As one who considers herself an avid Signed, Sealed, Delivered fan, I do my best to always take notice of every guest star in each newly-released film. And the most recent installment, From the Heart, was no exception. As the young Becca in this film, Arielle Tuliao made a significant impression on me as well as many fans of this film. I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to ask her some questions about her time with this remarkable film as well as other memorable moments in her career.
What inspired you to get involved in the entertainment industry?
I caught the “bug” at ten years old when my mom enrolled me in singing lessons. I was a pretty insecure kid, but I quickly fell in love with performing. I participated in school musicals, but while I was in high school, it didn’t really occur to me that I could make a career out of it. There was no one in my family, immediate or extended, that had pursued anything in the entertainment industry, and I had decided early on that I was going to become a psychologist.
When I was in grade twelve, the seed was planted in me when the co-director of the school musical, Daniel Johnston, came up to me at the end of our final performance and told me to consider it. It really hit me two years later when the director of the college musical echoed the same sentiments. I had already been accepted into the Honours Program in Psychology at the University of British Columbia, so it was a scary idea, but I thought, “Hey, maybe they know something I don’t.” I declined the academic offer, got my first headshots, and enrolled at Vancouver Film School. Turns out they were right!
What kind of training have you received for acting?
To start out with, I did a sixteen-month acting program at Vancouver Film School because I knew absolutely nothing about acting on camera or the industry. Once I graduated, I took a few workshops at Actors Foundry, but I’ve learned the most from Jeb Beach, now Jeb Beach and Associates. That being said, being in rehearsal/on stage/on set is the best education!
Do you have any other talents besides acting?
Singing is my first love! I’ve been performing since I was eleven. When I was sixteen, I auditioned for Canadian Idol and made it to the Top 100. It was an amazing experience, but one I wasn’t ready for, and it definitely left a negative imprint. I ended up giving up singing for a while, but (as one can probably tell from my social media) I’ve slowly been making my way back and am falling in love with it all over again. I’ve done parody songs for the Vancouver Canucks and the Seattle Seahawks, and I’ve recently had the honour of singing the anthems for the Vancouver Whitecaps and the Seattle Sounders! I’m a huge sports fan.
I also grew up dancing all sorts of different styles from hip hop to ballroom. I studied a bunch of different styles at PraiseTEAM Studio, a dance/theatre arts ministry in Surrey, B.C. Tap dancing is my favourite, although I’m not very good… Yet!
Please tell us about the short Her Story for which you won a Leo Award.
Gladly!! Her Story is the story of a young girl who is being sex-trafficked, and struggles to cope with her slavery. It is a 30-minute short film with no dialogue, a lot of action, and great storytelling. It is written, produced, and directed by Aaron Au and Titlecard Pictures.
I consider Her Story the start of my film career. It came at the tail end of a run when I was playing Dorothy in The Wiz, and I knew I had to decide between film and stage because I didn’t have the energy to pursue both at the time. I remember everything from being in the waiting room of the first audition to the very last scene we shot, and at the end of the shoot, it was a no-brainer I wanted to pursue film and TV. Director Aaron (Au) and Producer Dylan (Thomas Collingwood) even helped me find my current agent after filming!
I want everyone to watch this film and see the story it tells because it’s a sad truth about the world that somehow still manages to exist… but please don’t watch it with your kids until you’ve watched it first.
What about If I Stay? I noticed you are listed on the cast list. I’ve not seen it, but what was the experience like of being in a major film as opposed to a TV show or film?
When I started filming for If I Stay, I had only done a couple of small parts and student films. Every day was a dream come true, and I had quite a few days on set, so I really learned a lot about set etiquette and my role in the movie-making machine. Working with the super talented people I got to work with was an incredible bonus!
That experience really defined how I work on set today. With the experience I have now, I can say the noticeable difference is that TV show/movie sets are much more fast-paced, and for good reason. That being said, the professionalism and passion of the crew remains the same and is my favourite part of being on set… aside from working in front of the camera, of course!
Please tell us how you got the role in Signed, Sealed, Delivered, and what your experience was like working on that show.
I auditioned for the role of Becca some time toward the end of last year. I had never watched SSD at that point, so I made sure to watch a couple episodes the night before. Right away, I knew I found my new favourite show! I was in the middle of SSD for Christmas when my agent gave me the call. Needless to say, I was thrilled.
First days are always pretty nerve-wracking, but when I arrived at the trailers on day one, I realized I would be working with my friend Michael (Bishop), who was also the first assistant director on Her Story; it was an immediate comfort to have a familiar face on day one. It didn’t take long to get comfortable – from my costume fitting with Valerie to daily sing-alongs in the hair/makeup trailer, every day was a joy because every person was committed to creating a loving and supportive environment.
Once we got to set, it was straight to work. There were definitely challenging times, but there were a lot of laughs, too. For me, having just finished a Story & Leadership workshop for Women Directors (widc.ca, check it out), it was an absolute pleasure to work with Lynn (Stopkewich) and watch how she led the crew. Often I’d find myself quiet and in awe just watching the crew work!
Hands down my favourite thing about my SSD experience is that us younger versions–Mackenzie (Cardwell), Nick (Purcha), Austin (Obiajunwa), Grace, and myself–bonded so unbelievably well. We would carpool, have lunch in my trailer, and even hang out outside of set. None of us had ever met before!! The four of us recently bumped into each other at an audition, and too many laughs were had. Lynn(Stopkewich) , Martha (Williamson), Jackie Lind, and the rest of the SSD decision makers did an amazing job with casting and I am so grateful to now have these loving people in my life.
As a new person coming in, what were your impressions of the SSD cast and Martha Williamson?
Because we were in the “Letter Scenes” (not sure if they’re actually called that, but I dig it), we never got to interact with the main cast, but sometimes we would cross paths at the trailers. I briefly met Kristin (Booth) in the hair/makeup trailer, and she is such an upbeat, bright person who was very welcoming! I also definitely swooned a little when I saw Eric (Mabius) leaving set as I was arriving. I didn’t get to meet Geoff (Gustafson) or Crystal (Lowe) unfortunately, but I heard great things about them on set!
Martha is definitely something truly special, and there is a story I want to tell because it affected me positively. We were filming out in Chilliwack, and by the time I arrived the crew had already spent most the day outdoors in the rainy, windy, absolutely unpleasant weather. I, myself, had been having an awful day, so there was just overall grumpiness all around (clouds do that, don’t they?). We were about to start shooting some shots for the montage scene when she called for everyone, and I mean everyone, to meet. I had no idea what was going on as I had never experienced this before, and I totally thought there was a possibility we were all in trouble. COULDN’T – BE – MORE – WRONG. Martha took the time to thank the crew for their hard work despite the weather conditions, to encourage everyone, and to remind everyone to be safe driving home. There’s so much more that was said and I get emotional just thinking about it, but I’ll never forget how she took that time to bring everyone together.
What about the SSD fans (POstables)? Have you ever known a fan base like these fans?
I love the POstables!!! I’ve interacted with a few fan bases now, and there is no denying the passion fans have for the things they fandom. What I love about the POstables, and I think all Hallmark fans may possess this, is that I can definitely feel and see your unconditional love. There’s no “OMG please RT me” kind of messages, just a lot of love and appreciation and gratitude for the stories that are told… and it’s so easy to fall in love with a fan base that supports you like that. And to be honest, it makes me a better fan for the things I fandom for too. I am blessed to have gotten to experience it, even for one movie.
What do you appreciate most about the SSD series? Anything specific stand out? Or what do you appreciate most about working for Hallmark?
Hard to pinpoint what I love most about SSD, because I love the writing, the characters, the humour, everything! This was my first time working for Hallmark, and it was definitely one of my favourite experiences in my young career. I hope I get another opportunity one day.
Any other upcoming works you can mention?
I recently booked a small one-episode gig in an upcoming TV show, but I don’t think I am allowed to say what it is! I know one day my career will be at a point where I will have one gig after another, and until then I am extremely grateful for all the support I have today.
I feel this may not be the answer you are looking for, but here goes: if there is anything else you love as much, do that instead. If you want to do it because one day you’ll make a lot of money or be famous, this may not be the career for you. That may happen, but I mean, there’s over two million actors on IMDb alone, and how many of them do you know of? Simply put, there is so much rejection and sacrifice required that if you aren’t self-driven or able to handle criticism, more than likely this industry will eat you up and spit you out.
That being said, if you have a love of storytelling, of playing, and of collaborating with passionate, artistic people, then my advice to you is this:
1. Find and appreciate those who love you and support you through the dark days. Keep them close.
2. Never stop studying your craft, and surround yourself with people just as, if not, more, passionate and driven than you.
3. Most of all: persevere. Persevere, persevere, persevere. God’s timing is perfect, it is our job to be ready for it!
There is no doubt in my mind that this gifted and vibrant young lady is headed in the right direction with a phenomenal career ahead of her. Whether she ultimately acts, sings, dances, or does all three, she has a sensible head on her shoulders that will ensure her success no matter which direction she heads. Furthermore, she has the right attitude, and her humility, pragmatism, and faith are sure to carry her far. So be sure to watch out for Arielle and follow her on all her social media accounts, lest you miss any of her upcoming news.