TAKING A STAND: Hazle's tough-cookie detective leaps into action in this scene from the provocative film.
SERIOUS actors are constantly on the hunt for fresh opportunities to challenge themselves and grow artistically. For Stephanie Hazle, who’s done everything from big-budget stage musicals to print and TV commercials, a great opportunity came with the female lead (and a chance to work behind-the-scenes) in Unbound, a well-made 30-minute film that adds fuel to the debate about shielding vulnerable girls from sexual violence and other forms of abuse. Hazle feels very strongly about such issues. The 29-year-old actress-activist sits down with TALLAWAH to discuss the film’s message, her life in the arts and her plan to support victims trying to move forward.
TALLAWAH: You kicked serious butt in Unbound, playing CISOCA detective Mia Richardson. What made you want to be a part of the film project?
Stephanie Hazle: The subject matter is one that’s very dear to my heart. Sexual violence against women is something I feel strongly about. The director David Johnson is a very good friend of mine, and he already had this idea of us working together on a project. I’ve always envisioned myself in different kinds of roles, and this one proved quite a challenge.
TALLAWAH: Indeed. There are some truly devastating scenes that Mia has to endure. How did you get through those moments? What pulled you through?
Stephanie Hazle: I tried my best to envision what a potential victim would go through. I’ve heard stories about women who’ve had similar experiences, girls who’ve had to interface with these traumatic situations. So I think I was able to put those together and do my own investigations about what it’s like to be in that kind of abuse situation.
TALLAWAH: You’ve hit the nail on the head. Unbound is laden with provocative themes. Are the Jamaican authorities doing enough to combat child abuse and protect vulnerable young girls and boys?
Stephanie Hazle: I think the situation is grave and it’s vast, because it’s a commonplace issue. It’s rampant. So it’s a difficult task for the various entities to meet the need. I wouldn’t say they are not doing enough, but the needs are so great. But I think that, as civilians, we all have a role to play to mitigate and reduce the problems we are seeing. Some of these organizations are under-staffed. In our schools, the teachers need to be better equipped. But in whatever capacity you work, you can play a role.
TALLAWAH: We’ve watched you morph into a formidable leading lady of the Jamaican stage, and now you’ve branched off into film. How do you feel about your artistic growth? Are you pleased?
Stephanie Hazle: I’ve always wanted to venture into film, so when this opportunity came I saw it as an opportunity for growth and exploration. I’ve been doing commercial theatre for the last 20 years, and I’ve realized that as an actress and theatre practitioner you have to be creating opportunities for yourself. Those opportunities where you’re called for a part or a role is offered to you are few and far between. Working on Unbound, I got to be a part of the behind-the-scenes team as well, and I was really pleased to be a part of the creative process. I’d love to do more of that.
TALLAWAH: You must have been shaken by the recent passing of Doug Bennett, who mentored so many of you, young rising talents at the Jamaica Musical Theatre Company (JMTC).
Stephanie Hazle: I was very close to Mr. Bennett; we were friends. The last time we spoke was two weeks ago. He had just come back from Cayman, and I was to go and see him. His passing was definitely a shocker, because he wasn’t seriously ill. Many of us are still grieving. At JMTC, he used to put on concerts and awards shows for us. He gave us something to aspire to. His aim was for us to aspire to greatness. It helped me; I can definitely say that much.
TALLAWAH: Looking ahead, what are you most excited to do next, artistically and otherwise?
Stephanie Hazle: More movies that provide wholesome content. I want to help create products of excellence that have a different message. That’s my aim as far as being in the arts is concerned. Outside of the arts, I want to establish an organization to help restore girls who have been victimized. That’s the major thing on my horizon right now.
TALLAWAH: After playing a protector of defenseless young girls in Unbound, do you see motherhood in your future?
Stephanie Hazle: Yes, of course. (Laughs). I’m the eldest of four, so I’ve always played the protective role. I welcome motherhood when the time comes. But marriage first. And I’m sure I’ll be like a mother to many girls I never gave birth to. I see that in my future as well.
> Review: Unbound weaves a captivating mix of crime and punishment