O Brother, Where Art Thou?
South African actress and model Musetta Vander has guest starred in such series as “Highlander,” “Babylon 5,” “Star Trek: Voyager,” “Xena: Warrior Princess,” “Pensacola: Wings of Gold,” “Stargate SG-1” and “Navy NCIS: Naval Criminal Investigative Service,” among other TV shows. On the big screen, she is perhaps best known for her roles in “Mortal Kombat: Annihilation” (1997, as Sindel), “Wild Wild West” (1999, as Munitia), “O Brother, Where Art?” (2000, as Siren), “The Cell” (2000, as Ella Baines), “Kicking & Screaming” (2006, as Janice Weston), “Say It in Russian” (2007, as Natalie), “Breaking Point” (2009, as Celia Hernandez), “Napoleonic” (2010, as Dr. Barbara Hale) and “Johnny” (2010, as Julia Carter). She has also appeared in many music videos, commercials and video games. The brown haired thespian first attracted attention with her critically acclaimed performance in the original South African play “Soweto's Burning” (1989).
Vander is married to American actor, screenwriter and director Jeff Celentano and they have worked together on several films.
Childhood and Family:
Musetta Vander was born Musetta van der Merwe on May 26, 1963, in Durban, South Africa. She has one sister and one brother. Born to a ballet teacher, she had her first taste of performing at age 4 in one of the numerous shows choreographed by her mother. After receiving a degree in communications and psychology, she eventually qualified as a ballet teacher.
Musetta married actor, director and writer Jeff Celentano (born May 24, 1960) in 1988. With her husband, she teaches at The Performer's Academy in Orange County, California.
Born and raised in South Africa, young Musetta Vander performed in various ballets and musicals, including “Gisella,” “The Student Prince,” “Coppelia” and “Snowboat.” After college, she was a host on a South Africa television show. It was not long before she relocated to the United States and began her career as a dancer and model for music videos, in which she worked for such big names as Elton John, Rod Stewart, Tina Turner, Amy Grant and Chris Isaak.
Vander's career gained momentum when she landed the role of Emma in the South African play “Soweto's Burning” (1989), which earned her critical acclaim. In 1989, she made her feature acting debut in the independent action drama “Crime of Crimes,” which was written and directed by Alfredo Zacarias and starred Richard Yniguez, Aldo Ray and her husband, Jeff Celentano. The same year, she also appeared with Oliver Reed, Frank Zagarino and Jeff Celentano in “The Revenger” (directed by Cedric Sundstrom) and Graham Clark and Mark Mulder in Mark Engels' “The Endangered.” She broke into the small screen with the notable role of police officer Zander Tyler on the action series “Super Force” (Syndication, 1991-1992), opposite Ken Olandt, Larry B. Scott, Patrick Macnee, Lisa Niemi and Antoni Corone.
Back to the big screen, Vander took a supporting role in the John Eyres directed movie “Monolith” (1993), which starred Bill Paxton, Lindsay Frost and John Hurt. It was followed by roles in a short comedy by Jeff Celentano, Sam Irvin's “Oblivion” (1994), where she costarred with Richard Joseph Paul, Andrew Divoff, George Takei, Julie Newmar, Isaac Hayes and Meg Foster, Alessandro De Gaetano's “Project: Metalbeast” (1994), opposite Kim Delaney, Barry Bostwick and Kane Hodder, and Larry Larson's “The Secret Force” (1995), which starred her husband. She also appeared in “Project Shadowchaser III” (1993), with Sam Bottoms, Christopher Atkins and Frank Zagarino, and “Under the Hula Moon” (1995), an action film written and directed by her husband that starred Stephen Baldwin, Emily Lloyd and Chris Penn. Meanwhile on television, she appeared as Sharain Hourani in an episode of “Murder, She Wrote” called “The Dying Game” (1994) and played the recurring role of Dominique in “Boy Meets World” (2 episodes, 1994-1995).
In 1996, Vander reprised her role of Lash for the sequel “Oblivion 2: Backlash,” supported Olivia Hussey, Patrick Cassidy and Ron Hale in the movie “The Dark Mist” (directed by Ryan Carroll), and guest starred in “Diagnosis Murder” and Viper.” The following year, she was cast as Sindel in the martial arts movie “Mortal Kombat: Annihilation,” which was a sequel to 1995’s “Mortal Kombat,” and costarred with Timothy Bottoms and Patrick Thomas in the action comedy “American Hero” (directed by Jeff Burr). She then starred in the short “Elissa” and made guest appearances in “Highlander,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Babylon 5.” The same year, she also appeared as Elina Zulinova in an episode of “Pensacola: Wings of Gold,” her first appearance on the show before she later returned for the 2000 episode “Pensacola Shootout,” this time playing Captain Jill Trevera.
Vander was next cast in her husband's film “Gunshy” (1998), which starred William Petersen, Michael Wincott, and Diane Lane, had a featured role in John Duigan's “Molly” (1999), starring Elisabeth Shue, and portrayed Munitia in the Barry Sonnenfeld movie “Wild Wild West” (1999). Starring Will Smith, Kevin Kline, Kenneth Branagh and Salma Hayek, the latter movie was met with primarily negative reviews and collected Razzies for Worst Picture, Worst Director, Worst Screen Couple (Kline and Smith), Worst Screenplay and Worst Original Song. She also guest starred in episodes of UPN's “The Sentinel” (1998), the Jerry Bruckheimer produced “Soldier of Fortune, Inc.” (1998) and “Star Trek: Voyager” (1999).
In 2000, Vander portrayed Siren in “O Brother, Where Art Thou,” an adventure comedy helmed by the Coen brothers that starred George Clooney, John Turturro, Tim Blake Nelson, John Goodman, Holly Hunter and Charles Durning. The film was entered into the 2000 Cannes Film Festival and enjoyed critical success. The same year, she also played Ella Baines in the Jennifer Lopez psychological thriller “The Cell,” which was directed by Tarsem Singh. That same year, Vander landed a recurring role on UPN’s “Secret Agent Man,” appeared in an episode of “Xena: Warrior Princess” and guest starred in an episode of “Stargate SG-1” called “Crossroads.” The actress continued to work on television with guest spots in “V.I.P.” (2001), “Son of the Beach” (2002), “She Spies” (2003), “Frasier” (2003) and “The Bold and the Beautiful” (2004). She also costarred with Corin Nemec in the television film “Mansquito” (2005), which was directed by Tibor Takács.
Vander resumed her film career with the supporting role of Reza in “Forbidden Warrior,” starring Marie Matiko, Sung Kang and Karl Yune. The action movie received a video release in the U.S. in November 2005. She next portrayed Janice Weston (Robert Duvall's wife) in the Jesse Dylan helmed comedy “Kicking & Screaming” (2005), costarred with Susan Priver and Sally Kirkland in Anthony Caldarella's “What's Up, Scarlet” (2005), played Doctor Amour in the Canadian movie “Spymate” (2006, directed by Robert Vince and starred Chris Potter), and worked with Jake Thomas, Taylor Dooley, Vanessa Angel and Robert Carradine in “Monster Night” (2006). She then delivered a memorable supporting turn as Natalia in the American/French movie “Say It in Russian” (2007), which was directed by her husband. Also in 2007, she costarred with Steven Bauer, Vanessa Angel and Ted Raimi in the TV science fiction movie “Planet Raptor,” a sequel to the 2004 TV film “Raptor Island.”
In 2009, Vander portrayed Teodora van Sloan in the horror film “Transylmania,” an installment to the 2006 comedy “National Lampoon's Dorm Daze 2,” and costarred with Tom Berenger, Busta Rhymes and Sticky Fingaz in the action film “Breaking Point,” a reunion with her director husband. Recently, in 2010, she starred with Ty Granderson Jones and Nick Mancuso in David Raynr's “Napoleonic” and portrayed Julia Carter in the family movie “Johnny” (directed by D. David Morin). She also appeared as Julie Merriweather in an episode of “Navy NCIS: Naval Criminal Investigative Service” called “Broken Arrow.”
Vander is scheduled to play Harriet Skelp in the upcoming film “Spreading Darkness,” which was directed and co-written by Josh Eisenstadt. She will appear with Eric Roberts, James Duval and John Savage in the film.
Vander has also appeared in several video games. She played Voyeur in “Voyeur” (1993), Lady Elara in “Dune 2000” (1998) and its sequel “Emperor: Battle for Dune” (2002) and Morticia in “Monster Night” (2006). In addition, she appeared in commercials for Skittles, Heineken, Mercedes, Lancome, Peugot, Diet Coke, Samsung, and Prudential Realty, to name a few. Publications she has appeared in include “Maxim,” “Femme Fatales” and “Details.”