I recently got the chance to talk to Sonya Balmores about her role in ‘Soul Surfer’. Here, Sonya talks about the film, her love for Hawaii, and how she got into acting…
Hi Matt, thank you for the interview. I hope the UK is touched by our film. God bless you! Sonya.
Hey Sonya. Thanks for taking the time out to talk to me. ‘Soul Surfer’ is going to be released in UK cinemas on 17th June 2011…what is the general story line surrounding the film? I understand it’s based on a true story?
Yes, ‘Soul Surfer’ is based on the true story of Bethany Hamilton. She is a Kauai surfer who was attacked by a tiger shark on Kauai’s north shore when she was 13. She lost her left arm but miraculously survived despite losing a ton of blood! The film is about her faith in God, her determination, and her love for surfing. This terrible experience could have ended her surfing career…when she was 13 we all knew (I grew up on Kauai surfing too) that she was going to be one of the top women surfers. When that kind of stuff happens it usually turns a life upside down, but not Bethany, she is resilient. She is inspiring and her film definitely captures that.
Tell us a bit about the character you play in the film…
I play a fellow surf competitor named Malina Birch. She surfs against Bethany and gives her a run for her money…my character is not based on a real person but some of the events that I take part in actually happened, like the ending. You’ll have to see the film to know what I’m talking about. I loved playing Malina, someone’s got to be the baddie once in a while, and I’m glad I had the opportunity.
The film stars AnnaSophia Robb, Dennis Quaid and Helen Hunt – what was it like working on-set with them?
It was amazing working alongside them. I didn’t have major scenes with Dennis or Helen, but watching them work was a treat. Everything they do looks effortless, the same goes for AnnaSophia: she’s a pro on-set and wise beyond her years but at the same time has a quirky sense of humor! We had a lot of fun working together and she even has the surfing bug now.
A user on IMDB, OneWayFilms2000 – has said – “Soul Surfer is an inspirational film for the entire family about overcoming obstacles and turning tragedy into triumph.” – would you agree with this?
Absolutely! I don’t have kids yet but honestly I have no idea how parents get through tragedies concerning their children, let alone without strength from God. Family is a big deal in Hawaii and the Hamiltons are a beautiful example of how aloha (love) can get you through the worst. On another note, the guys will appreciate the surf action and I’m sure there will be a new generation of surfer girls rising up. Hawaii and surfing looks so good on the big screen!
Since the film is all about surfing – in your opinion – where are the best places to surf in the world?
Hands down Hawaii and Tahiti. Hawaii, it’s my backyard! Mostly sunny and warm! Tahiti, perfection. The downside is that it’s pricey to get to and long paddles out if you don’t have a boat. I like Bali and California too but I dread cold water and crowds. I really want to surf in South America one day…that’s on the list of things to do for sure.
Let’s talk a bit about you Sonya. What made you want to get into acting in the first place?
I loved TV and movies as a kid but I never thought or said “I want to be an actress.” I’m pretty sure from a young age I wanted to be a gas station attendant, then an astronaut, an anesthesiologist, esthetician, journalist, magazine editor, and finally in high school an architect. Even though I was (and still am) a nerd with glasses I followed my big sis into modeling when I was about 12 going on 13. My print agent put me up for TV shows that were on location in Hawaii. I booked a few speaking roles and enjoyed it more than modeling! That experience gave me the guts to audition for my high school’s musical and although I had one line as a dude, I knew I loved telling stories. So I just kept reading for parts and eventually booked ‘Beyond the Break’ which led to being a part of ‘Soul Surfer’.
What advice would you give to people wanting to pursue a career in acting?
Be the best you can be and if you move to LA, be the tougher version of you. Don’t try to be what “they” say you need to be, especially us women!! The package is going to fade away, no matter what product or outfit we put on, the inside stuff is where your talent is and beauty will shine on for years and years.
You were on a TV series called ‘Beyond The Break’ – unfortunately we don’t have it in the UK, but I’ve heard it’s quite good – what was it to be part of that show?
It was a blast! I’m so thankful for it too because it’s led to many great things, including ‘Soul Surfer’. ‘Soul Surfer’s director Sean McNamara and his business partner David Brookwell created ‘Beyond the Break’ and directed a few episodes as well. We shot on Oahu’s west coast, surfed during lunch break, tormented the local hotel that we lived at, and the entire cast and crew became super close. It didn’t feel like work and we had a different director for almost every episode so it was a great learning environment for me.
What does a Sonya Balmores day usually consist of?
Besides emails and Facebook….I usually raid my sister’s kitchen for left overs, coffee, and snacks when I babysit her two-year old. If I don’t go to the library to write I hit the beach or clean my house. Part time I teach fitness classes and full-time I try to cook my husband a good meal.
What’s coming up for you in 2011?
I’m volunteering at a surf camp next month in California. Walking on Water runs it and Bethany and AnnaSophia will also be there. I want to see more local Hawaii stories on the big screen so I’ve finished a first draft of my first screenplay, so stoked! I’m considering a screen writing class at the local college later this fall as well. As for acting, I’m looking forward to auditioning for ‘Hawaii Five O’ this coming season, it’s been a really great year for Hawaii and I’m glad I’m home to enjoy it.
Thanks for the interview!