Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air star sinks teeth into low-budget drama
HOME AGAIN directed by Sudz Sutherland, written by Sutherland and Jennifer Holness, with Tatyana Ali, Lyriq Bent, Stephan James and Fefe Dobson. An eOne Films release. 101 minutes. Some subtitles. Opens Friday (March 22). For venues and times, see listings.
Tatyana Ali hasn't seen Home Again yet. In about four hours, it will premiere at the 2012 Toronto Film Festival, and she's excited and curious to see how it plays.
Having spent most of her life in front of a camera - as a kid on Sesame Street and The Fresh Prince Of Bel Air, and more recently on shows like The Young And The Restless and the American cable series Love That Girl! - Ali was quick to sign on to Sudz Sutherland's feature.
Home Again offers her a rare dramatic lead as Marva Johnson, one of three people deported to their native Jamaica after growing up abroad. Marva's spent almost her entire life in Toronto, and must deal not only with the challenge of starting a new life in Kingston, but with the agony of being forced to leave her two children behind in Canada.
"The interesting thing about Marva is that the very thing that is tragic is also her anchor," Ali says. "Having her children taken from her - which is like having somebody tear off her arms - that's her pain, but that's also her salvation. Her goal throughout the film is to get those kids back home to her. So she is anchored in a different way, I think, than the other characters are. She's there to make a home, so she can't afford to flail."
Ali says the character was beautifully written - "a fully-realized, multidimensional character right there on the page."
She and Sutherland would discuss the character on the phone for hours.
"We had similar ideas of who she was and where she should go. And once I got to Trinidad, we just hit the ground running."
Shooting a low-budget movie in Trinidad and Tobago provided its own culture shock, she admits.
"You're in this encapsulated little bubble that you travel with all the time, and the schedule's so tight you rarely even go outside of the [location]," Ali says. "Maybe you go down the street to get some fresh air. But my father is actually from Trinidad, so that was a whole 'nother experience - a very warm, welcoming experience for me."
Ali was very happy with the Home Again shoot, as well, and has the highest praise for Sutherland.
"He's very detailed," she says, "and very collaborative at the same time. It felt very safe. I did a film with Rodrigo Garcia, Mother And Child. It was a very tiny part, but it felt the same. I felt like every single person on that set was there to tell the same story, and we all knew exactly what that story was. That's absolutely the triumph of the director. That feeling of synergy was exhilarating."