What are your long term acting goals?
I recently read that Happiness = Reality – Expectations. If your reality doesn’t match up to what you expect for yourself and your life, then you will always be seeking happiness. For me, I keep my goals and my hopes high, but I try to keep my expectations reasonable. Regularly working as an actor is my longterm and forever goal. I just hope to be working as much as possible and on projects that I feel really passionate about. This can take years (to achieve and maintain) of insane amounts of work/networking/training/etc and endless amounts of rejection. So for me personally, I think it’s important not to expect things to happen overnight, or even in just a couple of years. Setting realistic goals is crucial in lasting through this marathon journey. That doesn’t mean I don’t dream about having a career like Vera Farmiga or Felicity Huffman (who inspire me). I just keep my expectations and goals as realistic as possible, something that’s attainable for me, that I can structure a plan around achieving.
However, I am still working hungrily every day like I want that network job tomorrow, there is a balance with everything, so you have to find that right pace for you. This industry is a very lonely one, your family and friends often cannot understand what it is that you do, and it’s not all glitz and glamour. It’s insane amounts of hard work emotionally and physically, incredibly long 15+ hour days when you’re lucky enough to work, constant rejection, and always training. I met Felicity Huffman a few weeks ago at a SAG-AFTRA American Crime screening, and she told me that if you love it and you cannot see yourself doing literally anything else then keep trucking on. If you can do anything else, then do it. But if you love the craft, the art of storytelling and filmmaking to the depths of your core, none of it feels like work. You always just feel grateful to be pursuing what you love and happy it pays your bills.
How has your past shaped you into the actress you are today?
I was the kid who at age 9 was writing a play with my 2 best friends about Harriet Tubman for a school project. I remember it so vividly because it was the first play I ever did, and we put so much work into it. We even created our own original music for it. We were selected to go compete statewide with our performance. It was so much fun, and I learned so much about that time in history while doing the play. I realized I could also learn through storytelling and I loved performing in front of people.
Another instance that shaped me was when I was in 5th grade. During a writing contest I was selected to read my essay in front of the entire school. My teacher told me that though I had a strong essay, she didn’t choose me because it was not written the best (haha, thanks!), but she chose me to read my essay because of how I performed it so enthusiastically :). From that moment on you would never catch me without a camcorder in my hand (I’d even sneak it into school), creating movie spoofs and reenactments. My early acting started just from doing impressions of people from some of my favorite movies.
What motivates you to keep moving forward?
Motivators are crucial in this industry. I always get them from many different places. I have found that staying appreciative helps keep me motivated. I have kept a journal my entire life, I love writing and it helps me remember where I started, and how far I’ve come even when I’m hearing those “no’s”. I’v learned to love the very stressful process of auditioning which many hate, because I’m grateful that I’m getting out, and getting that much closer to working, and getting another opportunity to do the thing I love most–performing! Another motivator is having a “growth” mindset. Whether you’re an actor or not, read the book called “Mindset” by Carol Dweck. It’s incredible what you can achieve, how you can challenge yourself and find growth and joy in doing things that are difficult. I am constantly doing things that challenge me, that scare me to death. For an example, improv. I love comedy, and I love acting in comedies, but the thought of taking improv classes when I moved to LA made me VERY uneasy.
A lesson I have learned in life is that everything is always scarier in our minds than it actually is. Once I realized this, it got easier to push myself past my comfort zone. I pushed myself to take Improv at UCB, and it’s the best thing I ever did. It was a blast, I made incredible friendships and connections, and it’s helped me in getting work. In the projects I have done, even if they were scripted, improv was still a huge component. In addition to that, I am part of the SAG AFTRA nominating committee, so I try to attend as many screeners for movies/shows as possible. Not only is it great research for auditions, but the Q&A with the casts afterwards is so incredibly motivating. Hearing the directors talk about their vision, the actors talk about their character journey, is always so empowering to me. I can tell you one thing that will NOT motivate you in moving forward, and that is comparison. It’s the root of all evil in an ever social age, but it happens to the best of us. Don’t compare yourself to another person’s journey, or what they have accomplished. Their story and life is completely different than yours, and there will always be people more successful than you. Just like there will always be people less fortunate than you. Take that energy, and use its to focus on your own goals and journey. There is no benefit in comparing, only demotivation.
Should entertainers care about being role models for younger audiences?
I know that I certainly looked up to entertainers growing up, and that they were a huge influence on my life. Whether entertainers care about it or not, they are influencing younger audiences. Fans will want to be like you, and do what you do. My best friend and I started a YouTube channel in August called Jess And Jakey (improv coming in handy again ;-). We’re lucky to have garnered so many views so far and a little fan following in such a short time. We have loads of fun, but we also promote things and charities we care about. Like helping the homeless or less fortunate, or supporting healthy food programs (like Mobile Kitchen Classroom) and promoting healthy eating and exercise. We have seen how that’s impacted some of their own lives, they will tell us about how they ate that day or the exercises they did. Or they will tweet us and tell us about the homeless shelter they went to with their class. It feels SO good to inspire younger audiences if you are able to in anyway.