Drag Heals is a documentary series that follows men who have never worn heels or make-up but have always dreamed of letting their inner drag queen out! Drag Heals is a 10 week inner and outer personal journey coached by Tracey Erin Smith and Vicki Lix that culminates in a public show.
Drag Heals will premiere on OUTtv Canada on Tuesday November 27 at 8pm.
My gift to you – get a month free of OUTtvGo.com You can watch our new documentary series Drag Heals and catch up on our other shows. Promocode: DRAGHEALS
RuPaul brought Drag Raceinto the homes of millions and made the once taboo art form mainstream. This newfound renaissance has inspired a new generation to explore the art of drag and challenge the constructs of gender.
While RuPaul’s Drag Raceis a competition, Drag Heals is a documentary journey that follows men who have never worn heels or make-up but have always dreamed of letting their inner drag queen out!
These men (and aspiring queens!) enter Canada’s first ever drag class to explore how to create a compelling drag persona based on personal experience. For most, this is akin to a second coming out process. The culmination of the Drag Heals workshops will be a public performance where they will face down their fears of stepping into the limelight.
Drag is typically viewed from a distance; Drag Healsgives unparalleled access to the creation of a performance that is more than just your average lip synch. The classes are structured so the men must reveal their true selves in preparation of their public performance. In order to do it, they must be brave and vulnerable.
As performance time draws near, the urgency to create a compelling piece forces our Queens to face down their nerves and personal demons in order to deliver a quality performance for people who have shelled out money to see just that.
Deeply personal and raw, the Queens in Drag Heals tackle prickly issues like gender identity, mental illness, heartbreak and feminism to better understand themselves and their queer experience in an otherwise straight world.
Natasha Balakrishnan is of South Indian origin born in Kerala, India; brought up in the middle east, Kuwait, and moved to Toronto, Canada at the age of fifteen. Natasha is a professional dancer, choreographer, and a working actor in Toronto, Canada . Her latest starring role is in Charlie David’s Shadowlands anthology TV miniseries.
Natasha Balakrishnan’s passion for dance, arts, and the entertainment field began at the tender age of five where she started off with theater/drama and dancing for local shows. Her main expertise lies in the classical dance form known as Bharatnatyam and proceeded to expand her talent with many other styles which include Bollywood, Hip Hop, Bhangra, and Contemporary incorporated with fusion.
Having performed in many platforms, Natasha Balakrishnan carried on her pursuit for dance in many different countries like New York, Germany, Kuwait, California, and India, and was further able to showcase her talent on National TV for the television show named ‘Canada’s Got Talent’ Season 1 in 2012.
She started her own YouTube channel as her outlet to creativity and passion for arts where she directs, choreographs, and incorporates acting through her concept videos. Her classical fusion choreography to ‘Taal se Taal Mila’ by A.R. Rahman has reached over a million views on YouTube. Natasha was awarded ‘First Runner Up’ and ‘Miss Congeniality’ at the 2014 Miss India Canada Pageant and ‘Miss Best Talent’ at the 2015 Miss India Worldwide Canada Pageant. In 2014, she was featured on a billboard advertisement for South Asian designer Boutique- ‘Aalayaa’.
Natasha was featured in the film ‘Dr.Cabbie’ with Bollywood stars; namely, Vinay Virmani, Isabel Kaif, and Kunal Nayyar. She performed for the Pan Am Olympic Games 2015 Opening Ceremonies with Cirque Du Soleil representing her Indian culture and heritage, including several other shows and corporate events, which include the Toronto Raptors basketball games, the WE Day concert, WE Day music video with Kardinal Offishall ft. Karl Wolf, and Holt Renfrew’s Uncrate India just to name a few.
With her professional expertise and training in the field, she has been fortunate to judge dance competitions; namely, in Detroit and in the City of Toronto, experiencing young and fresh talent on some amazing platforms. Natasha has also performed with Indian film music composer, Anirudh Ravichander, and collaborated with award winning rapper, Lady Kash, from Singapore. She choreographed for her recent song release “Supermodel”, composed for the film ‘Graghanam’; the album bagged by Yuvan Shankar Raja’s, U1 Records.
Natasha is working meticulously towards pursuing a career in films and is honing her acting skills by training with other budding artists in Toronto, Canada. She was a competitor, performer, and actor on Season 2 of OMNI Television Documentary series named “Bollywood Star”
Tell us about your story in the Shadowlands anthology. What were the main challenges and fears you had in your role?
Natasha Balakrishnan: I play Thalia in the Shadowlands anthology and she is someone who brings a lot of love and humanity in a world that is affected by the war where people are becoming inhumane and vile.
Her love for Alex is immense and while he is no longer the same man she fell in love with, she refuses to believe that she cannot bring him back. His narcissistic ways and his obsession for perfection has left him no room to give love to anyone but himself.
Thalia will stop at nothing to make him see clearly but when it is all too late, she recognizes the Alex she treasured is gone and must put an end to the evil that persists. My main challenge with Thalia was playing a woman from the 1920’s Berlin and really understanding her love for Alex.
How much of yourself goes into a character?
Natasha Balakrishnan: I believe that while you take the essence of you, and your passion into your work; you are playing a life, a person, which requires you to explore and tap into the spiritual, emotional, and physical being of that personality/character and its not about who you are but the life that you’re taking on and you live the reality of that character.
The stories in the Shadowlands anthology TV show were inspired by the Shadowlands book which was inspired by Greek mythology. What was your experience in creating a remix of these ancient classical tales?
Natasha Balakrishnan: When I first got the audition for Shadowlands, I was very eager and I had immediately done my research on Charlie David, his book, and the Greek Myths tied to my character and Narcissus. I was more than ready for the audition!
It was very exciting playing someone from the 1920’s; something completely out of my comfort zone and knowledge. I am thankful to Charlie for believing in me to play Thalia. When I booked the part, I did tons of research on the ‘Golden 20’s’, got coaching, watched tons of movies in that era, the types of music, and wrote a backstory for Thalia and her love interest with Alex whose characters were inspired from the Greek myths of Narcissus and his Echo.
What aspects of the Shadowlands anthology TV show are you excited for an audience to experience or discover?
Natasha Balakrishnan: I am excited for the audience to see it all! I had the privilege of watching it with my team at one of our film festival premiers and it is definitely a roller coaster ride of emotions and quite the tales that Charlie David takes you through.
I loved the uniqueness and creativity brought in each episode. They are each shot in a different time period which is thrilling. I would love to have the audience experience what Charlie David and the entire team has put together throughout the Shadowlands anthology series.
What was the hardest scene for you to do and why?
Natasha Balakrishnan: I wouldn’t say anything was particularly hard but I definitely found it a bit challenging. I had to shoot a very intense scene right when I got to set the first day. We started the shoot for the ‘Narcissus’ episode with my scene where a gun is being delivered to my house with a note to kill myself by someone who I truly love.
I had to go through many thoughts in a short spam of time and I found that a bit of a challenge; to jump in and out of emotions when circumstances prior to that scene were not shot yet. But that is what I loved most about Thalia and this film production; I felt challenged/nervous by this role and wanted to give it my all. Like the saying – “What doesn’t challenge you, doesn’t change you.”
Who is a major influence for you and on your creativity?
Natasha Balakrishnan: Well I surely believe that creative inspiration is sparked through influence and there are many wonderful people who inspire me everyday. My mother is my biggest inspiration because of her strength and courage to always persevere no matter what. This is a huge driving force to pursue my passion and to stay focused and optimistic.
Also, fine artists like Robert De Niro, Anthony Hopkins, Emily Blunt, Jennifer Lawrence, Radhika Apte, Nawazuddin, Meryl Streep, Alia Bhatt, Morgan Freeman, Amitabh Bachchan, and Leonardo DiCaprio just to name the least; inspire me to work hard everyday on my craft and to never stop learning and growing creatively.
Is there a type of role you dream of playing but haven’t had the opportunity yet?
Natasha Balakrishnan: Oh yeah of course, there’s tons I dream of playing! I definitely have miles to go and want to live a thousand lives through this career path of mine.
I would LOVE to play an action-packed role like a boxer or a marvel superhero!! I love watching strong female oriented roles and I would love to take on those.
In addition to acting, tell me about the other areas of entertainment you’re pursuing.
Natasha Balakrishnan: Apart from my love for acting, I also have an immense passion for dance, music, and poetry. I started my own YouTube channel back in 2014 which is my biggest creative outlet. I began producing, directing, and choreographing my own dance/concept videos by reaching out to local artists and collaborating with them to create art.
It’s an amazing feeling to see your vision come to life through team efforts and I truly enjoy working on them. When I first started my YouTube Channel, I just needed a platform to be creatively inclined. I never really imagined how many people I could reach out to until one of my videos went viral and hit close to 3 million views.
It’s a wonderful feeling when people around the world enjoy your work and it really encouraged me to constantly keep producing anything and everything I had the urge to create. I definitely have tons of creative stuff planned in terms of acting, dance, and music that I can’t wait to release them.
With so much going on in the world today, what’s your motivation to be a performer? Do you act to explain? To get away? To move past? To widen our knowledge? To incite a conversation?
Natasha Balakrishnan: All of the above really! Film and television is a source of entertainment, an escape, a fantasy, a story that incites conversation, and conceivably allows one to look into things that might have never sparked their interest before and I just absolutely love all of it.
I enjoy being in front of the camera, taking on different lives, and studying them. Art is a study of humanity and understanding the beings that live amongst us. Art is a universal language that truly connects people across the world and can be used as a very informative/influential tool. My motivation as an artist is to tell real people’s stories because in the words of my guru – “Art imitates reality”.
What’s next for you as a creator/actor/performer?
Natasha Balakrishnan: While I am constantly auditioning and working on my craft as an actor/performer; as a creator, I have always loved poetry/music and I write quite a bit of poetry/lyrics on my own time.
This spontaneously ventured into a very exciting new realm for me this year. I wrote, produced, sang, and creatively directed my first single with the help of a brilliant team. It is currently in post-production as I am eagerly and nervously waiting for its release.
It’s the age old murder mystery question… did the Butler do it? Canadian actor Brian Woodford finds himself in a world of intrigue in the Shadowlands miniseries playing the Butler to a demanding and egocentric master in episode 1 ‘Narcissus’.
Shadowlands miniseries is available on OUTtv and OUTtvGO in Canada and on Vimeo for our friends around the world.
Synopsis of episode 1 ‘Narcissus’: Alex, a plastic surgeon hell bent on perfection, hosts a house party with an assortment of colorful guests. Amid romantic misfires it becomes apparent that the only person Alex is interested in is himself.
Brian Woodford is originally from Avondale, Newfoundland and Labrador and is based in Toronto, Ontario. He trained in Theatre at Sir Wilfred Grenfell College before completing his training at Humber College’s Acting for Film and Television Diploma Program.
Woodford attained his B.A. from Memorial University in Newfoundland. He is an avid tennis player, and, when not doing script analysis, is busy working on his backhand.
Charlie David: When you’re approaching a script like Shadowlands and in particular with this episode it’s really quite a surreal world. How do you find anchor points to ground yourself as an actor when the story is so far outside your experience?
Brian Woodford: I look toward my past experiences in life to help develop any character I play. This is in addition to research and development work I do, as well. Drew is someone who is devoted and inspired in life and aims to do his absolute best in working for Alex.
I, too, see myself in Drew in terms of being someone who tries to be my best to those that are close to me in life. Generally, I bring different facets of my personality into all the characters I play.
Charlie David: How much were you able to relate your own experiences to create your character? And how much did you have to research or imagine?
Brian Woodford:I actually have played a butler before, in an Agatha Christie play, so, I was drawing a bit from that experience – but, Drew is much more complicated than a stereotypical butler. He is torn with his feelings for Alex.
I developed a feel for the character by drawing on a time when I was discovering my sexuality and also times when I was vulnerable and powerless. Drew really just wants things to work out right for those close to him but is a bit naïve in how he goes about it.
Charlie David: What aspects of the Shadowlands miniseries are you excited for an audience to experience or discover?
Brian Woodford: I’m excited for everyone to see the creativity that the cast and crew brought to this show. There was a lot of collaboration involved, not just with myself and my fellow cast members, but the crew as well.
There is a great special effects element in one of my scenes towards the end of the episode. Each episode very much draws the viewer into the close relationships between the characters. Also, folks can check me out in a dapper tux, jk.
Charlie David: Romance between men and between women was common place and written about in Greek and Roman mythology. Why is it important to continue sharing the type of stories in the Shadowlands miniseries today?
Brian Woodford: Visibility is so important for all minorities. More content focused on issues facing the LGBT fosters an awareness that is vital.
It also provides understanding for people who may come from different backgrounds and gives them a chance to see and discover more about issues they may not know about firsthand.
Charlie David: What was the hardest scene for you to do and why?
Brian Woodford: The hardest scene I had to do was a scene with Sean who plays the role of Alex in episode 1 ‘Narcissus’. It was my first time using a prosthetic, and it had to be placed precisely so. Well, I don’t want to give away too much – you’ll just have to watch the Shadowlands miniseries!
Charlie David: Who is a major influence for you and on your creativity?
Brian Woodford: My parents have really been a big influence on me, generally, as well as being a major source for my creativity. They always said “yes” when I was a kid wanting to act in a play or to take violin, guitar or trumpet class. In hindsight, I took a lot of music classes, haha.