Talent Talk: ‘Unidentified’ Director Discusses Thriller Set in His Romanian Homeland

Director Bogdan George Apetri sets his crime thriller Unidentified — due on digital and DVD Nov. 22 from Film Movement — in a small city in Northern Romania, the area where he grew up.

Unidentified — which captured the Special Jury Award in International Competition at the Warsaw Film Festival and Best Actor in a leading Role and Best Screenplay at Romanica’s Gopo Awards — follows police detective Florin Iespas who, despite growing debts and a complicated personal life, is determined to solve a hard case that no one else seems to care about. Ordered to put down the file, the cop continues his off-the-record investigations, soon turning up a strong lead for two hotel fires that resulted in several deaths. The suspect is Bănel, a security guard of Roma descent, but he denies everything. Faced with the refusal of the police chief to support his inquiry, the mistrust of his colleagues, and his own inner demons, Florin resorts to extraordinary measures to achieve a form of justice.

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Media Play News talked to Apetri about Unidendified, his exploration of his hometown area and the stories he tells about it.

MPN: The film is designed as part of a trilogy. Can you tell me about the genesis of Unidentified?

Apetri: Indeed, Unidentified is the first part of a trilogy which continues with Miracle and will end with the film that I am currently writing, to be shot in 2023. It’s an interesting subject, because while the three films belong to the same universe — same overall locations, same larger constellation of characters — the genesis for each of the films couldn’t be more different. I have co-written Unidentified (starting from an original screenplay); I wrote Miracle on my own; and I am currently adapting the third film from a book. All in all, it’s very interesting to have such diverse starting points for each project, but it makes sense when you realize that every film is a self-contained story, which can be viewed and appreciated completely on its own. To answer the question specifically, the original script for Unidentified was called The Deer and it was written by a wonderful Romanian actor (and fantastic writer) named Iulian Postelnicu. Over about two years, I took it over and slowly changed it until the story fit my vision for the first installment of this trilogy set in Northern Romania, where I am from.

MPN: Can you describe the character of the police detective at the center of the mystery and what drives him?

Apetri: It would be hard to describe what drives Florin Iespas, the main character, without in effect revealing several important spoilers at the core of what the film is about. The very structure of the film is designed to offer clues and small revelations in small, well-timed increments, until a full picture of the character emerges from all the puzzle pieces spread throughout the story. He is a great cop, the kind of detective who will do anything to solve a case — terribly overworked, passionate about what he does, smart, calculated. He certainly seems well-intended when we find him wanting to take over an unsolved case at the beginning of the story — but in time, we realize his motives and intentions are not at all what they appeared to be at the start. There’s a very dark place deep inside this character, and like in all good dramas, I hope the audience will enjoy the many revelations which will uncover the character bit by bit, choice by choice, scene by scene. 

MPN: Bogdan Farcaș plays that cop. How would you describe his acclaimed performance?

Apetri: Bogdan Farcaș was perfect for this role — I got this feeling from the very first few minutes of his audition, which almost never happens to me. I never write parts with actors in mind, but it’s as if I wrote this one for him. There was some doubt from the team initially, given that he never had a main part in a film before, and his experience was mainly in theater — but I never wavered in my decision to cast him. He simply embodies so many traits of the character (including a “good” kind of craziness about him — he even went so far as to slap my casting director in one of the auditions, when we were reading an interrogation scene). But more importantly, he dived into the role body and mind, and put his life on hold for a few months, preparing for the film. It was truly a unique experience seeing him strive to be better with each passing day, in effect blurring the lines between himself and the persona of his character. The acclaim he received is totally deserved, as he carried the film on his shoulders — there isn’t a scene without him in the whole story.

MPN: What role does the music play in the film?

Apetri: With one notable exception, I only have music by Frédéric Chopin in the film. By now, it’s a cliché to say it, but I really wanted the music to be a character in the film. The difference is, in my case, that it literally stands for one of the missing characters in the story — it’s not there in a metaphorical way. There is a huge hole at the center of the film, as viewers will steadily realize while the plot slowly unfolds. The music fills that void and prepares us for what’s to come later in the story. Incidentally, it was quite hard to pick the right Chopin pieces — I didn’t want to choose the works we all have heard way too many times, but at the same time, they needed to match the texture and the character of the scenes they were meant for. Not to mention, for a single piece of classical music, one can find dozens of different interpretations, each infused with a different feel, pace and emotion. All in all, it was quite a balancing act to zero in on the right Chopin composition for any given scene, and I must have listened to hundreds of recordings over several weeks to finalize my choices. In the end, as with any truly important artistic choice, you try to use your head as little as possible and rely on what your instinct tells you it’s the best solution.

MPN: What do you hope the audience takes away from the film?

Apetri: First and foremost, I hope the audience will enjoy the film on a purely storytelling basis — taking this journey together with the cop, discovering bit by bit what is truly at stake in this story, uncovering the main character layer by layer as the film rushes to its conclusion. Secondly, and more importantly, I hope the viewers will think about the questions the film raises long after it ends. And thirdly, I hope the U.S. audiences will enjoy watching a film shot in Romania, and will be able to appreciate both its very specific details as well as the universal appeal of the story.

Special features on the DVD include deleted scenes and commentary by Apetri.

Talent Talk: ‘On the Case With Paula Zahn’ Producer Scott Weinberger on True Crime Show’s 25th Season

ID’s signature newsmagazine “On the Case With Paula Zahn” celebrated a milestone with its 25th season (350th episode) debut Sept. 4 on both ID and streaming service Discovery+.

All new episodes are available to stream the same day on Discovery+ with past seasons available to binge.

Led by Emmy Award-winning journalist Paula Zahn, “On the Case” features storytelling and interviews that go beyond the headlines to reveal first-person accounts and expert insights of those connected to murder cases. In the 350th episode, “From Zero to Murder,” police investigating the brutal murder of a young woman ask themselves a chilling question: was the ambush-style shooting that ended Alisha Canales-McGuire’s life actually a terrifying case of mistaken identity?

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Producer Scott Weinberger discussed the series’ popularity and the appeal of true crime with Media Play News.

MPN: Why do you think “On the Case” has maintained an audience for more than a decade?

Weinberger: Paula brought a loyal audience to “OTC,” as a highly credible and compassionate journalist.

The show’s focus has always been honoring the victims in these tragic cases, and that message could not be clearer to her viewers. Paula and our team at Weinberger Media make sure “OTC’s” storytelling reflects the hard work put in by the dedicated professionals who untangle these complex investigations and strive to bring justice.

MPN: What is most shocking about the story in the debut episode of the 25th season (the 350th episode)?

Weinberger: Our premiere episode of our 25th season tells a story of a young mother gunned down in her Everett Washington home. As police being to dig into the details, they learn it was a case of mistaken identity. The real intended victim is a shocker.

MPN: What can viewers expect from the episodes to come in the 25th season?

Weinberger: More of true “OTC” storytelling, including cases where “OTC’s” loyal audience can step in and assist investigators in bringing justice for a family.

MPN: “On the Case” is also streaming on Discovery+ and streaming services have been a hotbed of true crime series, with series like yours sort of the “OG” of true crime. Why do you think crime stories are so popular at the moment?

Weinberger: Viewers love to see the process, the behind-the-scenes mindset that investigators go through to unravel a murder mystery. Very often, true to life events are later used on many Hollywood scripted TV dramas, but these stories are very real and tragic.

Editor’s Note: Media Play News publisher and editorial director Thomas K. Arnold is featured in Episode 10, Season 24, “Eyes in the Darkness,” which first aired on May 1, 2022. The case follows the 1980 murder of a young San Diego County college student, Michelle Wyatt, which remained unsolved until detectives finally found the killer more than 40 years later through genetic genealogy. Arnold covered the case in the San Diego Reader.

Talent Talk: Actor-Writer-Director Nana Mensah Explores African Immigrant Daughter’s Story in ‘Queen of Glory’

First-time director Nana Mensah, who also wrote and played the lead role in Queen of Glory, tapped into her roots as the daughter of African immigrants for her first project.

Queen of Glory — which is available on DVD and digital Nov. 15 from Film Movement — is the story of Sarah Obeng, the brilliant child of Ghanaian immigrants, who is quitting her Ivy League Ph.D. program to follow her married lover to Ohio. When her mother dies suddenly, she bequeaths her daughter a Christian bookstore in the Pelham Parkway section of the Bronx where Sarah was raised.

“I thought the world needed this story because I simply hadn’t seen it anywhere,” says Mensah, who is known for roles in “13 Reasons Why,” “An African City,” “Bonding,” “New Amsterdam” and “The Chair.” “West African stories don’t quite fit in the boxes Western audiences want to fit them into. In Asante culture — my parents’ culture and that of Sarah’s parents, depicted in Queen of Glory — great joy and celebration can exist right alongside pain and loss. Asante stories show life as a symbiosis of drama and comedy, each stepping in when the other swells too wildly, needing to be checked.”

At first Mensah says she had big ambitions for writing her directorial debut.

“I wrote a big, big script: a sweeping historical biopic that would require big, big money,” she says. “After knocking on some doors with absolutely no luck, I got some very good advice from one of my mentors, filmmaker Emily Abt, who suggested I shelve this project and craft a new one around things I could get for cheap or free, following in the footsteps of folks like Barry Jenkins, Issa Rae, Ed Burns and Lena Dunham. My aunt and uncle owned a Christian bookstore in the Bronx, so I started there.”

During the film, tasked with planning a culturally respectful funeral befitting the family matriarch, Sarah must juggle the expectations of her loving yet demanding family while navigating the reappearance of her estranged father all while grappling with what to do with the bookstore. The bookstore acts as a stand-in for Sarah’s mother in the story, as she also tries to come to grips with their relationship, Mensah says.

“The journey we’re on with her is one that begins in ignorance then moves toward understanding then finally love,” she says. “Often, we don’t get to have those realizations in time to share them with our loved ones while they’re still alive, which is, of course, life’s great sleight of hand.”

Playing three roles (actor, writer, director) in Queen of Glory was “stressful,” she says, but she leaned on the producers and preparation to complete the project.

“I leaned heavily on my team: lead producer Jamund Washington, as well as producers Kelley Robins Hicks and Baff Akoto,” she says. “Honestly, it was preparation, preparation, preparation. We stuck pretty closely to my shot list. We’d discuss the shot, and the team set it up while I was in hair and makeup. Then we’d rehearse and tweak. Once it came to shooting, Jamund could be on monitor for me while I was acting in the scene and let me know if we would need to go again for technical reasons or if he thought we got the shot. That was the only way we could use our limited time and resources effectively.”

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Her hard work has been recognized by multiple festivals. The film captured the “Best New Narrative Director” Award at the 2021 Tribeca Film Festival, “Best Feature Film” at the San Diego International Film Festival, the “Excellence in Directing” Award at the Hamptons International Film Festival and “Best Narrative Feature” at the Indie Memphis Film Festival. Among its many festival nominations, Queen of Glory received a pair at the 2022 Film Independent Spirit Awards, including “Best First Feature.”

In the end, Mensah says, “I simply aspire to tell a good story, well-executed, that people enjoy.”

Bonus features on the DVD include director and producers audio commentary; deleted scenes; and the bonus short film Da Yie, directed by Anthony Nti, in which a stranger takes young Matilda and Prince on a dangerous and eye-opening trip across the coast of Ghana.

 

Director Jacqueline Lentzou Explores Father-Daughter Relationship in ‘Moon, 66 Questions’

For her first feature, Moon, 66 Questions, director Jacqueline Lentzou “wanted to make a film discussing unspeakable love.”

The Greek film, which explores a father-daughter relationship, is available Oct. 11 on digital and DVD from Film Movement.

Lentzou was nominated for a prestigious Best Feature Film Teddy Award at the 2021 Berlin Film Festival for Moon, which follows twentysomething Artemis (Sofia Kokkali) who, after years of distance and separation, decides to return to Athens and care for her ailing father following the sudden decline in his health.

As Artemis intimately tends for the stoic, near-wordless Paris (Lazaros Georgakopoulos), she tries to understand the complicated man she never really knew. Upon the discovery of a well-kept secret from his past, she comes to realize the deep, underlying love that the two of them share. 

“They start off distant, cold, seemingly detached — two strangers, yet parent and child — at points barely looking at each other,” Lentzou said. “Step by step (literally) and day after day, there is an instinctive blooming of love, which gets at its highest point the moment the daughter discovers her father’s secret. Light falls on a darkish childhood, and pure love is expressed through acceptance.”

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The two lead actors have been widely praised for their performances.

“The performances were my biggest worry,” Lentzou said. “I knew that if one of them was weak, the whole film would sink, since the appropriate dynamic would not be in place. That said, when I saw them live and even later when the reviews started praising them in an authentically moving way, I was over the moon. It could not be other actors than these two. They brought different ‘materials’ — Lazaros his innate sensitivity and personal story with a late MS-friend, Sofia her unparalleled esotericism.”

The director and actors also worked spontaneously on some scenes.

“What was really great and unexpected were the scenes we would all three of us design on the spot,” Lentzou said. “An example would be the scene where the daughter tries to tell her father that she now knows the secret. We were not sure about how to use the kid’s toy, yet we all wanted it. After some cups of coffee and some notes, we went there and did it, in one take!”

What does Lentzou hope viewers take away from her film?

“A desire to hug and be hugged,” she said.

Special features with the release include deleted scenes and a bonus short film, The End of Suffering (A Proposal), also directed by Lentzou.

 

Talent Talk: Editor Barry Poltermann Talks About Piecing Together the Story of Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman in ‘The Last Movie Stars’

Barry Poltermann is a producer, director, story supervisor and editor, primarily working on documentaries, whose most recent editing project is the six-part docuseries “The Last Movie Stars” for director Ethan Hawke and executive producer Martin Scorsese. From CNN Films, “The Last Movie Stars” chronicles the careers and partnership of Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman and is currently streaming on HBO Max.

Barry Poltermann

During his long career, Poltermann has edited several acclaimed feature films, including American Movie (Sundance Grand Prize Winner, 1999), The Pool (Sundance Jury Prize Winner, 2007), Raiders!: The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made (SXSW, 2015), Jim & Andy — The Great Beyond (Venice Biennale, 2017, Emmy nominee) and I Am Not Alone (Toronto, 2019 Audience Award for documentary at TIFF, DocNYC & AFI Fest); and was the story supervisor on Whirlybird (Sundance, 2020).

To tell the story of Woodward and Newman, Poltermann incorporated film clips, interviews, vintage footage, and Zoom calls and voiceovers with actors and filmmakers, including George Clooney, Laura Linney, Scorsese, Sally Field, Sam Rockwell, Karen Allen and Billy Crudup.

Media Play News asked the editor about working with Hawke and piecing together the story of the movie star couple from disparate elements.

MPN: How did you first get involved with the project?

Poltermann: Lisa Long Adler, one of the producers, reached out to me and asked if I’d be interested in editing a documentary on Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, directed by Ethan Hawke. I was amazed — it sounded really like a dream project. I was a fan of Ethan’s prior documentary, Seymore: An Introduction, and thought that he would bring something really interesting to the story. Then I did a call with Lisa, and eventually with Ethan, and I guess they liked what I said.

MPN: What did you first think about the task of editing a project with so many elements — film footage, photos, zoom calls, actors reading transcripts of interviews?

Poltermann: At first, most of those things weren’t contemplated as part of the film. I am not even sure that Ethan was aware of the transcripts when he first called me. We didn’t know what the film would be. We contemplated a 90 minute-ish feature documentary at first. Then, Ethan got ahold of the transcripts and started recording them himself, just reading them into his iPhone — doing all the voices — and I would cut them into something like a podcast with music and some narrative flow. Then, he started doing zoom calls, just for research at first, just to get something to work with to figure out the story. And I would cut the “podcast” audio together with the zoom calls and send it to Ethan. We’d call and chat about what was emerging — trying to figure out what the film would be. Little did we know that we were actually making the film — that the process of trying to figure it out would end up being a key narrative through-line. So it wasn’t daunting — all of these elements just organically came in, one by one, as we needed them to tell the story.

MPN: As you got into the project, what did you find was the most difficult task?

Poltermann: Joanne’s movies being unavailable — and what was available to the edit team was of a low quality. In the movie, when we have to buy a copy of The Stripper, that actually happened, in that we couldn’t get a decent copy so one of my assistants found a copy on eBay and bought it and screen grabbed the process in order for us to make it a “story point,” as it seemed to say a lot about what happened to Joanne. It really sums up how her work has been treated.  

MPN: What was Ethan Hawke’s involvement in the editing? Was there an overall organizational principal/outline/vision that helped you during editing?

Poltermann: Because of COVID we were working apart. In fact, we never even met in person until we were picture locking on Chapter I for SXSW this January. But it was probably the most collaborative experience of my life, even if it was virtual. Ethan would suggest ideas, and I would suggest ideas, and we would explore them, cutting little scenes here and there and weaving them together. Ethan called these scenes “pearls.” I would post, nearly every evening, my work for the day, and he would have brief notes in the morning via text message — his off-the-cuff first thoughts. Then we would talk on the phone for a super long time — often an hour or two, noodling out what we liked or didn’t like about the work, and what we could do next. It was one day at a time, letting the journey take us wherever it wanted to take us. Ethan would say, “Where is the river flowing?” I always felt like he was with me, in my head, every step of the way. He was amazing for pushing the boundaries and challenging me to break rules and surprise him. Whenever I’d cut something conventional, he’d say something like, “That was really nice. That’s a really good piece of documentary editing. But I saw it before — don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed that documentary when I saw it before. But let’s not do that. Let’s do something different than that. Not sure what, but not that. We are just rehearsing now — this isn’t opening night yet. Do something crazy. Let’s surprise ourselves.”

MPN: What are you most proud of about the project?

Poltermann: I think that the technique of using the movies intercutting with the narrative and the transcripts is pretty fun — and was super fun to play with. It was Ethan’s idea — “Use their performances to illustrate the words.” I’d done something like that before on Jim & Andy, using clips from Jim Carrey’s performances in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and The Truman Show. But nothing to this level. And the fact that it was part of the core thesis — the notion that actors bring themselves to their characters, and their characters rub off on them was central to “The Last Movie Stars.” But the thing that I am most proud of is how the film, I hope, speaks to people beyond actors, how Paul and Joanne’s life is a story of marriage, friendship, parenthood, work/life balance, gender roles, love, loss, moral commitments, how the story we tell can reach everyone and resonate — not just people who act or are in the entertainment industry, or even are Paul and Joanne fans.

MPN: Are you a fan of Newman and Woodward?

Poltermann: I came into this having grown up on Paul Newman films and, yes, was a huge fan of his. But not a fan in any complex or in-depth way — I just thought he was cool in movies when I was growing up in the ‘70s. As for Joanne, sadly I don’t think she really impacted me. I don’t know if I could have named a film of hers when we started this. Obviously, today I am a huge fan of Joanne’s, as well.

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MPN: What do you think viewers will learn about them that they perhaps didn’t know before and did you learn anything that surprised you?

Poltermann: That their marriage was human, and complex, and not a fairy tale or magical. That this love story is even better and more impressive than you could have imagined — because it was hard. It was work. Living a great life and nurturing a great love is not easy and presenting it as a fairy tale diminishes it. Hopefully, people love them even more by seeing their flaws, and the work they did to overcome them.

Talent Talk: ‘Titanic 666’ Actress Giovannie Espiritu Discusses Working on the Tubi Original

Filmmaker-actress Giovannie Espiritu has worked on both sides of the camera.

Her first short film, Ultra-Feminist, got an Honorable Mention at Outfest: Fusion, and her second film, ALLY 3000, won over 12 awards at film festivals in scriptwriting, social justice and women in film. She is a member of the Alliance of Women Directors and the Producers Guild of America.

As an actress, her television credits include “ER,” “Bones,” “Gilmore Girls,” “Trauma,” “Perfect Harmony” and “Young Sheldon.” She can currently be seen as the lead in the Amazon series “Dyke Central.” She was nominated for Best Supporting Actress at Method Fest for the feature film Fiona’s Script. Other feature film work includes supporting roles in the thriller D-Railed with Lance Henriksen and Middleton Christmas with Eileen Davidson and Michael Pare.

Recently, she was recognized as one of 23 “Most Influential Filipina Women in the World” in the Innovator & Thought Leader category by the Filipina Women’s Network and given a “Special Thanks” credit at the end of Pixar’s Turning Red for being the on-call acting coach for Rosalie Chiang.

Espiritu can now be seen on Fox Entertainment’s free ad-supported streaming service Tubi in the the service’s original film Titanic 666, which started streaming April 15. She plays Nancy, an overzealous fan to Mia, a social media influencer played by Annalynne McCord.

In Titanic 666, 110 years after its namesake’s deadly journey, the Titanic III is fated to repeat one of history’s greatest disasters. A faithful replica of the original, the mammoth cruise ship is safeguarded with the most advanced technology to assure clear passage on its maiden voyage for the famous influencers, historical enthusiasts and other excited travelers on board. But unbeknownst to all, there is a stowaway amongst them with vengeful intentions to channel dark forces still at sea. As the ship halts over the surface of the original gravesite, crew and passengers are terrorized by ghosts. 

We asked Espiritu about her experience starring in the Tubi original.

MPN: How did you first get involved in and what attracted you to the project?

Espiritu: I auditioned for Titanic 666, back when it was still called Dead Water. As a working (not name) actor, I generally audition for everything and anything my team sends me. Sometimes you don’t know exactly what project is until you book it. 

MPN: You’ve done lots of work for traditional television outlets and studios. What was different/similar about participating in a project that would appear on a free streaming service such as Tubi? Had you watched the service before?

Espiritu: I actually didn’t know about Tubi until working on this. It’s great that there are so many outlets now for filmmakers and storytellers to showcase their work. I feel like, with the advent of streaming networks, more diverse stories and points of view can be told. We need more of that in the world today. I think that acting and storytelling can help the world become a more empathetic place.

AnnaLynne McCord (left) and Giovannie Espiritu in Titanic 666. (Photo courtesy of Tubi © 2022)

MPN: Can you describe your on-set experience? Are there any fun stories?

Espiritu: I loved working on this. First of all, the location in Long Beach was beautiful. The Queen Mary is such a majestic ship and imbued with so much history, I felt like it was like a fairytale in a way … well, a haunted fairy tale, because it is haunted in real life. I had an orb show up in my behind-the-scenes pictures and I ended up getting freaked out, so I asked production if I could stay in my car or hang out with the background talent instead of being alone in my room. 

MPN: Can you describe the character you play? What did you identify with most about your character?

Espiritu: With Nancy, I have an affinity for the loner, losers and outcasts, because I definitely feel like one a lot in my life. Her breakdown was: “She has no life or friends and is a super fan of the influencers.” It was easy for me to do because I tend to put people on a pedestal in my real life and I’m an introvert by nature. 

MPN: What was your favorite scene?

Espiritu: I loved running around like a crazy person in the ballroom when the ship crashes into the iceberg, but my favorite scene to film was when Mia (Annalynne McCord), Jackson (Derek Yates) and I find Idina (Lydia Hearst) doing her seance because we actually got to go down into the boiler room.

MPN: How would you describe Titanic 666 to viewers? What kind of fans will like it?

Espiritu: If you love campy movies like Sharknado, I think you’ll enjoy it. It is a silly, fun, titillating ride. It knows what kind of movie it wants to be. 

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MPN: In addition to being a performer, you are also active politically. How does your political activism inform and affect your career choices?

Espiritu: My identity is already political. I used to be an undocumented dreamer born to a teenage mom. I spent time in a Biblical Doomsday cult as a teen. I became a young mom myself and had to learn how to navigate the world as a single parent trying to make ends meet on gig work. Most of my storytelling comes from that worldview where I try to heal generational trauma, and dismantle the patriarchy mainly because I’m trying to figure out and heal myself through art. 

MPN: What’s next for you?

Espiritu: I’m traveling to Indonesia this week to do some scouting and research for a feature film that I’ve been commissioned to write. Hopefully, I’ll direct it. I also have a few shorts in development and I’ve been kicking around the idea of doing a personal documentary since my upbringing is so unusual. And I’ll be performing in a benefit production of The Vagina Monologues at the Herbst Theater in San Francisco at the end of May. V, formerly known as Eve Ensler, who wrote the play, will also be there, so I’m super excited. I admire her so much. Her work has sparked movements of education for women globally.

Talent Talk: ‘Digimon’ Actor Drew Inspiration From ‘Harry Potter’

The popular “Digimon” anime franchise reaches a final chapter of sorts in Digimon Adventure: Last Evolution Kizuna, a new movie that wraps up 20 years of storylines from various series over the years.

Actor Joshua Seth, who voices Tai Kamiya on the English-language versions of the Japanese cartoon, thanks the fans for keeping the show alive for more than two decades.

Joshua Seth

“It’s the fans that stayed engaged, mostly through the Internet, and by watching it on streaming platforms like Hulu, and without their support the producers would never have invested time money or resources to creating new ‘Digimon,’” Seth said. “It’s been such a treat to have been able to play a character for such a long period of time, especially one that has depth and growth and changes over time like Tai.”

Created for a virtual pet game in the mid-1990s, Digimon is short for digital monsters, creatures from a parallel “Digital World” created by Earth’s communication networks.

The concept spawned the anime series “Digimon Adventure,” which debuted in 1999 and was licensed by Saban Entertainment to air in America on Fox Kids Network, where it became one of the channel’s most popular shows.

Produced by Toei Animation, the show focused on a group of children called DigiDestined chosen to protect the Digital World. Each child is paired with their own Digimon and given a device to evolve the creatures into stronger forms. Seth’s character of Tai was partnered with a Digimon named Agumon.

“I think the message of Digimon initially connected because it was ahead of its time,” Seth said. “If you think about season one, episode one of the ‘Digimon’ series, Tai’s sitting in a tree and his friends are all playing at summer camp when these digital devices dropped out of a cloud. And from then on it was a battle to find the balance between the Digital World and the real world. I mean that’s what ‘Digimon’ is really about, and that’s the battle that we’ve all been fighting ever since. But 20 years ago that was a concept that was really ahead of its time, and so I think the message of it resonated with people initially. And then they started to get hooked into the relationships of the characters.”

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Seth, a voiceover veteran of several English-language versions of Japanese productions such as “Honeybee Hutch,” “Mobile Suit Gundam” and “Cowboy Bebop,” recalls not knowing much about the property when he first auditioned for the part of Tai.

“I really did not know anything about it. It was just another audition, and I probably had several auditions that day, just like every day at that time,” Seth said. “I remember going in and being surprised to see some people in the booth who I knew from working on other projects at Saban. So I immediately felt at ease because I worked with these people before and they knew who I was and what I was capable of.”

Seth had provided the voice of robot Alpha 5 at one point on Saban’s “Power Rangers.” But he drew inspiration for Tai’s voice from another source.

“There was very little in the way of text to read,” Seth said. “But there was a picture of Tai in sort of his fighting stance, and so I put my body in that physical position just like I saw in the picture, and because I didn’t have very much to go on I used my own voice. But just pitched it up a little bit to make him sound younger. I did notice however that the character description of Tai sort of mirrored Harry Potter, and the ‘Harry Potter’ novels had just come out, I think maybe only the first book had come out at that point, and I had read it out loud because as a voice actor I like reading out loud. When I teach voice acting to people I recommend reading out loud to get comfortable with their own voice and stretch it and know what it’s capable of. I had been reading ‘Harry Potter’ out loud with an accent, and I just dropped the accent and made him Tai, in my voice, with Harry Potter’s backstory.”

The show’s success led to Digimon: The Movie in 2000. The storyline continued in the “Digimon Adventure tri.” six-part film series first released in 2015 that depicted the characters in high school.

“Ever since ‘tri,’ ‘Digimon’ has dealt with more-adult themes, and at first it was surprising,” Seth said. “But then I soon realized what the producers had in mind was to age the characters and the themes and the whole tone and feel of ‘Digimon’ to reflect the fact that the audience has grown up as well.”

Digimon Adventure: Last Evolution Kizuna takes place five years after the events of “Digimon Adventure tri.” Nearing graduation, Tai and his friends learn that as they grow up, their bonds with their Digimon will eventually disappear.

“It just works because they have remained consistent over these past few movies with the idea that we’re no longer living in the world of Digimon as kids but as adults, and in fact that relates to the message of Kizuna, which is that we all have to grow up someday and nothing lasts forever. Change may be difficult but the best way to handle it is to accept it and not resist it, and that’s really what they’re giving us in that last movie.”

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Digimon Adventure: Last Evolution Kizuna, with both English- and Japanese-language tracks, is available now for digital sellthrough, and arrives on Blu-ray Disc and DVD Oct. 6 from Shout! Factory. Extras include a retrospective featurette with Seth and Tom Fahn, who voices Agumon.

Seth said unlike many of the projects he works on, he became a big fan of “Digimon.”

“A lot of the shows that I voiced I never watched or a didn’t watch until a long time afterwards because I was too busy recording things and auditioning for things to go on watching them, but ‘Digimon’ was an exception because it was on the air every Saturday morning,” Seth said. “I would actually watch it in real time along with everybody else. And that was just thrilling, so yeah, I became a fan right away of ‘Digimon’ and remain so to this day, but now I do it through my kids because my kids are younger and they haven’t watched all of the Digimon catalog, but they’ve watched the first season, and they’ve watched the original movie, and a couple of the ‘tri’s I was able to watch with them in the movie theaters.

“I remember when my daughter first put it together she was about 5, and we’re in the movie theater and the movie’s playing, where I’m on screen at the beginning, that’s the moment where she put it together that it’s me doing the voice, and she stands up in the movie theater points to the screen and goes ‘Dada that’s you!’ She literally didn’t get it until then. But it’s been wonderful as a father to introduce my own kids to the ‘Digimon’ series and be a fan of it through their eyes and through their fandom. Tiger my son actually sleeps with an Agumon plushy every night.”

Seth said he also enjoys meeting other fans and seeing how the show has impacted their lives.

“I’ve gotten so many emails and just fans coming up to me at comic cons over the years and saying that Tai’s courage inspired them to be more courageous in difficult situations in their own lives,” Seth said. “I know for a fact that resonates with people.”

But his most memorable fan interaction was a bit more out of the ordinary.

“I was at a comic con in Australia a few years ago where a fan wanted me to sign her body so she could get a tattoo of my signature,” Seth said. “She actually did get the tattoo, even though I advised her strongly against it, so I was very careful to make the signature look good.”

As for his future with the franchise, Seth said that despite the sense of closure offered by the Kizuna, he would enjoy returning if a new iteration came along (a reboot of the original series has already begun airing in Japan and is available online).

“If the producers reach out for me to play Tai again I would gladly do so,” Seth said.