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Local actors have roles in ‘Fruitvale Station’

By From page B1 | July 12, 2013

FAIRFIELD — There are some familiar faces in “Fruitvale Station,” a film that focuses on the last day of Oscar Grant’s life.

Grant was shot and killed Jan. 1, 2009, at the Fruitvale Bay Area Rapid Transit station by BART police officer Johannes Mehserle.

The movie opens in limited theaters Friday and nationwide on July 26. “Fruitvale Station” won a Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award for U.S. dramatic film at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival.

Filming was done in the Bay Area last summer.

Vallejo native Ruben Rivera plays a character who fights Grant and his friends. The scene is about five or six minutes long, Rivera said. Filming went on for several days.

Rivera, who works in Vacaville, was called by the casting director to be part of the movie.

“It was an honor to be selected,” he said.

Filming was tough, not only because of the story, but because it was extremely hot and the shoot was inside a BART train.

People were getting sick from the heat, Rivera said. But he kept going.

It was also difficult because some of the filming was done at the BART platform where 22-year-old Grant was killed.

On July 27, the actor, who also sings, will shoot a new music video.

Three local actresses also appear in the film, in uncredited roles, as witnesses.

Mikkel Simmons, who is gearing up for Solano College Theatre’s summer production of “Macbeth,” is one of them.

She joined a Bay Area casting site and found that filmmakers were looking for extras. The role was unpaid, but “we got food, drinks and lots of experience,” she wrote in an email to the newspaper.

Her first day of filming, July 15, 2012, was her 22nd birthday. Her first scenes were shot in a BART warehouse. Then, it was on to the Fruitvale station.

“It was really chilling to think that we were at the location where this incident went down,” she wrote. “But as actors I think we all took that and channeled that emotion in the work.”

Simmons has been featured in many local theater productions and earned a 2012 Arty nomination for best supporting actress in a drama for her role in “Distracted.”

Cynthia Seats, who also appears in the film, spent 14 years at Vacaville’s KUIC 95.3 FM radio station. Since leaving in 2009, she’s been doing acting and voiceover work.

“I remember the story in detail,” she said. “I was doing news at the time it happened.”

Re-enacting the event was intense.

“I play it over in my head,” she said of the scene centered on Grant’s death. “It causes you to rethink your life.”

The heat was tough on her, too.

“There’s nothing like being in a closed-up BART train in the middle of July and being dressed like it’s December,” she said.

She was on set for several days for a scene that is a small portion of the movie.

“You might want to tell the projectionist to slow down the picture so you can see me,” Seats said, in jest.

Fairfield resident Arlene Barshinger also plays a witness. The story wasn’t really familiar to her since she was living in North Carolina in early 2009.

She heard that the filmmakers were looking for extras and decided she wanted to be part of the movie.

Barshinger spent six days shooting, two of them during the hot days. The remaining four were from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. on consecutive nights.

Like her fellow co-stars, Barshinger has not seen the completed movie, and she doesn’t plan on seeing it anytime soon.

“I’m not a big movie theater person,” she said. “I’ll probably see it when it comes out on DVD.”

Barshinger is the host of her own radio show, “N the Queue,” on Blog Talk Radio.

In April, she was featured in People magazine’s Most Beautiful Issue after being selected as a finalist in the magazine’s second-year nationwide search for natural beauties of all ages.

She also works as a photographer.

“The problem with this (movie) industry, you never know when the next paying job will be,” she said. “A lot of us have to work 9-to-5 jobs.”

Reach Amy Maginnis-Honey at 427-6957 or [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/amaginnisdr.

Amy Maginnis-Honey

Amy Maginnis-Honey

Amy Maginnis-Honey joined the staff of the Daily Republic in 1980. She’ll tell you she was only 3 at the time. Over the past three decades she’s done a variety of jobs in the newsroom. Today, she covers arts and entertainment and writes for the Living and news pages.
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