US-based local actress, Bella, a gem in the making Gabriella “Bella” Kouds

Showbiz Reporter

There is a local actress that people need to be on the lookout for as she is destined for dizzying heights.
Going by the name Gabriella “Bella” Kouds, the actress who is based in the United States of America is rising and putting the country’s talent on the map through the various roles that she is playing.

Among many roles, at the moment, she is playing the role of Hamlet in an off-Broadway production of an adaptation of Hamlet. The show takes place in New York at “The Flea Theatre”, a venue that presents primarily new American theatre and provides a platform for film stars to act on a small stage.

Gabriella “Bella” Kouds on set

Before relocating to the US, she had stints at the Reps Theatre in Harare. Her talent was recognised at a very young age as she was awarded an Afdis award for “Best Performance by an Under 16 actor” for her role as Brigitta on The Sound of Music.

Below is a profile of the actress:
Question. Please share a brief history about yourself and your acting career.
Answer. My name is Bella (Gabriella) Kouds. I was born in Harare, Zimbabwe. Growing up amidst the outdoors and greenery, my thoughts and imagination had the freedom to roam. It was easy to observe nature’s magic daily and this helped create imaginary stories constantly. Being the third child often called for sudden or rather automated skills to enable attention or to deter from it – depending on the situation. This sparked the “performer” or “entertainer” in me.

Drama fascinated me and I was a keen participant in primary school, and this extended to theatre classes as extracurriculars outside school. My noticeable ability to create and perform was noted and my family’s support and encouragement to attend improvisation courses and further acting training began.

Q. Which productions did you feature in locally?
A. “The Sound Of Musi” directed by Sue Bolt at the national theatre (Reps Theatre), and “The Crucible” directed by Catherine de Swartd. I was awarded an Afdis award for “Best Performance by an Under 16 actor” for the role of Brigitta in The Sound of Music.

I was on the younger side when auditioning for the play and knew it was a tall order. Thereafter, my journey began and my love for drama was set.

After completing the IB (International Baccalaureate) programme, I moved to New York to train in the performing arts and since graduating, I have played various lead roles.

Q. How has been your acting career on that end (New York)?
A. I have been fortunate with the vibrant activity here. I am playing the role of Hamlet in an off-Broadway production of an adaptation of Hamlet.

The show takes place at “The Flea Theatre” and I feel incredibly grateful to act in this esteemed theatre. I have just wrapped up a short film called “The E’s” which is expected to be out in September.

Q. What are some of the lead roles that you have played there?
A. Here, the previous leading roles I have played have been Eurydice in “Eurydice” by playwright Sarah Ruhl and directed by Ilana Stein. Another is Anna in “Anatomy of A Suicide” by playwright Alice Birch directed by Olivia Songer.

These two roles have definitely been the most challenging, in the sense that Eurydice was a naive, frail, innocent lady to Anna who was a drug addict and suffered from postpartum depression.

Q. Are there any acting greats you have starred with and how was the experience?
A. We have an incredible all-star actor who so generously acted in The E’S. I am not able to release his name until the film’s release, but it elevated the film to a level we never could have imagined. It is incredibly rewarding to work with an actor whose work I have long admired.

Our hair and makeup team are some of the best in the industry, Rebecca Woodfork, our Hair Designer, has worked on Black Panther, Judas And The Black Messiah, among others. We are so grateful so many industry legends took chances on us and graced us with their talent and magic.

Q. What have been some of your highlights in your acting career?
A. When I first acted at Reps Theatre as Brigitta in the Sound of Music, I was awarded an Afdis award for “Best Performance by an Under 16 actor”. This was a moment in my career where I felt a sense of, “This is what I am meant to be doing”. It was more than just going up on stage for fun.

I remember being cast as Marry Warren in The Crucible directed by Catherine de Swardt. This role struck a chord in me that resonates with me to this day.

Gabriella “Bella” Kouds

There have been many learnings. Highlights have been, being recognised at a young age and encouraged to believe in me and become aware and mindful of the stories each of us has and an opportunity to share them.

Q. What do you think should be done by authorities for the local film industry to grow?
A. Adding film to our curriculum needs to be encouraged as well as the creation of competitions, and screenings of local films. Submissions (for actors) also need to be accessible and easy for everyone, even in schools. Zimbabwe’s talent is bursting! Zimbabwean stories are emotive and we have so much to draw from.

Q. Where do you see yourself in the near future?
A. I believe anything is possible. I dream of one day coming back home and participating in the film industry with other passionate Zimbabweans.

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