We’re so pleased to have Charlie David and Natasha Balakrishnan joining us here at The Novel Approach today to tell us a bit about the television adaptation of a trilogy of stories from Charlie’s novel Shadowlands.
Welcome Natasha and Charlie!
Hi all! I’m Charlie David and I’m happy to stop by here at The Novel Approach. I’m excited to share that my book Shadowlands was released as the Shadowlands TV miniseries on Sunday, May 27th! Whether you like to read a book and then watch a show or the other way round, I’d like to invite you into my world and explore Shadowlands.
We’re at an exciting time when it’s still rare for a book in the M/M genre to be made into a film or TV series. While Shadowlands isn’t traditional romance it does explore love in three thematically connected stories – a couple renegotiating a relationship, a narcissist grasping to comprehend love, and star-crossed lovers mourning its loss.
I had the pleasure to work with a really talented cast and crew and so today I’d like to take the opportunity to introduce you to Natasha Balakrishnan, one of the stars of the Narcissus episode of the Shadowlands TV miniseries.
The Shadowlands gay TV series is comprised of three distinct stories exploring love. In the Narcissus episode of the Shadowlands TV show, Brian Woodford plays the role of a butler to an egocentric master in late 1920s Berlin.
Narcissus is the darkest episode in the Shadowlands miniseries. It’s an examination of what may happen when our pursuit of perfection goes too far.
There are story connections between the three episodes of Shadowlands. You can read about them here.
Natasha Balakrishnan is of South Indian origin born in Kerala, India; brought up in the middle east, Kuwait, and moved to Toronto, Canada at the age of fifteen. Natasha is a professional dancer, choreographer, and a working actor in Toronto, Canada . Her latest starring role is in Charlie David’s Shadowlands anthology TV miniseries.
Natasha Balakrishnan’s passion for dance, arts, and the entertainment field began at the tender age of five where she started off with theater/drama and dancing for local shows. Her main expertise lies in the classical dance form known as Bharatnatyam and proceeded to expand her talent with many other styles which include Bollywood, Hip Hop, Bhangra, and Contemporary incorporated with fusion.
Having performed in many platforms, Natasha Balakrishnan carried on her pursuit for dance in many different countries like New York, Germany, Kuwait, California, and India, and was further able to showcase her talent on National TV for the television show named ‘Canada’s Got Talent’ Season 1 in 2012.
She started her own YouTube channel as her outlet to creativity and passion for arts where she directs, choreographs, and incorporates acting through her concept videos. Her classical fusion choreography to ‘Taal se Taal Mila’ by A.R. Rahman has reached over a million views on YouTube. Natasha was awarded ‘First Runner Up’ and ‘Miss Congeniality’ at the 2014 Miss India Canada Pageant and ‘Miss Best Talent’ at the 2015 Miss India Worldwide Canada Pageant. In 2014, she was featured on a billboard advertisement for South Asian designer Boutique- ‘Aalayaa’.
Natasha was featured in the film ‘Dr.Cabbie’ with Bollywood stars; namely, Vinay Virmani, Isabel Kaif, and Kunal Nayyar. She performed for the Pan Am Olympic Games 2015 Opening Ceremonies with Cirque Du Soleil representing her Indian culture and heritage, including several other shows and corporate events, which include the Toronto Raptors basketball games, the WE Day concert, WE Day music video with Kardinal Offishall ft. Karl Wolf, and Holt Renfrew’s Uncrate India just to name a few.
With her professional expertise and training in the field, she has been fortunate to judge dance competitions; namely, in Detroit and in the City of Toronto, experiencing young and fresh talent on some amazing platforms. Natasha has also performed with Indian film music composer, Anirudh Ravichander, and collaborated with award winning rapper, Lady Kash, from Singapore. She choreographed for her recent song release “Supermodel”, composed for the film ‘Graghanam’; the album bagged by Yuvan Shankar Raja’s, U1 Records.
Natasha is working meticulously towards pursuing a career in films and is honing her acting skills by training with other budding artists in Toronto, Canada. She was a competitor, performer, and actor on Season 2 of OMNI Television Documentary series named “Bollywood Star”.
Tell us about your story in the Shadowlands anthology. What were the main challenges and fears you had in your role?
Natasha Balakrishnan: I play Thalia in the Shadowlands anthology and she is someone who brings a lot of love and humanity in a world that is affected by the war where people are becoming inhumane and vile.
Her love for Alex is immense and while he is no longer the same man she fell in love with, she refuses to believe that she cannot bring him back. His narcissistic ways and his obsession for perfection has left him no room to give love to anyone but himself.
Thalia will stop at nothing to make him see clearly but when it is all too late, she recognizes the Alex she treasured is gone and must put an end to the evil that persists. My main challenge with Thalia was playing a woman from the 1920’s Berlin and really understanding her love for Alex.
How much of yourself goes into a character?
Natasha Balakrishnan: I believe that while you take the essence of you, and your passion into your work; you are playing a life, a person, which requires you to explore and tap into the spiritual, emotional, and physical being of that personality/character and its not about who you are but the life that you’re taking on and you live the reality of that character.
The stories in the Shadowlands anthology TV show were inspired by the Shadowlands book which was inspired by Greek mythology. What was your experience in creating a remix of these ancient classical tales?
Natasha Balakrishnan: When I first got the audition for Shadowlands, I was very eager and I had immediately done my research on Charlie David, his book, and the Greek Myths tied to my character and Narcissus. I was more than ready for the audition!
It was very exciting playing someone from the 1920’s; something completely out of my comfort zone and knowledge. I am thankful to Charlie for believing in me to play Thalia. When I booked the part, I did tons of research on the ‘Golden 20’s’, got coaching, watched tons of movies in that era, the types of music, and wrote a backstory for Thalia and her love interest with Alex whose characters were inspired from the Greek myths of Narcissus and his Echo.
What aspects of the Shadowlands anthology TV show are you excited for an audience to experience or discover?
Natasha Balakrishnan: I am excited for the audience to see it all! I had the privilege of watching it with my team at one of our film festival premiers and it is definitely a roller coaster ride of emotions and quite the tales that Charlie David takes you through.
I loved the uniqueness and creativity brought in each episode. They are each shot in a different time period which is thrilling. I would love to have the audience experience what Charlie David and the entire team has put together throughout the Shadowlands anthology series.
What was the hardest scene for you to do and why?
Natasha Balakrishnan: I wouldn’t say anything was particularly hard but I definitely found it a bit challenging. I had to shoot a very intense scene right when I got to set the first day. We started the shoot for the ‘Narcissus’ episode with my scene where a gun is being delivered to my house with a note to kill myself by someone who I truly love.
I had to go through many thoughts in a short span of time and I found that a bit of a challenge; to jump in and out of emotions when circumstances prior to that scene were not shot yet. But that is what I loved most about Thalia and this film production; I felt challenged/nervous by this role and wanted to give it my all. Like the saying – “What doesn’t challenge you, doesn’t change you.”
Who is a major influence for you and on your creativity?
Natasha Balakrishnan: Well I surely believe that creative inspiration is sparked through influence and there are many wonderful people who inspire me every day. My mother is my biggest inspiration because of her strength and courage to always persevere no matter what. This is a huge driving force to pursue my passion and to stay focused and optimistic.
Also, fine artists like Robert De Niro, Anthony Hopkins, Emily Blunt, Jennifer Lawrence, Radhika Apte, Nawazuddin, Meryl Streep, Alia Bhatt, Morgan Freeman, Amitabh Bachchan, and Leonardo DiCaprio just to name the least; inspire me to work hard every day on my craft and to never stop learning and growing creatively.
Is there a type of role you dream of playing but haven’t had the opportunity yet?
Natasha Balakrishnan: Oh yeah of course, there’s tons I dream of playing! I definitely have miles to go and want to live a thousand lives through this career path of mine.
I would LOVE to play an action-packed role like a boxer or a marvel superhero!! I love watching strong female oriented roles and I would love to take on those.
In addition to acting, tell me about the other areas of entertainment you’re pursuing.
Natasha Balakrishnan: Apart from my love for acting, I also have an immense passion for dance, music, and poetry. I started my own YouTube channel back in 2014 which is my biggest creative outlet. I began producing, directing, and choreographing my own dance/concept videos by reaching out to local artists and collaborating with them to create art.
It’s an amazing feeling to see your vision come to life through team efforts and I truly enjoy working on them. When I first started my YouTube Channel, I just needed a platform to be creatively inclined. I never really imagined how many people I could reach out to until one of my videos went viral and hit close to 3 million views.
It’s a wonderful feeling when people around the world enjoy your work and it really encouraged me to constantly keep producing anything and everything I had the urge to create. I definitely have tons of creative stuff planned in terms of acting, dance, and music that I can’t wait to release them.
With so much going on in the world today, what’s your motivation to be a performer? Do you act to explain? To get away? To move past? To widen our knowledge? To incite a conversation?
Natasha Balakrishnan: All of the above really! Film and television is a source of entertainment, an escape, a fantasy, a story that incites conversation, and conceivably allows one to look into things that might have never sparked their interest before and I just absolutely love all of it.
I enjoy being in front of the camera, taking on different lives, and studying them. Art is a study of humanity and understanding the beings that live amongst us. Art is a universal language that truly connects people across the world and can be used as a very informative/influential tool. My motivation as an artist is to tell real people’s stories because in the words of my guru – “Art imitates reality”.
What’s next for you as a creator/actor/performer?
Natasha Balakrishnan: While I am constantly auditioning and working on my craft as an actor/performer; as a creator, I have always loved poetry/music and I write quite a bit of poetry/lyrics on my own time.
This spontaneously ventured into a very exciting new realm for me this year. I wrote, produced, sang, and creatively directed my first single with the help of a brilliant team. It is currently in post-production as I am eagerly and nervously waiting for its release.
About Shadowlands ~ The Novel
Shadowlands is a collection of short stories exploring the heartfelt, and sometimes heartbreaking passion and pain of gay sexuality. Ancient myths are re-imagined with an exciting queer twist masterfully depicting the charged, fragile relationships of urban life today.
Story genres in this collection include romance, science fiction, fantasy/paranormal, horror, and poetry.
About Charlie David
Charlie David has been a host for E! Television, NBC, OutTV, LOGO, here! TV, Pink TV, EGO, Fine Living and Slice Networks on such shows as FYE!, SpyTV, Crash Test Mommy and his travel series Bump which shot over 100 episodes around the world and garnered a Hugo Television award. He has appeared as musical guest on VH1, BBC, CBS’s The Early Show, and dozens of radio shows.
In 2005 Out Magazine recognized Charlie in the ‘Out 100’ at their gala in New York. In 2007 the Philadelphia Film Society awarded Charlie with their Rising Star Award. In 2008 the Festival del Sol in Gran Canaria awarded their Best Male Actor Award to Charlie and the male cast of A Four Letter Word. His documentary and scripted films have won several jury and audience awards at festivals around the world. Formerly in a rock band… okay, actually it was a boy band, Charlie opened for Destiny’s Child, Pink, Snoop Dogg, Rick Springfield and Black Eyed Peas.
A love of storytelling led Charlie to start Border2Border Entertainment, a production company whose film and television credits include Shadowlands, Mulligans, Judas Kiss, I’m a Stripper (series), Studlebrity, Balls, Dating Unlocked, PolyLove and Positive Youth. Border2Border Entertainment’s films have been licensed to Showtime, Vice, Super Channel, HBO Canada, MTV/LOGO, Sundance Channel, Discovery Networks, The Movie Network, Movie Central, Hollywood Suite, hereTV, Encore Avenue, and OutTV in North America as well as finding a worldwide audience through international distribution partners.
He is a graduate of the Canadian College of Performing Arts and his current passions include travel, encounters with wildlife, SCUBA diving, mosaic tiling and podcasts. He resides in Toronto and Montréal, Canada when he’s not living out of a suitcase.
You can explore Charlie’s films and TV shows on his website at https://border2border.ca or become a part of his social media network by visiting: YouTube || Facebook || Twitter || Vimeo || Audible || Goodreads || Dreamspinner || Pinterest