Welcome to the Ms. Hollywood Magazine family.
Deven, before we begin, you and I have known each other through the Hollywood industry for some time now, and I want to acknowledge you and your team for your constant industry and film support. I am truly humbled and honored to have been chosen to grace the cover of the fabulous Ms. Hollywood Magazine. – Actress, Producer Brooke Lewis Bellas.
1. Let’s start by telling the people a little about yourself that they may or may not know about you?
Welcome, Ms. Hollywood Magazine Readers! Thank you for taking this journey with us to get to know me, as a Hollywood Actress, Producer, and professed ‘Hot Mess’! With over 20 years in the film and television industry, I have found ways to be fearless and smile through my insecurities and mistakes and misfortunes, celebrate my successes, and, hopefully, inspire you in some way! I have been blessed to work in many aspects of the industry for many years, but I think my mini-bio sums me up as an Actress and Producer.
“Brooke Lewis Bellas, also known as Brooke Lewis, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and spent her summers at the Jersey shore. She is an Actress and Producer, known for the mystery, thriller iMurders (2008) opposite Billy Dee Williams, Gabrielle Anwar, and Frank Grillo, the mobster movie Sinatra Club (2010) opposite Danny Nucci and Jason Gedrick, the mystery, thriller Polycarp (2007) opposite Charles Durning and Michael Pare, and her comedic mobster Vampire “alter ego” character and passion project “Ms. Vampy”.
After growing up and beginning her creative dreams in Philly, she moved to New York City and got her first “break” playing Donna Marsala in the Actors’ Equity Off-Broadway hit comedy Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding. She made her living acting in New York for four years, before heading to Hollywood. Never forgetting her ties to the LOVE statue and Eagles football, she launched Philly Chick Pictures in 2002 to create more opportunities for herself as an Actress. In 2007, she played Dr. Grace Sario in Polycarp (2007) on SHOWTIME and had the title ‘Scream Queen’ bestowed upon her in the entertainment industry.
In 2010, she was honored with the ‘B-Movie Award for Scream Queen Of The Year’ for her work in Slime City Massacre (2010). In 2015, she was a guest at the prestigious SAG-AFTRA Foundation Independent Features Screening Series with The Mourning (2015). In 2016, she was honored with the ‘Mary Pickford Award’ to “Highlight Women in The Film Arts” at Zed Fest. In 2017, she was honored by the prestigious Actors Awards with the ‘Best Actress In A Drama Award’ for her work in Sprinkles (2010).
In 2017, she was also acknowledged with the honorable ‘Stella Adler Acting Award’ at the Action On Film International Film Festival, ‘Grace Kelly Gold Actor Award’ at the West Coast International Film Festival, as well as the Los Angeles Film Awards ‘Inspiring Woman in a Film’ Award.
In 2018, she was honored by the prestigious Actors Awards with the ‘Best Actress In An Indie Film Award’ for her work in Psycho Therapy (2016) and the West Coast International Film Festival with the ‘Legendary Actress’ Jury Award. In 2019, she was inducted into The Carney Board for the honorable Carney Awards Character Actor Hall Of Fame created in honor of character actor icon Art Carney. In 2020, NOVA Fest honored her with the ‘Best Supporting Actress in a TV Series Award’ for her work opposite star Casper Van Dien in Stripped (2021). In 2021, she was inducted into the Phillytainment PA Celebrity Hall Of Fame.
She has been fortunate to work opposite a long list of talented veteran actors, which includes, Mark Ruffalo, Andy Richter, Charles Durning, Michael Pare, Michael Madsen, Tony Todd, Billy Dee Williams, William Forsythe, Gabrielle Anwar, Danny Nucci, Jason Gedrick, Michael Nouri, Joey Lawrence, Dominique Swain, Courtney Gains, and many others.
She is a passionate Philanthropist and has performed on Broadway at the August Wilson Theatre and the Palace Theatre to benefit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS as an AIDS Activist, has been an active force in several charities supporting Breast Cancer Awareness for the Busted Foundation and The Lynn Sage Foundation, Women Empowerment as a Board Certified Life Coach, and is a Celebrity Ambassador for the Breaking The Chains Foundation.
She is a proud member of The National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences- New York Chapter (NY NATAS), Women In Film, and Film Independent. And, during football season, you will find her watching the games and cheering for the Philadelphia Eagles!”
2. How did you get your start in the entertainment industry?
I had ambitious dreams as a young girl in Philadelphia and imagined that one day I would live and work as an Actress in New York City and Hollywood. I just knew in my heart I was destined to do something creative and expressive! I think, like many actors who have dealt with challenges in their childhood, I had a void to fill. I felt that I was meant to share my deep emotions and work in entertainment. I was a very emotional child. I would, literally, sit in front of the television watching TV for hours, and I would put myself into the television series and talk to the characters as if I were one of them.
Then, I remember attending my first Broadway Musical, and I was hooked! I began my professional union theatre career in Philly, signed with an agent in New York City, then moved right to NYC and booked my first little/big “break” playing Donna Marsala in the Actors’ Equity Off-Broadway hit comedy Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding. I made my living acting in New York for four years, before heading to Hollywood where I launched Philly Chick Pictures in 2002 to create more film opportunities for myself as an Actress.
3. Tell us about your upcoming projects?
Stripped is a special project I am excited to share with your fabulous readers! Our production team spent December 2019 in Reno, Nevada filming the TV pilot and Short-Form Series. It is a Comedy, Drama that was written and directed by Marc Clebanoff, who also directed The Mourning film, on which I was an Actress and Co-Producer. Stripped was a true passion project. I was one of the Executive Producers and Producers. I played Jules, the sassy publicist to the star, Chris Cameron, played by the wonderful Casper Van Dien. It was originally created by Marc Clebanoff and late actor, Kristoff St. John.
They had created the concept before he passed on, which is heart-breaking, but Marc wanted to carry on his legacy, and he did, and we did. Jules has easily become one of my favorite characters I have been fortunate enough to play! There is an exceptional opportunity when writers create a role for you, specifically, and they write for your strengths as an actor. Jules is the lead female role in the series, but she is a supporting lead to Casper’s, Chris Cameron, starring role.
I must, proudly, share that we participated in the wonderfully professional NOVA Fest and TV and Film Market 2020 that director, Fernando A. Mico was forced to move to a virtual festival and convention like most events, due to Covid-19. That said, Fernando and his production crew did it right and fabulously! They held the virtual awards ceremony streaming online in their tuxedos and gowns. I am humbly and graciously sharing that I was honored with the win for ‘Best Supporting Actress in a TV Series Award’ and I owe this all to Clebanoff for writing me this role and talented actors Casper Van Dien and Louis Mandylor for making me a better Actress! We have such an incredible cast, and series, we are all proud of.
Red Rooms is such a unique web series project, as it was conceived and completed out of “isolation inspiration!” It was also half scripted and half improvised, so we chose to cast actors who we knew could handle the acting challenge. In 2019, Creator and Director Joshua Butler and I shot a proof of concept for our project, which paid homage to his hugely successful film VLOG (2008) from the producers of SAW, which went on to become a hit TV series. When COVID-19 hit Hollywood and we were all in quarantine, I called for a production meeting, then suggested we use the footage we shot and attempt to experiment by filming each character virtually from their homes. Red Rooms stars Horror genre film and TV veterans Brooke Lewis Bellas (iMurders), David Alpay (The Vampire Diaries), Suze Lanier-Bramlett (The Hills Have Eyes), Ricky Dean Logan (Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare), and Noah Blake (Teen Witch).
As an Actress (many actors will attest to this), I do not always get to audition for or act in, roles that excite or inspire me. Part of my goal with this project was to incorporate my Producer’s vision and Josh’s concept while offering actors, including myself, the opportunity to choose a character they would be inspired to play, and Josh and I would build around these characters and merge them into Josh’s script. I believe this is what drew us all to this artistic, low-budget piece. Josh and I had many discussions around what he would like to direct me in, creating a more mature, emotional, but less “character-ish” part for me to play. In 2019, the topic that was everywhere in the media was the Me Too Movement, including an infamous Hollywood case, which inspired me to discuss the possibility of me stepping into the “female producer” version and to see where it would take us! I play Leilah Black, a very successful Hollywood Producer who has sexually assaulted male actors in exchange for roles. I will leave your readers with this for now!
The Second Age of Aquarius is one indie film project I feel incredibly blessed to have acted in, and Executive Produced, that wrapped just before COVID-19. My Psycho Therapy (Amazon Prime) film Director, Staci Layne Wilson, wrote a film with Darren Gordon Smith (Repo! The Genetic Opera). These two are a very talented team! I am also proud to share that it has a very female empowered production crew with our Producer Nancy Long and Editor Nina Helene Hirten. It is a fun indie gem Comedy, with a little bit of a Sci-Fi twist and a lot of music. It is really sweet and clever and stars Christina Jaquelyn Calph and Michael Ursu. I play Tawny Stevens. She is a mom, stuck in the eighties… a New Jersey, Rocker Mom! Wait until you see my hair, my make-up (Artist Allison Noelle), and my leopard pants! I did the Jersey accent I love. I cannot wait for this film to come out!
4. Can you tell our readers more about the difficulties that you faced early on as an actress? How did you over overcome these obstacles?
For your readers who have faced career obstacles, please know that you are not alone! As a very “specific” type… being East Coast, ethnic, petite, curvy, and voluptuous, Actress roles have never come to me easily… especially, in Hollywood. I was never going to be cast as “the girl next door” (unless she was “the girl next door in Philly, Jersey, or Brooklyn” LOL!), so I learned early on in my acting career that I am a Character Actress.
The sooner I embraced and understood my niche and where I sit in the acting space, the easier it was to overcome these obstacles, and I have soooo loved diving into these meaty, fun character roles throughout my career. In fact, as a grown woman now, I prefer them! I also created Philly Chick Pictures and began producing to overcome these obstacles and create the Actress roles I want to play. I can proudly say that I have worked incredibly hard and sacrificed a ton to create a career for myself!
I will share one difficult experience I faced as an Actress early in my career that still breaks my heart. I was right out of college when I auditioned and had a callback for a movie titled 54, based on Studio 54. We are talking A-list: Mike Myers, Salma Hayek, Neve Campbell, and more! Now, this was before Mark Ruffalo and Ryan Phillippe were even known actors. They were just starting out and we were all in that boat together.
I was cast as Mark Ruffalo’s girlfriend, Ricko’s girl… I had two scenes with Ruffalo and Phillippe, who are now superstars! We were all coming up and this was a huge booking for me! Agents and casting were talking about how I was going to be the next “Marisa Tomei in My Cousin Vinny”… one of my idols! This was another New York little guidette, sassy, perfect role for me to play. My agent was like, “Your career is about to explode!” The next thing I knew, I was on set filming. I had my own trailer and I was hanging out with Mark Ruffalo and Ryan Phillippe, who were both wonderful, personally and professionally. I was on set for a couple of days.
I was supposed to be shooting, but everything kept getting pushed. They sent me home but brought me back two days later. The next thing I knew, they went over budget and had to cut the last five scenes of the film… two of them were mine! To this day, I get my residual checks. Every time I talk to the acting “higher powers” and ask, “Please give me a sign that I’m on my path and I’m doing everything I can to be where I’m supposed to be,” I will get a residual check from 54… it truly is spiritually funny! That tells me, in my crazy head, that I am on the right path and sometimes things happen.
Things happen that are not personal and completely out of our control. Things in this business change quickly, and it is okay. It happens to everyone. That was supposed to be my “big break” and would have changed the trajectory of my acting career, but it is okay, because I have had many little breaks since, and some bigger ones. Most importantly, I NEVER GAVE UP! I learned to overcome obstacles in this unpredictable business by facing them head-on, even in the face of adversity. Remember my mantra… Be You… And, Be Fearless!!!
5. Who inspires you as an actress and female producer in this industry?
I must admit, I am not as easily inspired within the industry, as I was years ago. It is such a different game than it was when I started. I believe that as we grow, it takes a bit more depth and relatedness to inspire us. I love the glitz and glamour of Hollywood as much as anyone, but I tend to be most inspired by talented, veteran artists who have paid their dues, earned their stripes, and create beyond the surface! One of my favorite actresses of many years is the brilliant Viola Davis who has stunned us with every performance she has given and is now producing, as well.
Oprah, of course, as she not only spiritually inspires, but has been executive producing for years. The incomparable Meryl Streep takes my breath away in every acting role, and I am consistently mesmerized when I watch film and TV with some of the next generation greats, like Sarah Paulson, Taraji P. Henson, and Octavia Spencer. I am probably most impressed with and inspired by, the modern-day female Producers and Creators, such as Shonda Rhimes and Ava DuVernay. And, listen, no sexism here, as I am truly inspired by, and in awe of, everything Ryan Murphy and Tyler Perry create too (and, the roles they create for women)! These artists are such an inspiration to me, and I only dream of having one ounce of their talent and careers!
6. If you could have a sitdown conversation with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
I have two Old Hollywood Icons who I absolutely idolize and would “die” to have an empowered “sitdown” conversation and Champagne with… the late and stunning Elizabeth Taylor and the late and sassy little Mae West!!! These two talented, beautiful (inside & out!), powerful women changed the face of the Hollywood entertainment industry. Even then, when it was a Boys’ Club at its best, they had the strength, courage, and tenacity to fight through it and create iconic careers for themselves. Neither of these actresses had it easy in life, nor Hollywood, and they inspire me forever!
7. How do you turn a negative into a positive?
It is all a choice! Both personally and professionally, I have been dealt with many negative experiences. That’s life! But, as the Experts say… “It is how we handle, and react to, negative situations.” I am a firm believer in allowing ourselves to feel whatever it is we authentically feel… feel sorry for ourselves, cry, scream, confront it, express it… then, release it and forge ahead to a positive place! I call the positives “nuggets” and I have learned we can always find nuggets and grow, even within the challenging negative experiences.
I am hypersensitive and imperfect, so I can honestly share that I have found some of my strongest positives through my falls and mistakes! I have also trained myself to channel my alter ego, Ms. Vampy, to dig deep inside, find my inner vamp (courage), and Vamp It Out!
8. What kind of advice would you give a newcomer trying to pursue a career in your line of work?
Step into the Entertainment Industry because you Love it so much, there is Nothing else you can imagine doing… Look at the Big Picture… Commit… Study… Sacrifice… Maintain your Self-Respect… Put in the Work… Do not listen to the Naysayers… Be in it for the Right Reasons, not just Fame and Red Carpets! The truth is, the glitz and glam of Hollywood exist if we choose to immerse ourselves in it.
The biggest misconception is that it is easy and comes without a price. Being a professional Actor and/or Producer in Hollywood takes so much time, work, effort, and money. It is not always sexy. I have sacrificed so much for my career throughout my adulthood, in order to sustain myself as an Actress… especially, here in Hollywood… I have cried many tears, many nights. What you do not see, are the projects I have gone to Producers on, but have not booked… the TV pilots I have booked that did not get picked up for series… the auditions you have to prepare for, staying up all night to work on them. What people often mistake is that it is a business…
I will stress this over and over again… the Hollywood entertainment industry is a money-making business! They call it “The Biz” for a reason and it is not all fun and games. We, as actors, and our projects, as Creators, are the commodity! So, be in it because it makes your heart sing! Stay strong through the ebbs and flows, and when the successes come, they will be worth it! BE GRATEFUL!!!
9. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I work on being in gratitude each day and would not change much! I laser-focused on my career and waited until my 40s to now manifest my amazing husband and home. Personally, I would like to conquer a way to manage my health and stress better… I give everything my 100% and it can often be exhausting. Professionally, I would love to book another TV series (hopefully, a steady one for a few years this time). I visualize that I will continue to live in my beautiful Hollywood home, but also have an apartment in New York City, and a Villa in Italy every summer… is that too much to ask? LOL! On my professional goals and dreams list is also to win an Emmy Award one day!
10. What has been the highest point of your career so far?
You know I cannot share just one! After over 20 years in this business, I am blessed with many high points of my career. As you are conducting this interview, I am in my home, looking at my wall with my framed TV Guide. Your “mature” readers will know what that is. I was in TV Guide back in 2004 when I acted on FOX’s Quintuplets. I played Gina Grazano from Staten Island. It was such a high point for me. It was one of those career experiences when I remember my agent saying, “Okay, I am trying to get you seen for this role to audition at FOX, and they have so many young actresses auditioning. They are seeing so-and-so, “big names”.
I am going to keep pushing to get you in.” A couple of weeks later, he called and said, “They are not finding what they are looking for.” So, he got me in for the audition, and it was one of those inspiring points when it was meant to be, and it was the perfect role for me. They auditioned me, kept me all day for callbacks and Producer sessions, then they called my agent and told me I booked it! I remember sitting on the FOX Lot. They had little time because they were already in rehearsals and behind schedule casting this role, so they whisked me away in a cart on the Lot and took me right to set. It was something that felt so good and so right. It was truly career high point magic!
I have been blessed with many awards for my creative efforts, but I have to share an incredible high point I was honored with at the beginning of 2021. I was recently inducted into the Phillytainment PA Celebrity Hall Of Fame. I have been a reader and fan of this Philly fabulous entertainment magazine and site for some time. When the editors reached out to tell me that I had been nominated and added to the mix of Philadelphia “celebrities” to be inducted into the ‘Phillytainment PA Celebrity Hall Of Fame’, I was overwhelmed with honor and joy! Shortly after, they told me I won the nomination and would be added to their Hall Of Fame in 2021, alongside Philadelphia native superstars, including Will Smith, Bob Saget, Richard Gere, Grace Kelly, Patti Labellle, Jazzy Jeff, Pink, Jill Scott, Maria Bello, Tina Fey, Boyz II Men, M. Knight Shyamalan, Kevin Bacon, Bradley Cooper, Kevin Hart, Kobe Bryant, Eve, and more.
Honestly, I cried for hours! In speaking very openly, and I do believe many creatives will understand and empathize with my feelings… unless you reach A-list stardom in Hollywood, we are often not acknowledged for our career, craft, and blood, sweat, and tears we put into our passions and dreams throughout a lifetime. I am, humbly and realistically, aware of the space that my acting career stands in, so after working hard in this industry, when a high point of this magnitude occurs for me, I feel that I am somehow being acknowledged and rewarded for a job well done, with some level of success. For your creative readers, I am crying again as I share this because I hope to be an example of an Actress who moved from Philadelphia to New York to Hollywood and lived out her dream to the best of her ability and hit some beautiful high points along the way.
11. If you could go back in time and speak to a younger you, what words of advice would you give yourself?
As an author, I could fill another advice and self-help book with… What I know now… My words of advice would be that there are NO guarantees in life! We can plan, study, prepare, create, and there are still NO guarantees! I am such a workaholic, planner, and control freak over my own life and career and, so far, nothing has worked out EXACTLY as I had imagined or planned, so I wish I could go back and teach myself how to TRUST THE PROCESS more (cliche, I know!). I wish I could have taught myself to work smarter, not harder. I wish I would have known that contracts are only as good as the people who sign them! I wish I would have paid more attention to the “red flags”.
I wish I would have taken things (and rejections!) a bit less seriously and had more fun with auditions and my career. I am diligently working on this in my adult life and career now! I must share with your Actor readers that when I became a Producer years ago, I learned such beneficial lessons for Actors, including the fact that you can be the most talented Actor in the room… you can give an Oscar-winning audition performance… and, you still may not book the role! I have sat on the Producer side many times now and have watched the most brilliant Actors lose a role due to hair color, height, or an actress reminded the Director or his ex-wife! Not kidding! If I knew then…
12. We would like to thank you for your time, and Congratulations on being selected for the Cover of this month’s Hollywood Magazine. Before we let you go, is there anything that you would like to tell your fans?
I am just so grateful for sustaining in this crazy, unpredictable business for many years and having a loyal, supportive fan base and following that has stayed with me, even though the challenging ebbs and flows (and pandemic!) and has followed me from genre to genre! I dreamed of being an Actress as a little girl, and I sometimes pinch myself, as I realize I am living my dream and it is real! My dream may not look exactly as I imagined, and I may not be on a TV series right now, but I am here, and I am sustaining, and I am never quitting this dream, so, in some way, I know I “made it”! I want to thank my fans for all their generous comments on my social media and for their hard copy fans letters I still receive to my PO Box.
I cherish these and save them in my fan chest… and, when I go through my career ebbs, I go back to read them to remind myself how lucky I really am as an Actress! Last, but not least, I want to send positive vibes to all your readers for healing and love in this world! Please stay healthy, positive, and spread LOVE!!! And, always DREAM BIG!!! XO Brooke Lewis Bellas.
Photographer Editorial: Birdie Thompson
Hair & Makeup: Allison Noelle
Photographer Houdini Estate White Gown: Greg Doherty
Hair & Makeup: Allison Noelle