Rosalina Leigh is an ambitious young actress who gained recognition among the indie film goers with her role in Benson Lee’s Seoul Searching. Since this was her first acting role, this must have been a nerve-wrecking experience for Rosalina. Prior to filming, she recorded a casting YouTube video – it was seen by Benson Lee, who later invited her to a live audition in New York – and Rosalina successfully auditioned for the role of Kris Schultz. She spent over a month in Korea, where she experienced a different lifestyle, living among Korean people. Now, she has been signed with Patterson Talent Management and is pursuing her acting career while studying at a college in Canada.
You are an aspiring actress who hails from Ontario, Canada, and your first acting role was to portray Kris Schultz in Benson Lee’s Seoul Searching. How did you find out about the casting for the film?
It was just shortly after I had decided to pursue acting that I came across the casting call for Seoul Searching. My dad likes to take all the credit for me finding this role. He had seen it in the local Korean newspaper and had suggested I audition for it in a way to sort of prove myself.
You went to New York at the age of 18 to do the live audition. How did that go and how was it for you, being in New York City for the first time? Is it true that you wanted to catch a bus to get to the audition?
Haha Benson loves telling that story. Well I had spoken to Benson over the phone after my online audition and he had mentioned they were only hitting the bigger cities to audition people live. I didn’t want to miss out on this opportunity and I knew there were cheap rides to NY on bus from Toronto, so I simply offered as I was willing to go the distance to pursue acting.
And it went beyond anything I could have ever imagined really. The audition was being held in a building on Broadway and even walking down the street surrounded by theaters and the industry was intimidating on it’s own. Once I actually got into the room though I remember Benson and his assistant at the time were both very reassuring and the rest was history. It was just an unforgettable moment in my life and career to have been able to experience that for my first audition.
What went through your mind when you were chosen by Benson Lee to play Kris?
It was mostly happiness and partly shock. It was right after the read-through that he offered me the role. I of course accepted on the spot and was just in a very much dreamlike state as Benson ran me through more information about the project and who I’d be working opposite of.
How easy or difficult was it for you to relate to Kris?
I felt it was quite easy to relate to Kris. Despite the difference in time periods, she – like myself – is someone of Korean descent whom is very disconnected to her culture having been adopted by American parents. Although I wasn’t adopted, I was born and raised in Canada to very North Americanized parents so I am much more accustomed to Canadian culture. I did, however, have to do more research on adoptees and the mind frame and struggle they go through. One documentary in particular Benson had recommended me to watch was “Somewhere Between,” which was a really beautiful film following four different teenage girls whom were all adopted and the journey they go through. It was a great look into the different reactions and emotions an adopted individual experiences when reconnecting with their birth parents and something I tried very hard to convey properly with Kris.
But ultimately what made Kris so relatable to me was the aspect of feeling awkward and shy and looking for your identity, which I think is something we’ve all experienced once as teenagers.
There is a huge debate going on about the lack of racial diversity in the film industry in the USA and UK, does Canadian film industry face the same issues?
There is, unfortunately. Although there are a lot of great people at work trying to cast more diverse actors, especially on TV, the reality of the film industry is very much the same up north.
“She just blew us away. Like, blew us away,” Benson Lee once said about your acting. “She was as good in the audition, face to face, as when she read that script [on video]. I was so excited and happy to find her, because she’s not an easy character to cast.” How does it feel to be praised by the film director himself? This was your first role and the stakes were high.
Honestly, Benson has been an incredible director to have worked with for my first role. He has always been incredibly supportive, he’s very sweet and I feel very honoured to receive such high praises. This film has taken me through an incredible journey that has taught me so much, and I knew the risk he was taking with a new actor like myself. So to know that I portrayed his Kris in a manner that he can be proud of is something I’m very happy about and I’m just incredibly grateful to Benson.
How was it on the set of Seoul Searching? You worked with a few already established actors: Justin Chon, Teo Yoo, Jessika Van and Cha In- pyo. How was working with them like, and how long did you stay in Korea?
I was only in Korea for about a month and a half and I loved every minute of it. It was great getting to work with seasoned professionals. You get to learn so much from them, but the greatest part was that they are all genuinely kind people. The atmosphere on set was always fun with the cast of Seoul Searching, I miss it.
You have had your first taste as an actress in a well-received film production, now that you know how acting looks like, what would be your dream role and what do you feel you would bring to it?
That’s a tough question. There are a lot of different roles that would be so fun to live. I think one of my dreams was always to be a part of a fantasy or sci-fi film in which there is a lot of grandeur with the costumes and sets and being able to experience a world completely different from my own. I would love to just completely immerse myself into something removed from my own life, and I would just bring a lot of dedication to any role I portray in the future.
What have you been up to now? Are you working on any new projects or are you back in college?
I just recently joined Patterson Talent Management so I’m continuing to pursue acting and I’m currently taking an acting class in college as well.
Written by Maggie Gogler
Edited by Sanja Struna
Feature photo: © 2015- Seoul Searching LLC
Photos: © 2015- Getty Images