Stephanie Czajkowski Transcript

Colleen 0:00
Thank you so much for being here. Stephanie. Um, where are you right now? Stephanie, are you in LA? Are you going to Palm Springs?

Speaker 2 0:05
I’m in LA. I mean, I mean, our, my husband has a screen as a writer, director. So I’m in the office that is also the audition room. There’s also the get like, all that the thing that is all the things I’m just

Colleen 0:16
it’s sort of a catch all. It’s like a junk drawer, but for a room exactly where I am as well as where I am as well. A little corner has wallpaper so it looks cute. And that’s that’s it. All right. So welcome, everyone to this q&a With Stephanie to kowski I was so grateful to meet Stephanie when she took bootcamp, I believe in 2019 at Mk s, and she’s been a student of Stan’s long before that. Stephanie was raised in Wisconsin, where I was as well she went to NYU, trained at Playwrights Horizons Steppenwolf Theatre, and then she moved to Los Angeles began building her TV and film resume spent a little time in New York as well. She started with departs on non union shows like I didn’t know I was pregnant. She recently played real life WWE Hall of Famer, China on young rock recurred in three seasons on Doom Patrol on HBO MacGruber on peacock and is currently on Star Trek Picard. On this seat, I should say not currently, but on this season of Star Trek Picard as the den intervene. No spoilers off screen. Stephanie’s battled with three types of unrelated cancer and during a thyroid removal, six chemo sessions of double mastectomy 25 sessions of radiation and she calls it her cancer trifecta. She and her husband documented her health journey on their humerus and on his podcast chemo skinny, and they’re turning that into a movie Stephanie, a complete honor to have you here. There’s How does it feel hearing all of those bookings and accolades. And,

Speaker 2 1:58
yeah, it’s such a I mean, it’s such a strange thing, that the thing that always hits me consistently is the last part, the kids part, I was like, all that happen to be doing. But it is I have been fortunate enough specifically to have a partner who’s like, Dude, you need to remember when I met you, your first TV job was I didn’t know I was pregnant, I was apparent, like, it’s part of the reason I keep it as part of my bio. Because I feel like so often we get caught up in what we should be doing next, that we don’t take the time and give ourselves the grace, to see where we’ve come in that last, you know, run of stuff that you’ve just mentioned, those jobs was a really good run over the span of just a couple years. Which is such a unique thing for me as an actor. And I think for a lot of people, because a lot of times it’s like feast or famine, and that was that, like those five jobs were just like back to back to back to back in a way that I’d never experienced. And I think sometimes I don’t realize the fact that it happened a little bit. I don’t I don’t know if that’s I don’t know, you know, I don’t know if that’s Oh, I completely

Colleen 3:17
understand. Yeah, yeah. You know, it’s,

Speaker 2 3:22
and I get to you know, I think it allows me to just be like, Wow, I did all that, because you don’t kind of remember it. And also you don’t want to feel all narcissistic be like I did all that.

Colleen 3:33
Right? Right. Right, right. And in the moment, it’s kind of like, great, well, let’s get to that. And let’s make sure this is happening. And let’s make sure this and, and the COVID tests, and all of this and travel and all those things. So I imagine hearing it back, it’s like, wow, impactful. Yeah. I’m glad you mentioned. That’s why you keep the I didn’t know I was pregnant in your bio. Because it did surprise me a little I think so often actors are like, Oh, God, get that short film off my credits. Get that thing out of here. I want to remove all my co stars as soon as possible. Yeah. But it reminds you where you started.

Speaker 2 4:12
Yeah. And it’s it’s very much my husband being like, you have to put it on because, and we’re at a place where I don’t think anyone knows what that what that show was. Everything about that show because it was the number one show on TLC for a while, because apparently, a lot of people don’t know when they’re pregnant, which seems crazy to me. But you know it, but it was it was for me also. Yes. The first time I was on film, but my mother passed away. And that that episode aired a week after she died. Oh, wow. And I was on television so I think I hold on to that a little bit as well because I am someone who who wants to remember where I’m from again that might be a mid the Midwest and me I think you know

Colleen 4:59
you Yeah, absolutely. So you got to celebrate the booking with your mom the booking and the filming of it. Yeah, yeah. Oh, god that is so special. As much as it as as this artist’s life is about Korea, you know, deepening, deepening our connection to the human experience, celebrating those wins with family members and sort of being able to honor the people who got you to where you were, is important as well. It is. And

Speaker 2 5:27
it’s also I mean, our family’s families, even my family now, like I’m even slightly bigger things that they’ve seen me on there don’t get it. It’s not what they do. They don’t understand that one line on a costar, how much work goes into that. And to be on network TV, you know, I have a 96 year old grandmother who’s like, I wish you want it more like Yeah, me too. But the amount of work that goes into just be there, to just show up to just have the faith that you can work in this industry, you know, is, is a lot of effort and a lot of belief that I think sometimes we minimize too much, and you got to celebrate the wins, you’ve got to celebrate the wins, no matter how small they might seem.

Colleen 6:15
Absolutely, absolutely. Do you find yourself still celebrating these wins when with some of these, like sort of bigger, longer bookings?

Speaker 2 6:25
I do. And I do and it’s, you know, it’s different. It changes how the it’s celebrated, or what’s celebrated, I guess. Because I still, I mean, I’ve been fortunate enough to have these longer bookings. But I’m still auditioning, you know, I still, I’m getting into new rooms, and I’ll audition for something that I might not be right for. But the fact that they call me back these things, because I’m a little bit more seasoned. Yeah. As opposed to looking at it as a loss. I’m still celebrating like, oh, they called me back for that. You know what I mean? Eight, right. Absolutely.

Colleen 7:01
I love that. So I love talking about firsts. In an actor’s like, I remember when I was considering moving to LA, I was like, how do people get their sag card? How do you get an agent? How do you get that first booking. So tell us a little bit of like your origin story. Your first reps first TV job, how’d you get your damn sag card?

Speaker 2 7:24
My sag card came before my first reps. I, I think through actors access, I had graduated from NYU, I was living in New York, I had an initially I wanted to be a musical theater actor, I wanted to be doing theater. And I remember in college, my musical theater teacher being like, you are five foot 10 with a deep voice. He’s like, you’ve got a woman’s voice and a girl’s body. He was like You will start working. If you want to do musical theater when you’re like 40. And I was like, Oh. I mean, I’ve always been a late bloomer, but I’ve always been a late bloomer. So taking that into consideration, because this is such a job that is nonlinear. And I think when you grow up in school, in traditional school, that it’s, you do one thing to do another to another, that that’s how it happens. And it doesn’t. And so you’ve got to have a bit of faith, and you got to kind of let it go and be open to other opportunities. And I think I had auditioned for it was a very indie film. I don’t even remember the name of it. But what I do remember is that my first job was being a female redneck. And I think I blocked it out. Because I was things that I don’t want to talk about, is I got my sag card, being a racist, like a fully racist woman. And it was based on a true story where like, we beat I was watching these redneck dudes beat someone up, really, it was awful. And I didn’t know I got my sag card until like, three months later, it just I got a letter from sag in the mail. And I was, you know, it was a film and, you know, you try and get whatever work you get. And I got paid. So I was super excited about it, but I’m just kind of like, oh my God, and I was kind of like, Oh my God. I just got my sag card for being a terrible, terrible. No, but someone needs to I mean, someone needs to play them.

Colleen 9:32
1,000,000% Yes, yeah. But

Speaker 2 9:35
it was. It was funny because it was a surprise. I didn’t expect to get it. And then it kind of sat languishing until I moved to LA and started going out on different stuff and I became a must join. When I got David. When casting director workshops were still around, they were in New York and I came out here and I had a friend who was an agent Who would kind of hit pocket me but I didn’t have management. And so I did casting director workshops, because that was how I was going to get in. And I booked my first co star through Scott Davis doing a casting director workshop he called me in. And it was one of those things that I feel like once you get your first co star, then suddenly, someone has trusted you to be on his set. And so people are open to being that first co star I feel so often specifically in this industry, it’s someone has to be willing to take the chance Yeah, to trust you on a set. And then everyone else will come along and be like, oh, yeah, you know what I mean? And I think in a lot of ways, that’s the hardest thing is, is having the, the trust in yourself. Because you know, you’re new at it, and you’re the new kid, and you don’t want to show up and protect, you don’t want to show up and ask questions and feel like you don’t know what the hell you’re talking about. Yeah. Which is why shout outs, you know, to Stanford students, which is why training in places that teaches you what to expect on the job is so important, because that’s not shit I learned at NYU. I didn’t learn any of that at NYU. And then my first guest star was I had gone in for Rick Milliken. I think three times over the course of three years, I read for a series regular, which was terrible, not great for at all. And I don’t remember that audition being very good. Quite frankly, I don’t remember that. I just mean very good. And then I got called back for a guest star, which was much more it was taught most of my stuff, most of my stuff. And my co star stuff is I’m a five foot 10 strong female with a deep voice. I play a lot of COP, like my entree was very much. A lot of cops, a lot of firefighters, you know, a lot of civil servants. I’m like, you know, I am Eastern European. I’m from Wisconsin. I’m farm strong. Very much based on that physicality. And when I went for Rick, I wanted for bones. And I was going for a lawyer who was a shot putter, or I don’t. And I got called back. So it was like this very much this step of I went in, I heard nothing for the series, right? Like, six months to a year later, I went in again, I got called back. And the last time I went in for him was I think the last season of Bones. I got called straight to producers. Oh, yeah. For a female lesbian, Lumberjack, again, five foot dead. But it was one of those things, where was one of those things that the proof is in the pudding in the sense of, if people keep calling you back, it’s because they like you. And because only one person gets the job. So that was my first type of show guest star. And then of course, I thought, oh my god, I’m gonna get all these guest stars. And that sort of, you know, it’s, and then you just go back to being a working actor. Like it’s always the beauty about the last couple of years is it’s the first time I’ve had the luxury of not feeling like I always have to be working, looking for another job. Yeah. And that, you know, in it, I was like, remember, it’s not always like that. So don’t get fearful of it. But you also have to really appreciate the fact that you’re on this little ride for a while. Yeah,

Colleen 13:36
absolutely. I love that. When you said that, like you sort of started to understand, like, I don’t know if your casting is the right word, but like civil servants, cops, lesbian lumberjacks, people who shotput. Well, was I did you ever take any like branding classes or anything like what is your type or

Speaker 2 14:02
did not that I was aware of it. I mean, the thing being a very direct, somewhat direct, or at least what I consider a direct person. Specifically, when I was in theater, I remember auditioning for I did a, I was a lead in this in this musical that took place in in the Quad Cities in Iowa. Wow. I remember auditioning for it. And the director reached out to other director friends of mine, which means much like jobs, I was like, call my best friend. And asking how I was as a person because I was going to have to live there. Something I mean, something that I became palpably aware of pretty early on, is I felt like I wasn’t quite specifically for this industry, the kind of woman they wanted, which in theater made more sense, because it was like you have ingenue you have older lady and I did not fit in there in, in my theatrical like stage theatrical career. I was playing, you know, fairies and sci fi people. And when no one when no one thought about it, because it was, you know, 1520 years ago, I was playing postdoc transsexuals, which I would never do now, of course, but I was in this weird place that I recognized that I was a very strong woman. But I was not a strong leading lady in the sense of how we saw leading ladies in this industry. So I think what I was really aware of is trying to find out where I was represented where I as a tall person, who is not a model, because even that, like, people are five foot 10. But they’re usually EX models. So there’s a there’s a look, that is there. And I was not seeking out to look like that. I think partially because in order to get there, it would be a whole lot a mess of, you know, body dysmorphia, and I. And I think I just went, you know what, this is what I look like. So if I’m going to be big, if my arms are going to be big, then I’m just going to make them yoked, mostly because the idea of putting, for whatever reason, even at 17, I had a strong enough sense of self, I think, from my mother, that I was like, well, to try and make myself something I’m not in this way is gonna take up so much energy, and I’m watching other friends do it. And it hurts my heart. Because they should be able to love themselves as they are. You know, and we’re I think the industry is getting better at it. The thing that I found is when I moved here, yes, cops, yes, this. But as I’m seeing more representation behind the camera, I’m seeing myself being able to have more opportunity. Because it’s no longer a case. And I’ve seen this with friends of mine, you know, specifically black friends of mine, like, you can only play like the there’s a black judge or you can only be these things. And as we broaden who tells story, we get to start to experience the opportunity to play something that you would see yourself in, I guess, but getting in. But getting in. I was like, Oh, this gets me work. Great. Because I’d also done theater for you know, I was a bartender than I do theater for six, eight weeks. And then I’d spend, you know, another two months, trying to make the money that I didn’t make that you know, because it’s always that weird balance. Yeah, as you’re trying to figure it out.

Colleen 18:04
Yeah, yeah. Wow. That’s amazing. I’m kind of blown away by that, and mostly like five minutes to journal and then we’ll get back to it. Well, if you don’t mind me asking then sort of embracing that you were perhaps not necessarily what Hollywood typically looked for in a leading lady or in a actress type role. Was it easier when you lost your hair? Because also hair is quite tied into like, stereotypical femininity?

Unknown Speaker 18:42
Absolutely. I mean, I do not recommend falling into yourself by getting cancer that I do not recommend that by

Colleen 18:52
us. Okay. Good to know. For later, yes.

Speaker 2 18:57
But you know, I think that for me, I previous to that previous to did I have bones I found my first real acting agent. I got my first real acting. I moved out here when I was, I mean, you can find my age on the internet. I’m I will be 50 in November. And congrats. I moved out here. When I turned 30. Again, late bekend bloomer. And I got my first agent. It took a while it took you know, it’s like any US city does. And I’ve been like, I’ve been with my current agent for nine years, and I adore them with ddo. But I remember meeting Anthony. And he was starting that department in a bigger way. And I remember him being like, here’s the deal. You will not have auditions a lot. He was like, when you have auditions, you will be really white for them, but they won’t come all the time. And it was the First time because like I said, I’ve been talking to by a friend who had, you know, in confidence to pull another friend, I don’t know that you’ll work a lot because she’s too big. And it wasn’t that I was too fat. I was too tall. I was too. I was too a little too much. He took up too much space. Yeah, it took up too much space. Um, and so when I met him, I, I understood the fact that he saw me, he saw me in a way that was not limiting, but understood what I brought to the table, and that it wasn’t what everybody else brought. So he started everything I went out for I was like, it’s it was centered in that. And then when I lost my hair, it was like, Holy fuck, there was there was a, there was a confluence of I remember shaving my head. Because I was going to do it anyway. And, interestingly enough, maybe I’ve been thinking in the back of my head, like, I had a sixth sense. Like, maybe I should cut my hair, like, no hair for me. And doing all that stuff has always been like, as it is for a lot of people, ya know. And when I shaved my head, I remember looking at him in the mirror and being like, Oh, there you are. And just feeling this sense of, Well, you either like me or you don’t. But oh, well. It was, it was.

Colleen 21:34
It was so

Speaker 2 21:38
zen, it was I felt so powerful, because I didn’t feel like I needed to be anything. What authentically who I was. And literally, that’s what the audit like it was, I had a manager like I, I don’t my manager previous to this. And I was going you know, and I took a headshot because I was bald, and I was also in the middle of chemo. And I booked a job the you know, the call the wild job. I booked the week before I went in for a double mastectomy. Oh, I mean, but there’s a part of that I find with, you know, with my life is if something major happens, I lost my mom, I booked my first non union feature film, like, I lost my debt. Like, I’ve lost both my parents I’ve, I’ve had a lot of loss. But the thing that that and kids being born major, real life events, which is what we are in the business, of telling story about when those things happen. Being an actor was important. But I feel like for many years, I was like I’m holding I was holding on so tight. Instead of just being like, this is me and moving on. And I think we all do that, because we want to do it so badly. Yeah, that we hold on, to try to make it right to try to do something right. And I think it was before I lost my head. I lost my hair and my hair. Somewhere along the line. I was like, stop trying to make it right. Just make it real. Just make it real. Because real for you real for me is it’s authentic to who you are. And it’s the thing that makes it fly I think

Colleen 23:38
oh my goodness. That is incredible. I I find myself relating a lot to holding on to things I mean, literally I was holding on to for years, because I thought I should be blonde for this industry. So it would color my hair and I look back at pictures and I had like four strands left at the bottom. You know, they had been bleached like, like damaged to oblivion and I was holding on because I thought long blonde hair was what I had to have. Yeah. And it didn’t it didn’t. It didn’t suit me.

Speaker 2 24:10
Well yeah, even when I had hair it was you know when I got this this when I every every longer job I’ve gotten like I haven’t been thinner. I haven’t like I’ve been in a place sometimes because of life where I’m just like this is who I am either you like me or you don’t and anytime I’ve kind of surrendered kind of let go let God Yeah, is when that magic it. I feel like it sounds a woowoo but it is a little you’re opening yourself up to receive whatever might be out there and you know cancer did a lot for that in that way. Like you realize, well Holy shit. I got no control over this. So you know and you know I you know I ended up booking Doom Patrol and I would have gone in for that role. But the fact that I was bald was just like I just nailed it. Like, I didn’t have a manager, item manager, who I had like a newsletter. I did the newsletter I did. Yeah, years ago, not the branding thing. But I did the Dallas traverse. I did all the things all the busy workers supposed to do to try to post cards, postcards, or whatever. And I remember sending out and I got an email who I’m now working with it, like, we had been friendly, I’d done like, some sort of info list how to get a manager thing with him and kept in touch with them for like, a decade. And he reached out to me and was like, How can I help you? Like, I want to be your man like, and it was because we built this relationship. But all these things fell into place. And in the moment, I was just trying to make sure I was gonna be alive. I mean, there was not a threat of me dying. But I just, it forced me so deeply to be in the moment, that it just reverberated in a way that I wasn’t trying to go get stuff I was, I didn’t have the energy to try to go do that anymore. I have the energy only to, you know, go through cancers and deal with that. Yes. And then when this stuff came up, it was the reconfirmation that, for me, my sole source fire is lit by being on set. You know the world. I’m also a fitness instructor. And I always joke that I’m like, yeah, if I’m on set plan, you’re doing a one line co star, but the gym could burn down and I wouldn’t I wouldn’t want anyone to, you know, hurt but like, that’s the equilibrium. Oh,

Colleen 26:49
yeah. Wow. So with your, um, I’ve had some folks talk recently about, like changing of their hair, and worrying about their materials being sort of in line, you know, especially folks who are playing a little bit with like gender identity and how they want to sort of outwardly express themselves. And they worry sort of, well, if I was like deep in mom roles. And now I’m exploring like some non binary presentation. Yeah. How do I sort of like still market myself when they’re in process, as someone who had no choice but to have materials be different? And maybe found a look that better embraced more of who you are? Any any pieces of inspiration or thoughts.

Speaker 2 27:40
I went through, so I lost my hair, right? chemo, it was going to happen anyway. I don’t know that I would have ever done on my prime. So when it started growing back, and I was done with treatment, I legitimately went through all that same stuff. What do I do with my hair? I don’t even know I don’t. And I, there was a woman, she at the time was building her business when my hair started growing back, and I was having kind of a mini identity crisis. Because I didn’t know. And I hadn’t bought a lot of wigs. I was like, I don’t know really what to do. Where am I? Who am I? Because I feel even still, I shaved my head and I’m like, Fuck, yeah, here I am. I feel so powerful in that just because I don’t feel like I have to play it being anything else. But I also understand that this industry with that hair only sees me one way. And I know that if I want to work, and I want to do commercial work, unless I’m going out for cancer commercial, which I still haven’t booked. There are only a certain certain amount of things. So when I was growing my hair back, I went to her. I said, Well, what do you think I need someone else’s I need somebody else to tell me what’s going on. Because my gut was like, just shave her head again. And I was like, but do I get all of those old voices from you know, a decade longer of the industry, it was like, but then you will be limited and data. And so she said to me, she’s like, You want my honest opinion? And I was like, yeah, she’s like, I think you should shave it again. She’s like, the industry has told you what it wants. It’s polarizing. They either want it or they don’t. You wouldn’t know the answer. You don’t. And I was like, alright, well. And so what it did is it gave me the agency or gave me the permission to reach out to my agents. Why have a good relationship with but still sometimes I’m like, Well, you know, what do I ask you about I still I got a deep I was raised Catholic. I mean, they call me they call me and I think I’m in trouble like it’s

Colleen 29:55
usually raised Catholic. How many things do we have in common center?

Speaker 2 30:00
Right. Oh my gosh, we should do an We’re probably we’re probably Holy moly.

Colleen 30:04
Yes, absolutely amazing.

Speaker 2 30:06
So, I reached out to them. And I was like, hey, what do you think I should do with my hair? And they were like, we keep sending out your bold headshot to do whatever you want with it. Because we’re sending it out telling people you will shave. To which, at that same part as an actor, I’m like, but if I’m on camera, and they don’t see it, are they going to freak out? Like, because? I mean, let’s be real. You know, they’re, they’re wonderful casting. You know, agents like Erica Bremen, like, who are like can see beyond what they see. But I’m also just like, Yeah, but with my head bald. I look fully Devery, dude, like I like. So what ended up happening is, I kind of kept my hair. And then, literally, a week later, I had a call saying that I was pinned for for the first four episodes of season two of Doom Patrol. So I was like, Oh, well, I’m shaving my head. I did that. And then it was one of those things that I went from do patrol, I had a month off. And then I booked MacGruber, with a little bit of hair that had not been dyed, which was gray. And here’s an amine, which was kind of gray. And, you know, says the age I am. But I remember seeing eye friends who have breakdowns. I saw that roll. And they released it. 30 to 50, tough, blah, blah, blah. Because she was supposed to be a soldier. And she was mean. And I remember being like, my agents, my manager were very open to, they’re very open to me being like, Hey, guys, I think that’s, and they submitted me didn’t hear anything, a month later, they re released it. And they aged it up 40 To 40 to 50. And I was like, Guys, you need I know you submit you gotta submit again, you got it. And it was one of those subtype book was suppose to be watching my niece and nephew. Thankfully, my brother come out in Vegas because my brother, and I left from Vegas, like the next day to go shoot for the first week. And it was gone for a summer. And wow, I remember the producers assistant being like, we were looking, we were looking and they kept sending us these young Baba blah. And we saw you and they were like, fuck, yes. So I am very much of the mind. I’ve thought that before. But I don’t think you need to be anything but what makes you feel full. Granted, if you’ve gone out for other things, mom’s book, I think there’s a way to find find the difference of that because you don’t my hair is growing back and needs to be tied. But I wanted to expand my reach. So I decided to donate her blonde. So it was but also because I think it’s easier when the routes are done. To see me bolt to admission me involved. Yes. But when my hair was dark, it was really hard. Right? So I think when it comes to experimenting with basically you being a human and your looks in your materials, it’s a conversation definitely to have with your people, which I think also you people yearning to express themselves in their fullest way. Having those conversations can also tell us if they’re the right people for us, you know, I mean, yeah. But also, I think you do it, because I mean, they’re waiting. I mean, everyone on Doom Patrol is wig. You know, everybody, everybody, including Diane who has like launched they wait, wow. Yeah, like, they’re waiting. They’re wigging people with normal hair. So, you know, I think it’s I but I also think it depends on where you are in your career. Okay, I feel like they give a little more wiggle room for, you know, recurring co stars. But it’s like, if you’re coming in for one day, if the question is, is how much is production gonna want to put into buying a week for you? And I mean, it’s, it’s, it’s, that is where I think the question comes in. But I also think, if you’re exploring your gender identity, I mean, for me, you know what, I’m like, 14, I’m like, oh, that thing that I’ve always felt we now have a word for it’s called the it’s day. It’s, that’s what that thing that I’ve been feeling for my entire life. And now I you know, I embrace that, but I’m also just kind of like, Yeah, but I’m also 58. So like, This is who I am. So I don’t care what anybody else thinks. But I also think having that verbiage And finally amplifying and acknowledging it. For people who want to express that they think they should, because also, Hollywood and production is moving in a way that we are embracing, you know, because we always leave. So I say, as a go for it. And I also like, and I’m also the mind that I’m like, you know, do it in, I feel like do it in a way where it’s an easy transition where it like, whereas I used to have long hair and like, what is that transition? That’s just it’s kind of an easy midsection that you can do both those things at once. I think there’s ways to find that long, it was just me yeah,

Colleen 35:38
oh, no, that is such priceless information, because I can give it I can give advice about that. But it’s coming from a perspective of someone who has never shaved their head, or really investigated a lot of the things that other folks are investigating. So that is like, priceless. But so when you auditioned for China on young rock, you did get a wig, right for your audition

Speaker 2 36:02
I did for the audition, because, you know, I did for the audition, because looking at me, as I am like China is such an iconic role and such an iconic look. That when I was you know, I was in New York at the time and tide was coming up, I was at gyms with long dark hair, having you know, dudes be like, hey, look like China. Not the not the pickup line, you think it was? Me, I reached I saw again, I saw that role. It was the it was, you know, it was way younger than I was. But I also knew the director. I knew the director from and he went to NYU and I knew him through a showcase I had done. And again, I let it sit and I reached out to my manager and I said, hey, they’re trying to shoot this next week, and they are looking for the breakdown was five foot 10 light hair or light eyes, 200 pounds and muscular. And I’m like, Well, I don’t have all that much. I used to have a lot more of that. vascularity. But I have also as someone who is strong and tall. When there is a call for that specific physicality. In my experience, there’s a lot of people I see on the right, like, because there’s a certain group of us. Yeah, I mean, and I was I was of the mind that, that they didn’t give themselves enough time to find it. Like if they really wanted someone who fully embraced it. They give themselves for days. And so I reached out to my manager, and I said, Hey, here’s these pictures of me before. And so I’d said send them and I was like, Look, I’m gonna go by and I did I went bought a cheap wig. Because I knew that, for this instance, it was necessary to be able to envision me as that person. Because, you know, not only is I’m like statues, I’m tall. I’m strong, but not as strong as I mean. No one is at this point, like, it takes a lot of steroids and you know, and certain amount of, you know, work to get there. Yes. But also, in that instance, I said to myself, if you’re going to be able to see the similarity, I gotta have this because this hearing continent, you know, so we did

Colleen 38:28
amazing, I love that. So it was almost like the gift. like kind of like what you choose when you want to, when you want it when you want to be bald, and you’re like I want to buy first of all, I want to put the bug in my managers ear about this and then buy a wig that fits. Yeah, and then go book that frickin job. How long between when you booked it and when you were actually filming.

Speaker 2 38:48
So I prior to sending it to the manager, it came out on a Friday, I think even on a Friday. I saw it but then ignored it. And then on Sunday, I didn’t want to bother my managers a little weekend, I reached out to my friend who was shooting and I was like, Hey, I think I might be able to solve your problem. And so I got the audition on a Monday morning. It was due by 10am. I had a callback for commercial which of course not of course, which I generally never did. Like I’m not a commercial, like I don’t get a lot of commercial auditions. And it was this one where I was like playing a female football coach short hair and so I was like, I cannot get to self tape done by 10 o’clock, or we had to be by noon but my call that was allotted. So they pushed it later in the day. I went to the call back about a wig on the way home. I put it on I just and we just did it. It went in Monday. It went in by it got in by before time luckily it was it was very much about physicality and stature rather than lots and lots of words. But yeah, I was also just like fucking words taped up. I’m like, whatever. Yeah, Uh, yeah, figured out, huh. And so, Tuesday, I hadn’t heard but my friend graciously was like, hey, that extended the deadline to the next day. Oh, but he was like, of the people they’ve seen. You’re in the like, they really liked your tape because he wasn’t going to. And so by the end of Tuesday night, they other tapes came in. I was picked by Wednesday. My contract was signed by Wednesday night. I was on a plane on Thursday. Oh, wow. I was I was Yeah. So that I could go in for you know, hair fittings and, and also, you know, she was very tan and God bless. God bless the makeup crew. Oh my god. Everyday me, basically naked being self tan she like, because there was a lot of, there was a lot of lifting that went on in terms of like, self tanning and the wig and that, you know, all the stuff. Yeah. Wow.

Colleen 41:04
That’s amazing. The turnaround is incredible. That’s really incredible. And how was it playing? Because the events that you that some of the events that took place on this show young rock, actually things that happened? So how did you prep for that to embody a match that did happen?

Speaker 2 41:25
So I went on, peacock, because they had all the WWE stuff. And I watched it over and over and over again. Basically, what I did is, I just went and got as much video footage as I could to watch a her because, again, like, let’s talk about gender a little bit. So China’s this giant was a giant, but like, she was super built and she got leaner as it went along. Because of the same thing because like, her, her her song to come to, to the ring was not, don’t treat me like a man. But don’t treat me like what like, it was this weird. Oh, wow. I’m not quite a man. Not quite a woman, like playing with gender that long ago at a time. People could wrap their brains around it right? As much. But she also had kind of like a vocal fry she’d like this. She puts it up in the front, I think to soften Oh, wow saw, I think in order to help, because there’s a long story about her, which I totally related to this idea of. She was she was a woman and she was sobbed and she was vulnerable. But no one sees beyond that package. And I think the one thing that she did is she pitched up her voice to seem gentler and more feminine. And so basically I just watched as much of her as I could and then the match I just watched over and over again because you don’t really see her till the very end with the you know, and but I was really interested to see because she had been relegated to being Triple H’s bodyguard, she was just standing there like this. Her physicality was very much like walk walk. Well, like. So I kind of watched for that to see and inform where that was coming from.

Colleen 43:30
Oh my gosh, brilliant. I love that. And what an honor to play someone who’s a trailblazer? Yeah,

Speaker 2 43:37
yeah, that’s one of those things. That’s also one of the things that I was like, make it right, don’t make it right. Just make it real. Like, just make sure you’re not doing a caricature of a beloved person. Just trying to find her humanity. Just Just see if you can find the essence. And then find her as a human and then go from there. Gosh, I love that.

Colleen 44:04
I love and the fans have been very receptive of your portrayal of China, right? Yeah, they Yeah, they’ve been much nicer than they’ve been to a lot of my friends don’t like Thank God. Thank you. So with some of these roles, there’s a lot of some of these roles a lot of these ones there’s a lot of action involved a lot of physicality. And I know that you’re you’ve also worked as a as a fitness instructor. In fact, I noticed like I don’t know I kind of can’t remember like time when you were not working but you come back from something and like post your work your teaching schedule. Yeah, like Equinox. I think a lot of folks mind when they get to a certain level, like, like that side job, but that side hustle, I just wanna be done with it, because yours helped help support your acting life or vice versa.

Speaker 2 44:54
I think so. Because, you know, the, you know, this the, you know, the side effect of having two teachers I’m At the gym all the time, and it’s strong. Yeah, yeah, pretty healthy. And, you know, for me, I know my, I’ve always been this way I know, my body, how it feels because I’ve always been a physical person. But I found that specifically that run, we had just come out of the pandemic, in Sims, it was 21 to 22, we come out of the pandemic. And for a lot of people, the pandemic, I think, was really fucking scary. Yeah, I had come off working on Doom Patrol, we were about to shoot the season finale of season two, and I got a call that’s like, nope, stale. And then went into this, you know, 90 day thing where it was locked down. And then gyms were not open, at least here for a year. And so for me that time was good, because it made me reckon with the fact that I hadn’t really given myself the grace to really let my body heal, to let you know, my husband, and I kind of understand or try to process what we had been through with 16 months of cancer after cancer like, because you know, you’re in a building, burning building, and you’re going, going, going. And I remember, we, the gym was going to come back, I was going to come back, and we tried to come back, you would have to try to come back in the summer of 2020, for like, two weeks in shutdown, and that everybody would come back. And a bunch of instructors were like, Fuck, no, dude. We don’t know what’s going on. And so 2021, they went to open up again. And I happened to be in Atlanta shooting, and I got all these offers for all these jobs. And I have always been someone who, I guess work ethic, it’s like, gotta keep working, I have to keep working. And so I got to turn stuff down. And I remember getting back. And also because I would have been blessed with suddenly having a little bit more money than you get from being on a coaster for one day and then giving away 20, you know, where I got to be like, You know what, I don’t want to do 10 classes a week, I don’t, because you forget, as a person who’s working another job, how much energy it takes to do the various jobs to then have to come and try and, you know, put this human being on tape. Like it’s, it’s a really weird balancing act. So I got to a place where I was like, I don’t really want to do this. But then I got done. And I was like, oh shit, and I was like universe, please take me away for the summer like, early. I literally wished on. I don’t want to go back because I think that I will fall back into that place. Of I have the time of doing a filling my time with things that don’t necessarily reinvigorate my crit by your creativity. I ended up booking I ended up booking on MacGruber we wait for the entire summer I was like, thank you. And then right after like, and I rolled right into Picard like it was just blown bubble. But what it did is it gave me the space as somebody who was always who’s deeply ingrained in me, I had this thing because my father did not want me to be an actor, but at the start to the imagination. And even until he passed away, it was asking me like, can you be a manager at the gym? He wanted me to have stability. And we are in an industry that is, you know, it’s expansive, and good expands and contracts. And so for me on the side job, I came back and still did it. But by having those jobs, it allowed me to pick and choose when, how much when cancer was the first thing that gave me because I taught all the way through treatment. But it was the first time that I felt like I gave myself the agency to say no, what I’ve realized is I choose to teach the class and I choose to give my energy to the people I feel will receive it the best. When you’re doing stuff like that, or even bartending, you’re waiting tables you’re giving so much yes, yeah. And you’re not necessarily getting back and it has to be replenished. So I become much more politically aware of where that occurs.

Colleen 49:44
Oh, I love that. That’s amazing. Where are you now sort of looking at like, what’s on? This is the question I hate and most from family members. I don’t know why I’m asking you this. I don’t know it’s but I guess I’ll be like them. Western and no, what is it? What do you want want to work on next? For me,

Speaker 2 50:06
the ball that has allowed itself to I keep saying it’s, I’m really good at playing, you know, lieutenants or yeah second in command or, you know, because that’s what I was in. That’s what I like. For the Hammerhead, I was kind of the second main personality because Jane was the Diane was the main one. And like in, you know, MacGruber, I was, you know, Billy releasing his right hand man and I know, so I’m interested in AI by growing my little bit to hear back, I’m like, I’m interested, I want to be the captain like, I’m the gas, I’m interested in being that personally, being the general being the person in charge. I’m also, as I’m looking at roles and, and I’ve been auditioning for them exploring a different parts of me, that is for, you know, the softer, gentle side of the idea that this package is not just one thing. thing I think that’s made people responsive to these people are so angry that I play is that anger is always based in our hurt and fear, and vulnerability. And it’s being able to look to that stuff a little be able to play stuff like that a little bit more. You know, and also, I mean, my husband, like, as I mentioned, as a writer, director, there’s a couple of scripts that he has, that I’ve been, you know, we want to direct one together, that’s about us. But there’s another one that I really just want to help bring out into the world. Because I think it’s important. So, you know, I want to play these bigger roles. But I also just want to start to make and create opportunities to amplify, I feel like I’ve always been very good at seeing people and seeing it when other people don’t. And I feel like because these little things have given me a platform and a different way that I want to use that platform to help bring people I think the one thing that this has granted me is it’s sometimes not I mean, it goes back and forth. Sometimes I just want to get the job I do. And if if that’s the reason I generally don’t get it. But it is allowed me to give my grant myself the grace to be the person because auditioning is the job in in Yeah. And enjoying it.

Colleen 52:48
Oh, I love that. So when you are auditioning or taping you are the person. Yeah. Versus like, I’m trying to get the person to get in the person so I can get on the job. Yeah, well, I love that. What a beautiful shift.

Speaker 2 52:59
Yeah, I mean, granted, sometimes it doesn’t happen. I mean, sometimes you’re like, I have a date. I don’t need the words. You know? Yeah, for sure. But, you know, you do the best you can with what you have. And I also I you know, it’s this our industry is it turns around so fast, especially sub tapes now that you can do them at home. And yeah, you know, and it’s, it’s trying to have fun with something that could be really belaboring this, and you know, can make you as an actor overthink how many times you know, you do get, you know, the rule of like, prepare it, do it three times, like maybe at most three times and just get it out the door. Yeah, that’s in a room in a room. You don’t get 70 million times on set, you don’t get 70 million. Oh, no. So it’s changed in that way. Also, I think the addition is the it’s changed by additions a little bit in often my husband will be my reader. He’s gonna become a better actor, because my you know, but I think it’s, you know, coming back to when we can I love you know, it reminds me of Stan Kearse bootcamp. No, I’m just having the idea of rehearsing stuff and go and having that experience like one of my favorite things to do is you know, work with actor friends of mine, Allison Kane, I think, you know, who I don’t like I adore her work. I think she is one of the smartest, most insightful people to work with, like when she was a great set up for self tapes to but to be able to just work a scene, and yes, send it in, but also to recognize that this may be the only time you get to play this character. So take advantage of

Colleen 54:48
Yeah, she and I met in acting class and when rehearsing I was like, oh, I want to be around you as much as possible. I want to learn from you. Yeah,

Speaker 2 54:58
so like There’s so there’s certain people that, you know, I think that’s the other thing to be careful to be careful of as well is to not I think I’ve always, through my life has been like, well, if I have to do things like that, or there has to be like, they do this thing, and I, if I do it like them, you do it like you, everybody’s careers are so different. And it’s so hard, because there’s no rhyme or reason why anything happens, you know, you just gotta keep putting it out there. And I feel like if you get to a place where you start to feel like you don’t like it any more than you need to take a break, or reassess, because deciding that something isn’t for you, because it makes you feel bad about you, like, bad about you bad about life. I mean, we only got one that we know how to like, and, you know, so it’s, I mean, I can, I can say that. I say a lot of this now, because I almost 50 but also cancer like cancers, I you know, again, don’t work, amend, but don’t recommend, you know, just fuck it. It’s just, it took me long a long time to just be like, fucking, what is the worst thing that can happen? They can’t cast you? You know? Right.

Colleen 56:20
And that’s why we do a lot of these Q and A’s because this is not a two plus two equals four business and no one’s path is the same. So I think the more we hear about how different everyone’s path is, I think my hope is, the more we can accept our own path. And, and because I think accepting our own path is a lot of self acceptance.

Speaker 2 56:43
Yeah. Well, and I think, you know, and again, as, as the hopefully the industry expands, or it’s, it’s easier just to do things because you enjoy them, like, and I think hopefully, I mean, I’m of, I guess generation upbringing, it has to be good or it’s not worth doing. Like, no, sometimes you’re allowed to just enjoy doing something. And you just, you’re allowed to enjoy doing something. And I think, for me, that’s been a very hard thing to wrap my brain around. And I look to look to younger generations and say, just, you know, they always have those things like, what are the three words that you would give her something like, stop worrying about it so much? Like, give less fucks? Give less fucks? Do the thing that fills you up? Don’t do. I’ve done so many things. It’s like I shouldn’t be doing this. Should is never got me a job. Everything that I’ve should I shouldn’t do, has never fucking out. I watched myself tapes now. And I know that the thing that I keep trying to remember is, when I watch it back, I want to feel like whoever I’m talking to is real. Like, there’s a certain thing that I’m like, I’m looking for to send off. You know, and that’s, that’s how it’s changed a little bit for me, because if I see myself on screen, I want to be like, Oh, you fit right into this. And I’m not being like, oh, there, you know? Yeah, it’s hard sometimes.

Colleen 58:11
Which is yes, it can be hard in that like quick turnaround, but, but vital. Yeah, absolutely. Stephanie, I’d like to open it up for some questions from the group. If anyone has any. Please turn your camera on and ask it yourself. So nice to see you guys and stuff. So nice to meet you. And I couldn’t help but notice that Oh, the Places You’ll Go book behind you. And it just made me wonder like what gives you inspiration every day when you are grinding out the self tapes and just you know, staying staying in it because I’m, you know, in another place visit physically just for like work life balance, but I’m still in it. And yeah, I just, I just so inspired by your story. It’s just remarkable and amazing. And I just so appreciate you just being so open and sharing with us. Your your journey.

Speaker 2 59:01
Thanks. Yeah. Oh, the places we go. That was that was one of our readings for our wedding. We had a very unconventional wedding. And we had to have a somewhat religious wedding because you know, the Catholic part. I think what I’ve realized is when I’m busy when I’m not specifically when I’m spans of time, I’m always like, where do I refill? And I think it’s the slowing down. I’ve gotten better at meditating, which I have been. I grew up kind of not opposed to but my mom used to be able to like meditate forever. And I have a brain that races and I’m also I’m always used to doing things. So my inspiration comes when I least expect it. But I try to you know, read books. I tried to you know, watch TV, like I tried to do things That sounds so trite, I guess that I enjoy. Because I’ve realized that the more relaxed I am, the more I give myself again and grant myself the grace to relax and I’m not trying to do anything is when inspiration floods, you know, is when I often notice when I go back to the Midwest when I go to visit family and friends, when when I go to refill my human cup, that is when I get inspiration. But I feel I also feel like in the midst of it, it, it comes and goes, I think there’s you know, there’s times are just not and and in those times, I have to remember that this too shall pass. Because we can’t be one thing all the time. You know, we can’t, which is a hard thing, because especially you as a mom, they’ve been telling you forever, that you should be all the things, you should be lifting the world up on your shoulders and holding it all the time. Now you get to let it down sometimes, you know. Yeah, I love that.

Colleen 1:01:03
I love that. Thank you so much. And Stephanie, this is Julia Bella Nova, she is recovering on Mayans.

Speaker 3 1:01:13
Yeah, yeah, you’re such an inspiration. And just the, like the work you’ve gotten to do. And just like the range of things you’ve gotten to show is so cool and inspiring. And I’m also short hair. So I know, empowerment there. I just wanted to ask you, because what you brought up about your rap sing? Like, you get, like, I don’t know if that’s still true based on what we were saying about getting fewer auditions, but having them be super tailored or like, do you feel like you’re challenging them to give roles that maybe they wouldn’t expect someone like you to fit into? Or are you really like trying to target into, like, what they would expect? Or because I guess I’m just like, I’m struggling with like, do I want them to see me and things that they might not expect? Or do I really want to be super targeted and focused about like branding? And so

Speaker 2 1:02:07
that yeah, that totally makes sense. Um, I think when I it’s, it’s funny to me, because I will send a met, like, I will find it, I will see a role. And I’ll be like, oh, yeah, I could play this. And I’ll send it usually to my manager. Sometimes he’ll just be like, he’ll send it to me before I send it to him. Because we’re the relationship. Because I think we all see me and what I can play, we are all on the same page, I think. And so because of that, I think that that is an easier conversation for me to have sometimes. And I think it’s I think it’s super worthwhile to have that conversation with your agents, and your end or your manager, sometimes it’s, you know, sometimes I feel like that particular conversation, like the conversation of me being like, please submit me for this has always been more of a manager thing than it has been my agents, basically, because my manager is supposed to be, you know, helping to craft and direct my career. And so because of that, if that is indeed their job, which, by definition it’s supposed to be unless it’s majorly changed, they should also be able to start to see me in a larger way, because they’re trying to, you know, bring me on to those things. I mean, I feel like agents and particularly agents, I feel like, everyone’s always gonna go for the low hanging fruit, like, you know, I mean, low hanging fruit is gonna be I mean, it, is the reason

Unknown Speaker 1:03:43
a bad thing to have a niche.

Speaker 2 1:03:44
No, not at all. Not at all. Not at all. And the, and the thing about that is, is I actually dropped my last manager, because at one point, I was talking to my agent, and I have a very good relationship. But he was basically said, I don’t know what he’s doing for you that we’re not, I don’t and there were, and in particular, when stuff like superhero came out, like, especially because you know, as mentioned, you know, otherworldly creatures or whatever. There seem to be in the superhero world, we exist again, that’s why I think I’m so grateful to sci fi and action because specifically like sci fi and comic books, because they expand that definition. And most of you know, the people writing sci fi and genre stuff are my big are my people they’re big nerds, who see the world through a different purview. And in that right with that manager, he was like, I Oh, you can play security guard. And so he submitted me I booked a security guard. And, and then I could never be on that show again. And, you know, and part of me is like, I mean, I ended up seeing the casting offices, you know, Doom Patrol. But in certain respects, it was kind of weird. My agent, you know, also they had that idea of like, we’ve gotten this, and they want to try and build in a certain way. So I got my first, you know, I got my first top of show guest star. And suddenly, because we were my agents, were kind of waiting to see how, and my manager was like, my manager, frankly, needed money. And so was submitting me on stuff that I was like, I’m fine to go play. I am fine to go play. You know, I think I booked Jane the Virgin, which was a very lucrative job, which was crazy. But like, I played coffin delivery person number two or something. And I went, but I went in, because I’ve never been in that office. So like, stumbling, it’s like that thing of like, when do I say no? Is, is always to me? Which? Which? Eight? What is the show? What is likely that I will have a bigger role than this based on what I’ve seen? You know, and, and where do I fit in? And so to that point, you know, I think, absolutely, you have the conversation of how you want to be maybe exploring other roles. And also, I feel like sometimes, depending upon what your relationship was with them, is where are you seeing people like you do it? Where are you seeing similarities? Because not that I’ve kept my stuff really narrow. But I’ve also just, you know, I, I don’t know. I mean, I want to at some point, I don’t know that I will ever play a romantic lead. Unless I am playing, you know, I’m having a relationship with another woman. Or I am on Star Trek, or not, because I can’t and because I’m not a person that way. But, you know, I am already set sat at one point telling me that I was not sexual at all. Like, you know, I’ve had counselors be like, you’re not in that. So it’s, I think, I think, when it’s germane. And when you’re like, Hey, look at this is happening. And you’re seeing in the casting of the show diversity, I think that’s the time to push. I think you always want to push this is getting long in, but I’m so sorry. But I think you always want to push when it makes sense. And when they can be like, oh, when it’s going to be like, you have to put on a wig. Like, if there’s a lot of work to have to prove that you could do it. Now. And also because we’re in Celtic land. There’s nothing wrong with being like, Hey, I think I would bring something really interesting to this. Would you submit and see if they’ll let me take? You know, I think there’s a lot more leeway now, in that way. But I also think it’s, it’s where we as actors forget sometimes even in downtime is watching TV, trying to figure out through IMDb Pro who is creating the shows what they’ve done before to see the kind of people they are so that in addition to having this role, knowing why they created that role, or maybe what perspective they’re coming from, I think gives you insight that you don’t know that you could get it’s like being a detective

Colleen 1:08:33
Stephanie Schakowsky. Thank you so much for being here. I always enjoy hearing what people have to say. But when they are a person that I respect, and they have good values, they treat people well. That’s when I really feel like I can trust what they’re saying and sort of find someone who I aspire to be like so thank you so much on behalf of the entire community here

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