Alexandra Essoe talks ‘The Carnal Soul’

Saudi Arabian-born actress Alexandra Essoe has been on our screens in movies and TV shows for many years. Born into the entertainment business, Alexandra’s mother was a stage actress and director, and she grew up in the Dhahran community theatre, watching every rehearsal for as many productions as she could. At age 12, Alexandra moved to Canada and became involved in acting courses and making home movies with friends. Upon graduating high school, I moved to Vancouver to study every technique I could get my hands on, at both the Lyric school of Acting and the Beaumont Stage.

Since then, Alexandra Essoe has been a staple in the world of television and cinema. Some of her famed roles include being a series regular in Amblin’s ‘The Haunting of Bly Manor’ and ‘The Pope's Exorcist’ with Russel Crowe.

Welcome! You have quite the resume so far. What are some of your early on set experiences?
When I was 13 my neighbour, who was a script supervisor on a Gene Roddenberry show that was shooting in Toronto, took me to set for take-your-kid-to-work day. My parents knew how passionate I was about acting and storytelling so they figured it would still count. I was totally spellbound. It was the first time I had seen the way a professional set is run. I also got to meet Roddenberry’s wife, who was a lead on the show and one of the classiest women ever. She was so warm and encouraging and it left a lasting impression on me.

What’s been the pros and cons of pursuing your filmmaking career?
I suppose it’s the same pros and cons of pursuing any career in the arts. I would say it would be more accurate to replace pros and cons with costs and rewards. Because to pursue a career in the arts is to pursue a LIFE in the arts. There are great costs for, potentially, great rewards, although what someone considers rewarding depends greatly on who you ask. You have to sacrifice and compromise, sometimes you have to miss out on life milestones, both yours and those that you love. Bukowski wrote a poem about this entitled Roll the Dice, that encapsulates this cost/reward dynamic beautifully. He describes the ultimate reward (pro) as this: “... you will be alone with the gods, and the nights will flame with fire… you will ride life straight to perfect laughter, it’s the only good fight there is.”

Congratulations of making your directorial debut. Can you tell us about The Carnal Soul?
The story follows a man who is in the winter of his life. He can no longer live with the weight of his regrets. Every day is torture living with an old betrayal. Today he sets out to make amends with his long-time rival. Can he atone for his mistakes before it's too late?

What was the casting process like?
Casting was a dream come true. Kellie Roy is a fantastic casting director who has been kind enough to cast me in some of the best and most fulfilling projects I’ve ever had the privilege to work on, including Dr. Sleep and The Pope’s Exorcist. My producer, Alexis Iacono, had suggested Bob Gunton, who is a brilliant actor and I thought he was perfect for the part, but I also figured that he would be a fantasy pick and we’d most likely have to cast someone more within our meagre budget. I called Kellie to ask for her advice on how best to get in touch and she just happened to have cast him in something recently. She, very generously, offered to reach out to his reps on my behalf and the rest is history.

Who was cast first and why?
Mort had to be cast first as he is the protagonist and the only character with dialogue. Bob Gunton was the first choice and just perfect for the role. I thought for sure he would pass on this tiny project and was prepared for that, so I elated when I found out he liked the script and was interested. David was next and, while I would’ve been happy with almost anyone with acting experience, Danno Hanks brought so much life and humor to this character, more than what was on the page, which is always a gift for any director.

Who are your team for this movie?
My producer, Alexis Iacono, the wind beneath my wings and the hardest working person I know. John DeFazio, my brilliant DP who was a joy to work with and Ben Huber, my first AD and such a steady, calm presence on set. I want to give special thanks to Francis and Rachel Galluppi, Gustavo Cooper, Stacy Witt
Glenn and Liz Rigberg.

What are your plans for the film?
I’m currently entering the film in festivals and would love for it to play for an audience, but the main purpose of the film is to have a calling card, an example of what I’m capable of making with a shoestring budget.

What do you hope audiences take away from the movie?
I hope audiences take away an openness to absurdity, or rather to embrace, or contemplate embracing, an absurdist outlook on life; to perhaps even be comforted by the idea that perspective colors your experiences.

Have you set any 2024 goals to achieve?
Make the transition from acting to directing and acting.

Thank you, Alexandra! How can people follow your journey?
My work can be found on my IMDb and my Instagram for latest news!