Two weeks ago I reviewed Mythica: A Quest for Heroes, the first in a projected five-film epic fantasy series. As well as being a great little film, it was notable for having two female characters as the driving forces of the story, with neither sidetracked into any obligatory romance. The two actresses who played these roles, Melanie Stone and Nicola Posener, were kind enough to answer some questions for me about their roles.
Your roles are interesting to me because, in fantasy films, actresses mainly get cliche roles such as the ornament who exists to support the hero, or the kickass babe who slaughters dozens while looking like she belongs on a Maxim cover. What concerns did you have about avoiding those pitfalls?
Melanie Stone: To be honest, I actually have never been placed in situations where I was auditioning for either of those cliche roles, so it never even crossed my mind until I was cast in Mythica. I was getting a lot of questions and sometimes remarks from people outside the film when they heard my character had a club foot. “Really? Why? That’s not hot.”
I hate to admit it but in the beginning I found myself agreeing. I mean it was all based out of shallow insecurities, and like I said earlier I had never been objectified in film before (thankfully), so I didn’t instantly realize the awesome gem I had… but eventually I did. I can’t say the exact moment I fell in love with the character Marek, probably slowly and over-time, but I’ve just got to brag for a moment. She is the absolute coolest. She grows up in horrible conditions with a club foot, and despite all that she still has this drive and determination to be what no one thinks she can be. She’s constantly being underestimated and she doesn’t care. She’s going to do her thing, and sometimes it’s a bit sloppy and improvised, but she’s not afraid to make choices, which is something she taught me.
Nicola Posener: Thankfully in this particular instance that thought never became a reality; the character of Teela was extremely well developed before I came on-board and it was quite clear from the outset that she wasn’t all that she appeared and would certainly be difficult to categorise in the typical genre cliché’s as mentioned above. That said, she is a ‘healer’, this describes one aspect of her without defining her, there are many other characteristics completely unlike any other ‘healers’ of this genre, some typical of a priestess and others not so. It is such a pleasure to play away from the stereotype and really surprise the audience as the characters develop along the journey.
This is part of a multi-film series, so obviously there’s more character development to come, but in this film, the central scene between your characters is the one where Marek asks Teela to heal her club foot. What was it like to create that scene?
Melanie: I have a tendency of overthinking things and it ruins moments for me; luckily we had been far enough into filming when we got to this scene that I had learned not to do that. I kept it simple; just before shooting I reminded myself of my objective and what my relationship with Teela was at that specific point in time. When the camera starts rolling I put all my focus on being present and connected. It’s easy with Nikki; she’s such a great scene partner. She cares so much about her work and she’s so giving as an actor even when the camera isn’t on her. It’s easy to react to what she’s giving and in turn give her something back to work with.
Nicola: This actually happened to be one of my favourite scenes to shoot, I particularly enjoy the quieter more intimate scenes, it was an enclosed set whereby Mel and I had no other factors to consider besides the main objective; two unlikely characters confiding and connecting for the first time. This was one of the first major scene’s where Teela lets down her guard, she can often be quite stoic and matter-of-fact with her one main focus at the for-front of her mind and her vulnerability hidden by her sharp demeanour so I personally really enjoyed playing her more endearing and understanding and for lack of a better word ‘human’.
There aren’t many female directors working in fantasy films; what was it like having one in Anne Black for Mythica?
Melanie: Anne has an incredible eye for detail; she’s very visual. What I loved about Anne was she was so good at giving us rich environments to work in. For example the very first scene I’m in (where I’m busy creating a spell); I had so much fun in that freezing room, because there was so much to play with. Even when they weren’t rolling I was mixing and mashing weird herbs and salts; I was a kid again.
Nicola: I am a great fan of Anne’s work and eye for detail! She is a brilliant director who makes everyone feel so comfortable on set and want to work to the highest of standards each and every day. She knows very clearly what she wants for every scene yet gave myself and the other actors’ freedom to be creative! I rate working with Anne very highly and a huge pleasure every opportunity we have to work together, not due to the rarity of having a female director in a fantasy genre but because of the great end result produced! We also had the brilliant A. Todd Smith joining forces to direct Mythica 3!
You’re both attractive actresses, yet that isn’t overly emphasized in the film. How much input did you have in the look of your characters?
Melanie: Ha! I had zero input. Really though I just showed up and let the costumers, hair, and make-up do their thing. Like I said before Anne has a very specific artistic vision and I knew better than to mess with that. For the most part though I loved what they did with my Character. I like that Marek is kind of a mess all of the time, she’s dirty and sweaty and her clothes are ripped and tattered. I never felt bad about rolling around in the dirt when I needed to.
Nicola: Thank you, I think despite it being fantasy and other worldly it is set in a different time period, particularly close in medieval nature and so in terms of costume and make-up it was very much directed towards the type of look and materials you would expect of that time. I think infact the wardrobe department started coming up with designs/looks before we were cast and so we didn’t have any involvement as such as far as the costume was concerned. I did however have say over the red hair, that was the final question that was asked of me prior to being offered the role and I was thrilled to have the drastic change. It enabled me to really get a sense of my character from early on; the further I looked from my usual modern-day self, the better.
I have a three-year-old daughter, and when she gets a little older, I’ll be showing this film to her. How does it feel to know a child might be dressing up and playing your character someday?
Melanie: I like that idea, but it’s only because I love Marek and I think she’s worth pretending to be.
Nicola: I truly hadn’t considered this before it was asked but it would be the ultimate compliment to the film and character to have made such an impact. I think many of our characters hold positive values and qualities that would make them great role-models to be recreated; plus they’d make for very fun distinctive costumes which always help!
Thanks to Melanie and Nicola for taking the time to talk to me, and watch for Mythica: A Quest For Heroes coming in 2015 from Arrowstorm Entertainment.