I am originally from Hebron, Illinois and moved out to Northern California with my family when I was 11.
There I was caught by the acting bug in Children’s theatre in Sunnyvale, CA.
By the time I was 16, I was working with an amazing professional theatre company and getting some training that every 16 year old actor would be lucky to have.
First Job in the Entertainment Industry
I was a girl playing a boy. I was playing “Oliver” in the musical Oliver! I still remember I bought a very sought after VCR with that money.
As an actor, having the ability to transport your audience and make them feel something inspires me.
My husband also inspires me to believe in myself and keep reaching.
Growing up, Carol Burnett has always been a huge inspiration to me and I learned so much about timing from her. Sean Penn and Michael J. Fox are also creative inspirations for me (among so many others!).
Being able to portray a character that may say or do something in real life that you would never do is so appealing and almost liberating at times.
Figuring out what makes people tick is so much fun as well. I think you almost have to be a bit of an armchair psychologist to fully immerse yourself as an actor.
I continue because I love it so much, it would be giving up a part of me to walk away.
My first experience in film was working on a film called "Willow" also at Industrial Light & Magic, (Did I say I was a lucky girl?).
I was a troll that ran into Willow on a bridge, and was torn apart by a two headed Hydra monster.
My resume is pretty unique.
I am very proud of a web series called “Far From The Tree” that I created and star in, and my husband has written and directed.
I’m proud because it’s the very first project that was born from an idea I had and it became something people could enjoy.
As far as the different mediums, you have to know the space and audience you’re playing to.
For theatre, physical movement and expressions that read great on the stage can be too large for film. A small raise of an eyebrow can play in a close up on camera.
It’s just putting yourself in that medium and seeing what plays well and works.
Web & New Media Experience
I enjoy the freedom to create and put out whatever you want to online.
You don’t need a super large budget or stars to put your work out for the world to see.
I think it’s very important for actors to have that, and would encourage any actor to develop a project with other talented partners and get people to get to know you as an artist.
Playing Slimer in Ghostbusters 2
When they had lost the actor who was going to play Slimer due to scheduling, Ned Gorman at ILM worked with me on Willow and suggested they call me in for an audition.
My responsibilities were to be in sync with the crew so we could get the best performance out of Slimer.
Also, I tried to leave the pressure of playing such a loved character from the first film at the door, and to listen to what they needed from me and have some fun with it.
It took about 30 minutes or so to completely get in costume.
We rehearsed for about a month prior to actually shooting. We taped the rehearsals so I could also see what it looked like, and see what worked and what didn’t.
I have always been extremely honored to be a small part of the franchise.
The perks are being a part of an iconic character that is so beloved, and being embraced by the GB fans (they really are amazing).
I can’t think of any challenges I’ve faced being associated with such an amazing group of people and films.
Improvements in Technology
I think it actually can be easier as an actor to be creative and have your work seen online.
It’s much easier for a person to be a low-budget film maker so many inexpensive camera options. It’s so much easier getting the word out so people can see who you are and what you can do.
As far as fans go, I’m very active on Facebook and Twitter and have met some absolutely amazing people that I never would have had the opportunity to get to know.
It’s allowed me to get to build a fan base and have them see the new work I’m doing.
It’s not only networking, but making some friends along the way, too.
Theatre is my first love and my first training ground.
I have been blessed to work in some amazing musicals and plays with some very talented people. There’s really nothing like it.
It’s having an experience with your audience while you’re performing, and getting immediate feedback.
The challenge is performing without a net, without being able to hear “cut,” and working out any issues that may come up as they happen.
But it’s the best training…ever.
Creating Original Material
I think it’s extremely important to be able to collaborate with others and create some original material to put out there.
It keeps you creative and is so easy to share your work and have people see your ideas and your work.
As technology advances and more options are available for everyone to get their work out there, it’s important to give yourself that same advantage.
What, would you say, is the biggest difference between those that find steady work as an actor & those that do not?
Being committed to not giving up, being prepared whenever you have an audition, and creating relationships in the industry where people know your work and think of you as a person they want to work with.
Persistence and professionalism usually pay off in time…just keep your eyes on the prize.
Working With Great Directors
I have been very blessed to work with some insanely talented directors.
It can be intimidating at times to work with someone you have admired and loved all of your life.
Then, you have to throw that out, and just be there to listen and find out what they need from you for the current project.
I think what makes a director great is the ability to assemble the perfect “storm” of actors, and be a true collaborator and to be open to other people’s ideas to make the project even better.
Confidence and doubting myself has been the biggest challenge for me personally.
I’m learning to try and not look to others for affirmation on how I’m doing, but having that power and belief in myself.
In this business, it’s so easy to give that kind of power to others. Work hard to just learn to trust yourself.
Preparation for Roles
I first get the dialogue down, because unless you’re out of the script and off the page you can’t really be invested in the scene.
Then I make choices with the character and try to make sure there are as many levels and layers to the character as possible. Sometimes you have a few hours, and there are times you have two or three days.
Using your instinct is important.
Being open to taking an adjustment from the director or casting director in case their vision is a little different than how you originally envisioned the character is really key to preparing as well.
I have been able to connect with fans and they have been able to follow and see my work because of social media.
I use it to let people know what I’m up to…so they hopefully see my work and follow along as I continue to grow.
Top Entertainment Industry Memories
-Meeting Bill Murray while I was shooting “Ghostbusters 2.” I was truly a star-struck kid.
-When a project of ours was accepted into a film festival for the first time.
-Having my pants accidentally pulled almost completely off being held upside down during musical number of a stage performance of “Oliver!” in front of about 600 people.
-Working on “Willow” with the stomach flu on my first day, and only being able to make it through that day because my Dad brought me to set and made sure I was okay.
-Getting my Screen Actors Guild card on a McDonalds commercial and feeling like I was now part of the industry.
What is something about your career that you would like people to know that they might not?
It’s hard work, and it takes 20 years to be an overnight success.
In all seriousness, if you don’t truly love the business and
there’s something else you can do to be happy, I would opt for that.
With me, I just love it that much and it’s kept me going.
You hear 49 “no’s” to one “yes.” It’s that one yes that you hear that makes it so worthwhile. If you can weather the “no’s” you’re doing pretty good.
Do you enjoy comedic roles, dramatic roles, or the diversity of doing both?
Definitely enjoy the diversity. Making people laugh, think or cry is the best feeling ever and I love it all.
Growing up being mentored by some of the best people in the Bay Area (especially Robert Kelley from TheatreWorks, who really showed me what it’s like to have someone believe in you), was the most amazing training I could have ever asked for.
Being able to work with the crazy talented people at Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), being so young was a pretty amazing opportunity as well!
I continue to take acting workshops today to keep getting up and not losing that edge when I’m called in for auditions. The workshops also allow me to continue to work on new relationships in the industry as well.
Anything else you would like to share with our readers?
I just want to say “Thank you,” to all of my family, friends, and fans who have supported me.
I could never have kept in this crazy game without you.
My personal website - www.robinshelby.net
IMDB - www.imdb.me/robinshelby
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