Malea Rose is an actress, writer and producer whose passion for meaningful storytelling leads her to regularly defy expectations and fearlessly take on new challenges.
In this in-depth interview with Close-up Culture’s James Prestridge, Malea shares fascinating stories from her recent films (Flashout and The Row) and lays out an exciting vision for the exciting projects she is currently working on.
Q: Richard Lerner’s sci-fi film ‘Flashout’ came out recently. Can you tell us about the film and your character Lleva?
A: Flashout is such a fun film. It’s a very sweet film, but is sexy as well, while still remaining wholesome. Also, it’s really funny. This was my first time doing sci-fi and it was a complete trip.
The film is about three young women who decide to play a virtual reality dating game called Intermate. We live in a parallel universe and the game takes us to different worlds to find players and “flashout” until we beat the game. But in this particular game, we get stuck on earth because there is an evil repairman who is trying to break the channels of the multiverse.
Now imagine coming to earth from a sparkly space hub and seeing all the nitty gritty stuff that really happens down here… earth is kinda messed up.
My character Lleva is the one who initiates the game and sets up the whole adventure that unfolds… all terribly wrong by the way. Lleva is fun, adventurous, and pragmatic… she also can get herself into a little trouble… Lleva and I share that in common.
Q: The film has an exciting cast that features a number of talented women. How much did you all enjoy working together and stepping into this genre?
A: I have to say, this group of women were some of the most exceptionally talented people I have ever met… not to mention gorgeous.
We laughed and had a blast between takes the whole ride. It’s probably my favourite thing about the movie, our chemistry. I think it really shows up on screen too, how much we love each other. They did such a good job casting, because we legitimately all walked away from this experience with life long best friends. Maya Stojan and I actually took acting class together almost 10 years ago, so it was such a treat to reconnect. Now we talk almost everyday, actually everyday. Sister status.
Stepping into this genre is hard, because a lot of the time you’re in front of a green screen and shooting holograms out of your hand… and you’re thinking to yourself: holy smokes, I must look ridiculous! We don’t get to see the special effects as we’re making it, so it’s hard to visualise what will happen with CGI. It takes a lot of imagination.
Also independent filmmaking can add its own set of challenges. It was a very new experience for me. I just had to keep reminding myself to not judge the work. We felt silly at times, were confused at times, but I genuinely think all the confusion led to these really grounded performances in such a whacky world.
I love sci-fi and I can’t wait to do 100 more! I am a total nerd… shhh don’t tell anyone.
I think I will always look back at this film with so much love because it encapsulates such a moment of growth and change in my real life. When the girls and I finally got to see the film, we laughed and cried… but mostly laughed so hard reminiscing about all of our memories together, being on set and those shenanigans… and also what was going on in our personal lives during the same time as the film.
We could honestly make a movie about making this movie. We actually should…
Q: Another film you were recently in with an exciting female cast was Matty Beckerman’s ‘The Row’. What are your memories of working on that project?
A: That was a super fun film to be a part of as well. It’s definitely it’s own genre, college slasher. Not an Oscar film, but people love them. Matty Beckerman is such a gentleman and a talent… as is his wife who was super involved in the film as well.
As I get older I am more conscious that what goes on film is here forever, so I am trying to be much more thoughtful and particular about the characters I choose.
They had originally called me in for one of the main sorority girls. I got five double-sided pages of all me talking for the audition… and only 30 minutes to prepare for it – which is stressful. I decided to just let it riff in character and make it mine. As actors it’s so easy to get trapped in the words, but it’s really just about living the life. So I just let myself have fun with it… also it’s impossible to absorb that much in a matter of minutes.
The part was already promised to someone else, and quite frankly I didn’t really want that type of part. But Matty really liked me and was impressed with what I did in such a short amount of prep time…. So I was pleasantly surprised when I got the offer to play a detective, something I have never played. Despite it being a smaller part, I signed on…
Here comes my favourite memory about working on this project. My first day on set in Palm Springs I am getting fitted at wardrobe at base camp, when I hear over the speaker that someone got fired. I look to the wardrobe lady and ask her what’s happening. She tells me one of the leads didn’t know his lines so they fired him on set. I asked who, she said the head Lieutenant. All of a sudden I could feel the fire start to burn inside of me. She knew exactly what I was thinking and quickly grabbed me a blazer.
She and I head up to set, I am looking through the lines frantically, trying to absorb as much of the cop lingo as possible on the way.
I get up to set, which typically is mostly all men, and I ask Matty who is going to play the Lieutenant. He tells me they are so far behind and they will probably have the AD do it… who by the way is a super talent Jamie Barber, because he knows the gist of the lines and they can’t waste more time…
All eyes are all on me as I muster up the courage to ask him for the opportunity to try out for the part, right there, on set. Everyone just stares at me.
He hesitates and tells me it’s a guys part, a much older guys part. The man they had hired for the role was certainly not my “type”.
I say, but I’m an actor, give me a shot. He considers this and goes to talk to the producers. He comes back and says he’ll give me one take and I have five minutes to get off book as they reset the cameras…
This is when my hives start to form and I start to second guess my sanity, thinking I could learn this many pages of cop lingo, it may as well have been written in Chinese. I instantly regret all of my choices… and then Randy Couture comes walking up to me (The Lieutenant role is his boss in the movie and all the scenes are opposite him).
I’d never met Randy and was immediately intimidated by him. He is a UFC champion for goodness sakes… but he just gives me the warmest smile as he says: “You got balls girl. Lets run the lines and get you this part.” And we did. He helped me with the blocking and ran lines, and we did the one take…
However, Quid Pro Quo may be something I will never be able to say properly… it is a tongue twister… but regardless of my fumble, Matty offered me the part. To the whole production’s credit, things like this do not happen in Hollywood. Women do not take men’s roles….
It was a cool day.
During the month long shoot Matty would constantly tell me how I changed the whole dynamic of the film in such a wonderful way. I got to work opposite Randy Couture, who couldn’t be a better guy if he tried, and play a total boss bitch.
A very rare opportunity for many female actors because they don’t “look the part”. In a town built off of imagination and make believe, there really isn’t much of it in Hollywood.
The best part about all of this was that all the women involved in this film kept coming up to me telling me how I had inspired them. How I showed them it wasn’t just a man’s world, that they too can go after something that is “for a man” and achieve it too… This is meaningful everywhere, but Hollywood can be an extremely chauvinistic boys club at times.
My impulsive courage inspired all of these women… and I think I’ll always cherish that. It’s much more meaningful than any amount of screen time, or even the film itself, to me. It’s a nice reminder and bit of validation that you have to go after what you want. You can’t let fear or rejection drive you, otherwise you’ll never get to where you want to be. Sometimes you have to be bold…. and covered in hives.
Q: As well as acting, you are a writer and producer. You have been working on an on-screen adaptation of David E. Stannard’s book ‘Honor Killing’. Can you talk about this fascinating story and what attracted you to it?
A: EVERYTHING attracted me to this story. I look at this project like it’s my first love… it kind of is in a way. I was given the bones to these real people and their stories and I got to fill their veins with my blood.
This project has everything. It’s a salacious crime story, it’s diverse, it’s about women, it’s about gender roles, slut shaming, white privilege, racism and the racial divide in our country, a corruption of power, rape… it’s Clarence Darrow’s last case. It’s about the tensions in the world leading up to World War Two… it’s actually a little scary how timely this story is…
A big time producer took a general meeting with me one day. He told me if I was ever going to have the career that I want, I was going to have to create it. He had watched my reel before our meeting and thought he had an idea of who I was, but then after sitting and chatting with me, he realised I wasn’t at all like the way he had assumed me to be. He thought I would be one note, like my reel, but I wasn’t.
About 20 minutes into the meeting he told me how surprised he was by me. He told me I was sharp, tenacious, and passionate and he appreciated my candour… He told me there was a crazy story that’s always haunted him, and that I should make it. At first I rolled my eyes, like yeah ok, I’m just going to make something… I was kind of hoping for a job… offer me a role in a movie or something…
Little did I know this man had given me so, so, so much more… He told me I should tell this story. He told me to carve my own lane.
When I read the book for the first time, I had this immediate overwhelming feeling of purpose. I had only just been an actress at this point, but I was starting to lose passion and burn out. I knew I needed meaning if I was going to continue in this business. I had been type cast at a young age, I found myself playing stupid party girls and women lacking substance… which is why the producer said that and assumed that.
This is quite a funny town… I was valedictorian, I was in college at 16 studying Theater at Chapman University… I’m no dummy. But Hollywood likes to put you in boxes. Even your hair colour can define you to a box. And I was a blonde, I was in that box.
I’ve always been a writer and a storyteller, I was a published poet at six, I just never knew how it could all evolve in such a harmonious way. I actually now wonder why I didn’t start creating my own stuff sooner… but sometimes you need to gather certain life experiences to see clearly. You also need a certain level of confidence… or blind naiveté, but let’s go with confidence.
I have always been attracted to true life stories and human nature. Why people do bad things? Love. Fairytales. Crazy ideas. History. Why are we all so flawed? Nothing is perfect about humanity or society. I’ve always been attracted to justice and the truth. I love unapologetic women. I love playing with parallels and imagery. I love analysing people, despite how bad they are, and figuring out what made them that way.
I truly in my heart want to believe we are all just doing our best… so what is it that makes us do terrible things? Survival? Fear? Nature vs nurture? I am truly just a very inquisitive person.
Honor Killing has everything. I knew it was my story to tell the second I laid eyes on it. I wanted to give Hawaii, my home, a slice of justice. I also wanted to create vehicles for female actors, myself included, to play such dynamic, complicated, unapologetic women.
The best part about it, without revealing too much, is because of these true life events and these women behaving badly and all the injustices that took place, a microscope was finally put on justice in Hawaii… and change finally occurred. Now Hawaii is known as one of the most liberal states in the US, and it’s because of these trials.
I think my passion for this story, along with these mind blowing events and characters, and of course David Standard’s brilliant mind and meticulous research, has really been the driving force and what is what got such exceptional people attracted to it.
Growing up in Hawaii, I was never taught about these events that took place in Honolulu in 1931, yet it is such an important part of Hawaii’s history. Hawaii was a complete white supremest oligarchy – we had slavery, lynching, the second largest genocide in America… yet no one talks about this ugly history that took place in such a beautiful place. People want to think of Hawaii as luaus, beaches, honeymoons, and flowers… not this.
As the 50th state, this has always confused me why no one talks about Hawaiian history. It is a dying culture, the native Hawaiians created such a beautiful culture that should never be forgotten.
This project is me in a nutshell. It’s very representational of who I am… I have never done things the traditional way. I decide I want to create, write, and produce… so of course for my first time ever, I option a book (that other people with far bigger credits and expereince than me were trying to get)… and then map out 10 hours of story (if you’re a writer you know how insane and ambitious that sounds), and then I get some Oscar winners attached… This process and experience has been nothing short of rollercoaster, I feel like a veteran now, I am a ball of knowledge and whole lot savvier.
Without revealing too much, I decided to go a different route and put together a new team… and I couldn’t be more excited to share this incredible story with the world.
Q: Are you writing or working on any other projects at the moment?
A: I just finished writing a new pilot! It’s another big world. It’s an ongoing drama series called Crystal Blue. It’s funny that I keep writing dramas, because comedy and improv has always been my bread and butter… in fact the next thing I write will be a nice simple comedy – that doesn’t take place in Hawaii.
Crystal Blue is badass! It’s very unique… mostly all female lead as well. It takes place in 1995 Hawaii around the professional surfing industry, love, a cult, the rise of meth… has some supernatural undertones… but at the core of the show it’s really about a broken family and a young woman who has tried to run from her past.
Q: You recently shared a beautiful story on Instagram about your early love for storytelling and a touching letter you once received from a children’s author. What do you love about the art of storytelling?
A: Words are power and I believe a pen can sting worse than a scorpion.
As a storyteller I can ask real questions, I can voice my opinions, I can delve into sensitive issues, I can say whatever the hell it is that I want… and I can hide behind the fact that it’s a “story.” How cool is that? How rare in life to get to be so bluntly honest and outspoken.
It is an art. The whole process is madness. You have an idea, then you have to figure that idea out, what you want to say. You map out your story… over and over again…. you create characters, vehicles to tell this story. It’s like building a house. It has to be structured properly, and you have to know where you are going to end before you can even start.
I love everything about it. I even love the solitude… but if you asked me about the solitude again, I will tell you I HATE it and need to get a writing partner immediately! It can be incredibly lonely. I sit and write about life sometimes while other people are out living it… such a strange concept.
When I was a kid the only way I knew how to express myself was to write. I liked to paint stories with my words, I liked to paint it with so much colour that I could show you a full picture. I remember feeling so alone as a kid, I never really felt like I fit in anywhere… but with my pen and a sheet of paper, I belonged to something bigger. My feelings could make a bit of sense. I always wanted to tell stories, because I wanted the world to make sense.
That children’s author, who I won’t name yet… I am in the process of trying to option her book series, yes, I still love them that much. I have a completely poetic fantasy about what I would do with these books.
She took me on all these wild adventures. She filled up my imagination with so many possibilities. She created magic and she let me believe I could too. I remember writing her that letter and thinking there was no way she would ever write me back or even see it… I was just a little girl on a little island, like a little grain of sand on a big beach, but she did. She even drew me a picture of a character writing me a letter within the letter.
She made me feel significant, like my voice could be heard… and that is such a powerful gift to give to a child. There are some people who may never find their voice. But that is a tremendous gift to encourage someone like that.
If you really think about it, most of life is storytelling. Getting people to believe, to invest, to excite. Storytelling is universal… it’s like music.
Q: I know you also keep very busy away from the entertainment industry. Can you reveal anything about Vie En Rose, the new company you have founded?
A: Oh boy do I have my hands full… I think I must like the chaos!
VIE EN ROSE is a luxury skincare line I created and will be launching my first couple of products in the next few months!
I have spent so much time perfectly picking out the best ingredients that science and nature has to offer and formulating this heavenly line. My products truly make you glow from the inside out…
My mission began because I wanted to create a line for the every person. All ethnicities, genders, complexions, and ages… but I really wanted to create the line that I was searching for and could never find. Deeply hydrating, preventative and anti-aging, luxurious, calming, and natural.
I was also sick of my bathroom looking like I was a hoarder from being such a product junkie, because nothing ever actually works! I used to spend all of my money on products, it was bad.
Skincare has always been such a passion of mine, it’s been a hobby since I was young. My mom has always made her own organic skincare and it always fascinated me, like chemistry, all the things you can create with different ingredients.
Also being in front of the camera has really taught me the importance of my skin. Hollywood is harsh on aging and women, and HD cameras are not forgiving! I have fair skin and was a competitive surfer growing up in Hawaii, so I really have to take extra good care of my skin to reverse the damage. I also suffer from highly sensitive skin, causing terrible reactions… breakouts and bumps really do effect your self esteem, sadly.
Also, long days on set with makeup being caked onto my face really destroys your skin. I felt crispy and dull after a day at work and my pores felt sad.
I discovered CBD, which is an absolute miracle oil. I will repeat, MIRACLE OIL. It hits the three main causes of aging: inflammation, dehydration, and free radical damage. It’s hydrating, calming, reduces puffiness and redness, it is high in antioxidants and fatty acids, boosts collagen, and turns back the signs of aging. It’s rare to find something that is ultra-hydrating, but doesn’t make you break out… in-fact it’s great for acne prone skin.
The coolest thing about CBD is that it actually increases your body’s own natural bliss molecule. Your body is made up of natural cannabinoids, like Anandamide – which is the molecule that causes happiness and endorphins, your bliss. So not only does this line make you look good, it makes you feel good!
I incorporate lots of Rose Stem Cells throughout the line, rose everything basically… among lots of other natural antioxidants, vitamins, Hyaluronic acids, and goodies. The smell is so refreshing and clean… and there are no perfumes or other yuckies added.
I only use my own products now, which is kind of awesome that I am my own consumer. It has completely changed my skin.
I think that everyone deserves to feel good about themselves and to sparkle.
Keep an eye out for VIE EN ROSE and follow it on Instagram (@vieenrosebeauty)! I would love all of your support. As you can probably tell, I don’t do anything without my full heart invested, so I know this is the beginning of something truly wonderful. It will hit the market in the next couple of months.
Q: Anyone who is involved in as many projects as you and also finds time for charity work, must have an incredible drive. What keeps you motivated?
A: In my life there have been so many times that I needed help. There is no shame in that. Help, guidance, some generosity… and I didn’t get it. That has always stuck with me. If I can help someone, why wouldn’t I? There is a greater purpose in this universe and I am always on the quest to find it. It’s interesting, because no matter how much I do, I never feel like I’m doing enough.
My eternal motivation and understanding is that no matter what I do or say, or who I present myself to be, I will always be stuck with myself. I always have to be alone with myself, and I will always be the most accurate judge of myself…. And maybe I will be the only person in the end who knows the full truth, but I have to love myself. And self love comes from kindness.
Most of us live in a bubble and it’s so easy to forget about the rest of the world. I look at life, my career, my health, my education, my ability to vote, my family, my freedom of speach, the ability to start a business, to pursue my dreams, to read and to write, to have pets, the access to google something when I don’t know the answer, to have 10 fingers and 10 toes… I look at this all like it is a privilege. It’s a big privilege, I am not owed these things and I will never take them for granted.
I’ve experienced a lot in life, both good and bad, but there is no better feeling than knowing, even in the smallest way, that I can make a positive impact. Even if it’s just for one day, for one person, for one animal… or if I’m lucky enough, to make an impact on the world.
We all have a mind, are capable, and have dealt with life real stuff… figure out what means something to you and find an organization, or start a movement.
No one can say it better than Bob Marley: “ONE LOVE, one heart, let’s get together and feel alright.”
Title photo by Olivier Chatard