Janel Tanna Exclusive Interview
Janel Tanna in our exclusive online interview discussed her upcoming films Sienna’s Choice and Saturn’s Window. Tanna also starred in Renegades, the Star Trek inspired web series.
Sienna’s Choice delves on Dramatic tones revolving on a woman’s decline to a terminal illness. Linda Palmer served as director. Tanna’s venture into Science Fiction is with Saturn’s Window. The film is based on the novel written by Quanah Jay Hicks. Hicks also serves as Director.
The interview is divided into three parts; career, Saturn’s Window and Renegades
Thank you, Janel Tanna for taking the time our if your busy schedule to answer our questions.
DecayMag: Over the past two years (according to IMDb) you’ve been quite busy with each
project coming after the next. How do you best sum your travels in film performances and production?
Janel Tanna: My acting always seems to grow from each and every experience. While I mostly in the NY City area, I have traveled quite a bit to LA for acting and production. I have had the opportunity to travel around the world over the last year with two films in which I was the lead actress and producer/writer.
I believe with each new character and project you learn something new as an actor.
I have been not only all over the US, but Switzerland, Canada and France all for film. Several of the projects I acted in prior were independent films, many in the drama genre. I was able to act in a few series and a pilot of the SciFi genre, as well as a feature film that will be released later this year (Also Scifi).
DecayMag: You’ve touched on many genres with the roles you’ve portrayed. Most actors/actresses find that one niche and remain in that realm. What is your opinion on versatile in this field?
Janel Tanna: As an actor, I don’t see myself as a type. I see myself as a multilayered human that can draw upon different aspects of myself at different times to develop a unique character. It is impressed upon us that it is important to hone in on specific archetypes when getting our feet wet and starting our careers, but knowing that you have worked on the craft and skills enough to play the range of characters you know you can play.
I personally get a thrill in studying different stories and coming up with character psychology with both tangible experiences and what if’s, to build my world around…
…In acting, you can play different characters because you can access different parts of who you are. Then I ask the what if’s and build.
It is very satisfying to be able to enter and create entirely different worlds for diverging characters. I truly believe all of us have many different paths our lives could go, given not only personal decision but circumstance. We all have different layers and masks used at different times for varying functions.
All of the actors I look up to are very versatile. It is also, of course, a function of a little bit of luck and what chances other people will give you.
DecayMag: Is Horror and Science Fiction genres you’d favor drawing focus on? Which of the two is a preferred choice?
Janel Tanna: Thus far I have been involved in several SciFi projects, The Renegades series in which I had a small but fun role with some very good actors, as well as a pilot; Cozmos, where I play a femme fatale type (I do my own tumbling as I am a former gymnast).
I would approach horror the same way I would approach a drama, character building and attaining the truth of the character and each moment.
I play a socially awkward reserved goth-leaning character in the SciFi feature film Saturn’s window. I would love to do horror and have been told I should try it.I have done psychological thrillers.
DecayMag: Sienna’s Choice is a film looks to touch on raw emotion. What were the emotional and/or physical strains you experienced portraying the lead?
Janel Tanna: Sienna’s Choice was definitely the most difficult role I have played to date. Some of my colleagues have asked if I am a glutton for punishment since besides being the lead in a very emotionally and physically trying role, I was also the writer on set, the Executive producer as well as the medical expert. We had such an outstanding director, a team of producers and crew, but questions do arise during filming that you need to be a part of. Sienna herself (even if I were not involved in any other task) would still have been the most challenging yet rewarding role to date.
As with any character, I draw parallels and build around that. I had to get to a state where I could internalize and externalize a gradual and truthful demise.
Physically I started with localized seizures and symptoms which turned into a devastating physical decline, with intermittent paralysis, a continuation of seizures, weight loss, visual impairments, etc. I knew what the physicality of seizures was, but would still study them repeatedly online watching videos. They had to be specific to where my character’s brain lesions were.
I then interviewed someone close who suffers from a seizure disorder to get inside their mind and feelings of what they remember and feel prior, during and beforehand.
In terms of having a terminal illness (sorry spoilers) I was pretty well versed in the subject matter, but again personally interviewed someone close who was suffering from a terminal illness to really be taken through the emotional rollercoaster of what one truly experienced under those circumstances from an emotional standpoint.
I practiced a little bit walking with a walker only on set. My character was also am ex-dancer who was now teaching young children to dance. Prior to arriving in LA to film, I got back into shape and also took private ballet lessons in NYC while choreographing a routine. For the emotional decline, it really helped that myself and our Director Linda Palmer, came up with a shooting schedule to allow all the hospital scenes to be shot in sequence. I felt this would be best to truly allow me to live out her demise in the most truthful manner.
I think it worked as people on set who knew me well were often in tears watching the takes and stated it was very painful to them, as they started to believe I had a terminal illness.
Interestingly, we actually shot the dancing scenes on the last day. We only shot for 6 days total (with the last day being the dance scenes and intro restaurant scenes). I was a little drained and unfortunately my toe got injured which made being en pointe a bit painful but we still got what we needed.
DecayMag: Saturn’s Window has an interesting concept. What was the dynamic that attracted you to this project?
Janel Tanna: I had seen the director’s work in the past (Quanah Hicks) at a film festival and enjoyed the style immensely. I read the novel and loved Cora.
It was a chance for me to play a more restricted and awkward character, as opposed to a sexy femme fatale or the rambunctious bad girl. It is a more dreamy or surreal type style to it as well, so that was unique.
DecayMag: You portray the protagonist Cora Cadence, how do you best describe her approach and motivations?
Janel Tanna: As with any character, she believes what she is doing is right and for a good purpose. She has had events happen in her life which caused her to be closed off to certain things, and withdraw socially.
Like anyone else, she is searching for love and a true sense of meaning.
She utilizes certain defense mechanisms as a result. She also turns to various creative outlets, as well as believing in certain what you could say, a supernatural phenomenon as a way of maintaining hope. We shall see. Don’t want to say much more without giving anything away.
DecayMag: Is this Saturn’s Window still in production and/or any word on a release?
Janel Tanna: It is in post-production and should be released later this year. I am not the producer on the project but can keep you posted when I hear closer to the date.
DecayMag: How did you become involved in this Star Trek inspired web series?
Janel Tanna: I acted in a pilot, Cozmos, with much of the same production team (executive producer and creator Sky Conway) and several cast members. They are amazing.
DecayMag: According to IMDb. you starred in two episodes for Renegades are there plans for your role in the future?
Janel Tanna: There is going to be a premiere in LA on July 12th. Right now it is a wrapped two episode series, however, I can’t say that is a definite. It is up to our EP and any fans of the show. There is another show in the works that we already shot a pilot so we shall see what the future holds. I love working on that team’s projects.