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Daniela Junko shines as femme fatale in the fIlm 'Three Kings Down'
Daniela Junko is best known for playing strong leading women in a number of thought-provoking and often gritty dramas. But the Brazilian actress' own story of breaking with expectations to chase her dreams could easily make a great film in its own right.

Brilliant, highly educated and conversational in four languages, Junko's limitless prospects were a double-edged sword. When she expressed her desire to train as an actress, her traditionalist family was not enthused.

"At an early age I was 'discovered' by a very respected Brazilian director, who talked to my parents about letting me become an actress," Junko recalled. "My father, a conservative Japanese man, said that acting wasn't a career, but rather an irresponsible way of living life."

But Junko's determination was unwavering. She bided her time, the camera's siren song growing louder all the while. After graduating from college she was finally free to take the daring leap and reach for the future she'd dreamed of. That fierce independence is mirrored in many of the characters Junko portrays, including her leading role as Charlotte in the 2014 noir drama "Three Kings Down."

Though it has all the prerequisite traits of the film noir genre, "Three Kings Down" never sacrifices a shred of originality. Where virtually every film in the genre treats its quintessential femme fatale as a supporting character, "Three Kings Down" flips the trope on its head, putting Junko's character at the center of a twisted web of violence, passion and fear.

"In an industry ? in a world full of male heroes, it was a pleasure to play the one person manipulating the story," Junko described.

The film follows Charlotte, played by Junko, as she makes a desperate bid to escape her abusive husband. When a handsome stranger named Elvis rides his motorcycle into her small town on his way to Las Vegas, Charlotte takes her chance. She jumps on the back of his bike and the two ride off together, oblivious to the deadly chain of events that her departure set in motion.

Fueled by greed and the desire to start her life over, Charlotte concocts a sinister scheme. In classic femme fatale style, her plot involves seduction, murder, and a Vegas mob boss. By the end of "Three Kings Down," Charlotte's plot has made corpses of many of the men around her, and she must escape the vengeful mafioso before she too ends up dead.

"Charlotte was without a doubt the most fun character to play," Junko said. "In spite of being a victim she did not think of herself as such. She didn't have time to feel sorry for herself. She was a fighter, a beautiful woman who knew exactly what she was capable of."

After "Three Kings Down," Junko exploded onto the scene as if making up for lost time. The following year, she was cast in the bone-chilling 2015 psychological thriller "I Am Tommy Talbot."

"I play the role of Joselyn, a broken woman trying to move on and pick up the pieces of her heart, and her sanity, after escaping an abusive relationship ? only to find herself in the arms of a psychopath," Junko said.

Junko delivers an absolutely breathtaking performance as Jocelyn, who unwittingly befriends a serial killer, Tommy. Tommy professes his love to Jocelyn, but when she rejects his advances his true murderous nature is revealed. Hunted by the scorned psychopath, Jocelyn is forced to run, hide and fight to stay alive.

"Joselyn was very fragile and somewhat innocent," Junko explained. "After immersing myself into the role and putting myself in her shoes, it was a big challenge portraying her as trusting and naive."

The film's characters are richly detailed, thanks in large part to Junko's immense talent as an actress. At the film's climax, Tommy reveals to Joselyn that he is transgender. For actor Swell Soubra, who played Tommy, that was a challenging aspect of his character to capture. Soubra worked closely with Junko to develop Tommy's character; when the big reveal is finally made, the resulting scene is as disarming as it is powerful.

"Helping [Soubra] discover his complex transgender character was just an amazing experience," Junko recalled. "Being able to fully understand his role brought my own character vulnerability, which was necessary for their onscreen relationship."

Daniela Junko has a way of capturing both the light and the dark sides of her characters. Whether she's portraying a murderous femme fatale, or a resilient survivor who can see good in even the worst monsters, Junko expertly captures the rawest essence of characters.

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