Maria Bello, in town filming “Prisoners,” plans fundraiser

Actress Maria Bello has been in Atlanta for a few months now, filming a role in “Prisoners.” The thriller alsostars Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Viola Davis and Terrence Howard.

“Just an incredible cast,” Bello said. “What everyone says about Hugh Jackman is true. He is the loveliest, nicest guy. He is such a kind man and such a great, great talent. Viola, I’ve known for years. I’ve known Jake forever. It’s like old home week. We’re having a blast.”

In her downtime she’s enjoyed checking out the bounty at the DeKalb Farmers Market.

“I’m obsessed with it,” she said.

Bello is also an international activist. She co-founded We Advance, an organization that works with grassroots women’s groups in Haiti, following the 2010 earthquake there. During her time here she’s decided to combine her star power and passion, and plans the Atlanta for Haiti Benefit. It will be at 7 p.m. March 23 at the Teamsters Local Union Hall, 2540 Lakewood Ave. The event will feature a Haitian band, auction items and a cocktail buffet. Attire is cocktail-festive. For admission information see weadvance.org.

“I think some of my cast mates may join,” Bello said.

When spoke by phone on Friday, she was in Aruba to speak at an International Women’s Day conference. She said she developed a passion for Haiti even before the earthquake, and her mission has taken on urgency in its aftermath.

“It’s my second home,” she said. “I’m very lucky that I have a larger voice and can remind people of this incredible country just an hour and a half off our shores. The women’s movement there is gaining such momentum.”

Ideally she’d love for Americans to view Haiti as a vacation destination, and said tourism can play a vital role in the country’s economic recovery.

“You’ve never seen more beautiful beaches,” she said. “It’s an incredibly gorgeous nation.”

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