ACTRESS GEARS FOR FILM FESTIVALS WITH MULTIPLE PRODUCTIONS
Featured Image Courtesy of Chris Shenkle Photography
ACTRESS GETS INTO GEAR FOR UPCOMING FILM FESTIVALS WITH MULTIPLE PRODUCTIONS RELEASING WORLDWIDE
Born in the same state as Elvis Presley and raised in “The Sunshine State”, this “Mudcat” — as they say in Mississippi — loves southern food, sports, and cooking. She bartended on Wall Street for twenty years, found love, and was married. But, wait, we’re not hear to only talk about her personal life. The biggest asset of his aspiring woman is her explicit, steer determination to make a name of herself. She has delved into almost every aspect of the entertainment industry and she is here to jolt, smash — basically — impact our lives with her tremendous ability as an actress to transform herself into difficult roles that look seamlessly easy because she’s just that good. Oh, and did we mention she produces and writes too? I know, it’s crazy. We only can look forward to watching her on the big screen with her upcoming projects. But before that, we had the chance to get some scoop about her prodigious journey she endured to get to where she is now.
- Amy Franklin
Where did the desire to be an actress stem from?
I started watching soap operas at the age of six at the influence of my babysitter. I loved them and remember thinking I wanted to be on a soap some day! My mom let me stay home from school when Luke and Laura got married on General Hospital. I knew I wanted to be an actor. I started participating in beauty pageants at the age of eight and always loved the talent competition. I believe that pageants got me ready for this business and the rejection we must deal with on a regular basis. One time I was in a pageant that had two contestants. I won first runner up. True story, so I learned rejection at an early age. Hahha
“This is your business and you have to invest time and money in your business.”
- Julie Reifers
I was in drama through high school and went straight to a Theater College at Florida School of The Arts where I was in a pop ensemble, musicals, and the lead in several plays. I had wonderful teachers there who inspired me to live my dream and stay in the game. One of my teachers told me if I stayed in this business until my forties I may make it. I never understood that until now. I attended the University of South Florida where I earned my BA in Theater. A memorable role there was Gwendolyn Fairfax in ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’. We had a British Studies Program and Sam Mendes coached us a on the production. I am not sure if he would remember me but I sure remember him. And ironically, he is directing one of the young actresses in ‘The Ferryman’ on Broadway and she is in a film I co-produced. Life does come full circle. After my father took me to New York City for my sixteenth birthday, I knew I would end up in New York. After graduation I moved to NYC immediately. It was around this time that I knew acting is what I would do for the rest of my life.
What was your journey like to get to where you are today?
Being a cute southern girl in the big city was tough. I went from job to job. I ran a micro-brewery with my best friend, Sandra Causey Largecci, whom I met in College, my first job in NYC and I made so much money. It was on Wall Street and it made my life for a while pretty comfortable. I worked for Grant Wilfley casting on some major projects including ‘The Sopranos’ and ‘Spin City’ and met some amazing people in the process including weekly meetings with David Chase. I was so young, so this was an amazing time in my life. Life was a challenge but quite fulfilling. I found myself immersed in the business, but I wasn’t acting. Eventually I left New York, got married and moved back to Florida. There I started working at Universal Studios. I got an agent and was in a Superbowl Commercial in 1999. I even became a plus sized model for a time!
I was auditioning a lot in Florida when I fell into a position as an Agent for Alexa Model and Talent. The job was so interesting because I was auditioning actors to be with the agency and picking actors for castings, so it was a lot of fun. While there I managed to book a film called ‘Bending All the Rules’. Bradly Cooper was the star yet he was a no name at the time. That’s how I earned my SAG [Screen Actors Guild] Card. I knew I had to go back to New York and try and make a go of this career. I was single again, so I came back, called Grant Wilfley Casting and started doing extra work because I had my SAG card. Eventually I became a stand-in on a TV show called ‘ED’ for Julie Bowen. [The show] was one of the best experiences in my life at the time. But wow you are so close but just not the star yet.
When that show ended, I did a couple more stand-in jobs for a while including bartending again. Ten years blew by so fast and I didn’t know what had happened to me. I was lost, I had not worked in the business at all in any capacity, I had gained weight and I became a daily drinker, I lost everything I owned in Hurricane Sandy and eventually I hit a huge bottom and I woke up one day, looked in the mirror and thought who am I? By the grace of God somehow, someway I picked myself up and put myself in rehab and that was the best decision I could have ever made. The minute I got out and I could see clearly again, I was able to start following my dreams, landed an agent and a manager and started doing student films so I could get some footage for an acting reel.
I have not been back very long in the business but in a few short years I have accomplished a lot. I have booked two co-star roles one on ‘The Path’ in a scene with Aaron Paul which was awesome and in ‘Difficult People’. I sent my materials to anyone and everyone I thought might give me a break, I soon worked on a feature film by an amazing director Usher Morgan called ‘Pickings’ where I was a very interesting character called Sexy Mary. I had my first red carpet premier here in NYC at the AMC Lincoln Square Cinemas and it was shown in AMC theatres in California, Texas, NYC and many other states. [The film] also had fifteen nominations and ten wins in major film festivals across the states and now you can rent it on AmazonPrime. With the same director I was a cast in a horror film called ‘Trapped Inside’ which was the last film to shoot in the Waldorf Astoria.
I had not done a play in years, but [theater] is exactly what I needed to build up my confidence again. I became close with a director named Seanie Sugrue and became part of his ensemble of actors at ‘Locked in The Attic Productions’. Since then I have produced and co-produced two films, ‘Tammy Smoke’ and ‘Misty Button’, which won Best Narrative Film at the San Luis Obispo International Film Festival in California and is [the film] is making it big in Ireland where Seanie is from along with many of my castmates are popular stars in Ireland. And also, one pilot ‘Spite’ with his team. Right now, I have five films floating around in different film festivals. It is very exciting! A film I am in ‘Scratch’, directed by Sam Shapiro, will be making its debut at the TLC Chinese theater at the 19th Annual Hollywood Film Festival in April and ‘Oh Dalia’, created by Ashton Clay, will be making its film premier in Italy.
Now I have three incredible films with some amazing talent in post-production: ‘Open’, directed by Sarah Nocquet, in which I play a very manipulative dark character, ‘Like Mother Like’ directed by the talented Marcela Biven and one of my favorite roles is a homeless woman in a film called ‘Lizzy on Leroy’. I also had the pleasure of being a reader for a new play written by an amazing director/producer/writer Gary Lennon and in the readthrough I had the read with the talents of Isabelle Huppert and Melissa Leo. You can imagine as an actress what an honor that was for me. Now I am auditioning for co-star and guest-star roles for TV and Film each week through my agent Andreadis Talent Agency and my manager Jossylyne Herman and Associates in NYC. My team behind me really believes in me and they work very hard for me and I also work very hard for them. It is a real partnership and I love both very dearly.
What is your process to get into your characters? And what role(s) have been the most challenging for you?
I play a ton of different characters. My reel is full of everything from redneck, homeless, dominatrix, ditzy, white trash, snobby bitch, drug fueled crazy drunk, mom, old ladies, waitress, a crazy cat lady and much more. I am a definite character actress and with each role, I must find a way to make it different and unique. I do like to break down the script in beats and give each beat a verb / action word to describe what is going on. And then for me it is getting up and looking in the mirror and doing it repeatedly especially after you get the lines down because you really need to know your lines backward and inside and out before you can really do the work. This took me a while to figure out. I thought I could work the character as I was memorizing and for me it is opposite. I almost always need a little coaching. Getting someone else’s perspective on the role and getting ideas you never would have thought of helps so much. That’s why it is important to always be in a class and working on your tools, as well as networking and having actor friends you can run lines with. I dream that I will win an Oscar and I love to play dirty, gritty roles that make me look as unattractive as possible.
My most challenging role recently was playing a homeless woman [in ‘Lizzy on Leroy’] and trying not to make it too big, too much of a farce and really make her real. Sometimes I can get big because I am cast in such crazy roles. Seanie Sugrue [director] told me he thought it was the best work he has seen me do, so I am anxious to see this film when it is finished.
Never just sit home hoping they come to you. It doesn’t work that way.
- Julie Reifers
What obstacles do you face as an actress and how do you overcome them to achieve your goals?
SLEEP!! I don’t get enough sleep, and this is so my fault. I want to do it all and I continue to work full time at a job overnight, so I can have extra money for classes and seminars and headshots and reels and all the websites you need to be on. So, I audition and shoot all the time during the day and I work five nights a week at a hotel midnight till 8:00am. I am very close to being able to let go off the survival job and just take the leap of faith that this is my calling. I do believe it will be very soon. I drink a lot of coffee and sleep when I can. Sometimes I have to say it has not been the best decision because it can affect your auditions. Sleep is very important and so is eating in a healthy way. This is something that is still a work in progress for me.
What do you personally take out of a role and what impact does it have on you?
I have played many drunk characters and I enjoy playing them for several reasons. As a bartender for twenty years I have seen it all and I take some bits and pieces from different people I have met and added them into my characters. I have lived it as well.
I can also cry very easily which is so interesting because its something I don’t do well in real life. I suppressed a lot of feelings growing up and interestingly enough I don’t have to grab from my childhood to cry. I play the scene and really take in what is going on. I played a character where my child was kidnapped, and I was explaining what happened to the man I was with and I could not stop crying, I felt the character so much and felt wow how it could be to lose a child. I just felt her pain.
What advice would you give young aspiring actresses about the entertainment industry and accomplishing their dreams?
This business has changed so much since I started in it thirty years ago. Everything is done electronically now, and I find that to be so much easier than having to send out a hundred headshot and resumes and post cards with stamps and go door to door and be hopeful someone will see you in something. There are so many more resources now so USE THEM!!! This is your business and you have to invest time and money in your business. Have great headshots, do student films and get some footage for acting reels especially if you are on a tight budget and can’t afford to go to a studio. There are now studios that will write the scenes for you, find actors and shoot it like it is made for TV.
Get footage that shows your best talents, make sure you have a website, go to seminars and casting director workshops because it’s the easiest way to get your foot in the door. Make sure you belong to Actors Access, Backstage and Casting Networks.
Actors Green Room has a plethora of information and self-help work just for your soul. Make short films with your friends and get involved with all the many film festivals. Never just sit home hoping they come to you. It doesn’t work that way. You need to look and feel your best and when you ever feel like you need a break, take it. This business can consume you. Find other outlets and hobbies besides acting so its not the only thing you do.
Who inspires you?
I loved Lucille Ball and I watched I love Lucy constantly. She is and was just hilarious and I knew I was just as ditzy as her character sometimes in real life. My best friend Sandra and I are the real Lucy and Ethel and in time I will make a black and white show that will be just as crazy and star us both. Carol Burnett and Goldie Hawn are also fabulous and inspired me through my life. I needed to laugh through some tough times and these women helped me.
As far as in my circle of life, my beautiful courageous mom who had a tough life for a while and is a beautiful soul and my three amazing sisters who mean everything to me.
Finally, best friend Sandra. I am not sure if I’d be alive without her. And never ever would I be where I am today if it wasn’t for the grace of GOD!
Who would you like to work with in the future and why?
I would love to work with Bradley Cooper again in a much bigger role and say, remember me from twenty-seven years ago?? LOL I would love to work with Meryl Streep because who wouldn’t? She’s brilliant in everything.
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Any one you’d like to thank at this moment?
My family and friends. My friends are truly the most amazing friends a girl could ask for. They have gotten me through so much when I was at my lowest points. Too many to name that never gave up on me. Sandra Causey Largacci, John McGinty, Kristi Fitts, Susan McGinty, Scott Partridge and countless others. My mom Gloria Robbins and my sisters Elizabeth Stepp, Stacy Frazier and Olivia Coker.
Florida School of The Arts in Palatka, Florida, one of the best two year colleges and hidden little secrets many aspiring young actors should know about.
Seanie Sugrue [from] ‘Locked in The Attic Productions’