INTRO BY KATARZYNA MONIKA SKŁADANOWSKA
INTERVIEW BY CAMI LIBERTY
Charmaine Bingwa is an award-winning actress, as well as a musician. She was awarded a scholarship (the 2018 Equity Award) at the very prestigious Atlantic Acting School in New York City by the Equity Foundation.
The young, talented filmmaker wrote, starred and co-directed the series Little Sista. The show received the award for Best Screenplay at the LGBT Toronto Film Festival and was selected in the Web Series Festival Global.
In addition, she recently appeared in the Australian film The Pitch, Boys Will Be Boys, Waiting For God, and Can You Dig It.
We can’t forget about her theatre experience. She has performed for 79 times so far in 5 productions at some of the most renowned, distinguished venues such as Mame at Hayes Theatre, American Beauty Shop at Kings Cross Theatre, Birdland at New Theatre and The Seagull at The Depot Theatre.
A very gifted artist, she is also a singer and guitarist who has earned a Bachelor's degree in music. She has played with artists like Demi Lovato, Rachel Platten, and Fifth Harmony on their Australian tours.
We sat down with Charmaine to talk about Little Sista, her road to acting, and future projects.
When/how did you first get your start in acting?
CHARMAINE: "I was at University studying music, as I always imagined I’d be a professional singer. I nearly completed my degree with just a few electives remaining – so I thought acting looked ok. But as soon as I started, I was surprisingly drawn to it and had an unexplainable knack for it. When I realized I would spend the rest of my week just longing for the next class, I knew acting was meant for me."
What do you remember from your first audition?
CHARMAINE: "Oh wow, not a whole lot as it wasn’t that memorable! With auditions, I try to be cool, relaxed and just be truthful in the moment. There is so much that is outside of your control, so I don’t obsess over them. I think I’m a lot better at them now than when I first started though!"
You star in the web series “Little Sista”, which you also wrote, produced, and directed. What was it like doing all of these different jobs for the same show?
CHARMAINE: "Insanity ha-ha. No, it was ok actually. I’m super organized and really diligent, so it wasn’t really a problem. The biggest difficulty was remembering when it was time for me to act, that was the only thing I had to do. Also, setting up interaction expectations with the cast and crew – so when it was time for my emotional close up, they weren’t asking me what’s for lunch!"
Can you tell us a little about the show?
CHARMAINE: "Little Sista is about a commitment phobia 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 (I swear I’m different in real life!). But when a Judge with a sense of irony orders her to mentor Lucy, she identifies with her difficult childhood and attempts to teach 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. I’m proud that it normalizes ethnic diversity, LGBTQ+ relationships, substitute families, and advocates for harmony rather than difference. Little Sista isn’t just about telling ‘gay stories’ and putting ‘minorities’ on screen. It’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. It’s a boundary pushing rollercoaster ride about dysfunctional people who have depth."
What are some of your favorite memories from working on the project?
CHARMAINE: "My favorite times on set would be the improvised takes that we’d usually sneak in before we changed shot set ups. Lots of them made it into the final edit too!"
The show won the award for Best Screenplay at the LGBT Toronto Film Festival – how did it feel to win this award?
CHARMAINE: "So great! 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. It was incredible to hear it read by Canadian actors too."
Are there any other projects we can expect from you soon?
CHARMAINE: "I’m working on a brilliant LGBTI short called Cairos written by Zach Paul Brown, that has already won Best Screenplay awards. I’m excited to be playing the role of Lee and to be part of something I think will be spectacular.