In time for the release of the movie ‘Divorce Bait‘ we have interviewed Justin Berti. Read about his role in the comedy movie and the wise advice on stretching:
I would like to start off, if you don’t mind, and having read your bio, by asking you about something that is not related to movies – we will get to that part for sure – I am curious, who gave you the nickname ‘The Yoganator’?
I gave myself that nickname. I was hired as a yoga instructor at a dance studio in Tokyo, Japan. For the studio opening, each teacher needed to do a performance to show off their classes. I came out fully dressed in a white jacket and white jeans with two yoga mats attached to my back, Bono-like sunglasses, and resistance bands in my hands, and I moved like a robot to the theme song of the movie The Terminator. So my movements were very rigid and strong. At one point in my performance, the theme song fades into a techno song, and I metaphorically shed my endoskeleton, “my clothes,” and stripped down to my underwear with body paint all over and commenced doing a very dynamic yoga flow. I taught Yoga in Japan for about seven years. Taught a style called Yogic Arts, created by my master Duncan Wong. Yogic Arts is a beautiful mix of Ashtanga Yoga, Martial Arts, and Modern Dance. I wanted to create a fun persona and make Yoga more dynamic, fun, and fitness-oriented rather than static poses and meditation. So the nickname Yoganator came about with the idea that most of our bodies are like machines, tight and rigid, and that we would use Yoga and fitness to destroy that endoskeleton and become these strong and flexible athletic warriors.
Tell us about your upcoming movie, “Divorce Bait,” which will be released on December 9th. It is a comedy about a marriage that takes a surprising turn, in which you play one of the leads together with Vannessa Vazquez. You must be thrilled with this movie, being a comedy and having a lead role in it. Tell us about your character in it and the story behind it.
Marco Laguna! Now, if the last name of this character wasn’t Laguna, I probably wouldn’t have auditioned for him. I lived eight years in Laguna Beach, and when I saw the name “Laguna,” it made me stop as I was scrolling through acting submissions. Then I read the breakdown and needed a reel of a level-headed husband, an everyday kind of man because most of the characters I play are too extreme and evil. Little did I know I was auditioning for a fantastic comedy. The character of Marco would be best explained as a modern-day Ricky Ricardo but without the accent or musical ability. Instead of being married to a zany redheaded Caucasian woman, he is married to a hot-blooded, firecracker of a Latina, Alexis Laguna, who is played by the hilarious and talented Vannessa Vasquez. And when you mix the machismo and passion of Marco and the fiery emotions mixed with some craziness of Alexis, you get some good comedy grounded in the reality of how a Latino couple might act in the situations presented to them in the film.
Some say comedy is one of the most difficult genres to bring about successfully, both for the writers and for actors. Clearly, you have a knack for comedy, as you have shown in ‘Divorce Bait.’ Have you worked in comedy before? Say, onstage or in film?
Well, thank you very much for the compliment. I get my comedic chops from my family. There have been plays and musicals spanning all the way from high school to my last stage performance in The Full Monty, where I was able to show off my comedic talents. But mostly, I’ve been able to show off my comedic timing in commercials. It always confused me that I would be booked 90% of the time in humorous commercials, yet when it came to theatrical work, I was hired 90% of the time in dramatic projects. So to be cast in my first romantic comedy as one of the leads was a huge win for me! Though the real comedians were my sidekicks in the movie, Estanley, played by Joseph Nunez, and Bob, played by Greg Roman. These two comedians deserve the credit for laughter in our scenes.
It is interesting because you have a second movie premiering on Lifetime Movie Network on December 9th too – “Secrets in the Building.” Though, this time around, it is a thriller. Tell us about this film and your role in it.
I play the role of Josh, an attractive man masquerading as a contractor for the condominium, who sets out to romance Michelle. Following the death of her husband, Michelle (Shemeka Wright) and her daughter, Norah (Kia Dorsey), move into a new condo for a fresh start. They quickly discover that their fresh start has become a new nightmare. Now when playing a role like this, it’s so much fun to tease or fool the audience whether I am the cause of the nightmare or not. So it’s a balancing act I have to do as an actor, not to give too much away in my performance, let the audience like me or maybe doubt me, but like all good Lifetime thrillers, you have to wait to see it to find out what Josh is really fixing in this building.
I am not an actor, so I do have to ask, is there any genre you feel most comfortable working in? Or do you not have any preferences?
I have no preference whatsoever. To be working on a project that is fun, written well, has depth, or that is pure fantasy, as an actor, I love to try it all. For a state of mind preference, a well-written comedy is very light on the soul and usually leaves you feeling good throughout the day. Anything that is written well, meaning if I can see the whole scene unfold in my mind just from reading the script, then I am all for it!
Well, you have certainly been busy, which is great. Can we look forward to seeing you in other movie projects in the near future?
I still have two Lifetime movies that have finished filming and should be released next year. Both are thrillers where I have a leading role, so I am very excited to see those. Also, I recently shot one episode of The Wild West Chronicles, where I had my first chance playing an actual sheriff who lived in Colorado during the late 1800s to early 1900s. The man was Casimiro Barela, who later became a politician and served on Colorado State Senate. That episode should be released in the first half of 2023.
Before my time is up, I have to ask you about Yoga, given that you have mastered it. I, as is the case with many people in this “post-covid era,” have lost the “geist” for exercise, and I am not quite up to the task of running a marathon any minute now. I am under the impression Yoga is a good practice to “get going,” so to speak, is it not?
If anything, Covid should have taught us that the “geist” for exercise should be instilled in us from now on. Yoga is an excellent practice for anyone, from top-performing athletes to someone recovering from injury to someone dealing with anxiety, and the list goes on and on. You are only as young as your spine is long. Stretching is medicinal and can be done everywhere. Yoga is a connection between body and mind. And is truly an amazing way to start your day.
What advice would you give to an absolute beginner in Yoga practice?
Start now! Everyone is a beginner at Yoga because every day, you are not the same as you were yesterday. If you don’t stretch the body or move the body each day, we as humans do not become more flexible or stronger from long periods of stagnation. Stagnation is the key word here; stagnation of your body and or thoughts is a road to DIS-EASE. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of videos on YouTube for beginner yoga or morning mobility routines that are free. Start with 10 minutes for two weeks and then gradually work your way up to about 30 minutes of some form of yoga or mobility work a day. Trust me; you will be a new person.
Thank you so much for your time, Justin! It has been an absolute pleasure talking to you, and we look forward to seeing more of your work in the future.