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FROM PRADA TO NADA

Characters and Casting
Producer Gigi Pritzker recalls, "When I first got the script I was immediately attracted to the characters. They are really well drawn – quirky, sympathetic and different. I loved the relationship between the sisters, Nora and Mary, and all the other women in the movie. As to the film's romantic side, Pritzker adds, "I don't think this is a fantasy love story. The realism is another quality that attracted me to the project.”

"Casting the film was magical,” states Pritzker. "The actors got along so well with each other that, as a result, we have a great ensemble cast. The fact that it was both a Mexican and American crew and cast really worked. It gives an authenticity and a flavor that make this a very unique film.”

Director Angel Gracia feels the same: "The casting couldn't have been better. All the actors brought so much to their roles and gave me so much input with regard to their characters.”

Rising young star Alexa Vega (Mary Dominguez) agrees with producer Gigi Pritzker as to the contemporary nature of the story: "Do love stories like this still happen in real life? Absolutely!” She continues, "Mary is a role that I've never played before and it was really exciting to be taking on something completely different. I really liked Mary's progression as a character because she starts off as kind of a know-it-all from a wealthy family – very materialistic – and then she's thrown into a world where Prada doesn't matter anymore – where it's more about having your heart in the right place. Mary's a Mexican girl, but she's never had to embrace her roots before, not until she moves in with her aunt in East L.A. There she starts to learn what really counts – her own value and the importance of where she comes from.”

Vega continues, "We had an idea as to who Mary was: she was the spoiled one. But she was also a good person, and we didn't want to lose this. She needed to be more than just one-dimensional. Angel's direction plus being able to rehearse with Camilla and Wilmer prior to filming, really helped me find the character.”

Camilla Belle (Nora Dominguez) explained her character: "Nora's a law student and very much focused on her future and career, and has decided to put off the idea of love, relationships and men for another time in her life. Then Edward comes along and really throws her for a loop. She tries to juggle both while she decides if she's going to go with her heart or with her mind. This is really Nora's dilemma throughout the film.”

Nicholas D'Agosto explains where his character comes in: "Edward is a young up-and-coming business lawyer in Los Angeles. When he meets Nora he falls in love with her despite his sister's objections. Over time, Nora inspires him to defend and work for low-income families as a gift to the community, which is when he begins to realize what he wants to do.”

Belle adds: "What attracted me to the role of Nora is that she's emotionally rich. I also got to explore her comedic side. She starts off totally studious, but the more that love comes into the picture, the more she becomes aware of her emotional side. The overall experience of playing Nora and being part of this film has been really special. The cast hung out together every weekend during production and we have actually become friends.”

Alexa Vega had a similar experience: "Camilla and I got along great, we really bonded - something that doesn't happen too much in this business - but we had a lot of fun pretending to bicker like real sisters on screen. But the bonding helped add a real specialness to the sister relationship. With Wilmer, we really needed to make sure that this was a relationship that built, because Mary just despises Bruno at the beginning. We had to find little things about Bruno that Mary would ultimately find sexy. He and I talked all this through. It's not just about practicing lines together, it's about making sure that we were heading in the same direction.”

Wilmer Valderrama, who gained worldwide recognition for his role on the hit television comedy, "That ‘70's Show,” describes his "Bruno” as a "misunderstood cat.” "Bruno used to be involved with the gangs – kind of a bad kid,” he explains, "but the movie initially creates a misconception about him. Sure, he's definitely edgy – someone who can talk back – but later you find out who he really is.”

Valderrama explains what drew him to the project. "I love the original story and it was such a multi-layered role. Bruno's relationship with Mary is really hilarious, and I think my experience with both drama and comedy gave me insight into creating a balanced character, one that could be true to himself, true to his streets and still be funny. ”

"Bruno is an interesting guy,” muses Valderrama, "because he went from being a gang member to embracing muralism. His back-story is that a woman called Judy Baca, who is a legendary Los Angeles muralist, mentored him. She's responsible for some of LA's most historic and culturally significant murals, and she inspires Bruno. Through her mentorship, he's ultimately able to mentor other kids.”

Valderrama found shooting From Prada to Nada to be one of the most gratifying experiences of his career to date. "The film has a lot of heart and soul, and as actors we were able to create likeable characters that were disarming enough so that you really care about their personal journeys. The film is an exciting take on a world that's organic to our culture. The definitions of love and relationships are reflective of our Mexican heritage.”

Adriana Barraza, an Academy Award®- nominated actress for Babel, plays Aunt Aurelia. She says of her experience, "my character, Aurelia, is so wonderful. She's got a really dark and typically Mexican sense of humor. She tries to show reality to these beautiful girls – a reality without money – and teach them the importance of emotions. I wanted to bring realism to my character as well. She is a tough woman in a hard world, but she also has a great heart which is typical of so many Mexican Americans.” And on a slightly more serious note, Barraza adds, "The fact that we were working with a crew that was part American and part Mexican symbolized for me how people from different cultures can successfully live and work together. Our differences, when we resolve them, can bring us closer together.”

Kuno Becker, who plays dashing teaching assistant Rodrigo, explains his role in the film: "Rodrigo is a rich guy from Mexico City who now lives and teaches in Los Angeles. And he uses his knowledge of books and poetry to seduce a lot of girls. To prepare for the role as a literature teacher, I read some Federico Garcia Lorca to help me get some insight into Rodrigo.”

Becker continues, "The story's not just funny or sad, but it has a lot of different ingredients that combine for a really satisfying experience. The movie addresses many issues, and makes you think about what's really important in life: money, yourself, family, relationships, love, and betrayal – what it means to be human.”

Alexa Vega remarks: "The sisters learn so much through the love and heartbreak with all the boy issues. Love is chaotic and crazy, but that's what makes it exciting.”

"I believe that loves happens between all types of cultures and peoples,” weighs in Nicholas D'Agosto, "and that oftentimes it's those strange combinations that make love special.”

Producer Linda McDonough comments: "I think everyone is looking for companionship and romance, and Jane Austen is timeless because those are the themes she writes about.” "Ultimately,” concl

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