Exclusive Interview with Hila Naus- Actress & Singer
Hila was born and raised in Bnei Brak, Israel. She attended all-girls school’s until the age of 18. Hila started acting when she was 17 at Beit Zvi, The School of Performing Arts, an after-school youth program for acting, singing, and dancing where she discovered that she had a gift for singing. At 18 she joined the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) for her mandatory military service and was stationed on the Israeli- Egyptian border as an observer.
After the military, Hila decided to follow her dreams and got accepted to The IMTC, the first Musical Theatre Company in Israel and performed shows such as I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change, and Living in Harmony, which got selected to be shown as a part of the Theatre Fall Festival at Suzanne Dellal Center in Tel Aviv, Israel in 2009.
In 2011, to further pursue her dreams in the arts, Hila moved to New York City to attend The American Musical and Dramatic Academy where she performed in Drama and Musical showcases during her last semester
Since graduation, Hila joined Sanctuary Playwrights Theatre as a core artist, starred in her own cabaret show at the Duplex Cabaret Theatre, was invited to perform songs in fundraising concerts and other events around NYC. She was also cast as Roya in the feature film Appropriate Behavior where she directly worked with the up and coming filmaker Desiree Akhavan (The Miseducation of Cameron Post), and as an ER doctor in the feature film The Closer which won Best Feature Film in 9 film festivals including Manhattan International Film Festival.
Hila was also cast as Antoinette Stephen in the NBC’s Deadline: Crime with Tamron Hall. The episode is focused on the true story that happened in 2011 where Antoinette killed her boyfriend’s wife on his orders.
Hila’s recent film El Cat was accepted to the official selection of the HBO’s Women in Comedy Festival and competed for the best short film in Boston in April 2018.
NY Glam: Tell us a little about yourself, growing up and your passions.
I grew up in Bnei Brak, which is a very religious city in Israel. I went to all girls’ school until I was 18 years old. I started falling in love with the arts and especially with acting when I was 14 years old. When I was 16, I auditioned to Beit Zvi, one of the best youth acting programs in Israel. To my sweet surprise and excitement I was accepted! That was the official starting point of my career. After the program, I joined the Israeli Defense Force for two years. That was a challenging time because I couldn’t pursue acting since I had to protect my country. After my service, I met the person who became my acting coach for the next three years. He taught me a lot and inspired me to move to the states and study at The American Musical And Dramatic Academy (AMDA). I took his advice and used all my efforts to make that move. It wasn’t an easy process but eventually I made it to AMDA, one of the most prestigious musical theatre schools in the country. After graduation I was lucky enough to be offered many performing jobs throughout the years.
NY Glam: What are you currently or have recently worked on?
Recently I have worked on a production that was a crucial part of “Elem”, which is an organization that helps children in distress in Israel. The production, called Elem’s Ray of Hope Gala, was made to portray the work Elem does and how the organization helps youth in distress rebuild their lives. I played a Palestinian girl named Samira which was one of the leading parts.
NY Glam: What made you take this role?
Many reasons. Taking on a role that is completely different than me is a big challenge, and I love that part of being an actress. I also care a lot about children, especially the ones in distress. I have lots of empathy towards them and I understand trauma. This specific cause is close to my heart and having the chance to play such a role is a big honor.
NY Glam: What journey does your character go on in the course of the monologues?
My character, Samira, went through a very difficult upbringing. She left her home at age 11, which is very young, and became an illegal immigrant in the state of Israel. She is now 24 years old and spent most of her life as a homeless person seeking shelter. It was not easy for her and she got arrested many times, mostly for drug related crimes.
During the performance, I had to interact with the audience as my character Samira, the homeless girl. This was very challenging since there was no stage to provide the distance and space from the audience to maintain character. Instead, I was up close and personal with the audience, making conversations with strangers all while staying in character. Definitely a different type of a show.
Elem eventually turned her life around when they offered to help her for no cost, regardless of her situation. To me, the show was so beautiful and we got lots of great feedback and donations to the organization.
Samira, my character, ended up rebuilding her life in a new way. She learned how to trust others and to take a better care of herself.
NY Glam: Tell us a little bit more about this production, what is it about, who else are you working with, and who is the director, producer, writer?
The director of the production is Chen Drachman. She is an actress herself as well as a producer and director. We met a while ago and she knew my acting abilities and decided that I’ll be the best fit for this challenging role.
The rest of the cast were characters that were either members of the Elem organizations or other young adults that Elem helped throughout the years.
NY Glam: What is the most challenging role you have played and why?
I’ve had a few challenging acting roles in the past. Aside from Samira, I played a leading role in a theatre play called “OY!”. My leading character’s name is Hannah who has a younger sister named Sara. Hannah is a conservative and a more traditional character and Sara is much more liberal. Both of them meet on the night on the first candle of Chanukah, where Sara comes out to Hannah as a lesbian.
This role was challenging to me because of my personal orthodox upbringing. Most of my family remains conservative so playing Hannah’s character taught me a lot about myself and about the point of view of my family.
NY Glam: And the most fun one?
One of the most fun productions I acted in was playing for the Blue Man Group. I was chosen to play a character that is completely different than me and got to be painted in blue all over my face and hands. This production itself is known all over the world so working for them was definitely a treat.
NY Glam: Where have you played a lead role? What was the character about?
I have played many leading roles in the past. One of the most significant ones so far is my part in the film El Cat, which got accepted to recognized film festivals!
This character was going through a difficult crisis in her life and was dealing with some struggles. It is a comedy so it was funny to play it at times even though the character had challenges throughout the script.
NY Glam: Describe your biggest accomplishment to date?
I think one of the biggest ones is that El Cat got accepted into the prestigious film festival- HBO’s Women in Comedy Festival (WICF) in Boston. Being a part of such a recognized festival, where people like Paul Feig (American actor and filmmaker who is best known for directing films starring frequent collaborator Melissa McCarthy, including Bridesmaids, The Heat, Spy, and Ghostbusters) and Ada Chiaghana (HBO’s creative executive in the original programming department, working on half-hour series including Los Espookys and Silicon Valley) were presenting and sponsoring, was a big honor. I had the privilege to meet with Ada as well.
I also had the privilege to be invited to the respected film festivals- The International Filmmaker Festival of New York (IFFNY) and for Chelsea Film Festival as an actress. I was interviewed about my career and for IFFNY I was also invited to take a part in the programming, which was a big honor as well.
NY Glam: What other hobbies do you have? Have you ever considered branching out into directing or screenwriting?
I am also a singer. I have performed as a leading singer and a soloist in many productions in the past. Music is very important to me and is the reason I am so drawn to musical theatre. The combination between acting and music is beautiful and amazing to me and I am lucky enough to have the skills to do both.
I have considered branching into directing which is something I definitely see myself doing down the line. I also write a little bit and in collaboration with other writers so hopefully will be able to produce the screenplays I am writing.
NY Glam: If you weren’t acting what would you be doing?
I am pretty sure that I would either be a surgeon or some other occupation in the medical field. I love medicine and thought about pursuing it for years, but I have gotten so many opportunities in the performing arts field that I never ended up doing it.
NY Glam: What’s your goal for this year?
This year I have a few performances lined up with theatre companies in NYC that we’re looking to submit to theatre festivals. I am hoping we will be able to tour with our shows around the nation and potentially internationally.
NY Glam: What is your advice for aspiring actors?
My biggest advice I could give to aspiring artists is to always be consistent and persistent with your work. Things will come around your way eventually if you do, even if it takes time. Don’t give up on your dreams just because someone told you that you can’t or shouldn’t. Keep pursuing your dreams and whatever makes you happy.