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  • Writer's pictureXander Turian

Carnival Row

The biggest production that I have worked on thus far is that of the newly released Amazon Prime Fantasy noir series, Carnival Row, starring Orlando Bloom and Cara Delevingne.

I first found out about the project when I moved to Prague. My Meisner teacher, Brian Caspe, was a series regular and shared his experiences on set working with Jared Harris and 2 of the senior students in the acting program had been given small roles as well.

It all sounded spectacular and I longed for the opportunity to at least read for a part.

I asked for the casting directors details and began chasing her down in the hopes to introduce myself and get on her books. After awhile Maya Kvetny and I finally got in touch and I was invited in to audition for the role of Rycroft Philostrate’s father in a flashback scene set in a religious all boys boarding school.

I prepared for the role by breaking down the sides, learning my lines and analysing my character as best I could. On the day of my audition I woke up with a fever, but pushed myself to go in and read anyway. I did what I could and Maya guided and directed me. She and I clicked and I believe I made a good impression. I went home and rested, waiting to hear back in response to the casting. This was in early November 2017, just a few months into my time at Prague Film School. As we broke for the Christmas Holidays I had given up on hearing anything and went home to spend my vacation in England with my family.

During my break I re-edited my showreel, updated my resume and re-did my whole website. With all my new materials I sent emails to all the casting directors I had in my contacts, including Maya at MyrnyxTyrnyx.

When we returned to classes in early January 2018 I received a call from Maya asking me to come in and read for another part for the final block of Carnival Row. I went in and we worked on the scene together and put something on tape that she sent to the director.

The following day there was a knock on the door mid-class, the head of the acting department came in and asked if she could steal me away for a moment for an important phone call. My mind began racing, wondering who had died. Amy handed me the phone and I heard Maya’s voice on the other end. She had tried to call me, but my phone was off as I never turn it on when in class or working so had been contacting the School in an attempt to find me. She told me to come to her office straight away, so I asked to be excused and rushed out to the waiting car and drove to the office where I did a new tape with a new scene.

2 days later the same thing happened again: a knock at the door, a phone handed to me and Maya on the other end telling me that I have to start keeping my phone handy, even during class, from now on. She told me to get in a car and come meet her at Barrandov Studios on the set of Carnival Row - “Jon [Amiel] (The Director) wants to meet you!”

As I arrived and walked in through the main entrance the receptionist rushed over asking “Xander Turian?” - “They are expecting you, go through these doors and follow the signs for Carnival Row”

Maya was on the phone and quickly hung up as she saw me approaching. She gave me a big hug and started showing me around, introducing me to people in the production office and as we made our way to the main set I was in absolute awe at the sheer magnitude of the place. It was like nothing I had ever witnessed before, an entire world built up in what can only be described as massive airline hanger type buildings with lights the size of small trucks and hundreds of people working all over the place.

We walked into the set of the Spunrow estate where they were shooting. Jon shook my hand and said I could watch as they finished of the scene and that we could have a chat during the turn around.

Sitting on the set, watching Andrew [Gower] and Tamzin [Merchant] working was such a pleasure, and to see the crew dancing around the set pieces was magical.

The bell rang and the First AD called for the turn around (which is where the camera and crew switch positions to film the scene from another perspective), and Jon took me aside and we had a chat. He then proceeded to get me to do an improvised scene on the spot, and then said goodbye and walked back to the set to continue working.

I was in shock, frozen, not knowing what to do, what had happened or what to expect. Maya gave me a huge hug with a smile from ear to ear and told me that she was so proud of me and excited for what was to come.

I had no idea what to expect and when I returned to school I just sat in class, dumb struck, unable to comprehend or explain the morning I had had to my friends.

I called my mother that evening and relayed my experience from the previous few days to her and explained that no matter what happened, I felt blessed for the opportunity and experience in itself.

The following weekend Francisco [Javier Medina] came to our school to work with us and do his yearly Prague workshop. I focused all my energy into his class and the exercises. I cried and opened myself up like never before and could feel a change deep from within me. On the final day of his class Maya was his special guest and we did scenes with her, at the end of the class she hugged me and smiled before leaving. In the evening as the group headed to dinner together Maya called me “You Got It”. That was it… I got it.. I GOT IT!

That day I had made new friends for life, got a mentor in Francisco, met the love of my life and got my first major role in a television series alongside some of the top A list actors of my generation.

On the first day of shooting I was picked up by a driver and taken to the studio where I was greeted and showed to my very own trailer. Inside my costume that I had done the fitting for just a week earlier was hanging in the closet along with the sides for the day, my contract and a lovely bowl of fruit and a fridge full of drinks and snacks. There was a knock on the door and a PA asked if I wanted any coffee or breakfast and said my costume assistant will be by shortly.

It all felt so unreal as I sat in the makeup chair having my prosthetics put on before moving in to the hair and makeup trailer to have my wig added and the final touches done.

My PA came and collected me after a while and called into his radio “Xander Turian on the move, 2 minutes to set”. I was greeted by my costume assistant and my Hair & Makeup person who both checked me for some final touch ups, my PA took my phone and handed me a cup of coffee and a bottle of water as Jon came and welcomed me to the set and began going through the days shooting plan.

Then walked in Orlando Bloom. He shook my hand and I introduced myself. He then got stuck into his prep work and began pacing around the set finding his bearings and preparing himself mentally. It was amazing to see him work, to see how he took charge of his surroundings and made sure he and those around him knew what was going on, what was needed and how to best get the results needed.

During the coming days I would watch how he did his own fight scenes, working with the stunt coordinator and the stunt men, going through the choreography at 50% speed and checking their movements before commencing the take at full speed. Before each “ACTION” Orlando would centre himself, focus his mind and body, adjust his voice and speak out loud “75% speed, in my voice, in my body - OOOAAAA! Lets go” … “AAAaand Action!” And the scene would commence and there would be no more Bloom, only Philo and the moment right there and then. Then “CUT!”, Orlando was back - you could see him running through in his minds-eye what we had just shot and he would ask for adjustments, or a retake and speak to myself or the others in the scene, requesting what he needed and asking what we needed from him.

The thing I found most inspiring while working with Orlando, was how he was fully dedicated to whatever was in that particular moment at any given time. When he was working on his lines with his PA, he would be 100% focused on her and his script. When Mighty (his beautiful apricot coloured little dog) ran onto the set in between takes he would pick him up and cuddle him and give his full attention to him. When his son visited on set he spoke to him, asking about homework, introducing him to the cast and crew and explaining the scene and how much he had left before he wrapped for the day and could take him for ice cream. And when it was time to shoot he was 100% in his voice and body, in that moment.

What that showed me was the realisation that if you work hard and focus 100% on the most important thing at hand in any given moment, you can truly have it all and be a true star.

He and I had a few good conversations. We discussed drama school and his time at Guildhall and my time at Prague Film School among other things. He was very down to earth and came by my trailer on his way home one evening, saying good night and thanking me for my work that day.

Cara too was a pure joy to work with. She is a very funny and easy going person. During our breaks we would chat and played a game where we made names of famous people out of fish names… For example Halibut Berry [Hallie Berry].

That whole week went by very quickly and when it was over felt like a blurry dream.

On the following Monday morning I felt grey as I walked into class. I felt drained of all emotion, like I had just come down from a week long MDMA binge. We had dance class that morning and I could not for the life of me bring myself to put in any effort and sat myself in the corner with my hood up, almost in tears. Our teacher, confused at my lack of interest became angry and kicked me out of the room if I wouldn’t participate, I left in a whirlwind of attitude and grief. When the class ended and my fellow students had left the room i went in and apologised to my teacher, explaining the situation, luckily he understood and forgave me.

I spoke to the head of acting and shared with her my thoughts and feelings. She told me to go home and take some time to myself.

I lay on my couch eating doughnuts and watching Netflix, feeling sorry for myself and thinking that never again would I experience something quite as spectacular again.

How could I go back to school and work with people who still asked the same questions they had asked at the beginning of the first semester, after I had just spent a week working with some of the best actors and crew in the industry!?

I didn’t know what to do. And then on the third day I realised that this was only the beginning. I now had this experience under my belt and could use this to snowball my career.

I got up and I began to form an email which I sent to agencies, casting directors, producers and other people in the industry all over the world. I sent out a press release and I updated all of my online profiles.

I had a new mission and new momentum.

Carnival Row gave me the boost I needed which led to me being invited to Cannes Film Festival with a short that I had made earlier that year, I went to Vienna, London, Berlin and Los Angeles the following month. I signed with International Agent caprice Crawford at Crawford Talents and I was ready to take my career to the next level.

Since then I have worked on several major projects and am so grateful for the opportunity I was given to be a part of that show.

Carnival row Premiered at the end of August on Amazon Prime and you can watch the entire first season NOW!

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