South Africa scored another win in the world of entertainment when talented actress Lara Lipschitz made the country proud when she won the Best Actress award for her web series Chin Up at the 4th New York Web Fest. Along with partner and co-producer Devin Toselli, they were the first ever South African finalists at the web festival.
We chatted to the actress about her career and to hear more about Chin Up:
When did you first get interested in acting and did you know from a young age that you wanted to be an actress, that it wasn’t just a passing phase?
I always loved to perform and make people laugh. I actually wanted to be a stand up comedian when I was little. My dad loves films and theatre and took me to see all the shows and musicals growing up. I used to come out of the show singing and dancing. My late mother was a drama teacher and often had people in stitches with her storytelling. I have always known I wanted to be an actress and my family has always been completely supportive.
You started out as a YO.TV presenter, what was it like the first time going live?
It was really nerve wracking but I got the hang of it after a few shows. Just like theatre, something is bound to go awry with live television, but you learn how to negotiate the obstacles and take it in your stride.
Bad Jews was funny but at the same time really intense, and your moving Emotional Creature role – it must’ve been very challenging playing those roles every night, how do you keep up the energy and intensity when playing these emotionally demanding roles?
Those kinds of roles can definitely take their toll on you when you are doing them every night for a few months. In order to leave the character on stage after the performance, I would take my time getting out of costume and coming back to myself. I would also try to take it easy during the day so that I could save my energy for the performance. It really does take all my mental, emotional and physical energy, so it’s important to rest and recover when I can.
What made you choose Uncle Oswald to do as a one woman show?
When I was in my Honours year at Wits, we had to find a piece that could allow us to play multiple characters. I had recently read My Uncle Oswald and loved it. I decided to adapt the first few chapters into a play after my lecturers encouraged me to extend my final exam performance piece. The writing is so funny and surprising, and the characters are bizarre and such fun to play.
We love how you create your own productions – Chin Up is really great in how it depicts the highs and lows of being an actress! What motivated you to do Chin Up and also, what’s the feedback been like from fellow actors and directors in the industry?
I wanted to take my career into my own hands and be creative. As actors we are often waiting around for someone to cast us but I have my own stories to tell and I want to make my own work. I decided to share my story of being an actress because I love behind the scenes shows. I love seeing the rise and fall of artists etc. I find those stories so authentic and interesting. The situations that actors find themselves in are generally quite hilarious and bizarre and I think that makes for great content.
I’ve had really great feedback from my fellow actors who completely relate to Chin Up! Through doing Chin Up I also made a platform for my fellow actors to be involved in creating new content.
What made you decide to enter it in an overseas festival?
I wanted to see how we would compete in an international market. Turns out we are right up there with the best in the world. Also, it’s always been a dream of mine to come to New York with a project and so I decided to enter Chin Up into the NYC web fest. It’s a really great festival to be a part of as they recognise creatives from all over the world, and understand that different shows have different budgets etc; they are fair with their judging criteria. They are leading the way with a festival focused on web series and it’s very exciting to be involved in this growing industry at such a grass root level.
What was the response there to you as a South African actress winning the series?
I was the only South African to be selected for the festival and the nomination for Best Actress was a wonderful honour. I wasn’t expecting to win as the standard was so high. There were very strong performances from the French series, Jezebel, as well as Australian and Canadian. It was a wonderful surprise to be awarded Best Actress in New York. People have been very excited and supportive in New York and back in SA.
What advice would you give to young South Africa actors starting out?
Make your own work and put it out there. The future for TV is online. Netflix and showmax are proof of that. The internet makes the world a lot smaller and more accessible. Stop waiting for something to happen.
Do you have mentors/people who inspire you?
Yes I’m very inspired by the women of Broad City who started out as web series and then became a fully fledged TV show. My sister has always been my mentor and biggest supporter. She always gives me advice, which I take 9 out if 10 times, even though she is right 10 of out of 10 times.
Are you thinking of doing some more of your own productions? What’s next for you?
Yes I plan to continue with Chin Up as well as venture into feature films. Next up you can catch me on Tali’s Wedding Diary which starts on Showmax in December. I play Gabi, Tali’s best friend and long time rival.
To keep up with the vivacious and talented Lara Lipschitz follow her on: