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Old 22-08-2011, 11:10 PM   #1   [permalink]
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Exclamation Interview with Malka Albarn

Malka Albarn is the precocious female lead of the action series Soul Eater, which ran from 2008 through 2009. We caught up with her to ask her about her experiences as an anime star, what the private half of her life is like, and what she is doing now and planning for the future. This is part one of a five part series.

Question: First off, how did you become interested in acting?

Malka: Well, like most other actors, I guess. I was in school plays as a child and I really enjoyed them. More than most of my classmates. I got my parents to send me to theater camp during the summer, and I acted with childrenís theater and some amateur groups.

Q: How did you get the role in Soul Eater?

M: I was discovered. It was my first professional role with a small professional troop. We were doing a Japanese revival of "The Bad Seed."

Q: The play about a homicidal school girl?

M: Right. I played the killer. It was a great deal of fun being so bad. Anyway, one of the producers was in the audience. Someone tipped him off about me. I donít know who. But he was scouting me. I was asked to go in for a reading.

Q: And you must have done well.

M: I didnít think so at the time. Iíve been told no actor is happy with his auditions. It wasnít that I was upset. I figured I gave it a shot and did my best. But they called me back for a second audition. This one was to see if I was athletic enough to do the stunts.

Q: You didnít have stunt doubles?

M: Oh, sure we did. But only for the real difficult, dangerous stuff. A lot of the running and jumping, and much of the fighting was by us actors.

Q: And I understand you are athletic.

M: We all were in the cast. Soul and the rest. Athletics is my second interest. I was on the junior high track team. I wasnít sensational, but Iíve won a few events and trophies. Not Olympic material, but I can hold my own. I kept it up during senior high as well. I am also on the swim team.

Q: And the others?

M: Soul played a lot of team sports in school. Heís not bad at basketball and baseball. Black Star and Kid played a lot of football, or you call it soccer? Kid is also a bit of a gymnast. None of us were Olympic material, but we could hold our own. We were all better actors than athletes. Now Crona. . . . Well, you wouldnít expect this, but he was Japanís Junior Judo Champion.

Q: Well, that certainly was not casting by type.

M: (Laughs) No it wasnít. He played quite a wimpy character. But when you see him work live, he has so much body control, and that takes quite a bit of strength. When you see him being pushed around, thatís him controlling his body movements. You want to hear a funny story about Crona and myself?

Q: Sure.

M: OK. We spent a full day filming our first fight scene. During the morning, there were a few times, about twice, that I sort of lost control and hit Crona a bit harder than I should have. He acted pretty cool about it. But when we were about to break for lunch, he grabs me by the arm and says, ďYouíre not going anywhere. Youíre staying here so I can teach you how to pull your punches.Ē He showed me a few tricks, and I never hurt anyone again. A lot of it is just having the strength to control your body.

Q: I remember one or two episodes you were all playing basketball.

M: That was not part of the original script. We were having a bad morning, so during our lunch break we decided to work off the tension by playing basketball. There was a hoop someone had set up near the soundstage. One of the writers saw us and wrote it into the script.

Q: Was wielding that scythe difficult?

M: Well, it wasnít very heavy. Actually it was quite light. But it was not well balanced. So I had to adjust. They tried various different models. They mostly looked alike, but they were built differently. We were trying to find one that was more balanced and easier to use. By the end of the series, we were still looking. (Laughs.)

Tomorrow: Malkaís relationship with her cast mates.
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Old 23-08-2011, 11:49 PM   #2   [permalink]
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Today we continue with our interview with Malka Alban. Part 2:

Question: You shot 51 episodes in a bit over a year. Didnít that interfere with your school activities and social life?

Malka: Sure. A bit. I missed track practice a few times, so I was limited to the broad jump and 50-yard dash. I missed hanging around my usual friends, but I had a lot of new friends.

Q: How did you get along with the rest of the cast? For example, Soul Evans.

M: We became really close friends. I still keep in touch with him. I hear from the others from time to time as well. But Soul and I had a relationship similar to our characters. We backed each other up. If I flubbed a line or messed up some other way, heíd help me out, and if he messed up, I had his back.

Q: Star?

M: You want to know something about him people didnít realize? He was trying to pay his role straight all of the time. He thought it would be funnier, and he was right. Whenever his character did something stupid, Star would have it in his mind he was being serious. I think he may have been the best actor of the bunch -- at least amongst us kids.

Q: Tsubaki Nakatsukasa.

M: Excluding the adults, Tsubaki was the oldest member of the cast. So she acted like our big sister. She always looked out for us, or offering a helping hand. Sheíd remind us to get plenty of sleep the night before a really physical shoot was scheduled. It got annoying sometimes, but she met well. And I really liked her. I saw her in a play recently. I went backstage when it was over. We went out to an all night diner and talked until 2 in the morning.

Q: What about Kid?

M: Oh, I had such a crush on Kid. He was so cool looking. All the girls at my school who watch the show had a crush on him as well.

Q: Did you ever tell him?

M: (Laughs) Yes. But well after the fact. Not quite a year ago, we were together at an anime fan convention. We had a Q&A in the auditorium with about 100 fans. I mentioned my crush. Kid was surprised. He joked that if he would have known, he would have made a pass at me.

Q: And the Thompson sisters?

M: Actually, in real life they are cousins. But they grew up together. Pattyís character was the dumbest on the show, and the most comical. But in real life, she is pretty serious. She was the hardest worker in the cast, always trying to get every detail right. You have to admit she was successful. We had some serious discussions about acting. I learned a lot listening to her. Liz, though, was a very private person. Nothing wrong with that. It was just the way she was. We got along well, though I never really got to know her. I do hear from her every so often, like I hear from the other cast members.

Q: What about the adult cast members?

M: Oh, they were all pretty cool to work with. They always gave us kids hints and advice. Usually it was the little things that the audience sees with their subconscious that really makes or breaks a performance. I remember Medusa once telling me to act towards her like she just killed my pet dog.

Q: And did you?

M: Actually, I wasnít thinking. For some reason, all I could say is I didnít have a dog. She told me to pretend I just got a dog and that she killed it. I decided to play along, so I asked what kind of dog. She yelled out, ďHoly s----! Sheís really a method actor!Ē

Q: Not to change the subject, but I sensed a sexual tension on-screen between her and Frank Stein.

M: That was accidental. It was the result of them actually starting to go together off-screen. But it didnít last.

Next: Taking it off?
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Old 24-08-2011, 09:04 PM   #3   [permalink]
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Here is part 3 of our interview with Malka Alban.

Question: What was it like being an anime star at 14?

Malka: Oh. It was sort of cool having everyone in the country know you at sight. But then again, when I went home and tried to hang out with my friends. . . . Well, weíd go to the mall to shop or see a movie, and it would get sort of annoying. But having strangers ask for your autograph is kind of good for your self-esteem. I guess I enjoyed it overall.

Q: Do people still recognize you?

M: Not too much. Iím a few inches taller. My figure has filled out a bit. I wear my hair shorter now. Sometimes I get a look. Sometimes someone recognizes me. But Iím 17 now, and closer to adulthood than being a kid.

Q: What was your favorite part of being in the show?

M: Making friends with the rest of the cast. It was sort of like a second family. We became part of each othersí lives.

Q: What was your least favorite part or moment?

M: Hmmm. OK. It was filming one of the final episodes. I was supposed to be entering another dimension or something. The one where that red-headed demon was? The script said I would be naked with my body becoming a shining light. I was told there were two ways we could shoot it. One, I would actually be naked with an iridescent body paint all over me. The second, I would wear an iridescent rubber body suit with only my hands, feet and face painted. I went with the rubber suit. It was pretty tight. It really left nothing to the imagination, which I really didnít mind so much as long as I had something on. But I was sweating like all hell in that thing. And it was so tight, it was cutting off the circulation to my hands, feet and head. Fortunately, it took only a few shots to get the scene right. I still could barely walk back to my dressing room. Everything was too numb. And with all the sweat, the suit was sticking to my skin. The production nurse had to come and cut me out of it, and then message my feet and hands to get my circulation back. The next time they try to do something like that with me, Iíll swallow my pride and go naked.

Q: I would think at that age, you would be a bit self-conscious about nudity.

M: I prefer not to do it, but if it really is needed. . . . If I am going to be paid as a professional, I need to be professional about it. There are limits to what I would do though. I have been offered roles in teen sex comedies, which had more than a few scenes of me humping or being humped. I said no to all of them. If my role required nudity, Iíd first ask if it was really necessary. If it is, then can we use a body double.

Q: Nowadays it should be easy to have a body double. If they need your face, they can just superimpose it on another body.

M: Yes, but thatís time consuming and expensive even with todayís technology. With time constraints, it may not be possible.

Q: So you would do a nude scene if absolutely necessary?

M: Ahh, I'd rather not, but would provided I did not look cheap. You know the Japanese edition of Playboy wanted to do a spread called the Girls of Soul Eater, but not enough agreed to do it. I found out Medusa was a playmate some years back. She said it was fun and good money. But we younger ones werenít comfortable. Tsubaki wanted to do if only if the rest of us did.

Q: So we wonít be seeing you in Playboy.

M: If I am desperate for the publicity. . . . {Laughs} Itís been proposed. You never know. But what about Soul? He did have a nude scene in the show. Unfortunately, they covered his butt with a shadow so you couldnít see anything. We girls were disappointed.

Q: So itís not a question of self-consciousness with you.

M: Actually, I am quite proud of my body. Iím an athlete and I work hard to stay in good shape. And I like showing it off. I had a photo shoot a while back for a teen magazine. The article was me talking about teens keeping in shape. They shot me working out in shorts and a sports bra, and then at the pool wearing this cute bikini. But all the private parts are covered! Iíll show off everything else. . . . (Laughs) But the privates, Iíd rather they donít go public!

Next: The original concept and alternate endings!
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Old 25-08-2011, 07:50 PM   #4   [permalink]
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Today, part 4 of our interview with Malka Alban.

Question: I understand Soul Eaterís concept changed while in pre-production.

Malka: Right. The show was originally much darker than what aired. There was no comedy. We shot a 45 minute pilot. It was Soul and myself. There was a different actor playing Death. Frank Stein had a role playing a different character than he ended up playing. But no one else had been signed up yet. The pilot was shown to the network, and they gave it a pass. They said it was too dark and dreary to get an audience. But our producers thought they had a good basic concept, so they re-pitched it as a comedy.

Q: Did you do a new pilot?

M: No. That was the problem. We had no money to do a second pilot. They set up a new meeting with the network, only this time they brought Soul and myself along. We acted out live a new scene where we were bickering and cracking one-liners. Some of it was ad libed. So Soul Eater was purchased as a comedy.

Q: But there were some dark elements.

M: We were shooting episodes 6 and 7 when the first two episodes aired. They got pretty good reviews and ratings, so it was decided weíd stick our necks out. We began to introduce some dark elements to the storyline, sneaking them past the network. But we were still basically a comedy. It would get darker as we went along. I donít think there was any comedy in the last few episodes, if I remember correctly.

Q: Any other elements change during production?

M: Yeah. My relationship with my on screen father. It originally was to be one of the darker elements -- my disengagement from my father. But I couldnít pull it off.

Q: Why not?

M: I had my own experience with parents being divorced. Thereís no way around it. It is devastating at first for any child when her parents split up. But mine handled it the right way. They remained friends, if for no other reason than my sake. My Mom always encouraged me to have a relationship with my father. She never objected if Dad wanted to spend extra time with me or have me go over for an extended visit. Based on my experience, I could not related to a girl not liking her father. So we turned it into one of the comic elements of the show, just because I could not pull it off as a dramatic aspect. If we were to redo the series now, I could do it.

Q: And the ending changed a few times?

M: We shot three endings. One where I live, one where I die, and one where you really donít know what happens. Letís not give away any spoilers for anyone who hasnĎt seen the series, but no one knew which would be used until the final episode aired. All I will say is the one where I die I gave my best performance. I even moved Soul to tears.

Q: Will there ever be a follow-up series or movie?

M: No one has come to me about it, although I would be in favor of it. I only had two bit parts in anime shows since Soul Eater aired. Itís as if they assume you only have one role and one series in you. I would prefer playing a different major character, but if I could play another aspect of my Soul Eater character, that would work for me.

Q: You would be older and wiser.

M: I would imagine a romantic relationship, but one that ends tragically. I would prefer darker and more grown up. But as far as I know, no one has been suggesting it. Oh, there was talk of a sequel series when we were doing the final episodes. I was told that if the ending where I die was used, they would have a way for me to come back for a sequel.

Q: Few of the original cast are still in anime.

M: For us kids, only Tsubaki has regular work and thatís in live theater. I would like to try live theater. I am getting at a crossroads in my life right now.

Q: What do you mean?

M: Iím 17 now. Do I go to college next year? Or do I pursue my acting career? I donít want to do both. Devoting time to both my acting and my education really cuts into my leisure time. I have no time for family and friends, so I have to go one way or the other -- not both. My first choice is acting, but my fallback is to go to college and major in education. I would like to be a high school phys ed coach if the acting thing doesnít come around. But how much more time do I put into my acting? I will have to choose one or the other by next year.

Next: Malkaís private life.
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Old 26-08-2011, 06:05 PM   #5   [permalink]
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In this final segment, we learn about the Malka nobody knows.

Question: Can we get into your private life?

Malka: Well. . . . How private?

Q: Do you have a boyfriend?

M: No. I never really had a steady. There is a group I hang out with. Weíve been together since childhood. There are two other girls and three guys. When I go out, it is usually with them as a group. Once in a while, one of the guys asks me to accompany him to a party or something, but itís just as friends. I have no romantic attachments.

Q: Do you want one?

M: (Laughs) Sure. But I just havenít had the time. Thereís school, my athletics and my acting. But as I said, in the next year I have choices to make. Somethingís got to go. When that happens, I hope to have more free time. Then maybe I can start a romantic relationship with someone.

Q: What is your type?

M: Hmmm. Caring. Thoughtful. Someone who thinks of others. He has to be athletic and enjoy the arts. Otherwise we might not have much in common. He doesnít have to be good looking. I prefer it if heís older -- not too old. But since I am inexperienced, I would like someone whoís in a position to teach me.

Q: But you have dated.

M: Yeah. A little. But nothing that went anywhere. There was this one guy, actually older than me, in his mid-20ís. He worked on a show I had a part in. He was an assistant to the director. Cute. But he tried too hard to impress me. He was also a bit disappointed in me. I told him I wonít do anything physical until I am in a committed relationship, and right now I donít have time for a committed relationship. But since I was honest with him, I figure any disappointment is his fault.

Q: We talked about your athletic pursuits. Is it true you once ran a race barefoot?

M: (Laughs) You heard about that? Yeah. It was my freshman year in high school. I made the track team, but was only a sub. One of our girls pulled a tendon and I had to replace her in a relay. The race was about to start and I noticed my shoe was untied. I quickly tried to tie it, but the lace broke. The race started and the runners were coming towards me. I couldnít run with one shoe untied, so I kicked them both off. I got quite a bit of ribbing for that one. Fortunately, our team won that race -- just barely.

Q: What isnít know is that you had to overcome a disability. Can you tell me about that hearing aid you wear?

M: This? I really donít consider it a disability. Iíve had it almost my entire life and adjusted early. I really donít need the hearing aid to talk to you. I can hear enough and read lips. I need it to hear around me when Iím outside, say walking down the street. Or in class or watching a movie.

Q: Well, what happened to your hearing?

M: When I was not yet two, I fell ill. I had a high fever and the doctors though I would die. My dad always says I was too stubborn to die, and he is probably right. I do have this stubborn streak in me. After a while, the fever broke. But it damaged my hearing. I have 75% hearing in my left ear. I hear nothing in my right.

Q: You donít wear your hearing aid when youíre acting.

M: No. I know the lines and what others are saying. I instinctively turn my head a certain way so I can hear out of my left ear. I picked this up on my own as a child. It got so no one can tell I have a hearing. . . . Letís call it a shortcoming. I donít wear it doing track or swimming. I used to wear it during track, but lost it. My parents were a bit angry. Without it, its only a problem hearing anything behind me and to the right. Doing track or swimming, I just have to be sure the starter is on my left, or have someone else signal me. But there is an upside. They say if you lose one sense, the others improve to compensate. I do have 20/15 vision.

Q: What has your career been like since Soul Eater ended?

M: Tough. Iíve had small roles in two animes. No one noticed. There has been some commercial work. I auditioned for a stage play, but nothing. I am in demand for anime conventions. I mentioned I had an offer from the Japanese edition of Playboy. But that would be a desperate move, and I donít want to appear desperate. Iím also afraid to look cheep. In all, it doesnít look like I have a future in acting. But Iím hoping something breaks in the next year. If not, I gave it my shot. So it will be on to college.

Q: The anime industry is known for short careers.

M: Right. You get typecasted. You get filed away and pulled out whenever they want you for publicity. But I am getting royalties from DVD sales. So Iím not going to starve. Even if I leave the business, I made good money, good friends and had fun.

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Old 28-08-2011, 12:34 AM   #6   [permalink]
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