Leslie Susana Campbell talks 'It’s Just Hair'

Bahamian-born actress Leslie Susana Campbell talks being multi-linguistic, and her latest movies in Hollywood. In an exclusive interview, Film News sat down with Leslie to talk about the movie “It’s Just Hair.”

Can you introduce yourself for our readers please?
Hi! I am Leslie, an actress based in Los Angeles. I was born in The Bahamas. My mother is Cuban, and my father is Bahamian. Back home, I was a national swimmer for The Bahamas. I migrated to the US to pursue a future in athletics, but I developed acute environmental, and sports-induced asthma. I also suffered a serious knee injury, so I had to hang up my swim cap and goggles. I later attended Arizona State University where I double majored in Theatre and Global Health.

What prompted you to be an actor?
Acting was nowhere on my radar as something I could actually pursue. I was an Athlete for The Bahamas National Swim Team. I was expected to pursue medicine. These two areas were my only focus. On top of that, I had no knowledge of any acting, or performing related classes near me. The most that I knew about were dance studios, and music classes. When I was a child, I had wanted to be a ballerina, but was told that I was going to grow too tall in order to be one, so my parents put me in swimming instead.

I had always known that I was an artist of some kind, but I had yet to have had any interaction, or run in with performing until my senior year of high school. That year I had given a senior speech, and my speech was a spoken word piece that I had written. I received a standing ovation for it, and that moment changed my internal world. I knew I was meant to be on the stage and, initially, I thought it was as a spoken word performer.

Later, I attended Arizona State University, where I began as a Cellular & Genetic Development major. I quickly realized this was not the path for me. After being miserable my entire first semester at college, I called my parents and let them know that I had to change my major, because something was not right. On an impulse one evening, as classes for the second semester of my sophomore year opened up, I added an acting class to my list of classes. In that class, I met my first ever acting teacher. She was instrumental in instilling faith in my own ability as an actor. She gave me a lead role in her MFA thesis project. From there, my love for acting was solidified!

Tell us about the movie, “It’s Just Hair.”
It’s a terrific project, where I play the lead Tara. The movie is about two young women, Tara and Vega, at different stages of experiencing terminal illnesses. The two women meet in the bathroom of a hospital. Vega is facing the extreme challenge of accepting her health. She is in the bathroom getting ready to shave her head. Tara walks into the bathroom and is immediately intrigued with Vega. The two strike up a very common, awkward, stranger-to-stranger, conversation with each other. Here the beauty of the story unfolds. In this conversation, truths and realities are revealed that show Tara and Vega they’re not so different after all.

Are you anything like your character, Tara?
I think so. Like Tara, I am silent, resilient, and a fighting spirit. I am definitely a renegade in the sense that I will go out on my terms. Tara understands the significance of being who you choose to be despite your circumstances. I think I very much align with that same philosophy. I also resonate with Tara’s desire for connection, but her inability to fully engage with the closeness she so desires. As strong as Tara is, she is also, innately, incredibly sensitive.

How did you prepare for the role?
Initially, I started preparation as I would have for any character. Also, Paola was very good at providing us with prompter questions for the direction she was interested in having the dynamic lead us. Her questions were very focused on the relationship and history with our illnesses. I began detailing Tara’s bio; up until the moment she walks into the bathroom. It’s something that I like to use to exercise my imagination. I need a background on a character in order to be able to tap into the pulse of their thought process, and therefore their unconscious convictions. Once I did that, I focused on physicality. This led me to the question of which specific illness Tara was suffering from. At the time, I knew that the characters were based on Paola’s grandparents. The next rehearsal we had, with Paola’s consent of course, I probed the question of her grandparents’ history. (I am a big believer in, if you have access to a primary source use that as your guideline). What she revealed to us, I immediately incorporated as the foundation for the choices I made as Tara.

Can you spill the tea from set?
My director actually cut her hair on the final day of shooting! She cut her hair in order to honor both her grandparents, whom the characters and the dynamic of the story is based on, and to show solidarity for cancer patients and those suffering from terminal illnesses. It was such an amazing moment to be a part of. She had people on set cut sections of her hair, and she trusted me to cut the last chunk, making her transition 100% official and complete.

It was also partly hilarious because I didn't even have time to change out of costume and prosthetics. The photos behind the scenes of me cutting Paola’s hair, I still have my ball cap on.

Her best friend and cinematographer Julio also shaved his entire head. I got to shave part of his head as well.

We had had trouble with filming the shaving of Vega’s (Victoria’s) section of prop hair earlier. Immediately Paola directed somebody (I think Ayesha) go get a camera and shoot me shaving Julio’s head because it looked like it could be used in post-production. I don’t know, I have yet to see if that is the case, but it was just funny, and inspiring to be a part of. For somebody to, impromptu, direct a moment like that is just a testament to their passion and skill.

We are excited to see “It’s Just Hair”!
Yes! The film is currently enjoying its film festival circuit, scooping up awards and being amazing!

Thank you, Leslie! How can people follow your journey?
Please visit my IMDb and my Instagram… see you there!