Romina D’Ugo spoke with Solzy at the Movies about starring in Chandler Levack’s I Like Movies and leading a film selected for TIFF.
I Like Movies premieres September 9 at the Scotiabank in Toronto.
Congrats on Toronto!
Romina D’Ugo: Man, thank you. Crazy!
What was it about the script that drew you to the role?
Romina D’Ugo: When I first was asked to audition for the film, I was only given one scene. I was not given a script and I was not given any other real explanation of what was going on so I had to come to my own conclusion about this character right away. But the way that Chandler articulated this world, the messy malfunction and just simple humanity of the interaction of the character for Alana and Lawrence was so easy for me and easy to metabolize and easy to come to my own ideas about who she was. By the time I had a callback and then had a chemistry read and got the full script and I learned what she had really been through, I really appreciate telling the story about someone who is a certain way and then allowing the audience to understand why she’s that way. No one is just cold or hard or whatever. There are things that brought them to that place. I really love the way the script was written, the world of the vocabulary that she used. I really just related to Alana on many levels as an actor who has had my own ups and downs, career wise. I mean, TIFF, for me, is a really incredible gift. I know for myself, I’ve undergone my own trauma, as we all have. But for me, Romina, being someone who will be introspective and look at what’s happened so that I can metabolize it and come to grips with it, Alana did not have that. Maybe she didn’t have the right support or maybe it was that time, right. It wasn’t cool to go to therapy and do support groups. She did not have the opportunity or the courage perhaps to look at what was happening to her. It just it resulted in her working in an environment that felt really painful.
Video stores have become a dying breed with the rise of streaming. Do you have any favorite video store experiences?
Romina D’Ugo: My sister worked at a video store and that was when I was maybe five or six years old. She’s 14 years older than me. I grew up in video stores. All my memories in a video store are favorite ones, like the crap that gets stuck in the carpet. Oh, that’s in the film! (Laughs) I felt like back in back in that time, you didn’t always have a lot of information on the film. You would just look at the box and read the back and look at who’s in it and just get a vibe off the colors or maybe a staff member would like help you out. It every weekend, multiple days of the weekend and it was very family-oriented time for us. It was just like a tangible thing, which I think feels more memorable. If someone asks in 30 years, how was that streaming experience? It’s just like, well, it’s pretty repetitive, not much texture to it. This is like a different texture.
Yeah. Did you require much direction from Chandler Levack?
Romina D’Ugo: (Laughs) You should ask her that. I think my favorite element of working with Chandler was that she knew—I think she learned early on that I really love the process of right before we shoot, talking about—I wanted her to talk to me like she was Alana’s best friend. We were talking as friends before I’m going to do this thing. We would talk about from my perspective, what was about to happen, what just happened, what I want out of this moment. Rather than from director to actor, it was like two gal pals bitching about something that like, oh, I had to go and do now or I was going to experience now and then I would go and do the scene and it felt very fluid that way, and they really appreciated it. I don’t know if I’m ever gonna get it again but she spoiled me rotten.
I hope you do get it again.
Romina D’Ugo: Thank you.
With your background in dancing, did you ever think that you would be in a film premiering at one of the biggest fall film festivals in the world?
Romina D’Ugo: I think back when I was at my dancing height, I did have really big dreams but I don’t think they weren’t—I don’t know. It’s a good question. I think I was always an actor to begin with. Even before my professional dancing career, the acting part was what made me a better dancer. I was never the most technically apt. I wasn’t the most flexible but I was really, really hard worker so that’s how I got to be very technical dancer. That wasn’t my natural thing. It was more the performance element that made me stand out. I’m not surprised that I went into acting. I knew that I loved it with all my heart and it was the form of art that helped me metabolize my experience as a human the most. It’s the art form that really helped me the most but I certainly did not ever think I was going to be a lead actor in a TIFF film. Even when we shot this last year, it was a pure passion project. I just loved the script so much. Even when I was auditioning for it, I was actually telling my friends, this is the kind of thing that makes being an auditioning actor fun is when you get material like this, and you’re just excited to work on an audition and whatever happens, you never know. But just the excitement of working on something that’s so fluid for you. So no, I never thought I’d be here, not back when I was a dancer and not even last year. So here we are. (Laughs)
Having made a short film, applying to SXSW and knowing it was a long shot, you get that email and either you’re in or you’re not.
Romina D’Ugo: I know. Before we found out, Chandler was sharing with me how nervous she was and how much it would mean to her. I told her, I was like girl, if we don’t get in, you just need to text me and we’ll both cry together. And if we get in, you text me and we’ll go running into the streets naked at the same time and screaming so either way, you have support. But yeah, it’s a total long shot and you don’t think that far ahead.
Are you looking forward to doing anything in particular during TIFF outside of obligations for I Like Movies?
Romina D’Ugo: I’m looking forward to seeing other films. I’m looking forward to being around the buzz that feels like when Torontonians are coming out of a long winter and patio season opens up. That’s what it seems like this year’s TIFF feels like because we’re coming out of Covid TIFFs and into our first live TIFF. At the Canadian press launch, it was electric. People were so excited to support each other and scream for each other’s films when they were announced at the presentation. I think I’m excited for honestly every part of it. To have my family be there, my mom, my husband, I seriously I think about it every day. It’s not like I’m 19 years old and just starting and it’s like, yeah, cool. No, I’m a grinding actor for many years—grinding performer and then this just like buds out of the dirt and it’s incredible.
With TIFF being in person again, it’s gonna be so great to get back to Canada for the first time since 2019.
(At this point, Romina’s dog–a California rescue–decided to pop up on camera and join the conversation.)
It was so nice to meet you. Congrats again on the film.
Romina D’Ugo: Same here, Danielle. Yeah, I really appreciate it. It’s nice to just be chill and chat.
For much of 2020-21, Zoom interviews were my only social life.
Romina D’Ugo: Yeah, I know. I feel you and then becoming actually social again in person was like—
It can be overwhelming.
Romina D’Ugo: Oh my G-d. I left the first like group hang and I went home and I was like, I don’t know how to be a person. I don’t know how to talk to people and not trying to be their minds and like, just chill out. So uncomfortable.
Going back to how this is the first real in-person TIFF since the before times, I got so spoiled by the virtual aspect where you have so many hours or days to watch a movie and now it’s like, well, either I could fit the P&I screening in or I could hope that the publicist has a press ticket because press only have 10 tickets for public screenings (It wasn’t until a week later that press learned that we had 20 tickets for public screenings.).
Romina D’Ugo: Yeah.
Right now, I have 20 public screenings in my schedule. Yes, I cannot fit all the P and I’s in.
Romina D’Ugo: I know but it does make the ones that you get to watch—the experience—more special, right, because you can’t get as many in as if you were just straight on streaming.
It was so nice to chat with you and I’ve got an interview with Chandler.
Romina D’Ugo: Well, have fun. Tell her I said hi.
Will do. Bye.
Romina D’Ugo: Bye.
I Like Movies holds its world premiere during the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival in the Discovery program.
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