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Rooks: Actor Spotlight on Kaleal Cerafici and Kirsten Bornkessel

Updated: Jul 4, 2023

​Every week, we're featuring interviews with the cast and crew of Rooks. This week's spotlight is on actors Kaleal Cerafici and Kirsten Bornkessel.

Kaleal Cerafici portrays Percy, Kirsten Bornkessel portrays Annie

Kaleal and Kirsten are both newcomers to the Accented Films gang, not that it took them long to settle in. They were both welcome additions to the cast and showcased their incredible talent every day on set. Kirsten, a full-time student at UNH, professional singer, and member of the Air National Guard, responded to a casting call last summer for the role of Annie, and after meeting with Director Robert Maynard, she decided Rooks would be a fun opportunity. Kaleal, meanwhile, was recommended to the production after another actor had to step away from the role. Kaleal is a podcaster, boxing trainer, and amateur kickboxer who was drawn to the character of Percy by, in his words, “the allure of those sweet fight scenes and chance to play a more dramatic and dark character, who’s got some goofiness to him! The character is a bit of a loner found friend, so I basically used the high school experience to motivate my feelings. Everyone knows the feeling of being alone, and being scared of being alone again. So it was a big driver for Percy’s motivations.” Kirsten plays opposite Kaleal in many a scene: “I tried to not only bring a little bit of myself into the character, but also think about the power she brings to the table and how I could represent that on film.” One thing they agreed on: working with the cast and crew was a blast. “Everyone was such a fun and friendly artist, whether they’d call themselves that or not. There’s a lot of love because this isn’t a studio production. Everyone is there because they want to be. Everyone is just welcoming and fun.” Turning to some specifics, we asked them to discuss their favorite moments from set. In terms of locations, it was a no-brainer for both of them… a scene set on top of a frozen lake. Says Kirsten, “Even thought my toes were numb, I definitely loved filming out on the lake. I feel like I got most into character in that moment, and it was just a super cool shoot!” Kaleal added, “It was absolutely frigid, but I think it was a beautiful scene you won’t find almost anywhere else.” While Kirsten’s particularly excited to see the fight scenes of the film on screen, Kaleal zeroed in on a specific part of his performance that he’s most excited to see: “I really enjoyed the moment where I had to imitate Jamie’s character, who is a woman, and had to use her mannerisms. That was a fun one for me.” As always, we closed by discussing favorite movies and filmmakers. Kirsten’s favorites are I Am Legend and Andrew Garfield. Kaleal’s are Everything, Everywhere, All At Once and The Karate Kid, and he counts Quentin Tarantino and Jackie Chan not only as his favorite filmmakers, but also as sources of inspiration: “Tarantino is a true artist… he wants to express the story in the clearest vision he has. I try to let that freedom come through in all my work. And Jackie Chan… his comedy and fights made me think he was a superhero, and I wanted to be like that. Funny, cool, and a complete legend.” In addition to Rooks, you can catch Kaleal in two projects from FQ Studios: Agent Stone (which was nominated for 4 awards and won 3, and in which Kaleal played a big part in the choreography of the fights), as well as the currently filming Map Heist with Forest Quaglia. Kirsten has been cast in two projects by Brooke Grondin, the TV series The City of Children and the film The Culled. All of her projects are listed on her website.


​See Kaleal as Percy and Kirsten as Annie in Rooks, premiering at The Strand in Dover, NH, on December 17. On Amazon Instant Video December 23.

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