Asta Leigh (Jena Willard Photography)
Racial issues in America strike a familiar chord for actress and filmmaker Asta Leigh
Growing up in South Africa, she remembers what apartheid looked like and wants to remind everyone – no matter what their color.
In her new spoken word video, “White Out,”
Asta is posing some serious questions about racism to her fellow white people. Recently released on YouTube, she delivers a raw and real plea to humanity to learn from our past and treat everyone as equals.
Asta’s past started with her first 12 years in Cape Town, South Africa before her family moved to Durban. At 19, she left for London to study and pursue acting, where she appeared in several notable stage productions, including “Agamemnon,” “The Open Couple” and an all-female version of “The Odd Couple.” Setting her sights on Hollywood, Asta moved to Los Angeles in 2012.
Since then, she has teamed up with filmmaker Elizabeth Blake-Thomas co-producing two features, the award-winning “Sand Angels” and “The League of Legend Keepers”; and appearing on-screen in Blake-Thomas’ family driven drama “Maybe I’m Fine.”
Asta Leigh recently took time to answer a few questions:
Why did you feel compelled to create “White Out”?
ASTA LEIGH: Growing up in South Arica in Apartheid had a huge impact on me and I think because of my experiences as a child, racial atrocities have always affected me to my very core. The notion that people, because of the color of their skin, are being treated so appallingly is beyond comprehension. It’s 2019 but in many ways it feels like things haven’t changed. People of color are still fighting for the right to be treated not only as equals but also as human beings which is simply unfathomable to me.
“White Out” is my plea to white people, to address our own culpability and our own prejudices. I realized that as someone who finds racism abhorrent, I too needed to keep making sure that I was seeing things from all perspectives and to not keep silent about such vital matters. Making a change is not always about shouting from the highest heights. It’s about acknowledging certain aspects in ourselves and making changes within our own minds and in our own homes.
Is there something you hope fans learn or take away from watching it?[/]
AL: That we are ultimately all responsible for each other in some way shape or form. These issues are not separate from us. We all have a part to play. And to hopefully see my heart on these matters and that it comes from a place of love and deep introspection.
[i]You’re working on another racially charged project, correct?
AL: Yes. I’ve just acted in a project I wrote, and directed, “Perception.” It’s based around a murder and shows the injustices that permeate throughout.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned from creating projects revolving around race?
AL: That not everyone likes what I have to say. And not just that some people dislike my opinions in general but that some actually HATE me in the process. It took me a long time to put out “White Out” because I knew deep down inside I was apprehensive about possible backlash. But when I confronted my own fears on this matter and realized that regardless of public opinion, this is absolutely what I believe and no backlash in the world was ever going to make me keep silent, I released the video. This isn’t about public acceptance; this is about injustice and what we can do on a daily basis to make a change.
You’ve also got two additional films prepping to hit the festivals this year; what can you share about those?
AL: “Running on Empty” is a film I wrote and played the lead in is a very exciting project. It’s another project I worked on with director Elizabeth Blake Thomas and it addresses grief and what lengths we may go to stop feeling endless pain.
I also just finished an appearance in the film “Heirloom,” directed by Paul Walter Hauser (“ITonya” and “BlacKkKlansman”) and written by Raleigh Cain (“Shameless,” “Longmire”) who also played the lead.
Is there anything else you’ve been working on lately?
AL: I’m working on a pilot and currently seeking funding, which also addresses racial issues and I think would be perfect for a network like HBO.
This summer I’m planning to shoot “Eat Your Heart Out,” a film I wrote and will again play the lead in and direct. It’s about an older actor attempting to navigate her way through Hollywood.
And, now just for fun:
Who’s your favorite actor/actress?
AL: I can’t choose one that’s way too difficult. I’m a HUMUNGOUS fan of Viola Davis, Regina King, Christian Bale, Sam Rockwell, Michael K Williams, Michael Shannon, Marion Cotillard, Ben Foster, Joaquin Phoenix, Elizabeth Moss, Naomi Watts, Richard Cabral, Donald Glover, Cate Blanchett, Mahershala Ali, and Lakeith Stanfield to name but a few.
What role from the past do you wish you could have played?
AL: The part of Cristina Peck played by Naomi Watts in “21 Grams,” June Osborne in “The Handmaid’s Tale” played by Elizabeth Moss and Edith Piaf in “La Vie en Rose” played by Marion Cotillard.
Favorite movie or TV show from your childhood.
AL: I watched “Top Gun” and “Dirty Dancing” on repeat. Literally.
Tell us one thing that would surprise our readers to learn about you.
AL: I do boxing and Muay Thai and I love it.
How can fans keep up with you?
My website is www.astaleigh.com link
and you can find me on Instagram @astaleigh link
Watch “White Out” now playing on YouTube
Asta Leigh in "White Out"