Eliana Alexander: Force of Nature Tries Something New
The series regular in long-running TV programs for English and Spanish language networks publishes first novel, The Neighbor
Belinda Quesada, Contributing Writer
By her own account, Eliana Alexander has led a charmed life having survived Hollywood doing exactly what she loves. This Mexico City native has successfully performed, written, produced and directed for television/film and now adds Novelist to her IMDb (Internet Movie Database) credits.
Published on LatinoLA: December 17, 2012
Eliana's first novel, "The Neighbor," due out this month, is a fictional suspense-thriller about murder, dark secrets, and a world famous country singer accused of a heinous crime. The new novel does not disappoint. It's a thrill-ride from start to finish with plot development and intrigue only a seasoned talent could create.
And if that weren't enough, Eliana and husband John Nikitin are collaborating on a feature film based on her new novel. Yes, this power couple has done their homework and understands the demands of film business. (More to follow once financing and principle actors are secured!)
In the entertainment world, she is famous for her award winning choreography and music both as a teacher and performer working alongside some of Hollywood's best talent. Eliana also has the unique distinction of being a series regular in several long-running television programs for English and Spanish language networks. Not an accomplishment many can brag about.
"The Neighbor," allows Eliana to enter the creative genre of literary fiction. No stranger to writing, she has nearly a dozen scripts submitted to TV and film. This Mexican beauty has now decided to parlay these into books. How clever is that? According to Eliana, this was just a natural stretch for someone who is always ready for the next adventure. With over thirty acting roles to her credit, she is sought after in the industry for her flawless English and Spanish as well as her exceptional ability to speak perfectly in several indigenous dialects.
So what made this talented Latina want to try something different? Simply put, Eliana is a force of nature with an infectiously, positive personality. She admits that she has never been afraid to try something new.
Raised with international savoir-faire by parents who believed strongly in world travel as its teacher; Eliana's formative years were happy ones spent with her parents and two sisters moving around Latin America and the United States. It was this early love of people, history, cultures, and a healthy respect for nature that shaped her early life.
My interview with Eliana Alexander was a delight. This is a working actress who could never be described as pretentious. A dedicated martial arts student Hap Ki Do, form of Korean martial arts. (Ten years.) She described how the sparks flew instantly when she locked eyes on her husband, John. It's Hollywood, and no surprise that John is also in the business. He is a well-known actor, Sensei, and her rock.
For Eliana's look, think a younger Raquel Welch; gorgeous, fit and unabashedly fearless.
Belinda Quesada (BQ): Describe your first novel, "The Neighbor"?
Eliana Alexander (EA): This is a fictional story that takes place in current day and is about Caroline Geish, a world-famous county singer living a perfect single life. Then, a handsome and successful plastic surgeon moves in next door. Shortly after they meet, there is a murder and the country starlet is framed for a horrendous crime. What is discovered during an investigation is the deep rooted plot to destroy Caroline and her entire family. I loved writing this novel because unlike a script, I could be more detailed and write more in-depth about my characters. There are no time constraints like in a television movie or film.
BQ: Why a novel about a Country Western Singer?
EA: I love Country Western music and wanted to write a different and diverse type of book. She was really interesting to write about.
BQ: You are an accomplished actor, why writing?
EA: As a kid, I was always in the principal's office, day dreaming and imagining the possibilities of life. I think that I just love story telling. Some time ago, my husband bought me script-writing software for my birthday and soon my script(s) turned into novels.
BQ: Given your background and influence in the Latino marketplace, are there many parts for Latino's in this project?
EA: Yes, several parts are specifically written with a Latino in mind. And I have casted myself too. Other scripts I've written also have lead Latino/a's. They are always portrayed in a really good light. The beauty of my writing is that I write with everyone in mind and have an array of characters featured in all of my novels. I have over 10 different scripts completed that we are looking to turn into novels.
BQ: Is Hollywood ready for this type of film?
EA: Yes, Hollywood is ready for this type of film. Everyone is ready for this type of film, all age ranges and all ethnicities. It's a thriller and everyone is ready for a good story. There is a Latina attorney, judge and a father who is married to a Latina.
BQ: Was this novel, albeit fictional, based on any true events?
EA: No, it's all fiction. Creating stories, it's all coming out of my mind. The twist and turns are all fiction.
BQ: You've received numerous awards; ALMA, Imagen, NYIIFVF (New York International Independent Film and Video Festival) which one is the most coveted and why?
EA: Whenever you receive an award, it's wonderful to be acknowledged and embraced by others in your field. To me, the award and recognition mean a lot. I can't pick a favorite.
BQ: What's the most rewarding aspect of what you do and how do you stay motivated?
EA: Honestly, I feel blessed to be a working actor. The journey has been so magical. I like diverse roles that challenge me. Dancing empowers my acting; singing helps the dancing and so forth. We are all different and telling a story with passion is one of the things that make me happy. I also love helping people and animals. I'm motivated knowing that there is so much more to do. The passion of my current project always thrills me. I am in the moment.
BQ: You are a multi-award winning Actor, Singer, Choreographer, Dancer, Writer, and Director with over thirty acting roles to your credit. How do you describe yourself?
EA: Hum, I never thought of how I would describe myself. If I get a script, I will research everything about my character, come prepared to give the best performance I can. I just live life and am open to what the future will bring. That's why I love writing; it was just a natural extension of acting. In my novel, I develop all the characters and am able to tell a story my way, adding intrigue and plot changes. I love using words to be creative.
BQ: Describe your early years traveling around?
EA: I was really lucky, dad worked for US Government and we traveled all over Central and South America as well as several US states. I remember the foods, the culture, the different indigenous languages but most of all, the people. My mom was good and always spoke positively when preparing us for travel. She talked about the new adventures we would have and reminded us about all the new friends we'd make, etc. It was the best education.
BQ: What did you learn about life, people, or different cultures?
EA: I learned about diversity at an early age. I learned how much fun you can have when you open yourself to learning new things. It really taught me how to live in the moment. I met some beautiful spiritual mentors and feel blessed to have had those experiences. I learned that people are people wherever you go. To always look out for others. To this day, I always try to help others in need.
BQ: What message did you learn from your parents?
EA: Mom worked hard all her life and even today lives life to the fullest. She is retired now and living part time in Mexico and part time in the states. What she taught me was to share my life, find balance and find the goodness in everything.
BQ: You arrived in Los Angeles as a teen, what stood out most about US teens vs. Latina American teens?
EA: It's funny, when I arrived I had a slight British accent but, it didn't matter to anyone. I jumped right in. In Latin America, Latino's are very open, we kiss on the check and hug each other when we greet. In the US, American students had a different etiquette. Oddly enough, I felt like I was attending a University. Compared to my schools in Latin America, the American high schools were very rich with large football fields, soccer fields, two swimming pools, a music room, a theater, two gyms, etc. I was so happy to be here that I took advantage of all of my classes and never missed school. I couldn't understand why students would cut class and go to the beach. In Latin America, I saw how poor families struggled and lived under dire conditions, I could see both sides. The message I learned was one of respect and gratitude for life.
BQ: Any difficulties you had to overcome?
EA: My parent's divorce. We were in Guatemala and being away from my father was difficult. I protected my sister and we made it through. I learned I could be strong and the experience matured me.
BQ: Is acting still in your future?
EA: Oh, yes. I love working as an actor. Once I'm on the set, I am re-energized. Honestly, I've had such a magical journey and embrace everything I do.
BQ: What would you do if you were not acting?
EA: If I had to choose another career, it would be something in the medical field. Years ago while stretching in one of my Aerobics classes; a student who was a Chiropractor asked if I would be interested in assisting him in physical therapy classes. He taught me the muscles in the body, technique, and I took a few classes in order to assist him with patients working on physical therapy. I found I loved it. I learned to appreciate the body and pay more attention to my eating habits. In addition, I taught my dance students about injury prevention, the importance of stretching and proper nutrition. It was extremely rewarding helping others improve their health.
BQ: What's Hollywood really like for people of color & women?
EA: Things have changed recently with more films being made with a strong female lead. But, that wasn't the case for many years and I remember being told once at twenty-eight, I was too old. It hurts and it's just part of the industry. I do think that is changing little by little. Baby Boomers are a large, growing population that is demanding more movies that they can relate to. Aging gracefully for men is very different than for women. If men have gray hair, they're considered elegant and worldly. Hollywood is slowly changing.
BQ: Who are your favorite directors and or talent?
EA: On my current film project, "The Neighbor," we have an amazing team of professionals in lighting, cinematography, and casting. Once financing is complete, we will announce the others involved. Throughout the years the years, we've had an opportunity t to work with a variety of talent. We know actors temperaments, who is not a prima Dona and so forth. As for my favorite Director it is Paco Farias. I am currently working with him on a short called "Sin Verguenza." It's a series of short educational videos on Aids Prevention. Through his eyes, it is told in a very beautiful way. He is patient and works well with people, sets up shots perfectly. A good director makes the actor feel secure. You know you are in good hands. As for my favorite actors, ironically, they're all British! I love Maggie Smith, Helen Mirren, and Judi Dench.
BQ: As a child, what was your dream job?
EA: When I was young, I saw myself as a doctor or working in medicine, maybe teaching, helping others. There was so much I loved and wanted to do. I guess that's why I went into acting. Now I get to play other people doing lots of different things. It's what every actor dreams of.
BQ: How did you and your husband meet?
EA: We met in a martial arts class. He was my Sensei and taught me Hap Ki Do, a Korean martial arts. I was working on a series and decided I would like to gain some strength and signed up for martial arts class. The first day of class, he helped me a lot. He is also an actor. Since we do love and respect one another, we decided to work together. My husband is not Latino but, he appreciates culture and embraces it. We have a great life because we both see the world the same way; full of possibilities.
BQ: What do you think about social media?
EA: I love it. I am learning how to use it more and more each day. I didn't use Facebook right away and finally my students encouraged me to try it. Once I did, I began communicating with a lot of my childhood friends from South America and understood the beauty of it. I loved it. We also use it to promote our projects and it's the best tool for reaching many people all at once.
BQ: In your personal life, what are you most proud of?
EA: I am happily married and deeply in love with my husband of nearly ten years. Would you believe we never argue? He is supportive of my crazy life and he is my joy. Also, over the years, some of my young students have gone on to teach dance. This is a high compliment. Teaching and giving back to others has always been a priority. Makes me feel proud.
BQ: Where do you go for answers?
EA: Thank God for the internet! I Google everything. When I was writing "Hold the Line", it's a border story about people who want to come to the US and why. It's not just about Latinos; it also follows an Asian, Russian, and other families who share in the immigrant experience. You see the story from both points of view: Federal law enforcement and the families. I researched Border Patrol agents, county politics in each border state, the history of crime, previous stories written and so on. The shows are developed completely with a Latina protagonist in mind. I also did a ride-a-long with border patrol agents and found it fascinating. I wrote it as a TV series.
BQ: What charities do you sponsor and why?
EA: My husband and I are members of several nonprofit organizations. We support PETA, (People For Ethical Treatment of Animals), Sea Sheppard; an organization that protects all ocean life, and Team EXTREME, a phenomenal organization that works with wounded soldiers. We hold dance or music events and donate monies to these deserving charities.
BQ: How do you see your future?
EA: I will continue writing and hopefully produce interesting, thought provoking stories. I will also continue to act and will embrace whatever the future brings. I'm open and receptive to all new things.
BQ: What message would you like to tell others?
EA: Always be true to yourself. Be honest, nice to others, and try to live in harmony. In my journey, I have met some spiritual and loving people, who have influenced me personally or professionally over the years. They have been my teachers. I believe you will meet people in your life that will influence you and you have to take the golden nuggets from each encounter. Certainly, knowing your goal, preparing yourself, training, and having a strong mind helps. For me, Hap Ki Do taught me to be powerful but humble. Remember, luck is preparation-meeting opportunity. When it knocks on your door, be ready!
BQ: Since you worked for many years with youth, any shout outs?
EA: Youth can do anything they put their minds to. They are the drivers of their own destiny. They are the future. I would remind them to be humble, treat others with respect and if they see someone in need, try to help. Lastly, I always told my students to remember that the stage is not for one person but, it is for everyone. Share, then your light will always shine.
BQ: What do you want your legacy to be?
EA: Hum, I have never thought of that. I see the world in the way I want to live. I try to help others and always try to contribute to making the world a better place. And, I don't have one style, I am diverse.
BQ: Any final thoughts?
EA: I hope that people will enjoy my first novel and will allow the story to take them on a journey. I also want to let people know that it's alright to dream. Don't let the child within you die. Always embrace it. We all have special gifts and talents. We sometimes forget that we are like children who want to play. Let your inner light shine.
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