American actress Masiela Lusha discusses George Lopez Show, playing Gemini in Sharknado series, and non-profit Uncommon Good
By: Daniel Hoyos | PHOTOS COURTESY Raul Roa
- Los Angeles, California
American actress Masiela Lusha opens up about the groundbreaking sitcom The George Lopez Show, and playing Gemini in the hugely successful Sharknado series. Also Masiela talks about her non-profit Uncommon Good helping families rewrite their stories.
Congratulations on the success of "Sharknado 4: The 4th Awakens", and the sequel "Sharknado 5" which, premieres August 6th on SyFy. The Sharknado series of films has become a huge phenomenon, having personally seen memes based off your character Gemini. Can you tell us about the audition process for the role of Gemini, and how difficult was it doing your own stunts in Sharknado?
Sharknado felt like a whirlwind from virtually out of nowhere! Within 48 hours of my scheduled flight to Florence, Italy, I received an offer. I read the script and absolutely needed to portray the role of Gemini. Her fierceness and compassion was perfectly fleshed out, and I said yes. Within 48 hours of my acceptance I found myself on set, meeting everyone for the first time.
Filming my own stunts was what motivated me accept Sharknado as well. Gemini was fearless and it felt like such a fulfilling outlet. My favorite stunt would have to be leaping off the Stratosphere Hotel in Vegas at 4am. Leading up to this particular stunt, our director, Anthony, and our producers insisted I wouldn't be able to follow through. Of course, when someone says that something can't be done, I feel compelled to prove them wrong.
You recently stared in the Lifetime movie "Forgotten Evil" which, is about a woman with amnesia who tries to restart her life until the past comes back to haunt her. The character you play is the multi person role of Renee, Jane Doe, and Veronica, who has amnesia, and can't remember things. Was it a challenge to play three different roles in one film, and what kind of working relationship have you built with director Anthony C. Ferrante?
Anthony and I worked together on Sharknado a few months prior when he offered me the opportunity of Renee. I adored working with Anthony in Sharknado because he had quite a fluid way of filming scenes, sometimes rewriting scenes on the day of shooting. With Sharkando, as actors we simply didn't know what to expect day to day, and it was quite alright because the end product was rewarding. With Anthony, I felt safe, and I considered him an actor's director. I didn't second guess his vision, and I was always pleasantly surprised with the outcome.
While I've worked on heavy genres in the past, I loved Renee because she essentially evolved with the audience. She began to piece her world at the same pace as the viewer began understanding her circumstances, so essentially she lived on the same plane of understanding. There was no backstory to draw from, essentially nothing she was privy to that the audience would need to eventually catch up on. Anthony asked that I play various firsts in the film: the first taste of a strawberry, the first moment of spotting a person that Renee would eventually love, the first kiss, and the first betrayal. The audience lived through these moments with Renee and that made me feel more connected with my craft.
As actors, we are taught to draft a little backstory diary on our characters, outlining subsitions, and explain the hidden machinations of every physiological twist. With Renee, and for the first time in my career, I was forbidden from exploring this tactic. I simply needed to live moment to moment with her. It was exhilarating.
Having grown-up with "The George Lopez" I felt the similarities between The Lopez family, and my own family. My favorite episode was when Carmen convinced Max he was adopted with the classic line "I'm not supposed to tell you this, but you're adopted! And when you turn 16, your head will explode just like your real mom's said!" Can you take us threw your audition process for Carmen Lopez, and what can you tell us about working with George Lopez?
What made the George Lopez show magical is the authenticity injected by the producers and our incredibly dedicated staff of writers. This authenticity is what feels most rewarding to actors, in my opinion, because it breathes life to our craft. We then act for a reason, and that reason is to elevate, reflect, and by doing this, essentially heal. We act for the audience, not at the audience. And we absolutely have the writers to thank for this honor and privilege.
The George Lopez show was my first sitcom audition, my first Network test, and my first major offer. And I believe these series of first could have helped my performance of Carmen. During the audition, I didn't have any exceptions, I was even jarred at the bursts of laughter in the middle of my audition. I always assumed an actor's stage was sacred, but this laughter fueled me forward, and felt more natural than other more quiet and respectful audition experiences. I then realized that sitcom was my home, that one space of reassurance and direct validation of healing I needed to witness realtime.
I do believe having no expectations and preconceived notions about this particular audition process and even the Hispanic family is what inspired an offer from the producers. I didn't impose an accent, a style of delivery, a preference of clothes. Carmen was written with such contradictory and complex characteristics that I remember thinking, "ok, they clearly just want a real girl, contradictions and all! I'll be me then."
That was it! The series of auditions and tests felt easy, natural, and for the first time in my early career, I felt that this was where I needed to be. I simply glowed auditioning for Carmen because I loved her so much even before the offer. She was an amalgamation of nearly every friend I had known and adored in school, and the most authentic pieces of me.
Over the years "The George Lopez Show", has become a cult sitcom that raised the bar for latinos in television. The many fans we're very excited when the cast reunited after 10 years on "The Lopez Show" George's new semi-autobiographical sitcom that airs on TV Land. What was like reuniting with the cast after 10 years, and can you tell us exactly why Carmen was written out of series after season 5?
I feel Carmen had such a diverse trajectory in her storyline, they took her through so many growing pains, that at some point she needed to find herself, settle into an understanding of who she was, and go to college. She learned too much over the five years not to grow up and move on. I learned so much through Carmen and was pleased to see her finally settled. It was rewarding as an actor to take her through her journey.
Reuniting with George and Constance felt easy and natural, like the original sitcom days. Within minutes of our tableread, we found our rhythm again. This surprised me as we hadn't seen each other in years. For me, it must have been nearly a decade!
One of the many things that I personally loved about "The George Lopez Show", that made it stand-out from other sitcoms was the fact it wasn't afraid to address serious issues. The episode where Camren told her parents she was pregnant so she could move into her boyfriends house, had a very serious tone. How did you tackle the more serious issues, and looking back on the show what was your proudest moment?
I agree with you that this was truly one of the most fulfilling aspects of the sitcom. The producers weren't afraid to let the characters scream, cry, feel genuine heartbreak, and simply live. Often times our endings weren't tied with a perfect bow and that's what kept the show timeless. It was real life.
There were moments when my direction for Carmen was to laugh, and in the middle of filming the scene, I would tear up instead because that simply made more sense to me in her situation, or even vice versa because George was hilarious, and angry or not as his daughter, I couldn't help but laugh. How often do we find ourselves stifling a laugh when we're angry with someone, despite our own attempt to be serious and dignified? That's life.
You're also a published author with the book "The Living Air" which, is about exceptional book of poems. Can you tell us what's your inspiration behind writing the book?
The Living Air is my most diverse collection of poetry. For the first time in my writing career, I wrote a few poems in German, and translated each back to English. I would say the translation (even of my own poems) feels by far the most complex and time consuming. Figures of speech that feel natural in one language feel forced or unintelligible in another! What to do?
For the first time in my career, I also translated poems by Saint Theresa, herself an Albanian. This translation felt like acting to me. To truly understand her meditations and the correct English interpretation, I needed to read a few books on her biography, and dive into her personal letters to friends and confidants. I needed to understand the depth of her yearning and insecurities to find its meaning in English.
I think a lot of people would be interested to learn your not actually Latino but, born in Tirana, Albania before your family left as refugees to Budapest, Hungary, and Vienna, Austria. Can you tell us how you got started acting, and got discovered?
That's right! The first quarter of my life lacked consistency and comfort. While I never felt deprived of a normal childhood, as it was the only childhood I knew, I did feel a sense of how truly big the world can be, the wide spectrum of people, dreams, dreads, and desires. This realization made me love people, and absorb their world in a very sensitive and intuitive way. I was able to follow the nuances of individuals, as it meant survival for me, and I was able to utilize this in acting later in life. And this is why I simply adore acting, it provides an outlet for every human experience, and validates it. Every heartache can be manifested into a reward in acting, every injury, a fulfilling journey. It's nice to have that outlet to rewrite one's experiences in a healing way.
I began acting at 12 in Macomb, Michigan. An agent from Los Angeles was combing the Midwest for fresh faces. Of the 600 or so aspiring talents at the open call, I was one of the three he asked to return with him to Los Angeles. While I did not know a single person in LA, I was fortunate to start with an agent.
You're new project "Uncommon Good" is a non profit charity that helps mentor youth to attend college, eat healthy, and combat health care issues. Tell us about your role in "Uncommon good", and what you would like to see for the future?
I feel my experience as a refugee galvanizes my passion for humanitarian work. I simply to need to support any way that I can. This automatic drive feels as natural and obvious as breathing. Perhaps I feel I was given too much in my youth, had witnessed a palpable human need on the receiving end, had lived through kindness and compassion from perfect strangers, that it is absolutely unimaginable not to relive this experience in a healing way.
Uncommon Good helps families rewrite their stories. They can re-interpret their expectations of what they were taught through our mentorship program. For example, our students from unfortunate circumstances have a 41.5% chance of graduating high school. Less than half! We find these students, help define their dreams, and mentor them through scholarships and college acceptances. We have a perfect 100% success rate in sending our students to college. Yes, 100%. We help them find the courage to define new expectations for the future, and all the golden possibilities that their society couldn't articulate let alone dream up.
Sharknado 5: Global Swarming premieres August 6th at 8/7c on the SYFY network.