Janel Tanna: The actress that does it all

Photographer: Gilles Bensimon courtesy / Maxim Magazine

Janel Tanna is a multi-award-winning actress and producer, who is recognized both nationally and internationally for her talent and independent film work at various film festivals.

After receiving acting training in the method at the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute and learning the Meisner Technique with James Brill of Neighborhood Playhouse, receiving over 30 acting awards and nominations at various film festival events, a handful of wins and nominations for writing and producing, still managing to grace the catwalks in NYC and Paris, be a cover girl, managing to make it on the “Maxim Hot 100,” and be a medical doctor, many would ask “is there anything Tanna can’t do?”

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How did you get started in acting and where did your love for the arts stem from?

That is a great question. I was born an actor. As a child, I always was the first to want to put on a show or play for family or neighbours. Growing up I was very creative, my next-door neighbour had a camera and we would create short films I guess you would call it guerilla filmmaking although at the time I had no idea this is what it was termed. We just would have an idea then go from there. I always rallied to play the lead character.

For me, acting is a form of escapism and comfort intertwined, sort of a catch 22 I suppose, but a catch 22 I live for. I have always felt an internal drive to feel, absorb and express. I have always been imaginative and having the ability to quickly imagine myself in another’s shoes is an essential part of acting. I have always loved thinking about how someone might have gotten there, acting allows you to live out many different mini lives (as I like to think of them) or alternate universes. Who you might have become had things gone differently, or made different decisions. That is how I feel when I am most deep in the work, although I have much to continue to learn, discover, and create.

Pursuing acting wasn’t always in the cards although looking back there were a few times I was very close to moving to Hollywood or NYC. A local program in my hometown encouraged me to go to NYC and find an agent, however at the time, I didn’t have the means. Life would take me in different directions, but every experience I have gone through aids who I am as a creator. Initially I entered neurological surgery training but ended up in psychiatry; here I did start attending community theatre on the rare days off as I always knew deep down acting was something I was meant to pursue. I was going to switch specialties, but instead decided to take time to train at the Lee Strasberg Theatre Film Institute, as the process of method actors always intrigued me. I was accepted a day after my interview and went with it. It is an amazing thing to finally get a chance to explore part of your destiny, at least that is how it felt for me. Following this I was cast in my first indie film and the crew believed in me and were encouraging. I also decided, since as a method actor we always hear the comparisons to the Meisner Technique, I should also gain some education in the technique, to give myself more tools and from this I began work with Jim Brill at the Neighborhood Playhouse. Those were some of the best times looking back, two days a week I would train in method acting and two days a week Meisner. I then decided to put pen to paper and create a film I had an idea for, Sienna’s Choice, while bringing together an amazing team I will forever be grateful for.

Could you share some tips for aspiring actors on how to succeed in the industry?

First Focus on the craft that is of utmost importance. If I examined those actors that I admire in terms of their: work, talent, and contribution to the craft they are more often than not very serious and studied actors. I will do this forever in some capacity, as time, life and experience allow, I am always learning, and have so much more to learn, develop and explore.

Also, believe in yourself even if it seems no one else does. You know what you are capable of deep down. I have to remind myself of my own advice as it does get hard at times. One of the quotes I tend to live by is that you must dream as well as act, and you must act as well as dream; I am a dreamer and I think that is important to put dreams into action. I also think to achieve great things, whatever that means to you, you have to dream and not just act.

How does it feel to be nominated for countless awards?

It is always an honour to be recognized for the work and connect with different filmmakers around the world. Some of my fondest experiences have been at festivals or whilst meeting different artists around the globe. It is also a blessing to work with so many talented and unique individuals on various projects that have become film family.

In addition to acting, you have modeled on runways in NYC and Paris, are a cover girl, and also a doctor. How do you manage to juggle it all?

It is interesting, as everything in my life has moulded me into who I am today. I feel what connects me to the work in acting is often the same thing that connects me to medicine. To a certain degree all of life is a stage for what we bring to the work, at least the way I create. At times, things can get busy and during training you really have to focus on your work which can be consuming but I do sometimes compartmentalize to get things done. I tend to delegate certain days to certain things, and other days to other parts of my life.

How can people learn more/ get in touch with Janel Tanna?

Follow me on InstagramFacebook, and IMDB.

Social PR: Ivonne Camacho, AbsolutModerne

Manager: Brandon Cohen, BAC talent

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