Leanne Noelle Smith took a leap into creativity and never looked back. Today, she is working on multiple projects, including Vasilios Filipakkis’ web series, FAK YAASS, about a dysfunctional Greek family and the main character’s struggle to have them accept his sexuality. Learn more about Leanne and her role in the show below!
Hi Leanne, welcome to Defective Geeks! Tells us about yourself and your journey into becoming an actor. Did you always know you wanted to become an actress? What inspired you?
It has been quite the interesting journey from when I was a kid dancing in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, to today, being the actress/producer that I am. It all started with me in ballet from the age of 5, I loved performing and always have. I grew up with some incredible mentors that always inspired me, went on tours, started modeling– and then found myself drawn to acting back in high school.
The idea of being an actress didn’t blossom until then, but looking back on it, every choice and moment so far felt like life has been preparing me for filmmaking. Fast forward to me in university doing a marketing degree because I was persuaded to believe being an artist wasn’t a “real job”. After a few years of heavy studies, and still using dance as an outlet, I found that missed it. The connection, the stories, the worlds artists get to build around their characters. Then it happened, the moment that really changed my whole trajectory. I was touring in Ukraine for dance, was a soloist, and we were performing for free one evening in an area that was quite impoverished. I had just finished my solo, lights in my eyes, about to run off for a quick change of under five minutes and bam, there it was. Standing beside me was this little boy who had run out into the fields and picked a bundle of wild flowers. He was holding them up to me on stage. It was in that moment that I realized how much my artistry could affect others. I picked up, moved to Toronto and said, well, if I’m going to do it, it has to be now. After I saw my first real film set it was game over, I was hooked. Since then I’ve been inspired daily by the wonderful team in FAK YAASS, my coaches, and supportive friends.
How did you get involved with FAK YAASS and what about it made you want to be involved with the show? Who is your character, Torri, and what is her relationship with the lead character, Nico?
I got involved with FAK YAASS because of the creator, Vasilios Filipakkis. We had both met on a film set years ago and from that moment on we were like two peas in a pod. When Vasilios approached me about the idea, I was all in, we were both tired of waiting to be given the green light to act and decided to create our own content. Vasilios brought the core crew together, myself (Actress/Producer), Anthony Filangeri (Writer), Matthew McLaughlin (Director) and from then on everything else just snowballed. I am so incredibly grateful for the amount of support we’ve gotten from the LGBTQ+ community and fans. Yes! My character is Torri and she was such a fun character to play. She’s a little naive, a bit of a rebel, and best friends with the lead, Nico. They grew up together in a small town and she was Nico’s first girlfriend. They dated for a time, but then Nico came out to Torri and she became his confidant. I think so many people can relate to this type of relationship and being that supporter for a friend when they weren’t completely accepted by their family.
Did you learn anything new about Greek culture and families while working on the show?
100%! I had already learned a bit being friends with Vasilios, but the coolest thing was when I heard about the coffee reading. I knew it was a part of other cultures but I never knew it was also in Greek culture. When it comes to family this set really felt like one minus the dysfunctional aspect [laughs]. Shooting with everyone over a week just reminded me of how important family is. They see the ups and downs, all our flaws and all of our brilliance, but no matter what they are there for us. I can’t thank FAK YAASS enough for being my second family.
What is your favorite part about FAK YAASS? How does it stand out from any other project you’ve worked on before?
My favorite part about FAK YAASS is its message. That love is love. No matter your gender, race, background, or beliefs– the story of love and acceptance is universal and relatable on a number of levels. FAK YAASS shows this in such a loving, comedic, and emotional way that many viewers have at least one moment that rings true to them. This alone made FAK YAASS so different from other projects, its message and how that message was told for others to listen.
What was it like working with the cast of the show? Do you have any memorable moments on set?
Oh my goodness, so many. Working on set was a dream, I got to be with all my friends, make new ones, and wear multiple hats throughout its creation. I’d have to say the two moments that really stuck out were when I spilt coffee all over my shirt and watched the guys dance with wigs, trying to hold in my laughter and not start twerking with them on the side lines. The coffee scene was all done in one take, the very first one, and for a split moment I almost broke character because I was freaking out in the back of my mind that I ruined my mic.
As more people are able to create shows based on their own experiences, are you excited about what this means for representation in the industry? What are your own dream roles that you would want to play in the future?
I think it’s amazing that creating your own work is more accessible than ever before. Even with COVID-19 putting a standstill on more productions the creativity that I see others doing within their homes or on zoom with festivals is amazing. Bravo, everyone! To stay positive, I am excited to see what the future holds. Shooting will be different post COVID-19, but I hope to still create with others. My number one all time dream role is to play Wonder Woman since I’ve always been told I have a young Linda Carter/ Liz Taylor kind of look and I live for strong female characters. So, I’m hoping at some point there’s a remake or chance for that. Number two and three on that list would be to do something like Angelina Jolie did in Mr. & Mrs. Smith or play a person like Julia Roberts did in Erin Brockovich where she fought for the rights of others. I hope to see more diverse stories that give a voice to those who have been cut out for so long.
Do you have any other current or upcoming projects where people can find you and watch you?
Always! In this business if you want to keep moving you have to keep creating. Even though life has come to a halt, now is the time to develop. So, besides trying to keep a healthy active lifestyle up, I’m buckling down to create, learn and develop. There are some projects, sorry lips are sealed, underway with Bulldog Productions. I can tell you though that it may include more content supporting the LGBTQ+ community. I was a part of another series called The Influencers, which will be released soon on another digital platform. I’ve seen the teaser and it’s absolutely hilarious. I am also helping with post production for the launch of nine short films that were shot in nine days with the Counterbalance Collective I am a part of in Toronto. I was able to make my directorial debut with one of the shorts and will be looking into submitting that to film festivals once things are up and running again.
Finally, if you could pick one super power, which one will it be and will you use it for good or evil?
Ooooh, such a tough one. Well, I recently saw Captain Marvel and damn, she is AMAZING, huge props to Brie Larson. I would use it for good for sure, but I wouldn’t count on me not getting into a little mischief like how Deadpool does, at times.
FAK YAASS is now available to watch on their YouTube Channel.
Follow Leanne on Instagram.