Monique Oberholzer may have a beautiful face, but this up-and-coming actress she doesn’t let her looks define her. In fact, she won’t take a role that doesn’t resonate with her life values, and her admirable acting skills have already earned her several film festival nominations.
The former beauty queen-turned-movie star recently opened up in an exclusive interview with Inquisitr about her experiences with acting, her time spent growing up in Africa, and her new project, the upcoming film Fate, that she not only stars in, but also directs.
You’re a versatile actress and take on powerful roles that some actresses may shy away from. How do you manage to tackle so many different styles of characters in the past? Was it difficult to transition yourself?
“In the beginning of my career I struggled to find that one thing that will connect me with my characters. I believe any actor has had their ‘shy,’ and ‘don’t make a mistake’ moments, but as soon as I realized that it wasn’t about me, it was only my body and soul telling a story of someone else, I realized that the characters I play are not so different from myself.”
“I have had the privilege to study several acting methods to be able to connect with the character and to find the one that speaks to me best. Through these ‘methods’ I was able to bring out that true rawness, and, show the vulnerable side of the character. There was a moment in which I stopped thinking ‘I’m going to be on TV’ and instead I realized that if I see myself on screen, I can actually learn something from myself.
“All the roles that I have taken are not the crazy, lose-your-mind type, but I do pick them in a wide variety and range, I will always believe in challenging myself.
“I did struggle to transition from one character to another, but, with time I came to notice how much easier it gets. Yes, you do have your odd characters that drain everything out of you. But those are the ones I live for, because if you are not physically and emotionally drained after a day of filming, you might want to do it again because you might have not been emotionally committed to your role.”
What do you look for when choosing your next role? What roles are you uninterested in?
“An actor can tell a lot about a character from the script, who he/she is or what their motives are. But for me, when I choose a character I would like to play or write about, I look for something that will move me, someone that has a hidden agenda or meaning. I choose accordingly to the story, the writing, the words and description of the character.
“If I know that it is something I can do and even want to do, I will take on the challenge. The one thing I respect from a writer is if he/she gives you a description of a role and leaves you gasping for air and making you want to explore the role yourself.
“As long as they withhold my values in life I will be willing to play those characters. I believe any actor has a preferred character type they want to play, but I wouldn’t want to limit myself.”
Congratulations on your film, Shameless, and its Honorable Mention at the L.A. Movie Awards! Can you tell the readers more about how it came about, and what it’s like to be behind the scenes as a filmmaker, as well as starring in the film at the same time? There is a powerful message behind the story. Was it a difficult to complete?
“Shameless is a film based on ‘the date-rape drug,’ I wanted to bring awareness to this subject and what the consequences might be if you are not careful. I have been spiked in my life, but was lucky enough to have friends taking care of me. Having the personal experience on what it does, how fast it can happen and how it can affect your life forever as a young woman or man, I felt I needed to tell the audience and show them that it can happen to anyone. The writing of Shameless was a long process, we wanted to keep it short yet have the impact that it deserved.”
“Directing Shameless and also starring in it was at first very challenging, and scary, me trying to juggle everything and taking over. But I soon realized that I had to trust my crew and their abilities or there wouldn’t be a film. The cinematographer, Eduardo Hidalgo, knew exactly what I wanted: the feel, the look of the film. At the end he delivered exactly that. Alonso Grandio, my fellow lead actor, was always on point and delivered more than I could ask for, so much so that he got nominated for best acting based on what he brought to the film.
“I believe any director, writer and sometimes actor goes through various stages when starting and completing a film. You will be excited at first, then the fear of ‘are we going to finish on time’ kicks in. You then start questioning everything, your acting ability, your props, location, story, even the craft services (food). It does get difficult at times, but as soon as you look back at the footage, or a shot that you just did, or even watching the first cut, then it’s all worth it.”
Another congratulations is in order for Fate and its upcoming International theatrical release! What was it about this particular character that drew you in and made you accept this role? Can you give us a little background about the film and what issues are going on?
“Fate. What a character! I originally auditioned for a supporting role in this feature film, but after several callbacks the director Admir called me in. He had me reading for every character in the script, even the male characters. My first thought was that I blew him away, but, after script six I really thought he just liked my reading abilities. At the end of the day he explained to me that I was to be cast as the ‘young Grace.’ He also explained that he would need to rewrite the script to put young Grace in.”
“After reading the final script I knew that, that character was going to be my playground. Grace is a teen who got pregnant in the early ’80s. Cast away by her family and society she soon realizes that she cannot carry on living the way she has, and decides to leave her son. Fate is a film that has multiple story-lines within, every character has his/ her own past, present and future and all of them cross paths with one another.
“Grace is a very complex character, being a teen while at the same time having the responsibilities of an adult, gave me the freedom to go wild. She will scream and shout like a teenager not getting her way, cutting to the next scene where she is giving birth, there was no limit. In my opinion the main focus points on Fate is abandonment and belief.”
How did you get into acting and film making?
“I started doing acting just for the fun of it, I loved being on stage and so theater became the next best thing. I studied in South Africa for three years, where I performed in musicals and plays. Where I’m from, filming and acting was not really considered a job, so I auditioned to go study in New York for a year, just to get a feel for it. I fell in love with the idea of a film and how much more there is to do, than just what you see on screen.
“I received my BFA for acting in L.A. and started to work in the industry, but I soon realized that you can’t sit around and wait for things to come your way, you have to make it happen. I started writing my own scripts, Shameless being one of my first. Although I’ve choreographed theater productions before, I didn’t think I would like directing at first, until I got a taste for it that is, and now, I’m hooked.”
You’re also an advocate for animals and children, which I personally find admirable. What kinds of charities are you involved in back home in Africa?
“On charities I work hand-in-hand with a company called Spectrum Marketing based in Potchefstroom, South Africa. Most of their donations go to starving children, protecting the wild life, and education. We incorporate dancing and singing shows for unprivileged workers, teaching them about safety, protection, and work ethics.
“Being in L.A. most of my time, I unfortunately can’t participate in these shows or events all the time, but, I do try to bring awareness to it, one of the ways I helped last year was competing in the Queen of the Universe 2015 charity event.”
What was it like growing up in Africa, and how has your unique experience shaped you into being a humanitarian for those in need?
“South Africa is a multicultural country, full of richness and beauty. The people are humble and friendly and I am brought up in a household where respect to elders and respect to one another is very important, working hard and valuing little things in life. South Africa has more than 12 languages and even more cultures, but I think the thing that makes our country so special is our faith.
“Faith in whatever your beliefs are, faith in yourself and one another. If we can have faith and believe, we can help and show others that one small act of kindness can make a big difference in someone’s life.”
Aside from the Fate release, what else is in store for you in the future? Any upcoming roles that you can share?
“I’m currently busy writing my independent feature film, a psychological thriller (Taita), which we would like to start shooting in November, 2016. In 2017, we are planning to shoot a comedy feature film in both L.A. and South Africa, exploring the different ways of life across the ocean.
“Later this year, Alonso and I would like to focus a lot on our production company (M&A productions) so we can start shooting various projects, not just our own films, but, also any projects brought to us by directors, writers, or actors, who have an idea but no one to help them.”
To connect with Monique and learn more about her films, including upcoming work, visit her official Facebook page.
[Photo by Fay Ftouni Photography]