‘With A Kiss I Die’ Film Re-Imagines ‘Romeo & Juliet’ With A Lesbian, Interracial Vampire Love Story

We’re all familiar with the fated story of Romeo and Juliet, the most famous love story ever told, from renowned author and playwright William Shakespeare. There have been numerous iterations of the classic tale on the stage, on the small screen and in film. While we don’t think we will ever tire of seeing such a beloved story come to life in different ways, we’re even more interested to see how artists and the creative world put a fresh and unique spin on the story.

That is exactly what director Ronnie Khalil has done with his latest film ‘With A Kiss I Die’, turning the Romeo and Juliet story into a modern lesbian, vampire love story starring a lead character of color, no less. Filmed on the gorgeous Greek islands of Mykonos and Santorini, ‘With a Kiss I Die’ tells the story of Juliet Capulet (of Shakespearean fame) who is plucked from death and turned into a vampire. She is forced to live all eternity without her sweet Romeo. Now, 800 years later, Juliet meets a young woman who captures her heart again.

But Juliet’s new family, headed by a blood-thirsty patriarch, disapproves of the pairing. Juliet must once again choose between love and family obligations, terrified that repeating her past mistakes will lead to even more tragedy. Actress Ella Kweku plays Juliet, a character that has historically been played by white actors and absolutely kills it (pun intended!) in this part.

We spoke to her about this modern take on a classic tale, the significance of having LGBTQ and minorities represented in front of and behind the camera, and what she hopes audiences will enjoy most about this film. But first, watch the trailer:

Tell us a bit about your background – where you are from and how you got into acting.

I was born in Canary Islands. My father is from Ghana and my mother is British. I’m the youngest of three siblings.
I always enjoyed being on stage and performed in local groups around the island. I also did my Ballet examinations by The Royal Academy of Dance in London.
Growing up in the islands was a lot of fun but I also felt at a very young age that it was too small for me. I wanted more. As soon as I turned 18 I bought a flight ticket to Miami, without telling my parents, and soon got signed to a model agency.

I was also part of Spain’s Next Top Model. I was in the show up until the last week but apparently the board said I didn’t represent the Spanish people because of the color of my skin so they didn’t let me go through to the grand finale.
In 2013 I was contacted by a manager in Madrid who asked if I was interested in acting. She mentioned they had a role for a black girl but no black leading ladies in Spain. I didn’t think about it. I flew out immediately to audition and meet the director. I landed the role and a few months later I was filming a Sony pictures with big Spanish Stars, Mario Casas and Belen Rueda.

How did you first come across the script for ‘With a Kiss I Die’ and what attracted you to the story?

The cinematographer asked me to read the script because he’s dyslexic and had to make a decision if he wanted to work on it or not. I read it and asked my cinematographer if he could ask Ronnie Khalil, the director, if I
could produce it. He asked Ronnie, but he didn’t ask about me producing. He asked him to audition me. At that moment I wasn’t even thinking about acting. I had a bad experience with the first movie I did as I found it hard to get out of my role so I wasn’t looking to get into a drama.

My cinematographer, Jorge Valdesiga, basically pushed me to audition. “Just audition, you wont get it but it will be good practice for a different role in the future”.

The film is a very modern twist on the classic Romeo & Juliet story – a lesbian, interracial vampire romance. Why do you think this film will disrupt what audiences typically think of when they hear Shakespeare or “romance” films?

Well, as you already mentioned it has elements that no other Romeo and Juliet movies have. Our Director decided to do the continuation of the most famous love story ever told so it’s about Juliet’s like after her Romeo has died. Not only is she converted into a Vampire and forced to live eternity without Romeo, after 800 years she falls in love with a female.

We’re super jealous that you go to spend time filming on the Greek islands Mykonos and Santorini! What was that experience like?

It was amazing. I felt like I was in summer camp once again. With all the good and bad, drama and laughter. It was pretty epic. The scenery was absolutely beautiful and we got to move around a little. We visited Athens, Santorini, Mykonos, you name it. It was a wonderful experience, filled with sea food platters and fresh squeezed orange juice and iced coffee.

Why do you think ‘With a Kiss I Die’ is relevant today during our turbulent political times, when we are seeing such regressive sentiments toward the LGBTQ community as well as racial minorities?

I think now more than ever it’s important for the LGBTQ and minorities to stand together and support each other. We have all come too far to let our voices be silenced now. There is no going back. I am proud to contribute to progress and diversity with our film ‘With a Kiss I Die’.

How can a film like this potentially skewer narrow Hollywood tropes and open up doors for more diversity?

I think studios and producers are scared to take risks, especially when it comes to casting, which is why we see so much whitewashing in Hollywood. It’s left to the indie filmmakers to break the old mold and show that films about LGBTQ and minorities work and make money. It is up to us, audiences, to vote with our dollar on for diverse content. The scale will tip when diversely cast films start gaining traction in the box office and all the online platforms.

What are some of the core themes of the film that any audience member could perhaps relate to, regardless of where they come from?

The loss of a loved one, feeling isolated, misunderstood or alone. falling in love and falling out of it. Forgiveness and second chances.

What do you hope audiences will take away from watching the film?

I just hope it helps to keep an open mind about our differences as individuals and how great these make us. The world would be absolutely boring if we were all to be the same. Can you imagine? What a horror show. Whether it’s our sexual preference, religion, the color of our skin, social status… the most important thing at the end of the day is that we enjoy our time on this earth and that we do it surrounded by those we love.

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