Astoria resident starts podcast to highlight the stories of immigrant actors

Photo via Instagram/Actsiders

An Astoria resident who moved to the United States three years ago to pursue acting has started a podcast to share the stories of other immigrants in New York City who are trying to get their big break in the industry.

Ingrid Raison, a native of France, grew up performing in a musical theater group but did not fully commit to her craft until three years ago when she moved to Astoria and enrolled at the Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre.

After graduating last May and meeting other immigrants who are actors, Raison said she was inspired to start the “Actsiders” podcast to discuss not only acting but the challenges of finding success in a foreign country.

“Since then I’ve been confronted with the reality of the industry here,” she said. “I’ve met some pretty amazing people who were like me — uprooted and who decided to fulfill their dreams and trying to make it in the Big Apple and I was fascinated to hear their stories, their journey, sometimes a really harsh and difficult journey.”

Raison was also driven to start the product because of “the current political climate.”

“With everything happening since November I think it’s really important to one up and listen to immigrant stories like you and me trying to make things happen here and who are a positive asset to America and New York itself,” she said.

Currently, she invites actors she has met through productions, auditions and the Neighborhood Playhouse to her house. They speak for two to three hours about what projects they are working on, any challenges they faced and a brief section called open mike where actors can perform a monologue, play an instrument or sing. The interview is then condensed to about 30 minutes.

“I’m very interested in what is their story, what makes it unique but what is their obsession, what are they driven by?” she said. “In a way I think it’s for our community of artists [and] young actors who are living and striving here. They’re all incredibly positive and optimistic about what they do and so passionate about their craft.”

So far, Raison has released six episodes where she interviewed actors from India, Ukraine, Peru, Italy, Israel and Mexico. She is also trying to expand the group of people she interviews and is “trying to move away from the Western world.”

Raison profiles Ram Kanneganti, a recent NYU graduate from Hyderabad, India, about his passion for clowning and his recent project for HBO. Camila Pujol Ochoa, who was born in France but moved more than 30 times as a child, talks about her career as an actor and producer, and Anna Just, who is from Ukraine, talks about her long journey to New York and experience in the 2004 Ukrainian revolution.

She has interviews lined up with actors who are originally from Egypt and Lebanon and is planning to speak with actors who moved to New York from Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Raison hopes to also interview directors in the future and possibly work out of a professional studio.

“There are so many adjustments and different challenges that American-born [actors] maybe don’t acknowledge,” she said. “[My guests] are people who are resourceful, who are not waiting to see what happens, who are incredibly curious and want to share that with people.”

“Actsiders” is available on iTunes, SoundCloud and Stitcher. Raison also has an accompanying blog where she summarizes her conversations.

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