Interview with Fiona Rene of “I Know What You Did Last Summer” on Amazon Prime by Thane 12/27/22
I was excited to ask Fiona about the technological aspects of her work as technology interests me.
Thane: Are you pleased with how I Know What You Did Last Summer turned out?
Fiona: Yes, I am. I don’t know if you know this, but we didn’t know who the killer was while we were shooting until the very end. So, I myself was very surprised by the whole ordeal.
Thane: Were there any scenes that were challenging to play?
Fiona: You know, it’s always interesting doing intimate scenes with someone that you have just met. So, obviously, that was a little, you know, intense. And I think one of my favorite scenes that we shot was when I had to go into the cave, because I had to actually squeeze through a whole bunch of little crevices, and it really it felt very realistic. That was probably the most intense, those two.
Thane: Overall, what has been your favorite role to play and why?
Fiona: Oh, what a good question. I don’t know. I don’t know if you have seen this, but I played a character named Sarah Bernhardt in a video game for PS4 and virtual reality called The Invisible Hours, and my character is French, and it took place in like the early 1900s. So yeah, that was probably my favorite thus far, but I love playing cops, don’t get me wrong.
Thane: What drove you to get into acting?
Fiona: I’ve been doing it ever since I was a kid, and I moved around a lot when I was younger. Every year we moved, so it was kind of difficult to make friends, and acting was always the thing that was consistent in my life that made me feel like I could have fun and play without being super nervous or scared all the time. So, it really made me feel comfortable, and that’s the best feeling in the world, right? Whenever you actually feel like you’re accepted, and you’re comfortable, and now I could never stop, ever.
Thane: How do you feel about the current state of diversity in Hollywood?
Fiona: It’s getting better. It’s consistently getting better, and there’s so much more room to grow. I really like that people of color are being seen for roles that don’t put them in boxes as much as they used to, but we still have so much more work to do. And I also feel very proud, because I’ll be it, we’re not perfect, and Hollywood has so much to learn still, but I feel like we are coming from a small town in Oklahoma where the diversity is very rare, and you don’t have a lot of different cultures there. The Midwest, it is predominantly white, so I think we’re making moves, and I think that we’re doing it in a really good job, but I think that it’s slow, but it’s supposed to be slow, because if we went any faster, it’s like we would be missing steps. Great question.
Thane: Is there any actor and/or director who you want to work with?
Fiona: Mike Flanagan…Burton Bernie. In the Marvel world, I think that they could really use me. Burton, Bernie and Mike Flanagan, I love horror. I’m such a big horror fan. So, I Know What You Did Last Summer was super fun, but I wouldn’t mind getting into a little bit more deeper psychological horror.
Thane: Are you inspired by any actors or actresses?
Fiona: Oh gosh. Yes. I think, you know, this might be a little on the nose, but JLaw, Jennifer Lawrence, when she came out, and she made such big waves, it really inspired me to know that I can kind of just be myself: sarcastic, I don’t have to be in the best mood all the time, I don’t have to put on a face all the time, I can be curvy, like, there’s lots of lots of inspiration that I got from her. And also, maybe not named actors, but actors that are working in improv. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of like Groundlings and UCB, but they’re like improvisational theater groups that are kind of around LA, and there are a lot of people that every day, they’re grinding. They’re going to the theater; they’re playing games. They’re working with other actors. That’s the most inspiring people that aren’t getting paid thousands of dollars yet, but are still just grinding, because they love their craft. That’s probably the most inspirational, aside from so many amazing actors and names. [Margaret Qualley from] the show Maid. I don’t know if you’ve seen Maid. It’s about a girl who is very poor. She goes through domestic violence. The actress who played that, oh, blew me off my feet. But yeah, a lot of the time I’m inspired not by named actors, but by actors that I meet, that are just grinding every day.
Thane: As an acting coach, does it bother you if you see actors on set that are not doing a great job with their acting?
Fiona: That’s a hard question, because define “what is doing a great job?” I am bothered as an acting coach; I am bothered when I see actors take it so seriously that they forget to play, especially, you know, when you go method, and whenever you get into the role so much that you’re so focused that you’re no longer part of the community on set, but you’re just in your own zone. I think that’s the hardest, and that’s when I get the most disappointed, because they could be doing a great job. They can be acting the character off the wall, but if they’re making it uncomfortable, difficult, and not fun for all the people that they’re working with, that’s when I get upset, or disappointed, you may say, because it really, our job is to not only put on a good performance for the audience, but also to create a good energy in the space that we’re working. I hope I answered your question.
Thane: Tell us about your workshop method for being acting in immersive environments.
Fiona: Okay, I get really excited talking about this. There’re lots of different mediums nowadays, right? Video games, virtual reality, TV, RPGs, movies, so many different kinds of ways to experience storytelling, that it’s really interesting for the actor, especially whenever you’re just starting, because you can get a job doing voiceover. You can get a job doing virtual reality, augmented reality, TV, and there are lots of technical difficulties and differences between these mediums, but there’s not a lot of difference between character preparation, and a lot of actors can get thrown off with the technical differences that they let those technicalities affect their character performance. So, Method for Being is really about helping you define your character, helping you define your role, what those differences are, and how to put those into any medium, no matter the technical difference. So, whether you’re on stage in front of fifty thousand people, you’re playing the same authentic character as you would be if you got cast as the same thing, but in a TV show or video game.
Thane: You have experience with virtual reality, which is great, because I am a nerd. Do you think there’s potential for independent producers to create their own productions utilizing virtual reality technology?
Fiona: Yes, 100% I mean, especially someone who’s differently abled, I think that there is a platform there where you can really have a voice, for sure. The one thing about VR is that it’s such complicated storytelling, because there’s such an open world; it’s not so linear, and there’s pros and cons to that, right? Pros being, there’re not a lot of people; not everyone in Hollywood knows how to tell a nonlinear story. So if you really can understand how that world works, then you really got a one up. The cons to that is that, because there are not many people in Hollywood that understand nonlinear storytelling, it takes a little bit more effort to get people to listen, but I think right now is the time for independent producers and independent storytellers that don’t maybe have as much experience as your Joe Schmo on TV making series every day to pump their own content. There’s so much more space for new content. So, yes.
Thane: What are the advantages of using AR/VR as opposed to traditional 2-D Productions?
Fiona: Well, one, it’s 2-D on television screens in movies. There’s a fourth wall, and the audience is on the sidelines watching. Whenever we play in VR and AR, the audience now becomes a player in the story. The audience now has agency; the audience now has the ability to change things up. I don’t know if you know about We Are OFK, the game that I’m in that’s coming out 2022. It is a narrative video game, but just like in the 90s, when you play or you read a choose your own adventure novel, there’s so much more ability for the audience to affect how the story changes. And it’s not as easy to do that on a 2-D platform, because you still feel separated with the screen, but when you are in VR, and AR, when you turn your head and you look to that side of the room, you see that side of the room. You become the filmmaker yourself. So, there’s so much more agency for the audience, that it really becomes an interactive experience, as opposed to something that you’re just watching. You’re now a part of the story; you have choice. That’s so exciting to me, because I think storytelling in general is so collaborative, that whenever not only are you you’re collaborating with your fellow artists, but now you’re collaborating with your audience, that’s just that’s just so dope to me.
Thane: As an actor and/or producer, do you have to think about different things when you do productions in newer technologies? What are the main things?
Fiona: That was a complicated question. I almost want you to ask it again, because you said actor or producer. And, you know, the producer’s job is to really get hands on, and there’s a huge, a huge difference between what a producer would be doing in let’s say, a VR production, as opposed to what a producer would be doing in a TV production, lots of differences, the way things are handled. I mean, there’re different kinds of producers as well, the producer that makes sure everyone’s doing their job on set versus the producer that is budgeting out the money and making sure money goes to different places. A virtual production would have different jobs that a producer would have to hire for, as opposed to a 2-D production, but I think – and that’s where Method for Being comes in. For the actor, there shouldn’t be that much of a difference. The actor should know what their “moment before” is. The actor should know how to focus and ground themselves so they are able to become the character that they need to become. The actor should know who they’re talking to. What’s the relationship to the person they’re talking to, and where are they? Those things no matter whether you’re doing a green screen mocap suit or you’re out in the middle of the wilderness, those should be the same. So, to answer your question, yes and no.
Thane: Is there anything else that you want to share with the TVMEG.COM audience?
Fiona: Let’s see. Make sure to check out I Know What You Did Last Summer and We Are OFK on PS4 and PS5, 2022. You’ll see me in – I’m about to shoot a couple of episodes of a few other shows at the top of the year, so I should have some new content coming out soon. And thank you just so much for spending time with me talking about this stuff. I’m a geek too. So, I’m with you. I could talk about interactive storytelling all day long.
Here is the Video!
Interview Transcribed by Jamie of http://www.scifivision.com
Multi-faceted, Chinese-American actress, voice artist, immersive director and educator, Fiona Rene will star in her first series regular role in the highly-anticipated Amazon Original series “I Know What You Did Last Summer” which all episodes are now streaming to 240 countries and territories worldwide. The Sony Pictures produced series will premiere with the first four episodes premiering at once on October 15th and the remaining four will come out weekly, with the finale episode Friday, November 12th. Written by Sara Goodman (“Gossip Girl”) and executive produced by James Wan (SAW, THE CONJURING), the gory yet sexy series, based on the 1973 novel by Lois Duncan, is a YA mystery thriller series with elements of horror, comedy and drama and is a modern take of the 1998 movie adaptation. In a town full of secrets, a group of teenagers are stalked by a mysterious killer a year after a fatal accident on their graduation night. Rene plays the role of “Lyla”, the police chief of the small town who works to piece together clues to find the killer.
Rene is best known for her role as Kara Lee on ABC’s “Stumptown,” her first recurring role in which she played Michael Ealy’s love interest. Her other credits include ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy,” FOX’s “LA’s Finest,” and The CW’s “Jane the Virgin,” in which she played the role of ‘Celeste,’ a lesbian mother who goes on a playdate with Jane (Rodriguez) and her son. Rene is also a successful voiceover actor in animation, radio, promo, narrative and commercial. She has voiced for the Freeform network’s “The Bold Type” and “Good Trouble” along with several other animation projects. She is also best known for being one of the hosts in LATV’s “Get it Girl” where she dives into fun, culturally relevant, provocative and attention-grabbing conversation. Alongside acting, Rene has worked extensively in theater and animation in addition to voiceover work and has worked as an interactive performance director, creative consultant, and performance manager.
Born in Montana, Rene and her family moved often and lived in many different places growing up. At the age of 13, Rene and her family moved from Michigan to Texas where she eventually graduated from high school at the age of sixteen and attended Austin Community College and then Oklahoma Baptist University. Moving from school to school, she struggled making friends but soon found her calling as an actor through augmented and virtual reality storytelling. She started working at a haunted house and learning prosthetics while teaching acting at the same time. Rene made her directorial debut alongside writing and casting her first immersive show with 13th Floor Entertainment in 2008. After relocating to London, Rene worked as an actor, acting coach and director, directing and casting for Le Manoir de Paris, France for 5 years until she moved to Los Angeles. Since then, she has worked nonstop as an actor and director and has much experience working on long tours as well as abroad. Through the Disney Talent Mentorship program, she became an artist residence at Technicolor where she creates interactive content for their augmentative and virtual reality department.
Rene created several immersive haunted house experiences and also directed and co-wrote an immersive interactive theatre experience called THE WILLOWS, a 2-hour experience that takes guests through a sprawling 10,000 square foot mansion in Los Angeles. This allowed her to create her own concept and began teaching workshops on “Method for Being: Acting in Immersive Environments,” an interactive masterclass for actors and storytellers designed to explore the commonalities of character building and world building, between the mediums of stage, film, television, voiceover, motion capture, live immersive/interactive, VR and AR. The workshops also explore the critical similarities and differences between creative processes like Audience POV, special awareness, motivation-based movement, linear/multi-liner/multiverse and open world storylines. Her clientele includes ABC/Disney, private and public schools, universities, theatre companies, design summits, conference, and also teaches one-on-one personal sessions to enhance the actor’s and storyteller’s creative process and confidence in their craft. Rene was also on the Board of Directors for The Game Academy in San Rafael, a company empowering learners to achieve social, emotion, cognitive, and academic success through engaging, interactive role-playing games for kids and students who are on and off the spectrum, helping them interact socially and emotionally.
In her free time, Rene lives a healthy and fit lifestyle weight training and practicing spiritual meditation. Having struggled with mental illness, she has found stability through art and acting and works to help others dealing with mental health. She also loves to spend time with her adorable cats Lily & Denver.
Proofread and Edited by Brenda