How did you discover Bianca LaVerne Jones?

Q&A: Lens on Talent Season 1 Winner Phyllis Toben Bancroft

The filmmaker will make her BET debut in October with Burned.

Posted: 06/06/2011 03:19 PM EDT

Filed Under Lens On Talent

Phyliss Toben Bancroft

Phyllis Toben Bancroft won the first season of Lens on Talent on the strength of her short film, Spent. Since winning the $100,000 prize last March, Bancroft has been working diligently on Burned, a new short film about a female firefighter who returns home from the Iraq war suffering from PTSD. Burned is scheduled to air Sunday, Oct. 2 at 11 p.m. on BET. BET.comhad a chance to catch up with Bancroft in Los Angeles to discuss life after Lens on Talent and what’s next for her career.

 

BET.com: Tell us about Burned.

 

Bancroft: Burned is a short film starring Bianca LaVerne Jones, who is a fabulous actor. It’s about a woman who returns from Iraq with post-traumatic stress disorder, and her civilian job is a firefighter. We follow her on her way to get help.

 

How did you discover Bianca LaVerne Jones?

 

I met Bianca when I won BET’s Lens on Talent. She was at the after-party and she was introduced to me by a friend, who I did another short with. She had gone to Yale drama school and I’m from a theater background. I had gone to the Yale Summer Cabaret so I’m very familiar with their program and how hard it is to get in and get out of it. When I met her, we just kept in touch. Whatever she did, she would send me her work and I just kept an eye on her. When this project came up, there were some celebrity actors that I wanted to use, but scheduling did not permit it. The first person I thought of was Bianca. I contacted her to see if she was non-SAG and she said that she was. I actually auditioned her over Skype and she did a great job. I was like, “Oh my God.” I was tingling. I had her send some clips to my casting director because I felt like, “Wow, she’s not here.” I can’t reach out and touch her and she’s not going to be here to read with the other actors when I audition them. He saw her and said, “Cast her now. Don’t let her slip by.” We cast her and brought her in from New York.

 

You mentioned auditioning Bianca over Skype. How has social media changed the way filmmakers get things done?

 

It’s amazing because I would have never done that. I really like to feel the essence of people when you’re looking at someone’s eyes. Actually, Sykpe is so clear and it happened to be one of those connections that wasn’t pixelated. It was a clear connection for the whole reading and it was just great. I try to use Facebook, Twitter and all that to promote my film anyways.

 

Actor Eric Roberts has a cameo in Burned. How did you land him?

 

Eric Roberts answered the ad. [Laughs] My casting director put it out on the Breakdown [a casting website] and he responded. I guess my casting director and he go way back. He cast some of his first movies and it was a really nice favor that he did for me by just showing up. Really nice guy. First of all, he went beyond the call of duty. We had to rewrite his role when he said he would do it, because he was shooting a pilot. He came between his breaks during work. He was working on the pilot and came during lunch to shoot Burned. We got all set up for him and were waiting basically for him to come in, do his lines and be done. It was really great because I had a great team and they were organized and they had the lighting ready. We had a stand in for him so we could set everything up before he got there. He came in, got dressed and did it. And was so friendly to everyone. You could definitely tell he was a pro. It was a pleasure working with him.

Theater Review: Powerful ‘Disgraced’ raises issues at Asolo Rep

From left, Lee Stark, Dorien Makhloghi, Bianca LaVerne Jones and Jordan Ben Sobel in Asolo Rep's production of "Disgraced." GARY W. SWEETMAN PHOTO/ASOLO REP

From left, Lee Stark, Dorien Makhloghi, Bianca LaVerne Jones and Jordan Ben Sobel in Asolo Rep’s production of “Disgraced.” GARY W. SWEETMAN PHOTO/ASOLO REP

In a season that has explored racism and intolerance from a variety of powerful angles in everything from “West

Side Story” to “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” Asolo Repertory Theatre brings new perspectives to the discussion and puts the subject on full boil in a gripping production of Ayad Akhtar’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play “Disgraced.”

It’s a fascinating and sometimes humiliating look at how we see and present ourselves to the world and the potentially terrifying impact of how we alter our thoughts and actions to fit in and to stand out less. That’s what the central character Amir has done for most of his life. Born in the United States to Pakistani Muslim parents, he has given up his religion and changed his name to better fit in at his Jewish-run law firm where he hopes to be promoted to name partner. But trying to hide who you are 24/7 inevitably leads to tensions and conflicts.

Amir faces those problems at home and at work. His wife, a white artist who has developed an affinity for traditional Islamic art, encourages Amir to help defend his nephew Abe’s Imam defend himself from terrorism related charges. They don’t understand his reluctance to use his experience as a public defender to help a man possibly targeted more out of fear of Islamic terrorists than actual facts.

The play also includes a Jewish art dealer named Isaac who has taken an interest in

Emily’s work, and Isaac’s African-American wife, a colleague of Amir’s and an apparent rival for promotion. When they all come together for what is intended to be a celebratory dinner, the politically and religiously fueled talk turns pleasantries into confrontations. People say things you know they’re not supposed to say (at least in mixed company), let alone think. It’s an explosive scene that gets to the heart of entrenched racism.

Dorien Makhloghi, left, and Lee Stark pl;ay a couple facing some unexpected trouble in Ayad Akhtar’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play “Disgraced” at Asolo Rep. GARY W. SWEETMAN PHOTO/ASOLO REP

The harsh realities of Akhtar’s play, which begins with a good amount of humor before it becomes darker and more brutal, is presented in a nicely stylized production staged by Michael Donald Edwards, the theater’s producing artistic director. The production has a strong energy and genuinely believable characters, but as the

://ticket.heraldtribune.com/2016/04/02/theater-review-powerful-disgraced-at-asolo-rep/ Page

ater Review: Powerful ‘Disgraced’ raises issues at Asolo Rep 4/7/16, 6:5

tensions build toward a major confrontation, a key moment between Amir and Emily, harrowing though it still is, lacks the force it needs.

On Reid Thompson’s set, we get a suggestion of a high-end Manhattan apartment with just a few pieces of furniture placed on an angled wood floor. In the background, we get some startling views in Michael Clark’s projections, which reveal a bustling city turning into images of Islamic-styled mosaics.

Bianca LaVerne Jones plays an attorney and Jordan Ben Sobel is her art dealer husband in Asolo Rep’s production of “Disgraced.” GARY W. SWEETMAN PHOTO/ASOLO REP

Dorien Makhloghi plays Amir with a smart mix of aggressive competitiveness and world-weary resignation that shifts as the story progresses. There’s a

sense of self-entitled cockiness combined with the idea that his success can quickly disappear.

As Emily, Lee Stark is sweet and pleasant at times but without much of a distinctive personality. And she gets overly emotional or weepy for reasons that seem overwrought at certain moments. Jordan Ben Sobel, a third-year FSU/Asolo Conservatory student, is strong, mature and biting as Isaac, and Bianca LaVerne Jones as his wife, Jory, has a quick way with a comeback or reaction and a fun, take-no-guff kind of attitude. Nik Sadhnani has a compassionate aura as Abe in his few scenes.Beth Goldenberg capture’s a good sense of the personalities in her costumes, and Jen Schriever’s lighting matches the shifts in tone and tension that keep us engaged and may have you re-evaluating your own view on the world.

THEATER REVIEW “DISGRACED”

By Ayad Akhtar. Directed by Michael Donald Edwards. Reviewed April 1, Asolo Repertory Theatre in the Historic Asolo Theater, 5401 Bay Shore Rd., Sarasota. through April 24. 941-351-8000; asolorep.org

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Monique Barashango & W. Calvin Anderson, M.Ed Team-Up to Create Twitter # Hashstag Network Communities Twitter Hashtags: #MULTILINKSUSA,#MULTILINKSATLANTA and […]

via Hashtags #Multilinksusa, #MultilinksAtlanta and #MultilinksNYC Ready to Organize Online Arts, Education and Communities — W CALVIN ANDERSON, M.Ed

Stanley Tucci and the SUNY Purchase secret.

biancatinySo…I am there. Present.  On set.  Walk up to the kraft table although I am not hungry and I see him. Stanley. Stanley frigging Tucci.  HAHA… SUNY Purchase alum is standing beside me.  How do you say HEEEEEY…?  So I said “SUNY Purchase is in the house”.  Yes. I said it.  Proudly too.  He turns to me and says “Oh, yea…”, I say “Good morning” and we proceed to figure out who still works there, who died and…one of the ADs calls him over.  It was short but it was going to be long and caught on camera in a few hours.

I was writing, eating mangos and it is time to put on my clothes and be escorted to my scene as a waitress in the restaurant with SUNY Purchase alum, Stanley Tucci.  I was observant they way you are in someone else’s home.  You are polite, you don’t say much but if someone picks up a conversation with you, you GOOOOO for it.  You stand by your ideas without stepping on toes and wondering what they think of you but still doing your best to keep it real…but not too real like play cousins.  Looking over my lines on the tiny script they hand to everyone,  Mike comes over and says “Bianca, can I give you some blocking/direction?”  “Whew…I thought it was my job to make it up…haha…Yes, I would love direction.”  Probably said too much already but he smiled back at me and gave me a TON of direction.  SWEET.  We do the scene, a lot, for a long period of time which is pleasurable because it was time spent on a set and not like in a laundry mat.  Gratefulness is key.

IT GOES WELL.  I am grateful.  Happy even.

Time to walk back to the kraft table.  The day is wrapped and the only person walking my way and he doesn’t mind…Stanley.

I say “So you showed me everything you learned at Purchase today…” and he says “actually, I didn’t learn any of that at Purchase.”…he goes on…”Emily Best is my sister- in- law and she had just gotten out of school and she just did it.  You know.  I think it is innate.”

Those words felt light and heavy for so many reasons.  Emily Best is great.  Emily Best is his Sister (basically).  I do have an innate sense because I am here WITH You.

Amy Jo Berman says to destroy and uncreate anything that feels heavy and let it go.  So…I am emotionally and mentally as light as a feather and I thank God for that experience.

Bianca as GONERIL in King LEAR…(cue the scary music)

8/14 -11/14…WOW!  I made it to Chicago!! Hahahaha.  So…this was one of the best stories in terms of callbacks EVA.  As an actress we go on auditions all the time and sometimes we get, or I will speak for myself, I

King Lear Larry and Bianca

 

get too ahead of myself and start dictating what will and will not work for me.  I do this without giving myself a chance to explore new, wonderful, fun opportunities.  SO…I get the email and the call.  Yes…that is how it works.  I get an email from my agent and then her assistant calls me to tell me about it to make sure I got the email and she says the same thing to me every time before hanging up, “make sure you look it over and make sure the dates are cool with you and please confirm.  Have a great day Bianca!”.  I say, “Thanks Girlie/Jenn/Ruthie”.  Most of the time I just graze the email lightly and send a quick email back that says “confirm”.  I finished whatever I was doing as the busy New Yorker that I AM and I look it over AGAIN…HOLD ON!  This is LEAR…I don’t know…I don’t know if this one is gonna be a good one.  I don’t want to embarrass myself and FAIL big time in front of casting and whatever other 2 or 3 people are in the room.  Immediately, I call my friend Axel Avin Jr.. Axel is classically trained like me but I think he loves it a little more than I do and I have to have someone go over these huge sides for Goneril with me!  He is game.  He is a coach (acting).  He is always game to work.  Over the phone, in his deep booming voice he’s like, “Yo, B, I will be over your house in like an hour, I will tell you if you should do this or NOT.”.King Lear Do NOT make me MAD  We both laughed and I got to work.  When he arrived, he coached me within an inch of my sanity and says “B, if you do THAT at the audition, you will book that shit”.  I love it when he says that.

I go in…every pretty, strong, gorgeous complexioned black woman is there…all of them in my age range and power. ha.  SIGH.  Ignore.  Find a seat at Pearl Studios, fix your wig, hum a little to make sure your voice is with you for power, pull out your headshot/resume and sides and FOCUS.  Already prayed up.  I walk in and Bob Mason, a man I do not recognize immediately, from Chicago Shakespeare Theater picks up conversation with me.  It is light and friendly and then he does it…he asks me if I remember this girl (holds up a headshot).  OH MY GOD!  That is me when black and white headshots were the thing!  THAT is one of my first headshots as a professional actress.  AHAHAHAHAHAHA…  I remembered.  I auditioned for Bob when I was a badass’ badass straight out of SUNY PURCHASE.  This is when my middle name was Shakespeare.  hahaha.  I was in St. Louis in an August KIng Lear Who can arraign meWilson (Radio Golf) play or in Othello (playing Bianca!) and I took a MegaBus to Chicago for the first time in my life and auditioned.  He loved me, remembered me, and brought me in to read for Goneril.  He says, “I wanted to see if you were still acting”.  YES, I AM.

My agent’s assistant calls me and says, “you have a callback…they want to know if you are available to fly to Chicago on Monday”.  YES, I AM.

HELLO!!! That has NEVER happened before!  A callback and I have to get on a plane and fly to CHICAGO??!!??  CHI-TOWN HERE I COME!King Lear Stretch thy spirits UP

It’s over.  I am in the bathroom.  I am taking off my wig, wiping the Ruby Woo off my lips.  Elated.  I did good but… my phone rings, it’s Jenn, the agent assistant.  She wants to know if I have time to get fitted for my costume before I leave…as I am hanging up… the bathroom door opens and Barbara Gaines’ (Artistic Director) assistant wants to know if I can come back into the rehearsal hall a moment.  I BOOKED IT.

In the cab my commercial agent calls and says, “HI Bianca, I know you are in Chicago, you are on hold for an American Express national commercial”.  Please call me tomorrow when you get back to New York”.  When it rains it pours.

Within a week I was working in Chi-town! DOPEness.King Lear Why NOT by the hand Sir

And to think, I wasn’t going to go to the audition.

ha.

lesson: keep pushing, stay brushed up on all skills, give it your all every time you are up to bat because casting directors     King Lear Gon and Reg    remember you!

San Francisco and Oakland ROOTS

2014-07-14 19.30.23Good day! Three days left in my journey to Oakland/San Fran. WOW. Maybe if I’d known better, I would have moved here and dedicated my life to hugging trees years ago. This is such a wonderful place. MUIR National Park. SMH. A wonder. Trees. Literally the enchanted forest. The theme of this trip has been ROOTS. Planting seeds and growing roots. How does one plant a seed? Where does it come from? Who is going to water the seed that becomes a massive Muir tree in the future years? Me. Yes. Me. I plant the seed. Goal oriented positive thinking is where it will come from. I will water the seed, I will feed myself the process. I till the soil as often as needed. Done.

The Mountaintop-Review by wkarons

The setting of Katori Hall’s play The Mountaintop (currently running at City Theatre) reveals nearly everything we need to know about what is at stake in the action: “Room 306 at the Lorraine Motel, Memphis, Tennessee, April 3, 1968” – the evening before Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on the balcony outside that very room. It is a dark and stormy night; and the cliché of that opening seems a deliberate one, an early indication of the play’s interest in taking its audience on a journey from stereotype and “what we (think we) know” to the unexpected surprises that are revealed when clichés, stereotypes, and everything we (think we) know is subjected to closer inspection.

At the play’s opening, a stressed-out, jumpy, exhausted Dr. King (Albert Jones) is in desperate need of a cigarette and cup of coffee to help calm his jittery nerves and get himself focused enough to work on his speech in support of the Memphis sanitation strike the following day. He calls down to room service for the coffee (his friend and advisor the Reverend Ralph Abernathy, whom we never see, has been sent for the Pell-Mells), and minutes later coffee arrives in the hands of a sassy, sexy young maid, Camae (Bianca LaVerne Jones), who is on her first day on the job. She happens to also have a stash of King’s brand of cigarettes in her pocket, along with a small flask of whiskey, and the room service delivery quickly transforms into more than King bargained for. Camae is not what she initially seems, and although it would be a disservice to anyone who has not seen or read this play to give away here what we discover about her, I do not feel it is too much of a spoiler to reveal that what we think is going to turn into an evening of seduction becomes, instead, an evening of revelations, both literal and figurative. Over the course of ninety minutes, playwright Hall covers a lot of territory, including the demystification of a generational icon and saint, the doubts and fears that must beset spiritual and social leaders like King, the tactical and strategic rifts in the late-60s civil rights movement, the relative status of black women in the movement, the nature of religious faith, the impossibility of confronting one’s own mortality, and King’s legacy in the 20th and 21st centuries. It’s a talky play, and at times I found myself wondering what it was, at core, “about,” but in the end this was not a flaw; indeed, its wide-rangingness and inclusiveness is a strength, allowing spectators to weave a tapestry out of the play’s exploration of human fears, doubts, needs, and desires and their own historical and personal experience of struggle and loss. Hall’s writing is punchy, full of both humor and pathos – I freely admit, gentle readers, that I laughed, and I cried, and though I cannot guarantee you will do the same, I greatly doubt anyone would not be moved by the play’s acerbic, light-fingered, but poignant imagining of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s last night on earth.

Read More

Bianca LaVerne Jones as Camae

Featured

Bianca LaVerne Jones’s glorious, mischievous, and deeply sensitive interpretation of Camae. Her work on stage defines the word “protean” – she enters the scene like a lightening bolt (indeed, if memory serves, she enters with one) and immediately electrifies…

Wendy Arons

Camae is not what she initially seems, and although it would be a disservice to anyone who has not seen or read this play to give away here what we discover about her, I do not feel it is too much of a spoiler to reveal that what we think is going to turn into an evening of seduction becomes, instead, an evening of revelations, both literal and figurative.

Launch Related Site

“The Mountaintop” at City Theatre

Featured

The setting of Katori Hall’s play The Mountaintop (currently running at City Theatre) reveals nearly everything we need to know about what is at stake in the action: “Room 306 at the Lorraine Motel, Memphis, Tennessee, April 3, 1968” – the evening before Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on the balcony outside that very room. It is a dark and stormy night; and the cliché of that opening seems a deliberate one, an early indication of the play’s interest in taking its audience on a journey from stereotype and “what we (think we) know” to the unexpected surprises that are revealed when clichés, stereotypes, and everything we (think we) know is subjected to closer inspection.

Launch Related Site