Teen actor Chapel Oaks landing film, TV opportunities in hometown Atlanta

Atlanta actor Chapel Oaks, left, with Scott Haze, who plays her father in the action-thriller "Red Right Hand," which is now streaming. Magnolia Pictures

Credit: Magnolia Pictues

Credit: Magnolia Pictues

Atlanta actor Chapel Oaks, left, with Scott Haze, who plays her father in the action-thriller "Red Right Hand," which is now streaming. Magnolia Pictures

Not every kid who aspires to pursue a TV career in acting has opportunities in their own backyard. But given the booming film and TV industry in our city, Atlanta teens like Chapel Oaks do.

Oaks had her first acting experience on theater stages, but, when she got a taste of screen acting, she knew she had to pursue it. The now-18-year-old has spent the first few years of her journey working her way up from extra roles to a major role in the feature film “Red Right Hand,” also starring Orlando Bloom and Andie MacDowell. Currently, Oaks has a recurring role in Atlanta-centric crime drama on ABC, “Will Trent,” based on a book by Georgia author Karin Slaughter.

Oaks sat down with ArtsATL to share what it has been like to launch an acting career after growing up in Atlanta and to juggle school work and other responsibilities of young adulthood with her busy schedule.

Q: How did growing up in Atlanta help your film and TV career?

A: This is a great place to get work [and not be in] Los Angeles. And it’s such a community here. It’s not like Los Angeles, which feels a little more competitive — here, it’s nicer.

Chapel Oaks and Nicholas Logan in a scene from “Red Right Hand." Oaks plays Savannah, the niece of Cash (Orlando Bloom). Things take a tense turn when Cash is forced back into the services of the sadistic kingpin Big Cat (Andie MacDowell) who runs the Appalachian town. Magnolia Pictures

Credit: Magnolia Pictures

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Credit: Magnolia Pictures

Q: Your first movie just came out, but it was filmed two years ago. Do you remember how you felt going into it, especially with some big names co-starring with you?

A: I was nervous. Before shooting, I had only worked on one other project, so it was a really big step for me, and I was a little intimidated. But when I first got there, Orlando [Bloom] arranged time for him, me and the directors to just talk and get to know each other and run through scenes.

And then we did that again with Scott Haze, who played my dad in the movie. So that was really nice. I’ve worked with famous people who have been very sweet to me, but [Haze] treated it as such a collaboration. There was no sense of him [being] more experienced than me. It was very much an even playing field, which made me feel really good on set.

Q: You said “Red Right Hand” was the second project you worked on. What kind of work did you do before?

A: I had two extra jobs, but that was before I even had an agent [and they] were non-union projects. Then I worked on Showtime’s “The First Lady.” I filmed a couple days on that, but I was completely cut out of the show. To this day, I still can’t get IMDb credit for it. But it happened, [and] it was really fun. Keifer Sutherland [Franklin D. Roosevelt] was my dad, and Gillian Anderson [Eleanor Roosevelt] was my mom. I definitely learned a lot.

Q: What was it like to fit in your schoolwork while filming a movie?

A: Trying to do school was kind of tricky at times. [In “Red Right Hand”], I had to do a certain amount of hours every day just for the SAG-AFTRA rules. And there would be days when I was doing a really emotional scene, and then my tutor would [say], “Why don’t we fit in 20 minutes of vocabulary before you do your next take?”

It’s just hard to stay in the character and rest in between because you have to go to school.

Q: Has that happened with other projects since then?

A: I was going to a regular private school then. And, honestly, that experience is the reason I [changed schools] because we were not prepared to do another project [while in] a school that wasn’t going to be a little more accommodating. Now I go to a school in Alpharetta for kids who have passions that take them outside of school. It’s really great. When I’m working, they’ll do a personalized travel plan for me, so I can basically be absent as much as I need to be for acting.

Q: What’s a challenging experience you’ve had on set?

A: There’s one scene in [”Red Right Hand”] that I was nervous to film [because] it’s a very emotional, very intense scene. And I found out when I was at my fitting — that’s what we were filming on my first day of work! I was so nervous. I had to be scream-crying on my first day. And I’d never ever done an emotional scene on a set before — not even just sitting there sad, let alone crying and traumatic, you know? So I [thought], “I better not screw this up!” They took a risk on me. I was [thinking], “This first day is going to set the tone.”

Q: How did it go?

A: It went well! Thankfully, the directors were so sweet. I just told them I needed my time, and they gave me as much space as I needed. And I just did it! It was the first time I’ve [thought], “OK, I can do this . . . I can actually do this.” I felt like I’d actually acted on set for the first time. It gave me some confidence.


“Red Right Hand”

Now streaming on Prime Video, Fandango at Home or Apple TV+.

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Credit: ArtsATL

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Credit: ArtsATL


ArtsATL (artsatl.org) is a nonprofit organization that plays a critical role in educating and informing audiences about metro Atlanta’s arts and culture. ArtsATL, founded in 2009, helps build a sustainable arts community contributing to the economic and cultural health of the city.

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