How These Rising Movie and TV Actors Are Staying Positive During the Pandemic
“I will never take a hug for granted again. Situations like these put so much of what actually matters into perspective.”
As the emotional and psychological rollercoaster that’s marked the global COVID-19 pandemic continues, Maxim reached out to a handful of rising movie and television actors to find out how they’re living life in lockdown.
With literally hundreds of stage and screen credits to her name, including HBO’s Euphoria and FOX’s Filthy Rich, Alanna Ubach sizzles in the upcoming El Tonto, in which she plays a porn actress. For her, quarantine was hardly porno time and more like puzzle time.
When she could pull herself away from jigsaws, it was TikTok and FaceTiming with friends and family. Netflix’s Unorthodox rooted her to the couch and the whole experience led her to one inevitable conclusion: “The toilet paper obsession really took me by surprise,” she laughs. “Use a towel!”
He’s only in two of the most anticipated musicals of the year, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s In the Heights, as well as a remake of the classic West Side Story directed by Steven Spielberg. But in recent months Beorght (Bright to his friends), had to limit his dancing to his living room while the pandemic raged.
Supergirl, Flash and Lucifer are just some of his samplings while Empire, Stranger Things and Dr. Who are just a few more from a playlist that seems to go on forever. And that’s not including movie titles!
After losing a friend’s father to the virus, Bright has been introspective. “It’s so upsetting and unreal I really can’t believe it,” he says. “I can’t imagine what his family is going through right now. It’s a lot. I know all of them, love them very much and hope for the best in hard times like these.”
Currently on Netflix’s Ginny and Georgia and Jupiter’s Legacy as well as Hulu’s Utopia Falls and the CW’s In the Dark, Humberly González might have been home memorizing lines throughout quarantine. But no, the Canadian beauty was playing Mario Kart with her friends. “Nothing like screaming at the T.V. and getting worked up fighting for that number one in the race,” she laughs.
A quarantine birthday party in April was celebrated with cake, wine and dancing, the LED lights under the sofa adding atmosphere. She also spent lots of time on that disco couch watching any scary movie she can find as well as Jeopardy, Wheel of Fortune, Survivor and, of course, Netflix’s Tiger King, a quarantine staple.
“Time ceased to exist and I was okay with that. This has taught me that it’s okay to slow down and try new things at home. I even started drawing!” she says, adding it to her new TikTok addiction. “I learnt to appreciate the little moments at home. I feel very grateful for a roof over my head and my health. I learned it’s a gesture of love to pick up the phone and call. I will never take a hug for granted again. Situations like these put so much of what actually matters into perspective.”
She’s not a nurse but she plays one on T.V., namely Zoey on the soap opera Days of Our Lives. During the pandemic, Alyshia Ochse left nursing to the pros and holed up with her family in L.A. making puzzles and dancing to choreographer Ryan Heffington, a VMA winner for Sia’s “Chandelier.”
“Every time we concluded a dance Ryan would chant ‘we will get through this,” she recalls. “This simple mantra gave permission for me to realize that I am not alone in this isolation.”
It was Netflix for Ochse, season three of Ozark, Unorthodox, and Tiger King. “The actual story was heartbreaking to my soul because it made people famous that were brutally abusing animals. I am happy to see that the instant success of the show brought about more charges of animal abuse.”
Comfort food in Ochse’s household is in a whole other dimension thanks to husband Lee Knaz, a private chef who throws together a mean Taco Tuesday. Friends making masks, Zoom group workouts, sharing recipes and lending emotional support with an encouraging call were all part of the experience. “I realized how much a hug uplifts my spirits,” she says. “Ultimately, I learned that I love my ‘actor family’ of friends and that continuing to entertain, transport and heal our hearts and minds through art was my true purpose.”
Yes, COVID-19 can take your life but it could be worse, like a plague of flesh-eating zombies, the kind Alexa Mansour has to face as Hope in the new spin-off series, The Walking Dead: World Beyond. For her, the main threat at home was kid sister, Athena. “My sister and I usually bicker quite a bit but since this all started we’ve become a lot closer and haven’t tried to rip each other’s heads off…yet,” she admonishes.
Good thing she has her friends up the street where she escaped for sleepovers that included Mario Kart, Cards Against Humanity and writing funny songs about the crisis. “We’ve definitely become pros at making fancy cocktails and just putting on loud music and having little parties,” she laughs.
Her primary source of sustenance was not just any old tuna melt but her own concoction adding lime juice, avocado and chipotle peppers. “I’m taking the time I need to really relax, work on myself,” she sighs, adding “and get myself ready for the craziness that’s going to come out on the other end of this.”
Straight out of Brooklyn, she’s Victoria Konefal, aka Ciara Brady, girlfriend of serial killer Ben on Days of Our Lives. And she is, in her own words, a goofball. “I learned that I can spend six consecutive days in a unicorn onesie before I can’t look at it anymore,” is one lesson she took from quarantine.
A lesson re-learned was “Never go against the family,” Don Corleone’s admonition to his sons in The Godfather trilogy, which she rewatched when she wasn’t streaming The Morning Show, Fleabag and Little Fires Everywhere.
Experimenting in the kitchen with stir fry and pasta dishes, reading books and reorganizing her house are all ways to kill the hours but best of all is video chatting with loved ones. “The importance of human connection was stressed for me during this time. I’ve never missed the feeling of being hugged or held so much in my life. At the end of the day, we have ourselves and each other and that’s so precious,” she reflects. “It’s strange that I had to experience a global crisis in order to appreciate that. I was hellbent on my independence and my appreciation of alone time before all this. And that is probably going to change once we get out of this mess.”
One-time lover of Peter Quill in Guardians of the Galaxy, Bereet is Melia Kreiling in real life, the Greek-American T.V. actor from such series as Tyrant, The Borgias and Salvation. Much needed time away from the set gave her the opportunity to reconnect with the old country by conjuring grandma’s recipes from memory.
“She had lived through WWII, a civil war, a military junta and more poverty than I can ever imagine and she always cooked incredibly delicious and nutritious meals with few ingredients and easy techniques,” Kreiling explains. “My go-to meal was Artichokes A La Polita.”
Her go-to show was West Wing, all 156 episodes of it. “That show will never stop being great to me,” she confesses. “I watched Tiger King of course, and though it was catchy for a minute, it left me feeling significantly more depressed than before.”
What surprised her most about quarantine was how well she coped with it. “Everyone I love the most is spread out, living all around the world, and I desperately wanted to see them. I learned that there is no feeling worse than the painful longing of missing someone.”
She’s mainly known as Ana Morales on Netflix’s “Gentefied,” about three cousins trying to preserve a Boyle Heights taco shop as the neighborhood gentrifies. And this season she’ll be in the new David Ayer crime thriller, “The Tax Collector.” But career can wait at the moment, not for the pandemic but for her impending nuptials.
“My favorite distraction by far has been planning my wedding. Getting to be home in Louisiana with my family has helped me get so much done,” she gushes. “We recently had carne asada and it brought back so many memories of all the family parties. It was this peaceful sense of hope, and I think that’s what comfort food is all about.”
In addition to home-cooked meals, jigsaw puzzles offered welcome therapy. But to keep her creative juices flowing she ran lines with friends and did table reads of screenplays. Happy to be surrounded by loved ones, she missed her extended family, especially as she prepares for her big day. “Tias, tios, primos, abuelos, and now my fiancé, and the realization that I can’t be close to them has brought me great sadness and shock that we’re even in this season of life,” she laments. “It’s an emotionally and mentally trying time for all.”
If you’ve seen her antics in the ring you’d have guessed that Daria Berenato, aka WWE’s Sonya Deville, would have been climbing the walls during the pandemic. “I am a very high strung, on-the-go kind of person so I fully expected to be bored out of my mind and go stir crazy!”
So, she spent the time doing what any woman stuck home alone would do. “House projects, including building a home gym in my spare room and painting my living room black,” she says. “Normally I would have just hired someone to do it since I don’t have the time, but the whole process was therapeutic and self-gratifying.”
Not one to sit in front of the T.V., she is one to sit for a delicious meal of mac and cheese, frozen pizza or home-cooked honey garlic chicken, with Gushers for dessert. “I spent a ton of time alone,” she reflects on the experience. “From every bad situation I believe we can find something positive to take away from it. I would say this situation taught a lot of us that sometimes it’s okay to slow down and smell the roses.”
From VH-1’s Love and Hip-Hop: New York, Trent Crews found himself quarantined in the nation’s hotspot where he avoided going stir crazy by taking his two-year-old husky on long walks through the city’s deserted streets. “It became a habit of waking up every day and going for the seven or eight mile walks that now I think we’re both addicted to.”
The walks helped Crews keep fit but his ketogenic (high fat, low carb), diet sealed the deal… eventually. “I cheated really bad the first couple of weeks,” he confesses. “But then I gained a shit ton of weight and was looking crazy so I’ve been trying to keep it tight and the keto seems to be working.”
Alone in the city with loved ones thousands of miles away in Ohio, he nevertheless felt them close by. “My family really rallied around me and sent me money and food and snacks and clothes and things that I didn’t even ask for,” he says with gratitude. “They really took care of me and made sure that I was well fed and that everything was okay, and calling me every day and texting me to make sure I’m alive and healthy. And it was sweet and it reminded me of what you really have when you have nothing.”
He braved zombie invasions on The Walking Dead as Hilltop ambassador Paul “Jesus” Rovia, so actor Tom Payne is used to dangerous outbreaks, right? No, not really. In fact, he’s more used to his new Ooni Koda pizza oven purchased just before the quarantine. “I’ve been working on perfecting my dough to make the perfect pizza. Outside of that we have been using Blue Apron for many years so we have their meals delivered every week. It’s very nice to know you have meals coming during this time.”
Like everyone else he watched Tiger King, but was also taken with Unorthodox, about a girl who flees her Hasidic community in New York City. “It was especially interesting to me since that community is very close to where I lived in New York when we shot ‘Prodigal Son,” he says of his FOX show.
“I’ve learnt that things can be taken away from you very quickly. While I was filming in New York I would tell my fiancé I was only a flight away. Well, flying isn’t as easy an option now. This is also true of my family who all live in Europe,” he groans. “About myself I have learned that I’m pretty self sufficient these days but that I’m also very good at doing nothing! And that’s okay, too.”
Click here to see how other celebrities, models, influencers, pro athletes, actors, creatives and leaders are coping with quarantine life from Maxim’s July/August issue.