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Vanessa McMahon

Vanessa is a novel writer, screenwriter, rep and a film producer. She shares her discoveries and film surprises. :-)



Interview with Actress Judi Beecher for "Tango Shalom" (2021)

Interview with Actress Judi Beecher for "Tango Shalom" (2021)

Judi Beecher is a multi-award winning international actress, singer-songwriter, and filmmaker. Her career began as a print model and singer in France, Italy and New York, where she sang alongside the Gipsy Kings in the south of France and performed in Cologne and Barcelona as a chanteuse. Her first professional acting job was with Woody Allen in "Coop Italia," a string of TV commercials for the Italian market. Judi performed in Off-Broadway original theater productions and starred in numerous SAG independent feature films. On television, she recurred on the "Bold and the Beautiful," and "As the World Turns" as well as on "Law and Order," "Jag," "The Shield" and "Once and Again." Furthermore, Judi has starred, both on camera and off camera in dozens of TV and radio commercials.

Judi also produced and starred in the Romantic Comedy, "Only in Paris" in which she received Best Actress, Best Romantic Comedy, and Best Short Film at both the New York and Los Angeles Independent Film Festivals in 2011. In addition, in 2013 she was nominated Best Supporting Actress at the Saint Tropez International Film Festival for her role in the feature film, "The Warrior and The Savior." Judi's talents were also showcased when she starred in a short film at the Cannes Film Festival- "Perfect Pitch," which won Best Film, amid tough competition. In theaters Judi can be seen in Dany Boon's top grossing film, "La Ch'tite Famille" (Dany Boon, François Berléand, Line Renaud, Valérie Bonneton, Laurence Arné, and Guy Lecluyse) produced by Pathé. Upcoming roles include, 'La Garçonne" mini-series for France Television, as well as the lead female role in "Tango Shalom" where she plays a Hassidic Rabbi's wife, alongside Lainie Kazan, Renee Taylor, Joe Bologna and Karina Smirnoff, produced by Joel Zwick.


Judi attended the 74th Cannes Film Festival. I interviewed her shortly afterwards about her award win at Cannes and about her upcoming film, “Tango Shalom”(2021). Here is what she had to say:


Can you tell us about your path to becoming an actress? Did you always know it was what you wanted to do? 

JUDI: When I was a little girl I used to love to perform for anyone and everyone that would watch. From doing gymnastics to putting on plays in the basement, I would write the play, direct my sister and cousins and of course star in it, while the whole family would watch. I was also always singing. I wanted to be Olivia Newton John in Greece or Barbara Streisand. I would sit on the floor of the living room and sing into a CB radio microphone plugged into the stereo to the music that was playing. My Dad told me I sang better than Barbara. I was always a star at home. I had so much confidence, but in school I was extremely shy, so when I auditioned for a school play or a talent contest, no sound would come out of my mouth. They would say, “you have such a beautiful voice but we can’t hear you!” So I never seriously thought about a career in acting and my parents didn’t think acting was a real career. I went to Cornell University for business and International Relations. I studied French and Italian foreign policy. I thought I was supposed to become a banker, but after a brief internship at a French bank in Paris, I realized I hated banking and began modeling on my lunch breaks, which my parents weren’t happy about. At the end of the internship I modeled full time in Paris and then in Italy. I then became a singer, almost as a joke. My roommates and I in Italy decided we wanted to travel so they decided I would sing, one would play guitar and the other pass the hat. We busked our way across the south of France. We sang in front of a restaurant then went there to eat with the money we had just made. We made a ton of money and had an amazing summer. We even sang next to the Gypsy Kings in Avignon, France. 

JUDI CONT'D: When I came back from Europe, I decided to create a line of Neoprene (scuba wear) hand bags, but instead, while interpreting at a trade show (because I spoke fluent French and Italian) I met an Italian man who offered me to rep his company of shearling coats in America. I didn’t really want to, as I wanted to make my bags, but offered to help him. The coats took off and I went into business with him. I was written up in the papers. We had a very successful showroom on 7th avenue in NYC repping six clothing lines from Europe. I was living a glamorous life, traveling the world for work. I was only 23. Then my friend Dino from college asked me, “where do you see yourself in five years?” Wow, I had never thought about that, I had just fallen into the business. I realized it was not what I really wanted to do. But what did I want to do? I read the book, “What Color is Your Parachute?” Everything pointed to acting. Acting really?? But how do I begin? I called a friend from college and spoke to his brother who was an actor. He told me "it’s simple to go to acting school!" So I decided I was not going to be just a pretty face when I went to LA. I would be the best actor I could possibly be! So for the next four years I studied with everyone at once. I did a two year Meisner Program, Actors Movement, studied with Actor’s Studio Founders, Bobby Lewis, Uta Hagen and Bill Hickey, an advanced program at the Stella Adler conservatory with Elaine Stritch, then worked with her privately, then in LA with Gordon Hunt and the renowned Larry Moss.


Acting is not an easy path. What have been your biggest challenges and your biggest rewards thus far?  

JUDI: When I first started I had so much confidence. I booked every role I auditioned for and everyone was always telling me I was amazing. I thought it would be super easy to go to LA and be a star, especially after studying with the top teachers in the world. But when I got to LA, I was in my late 20’s. I was already too old. The powerful agents would say, “Why are you not already known?” “When you get on a series let us know.” It was so frustrating. How could I get on a series if I didn’t have anyone getting me in the rooms? My biggest challenge was and always has been not having a strong enough agent to get me in the room. I had to do everything on my own. I would network like crazy and then get the breakdowns and see if there was anyone I knew involved in a project and then contact them to see if I could audition. I felt like I worked harder than anyone I knew. It was frustrating. The producers I knew were also using the standard business model and wanted to hire “A list” names so they could get their movies financed and wouldn’t take a chance on an unknown. I remember I was on hold for three weeks to play the lead of the James Dean story and then all of a sudden, a couple of names were being considered. I was the unknown choice, then out of nowhere, they gave the role to Virginia Madsen who hadn’t even been in the running. It was so disappointing. That would have been my big break. They told me afterwards they wished I had played the part. My biggest reward was booking “Tango Shalom” after three very difficult auditions. But in reality, it is every acting job I get to do! I love acting so much. I feel like it is such a gift to be able to share my talents with the world. I can’t think of anything else I love to do more… besides travel. 


You are from New York, but you have lived in France for much of your life. How has that experience impacted your life and career? 

JUDI: At age nineteen, I became obsessed with France. My Mom said, “you can’t go to France if you don’t speak French”, so I learned it in one year. I’ve been back and forth to France since then. I was there as a student, a banking intern, a model, a singer, then went back years later as an actress. I was repped by ICM France and was up for a role to play Catherine Deneuve’s daughter in a movie. They couldn’t hire me because I needed to be legal to work there as an actress, so I applied for German nationality since my mother was born in Germany. That started my career in France as well. Being a trilingual international actress has definitely helped my career. I recorded the lead in the well known playstation video game, “Heavy Rain” there, acted in “Taken 3” and I was in “Dany Boon” (my favorite French actor and director), “Family is Family” and I was recently a series regular on the French mini-series, “La Garçon” for France Television which came out in September. I also write songs in French and English. I wrote a song “Paris Ooh La La” which I just made a music video about an American woman obsessed with Paris. You can watch it on youtube!


You’ve worked on shorts, features, soaps and series. What has been your proudest work so far?  

JUDI: My proudest work is my latest film “Tango Shalom''. I play the lead female role Racquel Yehuda, the Hasidic mother of five and wife of Moshe Yehuda, a Rabbi and teacher with financial difficulties. He is going to lose his Hebrew school and doesn’t know what to do so he prays to G-d for help. G-d comes to him in a dream and tells him he has to dance the Tango in a televised dance competition to resolve his financial problems, but in Orthodox Hasidic Judaism he can’t touch a woman that is not his wife, so he has to go to all the other religions to ask for advice. It is a comedy in the vein of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”. Joel Zwick, who directed that film, is a producer of our film. Lainie Kazan (My Big Fat Greek Wedding) and Renee Taylor (The Nanny) play the mothers, Joe Bologna plays the priest and also co-wrote and co-produced the film, which was unfortunately his last film. Karina Smirnoff (Dancing with the Stars) plays the Tango Dancer, my rival. It was my most challenging role so far. I really wanted to portray my character authentically. I wore almost no make up, wigs and head scarfs. I spent a lot of time talking with Hasidic women in Brooklyn to learn the way of life and the customs, a lot of my scenes are with my husband and family. It was important to me to honor them and to portray her humanness, that even though outwardly we are different, we are the same. The message of the film is very important, bringing religions and people together. We’ve won 8 awards so far! Tango Shalom can be seen September 3 in theaters in New York and LA on all streaming platforms, Oct 29th!


You are also a director. Can you tell us about that experience? And will you do it again in the future? 

JUDI: At first I directed a few shorts, because I wanted to act and the director dropped out so I just did it myself. I realized that I was always helping, coaching the other actors who were working with me to give their best performance. I’ve directed a few short films. My script idea won a competition in Cannes in a flip phone competition and I had to shoot a film in three days, thus the Cannes Can was born. It is about an actress who comes to Cannes and everything goes wrong. I’m currently directing a documentary, “Run Ronya- The Kindness of Strangers” , working title, about my mother who was German-Jewish deported to a prison camp in Southern France during the Holocaust with her parents. After a year, she was smuggled out of the camp and hidden with orphans before escaping by herself across the French Swiss Border at six and a half years old while her parents hid in the ceiling of the camp for ten nights before escaping only to be stopped by guards and police who wanted to arrest them but instead decided to help. It has been a very rewarding experience to make this film but also very difficult. I would do it again, but I may just stick to narratives.


You have won multiple awards in your career. Can you tell us about those? And your award in Cannes? 

JUDI: As an actress I was always being cast in very dramatic roles. I’m actually very funny, but no one saw me that way, so I decided to make a short film to prove I was funny. The romantic comedy “Only in Paris” was born. I shot it in Paris, I kinda co - directed, produced and starred in the film. Thomas Gilou helped me with location scouting and a director/ producer friend Christine Allen helped me cast it. I won Best Film, Best Romantic Comedy and Best Actress at the New York and Los Angeles Independent Film Festival. And yes so exciting at the Cannes Film Festival this Year! I was presented the Award for Best Film for Peace and Tolerance for Tango Shalom by the AFI institute for Peace and Tolerance. We were awarded alongside Barry Alexander Brown, who has worked with Spike Lee for 30 years for “Son of the South” and Stephen Mao academy award winner for (Skin.)  


Who are your biggest inspirations, both in life and your career? 

JUDI: My biggest inspiration in life is my mother. If you met her you would never know about her early life as a hidden child and Holocaust survivor. She is one of the kindest, upbeat, positive people I know. She always thinks about what the other person is feeling. She didn’t let adversity negatively affect her. She lets things that would annoy someone else bounce off her. She is always doing things for her health and well being. She introduced me to Wayne Dyer as a kid, and has always lived that way and has exercised daily for the last 45 years, even outdoing me in laps. In my career, it is Meyrll Streep hands down. She is what I aspire to be. She has the ability to transform herself into any character, she does multiple accents, sings, and is so talented. I believe every second of every performance. I also feel that is my strength as well, the ability to transform myself. But one thing I have over her is that I speak multiple languages and can act in French, Italian, Spanish and English.


You recently starred in a film directed by Danielle Campbell. Can you talk about that? 

JUDI: We are currently still filming a 1950’s film noir film, working title, “Neighborly”. After my uncle passed away Danielle and I were shooting a scene for my documentary, “Run Ronya, the Kindness of Strangers” in my Grandparent’s home, as it is up for sale. The house is right out of the1950’s and we wanted to shoot a narrative film there before it will be knocked down. We both had similar storyline idea's and got together the next day. Danielle had been working on a feature film from that era with a similar tone, so we wrote the outline of the film together and she used revamped scenes from her film. It was a magical experience. Most of the film will be shot in the house. We also shot several promo scenes during the Cannes Film Festival! I’ll let you know when it is out!


You attended the Cannes Film festival. How was it this year post Covid? 

JUDI: It was the first plane ride I took in a year and a half. It was so wonderful to be back in France, back in Cannes after such a hard year and a half, and to be back into that inspirational energy. Things were very different this year. The Market was at 40% capacity of exhibitors. You had to have a pass that you were vaccinated or a negative Covid test to enter the Marché. This year they didn’t give you any of the books or guides they usually give you on checking in. Half the pavilions were turned into Covid testing stations. If you weren’t a star in the film you had to wear a mask to go up the red carpet. There was no American Pavilion this year, only an American terrace which I didn’t have time to go to this year. But even though Cannes was smaller this year the energy was still there. Everyone was so happy to go out and see each other. There wasn’t a lot of social distancing as everyone was hugging and kissing each other hello to happy to be there.


You’ve attended 17 Cannes in your career. In your opinion, why is Cannes important to attend as an actress and filmmaker? 

JUDI: This year, I won an award for Peace and Tolerance for Tango Shalom. I was offered four film roles. I was interviewed for the “75 years of Cannes” directed by Richard Blanchard, Werner Hertzog’s DP. I did a three hour interview with Integrity Magazine and will be the September cover story. I did photo shoots, shot my feature and found people to collaborate with and possibly financing for my documentary. That was just this year! Last Cannes I shot three features, booked a series regular role in a French TV series “La Garçonne”. In the past years I’ve sung my original music during fashion shows, been a judge on competitions, participated in different 24 hour competitions as an actress and filmmaker that we’ve won, and had my film “Only in Paris” at the short film corner, after meeting the director at Cannes. I also found additional financing for “Tango Shalom” during the Cannes film festival and put my production team together for various films I’ve made and directed and produced, besides also making a million contacts. So the answer to your question is, yes! At least for me it has been very, very worthwhile. But I speak fluent French, Italian and English and conversational Spanish, I work internationally, I have dual nationality with the EU so I can work in the US and as a local on any European film. My market is twice as large. Cannes has been important to me in every aspect of my career. I always get back into that creative inspiration and get to network with the creme de la creme of the industry. 


Where would you like to see yourself in the next 5-10 years? 

JUDI: Gosh that question again. I see myself married to an incredible man, living in LA, NY, Paris and Cassis in homes overlooking the ocean, winning an Oscar or multiple ones. Working on incredible A-list films and long running TV series, both as an actress and director producer, creator. My films, books, music and talent are known around the world and are touching people’s hearts, educating them and changing people for the better. My mission is to leave this world a better place. I want to thank the Artisan Festival World Peace Initiative at Cannes and Princess Angelique Monet for the Award for Best Film for peace and Tolerance for Tango Shalom! for theater information and tickets. 


Interview with Actress Judi Beecher for "Tango Shalom" (2021) Tango Shalom (2021)Interview with Actress Judi Beecher for "Tango Shalom" (2021)


Interview by Vanessa McMahon. 09-22-2021




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