There is ability in disability, and the Indian-American film, One Little Finger focuses on that concept. The film, which employed more than eighty people with disabilities, premieres on Amazon and Apple worldwide on November 16th, the National Day of Tolerance.
Your Money Geek recently spoke with Tamela D'Amico, who plays Raina in One Little Finger. Raina is an American neurologist researching music therapy in India.
D'Amico is best known for her role on Disney’s Best Friends Whenever and Amazon’s Englishman in L.A., which she won “Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Web Series” at the Los Angeles Web Series Festival. The multi-talented actress is also a jazz recording artist, whose music has been heard on more than 140 national radio and cable outlets. D'Amico, a New York native of Italian descent, can be heard singing the theme song “Love and the Gun” in both English and Italian for the film Rob the Mob.
Beyond her work in the film and music industries, D'Amico is also a brand ambassador and content creator to many international brands.
Maggie Lovitt (ML): Were you able to work on anything during quarantine?
Tamela D'Amico (TD): Yes, I am always prepping something. I have many development projects under my company banner, so I have been doing all that I can to keep the momentum going there while we wait to learn about production dates for 2021 on several projects.
Early in quarantine, I shot a short film entitled Fever at home, with my fiancé, on an iPhone 11 Pro. It’s based on a nightmare I had. We are both fans of the old Twilight Zone series, so I wrote it, and we shot it to keep ourselves entertained. It is already at some festivals, which is fun. In addition to this, I have had several branding deals, so I have been creatively fortunate.
I have an ongoing collaboration with Hoover. Currently, I am writing in a writer’s room for a TV show that is in development. So I have kept busy, but I am looking forward to my next acting project.
Tamela D'Amico's Fever
ML: Can you tell me a bit about your character Raina?
TD: Raina is an American neurologist in a not so great relationship with her Rockstar boyfriend. He believes she has made her focus on music therapy only to grow closer to him. That being far from the truth, she uproots her life to research music therapy in India at a disability institute when her mentor offers her the opportunity to do so.
She leaves the stresses of her personal life behind and finds herself in a new land teaching children and adults with disabilities through her exact music theories as therapy. When she sees the students are responsive to her theories, she inspires them to challenge themselves through their abilities, and their lives are transformed, having to plan and put on a concert at the end of her time there.
While in her studies at the institute, she meets two students, Den and Angel, who are disabled but want to contribute toward the betterment of society by overcoming their physical challenges. Their lives intersect with Raina’s just when she is struggling to further her research.
Touched by the beauty of the culture and the varying stories of the children with disabilities, Raina’s philosophy and theories about a music therapy change. Through her experience, she understands that balance of mind, body, and soul is vital in realizing life's true value. That disability is a perception, and “ability” is what we believe. She would have never learned that if she had not gone to India and had this particular experience.
Raina heads back to the States after the students have a successful music concert, having grown as a person, with a new concept about music and love. Ironically, I got to take the journey as Raina in real-time. I was a fish out of the water, experiencing India and all of its marvels for the first time. Whatever she was going through, I was, as well.
We have over 80 people with disabilities in the film, most of which are marvelous musical talents. Raina’s worries and joys were also my own.
ML: How was it to film in India? Was that the first time you visited the country?
TD: Filming in India was a delight, and I highly recommend it. I had no idea what to expect, even though I had vetted 20 people who had traveled/filmed there. No one seemed to give me practical knowledge besides “don’t drink the water.” I was treated like royalty by everyone I encountered in India.
I am very well aware that my time there was not typical. I went there as a “Hollywood” person and was truly treated as such. Also, my reps insisted that I was protected at all costs, so I joke that I was in “Actor Jail.” I didn’t really get to be a tourist, but mainly because we had a heavy shooting schedule. I shot in India, traveling back and forth over two years.
This film was my first visit to India, and we filmed on location in Assam and Kolkata. All of my interactions with the cast and crew were lovely. In America, we deal with so many unions in the entertainment industry. I felt like in India, everyone worked until the job was done. If anyone had any gripes or issues, that was definitely hidden from me.
I can’t say that it is any better or worse; it is just very different. What remains the same is everyone's love of the craft. We were supposed to have our premiere for the film in Mumbai this past May, but the pandemic eradicated those plans. I look forward to going back there and linking up with the large cast and crew who have all kept in touch with me and since become like family.
One Little Finger Stills
ML: The film focuses on “ability in disability,” It employed over 80 individuals with disabilities; did you learn anything from that experience that you have taken with you into future projects?
TD: Yes. “Never judge a book by its cover” is a very wise saying because it is true. My costars are amazing talents. Their resumes are incredible. I am not talking about their acting resumes. I mean their actual school/work-life achievements. Great scholars and authors studied and became actors to detail characters similar to their own lives in this film.
ML: What is something that you hope audiences take away with them after watching One Little Finger?
TD: In life, anyone can become disabled at any moment, even you. Disability rights are not to be looked on with charity; this is a Human Rights issue. The film sends a message that has become a movement and a foundation. There is ability in disability, and everyone deserves a chance at their dream. Also, the People-First language should be a standard.
When you speak in this way, you put the person you are speaking about or addressing before their diagnosis, therefore, describing what a person “has” rather than asserting what a person “is.”
ML: Do you have any routines for getting into character?
TD: Every role is different and requires different needs. I demand the highest work from myself when working on a character with experiences that differ greatly from my own life. When I was a kid, I wanted to be a doctor for like five minutes, but I couldn’t even cut an earthworm in science class. So I knew nothing about being a doctor in reality.
Besides the normal google search that I recommend that all actors do about characters' personalities/info, I literally try to jump into their skin. This is a very personal work.
When it came to Raina, I talked to a few neurosurgeons and doctors that delve into alternative therapies. I wanted to understand her mindset of why she was so fascinated by the human brain and why she would step outside traditional medicine. Once on that track, it was easy to see why someone would want to study the brain. It’s fascinating.
In life, I am too much of an empath to take on the medical field. I feel things too deeply and cannot handle seeing someone in pain for long, as I start to take on that pain as my own. I practice meditation, so music as a healing source was already a part of my life. So beyond the medical research, I was ready to play her.
As a performer, I am a student of The Strasberg method, which is probably no surprise, based on the above statement. The Strasberg Method is based on the great Stanislavski, who first questioned: “What is inspiration and how can we evoke the creative mood or spirit?” The basics of that training and coming from a place of truth are what I try to bring into the foundation of my work.
No matter what I do, I see myself as a storyteller first, and next up is how to get that message across physically. Beyond all this, I like to actor games and ask questions about my character or write their bios or come up with a secret they have and tell no one, but put those attributes into my performance.
Playing someone else is not necessarily about removing yourself. As actors, we have to find our likeness in the people we portray, even if it is just a kernel. That way, I can work from a center of truth where I am exactly who I say I am on-screen, and if I believe, then you believe it.
ML: What is something that you always have to have in your trailer on set?
TD: Just one thing? Oh dear, you might be disappointed to learn that it isn’t something wackadoodle like only having one color of M&Ms. What I always ask for first: Wipes of all kinds. Hand wipes, face wipes, toilet wipes. You name it. I am a fan of the wipes! But only if they are biodegradable.
ML: I have always joked that I got into acting because I love set catering. What’s the best meal you’ve had on set?
TD: On my own set, my mother’s catering. People still talk about it to this day. No one cooks Italian food as good as my mom. On a studio set, it would have to be Lobster Rolls, and I am not even the greatest fan of lobster.
I think I was just so impressed that there was so much of it, and it just kept on coming out. To see cast and crew keep going back to the truck for more lobster was an incredible moment.
ML: What are you looking forward to in 2021?
TD: Everything I did not get to do in 2020 but has been planning more travel and more time with family. And oh yes, I just got engaged, so…planning my wedding!