- Posted August 9, 2014 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Tell us the Good Stuff!
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Johanna Tolentino: A Woman Moving To Her Own Script!!!
Luz Johanna Tolentino got her first big break at the age of 16 on the feature film "Lean On Me" with Morgan Freeman as “Francesca”. After being bitten by the acting bug, she went full fledge into her acting career and booked roles on and off Broadway in New York with the Puerto Rican Traveling Theater. She then started booking roles in regional theaters around the country including in Atlanta and Philadelphia. She did a number of industrial films and regional commercials in Atlanta and Philadelphia. She has also booked roles on various web series, including the web series "Which Way". Recently, she played the character of Rosa in The Buddy Holly Story at the Walnut Street Theatre, a nurse on the NBC show Do No Harm, and Maria on the short film, "Taking East New York". Right now she is the creator, producer and star of the web series "Whatever It Takes" and just recently announced that she is the Associate Producer for the short film 'THE KIDS MENU', written by Richard Vetere (The Third Miracle) and directed by Paul Borghese (Once Upon a Time in Brooklyn). In addition to acting and producing, Johanna recently joined “Aikan Acts” program with Actor/Founder Nakia Dillard in Philadelphia as the new teaching artist. She teaches the children: Audition technique, Camera Presentation, and much more…
I was able to catch up with this amazing woman on Facebook when I inboxed her to see if she would allow me to interview her for CNN iReport. She sent me a message back saying, “Hola Charron! I would love to do an interview with you. Thank you for wanting to interview me! Let's do it!” Immediately I got excited because I simply admired her acting and skills on and off stage, but when I had the pleasure to speak to her it was like talking to my big sister. Our phone conversation started out thanking each other for the interview, then straight to our personal lives. We talked and laughed about love, relationships, marriage, our children, her life now, my life now, nothing pertaining to the interview or acting. After 2 hours of chatting about us, we realized that I had interview questions for her and needed to get that out the way. As I asked her my questions, she would answer them and we would go right back to sharing our personal story with each other. By the end of the interview, I felt like I had not interviewed my favorite actress but gained a big sister who I can run too and she would truly understand me. This interview was the best and I truly thank Johanna Tolentino for accepting my interview and entering into my life. Please enjoy and support this amazing Mother, Woman, Sister, Entrepreneur, and Actress……
We all remember you in Lean on Me with Morgan Freeman as Francesca, who is Francesca aka Johanna Tolentino today?
I am a mother of 2 daughters Yasmin and Serina, who are truly my gems. I am a person who is passionate about my craft of acting and producing. After being away for so long, I am re-entering the business, finding my nitch, learning new trends, and taking back my career and life to finally live for me.
Nowadays, everyone wants is aspiring to get to Hollywood or Star as the leading male/female in a motion picture, can you tell us how your road has been for you in this business?
The road has been hard for me because I left it in the peak of my success. I was auditioning for Spike Lee, auditioning against Rose Perez, and then I left my career for love, marriage, and family. I was gone for about 16 years and now after being back for about 3 ½ years has proven to be a lot of work. The industry today is nothing like how it was back in the 80’s/90’s. Even with the struggle, I love the challenge of it all. I knew coming back wasn’t going to be easy, I am a woman of color and I am much older now, but instead of letting those obstacles deter me, I created my own lane of acting, producing, and learning. I threw myself back in this business as if I was a student. I read books, googled and asked tons of questions.
I started my journey back in the grind by producing and working on my script “Whatever it Takes” which is an upcoming web series that shows “You can try to forget where you came from, but you can never forget who you are.” I did my trailer for this script 2 ½ years ago, then I shot the pilot, and now I am trying to put it all together. “Whatever it Takes” is loosely based on my life, which originally came from the script “Party of 1” which was written by my ex-husband and I. I took the idea of “Party of 1”, changed the storyline to fully match my life, my experience, and my struggle to show how I did whatever it took to be a great mother, actress, and woman. I am trying to figure out how to do it by myself, but my dilemma is whether to do a professional table read and cast for production or pitch it to film companies. The one thing I’ve learned is that there are so many ways to get your work out here.
Starting out in this business at a young age, I saw a lot of things. In this business, it’s truly who you know.. It’s all about networking but everything is a gambling. In this business you are taking a risk. The beautiful thing is you are always learning about your craft, about being on stage, in front of the camera. I gave up being a star by the age of 20 years old. I just want to be a working actor. I love auditioning! I love reading scripts! I love script analysis! I always tell my students, “Make sure you have the first and the last line memorized” when doing any audition. Make sure you know the script but the first and last line guarantees you a strong start and finish.
Many people say, Hollywood is no place for the minorities, especially African American and Latino women? Have you found this statement to be true?
Yes and No, When I first started the amount of work for Latino and African-American women was nothing compared to that of our Caucasian actress. I do think that in the last 5 to 6 years, the playing field has opened for us with the help of social media and web sites like youtube, kickstarter and indiegogo campaigns, and reality television. These avenues have given actresses, producers, and artist to ability to showcase their work, gain a following, and show their creative content. Now whether the showcasing is wonderful work, is a matter of opinion, but there is a lot more work being seen.
In our conversation, you indicated that “You have been wanting to do a play again. Just waiting for the right script to come my way.” As an actress, what do you consider to be the “Right Script” for Johanna?
A play that I can dive myself into without even trying! I need to get so lost in the script! When I get on stage I don’t want to have to transform too much of myself, I want remain myself. I need to lose myself in the script and see myself as a character! I have not received a script like that.
As an actress, you need to feel the script. You should not have to try, it should just come naturally. If you can’t tell the story and you can’t feel the character in your body, then you should not be trying. I have those moments where people call me to audition, and the script does not grab me. I appreciate the challenge of it all, but if you have to struggle too much to where you don’t believe or understand the lines, give it up. I have turned down a few jobs where the script was just not me. Think about it, as an actress, I have to think like this character, in order to bring this character to life. You can try and try your best, but if it’s not for you, then it’s not for you.
Now onto my favorite topic, FOOD!! You are a chef at the Traveling Cuisine. How did you get started with that and where do you travel too?
The traveling cuisine started because my friends wanted me to cater their parties and events. After I did a few, I came up with flyers and got to work. Three years ago, after taking culinary classes, I worked in the restaurant industry for about 6 to 7 years. After getting burnt out from working long hours, I quit the industry and devoted my time to cooking on for people who wanted great food. I make food that is considered Latin and French. I was trained in the French technique. However, I took the technique I learned in school and made it my own and turned it in a Spanish French technique by incorporating Puerto Rican, Dominican, Cuban, Italian foods and taste. I’ve traveled to places such as: Venice, Switzerland, Germany, Italy, Florence… I lived in the south and was introduced to Southern cooking.
My father, lived in New Orleans, introduced me to cooking and could cut meats like a professional butcher. (laughing), My father is also where I got the taste for creole cooking from. Thank you papi!!!!
You are a contributing writer on Upfront Media Insight on the segment called “ON THE SET with Johanna T”. You are responsible for covering the new independent web series, films, TV shows and getting insights from the directors and actors on the set. How did you become connected with this opportunity?
This is very new, started about a month ago. I was at the Crystal Ship Indie Festival and Roger Maloney was there and we talked and networked and he gave me the opportunity to come aboard as contributing writer. I am currently working on my first interview with the Aikan Acts group founder Nakia Dillard. His group of kids has been casted for the web series entitled “Revealed” created, produced and written by Justine Douglas (Dougals Matthews Group). It involves a young kid skateboarding who falls and given the opportunity to choose between heaven and hell. I am also the Associate Producer on that project.
Out of everything you do, Acting, Producing, Cooking, and Writing, which one can you see yourself doing for the rest of your life?
Acting… That is the #1 passion in my life.
At the end of the day you have to be able to put your head on your pillow and have a good conscious. If you book quality work, you are working with integrity and pride because you earned it…then why not. I have been acting since the age of 15 and I have enjoyed every minute of it. Try to enjoy every minute and learn from it.
What is #1 goal in life and #1 pet peeve that just irks you?
My #1 goal of all is empowering and teaching young girls to be how to be self-sufficient and independent. As young girls get older, they need to understand the importance of having their own property, own money, own investments, and own vehicle. We, as women, need to be lady-like, support our kids, family, and mates, but we must make sure that we can make our own ends meet when times get hard, a man walk away from us or we are put it trying situations. Women need to know how to get a job, how to go on interviews and how to network for opportunities. There is so much help out here for you as a single woman, as a single mother, if you look for them. I want to keep our girls informed so when times get hard, they are capable and able to still stand and rise above any mishap that any man, any job, or any situation could give them.
Now my #1 pet peeve is people not showing appreciation for what people do for them. People need to learn how to be more appreciative for what others do. I don’t need to promote you on my Facebook page, I don’t need to advertise your work or refer you to my friends. I can use my own social media to promote myself, so if someone goes out of their way to promote you, say “Thank you”. Also, when people make time to come to your premieres, script reading, events, or even purchase a ticket for something, say, “Thank You”. You will be surprised how far appreciation will take you in this business and in life period!
Everyone can support my projects….
'The Kids Menu' is a short comedic film that tackles the cultural clash which occurs when an old school Italian pizzeria owner meets a new school Mom. You can support this by visiting: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-kids-menu-movie
Delicious food from “The Traveling Cuisine” you can call me at 609-789-9708
Contributor reporter for Upfront Media Insights. You can view my articles at: http://ufrontmediainsights.com/ufrontmediabloggers/
To see what’s new at my production company Joyas Media visit: http://www.joyasmedia.com/
Even though you got clips of our conversation in this interview, just know that Johanna is an amazing woman who is full of knowledge, love, and passion. I wish her nothing but success and I hope she knows that her number is now on speed dial. Please support her projects, contact her to cater your next party, and get involved in her productions. Together we can grow.
*Fun Fact about Luz Johanna Tolentino is that she really went to Eastside High School and Joe Clark was her principal while she attended. Prior to “Lean on Me”, Johanna had no formal acting training and was more concerned with making people laugh. She went to the casting call to support her friend who was an aspiring actress, but she ended up landing the principal role of “Francesca” after the directors saw her interact with her friend. Please note: Johanna did not play the role of “Conchita” as it’s listed incorrectly on the credits!