Close-up: An Interview With Carla Humphries

RAYA Martin’s mystery thriller Smaller And Smaller Circles looks to be the film that takes Carla Humphries’ acting career to another level.

Carla, who has been appearing regularly on Philippine television and film since 2003, has turned heads internationally with her intelligent portrayal of journalist Joanna Bonifacio. One of the characters in Martin’s film that seeks to uncover the truth behind the brutal murder of young boys in Payatas.

Ahead of Smaller And Smaller Circles’ UK premiere at the Fractured Visions Film Festival later this month, we spoke to Carla to learn more about this important role in her career.

Q: Smaller and Smaller Circles is set for its UK premiere at the Fractured Visions Film Festival later this month. What attracted you to this project and this story?

A: THE opportunity to work Raya Martin, our director, and JA Tadena, our cinematographer, as well as the ability to realise the award-winning novel of F.H. Batacan drew me in. A little trivia about Joanna’s character is that it was loosely based on the author, so I felt a large responsibility taking on the role from the beginning.

Similarly, it’s a complex story that is very culturally relevant and that was what initially attracted me to the offer.

Q: I read that you were hand-picked for the role by the director Raya Martin. Can you tell us more about being cast for this film and having the opportunity to work with an acclaimed director like Raya?

A: TO be honest, this felt like my first form of validation as an actress. Although I’ve been acting for quite some time now, I have yet to establish myself in the industry, so to be hand-picked by Raya (someone whom I respect and admire) was really impactful for me.

When he first offered me the role of Joanna Bonifacio, I was second-guessing my place in this industry and I found myself craving meatier roles. Raya mentioned seeing me in projects that I thought were overlooked, which meant the world to me and reignited my passion for acting at a time that I was doubting myself. It was, and still is, quite nice to have someone of the likes of Raya believe in me. I feel very grateful to be the only female lead within a cast of such strong and well-respected male actors and I feel honoured to work alongside Raya.

Q: As you mention, your character is journalist Joanna Bonifacio one of the film’s few female characters. What can you tell us about Joanna and your experience playing her?

A: JOANNA is a strong, resourceful and smart woman. I grew acting in the Philippines, where the local heroines of soap operas are always the victims. They were usually helpless and crying in almost every scene and the strong characters were stereotyped as villains. I never agreed with this mentality. I believe it’s important to have female representation on screen that can standup for themselves.

So to finally be able to play a woman that didn’t need saving and actually was doing some saving of her own was amazing. Especially since I was surrounded by such strong male actors in the cast.

Q: In March it was announced that the first Filipino film and TV series would be featured on US Netflix. What is the current landscape of Philippine cinema? Is it thriving and are there sufficient roles for females?

A: THE industry is evolving and its extremely exciting. The internet is forcing local production houses to step up their game. The audience is ready for more. So that means everyone’s pushing a little harder and the market for quality projects is growing.

In the past few years, the independent scene has actually been thriving, maybe because people are longing for something new rather than the typical formulaic plot. I think we’ll be seeing more and more challenging female roles on screens. Hopefully I will continue to have the opportunity to be cast in some of these great roles.

Q: This role allowed you to show off you multi-lingual skills as Joanna speaks French, English and Tagalog. Do you see yourself seeking out roles in US and European film in the future?

A: DEFINITELY! I want to grown as much as I can in my craft and I think it would be unbelievable to experience working in a different culture/country. Especially because I’m part American and French. If the opportunity comes along and it’s a good role I would grab it in an instant. But before that, I’d make sure to change my name back to my birth name which is ‘Madeleine Humphries’ since ‘Carla’ was a screen name chosen for me for the local market.


Q: Is there a particular actor or director that you dream of working with?

A: WELL, I’d like to work with talented and passionate people and if they happen to be one of my favorites then lucky me. I love Cate Blanchett, Kate Winslet, Anthony Hopkins, Marion Cotillard, Tom Hanks, Jack Nicholson to name a few.

Q: You are one of these remarkable creative people that seems to have boundless energy, working on projects constantly and with causes such as the Communities Organized for Resource Allocation (CORA). Where does that drive within you come from?

A: I am trying to make a difference in my own little way, though it is hard to answer that question without sounding self-glorifying. I would say my awareness of these causes forces me to take action and when one is passionate about something, it is natural to find the energy and drive to accomplish these goals. Speaking of which, say no to single-use plastic!

Q: What enjoyment to you get from film acting and how does it compare to singing, YouTube and some of your other creative pursuits?

A: I am a very expressive human being and I need outlets to express my emotions, perspectives, and creativity so acting is a beautiful release for me. I have loved movies and this form of expression since I was a toddler walking around in sunglasses.

Even if I am slowly letting the public know I sing, it’s just another way of telling a story. Acting will always be my first love, but if I can do more I will. Whether it be singing, painting, or even the production side of the industry interests me.

Q: Lastly, please give UK audiences one last quick-sell on why they should be excited to see Smaller and Smaller Circles.

A: IF you’re like me, who’s a sucker for a good murder mystery, Smaller and Smaller Circles is making its mark as the first psycho-killer, thriller film of the Philippines. Raya Martin is an amazing director, and if you’re a fan of his work then you definitely need to see his first mainstream film. The cast is star-studded and multi-facetaded who bring different things to the table and I was lucky enough to share the screen with these well-respected artists.

Finally, if you’ve read the novel, you’ll definitely enjoy seeing these characters come to life. This is the type of film that will keep the conversation going even after the credits roll. Watch it and tell me what you think on Instagram (@callmemadz)!

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