During these unseasonable, mild winter days, actress Tara Westwood and her partner (prominent NYC sports orthopedic surgeon Dr. Andrew Feldman) continue to enjoy surfing near their Amagansett home. They spend a lot of time there and like to dine at: La Fondita, Nick & Toni’s or Hamptons Chutney Company. “We get our morning coffee at Jack’s in Amagansett,” she adds.
Despite COVID, 2020 was packed with activities for Westwood.
She has had very good parts in Distemper, a new television series, and two movies, Deck the Heart and Blackjack: The Jackie Ryan Story.
Last year became an opportunity where she was able to continue expanding her career beyond acting and into production. She met up with North Fork TV Festival winner Elias Plagianos and together they created the first episode of a new show, Hudson Falls. They lined up name actors Richard Kind, Jessica Hecht and William Sadler. But COVID meant that most productions—and most of the entertainment industry—were shut down. Tara reached out to the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) to develop COVID guidelines, standards they could deploy to proceed with their production, while offering protection for everyone.
All sorts of groundbreaking accommodations and considerations were implemented by Westwood in order to follow proper protocols. “For example, everyone on the set had to obtain a PCR test, which at the time did not have rapid turnaround,” she says. The production members got tested, then quarantined, and stayed flexible ready to shoot, when SAG gave their approval.”
Westwood explains how “only eight people were on the set to keep the risk minimal. The actors did their own makeup and hair. The actors used social distancing while the camera tech and editor shot at angles to compensate for the limitations the actors faced with body language and close encounters. We used a new technology camera manufactured by Canon because it is extremely light, has cinematic auto-focus versatile for certain shots where we were otherwise restricted.” She admits that “this process was frustrating, perhaps tense because we were committed to safety. But I welcomed this special challenge which meant a lot of extra effort and details. We shared great satisfaction that we were able to succeed.” Westwood says that “Since last summer’s shoot, I have received calls and inquiries from other productions seeking info about our experiences.”
Some other recent movies for Manitoba-born Westwood, who modeled for several years in Paris before her transition into acting, include The Grudge (which grossed $50 million), Detours, The Karma Club and guest appearances on many television shows such as Law & Order, Bull and The Good Wife. Westwood acknowledges that she enjoys horror films, including her starring role in The Honeymoon Phase in 2019. “I would like to do more of them, especially with a psychological ride.”
In today’s show business, Westwood believes in the importance of actors broadening their capabilities into production, not relying on acting as their vocation. “I thrive on mentoring people with ambitions to become professional actors. I pose to them: Can you write? Can you handle lighting or set design? Can you produce?”
Westwood is the mother of two sons in their 20s, one living with her in Amagansett, the other in Dallas.
Amidst COVID, Westwood is proud of launching Let’s All Read, which is easily accessed on YouTube. There is no money involved. Westwood volunteers with her acting colleagues like her Hamptons neighbor John Leguizamo, actor Griffin Dunne and others for storytime reads, geared toward small and young children. There are over 100 Let’s All Read editions. “It’s my way to help out parents and family members to keep children mentally engaged and stimulated!”