Actress Keilani Elizabeth Rose discusses her role in 2020 film The Sinners (also known as The Color Rose) and creating her new comedy series Flimsy, in which Keilani also stars as ‘Cadence’.
Thank you to Keilani Elizabeth Rose for taking the time to chat with Courageous Nerd.
Welcome, and thank you for taking the time to do this.
Keilani Elizabeth Rose (KER): My pleasure, thanks for having me.
As an actor, how have you been finding life in the pandemic?
KER: Challenging, for sure. Definitely a major shift… I think it’s been a lot of gifts though. You know, the quiet has been nice and as I’ve learned from the most recent project that I did, Flimsy, which has turned into an internationally acclaimed award-winning web series. The self sufficiency that we can take charge of in our own lives, it’s a nice reminder of that.
Going back in time slightly, how did you find your passion for acting?
KER: Going way back in time. I would say that very seed of it started from my mom. She’s a Hawaiian dancer, so she taught me and my sisters Hula when we were growing up. She learned it from her Dad. So, that vibrancy of that part of our culture – we have mixed heritage – that’s some of our roots. I think that’s been major because of our family traditions. It all started from that, dancing with my mom when we were little.
Did you ever want to pursue to anything else professionally?
KER: I honestly didn’t even really know that these worlds I’ve ended up in, today, really existed. It’s been a beautiful journey of enlightenment every step along the way because each creative endeavour introduced me to the next. I moved from my small hometown called Prince George, or colonially known as Prince George, the original name is Lheidli T’enneh, which means “the people where the two rivers flow together”, that’s my people as well.
When I moved from my hometown and came to Vancouver, I was primarily pursuing dance. So, my first love was ballet and contemporary. After dancing with a couple of different companies in Vancouver and getting my first Disney contract, I came back to the city and that was when acting kind of landed in my lap. It was my new dance agent that encouraged me to take acting classes and I fell in love [with acting]. It was a new discovery of how to tell stories using my voice rather than just movement.
So, that has been a shift in focus for the past 5 years. Just recently, because of the pandemic, I discovered an even deeper sense of ownership in terms of being able to dive right in and write your own stories. From dancing to acting to writing. Somewhere in the mix and because of the dance/working with DJs, I was lucky enough to learn how to spin on vinyl. That led me down a whole side path that I didn’t know existed either, but I fell in love with. It’s been an amazing community to become a part of and opened a lot of doors.
Yeah, each avenue has been a surprise for sure but definitely feels complimentary in a whole picture because they’re so synchronised and really complete the story of me right now.
Throughout your career so far, you have appeared on several popular television series: Once Upon A Time, Lucifer and A Series of Unfortunate Events. What did you learn from being on those sets?
KER: I think being in the mix with that calibre of work, cast and crew… that exposure and work ethic overall. It’s exciting. Once you experience that reality, you realise it’s possible that you can immerse yourself in it and really become part of it.
You’re also playing Cadence in the comedy series Flimsy, which you created. How did you initially have the genesis for the project?
KER: You know what, it’s a pretty funny story. It kind of started as a joke. My co-producer and I, we were laughing at memes, quarantine memes. We just said to ourselves: “Wouldn’t it be so hilarious if we filmed this?” But, in quarantine. Obviously, we were in social isolation at the time. I was like: “That’s genius, let’s try to do that.” It just started from that and then it birthed into this project where it’s beyond what I could have hoped for.
We got an incredible rock star cast on board, a lot of dear friends. The directors were both amazing, Vivian Full and Cody Kearsley from Riverdale. One of the whole magic points of the show was that we filmed it in isolation in 5 different countries, but we created the illusion that we were together. So, [DOP Tracy] was coming up with these various ways to create that illusion. It was challenging because we didn’t have any team members behind us. Each of the actors was on their own, in their apartments, doing their own lighting and sound.
It became something beyond what I could have hoped for. Who else can I tell you about, that was in the cast? My co-star Chelsey Reist, hilariously funny woman. She’s from The 100. Grace Dove, who plays one of the roles as well, she came off of The Revenant, alongside Leonardo DiCaprio. It was really just calling up friends and being like: “Hey guys! Let’s do something fun, are you down?” Everyone had so much time on their hands, it was pretty easy to round up the troops.
Through your work on Flimsy, you also got invited to the 4th Annual Female Filmmakers Fuse Film Festival. As an impressive accomplishment, how much did that mean to you?
KER: It was amazing. You know, to see your work get recognised, affect and inspire other people. Especially in a time like right now… a big reason why we decided to do the project was because the world felt so heavy. It was so much trauma we had to deal with – being separated from loved ones, losing loved ones, losing time with loved ones. And so, to have this outlet of creativity and laughter, because it is a comedy, it just became that much more special because of the weight that it’s been balancing.
In feature film The Sinners (The Colour Rose) , released in March 2020, you play ‘Katie’. How would you describe your experience working on that film?
KER: The Colour Rose was fantastic because it was an all-female lead cast, female director, all-female producers. That energy is something I’ve never been able to experience before on set. It was really nice to see and experience that kind of representation in the film industry, in the film world. We created such a sisterhood between the 7 of us (“7 sins”), by the end of it. It was really eye-opening too because the director is someone I came up with. So, it was really inspiring to see her step into that role and power, be able to take the reins and create this opportunity for the whole cast and crew to share together.
Some of your other film projects include Woodland and Within The Silence, which had world premieres in 2020. Compared to other mediums, what do you most appreciate about film?
KER: Well, that’s an interesting question because I came up with a huge influence of musical theatre, live theatre and live performance. That always resonates so deeply with me because you can have that direction connection with the audience in that moment. You can really feel that dialogue in real time, which I love, it always lights my fire.
I would say when I started learning my way around film and television, that shift where you get the opportunity to finesse the moments of the story more for audience, was a huge thing. Personally, I feel like it becomes a little bit more vulnerable because it’s so intimate when playing those scenes because the whole audience is not right in front of you. I mean, it reaches a larger audience than it would in live theatre, which is the interesting part. It’s nice to feel that shift in that dynamic allows you to access a different type of artistry when you’re telling that story.
Away from acting, you’re a true multi-hyphenate: model, writer, producer, dancer and DJ. How do these creative passions intersect within your career?
KER: It’s pretty powerful. I think the next piece that I’m writing is my first feature film and it’s called Sunflower, the working title of it. A huge base in the themes I’m exploring from that story is surrounding intersectionality. I feel like wherever each of us comes from, the different paths that we come along or the different paths that come together to create who we are. The power of those intersections and embracing everything that each one offers us, is just something so special.
When I translate that to my art, they only lift each other up. My experience and history with dance really allows me to understand body movement/body language in a different way when I’m acting. The way that music can affect mood and a story, as well. The way I’m able to practice telling stories within those songs is such a good exercise.
You’re are currently collaborating with Cody Kearsley (also known as “Moose” on Riverdale). What can you tell us about this partnership?
KER: Hmm, yes, I’m allowed to talk about it a little bit. I’ll be able to update you soon when we have everything rocking-and-rolling. Cody Kearsley is a phenomenal artist that I respect so much. He is writing and directing his first short film, Breathe, which he’s asked me to be a part of. Back in Canada, we’re about to dive right into that. It’s a story about a young indigenous woman who is battling addiction.
We follow her through what seems to be a cycle of substance abuse and look at where that comes from. We’re going to be exploring the generational effects of colonialization and what that has done to aboriginal culture specifically in Canada, although it’s quite a parallel to anything that’s happening in America or other countries that have done wrong by their indigenous people.
I’m really looking forward to that project because, again, Cody also comes from a dance intersection with his dance background. We’re going to be working with a choreographer to be named, we’re in talks with them right now. To create the finale of that piece in an experimental way, we’re incorporating a bit of dance. It will be somewhat abstract once we get to the finale, but it’s going to be pretty beautiful. It will be that storytelling element with some amazing professional dancers.
Away from your various professional endeavours, what hobbies do you enjoy?
KER: Well, I love the ocean, the waves. I’m a decent swimmer and I can’t wait to learn how to surf. That is one thing on the list still. I would definitely say Moana speaks to my heart. So, nature for sure is one of them. I find it to be so replenishing. Also, at the end of a long day on set – to be out in the trees, down by the river, is so nourishing. I love that.
I’m trying to learn how to cook – don’t how successfully that’s going. It’s something I never made a lot of time for but I think there’s some hidden talents in that area. I just stick to it.
Everyone is living in tough times during the COVID pandemic. If you could offer advice to fans of your work or you personally, what would it be?
KER: I mean, to quote a Disney movie: “Just keep swimming.” That’s really what it feels like a lot, right now. If I go down this route of Disney quotes, I could also throw another one in there. From Lilo and Stitch – you probably know what’s coming. “Ohana means family and family means no one gets left behind, or forgotten.” Disney always makes me cry. That was my first, real professional contract so those heartfelt quotes always get me good. I think there’s something to be said about them, because we are all in this together.
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