Photo by - Dana Patrick
I was born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona, where I grew up singing, dancing and forcing my poor friends to create plays with me. I did my first real play at about 12 and I was hooked.
In hindsight, I was lucky my parents supported my love for make-believe, because theatre wasn’t something our family was familiar with.
While in a community theater play, I heard about the American Academy of Dramatic Arts from a director and I was sold. I went after high school and loved it.
Being in an environment where I could spend all day learning acting theory, singing, dancing, dialects, fencing, etc was heaven for me.
After graduating, I studied Shakespeare at the British American Drama Academy in Oxford. I loved this program as well. I then returned to LA with a focus on film & television.
It would take a novel to fill in the learning curve from college graduation to full-time contract on a TV show.
It was a long road, but a great one.
Almost everything inspires me, because I tend to view life through the prism of storytelling.
Even when I’m going through a hard time, I remind myself that what I’m learning will make me a wiser storyteller.
In a practical sense, my fiancé inspires me immensely.
He’s a writer and he has a work ethic the likes of which I’ve never seen. He writes every day.
He writes on Christmas. He writes on his birthday. Don’t worry though - he takes my birthday off!
I’m also inspired by the women in my comedy troupe, Duchess Riot. They are so funny and brave.
I love being on their team.
Exploring the world through someone else’s eyes has always drawn me to acting.
I’ve never played a role where I didn’t learn more about the world than I could have by just being me.
When I start a new role, I inevitably relate through my own life experiences; what I have in common with the character tends to be my entry point.
After going through text analysis, research and rehearsals, the character’s point of view takes the forefront and mine is left at the door.
At that point, it’s me who’s learning new things about life. My understanding of the world and the people around me grows.
Every role I’ve played has taught me something new about life; I hope it makes me a more compassionate person in both the real world and in my work.
That’s what I love most about acting.
The experience of collective laughter is one of the greatest feelings in the world!
I absolutely love being a part of a comedy troupe (Duchess Riot) and of a sitcom (Fresh Off the Boat).
My heart is at it’s most full creatively when I’m sitting on the side of the stage during a Duchess Riot show watching my best friends work.
"Fresh Off the Boat" on ABC
My role was initially cut out of the pilot for the show because of time, so I ended up being introduced in the second episode with Ray Wise (who plays my husband Marvin).
I play Honey, a woman the neighborhood has pegged as a trophy wife.
The show is about seeing beyond stereotypes, so Honey is a lot more than she first appears to be.
Photo by - Dana Patrick
Our writing staff makes her a fully-formed, interesting character and the best part of my week is cracking open a new script.
Most of my scenes are with Constance Wu and she is a fierce talent. She’s connected, present and undeniable in every single take.
It’s a great place to work.
I love and miss theater dearly.
Theater is unique in that you get to experience the movement of emotion with the audience.
You aren’t separate from them, like you are in film & television. You aren’t on a sound stage, creating it in a different space and time than when the audience sees it.
In a theatre, actors and audience are right in there together; it’s real, raw and tangible.
With film and TV, you get that experience with your fellow actors and the crew, but not with the audience.
It’s a different animal.
At this point, improv gives me the rush of live performance because my filming schedule doesn’t work very well for plays.
Practical Steps Toward Long-Term Goals
The single best thing I do each week is set business hours for myself.
I put my butt in a chair and I do my work every day.
This is something else that I’m grateful to my parents for; they taught me that there’s no substitute for hard work.
The tasks vary day to day; sometimes I’m learning lines, sometimes I’m doing interviews, sometimes I’m working on Duchess Riot to-do’s.
Whatever is on the list, gets done.
As long as I have been in LA (whether I’ve had a gig or not) this list has been full.
Duchess Riot is a comedy troupe that I’m in with seven other women.
We currently do improv and sketch shows in LA and we have some exciting on-screen projects coming up soon.
You can see all of that at www.duchessriot.com.
These girls are my home base.
I would recommend to any artist that you find a collective of like-minded artists you can create with.
Influence of Technology
I think the biggest change the internet has brought about is that storytellers of have more direct paths to their audience.
You can publish your own book, post your own web series or distribute your own film.
You can also create the material more easily.
You can shoot something on an iPhone, edit it on a mac and release it that day.
This is a pretty great thing as a content creator!
The downside is that as an audience member, how do you chose from all of the available content online?!
It’s brought about pros and cons.
I think the most valuable lesson I’ve learned is this - as artists, our happiness and creative fulfillment are our responsibility.
Don’t wait for anyone to make things happen for you.
If you put your success in the hands of an agent, a manager, a casting director, a producer, a network, a studio, a financier, or any other person in our line of work you’re setting yourself up for disappointment.
This business doesn’t exist to serve us as artists; our job is to tell great stories and no one needs to give us a platform to do that.
When you’re busy making work for yourself, all of those aforementioned people can do their jobs better; when the time & role are right, they’ll hire you.
In what ways do you challenge yourself as an artist?
This changes over the years. Right now, I say “yes” to projects that scare me at least a little bit.
By that, I mean I’m looking for roles that don’t have a lot of crossover with my own life experience.
Honey, for instance, is wildly different from me.
I learn a lot from those kinds of roles.
I’m really excited for this movie to come out!
It’s a romantic comedy that I shot in Virginia with some actors who have become very dear friends.
I play Jesse, a young atheist who’s going through a divorce.
She moves to a small town to care for her ex-mother-in-law and gets more than she bargained for when she falls for the local pastor.
Photo by - Dana Patrick
I adored playing this role; she’s funny, complicated, confused and even a little cocky.
I learned so much from this character and it was a special experience.
I also got to work with my best friend Erin Muroski, who plays my character’s rival.
There are hilarious scenes in this movie where she’s extremely mean to me and we had a blast trying to do those with straight faces.
There are so many challenges in this business that I almost don’t know where to start.
I guess the most important thing is to take good care of yourself, so you’re ready when challenges (inevitably) hit.
I’ve been tested emotionally, physically, financially and mentally.
I’ll bullet point some core ways that I’ve handled each category:
Emotionally, I take care of myself by having a great support network of friends and family. My learning curve here was how to let go of fair-weather friends. That took me years to understand.
Physically, I eat healthfully & workout daily. I used to not do this at all! I ate junk food and didn’t really care for working out. That’s changed dramatically in the last seven years. I currently do Bar Method, yoga and Zumba. I eat as healthfully as I can. Both help keep my energy up for long work hours.
Financially, I lived on very little during the hardest years & worked as many day jobs as I had to. Now that I’m on a network show, I’m careful with money because I’ve seen friends spend pretty freely, then have their show suddenly cancelled.
Mentally, I make sure that acting is not my entire life. Having a full world outside of my career keeps me balanced. My family, friends, hobbies and upcoming marriage are all as important to me as work is. I don’t get too sucked into the highs & lows of the entertainment industry anymore.
How do you prepare for a role?
Each role is different, but I usually start by going through the material like a detective.
I pull every piece of information the writer has offered and I put memories to it.
Photo by - Dana Patrick
I make some choices about the relationships.
It can be as big as where I first met my significant other or as small as what kind of coffee I like.
I like to create as full of a person as I can, given the time I’m allotted to prepare.
The lines come pretty easily after that, because everything has meaning behind it.
When I show up to work, I trust that the backstory is there and I kind of let it all go.
I listen to my scene partner and we find the truth of the scenes together with our director.
I am a life-long student and one of the great things about acting is that almost anything you study serves you.
My formal training is from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts & the British American Drama Academy.
I live in Los Angeles and there are tons of acting studios out here.
I’ve studied at a few of them including the Margie Haber Studio, Stan Kirsch Studios, Carolyne Barry Ent & Steppenwolf West.
I love to research psychology and human behavior, sometimes in classes & sometimes via books.
I also study comedy and I’ve taken courses at The Groundlings, UCB, iO West, and with my comedy guru Donovan Scott.
I also enjoy writing classes, especially the ones I’ve taken at UCLA extension and iO West.
In terms of advice for navigating the industry, I got a lot out of two companies - The Thriving Artist Circle and The Actor’s Network.
The resources these places offered were pretty key for my learning about the business side of Hollywood.
I found accountability groups with other actors to be a vital part of learning how LA works.
Photo by - Dana Patrick
Creatively, I have been very influenced by a comedy teacher named Donovan Scott.
He teaches with so much joy and compassion that I feel like I found a new way to approach the entire industry while learning from him.
He reminds me (& all of his students) to have fun, be messy, make mistakes and back up your fellow performers.
He's made both my career and my life much more fun!
Fresh Off the Boat airs on ABC Tuesday night’s a 8/7c
This Interview was brought to you by Scott Bonnie Media Please, take a moment to visit ScottBMedia.com
Support our coverage the Arts by Following us on FaceBook.