Check out our exclusive interview with actress/singer/writer Gina La Piana as she talks “American Soul”, a new film project and her beloved dog Atlas.
You take on the role of a tough, hard-hitting attorney “Sandra Jacobs” in the highly anticipated new drama series from BET “American Soul.” How did this role come about?
Yeah, this for me was such a blessing. To be an iconic piece of American History and just paying homage to the late Don Cornelius. He was a true pioneer and legend of his time (our time) and it just felt so right. I am so excited that they are finally sharing his story! I hope it gets the light and opportunity it deserves because it is just a a special piece of history.
The role came through casting like any other assignment. I had to put it on tape. It came during a very interesting time for me; a very dark period where I was trying to figure things out. I wasn’t sure if I would be moving to San Diego and continue acting- just to keep my foot in the door. I was sort of spreading my wings a little and undecided as to whether or not I was going to get a particular house. I had been working on getting it for months. I then said a simple prayer” God, if this house is meant for me grant it but if it’s not let it go.” I asked him to show me if I should be diligent in continuing the path as an actress and storyteller. That Saturday I received a call and I did not get the house after so many months of working on it. I was emotional and sad, however, within two hours I received a call from my agent. He said I needed to jump on a plane and head to Atlanta. Talk about prayers being answered quickly!
What was it like working with such a great ensemble of cast members?
Oh, so cool! I have to say there was such a frenetic pace of activity going on. They had to work according to the schedule of a soap opera. That meant being busy, everyone is coming and going with very little time for small talk. You know, people were getting down to business. The sets were insanely beautiful. So much attention was put into designing the set and the wardrobe was divine. I mean, I was in heaven trying on clothes and I got really fun photos. I wanted to take half the wardrobe because it was so amazing! It was an all-around beautiful experience. People were professional and really into getting the job done. I also witnessed this really high level of professionalism and no nonsense. Everyone was there to tell a great story and to get it done. it was great seeing everyone so committed.
It was during this time that we told Gina that her American Soul costar, Jason Dirden, was the December cover story for BSM_Magazine and this is what she had to say:
“That’s really cool! Yeah, Jason’s great. He’s got a strong position on the show. Yeah, he’s an awesome fella.
Can you tell us if there is anything new you learned about the Soul Train era while filming the series?
Well, I did some research along the way. I was always a fan and this was my dad’s show- he liked watching it. I come from a musically inclined household. My dad never missed a beat when it came to the show. I was his little follower- daddy’s little girl, so whatever he watched I watched. I never realized people like Rosie Perez and Nia Peoples were actually on the show. These were people I had always admired and watched as their careers blossomed. Even people like Curtis Mayfield. I always saw Soul Train as mostly a dance show but when I watched the documentary where Terrance Howard was doing the score (voice over), I realized everyone needs to see this documentary. It’s so moving and exciting and I thought ‘WOW’ they have to do another Soul Train. It was such a powerful show and a way for people to jump-start their careers. Many people became famous and successful as a result of Soul Train.
Tell us about your film” Welcome to Wolfson Castle”
Ladies, I am so excited about this film. You know, it’s funny- I was in Atlanta for a few months working on a project. I was lucky enough to bring my dog, Atlas, along. We were cruising around and I had no idea how beautiful Atlanta was since it was my first time there. I was just smitten. It’s a city inside of a forest and it’s beautiful. We ran around and had a great time. I was so inspired as I was concluding that particular job and I didn’t know what was coming up next. I was thinking about how I could create that same environment. I wanted to create that same environment that Don Cornelius had- I think it started with his friends. He had a great time in uniting his friends and giving them employment. I wanted to build a group of actors with people I feel are incredibly talented. I have been surrounded by so many brilliant people. People oftentimes never get the opportunities that others receive. I wanted to create a vehicle that was big enough for lots of people that I admire. The film is kind of a cross between Gosford Park and Scream. I really love the horror-thriller-suspense genre. I wanted to do something classy and fun like a Gosford Park gone wrong.
The filming takes place in a castle with a bunch of kids. The kids all go to boarding school together and then go off to to carry out their careers and successes. This is sort of an elite group of very successful people. Whereas some people come from nothing, this group built a very powerful life. My character basically buys the castle when it goes up for sale. She remodels and renovates it and moves into her old school. She then invites all of her friends from school to come spend a games weekend to celebrate the new purchase and the boarding school. Without giving away too much, I’ll add that everyone comes for the weekend from different parts of the world and the games begin. All hell ensues!!!
To lighten things up from the dark times we sometimes live in-when was the last time you literally laughed out loud (LOL)?
Oh, what an awesome question. Thank you so much for that- you made me smile really big! I agree with you in that laughter is everything. We need to do it more often- every single day<laughs>. My life is full of a lot of laughter. I have to tell you about my dog that I inherited. He’s a Great Dane/Pitbull mixture and belonged to one of my dearest friends, the late Rob Stewart, a documentarian and filmmaker. This may not sound like the best conversation to have when we’re discussing laughter but the dog actually brings me so much joy and laughter. He helps me celebrate the life of my dear friend Rob. He’s a great dog, very funny and keeps me in the moment. I’m always giggling. He does some ridiculous things. The looks on his face of entitlement when he jumps on my bed. I’m always giggling with him.
We love it! Go Atlas….tell Atlas we said hello! <laughs>
Favorite social media handle to share
Thank you so much. I am barely getting into the Instagram thing. It’s starting to jump off a little bit. Here I was slow to draw but it is @ginalapiana13. I would love for you guys to jump in and follow me. Follow me and I will follow you back. LOL!
Thank you for interviewing with BSM Media
Thank you and let me celebrate you as well. I will be online looking for all the great things you guys are spreading. Thank you for supporting all of us actors. Have a great day guys! Lots of love!
“American Soul” premieres on BET February 5th at 9/8c.
Interview by La Trisha McIntosh and La Tasha Taylor (Twins of Media)
Photo credit: Philippe McClelland