Interview by Uriah Young
QFTD: Tell us a little about yourself. Who is Johanna Tolentino?
Johanna: I am first a single mother of two beautiful girls. My passion is being a performer of stage, film, and TV. I am a producer, working to put together unique projects for stage and film. Also, my passion for cooking drove me to become a trained chef.
QFTD: What has your journey in the acting field been like since you started?
Johanna: My big break came when I was sixteen-years-old after being cast in the feature film, Lean On Me, with Morgan Freeman. Then, I did a lot of regional theatre, local commercials, and industrials. I had to put it on hold when I wanted to start a family, but in the past couple years, I’ve been picking it up and booking theatre and TV shows.
QFTD: Tell us more about the process of landing a speaking role in Lean On Me when you were so young.
Johanna: (laughing) Oh my goodness, Uriah, it all happened by chance.
QFTD: Let's hear it.
Johanna: Okay, so first off, I actually attended East Side High School when Joe Clark was the principal there. So, when Warner Brothers came to the school to cast students to be in the film, everyone got so excited. A girlfriend of mine at the time was really into acting, and she wanted me to go to one of the auditions with her. I remember standing outside in line for six hours just to get inside the school for the open call. It was crazy.
QFTD: I bet. Then what happened?
Johanna: So, as we were waiting in line, I was helping my friend with her lines, when a man tapped me on my shoulder. He asked me to come with him, and at first I was reluctant because I wasn't sure if I was in trouble or what. Come to find out, he was a producer of the film and wanted me to read lines for a role. As I entered the audition room, where there was a teleprompter, the director was there, along with a few others. They coached me for a bit, and before I knew it, they had cast me to be a part of the film.
QFTD: Who are some actors you've worked with that you are proud to have performed with on the stage/set? What was it like working with them?
Johanna: First, I have to mention Morgan Freeman in Lean On Me because he was so fun and made everyone feel comfortable on set! I also loved working with Alana De La Garza in Do No Harm because she was so down-to-earth and sweet!
QFTD: Who is someone, past or present, you wish you could work with in film?
Johanna: I have to start with my "Comedy Queens," Carol Burnett and Lucille Ball. My admiration of them exceeds their amazing talent; their business-like approach I've always respected because of their ability to build their own entertainment empires. I would have loved to have worked with either of them. Let me see...who else? Sofia Vergarra is a Latina actress who I have followed the last 20 years. After seeing her blossom from her MTV days, working with her would be exciting. Viola Davis is an actress who I would love to have the pleasure of working with. Her body of work is so impressive, along with the energy she brings to her roles.
QFTD: Any male actors you'd like to go toe-to-toe with in a scene or two?
Johanna: Javier Bardem, for sure. He is an amazing actor. And of course, I can't forget about Denzel Washington.
QFTD: You can never go wrong being on set with Denzel.
Johanna: For sure.
QFTD: I read an article that featured a play you were in, and the written segment focused on the under-representation of Latinos on the Philadelphia theatre circuit. How can that change so more Latinos can display their talent more frequently?
Johanna: In my opinion, I say bring more work to Philadelphia for Latinos. I’m so tired of hearing that there are not enough Latino actors in Philly. Well, if there was more work in Philly, we wouldn't have to go to NY.
QFTD: In your opinion, what is the status of Hollywood?
Johanna: Well, to answer this question, we have to begin with reality television. Although some of it is okay, I cannot get too excited about the majority of its programming because of the lack of creativity involved. It seems like TV sitcoms are making their way back to network television, though. If this is the new pattern, it will give writers a chance to create like they used to. This would be good for Hollywood.
QFTD: Whenever you get on stage or in front of a camera to express yourself theatrically, what kind of satisfaction do you experience as an actor?
Johanna: Being on stage or on a movie set is where I am the happiest besides being with my children. It’s like hearing my daughter’s laughter; I just feel elated.
QFTD: You have two wonderful daughters, who are full of energy and talent. Are they interested in following in mommy's footsteps? If they do, what advice would you give them about the entertainment business?
Johanna: They do want to pursue the arts, with their talents in singing, dancing, playing instruments, and acting! My advice for following in my footsteps is, “Don’t, be a doctor!" But whatever they decide to do, I will support them 100 percent.
QFTD: What are some interesting projects you have coming up in the future?
Johanna: Right now, Taking East New York is a short film I have in the works. Also, the web series that I produce and star in, Whatever it Takes, will be shooting and putting out new material in the next couple of months! I am very fortunate to have my team put together at this point. Maurice Cabrera is on board, and Red River Casting is on board as well. I am so happy because they're so talented and genuine. I cannot express how excited I am to be getting Whatever It Takes off the ground after so many years.
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