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Travina Springer Talks ‘To Live and Die and Live’, Creating Family On Set & ‘Ms. Marvel’ – Sundance Interview

The talented Travina Springer continues to make waves in the acting world. Over the last few years, Springer has solidified herself as one to watch, having portrayed characters in shows such as Life in Pieces, Strange Angel and recently playing fan favourite Marvel Comics character Tyesha Hillman in the Marvel Cinematic Universe series, Ms. Marvel.

Springer’s most recent work can be seen in To Live and Die and Live, currently screening at the Sundance Film Festival. Directed by Qasim Bashir, To Live and Die and Live is a drama is an emotional testament to the astonishing power that a community can provide in a cruel world, as well as a love letter to the city of Detroit–something that Springer touches upon in her interview with us.

Springer shared with us what it was like to work on the diverse casts of To Live and Die and Live and Ms. Marvel, as well as her experience working with Qasim Bashir, the places she had to tap into as an actor (specifically for To Live and Die and Live) and what she hopes audiences will take away from the film.

Check out the full interview with Travina Springer below:

Travina Springer
Travina Springer. (Photo by Kim Newmoney)

Could you tell us a bit about your experience filming To Live and Die and Live and creating a rapport with your co-stars?

Travina Springer: Yeah, I had a really wonderful time filming this in Detroit! It was actually my second time doing a film out there. And it was really such a beautiful experience working with a black cast and a majority black crew. That was the first time that I had an experience I think like that. And I feel like it was just the medicine I didn’t realize I needed. It was really wonderful to be around people who just get it. And there was an ease, and it just really felt like family off the bat. And it just made it much that much easier to tell honest stories and play with each other and go off each other’s energy. Because we all got along really well.

In addition to that, what was it like being directed by Qasim Bashir for the film?

Springer: Yes, working with Qasim this year was like an absolute dream! Actually, I told him the other day that I had been wanting to work with him for years. So when he asked me to do this film, I was just thrilled, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. So he was really, really wonderful to work with. He also trusted his actors a lot and let us play a bit. You know, we had things that we were working with on the script and on the page that we use, but we have the opportunity to take risks and make our fun choices. And he made it a very safe environment to do that. So, I really enjoyed working with Qasim.

I will also say working with him–he’s such an artist and a humble and vulnerable director. He’s just really great to work with, and he’s patient and really just allows things to unfold. I’ve never worked with anybody who has his eye, his brain and how he sees things. So, it was like really, really cool to see how things manifested on the screen. But yeah, I just wanted to make sure I put out how dope Qasim is as a director and cinematographer. I think another thing to take away is that we worked mostly with a lot of Detroit locals and a lot of crew from out there, and it just highlights how much talent is there in that city. And I think that was really special to experience as well.

To Live and Die and Live deals with some heavy themes; what places did you have to go to or tap into as an actor for your performance?

Springer: You know, I think a lot of this stuff was there on the page. And I drew from my own experiences with grief and heartache. Just knowing what the story is and my relationship with Mohammed and Khaled, and just thinking about what that experience would be like losing a parental figure. And I think I just was able to tap into a very honest experience with grief and pain and also what it feels like as a sibling as well. So, what it feels like to be in a family dynamic, and you know, be very honest with your brother or your sister in a way that other people may not be.

And I think that again, with the casting and the directing, it made it very easy for us to just kind of play off that and feel like a family. And I think I just thought like, ‘I’ll keep it real with my own sibling and my parents.’ I was able just to bring that experience, I think, to it well.

Travina Springer. (Photo by Kim Newmoney)

What do you hope that audiences take away from the film?

Springer: Yeah, a couple of things. Another character in the film is the city of Detroit, and I think people can take away how wonderful that city is and what it means for people who are from there. I think it was just so beautifully shot and incorporated into the story. So, I think just highlighting aspects of the city, I think people can take away the universal thing of just struggle, grief, and, you know, our lead deals with addiction to alcohol and drugs. And I think this is an experience that is pervasive in a lot of communities. And it’s not really ever often highlighted in Muslim communities.

And I think, you know, taking away that we all–despite our cultural, ethnic, or religious backgrounds–collectively struggle with things, and I think if we can just take away that’s a universal thing. And also that we all have the ability to be resilient and make positive changes in our lives if we rely on our community, our families, or our chosen families. And also, you know, all that dope, beautiful Black talent on and off the screen!

You’re talking with geeks, as you know, and we love all things comic books. You were recently in the awesome Ms. Marvel show as Tyesha, so can you just tell us a little bit about your time working on that series?

Springer: Ms. Marvel was so much fun! It was another really cool experience because that was also another diverse cast. I mean, it was almost entirely a South Asian cast and a diverse crew as well. I was directed by mostly people of color and women, and women cinematographers. It was just amazing, and it was another set that felt like a family. And all the stuff that came off on screen reflected how close we all were off-camera, and it was really a fun time, you know? And I got to work with my friend Saagar Shaikh, and yeah, I had a lot of fun playing Tyesha. I think she’s such a beautiful character, very beautifully written in the comics, and I was just really honored to get to bring her to life for Ms. Marvel.

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