I had the opportunity to chat through email with Ella Kweku, the actress who plays Juliet in the upcoming film, With a Kiss I Die. This Romeo and Juliet inspired film takes the story to the modern age and adds a supernatural element. Thank you so much to Ella for answering all of my questions and I can’t wait for this movie to come out.
Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I was born in Canary Islands. My father is from Ghana and my mother is British. I’m the youngest of three siblings. I always enjoyed being on stage and performed in local groups around the island. I also did my ballet examinations by The Royal Academy of Dance in London. Growing up in the islands was a lot of fun, but I also felt at a very young age that it was too small for me. I wanted more. As soon as I turned 18 I bought a flight ticket to Miami, without telling my parents, and soon got signed to a modeling agency. I was also part of Spain’s Next Top Model. I was in the show up until the last week but apparently the board said I didn’t represent the Spanish people because of the color of my skin so they didn’t let me go through to the grand finale. In 2013 I was contacted by a manager in Madrid who asked if I was interested in acting. She mentioned they had a role for a black girl, but no black leading ladies in Spain. I didn’t think about it. I flew out immediately to audition and meet the director. I landed the role and a few months later I was filming a Sony Pictures movie with big Spanish Stars, Mario Casas and Belen Rueda.
How would you describe your upcoming film With a Kiss I Die?
I would say it’s a dark love story, a modern and moody take on “Romeo & Juliet”. It’s unapologetic and has a lot of character, not only because our cinematographer Jorge Valdes Iga, who did an outstanding job, but also because our director, Ronnie Khalil, who broke the standard idea we have about this legendary character. Not only did he make Juliet a woman of color, he also made her a bisexual vampire.
You play the lead, Juliet Capulet, what was it like taking on this character and how did you prepare for this version of Juliet?
Well, for me it all starts with the music. Because I’m a musical person, if I can find the kind of music my character listens to I can begin to feel her in my body. Also the clothing will help with the way I stand and hold myself. So once I have these two things I can go out and play in the streets. I found this very special jacket in a vintage store and the moment I saw it I gravitated to it and new it was Vampire Juliet’s. I went everywhere with it and made sure to ask the director if I could use it in the movie. I wanted to wear it all the time, but there’s only one so Ronnie thought it would be to risky in case anything would happen to it. But it’s in there. I feel it is so signature to her. I still have it and put it on at times when I need a double dose of courage and strength. I love that jacket.
This story also changes the traditional Juliet love story, could you speak to the choice to have Juliet fall in love with a woman and what this representation meant to you?
No one expected Juliet to fall in love with a woman, not even my director Ronnie Khalil. Initially it wasn’t the way they had planned it or written it in the script. That’s probably why it worked so well. There were no characters playing a LGBTQ stereotype. It all happened in the casting process, I think they just saw two young ladies and it clicked that this was it. I think my director was very brave and went with his instinct as a film maker. I personally thought it was a great idea. I am straight, but I think love has no boundaries and isn’t about sex (male or female). You fall in love with the person and if they happen to be the same sex I don’t think you should cut it off. Love has no gender, no religion and no bank accounts attached. If it does it isn’t love and you should learn to love yourself. That’s my thought on the topic. Plus, woman are so beautiful, how count you fall in love with one?
What was it like filming in Greece?
It was amazing. I felt like I was in summer camp once again. With all the good and bad, drama and laughter. It was pretty epic. A lot of ups and downs for my character, but surrounded with such beautiful scenery as I journeyed along. We went everywhere, Athens, Santorini, Mykonos, you name it… I actually miss it. I wouldn’t mind re-doing it all again.
What were some of your favorite moments on set?
Oh God, we had to film in a church. The church our producer found was in a really small and conservative town. When we got there they all welcomed us with so much love, they cooked for us, gave us wine and a couple shots, of course they didn’t know we were playing vampires and our characters had a love affair. There was one moment though, when we were filming in the church where we had to be really serious because my character, Juliet, was about to deliver some really important lines. Suddenly, Paige (playing Faryn) and I start laughing and from then it was a ripple. Everybody was laughing, our producer, the cinematographer, the scripts supervisor, the boom operator. Our director, Ronnie, must have laughed for a second too, but he had to keep it together and get us back on track. We just couldn’t stop. That went on for quite a bit.
Are you a fan of Shakespeare and had you previously done any Shakespeare related work?
I am a fan. I love his work and had the opportunity to play Olivia in Twelfth Night for one of my final shows at AMDA – The American Musical and Dramatic Academy. Funny, cos now that I think about it, Olivia also falls in love with a woman, Viola, who is disguised as a man. That’s such a great play!!!!
Do you have a favorite Shakespeare play?
I really like Twelfth Night, but my all time favorite is The Taming of the Shrew. Uhhh, I just love it!!! I think the reason I love The Taming of the Shrew so much is because I can identify and definitely consider myself a Katherine. I haven’t found a man strong enough in character yet to “tame” me and if I’m completely honest, that is what I want. I’ve dated amazing guys, don’t get me wrong but it’s all about the balance. I want someone firm, who I look up to and respect, but who is also gentle and kind. If this mysterious man comes along I might just marry him.
Are there any other Shakespeare roles you’d like to play?
Definitely The Taming of the Shrew. Wow, I just got excited thinking about it!!! If there’s any director out there interested in doing a Shakespearian do over, I AM IN. Thank you for asking this question. It made me happy.
Do you have any upcoming projects you can share?
I have a few projects on the line. One of them I’m especially excited about cos it’s been one of my biggest dreams since I was a little girl, but as usual you know how this goes… I can’t tell you yet.
Where can our readers see the film?
With A Kiss I Die will be released August 28th to audiences via cable, satellite and telco operators including iTunes, Amazon, Direct TV, Dish Network and Mediacom, among others. For more information about the film you can visit withakissidie.com. I hope you enjoy it.
Thank you again to Ella for this wonderful interview and make sure to check out With a Kiss I Die.
Share your thoughts with us in the comments or on Twitter, @thenerdygirlexp. You can find me on Twitter, @kleffnotes, on my blog, kleffnotes.wordpress.com, on my kleffnotes YouTube channel, and I run The Nerdy Girl Express Snapchat, thenerdygirlexp.