You may have seen Alexander Bedria on “The Maeyans” or the hit sh onovan”. He has also written and directed the feature film “The Zim” that tells the story of a farmer struggling to protect his home and loved ones amidst the violent turmoil of the Zimbabwean land seizures. Today we talk to him about his career and also about mental health in the entertainment industry.
That’s My Entertainment (TME): Hi Alexander. Thank you for taking the time to speak with me today.
Alexander Bedria (AB): Of course. Nice to meet you.
TME: So let me ask you, I know a lot of actors when we first start, we have difficulty with getting paid jobs. How long did it take you to get your first paid gig?
AB: Oh wow! I want to say my first paid gig was when I was 19. I was still in college doing theater and I think it might have been an industrial for a supermarket in Florida where you do these training videos where you’re the person demonstrating how to check groceries out of the checkout line and you do a good version and a bad version. I seem to remember that being my first paid acting gig. I can’t how long it took it might have been like from when I started acting in college it might have been like a couple of months to a year before that landed.
TME: What has been your most challenging role to date?
AB: Let me think… I would say probably the role that I played in “The Zim”, the short film that I had written and directed because I had to wear a lot of hats you know writing and directing while acting and also playing a character who had a distinctly foreign and completely different accent and ways of speaking than I did so I think all of those challenges combined to make a higher degree of difficulty.
TME: “The Zim” was based on a true story right?
AB: It was inspired by a group of different true stories that we combined to create a fictional one.
TME And how was directing? This was your first right?
A B: This was the first time directing at that scale. Yeah, I’ve done a few small things; directing little scenes and experimental shorts but that was sort of my official directorial debut you could say because I had a real crew and full cast and it was though SAG (Screen Actors Guild). It was the first real proper directing job I’ve had.
TME: Would you do it again?
AB: 100% It stoked in me what I suspected was already there which was a desire to shepherd stories in that way. I’ve just been chomping at the bit for the opportunity to do it again.
TME: So what is the biggest life lesson that you feel you have learned while being an actor?
AB: That vulnerability is our true strength.
TME: …which we sometimes think is our biggest weakness.
AB: Absolutely and I can speak to growing in America in our culture as a man of mixed ethnicity, coming from two different cultures then growing up in American culture often for young men we were taught to be masculine and to be strong is to be stoic. It’s to not show emotion. It’s to not reveal vulnerability it’s because vulnerability is weakness. As I’ve gotten older and immersed in my craft as a young man it’s become apparent to me that it’s just not true. It took real strength and courage for people to allow themselves to be vulnerable
And it was a lesson I learned in my work, but ultimately translated into life Often I find as artists, actors specifically, often the lessons that we learn that are fruitful for our craft are wonderful lessons to learn in life as well.
TME: Yeah I’ve gotten into a lot of different types of culture movies and TV because showing men at various levels and stages; even crying to me was much more authentic and I tend to enjoy that more than seeing a man that has to be masculine.
AB: You know I agree with you. I have a theory about that. I think that with a lot of the prominent leading men of the last 40 years often what seems to draw people to these iconic actors seemingly is their strength and their power but I think about Denzel, I think about yes he can certainly be powerful on screen and certainly intimidating but the moments that people seem to connect to are the moments of vulnerability.that he’s had. Even in most powerful strong roles. In Training Day, he certainly was scary and intimidating but there are moments in the film where you see vulnerability; you see an underbelly of something he’s concealing. And my theory is specifically of men and women both but specifically of the man, I think men are drawn to actors who show strength and vulnerability simultaneously because in a way it’s okay for them to feel that empathetically through those performances. Think back to Marlon Brando he was the first time we swathe duality that reality of masculinity and there was a feminine aspect to the work that he did even in his masculine roles like “On The Waterfront” or in “A Streetcar Named Desire”. You see real moments of vulnerability between him and his female castmates. There sort of a subconscious reaching that a lot of men have in this country wanting to connect to that part of themselves, having no way to consciously do that so they watch these performances and it allows them to express their feelings and connecting with that part of themselves.
TME: Well said. So with that, what do you think is the most challenging aspect of being an actor?
AB: Wow. There are so many to choose from. I would say the most challenging aspect of being an actor professionally is generating opportunities. Quite frankly, navigating the business of trying to get jobs and get meaningful jobs. Finding the opportunity to audition, to work, to be in a play, to generate opportunities for yourself… Just figuring out how to do that can sometimes be very challenging even for people who are working all the time because the highs can be very high and the lows can be very low because there is no in-between. Either you are working and you’re on that high of working or you’re not and you are searching for the next opportunity. So I think the most challenging aspect of being an actor is just finding a way to express your art.
TME: So do you think that also plays a role in people’s mental health in this particular field?
Especially that feeling if the opportunities are very few and far between?
AB: Yeah. I do. Absolutely. It certainly affects an actor’s mental health and it’s especially important for people, speaking about actors, it’s certainly is a fickle profession and there isn’t much security to speak of, self-care is important in an actor’s day to day routine. The energy we’re talking about is creative and if it doesn’t find a way to be expressed, then it can cycle within you and can cause rumination that can lead to things like depression and anxiety, insomnia I’d had many friends as well as myself who have had their struggles. I think it’s about knowing what you need to take care of yourself and understanding that things will come and go in this business but if you make it all about results; if you put your worth and your value into what opportunities you’re getting, or how much you get to work, that is just dangerous ground to play on because it becomes about “I’m only happy if I’m getting this.” And if it’s in other people’s hands and this business often it is, then that becomes very dicey for one’s mental health.
TME: So you can start internalizing that you’re not good enough.
AB: Oh sure. That’s a common thing that we all struggle with. An especially you can stoke that fire if do put yourself in someone else’s hands, whether it be a casting director or an agent, or a director or whomever. And this business is not one that welcomes people with open arms. It’s not that the business is cruel, I think that’s often the stigma the business gets. I think it’s because the business doesn’t care. It’s indifferent. That’s neither good nor bad. It’s just everyone whether they are writers, or directors or in casting everyone is holding to what they have and they’re focused on getting their next thing. It’s not personal when you don’t get a role, when an agent doesn’t sign you, when you don’t get an audition, not to take in-person even though a lot of people tend to take it personally. I think salvaging one’s sanity in this business is learning not to take it personally because if you took every time that someone says no to you personally… man, I would think back to the first time when I started in Florida even then I would go drive hours to drop my headshot off to these tiny little agencies all over the state, and I did something like 10 to 20 drop-offs, maybe two of them said: “Okay, we’ll sign you “. If I would have taken those “no’s” personally from the beginning, I don’t think I would have lasted very long at all. You just learn early (hopefully) to go with the stride and keep your head down and focus on what’s right in front of you and then everything will take care of itself.
TME: That’s great. So what are you working on right now?
AB Right now I’m working on a television show project that I can’t say a whole lot about with a writing partner. We are pitching it out to different production companies and networks and going through the process of developing a television series so that’s been a pretty cool progression from making a successful short film and then working on television as an actor. I’ve been lucky to work on some great projects. So now because of the amazing acceptability and availability of the streaming platform, there is a thirst for original content out there, it’s allowing me to use my creativity in a whole new way.
TME: Yeah, thanks to all these streaming services popping up everywhere.
AB: Right there is a hunger for content and you see now these days it’s difficult to do just one thing. There might have been a day when an actor would have come into LA or New York and that’s what they would do. They’re an actor and they pursued it and that was okay. That was enough but these days it’s just becoming more challenging to stay in that lane and be creative because your expression of your work is and who you are, if you are just an actor, it’s completely left in somebody else’s hands but if you develop a project or an idea or if you write or if you work with a writer then you can create your material, create your content. Whatever you want to call it and as an actor, you can fully manifest the role or roles that you want to play. And that way in the very least, whatever you have inside of you has an outlet, otherwise, you’re just going on and if you are lucky auditioning, and if you are very lucky auditioning for roles that express your deepest self as an artist. The odds of that are so… It’s a lottery and I find that it’s far more rewarding to just create your material any which way you can. And because of the accessibility of technology even on an iPhone, you have a full studio within the iPhone itself. There is no reason why a young actor anywhere can’t be writing and creating their material. I think the important thing in that circumstance is just don’t judge it. Just because it might not be exactly what you see in your head as to where you land down the line, know that there is value in every single thing that you create. I firmly believe that.
TME: So I know you were on The Mayans, are you working on any other TV show coming up where we can see you somewhere?
AB: I just met on two TV Shows where I had to sign lengthy non-disclosure agreements on which is becoming par for the course and that’s such a cagey answer and I apologize but I can’t talk about them yet. Hopefully, I can very soon. That’s where things are kind of now; people are very protective of their materials so even when I’m in something or I meet on something, I have to get permission to even announce it.
I’m very fortunate. One thing I’ve always tried to do in my career is selective with the jobs that I do, which is very difficult early on especially because as an actor you just want to work and you want to act. I think it’s also important to say yes to a lot of things but also it’s important to trust your instinct and to know that at the end of the day when you look back you want to be able to say I’m proud of everything well most everything I did. For me, I was driven by the desire to be a part of stories and work with storytellers I admire. Even if I had a small role in something, it was something that was trying to say something, trying to do something. With “Mayans”, I was especially proud of that because it was predominantly a Latin/Hispanic cast and it was a casting which tells that the Latin/Hispanic community is just one homogenous people. We’re very different and I, myself am of mixed ethnicity but fortunately, when I booked this recurring role on Mayans, they revised the character to reflect that. So he became half Argentinean and half German which told me they were paying attention and they did that even before I got the role. So when I got to the table read and I read the new pages I thought “Oh. That’s cool!” There is an effort here to create a sense of realistic diversity in this community and this group of people that you would see in the real world.
TME: Yeah it’s time for more diversity in everything because that’s the way the world is. Especially after living in LA. LA is so diverse and that one of the things that makes it great.
AB: Totally and I think diversity is the most impactful when it is coming from the true place of the originators of the project; the writers, the showrunners. It’s not just tokenism. And speaking to my friends of all different ethnicities, we all have the same feeling which is we love the push for diversity out there; we love that it’s being talked about and we’re seeing a little more of it from the originators but what most of us ride up against is the tokenism and the idea that there is a lot of talk about it. Sometimes it feels like there’s some diversity for diversity’s sake but to me, it’s far more interesting and powerful when it’s coming from the source of let’s say the writers like a diverse writers room or the showrunners even the executives are starting to become more people of color and background. I think that’s when it’s going to shift and change; it is when the people who are creating the shows have a stake in telling these kinds of stories. To me, ultimately great stories are great stories; whether its White, Black. Asian, Pacific Islander… if it’s a great story, then I’m in because it’s the humanity that threads it all together.
TME One last question. Do you have a dream role that you would love to play?
AB: You know maybe if you asked me that question 10 years ago I would have had a very specific answer but I think I am open to whatever surprise comes my way. I sense that whatever those dream roles are, they’re going to be a surprise because they always are. Every job is a surprise. Every opportunity is a surprise… and as I’ve gotten older, it’s a little bit about letting go and saying “I hope that the right thing hits at the right time.” There is a theme that I noticed in my life that the right ones hit at the right time and I’m very much looking forward to what that is. So I’m not sure what the dream role is but I’m looking forward to finding that out.
TME: That’s a good attitude I think. Sometimes we want something so bad that there is resistance. Sometimes we need to put it out there and let it go.
AB: Yeah. It’s like holding on to the sand. I love that metaphor. If you squeeze too hard it comes through our fingers. If you gently open your palm it will sit there. If you squeeze the sand too hard in your palm, what happens is that it goes right through your fingers. I’ve always liked that metaphor and I try to live my life in that way.
TME: Thank you for taking out the time to speak with us today.
The contents of this interview have been edited for clarity.
Dune Part Two: The Lisan Al Gaib comes for you!
Welcome back to our struggle for control of the known universe already in progress, the continuation of the journey of Paul Atreides from exile to Emperor, Dune Part Two!
So when we last left our intrepid if dubious heroes, House Atreides had been betrayed and virtually destroyed, by a combination of House Harkonnens surprise attacks and the added treachery of Emperor Shaddam and his Sardaukar. Paul Atreides (Timothee Chalamet), the last surviving heir (so far) of House Atreides and his mother Jessica, have taken refuge on the desert planet of Arrakis amongst the indigenous Fremen, and as far as most are aware, the other remnants of House Atreides are dead as well. And here is where we catch up with everyone, as the struggle for Atreides emergence and dominance begins in earnest!
The Emperor’s daughter Princess Irulan (Florence Pugh) is known for her many skills, but her copious note-taking and writings on the large events shaping her world come to the forefront as she takes counsel with her father amidst games of chance on their homeworld. Her life is one of luxury and privilege but alas, Irulan is a trained Bene Gesserit and is well aware that in all likelihood, she will be used as a pawn in the marriage games empires have to go through. Bet she never imagined it could be to a House everyone swore had been utterly destroyed.
Meanwhile, on Arrakis, Paul is trying to integrate himself into the Fremen way of life, which is admittedly far different from the life he led back on the Atreides homeworld of Caladan. (If nothing else, Caladan has vast oceans.) The Fremen are fiercely independent, gloriously strong fighters, survivors who dare to ride and revere the giant sandworms that inhabit their planet that they call Shai-Hulud, and rightfully distrustful of outsiders. After all, the previous stewardship of Arrakis belonged to House Harkonnen, known for their cruelty and glee at hunting Fremen and torturing their victims, sometimes for weeks at a time. But Paul won his and Jessicas way into the Fremen by fair combat against Jamis, and if nothing else, the Fremen are firm in their beliefs of the old ways.
Or rather, the elder Fremen are, most particularly the famed Fedaykin fighter and Naib (leader) of Sietch Tabr Stilgar (Javier Bardem) is adamant in his unshakable belief that Paul is the foretold Lisan Al Gaib, the Voice from the Outer World, that will lead the Fremen to peace and paradise. Stilgar’s steadfast belief in Paul’s potential only grows, and he manages with just that to convince a great many of the other Fremen elders. The younger generation of Fremen however, of which Paul’s beloved Chani (Zendaya) is a part, generally scoff at the legends of otherworldly prophets and Arrakis as a fabled green, wet heaven. In the beginning, Paul himself swears he doesn’t want to be the Messiah, only a Fremen fighter amongst the rest of them, hundreds of years of the Missionaria Protectiva, the Bene Gesserit practice of spreading useful religious propaganda as seeds on various planets, is working double-time against him. It doesn’t help that Paul’s mother Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson) is expounding on that myth as much as she possibly can.
And why would she do that? Survival yes, but also, Jessica is a thoroughly trained Bene Gesserit and knows of plans within plans within plans. Jessica also has many secrets of her own, and one very important one happens to be that she’s pregnant with Paul’s sister. The Bene Gesserit bodily control may be something out of legend, but even Jessica, possibly Reverend Mother Mohiam’s best and most fractious student, will have trouble with the trial the Fremen are insisting she go through to become truly one of them. The Reverend Mother equivalent of Sietch Tabr, known as their Sayyadina, is old and dying, and the Fremen have to have a Reverend Mother. Jessica tells Paul this much and explains that each culture is different in their trial to become a Reverend Mother, so she honestly doesn’t know what to expect. The reality happens to be worse than she could’ve imagined – Jessica must drink the Water of Life, a deadly poison that comes from Shai-Hulud (sort of), and come out the other side of it. And Jessica manages to do it, barely, with almost all of the consequences going to the poor fetus in her womb, the girl that will grow to become Alia Atreides, an insane legend in her own right. But for now, the unnamed fetus is awake and aware and full of the memories of generations of Bene Gesserit women that came before her – before she was even born.
Paul participates in razzia raids amongst the Fremen as they work to take out the spice mining operations of the Harkonnens, immerses himself in the vastly different desert culture of his chosen people, and perhaps most importantly, his romance with his beloved Chani only grows stronger. After declaring his desire to join the fierce fighter elites amongst the Fremen known as Fedaykin, Paul is told by Stilgar that he must summon and ride one of the giant sandworms, the embodiment of Shai-Hulud where the Fremen get their terrible tooth Crysknives from. And after much sendup, in a glorious scene of blinding sand and huge monstrous killer worm-riding, Paul is triumphant and riding atop the sacred creature, his Maker hooks set properly to control the great beast, waving at great distance to his fellow Fremen as Chani looks on in bemusement.
But that’s all external, and inside Paul is beginning to become divided on what he wants to do. As Jessica pushes the Protectiva hard amongst the women and priestesses of the Fremen, she is also pushing her son to become much larger than he ever wanted to be, if nothing else a conqueror can take revenge for the destruction of House Atreides and the death of her beloved Duke Leto. Paul may have earned his place amongst the Fremen and been given new names – Usul, meaning the strength of the base of the pillar, as his private name within the Sietch; and Muad’Dib, from the small mouse survivor of the desert, well versed in desert ways, called ‘Instructor-of-Boys’ in Fremen legend, as his open-use name – but now everyone wants Paul to be something greater, and potentially more destructive, than what he currently is. It only gets worse when Paul begins to suffer prophetic dreams, and visions when he’s awake, prodding him further to his destiny as an epic conqueror of worlds. Nothing can be done for it, Paul convinces himself that he must take the Water of Life himself, to awaken the sleeping prophet inside himself, and allow him to hopefully See a path through the future.
The problem with that plan, is that Bene Gesserit are almost exclusively all women, and only they are supposed to know how to transmute poisons internally, along with all sorts of other “witchcraft”. But Jessica has been training Paul in forbidden Bene Gesserit ways all his life, and as much as Paul might rail and even quail against it, there is no denying his incoming destiny, crushing any resistance he may have with all the force of a giant sandworm hunting a spice blow. And even when Paul has finally given in and taken the cursed substance almost mockingly called the Water of Life, it falls to another strong and prophetic in her right female in his life, his beloved Chani, to save him from himself. But even Chani can’t stop Paul’s destructive destiny as the conqueror of the known worlds, guilty of slaying millions upon millions of people in his quest for vengeance, thinly disguised as peace.
Over on the Harkonnen homeworld of Geidi Prime, “Beast” Rabban (Dave Bautista) is disgusted and enraged at the continuing Fremen raids against the Harkonnens on Arrakis, and terrified of what his uncle the notoriously cruel Baron Harkonnen (Stellan Skarsgard), will do to him in response. The Baron’s nephew Feyd-Rautha (Austin Butler), heir apparent or na-Baron to House Harkonnen, demonstrates his blood-inborn savagery in a slaughter of the remnants of House Atreides gladiator-style, as his birthday celebration. Pleased with the spectacle, the Baron commands Feyd-Rautha to take control of the fight against this Fremen rebel known as Muad’dib, as Rabban is proving himself more and more useless. And any tool or toy that the Baron finds broken or unusable, is destroyed before being discarded.
As the legend of Muad’dib grows off Arrakis and circulates among the Imperial worlds, the Emperor grinds his teeth in frustration and the Bene Gesserit, led by Reverend Mother Mohiam (Charlotte Rampling) as the Emperor’s Truthsayer, begin pushing forward their plots and machinations. Lady Margot Fenring (Lea Seydoux), a criminally underused character in this respect, demonstrates her willingness to be a pawn in Bene Gesserit machinations, but never forget, strong Bene Gesserit women have been breaking their own rules for generations. Just look at what Jessica did.
As the raids and rebellion on Arrakis continue, both the Emperor and the Baron become more and more desperate, sending in mercenaries and smugglers in the hopes they might have more luck. And aboard one of those smuggler’s vessels happens to be an old hand at being a smuggler himself, the warrior troubadour with the scarred face given him by “Beast” Rabban himself, Gurney Halleck (Josh Brolin). Reunited with his beloved Duke’s only son, Gurney finds himself swept up in the legend of Muad’dib in the making along with everyone else, though at least from Gurney’s point of view, Paul is using the messianic angle to take revenge for House Atreides.
Finally, in an act of what could be considered the ultimate in arrogance, Emperor Shaddam Corrino himself comes to Arrakis, along with Princess Irulan and many others of his Court, the Baron, and Feyd-Rautha in tow as well, to crush this upstart Muad’dib and his Fremen warriors. Sadly for all that the powerhouse actor Christopher Walken plays him, Emperor Shaddam Corrino is shown as a doddering old man, cowed in the face of Muad’dib’s overwhelming vitality and growing-ever-stronger legend. And there is where we will end the review, for the final confrontation between all key players in the Known Universe is full of spoilers and derivations from the original opus of Frank Herbert’s novel Dune.
For those of you who stuck around long enough to get to the end, after all, Dune Part Two is almost three hours long itself, if you are fans of the original novel and the zany Lynchian masterpiece that was the first Dune film, you may be disappointed or even angered at the changes made to the story for the climactic end scenes. Director Villenuve has an eye for making grand epic scenes like Paul’s sandworm ride but can be a bit scattered when it comes to piecing the story together with all the key players needing to be involved in a way that can be understood by any layman. Dune in any form is a rich, vast universe of storytelling, and even an almost three-hour-long sequel simply can’t cover every last bit that’s in the novels. But if nothing else, the film is an overwhelming feast for the eyes and should bring a whole new legion of fans to the many worlds contained within Dune.
If you want to dive further into the Dune-iverse, do yourself a favor and read the Dune prequel books written by Herbert Jr. and Kevin J. Anderson. Until then, dive into the sands of Arrakis along with Shai-Hulud and scream vengeance to the skies with Paul Muad’dib Atreides in Dune Part Two, in theaters now!
Thatsmye Interviews: Les Weiler on Henchin’: the Series
The 8 Episode Series Tries To Encompass A Lot Leaving Fans In A Cliffhanger.
The 2010 “Avatar: The Last Airbender” movie by M. Night Shyamalan faced criticism for its deviations from the beloved animated series. The film struggled with pacing, casting, and a lackluster script, disappointing fans who cherished the source material. In contrast, the 2024 Netflix series has generated positive buzz for its commitment to diverse casting, adherence to the original storyline, and improved character development. The series seems poised to capture the essence of the animated show, offering a fresh and faithful adaptation that resonates with both new and existing fans.
Even though the Netflix series comes closer to the core ideals of the animated series, I feel it lacks heart. Many scenes barely scratch the surface of the relationships between the characters and the push-and-pull relationship between Aang and Zuko. I will admit the CG versions of Momo and Appa are just so gosh darn cute.
The 8 episode series tries to encompass a lot leaving fans in a cliffhanger. It’s worth a watch and I am hanging on for the next season to be announced.