Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Latina actor-producer takes on Lara Croft on SyFy

"At Current TV, producing and being the talent went hand in hand. When I went on to produce for the SyFy channel it was a big challenge for me, being someone who was relatively new to the scene."

HOLLYWOOD, CA – Jael De Pardo is known for her work as a researcher on the hit series Destination Truth on SYFY channel. Jael went on to conduct a series of investigations about myths and legends on the show in places like King Tut’s tomb and the radiation fields of Chernobyl.
SYFY was very enthused by Jael’s work and offered her roles in two subsequent shows Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files and Haunted Highway in which she currently performs alongside Jack Osbourne. Haunted Highway just completed production on its second season and is set to air this fall. Jael’s adventurous spirit and wide range of travel, have donned her the title of “real life Lara Croft” by her fans. Whether it means repelling down mine shafts in Chile or SCUBA diving with sharks in the Bermuda Triangle.
Raised in NYC, Jael arrived in the City at the age of two from her native Colombia. Shortly after, her parents submitted a picture of Jael to the Ford Modeling Agency. Jael was accepted to the agency and began modeling in ad campaigns and editorials at the age of four. Jael later attended the prestigious Fashion Institute of Technology in NYC where she majored in exhibit design and multi-media studies. An avid artist, designer and fashionista, in her spare time Jael worked assisting world-renowned fashion designer Patricia Field at her downtown store. When Jael decided to move to Los Angeles after college to pursue a career in acting, Patricia Field wrote her letter of recommendation to get into acting school.
Jael has studied acting with some of the top coaches in the country including Susan Batson, Lesly Kahn and Janet Ashanti’s masters’ class. She soon became popular in the commercial world, appearing in television and print campaigns for companies such as Levis, Apple, Verizon, Sony, and Nissan. Jael eventually became the face of numerous brand integrations for companies such as Dodge and American Airlines.
In 2006, Jael was approached about an audition for a TV hosting job. That audition turned into a three-year contract with Al Gore’s newly launched, youth lifestyle television network, Current TV. Jael’s diverse skill set – acting, writing, hosting –accelerated her rise to become one of the lead voices and faces of Current TV.
           She later went on to produce at the network, creating segments in Colombia, Panama and Mexico including a half hour special for the Vanguard journalism unit in the Darien Gap, a dangerous patch of unincorporated jungle that separates central and South America. Jael also returned to her hometown of NYC to produce a segment about her former employer Patricia Field after Patricia styled the HBO series Sex & the City. She also produced a segment on world-renowned photographer/director David LaChapelle at the NYC Tony Shafrazi Gallery.
Jael has also appeared in independent films, on E! Entertainment, Travel Channel, AT&T’s Buzz Channel and SiTV, America’s leading cable network for Latinos. Her work has won her awards and accolades such as a Silver Telly and Bronze Remi.
          In her down time Jael continues to study acting. She also enjoys writing, and is an adventurer whose extensive travel has taken her to far-flung corners of the earth. Jael is fluent in Spanish and Italian, and resides between New York and Los Angeles.
          Herald de Paris had an opportunity to speak with Jael thanks to an introduction by former Playboy-bunny-turned-actress, Maria Luna Richwine.

AC: You started very young in the ‘business.’ How did that come about?
JD: My family moved to NY when I was two years old from Colombia and I was enrolled in dance school. After a show one day my step-dad took some photographs of me while I was all done up. He and my mom decided to submit them to the Ford Modeling Agency. Shortly after, the agency signed me and I started auditioning at seven years old.

AC: What was your first job? What do you remember from the experience?
JD: The first job I did was a JCPenney print ad when I was seven. I remember walking into a room with three other kids who were also going to be in the ad and putting on an outfit that fit really tight over my head. It made my hair messy, but nobody seemed to mind because that is how they shot me, with messy hair. After that, a talent manager took interest in me and I started auditioning a lot more and getting lots of call-backs.

AC: At what moment did you decide that you wanted to be a performer?
JD: I don’t think I’ve had an exact moment when I thought I wanted to be in the “public eye.” It’s more about loving the work, not being in the public eye. I was around the arts a lot as a kid, my parents took me to lots of Broadway shows, the ballet and off-Broadway shows. Also, having been in front of the camera and on stage a lot as a kid, it felt natural to me. I loved being on stage and I still love that feeling.

AC: Didn’t you start out as a model?
JD: Modeling wasn’t something I talked about a lot to the kids at school, so I had a pretty typical experience. But even throughout my teenage “rebel years” I stuck to my love for the arts, even though it was a little different at the time. I began to explore other mediums like painting and sculpting.

AC: Tell us about art school? You majored in multi-media?
JD: Fashion Institute of Technology in NYC is one of the top art schools in the country, and I thought Multi-Media studies would give me a chance to experiment with different forms of art and find my niche. I had made some sketches and small sculptures that I brought to the university for an interview and got accepted so decided to go. I never formally thought of becoming a fashion designer, but have always had distinct ideas about image and aesthetic. I’ve always liked to be creative with my clothes; I experimented with that a lot during school and ended up working for fashion designer Patricia Field while studying. Her style is incredibly experimental! (Which you know if you watched Sex in the City) These days I’m in love Alexander McQueen and I also love looking at the Dolce & Gabbana ads in magazines. They’re beautiful–especially the Italian ones.

AC: Have you ever considered doing fashion design work?
JD: I’ve had some distinct ideas for designs, especially after having spent so much time around the fashion world in NY. Starting a fashion line has crossed my mind; I just need to find the right moment to do it.

AC: What prompted you to make the move to LA?
JD: I’ve always thought that in order to know what you want in life, you need to try new and different things; push your boundaries. I loved NY but was looking for a change of scenery. After having done the courses at FIT, I still felt a call to acting and on-camera work, and at the time had befriended one of the actors from the soap All My Children. He recommended a great acting coach in LA; I went there for the first time to interview for her class. I got accepted and decided to move. Right before I moved, my step-dad gave me an envelope with $5000 to help me with my big transition. My parents were very supportive of my decision. That was the last gift my step-dad ever physically gave me; he passed away a few months later.

AC: Did acting classes help you hone your skills?
JD: I think that some people are born with a natural instinct for something. When I was young, I used to ham it up for the camera and loved to perform for my family and on stage. Acting classes are useful for tapping into your natural abilities and accessing them even more. All arts take fine-tuning and practice. The trick is to learn those fine-tuning techniques while still keeping your natural instinct.

AC: What was it like when you got to LA? Did being a Latina help you get bookings?
JD: The first years in LA I did a lot of print and commercial work. I didn’t have a car right away so I used to take the bus to the auditions. After booking several jobs I saved enough money to buy my first car. My first commercial was an ad for Levi’s that was directed by Chris Cunningham. Did being Latina help? Sure. I think that sometimes being a minority in a casting room filled with blondes can be a plus. Being bilingual also has given me an edge; I’ve used my Spanish on camera a lot while filming shows internationally.

AC: How much of booking a job is talent and how much is plain luck?
JD: I think talent goes a long way in the entertainment industry, but it doesn’t matter much unless the right people are watching. There is certainly an element of luck. It’s a combination of luck, skill, and hard work. I had a meeting with a talent exec the other day who also talked about serendipity, meaning when things line up for you. He called it a “symphony.” I think my career has definitely had some symphonic moments.

AC: Tell us about working with current TV? You worked with Al Gore?
JD: Current TV was like going to grad school for television. Because it was a start-up network I was given license to try a lot of different things. I got over 1000 hours on camera there and also began producing. I believe it’s important to learn about all aspects of what’s happening on set because it can only be an asset to the performer and makes other peoples jobs easier. I also discovered my drive for philanthropy while at Current. Working with Al Gore raised my awareness of environmental issues and I decided to produce several short-form documentaries about them. I also had some fun with producing projects about the arts and fashion but I suppose, given my childhood, that was a natural thing.

AC: How does fame affect a person?
JD: Fame raises your awareness that people are watching. I think you have more of a responsibility to be aware of what you are portraying to the public. When people first began to recognize me on the street, it felt strange! It’s a bit like the uncomfortable feeling you get while being complimented; it takes a bit of getting used to. I love connecting with my fans now though; it’s nice hearing how my work has inspired them.

AC: How did you begin producing?
JD: At Current TV, producing and being the talent went hand in hand. When I went on to produce for the SyFy channel it was a big challenge for me, being someone who was relatively new to the scene. We were on the road and traveled to nine different countries within a three month period – and I was producing and co-starring the entire third season of Destination Truth! Arriving in a different country, encountering a different language every week, being responsible for a large portion of the show, and performing on camera each episode was not easy! But I wouldn’t take it back for anything.

AC: Tell us about “Destination Truth?”
JD: While filming Destination Truth we went to the pyramids of Giza in Egypt, hiked the Great Wall of China, visited Buddhist monks in the Himalayas, saw the Nasca Lines in Peru and even visited local tribes at their homes in Africa. It was an amazing experience! When you’re on the road for work and the production company is hiring locals to help with things, you get to know more about the culture because you hang out with the people living there. To this day, shooting driving scenes over the sand dunes in Egypt while overlooking the pyramids is one of the best days I’ve ever had.

AC: Your work on “Fact or Faked?”
JD: My favorite part about shooting Fact or Faked was the office scenes. The dialogue was often a debate of scientific mysteries and I loved it! I learned so much; I’m a sucker for intellectual debate and conversation.

AC: How was it working with Jack Osbourne on “Haunted Highway?”
JD: Jack is super fun to work with and super laid-back. He keeps a cool head and is always very positive. I think that’s something noteworthy to see in people, even when they’re going through personal challenges. I’ve never seen him bring those challenges to work, and I can appreciate that in people because I try to do the same. We’ve had a blast working together and have become friends because of it.

AC: Why do some of the fans call you the “Real Laura Croft?”
JD: A lot of the scenes I’ve done for these SyFy shows require me to get rugged, adventurous, and dirty. I’ve found myself doing things like scuba diving the Bermuda Triangle with sharks, shooting AR15 rifles, crawling through caves, visiting ancient ruins, trekking the Amazon Jungle in the pitch black of night and walking ever so carefully through Chernobyl in a radiation suit.

AC: Any time for romance? What is your life philosophy?
JD: I’m not romantically involved at the moment, but I’m open to the possibility. I take it one day at a time but I believe that doing something each day to get you closer to your goal is a key discipline to getting anywhere in this world.

AC: How do you feel about social media?
JD: Twitter is great to keep close to the fans. It’s so fun to see what interests them and what they like to talk about. Social media is an amazing thing. @Jaeldepardo

AC: What is the dream now?
JD: I keep myself open to all possibilities and opportunities—the dream now is to keep growing as an entertainer. I’ve been so fortunate to keep working consistently but I’m looking now to expand my repertoire to scripted work and use the acting skills I’ve worked so hard to attain!

Twitter @jaeldepardo
Site jaeldepardo.com

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