Woodland Warrior: Dita Tantang on playing Lyanna

Woodland Warrior: Dita Tantang on playing Lyanna

IMG_1963 2Ren’s life will change forever when she crosses paths in the forest with the fearless knife-fighting fugitive, Lyanna. Portraying this all-action woman is Dita Tantang.

Tell us a bit about your background in acting and fight performing.

I fell into acting all backwards! I actually started with the fight performing and began training on a whim because a friend of mine at drama school was telling me how she learnt to punch people yet no one got hurt – this “stage combat” module sounded intriguing. I was doing a Computing degree at the time and had never heard of it before, so naturally I Googled it, found a course on it, and impulsively blew part of my student loan on it! Unsurprisingly, everyone else in my class were actors so I felt a little out of place with a huge learning curve ahead of me. Nevertheless, I was absolutely loving it. Learning stage combat was like learning something secret, it’s the illusion of violence, fundamentally it’s magic.

A year after training, I nabbed my first swordfighting job. That’s when I realised I could actually make something from fight performing. I continued my training in other weapons and became good enough to join fight teams.

One of the fight teams I was on was the Independent Drama fight team, which is actually run by Ronin Traynor (action co-ordinator for Ren). A few years ago I was helping him out with fight scenes on a sci-fi series called Chronicles of Syntax, where the writer told me that they were re-casting featured roles and they had to be good fighters. I successfully secured a part, relished in the entire process of script-reading, rehearsals, blocking, filming, and wanted to do more. After that, I started auditioning for more acting roles to build up experience, confidence, credits… and thus began my journey in acting.

What attracted you to Ren and the role of Lyanna?

I really enjoy the fantasy / Lord of the Rings-esque genre, especially with the sword fighting and the mystical elements. When I read Lyanna’s character breakdown, I literally thought, “that’s me” or at the very least, that is someone I want to portray. Lyanna is strong-willed, a survivalist and a warrior. She is smart and she is relentless, always pushing forward for a better life. Another aspect I really like is that it’s a small role, yet pivotal and important – I love the intensity that brings to a character, it’s almost like they have a limited amount of time to get their point across and when they do, it will change everything.

What was it like to put on your costume and step onto set on your first day?

Like being a superhero! It was empowering and at the same time just squeefully frickin’ cool. My costume had many parts to it which had to be put on in a certain order. And once my costume was on, my hair had to be braided then the hairpiece attached. And then make-up! It was a long process, but bit by bit I could see myself transform into this bad-ass woodland warrior and when it was done, BAM! I felt like I owned the forest! I absolutely loved my costume and I really wanted to keep my dreads. The team were fantastic, very patient and diligent with all the details.

 

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You had many action scenes; did those require a lot of rehearsal?

Yes, though as with most projects, we are always against the clock for fitting in rehearsal time. Ronin held workshops with the fight team and myself to work out choreography. I suggested that Lyanna would be a fast and agile fighter because of her size, defeating her enemies using sneaky attacks. So Ronin armed me with knives, that can easily be concealed, and which also double-up as tools for survival, rather than a giant broadsword.

Once we had the moves down, Ronin put together a pre-visualisation to have an idea of the action and give opportunities to change things during rehearsals so that we would be more efficient on set. After that, it was just practice, practice, practice, wherever and whenever possible. I also find that understanding why my character is doing certain moves helps me remember – like breaking dialogue down in a script. I love breaking choreography down and finding the story arcs in that. Actions become instinctive rather than an arbitrary sequence you have to remember.

Then on set, it was very important to run through the action scenes as mine were all in the forest, with very rough terrain, sometimes wet leaves and I wasn’t wearing trainers anymore! You had to be aware of your surroundings; know where there’s a dip in the ground, remember the tree root sticking out, clear some rocks from the vicinity. You could know the choreography so well, only for it to go wrong because you slipped in the mud.

What was the most challenging sequence for you?

There was a filming day when we had some of the fight team and extras as Kah’Nath soldiers on set and we had to plough through a lot of choreography. Unfortunately prior to that shoot day, I had dislocated my shoulder not even doing any fighting! My physio had strapped it up for me and luckily it could be hidden by costume, but I had such limited movement it was so frustrating, a mental challenge as opposed to physical. After being so excited to have some epic fights, it was infuriating to realise it had to be “dumbed-down” because my movements were now so restrictive. Stuff like this happens though, you just have to make the best out of what you’ve got. Kate, Ronin and the fight team were really supportive and that was reflective of the whole experience on the Ren set – it was a lovely environment to work in.

And the most fun?

Running in the forest! There was something very liberating about being in character, full costume and hair, running through the woods. It’s a buzz to have that sense of urgency you get when you’re being chased. Being on a film set, you get to run for your life in a safe environment!

Can you sum up in a sentence or two what viewers can expect from Ren when it’s released later this year?

An original high-quality fantastical series, filled with action, tension and mystery that surrounds an average village girl called Ren. Or just watch the trailer, go and watch the trailer now!

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