Pilot Season can really take a toll on you. Just ask actor Raechelle Banno, who plays the lead character ‘Ruby Landry’ on the upcoming Lifetime event series, V.C. Andrews’ Ruby, based on the best-selling V.C. Andrews novels.
A typical Pilot Season runs from end of January through April and is where studios create sample shows and actors have endless auditions to hopefully land a job. Of course, with Covid-19, things are a little different, but in general, Pilot season continues to be intense.
So what was it like for Raechelle Banno to do just one more audition during Pilot Season?
On the Lifetime event series, V.C. Andrews’ Ruby, your real life identical twin, Karina Banno, plays your twin, Giselle, in the same show. What type of discussions did you have among yourselves about how weird, uncanny, lucky, etc., this situation is?
Karina and I frequently discussed how grateful we were to have gotten the opportunity to play Ruby and Giselle. The older we get, the rarer it is we get to act opposite one another. However, this particular production left us even more grateful (if you can believe it) because it fell in the middle of the pandemic. When work was scarce, we knew we had this production to lean on and that we could go through all the ups of getting back on set and the downs of the natural Covid-anxiety that comes with re-entering the world again — and we could do it together. To have a partner in any part of this industry is precious, and this experience had us living together again, exploring a new country together, and watching each other play these heightened characters each and every day with delight and pride.
What was it like being on the set of Ruby?
From the get-go on Ruby I felt so taken care of. All four films were shot in Victoria on Vancouver Island, CA and since we’d never been before, production organized a car to take us to set each and every day. We had two drivers throughout our shoot, John and Cory, who were so kind and went out of their way to make sure we felt safe and welcome. The friendliness didn’t stop there as our crafty crew were so on top of everything, making sure everyone was well fed — no matter their dietary requirements — and all with a smile. Filming can be hard work with long hours, but right from the beginning, the Ruby set felt like it was based on the ethos of making sure people were happy and had enough resources to do their job. The network (Lifetime, A&E) were so supportive of our performances, communicative and collaborative. We wrapped the films genuinely feeling as though we’d made a ‘Ruby Family’.
You also played Atria Nine in The CW series Pandora. Tell us about your audition. What were your initial thoughts on the character?
My Pandora audition was a funny one. It came through as a self-tape the night before my first in-the-room callback after a long pilot season of self-taping and feeling like I was going crazy in my little Airbnb. Fast forward to the callback consisting of a “thanks for coming” after less than five minutes in the building. I was so upset, seeking human creative collaboration, that when I went home to tape the Pandora tape with my friend Matt, I was just trying to not start crying again in between each take! I had prepared the night before, of course, and I’d liked Atria’s vibe, she seemed so up front and yet mysterious all at once. However, among all the disappointment of the previous audition, I just went head first into the audition and didn’t think too much. I wore black pants with a black turtleneck to keep it simple, not wanting to distract from my performance in order to possibly capture the explosion of color that Atria was supposed to be. As Pandora is independently produced, there wasn’t a callback or a chemistry test, I met with the producers instead and found out shortly after that I had the role and soon shipped out to Sophia, Bulgaria. It was there I was introduced to the fantastic cast that I now call dear friends of mine.
You began your acting and modeling career when you were nine years old. Whose idea was it for you to get started in show business? Who took you to your auditions and jobs? At what point did you understand you were earning money? What did your school friends think?
When my sister Karina and I were quite young, we decided we wanted to be in the movies and television shows we loved watching and, having been shown many films with Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, we thought it could be fun to do together. No one in my family has worked in this industry so we had to learn how to navigate it as we went along. We’d have family members driving us out us to auditions (which weren’t exactly close to our school…) or the latest acting course we were doing at the time. They took our passion in their stride and really made it work. The response from our school friends was mixed, really. Some didn’t know, some did and thought it was cool, and some knew and thought it was silly. A good introduction to the real world, I think! It was always about if we were having fun, though, so the money side of it was never of importance. It wasn’t until I was an adult and in control of my own money that what I might earn for a gig and how that could make it easier or harder to pay my rent became a factor when approaching jobs.
You wrote and produced the short film Exposure, which was directed by your sister, Karina. Subsequently, you and your sister co-directed the short film @Bladeroller: Case Unsolved, which was selected for the Sydney Underground Film Festival’s Take 48 lineup. What made you and Karina decide to work behind the scenes? What did you learn from this experience?
Karina and I have always talked about making films together. It began with conversations of deep desires to express creativity and not wanting to wait for permission to perform; but soon developed into enjoying the entire process. We both write, Karina has directed before (she majored in writing and directing at film school) and I’ve just stepped into the world of directing myself; but we’re both very different in style. The biggest lesson I think we’ve come across is that our creative relationship is our biggest asset. Our differences compliment each other and we have a way to fast track to constructive criticism; there’s no beating around the bush. Discussions that others might consider ‘too blunt’ are, to us, simply being honest. We then have a lot more time to create!
You started various dancing techniques when you were three years old. Which type of dance is your favorite? Why?
That’s a tricky one. There’s something so satisfying about each of the styles I learned growing up, however as I got older I definitely drifted towards more classical ballet and then lyrical contemporary. There was something so alluring about the balance between physical dedication and romance of classical ballet. Once I realized I probably wasn’t going to be a ballerina, I fell in love with the freedom and individuality that comes with lyrical contemporary work. Whenever I find myself spontaneously dancing, though, it’s usually some combination of ballet and contemporary that I’ve learned along the way, so maybe my heart lies with both!
Do you currently live in your birthplace of Australia? How has the pandemic affected your work?
I’m actually not in Australia at the moment, although I do miss home. Right as I wrapped on the Ruby films I moved to London. Planning on a new adventure, I was informed the night I arrived that yet another lockdown had been announced so it’s been pretty quiet living here since then! The pandemic interrupted the initial shoot of the Ruby films, with us having four months off from March last year when the world went into lockdown. I took the time off to develop some of my own projects, but had that luxury of knowing the Lifetime network was passionate about finishing the films. We were lucky enough to go back in July as Vancouver Island’s Covid cases were remarkably low, which was such a gift as the rest of the industry suffered such devastating loss of work.
You also have an older sister. What was it like growing up in your household?
I do have an older sister! Her name is Stephanie and she’s a legend. She’s fiercely brave, has the best laugh, and is only three years older than Karina and me so we’ve always been close. Growing up, there always seemed to be something happening in our household — a dance competition, a soccer match or just a family trip to the video store. I have always been very close with my family, so my childhood memories mainly consist of us laughing and genuinely enjoying spending time together. We definitely had challenges, of course, but I’ve always considered them to be my best friends. Possibly to a fault, as I spent a lot of my childhood not feeling the need to make friends, it’s something I had to learn to do later!
What are your short term and long term goals in work and life?
Professionally, I want to get to a position of seriously contributing to the industry as a content creator, just as much as I want to continue stepping up in it as an actor. I have some projects in development, both by myself and with some creative collaborators, that I’m so excited to see come to fruition in the near future. Personally, I am really looking forward to properly getting my bearings here in London and feeling as though I’m able to set some roots down and have an adventure! I’ve traveled a lot for work, but coming here has been a totally personally pursuit, so I’m keen to make the most of it (Covid pending, of course!).
Anything else you want to say?
I just flicked through my copy of Rupi Kaur’s poetry book ‘Home Body’ and came across the below piece:
‘don’t sleep on
the doormat of your potential
waiting for things to happen
when you could be
the thing that happens’
Seems like an appropriate ‘word of wisdom’ to end on!
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