Thursday, April 18, 2024

WALKING IN HIS FATHERS SHOES, LEADS TO “THE DEAD PLACE”

Written by: Tedfuel

Idris Veliu, is a well-known up and coming Hollywood actor who recently landed the starring role in a major horror film titled “The Dead Place”. Veliu at the young age of 17, has already garnered the interest of many casting directors and Hollywood producers. He has worked with Awkwafina and 50 Cent in several projects and signed a deal to be the worldwide face of Particle, a men’s skin care line. This past year he caught the attention of Oscar winning Producer Steven Spielberg’s people, who asked him to audition for a role in his next film “The Fabelmans”. Veliu was asked to audition for the role that Spielberg based on himself in the film. The competition for the role was tough and Spielberg was only granting auditions to ten actors for the role. Though Veliu ultimately lost the role to actor Gabrielle LaBelle (iZombie, Predator). He also drew the attention of Oscar nominated Actor Liam Neeson (Taken) and his casting team for his new film “Retribution”. Veliu found himself again in a room auditioning for a role with other well-known names in the industry, though this time he made it further down the casting process than when he auditioned for “The Fabelmans”. However, he ultimately lost this role too, when they cast actor  Jack Champion (Avatar: The Way of Water) in the role.

Veliu is new to the industry, but in his first year in the business, he has gone up against actors that have been in the business for almost 10 years. This is something that is unheard of in Hollywood. Usually, actors need to work their way up and possess a lot of credits to get into rooms for these types of a-list auditions. We note that for him to be seriously considered for a role by these influential casting directors and producers is on another level. Just getting into the room to audition for these Hollywood Icons is tough and then on top of that going up against these well-known actors is a lot of pressure on top of that.

Even though he is early on in his career, Veliu has gone up against actors that have had more credits than him, worked in the industry longer than him and been in larger projects than him.  The auditions he has been asked to do put him in casting rooms many times with actors who are well-known and recognizable faces in Hollywood. This to any actor especially to a 17 yrs old actor like Veliu is a very intimidating experience. Actors who lose roles to these actors would be hard on themselves, but Veliu takes it in stride. Every actor always has a process on how they prepare to audition for a role, he prefers to approach his auditions as if he knows he is not getting the role. That way he feels it removes the pressure most would put on themselves in the audition process. Doing this  allows him to be creative with his auditions and push himself as an actor. This process lead him this past year to land his first  recurring role on the British sitcom “Happy Hours”, which currently films in London. Veliu plays the role of Piper on the series, where he and his mates routinely try to get into a pub in London, even though they are underage. The series is being produced by award winning producer Steve Murphy and Darren Kent (Game of Thrones).  

While filming “Happy Hours” he then landed the starring role of Isaac in the upcoming feature horror film, “The Dead Place”. The cast includes well-known A-list horror actors David Howard Thornton (Terrifier, Nightwing: Escalation), Nick Theurer (The Bay), Kathrine Lexi Dali (Transcendence, News of the World) and Suziey Block (High Desert), who will play Veliu’s mom in the film. Steven King once referred to Block as his horror obsession. The Dead Place is about a High School Senior Isaac (Veliu) who is a tough kid, but spirits of the dead he sees on a daily basis cause him to act strange. This ultimately draws him taunting at school by his classmates. Veliu said he was drawn to the role of Isaac, because it was similar to situations he was going through in his daily life at school. He also wants to bring attention to bullying in general for others similar to him that go through it daily at school.

Veliu attributes all his success in the span of less than a year to one of Hollywood’s top Talent Managers, Craig Rogalski, founder of the international talent management agency, CK Talent.  After leaving ICM, where he felt his career was not getting the attention it needed, Veliu knew he needed a change. He heard about Rogalski and his unconventional approach to managing talent and making them successful. He reached out to CK Talent to see if he could get a meeting with him. He knew it would be hard to get a meeting, since Rogalski is known to even turn down A-list actors for meetings and representation.  

He didn’t know how to reach out to Rogalski directly after all he was a 17 year old non-professional actor at this point.  “It was not like you could go to his door and knock on it” – Veliu has said in previous interviews.  He finally decided that he would start at the agency website,  however the site said they were a closed agency and would only accept new talent via recommendation. Despite this, he decided to fill out the contact form on the agency website, even though it said not to use the form for new talent pitches. Veliu outlined his work so far, he ended it with “I promise, I will work hard at this everyday and give it my all. I hope you give me a chance.”  

Rogalski has a large staff that screens all those who apply to the agency and sends him ones that they think he would be personally interested in. Veliu was one among those sent to him in a group of well-known talent applying. Veliu said “ I know everyone tries to get a meeting with him and it was a long shot.” Normally, Rogalski doesn’t represent talent who are not adults as he does not specialize in youth representation (which is a very niche market), but he felt Veliu was different. There was something about him Rogalski has said in prior interviews. Rogalski had the same feeling about Veliu as an unknown actor he signed years ago named Teon Kelley. Kelley is now an upcoming A-List actor, Deadline Magazine called Kelley the Next Generation of Black Hollywood Actors. Kelley stars in the film Bitchass which just won best horror film at SXSW this past year. The film will be released in theaters this coming October. Rogalski is known for having intuition for talent who he knows are going to be successful and he felt Veliu was one of them. Rogalski is very hands-on with his clients and has recently seen two of his clients win best actor awards at the Cannes Film Festival. Veliu has a close mentor/mentee relationship with Rogalski and his parents have said they trust Rogalski 3000% with their son and his career.  Veliu has said about Rogalski: “He is a father figure to me and that means a lot since I am very close to my real father.”

Rogalski said: “When I signed Veliu he didn’t even have proper headshots, so I immediately flew him over to London to get his headshots with British celebrity photographer, John Clarke.”  Clarke’s famous clients include Claire Foy (The Crown), Rege-Jean Page (Bridgerton) and Burn Gorman (Halo). “John does great work and I knew if he shot Idris it would show Casting Directors his potential and that he was serious about his acting career.”- Rogalski

Veliu has done all of this while still attending High School and applying to college. Most actors his age would crumble under this amount of immense pressure, but hard work was instilled in him at an early age. Veliu is the son of immigrants from Albania, he is proud of his heritage especially of his father who fought and struggled for him to have a better life in the United States than he had back in Albania. His father was originally an illegal immigrant once deported, he fought to come back to the US as he knew it would be a better life for his children here. Veliu’s dad illegally crossed into the US via the Rio Grande using a Coyote, much like those stories we hear about everyday on our news channels. Once here he tried to make a life for his family, they lived in low income rental apartments up until his forced deportation back to Albania. After his deportation, he fought to get back here legally, which was eventually granted by the US immigration services and he then earned his US citizenship. When Veliu’s father was deported, his mother who was pregnant with him at the time, had to make a huge sacrifice. Even though she herself was a US citizen, she decided 5 weeks after Idris was born to fly back to Albania, so she could be with her husband. She knew taking her son on a plane just after his birth was risky, but she wanted to be with her husband, the love of her life. She did this unknowing, whether her husband would ever be granted the right to come back to the US and whether she would ever see her family and country ever again. Eventually, his father was granted citizenship and they returned. His parents started a successful contracting business, which has grown over the years and provided employment for a number of US workers.

Veliu is very proud of his family’s history and struggles as everything was not always glamorous or easy for him. English is not his first language, but he has mastered it and become a regular American teenager. Veliu has said: “People see the glamor in what I do but they don’t see the many hours and days it takes to produce something they see for just a few minutes.” He gets his work ethic from his father, who’s original dream, believe it or not, was to be an actor and entertainer like his son. However, for Veliu’s father it would not be the case, he now gets to live out his dream through his son. We can see that Veliu gets his strength and determination from his father. Veliu has said: “Acting is my passion, something inside me drives me to do this, which I think was the same passion handed down to me from my father.” Though his dad never pushed him into acting, he feels a sense of responsibility to his dad to live out that dream his father could never have.

The two of them are very close, inseparable, Veliu is always helping his dad on the work sites when not on set. Their closeness was demonstrated recently, when his father put his work on hold and was there to see his son walk the red carpet at Vogue fashion week in Miami. His father was the one who coached him and drove him to each of his events during Vogue fashion week. Idris’s mom said: “My husband is a proud man, I have hardly ever seen him cry or even tear up, though recently, I saw him tear up when his son walked at Vogue in Miami.” The family is what we hear everyday sold to us as the American dream, Idris and his family are proof that the dream still exists. 

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