Monday, July 15, 2024

Meet Inspector John Lyre from Ae Watan Mere Watan – Alexx O’Nell – American actor and musician

Interview by – Savio D’Sa

Written and edited by – Robin Bhuyan (Editor in Chief)

Enigmatic Horizon brings you an exclusive interview with Alexx O’Nell, American actor, who played the antagonist in Ae Watan Mere Watan, which had released recently on Amazon Prime. The actor has appeared in numerous other projects such as Main Aur Charles, Sye Raa Naramsimha Reddy, Aarya, RRR, and Captain Miller. Here, we converse with Alexx O’Nell about his career in detail, his projects, his inspiration behind what he does, and many more! 

You have a diverse career encompassing both singing and acting. Tell us about how you chose to pursue these two distinctive artistic paths!

Great question! It all began in a small town in Connecticut, named Madison, where I grew up. As a kid, I began to participate in theatre, and over the years, I did musicals, dramas, comedies, etc. That’s where I learned how to act. I feel theatre is an excellent platform for actors to hone their craft as it provides instant feedback from the audience. So that instant and honest feedback are truly beneficial to any actor learning how to act! As for music, I learned how to play the guitar mostly from magazines, long before the internet was so widespread! Some of the bands that had a huge impact on me include Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Counting Crows, etc.

The India chapter of my journey began in my 20s, which happened when I was traveling through the country on a modeling assignment. I was first featured in a TV commercial, and as you know, TV ad filmmakers also make commercial movies, and this is how R Balki decided to put me in the film Cheeni Kum, which gave me exposure to the Indian audience, where I had the experience of working with talented actress Tabu and Amitabh Bachchan, the biggest Indian superstar! That was the starting, and since then, I have been fortunate enough to work on several significant projects! Now I have over 40 to 50 projects in my filmography, including all my music videos, and now my latest project that released is Ae Watan Mere Watan, which is quite an important and interesting film!

We have seen your music talent both as a vocalist and a guitarist? Who or what has been your greatest inspiration?

Thank you for appreciating my vocals and my guitar playing, but I don’t consider myself to be that good in either of those! But I do feel I have made some good compositions, and I am quite happy with the songs that I have been able to release so far. Currently, I am gearing up for my seventh song called Ghosts. My songs Pride and These Four Walls have gained popularity in South Africa and even Europe, and they are played every single day on the radio. Another work that I am proud of is a song that I wrote inspired by the Bhagavad Gita for the series Aarya, which is available on Disney + Hotstar! My song doesn’t feature in the series, but it is among my personal favorites!

One reason I am in South Africa for music is that in India, songs are known by which movie they appeared in, and which actor appeared in the song. That is not the case in the rest of the world where music and movies are distinct! This is why I looked elsewhere so that I could find an audience and bring my music to them! This is the reason my film career is in India and my musical career is in South Africa! But I am happy with my music being streamed on Indian platforms as well, and you can also find them on my YouTube channel. It actually pains me when people identify a song by the actor who performed in it, rather than by the singer and musician!

Among the numerous roles that you have played in TV shows and movies, is there any particular role that is close to your heart?

There are so many! As an actor, it is our responsibility to see the world through the eyes of our character so that you portray it properly. It is important to remember that whatever actions they are performing, they are fully justified according to the characters. I played Robert Ellis in Madrasapattinam. It was Amy Jackson’s first film; in case you haven’t heard of it! It was not just a beautiful film but I feel it is among the best-executed projects that I have been a part of. Since it was such an intense role, it is among my favourite!

Then I played a role alongside Randeep Hooda in Main Aur Charles, which also starred Richa Chadda and Adil Hussain. I played one of the characters who are one of the few people to have gotten so close to Charles Sobhraj and have escaped, and I really sympathize with the character a lot. Then, the last character I relate with the most is Bob Wilson from the series Aarya, who is similar to me in many ways!

Out of all the numerous Bollywood productions that you have been a part of, have you faced any kind of challenges?

I have appeared not just in Hindi cinema but even in South Indian films. Recently, I did this role in Ae Watan Mere Watan, where I played Inspector John Lyre, a character that speaks fluent Hindi. So I had to spend a lot of time on this, making sure that I could deliver these lines effortlessly. And I had to do it at 2 or 3 in the morning! The character appears exclusively at night, so there was a lot of night shooting. My upcoming show Bak Bak features a character that talks in Hindi and only Hindi, and this was also a challenge! I also had to learn Bengali for a character I did for a Bengali film, who grew up in Kolkata.

You have worked in Bollywood as well as in regional movies? Do you see any distinctions between regional cinema and Hindi cinema?

The Hindi audience is huge, as compared to the audiences of the regional movies, so a difference is there, but it is slowly disappearing. We have seen how regional movies like Captain Miller and RRR have performed! They have been promoted well outside of their region! When Madrasapattinam had released years ago, I could hardly find screens for it in Mumbai, but now the scenario has become totally different.

What are your thoughts regarding artificial intelligence and how do you think it will impact cinema?

I think you might be aware that there was a strike in the US by film and TV actors, and one of their demands was that they cannot be replaced by AI. I am a member of CINTAA, and I would like to see something like that here! But I do feel that AI is a technology that we all need to be quite mindful of. I am excited to see what AI is capable of, to help us enhance our art, but at the same time, I am also rather concerned about what might happen to the artists who rely on the industry as a profession. All I can say is that this is indeed an exciting time!

There are numerous artists with musical talent who fail to make their mark. What is your advice to them?

Music is a part of me, and it is something I just cannot avoid doing! It gives me fulfillment but can also get frustrating at times! I would advise aspirants to just go for it! Today, the barrier to get your music out there has become much lower. You just have to put in the time and effort! For me, music is also an alternative for doing movies and series that I shouldn’t really be doing!

Tell us about your upcoming projects or any musical collaborations!

You will be seeing me next in Bak Bak, a dark comedy show, that will be releasing on Amazon. Divya Dutta’s character will be shocking! And then I am working on another movie, alongside Akshay Kumar, which is my second project with him, and my first project with Dharma. Another project I will be seen in is Phule, which is similar to Ae Watan Mere Watan. It tells the story of Jyoti Rao Phule, who has also not been recognized much. Then I am working on a Bengali film, Pokkhirajer Dim, which is a light-hearted movie, mostly for kids. Then I am going to be seen in Lucifer 2, where I will be working alongside Mohanlal and Prithviraj. It has truly been a great experience working alongside such talented artists of the South Indian industry! I would also like to talk about Ghosts, my upcoming musical project, which is different from all my other musical projects!

Lastly, tell us about your involvement and experience in the film RRR, where you had a cameo role?

Being a part of that film was indeed a privilege! I had also played a cameo role in a more recent film Captain Miller, which had a similar theme. And it was a great experience working with these teams that I had never worked with before. It is great to see that RRR had received such huge appreciation worldwide, although I still feel that Indian cinema has a long way to go! I feel that the movie has also broken barriers between Hindi cinema and regional films! I had appeared in several other great South Indian films, and it would have been great if they would have received similar exposure! But what RRR has done is indeed a milestone for Indian cinema, and I hope that Indian films get the recognition that they deserve worldwide!

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