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Actress Aleksa Palladino is petite and doe-eyed, deeply thoughtful and emotional. With a number of independent films under her belt, including the acclaimed Manny & Lo, Aleksa is about to enter a new stage of her career. Aleksa stars in The Huntress, a USA Original Movie premiering March 7th. Based on a true story, Aleksa plays Brandi Thorsen, teen daughter of famed bounty hunter Ralph "Papa" Thorsen. When her father is murdered, Aleksa sets in motion a mission to continue her father's work, and in the process, avenge her father's death. 

I spoke with Aleksa in the living room of her Greenwich Village apartment, drinking coffee and enjoying cookies her grandmother had made. Before long, we found ourselves exploring the emotional issues every teenager confronts.

Aleksa Palladino: When I finished Manny & Lo, I was really confused about what I really wanted to do. I was still a kid. And so I took some time off. You know, I didn't have an agent yet. All that stuff. So it wasn't like I was really committed to it. It was kind of just, all right, let me figure things out for a little while.

And I think it was probably when Manny & Lo finally came out. So that's like the summer of '95, I think, that I finally was, like, all right, this is what I want to do.

And I sort of had a clear understanding of how I could express the things that I feel I need to express -- just being a human being, through film. And really understood how to use that. Because to me film has always been the most powerful form of expression.

And I did not want to be involved with it, unless I could treat it as a powerful form of expression. And so then, you just get really sort of intimidated at first by the business, because auditions are a nightmare when you're not used to them, and stuff like that. It's like you really feel the competition and nothing else.

But as you get work, or even just good comments, good feedback, you start to think of it more as trying to get a job. You get to know what they're looking for.

But really, you have to care less about that, and just try to do the most honest performance that you think you can possibly give. And if they don't like it, then they don't get your honesty, you know. Or the way that you're giving it. Because it's rarely, you know, because you're not good for the job.

Dress by Patricia Michaels.

Gina Pia Cooper: That's an interesting point you're making. That acting is about the honesty you bring to the character.

Aleksa Palladino: Yeah. That's something interesting, too, that I really see as I continue to grow up, and just become more honest with myself. Just because I know more of it, you know. I think about a lot of young actors that you can kind of feel that they're sort of limited in playing where they are in life.

And as you get older, it's sort of like, your spectrum becomes a little bit bigger. And so it's easier to understand things, and play things that you're not. I find when people are young, they really have to play things that they can understand. And that's such a small world.

Leather dress by Carla Dawn Behrle.

Gina Pia Cooper:  And of the actors that you admire, or consider great actors, would you say that the quality that they possess is the honesty that they bring to a role?

Aleksa Palladino: Oh yeah. It's like Jennifer Jason Leigh. Anything she's been in, she has been in, you know. You just see her soul.

And that's how you get things across. Anything that has to be said, has to be said with pure honest emotion. You can really spread an idea, or a message, beyond the audience's brains. It's the emotional reaction that really changes you, and makes you realize things. That's when it becomes a real art, this business, is when it's talent and self expression matched with communication.

Gina Pia Cooper: And when you've gotten a part, what is the process you go through to learn your character, and become your character, or however it is that you personally do that?

Aleksa Palladino: It's kind of different all the time. Like I never went to school or anything, so I don't really have a technique. I'm really into psychology, you know; always have been. I've always sort of been over-analytical to a fault. And so I kind of like look at my characters psychologically. I just understand them that way.

Like, what is it that they really want. And what are their fears, and what are they trying to hide underneath everything.

Gina Pia Cooper: You analyze them.

Aleksa Palladino: Oh yeah, totally. I sort of analyze everything.

Gina Pia Cooper: Now tell me a little bit about the character you play in The Huntress.

Photo by Julie Dennis Brothers for USA.

Aleksa Palladino: She's this 19 year old girl, okay? Brandi Thorsen. The movie starts off with this sort of amazing quick-paced shot. It's one shot throughout the whole thing, and sort of dances around the house as it dances around these peoples' lives. And you're introduced into the average day at the Thorsen's house, right? And it starts with an argument between me and my father, you know about me getting my own apartment and blah blah. And then we're fighting, and then he goes into his car. The car explodes; he dies.

The last thing the character says to her father is "I hate you." And that's what she's left with. So I think, right off the gun, just that guilt -- you know, fuck, like I could have said anything. And I said, you know, "I hate you." God, you know?

And so Brandi wants to revenge her father's death, and go find the men who killed him, to repent for her own action. And so she's definitely a tough girl. She grew up around this bounty hunter. She's got the exterior down. She's got her sort of persona nailed. She knows how to shoot. She knows what to do with guns; she's not shy.

But inside, she's still a child. She's still 19.

Gina Pia Cooper: And she has something really horrifying happen to her.

Aleksa Palladino: Yeah, exactly. And so I think the movie kind of shows her in this sort of limbo, between being the mature adult that she wants to be, and the scared child that she really is. And how at that age it's kind of like you're literally playing dress-up with emotions and things like that.

You're trying to like be responsible for things that you know no one can ever really deal with properly. The death of your father is going to be painful no matter how old you are. But I think when you're younger, you assume the position to be tough, or almost too weak to even show your weakness, you know, because you're that much more intimidated by it.

So she's just very scared, and hides it with a really strong suit of a no bullshit type of girl. But you know she's scared.

Leather jacket by Carla Dawn Behrle.

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