to play, and one of the roles I am most proud of as an actress. I played Maura who is a high-class hooker and sets out to take revenge on her rapist.
As you can only imagine, it was incredibly challenging to put myself into that truthful set of circumstances and feel what it would be like to be raped. I researched what it was like to be a rape victim and to be sexually assaulted, and it was incredibly challenging for me as a woman. I conquered those challenges, as I, humbly and gratefully, went on to win the most “Best Actress” Awards of any project in my career! You can watch it on Amazon Prime.
Photographer: Birdie Thompson
Hair and Makeup: Allison Noelle
What has been the most memorable moment in your career so far?
Deception Magazine, you cannot ask me these impossible questions! After over 20 years in this business, I am blessed with many memorable moments (positive and negative). As you are conducting this interview, I am in my home looking at my wall at my framed TV Guide. Your mature readers will know what that is. I was in TV Guide back in 2004 when I acted on FOX’s Quintuplets. I played Gina Grazano from Staten Island. It was such a memorable career moment for me.
It was one of those moments when I remember my agent saying, “Okay, I’m trying to get you seen for this role to audition at FOX, and they have so many young actresses auditioning. They’re seeing so-and-so, “big names”. I’m going to keep pushing to get you in.” A couple of weeks later, he calls and says, “They’re not finding what they’re looking for.” So, he got me in for the audition, and it was one of those inspiring moments when it was meant to be, and it was the perfect role for me. They auditioned me, they kept me all day for callbacks and producer sessions, then, they called my agent and told me I booked it! I remember sitting on the FOX Lot.
They had little time, because they were already in rehearsals and behind schedule casting this role, so they whisked me away in a cart on the Lot and took me right to set. It was truly magical! It was something that felt so good and so right. I have had a few moments like that… a really positive one. On a negative note, a memorable experience that still breaks my heart, was right out of college when I auditioned and had a callback for a movie titled 54, based on Studio 54. We are talking A-list: Mike Myers, Salma Hayek, Neve Campbell, and more! Now, this was before Mark Ruffalo and Ryan Phillippe were even known actors. They were just starting out and we were all in that boat together. I was cast as Mark Ruffalo’s girlfriend, Ricko’s girl… I had two scenes with Ruffalo and Phillippe, who are now superstars! We were all coming up and this was a huge booking for me!
Agents and casting were talking about how I was going to be the next Marisa Tomei in My Cousin Vinny, one of my idols! This was another New York little guidette, sassy, great role for me to play. My agent was like, “Your career is about to explode.” The next thing I know, I was on set filming. I had my own trailer and I was hanging out with Mark Ruffalo and Ryan Phillippe, who were both wonderful, personally and professionally. I was on set for a couple of days. I was supposed to be shooting, but everything kept getting pushed behind. They sent me home but brought me back two days later. The next thing I know, they went over budget.
They had to cut out the last five scenes of the film, and two of them were mine! To this day, I get my residual checks. Every time I talk to the acting “higher powers” and I ask, “Please give me a sign that I’m on my path and I’m doing everything I can to be where I’m supposed to be,” I will get a residual check from 54… it truly is spiritually funny! That tells me, in my crazy head, that I am on the right path and sometimes things happen. Things in this business change, and it is okay. It happens to everyone. That was supposed to be my big break, but it is okay, because I have had many little breaks since, and some bigger ones. Most importantly, I never gave up!
NOVA Fest recently held a VIP Private Screening of “Stripped” at their Film & TV Market. You were honored with the ‘Best Supporting Actress in a TV Series’ Award for your role of Jules. Congratulations on that! How did you react when you first read the news?
I am so excited to answer this question, as you are one of the very first media that is getting the word on this! As you know, I am already incredibly proud of our project Stripped that Marc Clebanoff directed, and I am so incredibly honored to have won the ‘Best Supporting Actress in a TV Series’ Award at NOVA Fest. It is such an incredible honor for me as an actress and producer on this project and working as hard as we all did for this passion piece. It feels so incredibly wonderful to be acknowledged for something that you work so hard for, you believe in so deeply, and for a role that I am so proud to have stepped into as a mature, grown-up actress… I am beyond grateful!
To be in a position where Marc Clebanoff wrote this role for me as an actress, and to, hopefully, have delivered what was directed of me, and to receive accolades for it, means the world to me. It validates that I did something well in my acting performance! And, honestly, that is all I ever want to do… be a good actress! And, to know when I am working opposite a star like Caper Van Dien, that I am able to do my part, is just so rewarding!
The funniest part of this is how I reacted! Because we are in the middle of the pandemic, we were not able to fly out to the NOVA Fest Film and TV market, so we attended this beautiful virtual event that was held at this magnificent museum. I would like to thank Fernando A. Mico and his associates for creating such a professional, quality Awards Ceremony event and having us virtually attend.
When they called my name, I was sitting at my computer screen, dressed as if I were there, and just started crying my eyes out! I mean, literally, crying, because it was such a surprising and touching professional honor and gift… especially at this challenging time in our world and in the entertainment industry! I was like a giddy girl, and you better believe when it was over, I celebrated with lots of wine and pizza with my husband! You can watch video of my win here.
How are you managing to maintain your creativity during times like these?
I am so sensitive to this pandemic and challenges in our world right now, I sometimes feel guilty when I share that I have been creatively busy. As an actress, producer, and philanthropist, so much of my “normal” life has been spent working from my home office. Thankfully, I am still able to work and do all my media and press interviews, as I did prior to the pandemic.
But, I so miss my face-to-face creative connections with other people! I am currently in post-production on film and TV projects with various teams for Red Rooms, Stripped, and The Second Age of Aquarius. As we know, a lot has been halted with COVID-19, but we have managed to forge ahead slowly.
I have been watching and voting on a lot of EMMYs content as a Judge for The New York Chapter of The National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (NY NATAS) and for the horrific Shriekfest Film Festival. I have also had some real creative fun appearing on Virtual Horror and Pop-culture Conventions and speaking on Film Festival Film Panels… these have been a wonderful way to connect with my peers. But, for me, there is nothing like in-person energy!
What’s next for you Brooke? Any upcoming projects you would like to hint your fans about?
Oh, I am ready to share beyond hints (wink wink)! You know I love to give my fans some spoiler alerts! I feel so lucky to have acted in, and produced a few projects that wrapped before COVID-19. My Psycho Therapy film director, Staci Layne Wilson, wrote a film with Darren Gordon Smith (Repo! The Genetic Opera). Those two are so talented, and I do not want to give too many spoilers, but it is titled The Second Age of Aquarius. It is a comedy, with a little bit of a Sci-Fi twist and a lot of music.
I am an Executive Producer, and I play Tawny Stevens. She is a mom, stuck in the eighties as a New Jersey rocker mom. Just wait until you see my hair, my make-up, and my leopard pants. I have to shout out to drama/sci-fi/romance The Mourning that I co-produced with writer and director, Marc Clebanoff, as we recently released on Tubi TV and we’re also on Amazon Prime. We filmed in Holland, Michigan, the hometown of our writer and star, Michael Rene Walton.
The town welcomed us like rockstars and this cast and crew formed such an incredible bond on location. I absolutely loved my supporting role of loud-mouth Lisa “Assface”, and getting to work opposite seasoned, talented actors Louis Mandylor, Dominique Swain, Larry Hankin, and more! We also wrapped an amazing TV pilot Stripped. It is a comedy/drama. It is a TV pilot that was written and directed by Marc Clebanoff, who also directed The Mourning. Stripped was a huge passion project.
I was also one of the producers with Marc and Frank Krueger (who also stars in it). I played Jules, the publicist to the star, Chris Cameron, played by Casper Van Dien. It was created by Mark Clebanoff and late actor Kristoff St. John. They had created the concept before he passed on, which is such a sad situation, but Marc wanted to carry on his legacy, and he did, and we did. It is such an incredible cast, crew, and series we are all proud of, and we are negotiating our streaming home as you publish this.
Lastly, I would like to end this interview by asking if you have anything to convey to your fans and supporters?
Gratitude! I am so grateful for sustaining in a crazy, unpredictable business for over 20 years, and having a loyal, supportive fan-base and following that has stayed with me for years, even through the challenging ebbs and flows, and has followed me from genre to genre! I dreamed of being an actress from New York to Hollywood, as a little girl, and I sometimes pinch myself, as I realize I am living my dream and it is real!
My dream may not look exactly as I imagined, and I may not be on a TV series now, but I am here and I am sustaining and I am never quitting this dream. So, in some way, I know I “made it”! I want to thank my fans for all your generous comments on my social media and for your hard copy fans letters I still receive to my PO Box.
I cherish these and save them in my fan chest… and, when I go through my career ebbs, I go back to read them to remind myself how lucky I really am as an actress! Last, but not least, I want to send positive vibes to all the fans for healing and love in this world!
XO Brooke Lewis Bellas