Stream This TV: Charmaine Bingwa on Her Award-Winning Web Series Little Sista
This summer, Australian/Zimbabwean actress Charmaine Bingwa will releaseÂ Little Sista, a new web series that called on her skills as a triple threat. Yes, she wrote and directed it, but she also stars in the show that focuses on a woman forced to mentor an at-risk youth after she’s ordered to do community service.
In addition, she’s a talented singer and musician. The accomplished guitarist has performed with some names you may have heard of, namely, Demi Lovato, Rachel Platten and Fifth Harmony.
Via email, Bingwa recently answered some of our questions about her upcoming seven-episode web series which is set to premiere on the Revry Network in early to mid-July. She talked about why she was compelled to create this project, who influenced her career, her favorite American TV show and more.
TV Goodness: Growing up, how important were movies, TV and theater to your life?
Charmaine Bingwa: Growing up, movies, TV and theater were not very important to me. I was a musician and singer first, so I only truly began to appreciate TV, film and music later in life. I was at music school and on a whim, I decided to take acting as an elective and I instantly fell in love and discovered I had an unexplainable talent for it. I also think music and acting are very similar â€” they do the same thing in different ways.
TV Goodness: When did you decide you wanted to take a proactive approach to your career and create your own projects?
Bingwa: I had finished drama school and took a look at the landscape and saw that the stories and the roles I wanted to play werenâ€™t really prevalent (they are now, a lot can change in a few years). So I thought I can sit, wait and hope, or I can steer the ship in the direction I want it to go. Also I just truly love film and would do it 24 hours a day if I could.
TV Goodness: Who were the inspirations or influences that helped you decide you wanted to have a career in entertainment?
Bingwa: Definitely my first acting coach, Tony Cogin. I had only taken acting as an elective so it was just fun at first, but he saw something in me and made me really consider acting as a career option. He armed us students with so many skills, many of which I still use in my preparation today. He also encouraged us to be savvy about the business side of things, so when we graduated we were career-ready. And it was super inspiring to be able to see him in Sydney Theatre Company shows outside of school, practicing what he preached. People would start clapping mid-way during the plays when he appeared â€“ that is the kind of magnetisms I strive for.
TV Goodness: Talk about Little Sista â€” what it’s about and why were you compelled to make this story?
Bingwa: Little Sista is about a commitment-phobe who must learn to grow up when she is paired with an at-risk youth in a Big Brother, Big Sister program. Charmaine, (a thirty-something black lesbian played by myself) is self-absorbed, terrified of commitment and oblivious to the needs of others. But when a Judge with a sense of irony orders her to mentor an at-risk young girl, she identifies with the kidâ€™s difficult childhood and attempts to teach Lucy the life lessons her own parents failed to.
I was compelled to make this story as I want to create something super-funny with a lot of heart. Iâ€™m proud that it normalizes ethnic diversity, LGBTQ+ relationships, substitute families and advocates for harmony rather than difference. Little Sista isnâ€™t just about telling â€˜gay storiesâ€™ and putting â€˜minoritiesâ€™ on screen. Itâ€™s about exploring human stories that we can all connect to on some level, with a main character who just happens to dig other chicks. Itâ€™s a boundary pushing rollercoaster ride about dysfunctional people who have depth.
TV Goodness: You wrote, directed and star in Little Sista. How challenging was that?
Bingwa: Wearing so many hats is certainly a challenge, I literally had to compartmentalize my brain. 35 actors, 35 extras, 17 crew was a lot to manage. However, Iâ€™m stupidly organized so pre-and-post production werenâ€™t the hardest part…the most difficult part was to be able to turn off the other parts of my brain when I just needed to just act.
TV Goodness: Which one of your skills â€” writer, director, actor â€” is nearest and dearest to your heart? Why?
Bingwa: Acting. I just think itâ€™s such an alchemistic art form and Iâ€™m obsessed with the ineffable. Iâ€™m endlessly fascinated by people and I think it is a huge privilege to portray a human life on stage or on screen. I am a sensitive soul by nature and I think it helps me create some really truthful cinematic and theatrical moments on screen and stage.
TV Goodness: You took Little Sista to the LGBT Toronto Film Festival where it won Best Screenplay. What was that experience like?
Bingwa: It was such an amazing experience, Little Sista was only at script stage at this point, so it was so encouraging to have someone else recognize the vision I had for the show. It gave me the inspiration I needed to take it from script to production stage. They provided amazing feedback and it was fascinating to hear it read by Canadian actors too.
TV Goodness: Talk about your character in Little Sista — who is she and why do you think she’ll fascinate audiences?
Bingwa: She is impulsive, rebellious, child-like and wild, but at a crossroads in her lifeâ€¦she can keep partying and get more of what she has already got, or try something new and allow herself to be loved. A common dilemma for people approaching their 30s. I think people will be fascinated by her as she is so extreme, itâ€™s hilarious!
TV Goodness: There are so many TV shows and web series out there — why should people see Little Sista?
Bingwa: Itâ€™s so brash and raw, the comedy is so unique. It also has a lot of heart. I donâ€™t know another Australian show like it.
TV Goodness: You’re going to star in a feature film called The Pitch. What can you tell us about the project and what kind of character will you be playing?
Bingwa: Yes! I had a ball filming this feature. The Pitch is about a slippery Sydney film producer who discovers he needs to attach a movie star to his impending studio pitch, so he coerces his estranged father into a cross country road trip to find an elusive actor. I play Summer Akers, a crazy yoga teacher he comes across, who is a little too devoted to her guruâ€¦and not entirely helpful to Damien on his quest.
TV Goodness: What are some of your goals for your career? What’s your ultimate project?
Bingwa: I want a truly international film career. Iâ€™m not sure I have an ultimate project as so much of the writing nowadays is superbly boundary pushing â€” there are a million things I want to be in. But there will definitely be a feature I write and produce somewhere in the mix.
TV Goodness: What are you most proud of in your career so far and why?
Bingwa: It was performing in the play Doubt: A Parable. The role came about serendipitously and has been one of my favorite to date as it was so challenging in its demand for depth, truth and emotional access.
I was lucky enough to be honored with Sydney Theatre and Broadway World Award nominations for my performance in it. It was one of my earlier experiences acting, so I was grateful to learn amazing ways of working from the award-winning actors I was surrounded with.
It was also a real â€˜pinch myselfâ€™ moment when I got to meet and work with John Patrick Shanley, the Pulitzer Prize winning-writer who wrote it later in the U.S.
TV Goodness: If you could guest star on any TV show in the U.S. or Australia, which one would you want to be a part of?
Bingwa: Seven Seconds. Outstanding writing, outstanding performances and a story of great import.
TV Goodness: What are the movies or TV shows that resonate with you the most?
Bingwa: Iâ€™m a huge Christopher Nolan fan, so Inception, The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises, but other favorites include Fight Club, The Usual Suspects, Lion, The Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri, Gia, Million Dollar Baby and my personal philosophical all-time favorite The Matrix. TV shows I love tend to be more comedic like Lady Marmalade, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Veep, 30 Rock but also dramas like Seven Seconds, Narcos and an oldie but a goodie, The Wire.
TV Goodness: What’s your absolute favorite American TV show and why?
Bingwa: The Wire. It is one of the most intricately woven plots Iâ€™ve ever watched. The acting is brilliant and I love how gritty and raw it is.
Charmaine Bingwa’s Little SistaÂ can be found at revry.tv.
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