Staying true: Get to know ‘Laguna Ave.’ star Russell Steinberg
Some movies scare you enough that you want to stay inside and lock the door. That’s the case with Laguna Ave, a horror film about a burned out TV editor becoming entangled with the “sinister world” of his downstairs . The film, from director David Buchanan and producer Ali Barone, premiered at Frightfest UK and is currently streaming as part of the festival.
Russell Steinberg (Adventureland, Below the Belt) stars in Laguna Ave, bringing to life the horror of Buchanan’s vision. We were lucky enough to speak with Steinberg about his role in the movie and his upcoming projects.
Tell us about your history in acting. What got you interested in the craft?
I started acting as a child. I alway knew I wanted to be on stage and entertaining people. I did tons of local theater and then I started working professionally at age 12 where I was the bully in the very 1st “ milk it does the body good” commercial.
Who are some actors that inspire you?
Rod Steiger, Daniel Day Lewis, Christian Bale, Gene Wilder & John Belushi to name a few. All for very different reasons. I’ve also always liked Val Kilmer and enjoyed his films but I’m really inspired by him at the moment after watching Val.
Are you involved in any acting communities?
Not per say. I happen to be friends with a lot of very creative and talented people. Some wildly successful, some still chipping away.
In addition to acting, you’re also a writer. Tell us about how you became interested in writing
I think to call myself a writer is slightly unfair to writers. That said, I had some stories that were living inside me and needed to be told so I teamed up with a writer friend and we started meeting a few days a week and having writing sessions.
Talk us through your creative process when writing.
It starts with a broad outline. Then a list of scenes. I use save the cat as a guide. Then I just sit with my partner and we really try to find the voices of each character.
Do you prefer one or the other?
I prefer acting. Being in front of the camera is an amazing feeling and there’s obviously the potential for more people to enjoy your work, but the greatest thrill is being onstage.
Your current project is Laguna Ave. How did you get involved with the production?
I’ve been friends with producer Ali Barone since we used to wait tables in the 90’s at Lucky Strike in Manhattan. When her and her boyfriend writer/producer Paul Papadeas approached me to play Russell I jumped on the opportunity to star in a film and work with friends on such a fun project.
What did you enjoy most about working on the film?
First and foremost it was a labor of love. Everyone involved was there because they love what they do and wanted to make a great film. Also, the script was absolutely wild and out there and was a lot of fun to act in. It was a real CL balance to get it done in the time and budget we were working with and that challenge made it exciting and really feel like an accomplishment.
What was your biggest challenge throughout the production?
Getting through our days. We were on such a tight schedule we had to work sometimes into the wee hours of the evening and sometimes had to make sacrifices for time. Also, I’m in every single scene.
What do you hope audiences take away from the film?
An escape from their lives for 90 minutes, and a journey into our strange world.
How do you approach acting in a horror film differently than, say, a comedy or a drama?
I approached it the same. In fact the world around me was so strange in this film I felt like it was important for me to really stay grounded. David Buchanan, the director, also worked on developing my character arc.
What has been the biggest success of your career so far?
I’ve had a lot of success as my alter ego Johnny Fayva. I’ve traveled the world doing what I love. Performing for huge crowds and sharing the stage with some incredibly talented people from Slash to Rashida Jones.
What’s been your biggest failure, and what did you take away from it?
I did a talk show pilot for MTV “The Fayva Show”. They put a lot into the development and I really thought it was gonna go. It didn’t. In hindsight I didn’t stick to my vision and got pulled in too many directions by not so creative people who were just trying to keep their jobs. The takeaway is stay true to yourself and don’t be afraid to fight for your ideas.
What part of acting do you geek out about the most?
Preparation is important. Script analysis, finding beats and motivation. Strangely, without doing that you can’t truly do the next part which is really listening and reacting in the moment which is the part I geek out on. It’s an incredible feeling.
If you could only watch one film for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Who are some indie actors that should be on our radar?
What is something that’s on your acting bucket list?
Get paid more to do it.
Do you have any advice for aspiring actors?
Do the work. Fortune favors the prepared. Also, marry a doctor or lawyer.
Can you tell us about any of your upcoming projects?
I’m in development on a documentary about Johnny Fayva called “The Last Schmaltz” and a dark comedy I wrote called ‘Love You Mom.” It’s Throw Mama From the Train meets Harold and Maude.