TAMARA ALMEIDA stars in the highly anticipated reboot of the beloved 90s children’s television series Ghostwriter, which recently premiered on Apple TV+. Tamara can also be seen as Carmen in the new short film Date Night from the 2019 Toronto International Shorts Film Festival and continues to lend her voice to Joe Murray’s latest animated series Let’s Go Luna as Maria Mariposa, alongside Judy Greer and Saara Chaudry.
AC: What can audiences expect from Ghostwriter?
TAMARA ALMEIDA: The Ghostwriter reboot is a reimagined version of the 90s classic, following a group of four children who team up when a ghost starts haunting their local bookstore. Fictional characters are released into the real world and together they try to solve the mysteries surrounding our ghost’s unfinished business. Without giving anything away, I’ll say that audiences can expect our kids to explore literature ranging from classics to new works, with much adventure and mystery throughout this season. The show is written so well, and the acting is excellent. I’m excited for everyone to watch!
Were you a fan of the original television series?
I was indeed! I’d watch this after school, every day on PBS. Ghostwriter was one of my faves, along with Punky Brewster, and Saved By The Bell. When I found out I was going to be on this show, I had those ‘pinch-myself’ moments because it had played such a big role in my childhood. Somebody pass the pen necklace please and thanks!
What do you think is Grandma Tess’ ultimate goal?
Great question! I see Young Grandma Tess as a driven, loving woman, with an innate belief to do what’s right. I think her ultimate goal is to help make a dent in the time that she’s from, predominantly for women. I can’t say anything else other than that, but I think she’s wonderful and I’m ecstatic I got the chance to play her.
Can you recall any funny moments from on-set filming?
This is a hard one because the moments I keep thinking of are outtake-related, but they would reveal parts of the story. As you can imagine, we’re basically sworn to secrecy! It’s hard to talk about because the episodes haven’t come out yet, but what I can say is that those kids are hilarious and so sharp. They made that set a lot of fun. I know I’m being vague, sorry! Maybe I can share my favorite on-set moment that won’t give anything away? It was on one of our final shoot days when everyone showed up dressed up in 70s clothing. Our director, Luke Matheny, was in the longest bellbottoms I’d ever seen (he’s very tall). We snapped a pic when we wrapped in the library set and I printed it out and put it on my fridge. It’s one of my favorite memories on set, ever. It was a snapshot of the experience. It was fun, collaborative, connected, and the cast and crew had such great chemistry all around, beginning to end.
Do you believe in the supernatural?
I grew up in a Latin household, was very religious, and the supernatural was often spoken about quite casually. It felt like a normal, cultural belief that I thought everyone shared. It wasn’t until I was older and would engage in conversations about it that people would like at me like I was spouting fables. Even now that I’m no longer religious, and don’t believe in it the way that I did as a child, I can’t fully erase the part that believes in the supernatural. So my logical mind says it’s highly unlikely, but the rest of me says, yeah I believe.
Have you ever had a supernatural experience?
I’ve had a couple of questionable experiences. When I was about 16, I’d gone to Ecuador to visit my family and one night when I went to bed and could feel someone (or something) hovering over me. I gently opened my one eye and no one was there. I could feel them breathing on me, and to this day no one can explain to me how that was possible. My cousin was sleeping not that far from me, and the door was closed. That was the only time that ever happened, and I was terrified for weeks. My family didn’t seem to think it was a big deal as it was fairly commonplace. That freaked me out even more! Still get shaky thinking about it!
Last year, we were at home watching movie trailers with my boyfriend, as we do, and we stumbled upon one for a documentary about a property that was known to have record-breaking supernatural activity/experiences or something like that. I maybe watched 10 seconds of the trailer, and closed my eyes and covered my ears. As soon he turns it off, literally right then, this space heater in our living room (that I’ve owned for maybe 10 years) turns on out of nowhere. On its own! That very second he turned off the trailer. I was so spooked, we still don’t know how it happened, and I forced us to sleep with the lights on while I tried to negotiate with the spirit to leave. So to answer the previous question, it appears I most definitely believe in the supernatural.
This is one of the first shows to be released on Apple TV+. What do you think of the service?
I’m a big Apple fan through and through. Many lifetimes ago, I worked for the company when they first opened their retail stores in Canada. It was an invaluable experience, I got to grow with the company, and I’ve always had a lot of respect for how they aim to be progressive. They’re consistent, and it’s been exciting to watch them make the shift into being much more services-focused. I signed up for Apple TV+ and have so far been very happy with it. I am watching The Morning Show right now and really enjoying it. I’ve obviously watched the first batch of Ghostwriter episodes and think they turned out really well. Next up, can’t wait to check out The Servant. Looks creepy.
What does a typical day look like when you’re working on a show like that?
Most sets operate very similarly to each other. It usually starts out with hair and makeup taking the reigns, followed by getting into the wardrobe, and then heading over to set to shoot. You’ll start by ‘blocking’ everything, and once the technical components are set to go, you’ll shoot your scenes. Nothing too out of the ordinary, other than involvement from the creative teams. I believe that was a testament to the quality of work everyone was striving for, from the top down. Then, after you wrap, you head home and make sure you’re prepped for the next day. It’s work, but also the most incredible job I could ever ask for.
Let’s talk about your recent role in the new short film Date Night. How does your character fit into the story?
For context, Date Night follows Alba who hasn’t dated in a long time, so she’s nervous, she’s feeling old, has language barriers, and a deeper fear her daughters don’t want to talk about. I play one of her daughters, Carmen, who is the eldest of the two. Carmen had to take on several responsibilities at an early age to help her parents who had originally immigrated from Columbia. Carmen is headstrong, fiery, and has a complicated relationship with the family. Her dynamic with her mother and sister appears to be a direct by-product of growing up too quickly in a household that demanded a lot of extra support. This is fairly common in the immigrant experience and we did our best to provide a quick snapshot. It’s a good one and feel fortunate they asked me to take part in telling this story. Also, I like to celebrate that it was written and directed by other Latinx artists (Margarita Valderrama wrote it and Arlen Aguayo-Stewart directed). Our cast was entirely Latinx (Valderrama played the younger sister Penelope), with a crew comprised almost entirely with POC. Once the festival run is complete, I’ll definitely be sharing this on my socials. Keep an eye out!
Did you get the chance to attend the Toronto International Shorts Film Festival?
I didn’t and I was so devastated when I found out I wasn’t going to get to make it. I was shooting something else that weekend and found out the day before the festival. I gave my tickets away and at 4:55pm at the start of our program. I sent many texts to be there in spirit. It would’ve been lovely to be there with the rest of the team, to celebrate the success, but, alas, sometimes you have to work.
As an actor, what are you still trying to learn?
I’m always trying to learn as an actor and I believe it’s never-ending. It’s part of what’s held my intrigue and always will. Presently, I’m working on letting go of any control or rigidness in my work, and surrendering in a much more effortless way. I’m trying to get rid of any inner judgments and do my best to share my authenticity. On a technical level, I’ve been taking a class that focuses on character creation and I’d like to keep learning on how to apply this to my work. This involves mapping out characters in this pragmatic way, using my character details as a blueprint of sorts, and then trying to use my instrument to hit these notes when needed, it’s exciting but takes time. I’m always in class and always trying to deepen my work and stretch my emotional muscles to be able to deliver what’s needed to efficiently tell the stories I care about.
How can you tell when you’re reading a great script?
For me, it’s about connection and story. Does the story hook me? Do I feel invested in these characters? Do I find it true to life, and are these people complex? The story is so important and I have such a deep admiration for writers. To connect your ‘A’ and ‘B’ stories, building entire worlds with words alone, and setting up clever moments that pay off in the end? It’s all very impressive. If the script has these elements, I’d say it’s probably quite good.
When did you begin to see acting as a potential career avenue?
I always wanted to act but never thought it was possible to pursue it as a career. I’ve been interested in the arts for as long as I can remember. My upbringing was a bit chaotic, but when I finally left home, things started to settle and I could breathe easier. I had a career that helped me achieve personal and financial goals. I had all the safety boxes checked. I had always been interested in storytelling and particularly acting, but it didn’t seem possible. I had no point of reference as to how you’d actually turn this into a career. Then, we suddenly had these Latina women began blowing up in media and it was very inspiring. They weren’t just telenovela stars, they were in movies and tv shows. That was a moment of “maybe I could do this”. I started to entertain it more and more but questioned if it made sense to leave my security and stability. But acting kept drawing me in with how it lent itself to the storytelling.
When the acting felt truthful, it really impacted me and I could feel it in my soul. It could be a show or a movie, but I’d consistently find myself deeply fixated by certain moments. It was what was in the unspoken that would grip me. I was so compelled by the duality of humans and found it intriguing that you could use your body as this instrument to tell stories. So I decided to begin saving for the day that I’d be ready to walk away and give it a shot. I had to try or I’d always regret it. Eventually, the desire intensified to a point where I couldn’t ignore it, so I started taking an acting class, figured I’d saved enough, and finally quit my job.
How important is social media to you right now?
I have always had a love/hate relationship with social media. Honestly, I didn’t understand how to use it, and for the longest time I felt defeated by it. Especially as an actor. I didn’t know how much sharing was too much sharing, not enough, and so forth. I had judgments about feeling uninteresting compared to others. Earlier this year, I decided to go off of social media for about 5 months and it shifted things for me. I came back to it wanting to share, no longer worrying about “getting it right”. Now, I share because I like it and because I want to. I enjoy meeting other people there. I love connecting with people who I wouldn’t know otherwise. Watching my friend’s Instagram stories and seeing their photos, getting to enjoy their day to day with them, it’s actually quite neat that we have this capability. There is a sense of connection with social media, and I’m embracing it. As an actor, I feel fortunate that I have this tool in my pocket. So, I love it right now.
What do you want the world to look like in 10 years?
In an ideal world, 10 years from now, I’d want everyone to be more openly vulnerable, to judge themselves less for whatever they feel, and make mindfulness and meditation a part of our school curriculum. All of these things would lead to a happier, more peaceful world. I want mental health resources to be more easily accessible and affordable to make sure that anyone who needs it could have access to it. In my personal life, I’d hope to be running a non-for-profit that provides free mindfulness and meditation groups in Canada. Let’s check-in again in 10 years and see where things are at.
Everyone seems to have an app idea at the moment, what’s yours?
I don’t know but I think it would involve skincare somehow. Definitely skincare. Perhaps something that could track key components that directly correspond to our overall skincare health. Like, “hey you had too much sugar last night, you should have one beet, six walnuts, and three glasses of water this morning to get back on track!” The app would monitor what you’re eating, how you’re sleeping, and how it all ties into your skincare. Maybe we call it a dermatologist in your pocket? I’m sure some variation of this already exists! I’m going to search after this interview because I would definitely pay $9.99 for that!
If you had the chance to put something on billboards worldwide next week, what would it be? Or what would it say?
My choice for a global note to the world would be: “Choose kindness and vulnerability. We need more of these”. Another, because it’s a very important reminder that’s easy to forget: “The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.”
What is a personal fear you’d like to conquer?
A personal fear I’d like to conquer would be to go traveling on my own.
Aside from your upcoming projects, is there one thing you’re particularly excited about for the future?
I’m excited for 2020! I can’t wait to be working with many talented people to create and share our stories. I’m also chomping at the bit about taking a few continuing education courses next spring to learn about the fundamentals of meditation. Lastly, I’m pumped to make the move to LA next year. Lots of great things coming up and I’m excited for all of it. Thanks for taking the time to chat with me!
PHOTOGRAPHY: LV IMAGERY
INTERVIEW: ADAM CROOKES