Photo by: Vita Cooper
We caught up with Romina D’Ugo who plays the female lead in the indie film I Like Movies which won audiences over when it had its World Premiere at the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival. The film opened in theatres across Canada on March 10, 2023 and also stars Isaiah Lehtinen (Freaky Friday), Percy Hynes White (Wednesday), Andy McQueen (Outer Banks), Dan Beirne (Ginny & Georgia), and Krista Bridges (Republic of Doyle). I Like Movies is set in Burlington, Ontario in 2003 and follows teenage cinephile Lawrence Kweller (Lehtinen) who hopes to save enough money to attend film school at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts.

Romina has also appeared in many TV series including Godfather of Harlem (EPIX), Coyote (Paramount), Designated Survivor (NBC/Netflix), 12 Monkeys (SYFY/NBC), Rookie Blue (ABC/Global), Nikita (The CW), and Nurses (NBC/Global). Romina also choreographed for Margot Robbie and Cara Delevingne in the DC Comics film Suicide Squad.

We asked Romina about her acting career, her character in I Like Movies, and what we can expect from the film. Check out our conversation below.

When did you decide that storytelling and acting were something you wanted to do?

Romina D’Ugo (RD): I’ve really always been an actor. Since I was a little girl, my suspension of disbelief was just so prominent and alive — I fully bought into narratives when I watched movies or played games with friends… a recess round of kissing tag was life or death for me! I immersed myself in my elementary school “Drama Club” by the time I was 6 years old. Memorizing monologues and scenes. Kinda crazy when I look back at it now. I don’t even know how I memorized all that at such a young age, let alone fully embodying roles like Jimminy Cricket and Abu from Aladdin.

Imitating Jim Carrey from Ace Ventura Pet Detective was my party trick at age 7. Acting was the thing that helped me stand out in any artistic endeavour I was studying. Like dance! I was never the most technical dancer but I was the hardest working dancer, and I was a storyteller on that stage. The story was what made the dance worth it for me. The breaking of bones, the bloody feet, the sore muscles, the endless hours of training and discipline. But then I got to ACT IT ALL OUT. Through my body. Through the music. It was the coolest. I think going through life and challenges though, it wasn’t until a lot of healing took place that I could really go deep with my characters. Growth as a person is synonymous with growth as an actor (Stella Adler’s famous words), and I really feel one helped the other to progress and deepen.  

What do you enjoy the most about acting?

RD: There is a moment between “action” and “cut” that feels like flying. That’s what acting can feel like; like an unbelievably satisfying expression of something deep within that comes from somewhere almost otherworldly. Like this immense compassion, understanding, unselfconscious moment where nothing matters except truth, authenticity, and seeing the other person in front of you without niceties or assumptions. It feels like pure love.  

Romina D’Ugo. Photo by: Vita Cooper

What can viewers expect from your film I Like Movies?

RD: I think audiences can expect to run the gamut of emotions. Bring your popcorn and red vines for sure, but also pack some tissue. I think we offer some solid laughable moments, and then sort of trip our way into really vulnerable, universally relatable realities. These aren’t neat and tidy characters; they are nuanced and flawed and beautiful and human. They won’t leave you feeling alienated. I think and hope with all my heart, they will leave you feeling seen.   

What aspects did you like the most about your character in I Like Movies?

RD: I absolutely LOVED (and LOVE) this woman, this character, and how our extremely talented writer/director Chandler Levack, wrote her. And all the backstory gaps I fleshed out for her as she became part of me. She’s someone who, once upon a time, was full of dreams and sparkle and fashion and softness. But life happens, and now she’s trying to be the responsible manager at this local video store, trying to manage her staff, and the store, while fumbling through relationships and self-worth and life. She’s really trying; aren’t we all? She’s not necessarily your smokin’ hot, charismatic, dreamy leading lady; that’s just not who she is. Her life experiences leave her so deeply layered and real, and I think audiences will relate to that. Also, she doesn’t spend her time chasing a male love interest, and she never gets a makeover. Win, win!

What was your first acting role?

RD: My first paid acting role was a McDonalds commercial. I played the granddaughter in this big Italian family that, apparently, loved McDonalds. The song “That’s Amore” played overtop of the image of 10 or 12 of us gabbing and storytelling as we feasted. The closing shot was of my little (8 year old) face chomping down a McNugget as my grandpa strokes my head. It was pretty cute, actually! My mom told me right before I walked into the audition room; “Just don’t stop moving ok?” I have no idea why that was her advice but it worked, as I moved from hands on my hips to my head, walking on the spot or whatever I ended up doing. They were probably like, “this kid’s a weirdo. She’ll be great on camera!”

What advice would you give to people pursuing acting?

RD: I would say allow this beautiful and painful journey be what helps you grow and evolve as a person. I would say the braver you are with getting to know yourself, face what needs healing, and stand in your truth, the more you’ll be able to accomplish what that aching voice inside you wants to express through your characters. And above all, you’ve got to do it for the fun of it. The love of it. That doesn’t mean it won’t unearth doubt and frustration in you as weeks (or sometimes even months) pass without work. It just means it’s healthy to keep re-evaluating your relationship with the craft AND the business of it all. If you feel pulled to write, write. Create content. Nothing needs to be forced but if there’s a call within you to be an actor, it probably has something invaluable and profound to teach you.   


Follow Romina D’Ugo: Instagram

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