Arts Express: Yolanda Ross Talks Indie Nom And Remembers Philip Seymour Hoffman

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Dynamic, singular and uber-talented, Yolonda Ross blazed a trail for herself that called the attention of film critics, audiences, her peers and the industry at-large, when she won IFP’s Breakthrough Actor Award in 2001. She was righteously lauded for her complex and urgent portrayal of a woman ‘on-the-outside’ world trying to pierce the walls of a prison by committing a crime, to find her way in to her definition of “home”, in Cheryl Dunye’s bold feature, Stranger Inside. Ironically, as an actress, she’s also spent years, working to find her way ‘in’ and pierce the firm, often insular walls (albeit invisible) of the entertainment industry, where her creative soul knows that “finding home” is the place where she can get juicy work, and share her characters to their fullest with audiences. Not an easy mission met by talented actors, of color – particularly when packaging, visibility, and casting come into play, in terms of truly breaking through.

That said, she certainly pierced another wall with her praised role as recent-parolee, Fontayne, in John Sayles’ earthy, smart slow-burner, Go For Sisters. Financed independently by Sayles, Sisters has brought the spotlight back on the gifted Ms. Ross with her quietly magnetic, nuanced role. Alongside her dynamic co-star, Lisa Gaye Hamilton, she embarks on a road trip across the border – later joined by Edward James Olmos – to help her long-time friend, now a parole officer find her missing son, in a the underworld that Fontayne knows a thing or two about. They’re authentic ensemble to the core.

From collaborating with Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s Labyrinth Theater Company, to filming, most recently, with Viola Davis and Jennifer Lopez in the upcoming Lila & Eve, to appearing in the daring short, Afronauts, that premiered at Sundance 2014, Yolonda has managed to keep herself busy with TV, theater and film work, along her path while working with some fiercely talented filmmakers; though it’s been quite a challenge to just ‘be seen and heard from’. Always hopeful, she’s We caught up with the soulful, clear-eyed Independent Spirit Best Supporting Actress Nominee, Yolonda Ross, who just so happens to be the only actor in her category from an independent film, made outside of ‘Hollywood’. And we say: Go Yolonda!

Lisa Collins, Guest Host on Arts Express Radio

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Also on Arts Express this week:

A Mariachi Female Takeover: Mireya Ramos, lead performer of the Mariachi Flor de Toloache all women band, phones in to Arts Express to talk love potions; the female mariachi movement; poisonous night flowers; hidden meanings; losing the mariachi machismo; and a subversively adventurous hybrid of multiple musical styles. Along with a sampling of their music.

Poetry Corner: Milwaukee people’s poet Ed Werstein, Chris Butters, and a commemoration of the 100th anniversary this year of the Colorado coal corporation slaughter of striking miners that marks the Ludlow Massacre. And the late iconic Edna St. Vincent Millay reads a poem, in a rare recording in honor of her birthday this month.

Lisa Collins is an independent filmmaker and journalist, and she is a member of The Women Film Critics Circle. Lisa was named by Filmmaker Magazine: ‘One of the 25 New Faces of Independent Film.’ She was invited to workshop her feature-length script, The Grass Is Greener at the Sundance Writers, Filmmakers and Producers Labs, respectively. The project was also invited to participate in the IFFM / IFP’s No Borders Feature Project program.

Lisa’s feature documentary is Oscar’s Comeback, in which 2 worlds collide at a unique annual festival in all-white town that celebrates their black native son, early 1900s homesteader-turned-film-pioneer, Oscar Micheaux. Controversial and largely forgotten, Micheaux is known to some as the Godfather of Independent Cinema. In addition to receiving support and mentorship from prestigious organization, Oscar’s Comeback is proud to have been awarded repeated support from Chicken & Egg Pictures, in the form of an I Believe In You grant. More information about the project is at Oscar’s Comeback on Facebook.

Prairie Miller is a New York multimedia journalist online, in print and radio, who reviews movies and conducts in-depth interviews. She can also be heard on WBAI/Pacifica National Radio Network's Arts Express.