April 8, 2020

Deer makes debut

By Richard Johnson Observer senior reporter johnsonr@jamaicaobserver.com

Deer, (seated, centre) on the set of Dope Fiend on location in New York.

WHEN Dope Fiend premieres at Newark International Film Festival in the United States on September 9 and 10, viewers will see local actress Sakina Deer, who assumes the production’s female lead.

Deer is familiar to Jamaican audiences for her recurring stage production roles by the Jambiz International outfit. She can currently be seen in Blindspot, now showing at the Centrestage Theatre in New Kingston.

WHEN Dope Fiend premieres at Newark International Film Festival in the United States on September 9 and 10, viewers will see local actress Sakina Deer, who assumes the production’s female lead.

Deer is familiar to Jamaican audiences for her recurring stage production roles by the Jambiz International outfit. She can currently be seen in Blindspot, now showing at the Centrestage Theatre in New Kingston.

She attributes her debut film role to former co-star Shayne Powell, with whom she shared the stage in the musical Last Call. Powell has since migrated to the United States.

“The director, Ron Elliott, was striving for a very true representation of every aspect in the film, and so when the role called for a Jamaican woman, he asked Shayne to help him with casting. He asked for a few Jamaican actresses to audition. I almost didn’t make it, but Shayne kept pressing me to give it a go. I recorded my audition on my iPhone one night after we finished on the stage at Centrestage…. and as they say, the rest is on paper.”

The film also stars Malik Yoba (Cool Runnings, Empire, New York Undercover, Why Did I Get Married), Hisham Tawfiq (
The Blacklist), Andra Fuller (The L.A. Complex) and Tobias Truvillion (Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, Empire) Deer plays Isis, the pregnant widow of a murdered drug kingpin who takes matters into her own hands to avenge his death and reclaim turf.

“It is a very strong female character… all about woman power. One of my big scenes was firing a gun on a New York City street. The entire area had to be locked down for us to shoot, and it was really empowering for me. The whole experience was really serendipitous as I almost didn’t make it due to my hectic schedule here. However, they were able to reschedule the shoot to accommodate me . It was shot in November last year while I was in rehearsal for The Duppy Whisperer. So I took five days off to shoot all my scenes. Once I landed, it was literally straight to the set. The whole experience was awesome and I was able to meet some really great people in the world of film,” she told Jamaica Observer.

Having tasted acting for the big screen, Deer is not too hasty in giving up her work on the boards.

“The stage will always be my first love… I will never give up stage. Film is running a close second — it will have to be content to be my man on the side. Shooting the film was fun and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. This opportunity has even opened more doors for me as I have shot another film, a minor role, but I can’t talk about that just yet. But the film process is very different. Just take learning lines. For stage, for example, you have to learn 30 pages and try not to mess up, whereas for film, you get a one-pager and you can do as many takes until you get it right… I find that way easier. ”

Deer also credits the work she has done in theatre in Jamaica for giving her what she needed to tackle her maiden film project.

“I went in with a bit of self-doubt… not sure I could stand up to what was required of me. But once I got there, I realised that the on-the-job training I received from Trevor (Nairne) and Patrick (Browne) at Jambiz was preparation for this. The experiences on stage, the character work over the years have given me what I needed,” mused Deer.

She recalled some of the experiences on the set of Dope Fiend.

“The film was shot in November, but the story is set in the summer, so we we had to dress for summer during late fall, early winter… and it was cold. They had to put warmers in our pockets to keep us warm. There is a scene where I had to be on the ground and it was freezing, but I could not shake, even though I was shivering. I also could not exhale as the mist would appear on camera.”

Deer is thankful to her agent Nadean Rawlins of Raw Talent Management for handling negotiations and the team at Jambiz, who she said, have always been absolutely supportive of her endeavours.

She can currently be seen on stage in Blindspot with her Jambiz mates — Glen Campbell, Sharee McDonald Rusell, Camille Davis, and Courtney Wilson.

There is no date yet for Dope Fiend to play in Jamaica, but Deer assured that there are plans to bring it to local shores.

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