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It’s clear 2015 was the year the world finally sat up and took notice of Brie Larson and rightly so, got more of Saorsie Ronan and Alicia Vikander, and welcomed back Taraji P Henson into our lives in the form of Cookie. Now, as 2016 kicks into gear, there are a few more underrated actresses I think it would be good to see get their dues in the coming months. There are many names that could be included, but for now, my picks are:
Tessa Thompson
She was a modern-day Adrienne to Michael B Jordan’s Rocky in Creed – where she played the actor’s love interest, Bianca. But this was no paint-by-numbers girlfriend she created. No, Tessa brought a millennial edge to the role, conveying what it’s like to want to support your boyfriend but also put your energy into your own passion too. Her roles in the films Dear White People and Selma, where she played a rebel-rousing campus DJ and an unsung civil rights heroine, respectively, show she isn’t afraid to tackle topical films. But she’s a singer in a band too, so she knows how to lighten up too, as anyone who’s witnessed her perform live will attest. Her dancing skills were on display in her pal, Janelle Monae’s music video for Yoga, and, aside from just wanting to hang out with her in general, it would be good to see Tessa be more front and center in the film world. At least she gets to stretch her comedic chops a little this year, in War on Everyone, alongside Alexander Skarsgard.
Danai Gurira
Ever since she joined the cast of The Walking Dead as Michonne, the bow-wielding woman we’d most like to have as a BFF during a zombie apocalypse, Danai Gurira has consistently delivered on the thrills and character development we’ve come to love from our favourite TV personalities. Just like her character, she’s smart, strategic and intensely dedicated to her craft. Read any interview will her and you’ll see that. But her moving portrayal of a traditional Brooklyn-based Nigerian immigrant struggling to have a baby with her husband in Mother of George was criminally overlooked. She is always on the go – after a sold-out run Off-Broadway run at the Public Theater last fall, her play Eclipsed, starring Oscar winner Lupita N’yongo, heads to Broadway this year, plus she already has another play lined-up for the middle of 2016, titled Familiar. She’s conquered theatre and TV, but she deserves to leave a solid mark on film, and perhaps, now, with the news she’ll take on the role of Tupac Shakur’s mother, Afeni, in a movie about the troubled West Coast rapper, she may just get her chance.
Rebecca Ferguson
It’s said even Tom Cruise knew this 31-year-old actress was the true star of Mission Impossible – Rogue Nation. He’s shared the screen with a number of attractive co-stars in the spy series, but Rebecca held her own in a way no-one else quite has, with her impressive motor-cycle riding and swimming skills – both displayed in scenes that literally took our breathes away. The Swedish actress, who began acting at the age of 16, worked in the Starz period drama The White Queen, for which she earned a Golden Globe nomination, and caught the eye of Cruise who had watched the show. In MI, She played the character of Ilsa Faust with the poise of a classic starlet, like Veronica Lake or Ingrid Bergman, but added a kick-ass attitude from today’s era to her. The willingness to do her own stunts and be challenged is something Rebecca takes with her into her next movie, Florence Foster Jenkins, in which she’ll star alongside Meryl Streep, in the film about an opera singer who’s tone deaf. And while she’ll no doubt sizzle in the Cold-War era film, Despite the Falling Snow, we can’t wait to see her as new-wife Anna in Girl on the Train, based on the hit book, which is due for release in October this year.

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Running in NYC is never boring, that’s for sure. Whether it’s running past expressive graffiti tags or just-as-expressive truck drivers, the city keeps you quick on your feet, quite literally. It’s that ethos that keeps Orchard Street Runners (OSR) going, and it’s why founder Joe DiNoto likes to bring people together, in the hopes that they too, like him, will discover new things about the city they live in. Or not. When you run with OSR, what you put in is what you get out.
I met Joe the first time I ever went to South by South West, at an Instagram printer. As he printed stickers of my pics for me, he told me about OSR, suggesting I drop by one night to check it out. I was in the very early stages of starting to run, and said I would, one day. Well, one day ended up being a year later, when a break-up led me to my Tuesday nights becoming wide open. I’ve since found myself getting faster as a runner, thanks a lot in part due to the group that runs with OSR along one of the infamous know-the-route routes (and somehow I always still get lost!)
This video was shot on-the-go, up and over the Manhattan Bridge, one of the regular routes, and a favourite of Joe’s. He started Orchard Street Runners six years ago and hasn’t looked back. Every Tuesday night (unless there is a hurricane or other such weather catastrophe in NYC), he leads a run out of the Lower East Side. From Day 1, it’s been out of the surf/coffee/hang store Lost Weekend, which, as of this week, closed down. I know I’m not the only one who’ll miss heading out of its doors on future OSR runs.

Like me, Joe didn’t grow up liking running at all. But now, he’s considered the guy to know for urban running in NYC – having brought events like the Midnight Half to life, an unofficial race through the streets of NYC and Brooklyn that attracts some of the best in town. He talked to me about how running made him feel like superhero, and how it helps him see things from a different perspective in a city he knows all too well.
If you’re a runner in NYC, I highly recommend tackling the Midnight Half for a real sense of adventure. There’s nothing quite like the thrill of hitting the streets of NYC, while others are stumbling out of bars. The post-party celebration isn’t too bad, either.
Find Joe and OSR here and here.

 

When you’re a journalist who loves running, you start to want to find out more about how running has influenced others. I knew my passion for running had seeped into my work life when the first thing I noticed about sitting down to watch J-Lo’s newest movie was that the scene opened with her running. I researched and found out she was a runner at school, and I couldn’t resist asking her about it during our interview the next day.
I’m really interested in how running affects the musicians and actors and artists I interview. Because I know it has had such an immeasurable impact on my life, I want to know more about the impact it has had on others. The logistics of it – how the running happens – and also the stuff that goes beyond, the why.
But it’s not just the movie stars and singers whose stories I am interested in. Running with a regular group of people, some of whom, like me, picked up running later on in life, has led to many interesting tales and anecdotes shared. Usually, the talk is of mileage, pace, and upcoming races. Those things are interesting, but I also like talking about the joy and discomfort and the mental push beyond just the physical challenge it poses.
So, I’m running and recording interviews with people I admire who work in a creative field – I want to know what running means to them, how it helps their careers, and, you know, life in general.
The streets of NYC can be busy and noisy but they can throw up some pretty fantastic running adventures too.
For the first interview, I ran with artist and illustrator Daniel Medina, who studied Illustration at Parsons School of Design, and paces at Nike Run Club in New York. He often likes to run the Queensboro Bridge, and in our interview he tells me more about why “running always made sense” in his life, and why time and speed aren’t everything, even for a former high school cross-country enthusiast.

You can see Daniel’s work here and sign up to run with him at NRC here.

I stood staring at my cupboard for about ten minutes, wondering how many layers and what kind I would need. Short-sleeve first layer or long-sleeved one? Double gloves, or would just one be okay? Jacket on top of it all or no jacket? These are always the questions when the weather turns serious and you need to do that trial-and-error assessment of how cold you’ll be on the run and how much you’ll warm up. It always takes a while at the beginning of a new season. And along with the thought of what can you get away with clothing-wise, comes the thought of, “how exactly did I used to pull this off again?”
This is my third winter running in the cold in NYC. Before I was a runner I would never run outside, let alone run outside in the cold. But having trained for a Spring marathon during the sub-0 Celcius temps, as I did last year, I know I need to keep it going to stay ready for the next marathon I want to tackle, and continue to chase down that Boston-Qualifying time I really, really want. And actually, once you get going, it’s quite an exhilarating feeling not to be able to feel your face while you’re running down the cold, oh-so-cold, streets of NYC.
It all starts to come back about the first mile into the run. The body starts to send energy to the legs and your mind just needs to take a back-seat while the things you’ve learnt in the past about running in the cold – keep moving, cover your head and fingers, just breathe – come back to the forefront of your memory.
It’s the anticipation of the run, the build-up that can get to you. On Monday, Martin Luther King Day, I made my way Uptown to Coogans, to join the We Run Uptown crew on an MLK route they run as part of their Monday night get-togethers. I’ve done a few runs with this crew, which is mostly made up of guys, who, even if you’ve only met them once, make you feel like they’ve got your back. On the trip up to 164th St, the wind was a-howlin’ and the temperature kept dropping (-6 C for this South African is the stuff of bad dreams). “I don’t know if I can do this,” I thought. “Maybe I really should be at home like everyone else, sipping hot chocolate and snuggling under covers.”
It didn’t take too long into the run to realise, naaaaah, that option would have been way less fun. There’s nothing quite like running down (or up) the streets of Harlem to make you feel alive. We ran to a bust of Martin Luther King Jr in Washington Heights, erected by Stan Sawyer two years after MLK was assassinated. The words of his I Have a Dream speech that reverberated around the world in 1963 are emblazoned on the plaque. They may have been read again in haste on this winter’s eve run, but they still echo today. The freedom to run with friends from all backgrounds is something I’m never going to stop celebrating. Minus temperatures, and all.