YBY ep 231: Michelle Simone Miller and the confidence it takes to follow your own path!
This week on Yes But Why, our featured interview is with actress and podcaster, Michelle Simone Miller.
Michelle Simone Miller is a television/film actress, a model and the host of the podcast, Mentors on the Mic. She was born and raised in New York City. She has been acting since she was a kid but really sunk her teeth into it after college. Michelle has performed in lots of movies and starred in a few televisions shows. She has also been featured in various commercials, industrials, and training videos.
In our chat, we talk about Michelle’s experiences getting advice from other entertainers throughout her career and how sometimes, it wasn’t always so positive and helpful. We talk about all the things we wished we had learned in college and how Michelle is writing a book on that very subject. We talk about finding the right agent that’ll work best for you and about focusing on your strengths to navigate your path.
Support Michelle Simone Miller by listening to her podcast, Mentors on the Mic. In each episode of Mentors on the Mic, Michelle interviews mentors in the Entertainment industry, focusing on how they started, how they moved up, and any advice they have to give along the way. If you like THIS podcast, you’ll like hers too! It’s very similar! More helpful advice for entertainers like you!
Yes But Why Podcast is a proud member of the HC Universal Network family of podcasts. Visit us at HCUniversalNetwork.com to join in on the fun.
This episode of Yes But Why podcast is sponsored by audible – get your FREE audiobook download and your 30 day free trial at http://www.audibletrial.com/YESBUTWHY.
This episode of Yes But Why is also sponsored by PodcastCadet.com. Swing on by PodcastCadet.com to get help for all your podcasting needs! Go to PodcastCadet.com and put in offer code YBY20 to get 20% off your first consultation!
(production notes: recorded Zoom call with Rodecaster at the home studio on 9/10/2020)
TRANSCRIPT by Otter.ai
Hello, Yes But Why listeners, this is your host, Amy Jordan. On episode 231 of Yes But Why, our featured interview is with actress and podcaster, Michelle Simone Miller. But first, let’s talk about our sponsors. This episode of Yes But Why podcast is sponsored by audible. You can get your FREE audiobook download and your 30 day free trial at audibletrial.com/YESBUTWHY. I’m about halfway through Jenny Slate’s Little Weirds on Audible and it could not be more adorable. If you like Jenny Slate and you like poetry, check out her book that she reads HERSELF on Audible. It’s great. Audible is available for your iPhone, Android, or Kindle. Download your free audiobook today at audibletrial.com/YESBUTWHY. This episode of Yes But Why is also sponsored by PodcastCadet.com. Podcast Cadet is dedicated to helping you build your podcast. We will connect you to the resources you’ll need to get better and better with each and every episode. Swing on by PodcastCadet.com to get help for all your podcasting needs! Let us know you heard about us from Yes But Why and you’ll get 20% off the workshop or service you buy! This week on Yes But Why, I talk to Michelle Simone Miller, actress, model and podcaster from New York City. In our chat, we talk about finding a mentor, writing a book and focusing on your strengths to navigate your path. Support Michelle Simone Miller by listening to her podcast, Mentors on the Mic. If you like THIS podcast, you’ll like hers too! It’s very similar! More helpful advice for entertainers! I now present to you yes but why episode 231: Michelle Simone Miller and the confidence it takes to follow your own path! Enjoy I’m Amy Jordan. And this is Yes But Why Podcast. Yeah.
So I remember, like I was buying a piano in the auditorium of my elementary school, I must have been around, I guess six, six, or seven. And we always had a drama class. And I always loved doing that. And at some point in time, I joined the drama club, and we did a show every year join choir. And I don’t remember how it happened. But all of a sudden, I remember having this realization at that young age, oh, you can do this for a career. Like there was just that moment where like, it hit me at such a deep level. And I was like, Oh, this is what I’m supposed to do. Like I just really felt that strongly where I was like, Oh, I’m going to be an actor, of course, like, this is what it is. And you know, so young, and I remember like, you know, I might have even promised my drama teacher and elementary school that I would win an Oscar and thinker. And she was like, okay, and everyone kind of always thought that that would grow out of it. Because or hoped that I would grow out of it. Because you know, just so young to have that type of thought. But it was so deep. It was like a visceral physiological, like, came from somewhere inside. I was like, Oh, I could do this as a career. I’m I’m doing this. I’m that. So that was
you said people were trying to talk you out of it. So actor not the ideal job for your parents and family.
Oh, no. I mean, my mother always knew of I mean, obviously, since the age that I wanted to be an actor, but she would have I mean, still wanting to probably do something else. They’re supportive in the sense that like, Okay, this is what you want to do. And you’re great at it. And I love you, and I support you. And I think you can do it. But also, like, this is a hard job. Like, it can be very hard. And it’s, you know, it can have its moments and there’s lots of downs and she’ll say like you chose a hard path. And so there’s this like, twofold thing on one hand, you love it so much, especially when things are good, but also like so many downs. So, you know, supportive to an extent, but I also have like other people. I remember my mother and I, if we ever met someone famous or in the industry, I’d always want them to help me like I always be like so like, you know, can you advise like, Can you give me connections? When can we do like I’m an actress. And everyone’s response was always Don’t do it. Don’t be an actor. Don’t go you know, I remember my mom at Sandra Bernhard who’s like an actress comedian, obviously, for people don’t know her but she’s great. Definitely grip and you No, we met her casually. I met her and she said, Listen, my daughter’s an actress. She’s done. So many of these things she does this, like she’s wanting to be an actor since she was a kid. What advice could you give to her? Can you introduce her to someone, and Sandra’s? Like, don’t do it, like, if you if she could do anything else tell her to do that. And it was always really sad to you know, for two reasons. One I was she’s done it before. Like, she can’t just say that, like, in my head, I was like, she knows how it feels to be on bigger sets and to act and feel that rush. And so like, it’s not fair that she can say for me to do something else, but I haven’t experienced that the way she has, I want to experience more of those opportunities. But also, I guess, you know, I totally understand in retrospect, now, because she knows this is so hard, and it’s not, you know, always coming from a place of power as an actor, you don’t have agency, you don’t have control over a lot of those decisions as to whether you work or not. And so I think I understand now or what she and a lot of other people used to say, which is, if you can do something else, sometimes you should, because, you know, there’s such there’s so many things that are not great about it. But you know, I have to hold on, obviously, to the things I love about it. So which are a lot so or else I wouldn’t be doing it. Um, yeah.
I feel like there should be like, Yes, I respect what you’re trying to say. But follow up question. If you do
this for the rest
of your life. What’s next? What’s that next?
person? Yeah, exactly, exactly. So like, got it. Now moving forward, if I still want to do it working. Tell me like,
it’s like, you know that everyone that does something dangerous? had somebody have to train them how to do that correctly, right. So like, I’m sure when they walked up, and we’re like, Hey, guys, you know, I’d like to do I’d like to deal with explosives regularly by my face. Can I do that? They’re like, if there’s anything else in life you’d like to do, kid you should do that. No. No. How about instead you teach me how to do it? Great. Let’s teach him. Like, come on.
Right? Well, I think that’s one of the reasons why, you know, I wanted to make a podcast called mentors on the mic, because I always wanted mentors. Like, I always wanted people to help me and I always wanted guidance. It didn’t have to be like, you know, an introduce you to someone it was always just like, Well, tell me about your journey. Tell me about what you did. You know, so I could at least learn from it. And I didn’t really know how to get one. Like, I just wasn’t someone who knew right away, like, how to keep a mentor, like you can meet some really cool maybe even get along, but like, How do you stay in touch with them? How do they become your mentor over time? How do you lean on them for advice? How do you ask them questions about the industry? And I think, because I had to learn all of those answers. I was like, Oh, well, I think I can make a podcast and and showcase these mentors and help people maybe also help me because I’m still learning from these people, obviously.
Yeah, I mean, you know, you’re right, though it, it’s hard to find mentors, especially as you get older and further along, you know, like when you’re first in, like college or whatever, like just starting out. Yeah, there’s plenty of people who are like, let me help you out, right. But as you get older, like, I’d like to learn some new things. And sometimes I will, I will approach people who are younger than me who were just happened to be well schooled in this specific thing that I’m interested in, you know, and they’re like, Oh, I don’t know, you know, if I can help you, it’s like, you really can, though, like, it’s so it is hard to connect in that way. And, and then the other thing is that, I mean, I’ve had some experiences where the people who were my mentors, you know, things happen, and you find out that maybe they weren’t working with everybody’s best interests in mind. And, and then you’re this person who you’ve like, held in high regard for so long, and who you listen to and created, you know, a lot of what you’re doing around turns out to be a jerk. And you’re like,
oh, that happened to him.
Yeah. I mean, I feel like that happens a lot. Unfortunately. You know, and so it can make it also hard to trust people enough to find a mentor, which, again, is why I think your podcast is great. And also what I’m trying to put out there to this idea of like, you don’t have to be in an unsafe scenario to learn from people’s experience, or
Yes, I agree.
Like, and even if we find out because like, legit, like, legit, the person in my life who turned out to be a bad apple was interviewed on the podcast, and I just removed the interview. It was like, This is no longer available. Because it was like, it was like, No, I’m not this is no longer acceptable. So I don’t know. I don’t know. I mean, it can be tough. I’m glad that you’re doing what you’re doing. I find it very interesting. thing that you had multiple experiences with these people telling you not to do it and also, like extra proud of you for like still doing it, despite this, like constant pushback, which I guess is part of the whole thing too. Yes. Like, you’re gonna get rejected. So might as well have these weird actors reject your ideas. Oh, man, I mean, bless your mother’s heart for like asking people questions on your behalf as well. Right? Yeah. Especially when she herself was like, Yeah, I don’t know. But she was like, Listen, tell me what you got to say. I guess
her thought was like, you know, you’re gonna do it, and might as well try to increase your chances as much as possible. And it helped, like, there were a couple, my earliest manager was through her. So like, my mom asked a friend of hers, who was a modeling agent, like she, she owns this agency specifically for like, high fashion models. And so nothing I would do, but you know, or could do, but she asked this woman, you know, do you know anyone that could help Michelle? And she was like, Oh, well, I know, this manager who sometimes asks us for models for auditions that she has. She’ll be like, Oh, you know, I see this audition, it has models. Do you have any models that are also actors, I’ll submit your models. And so she put a meeting together, she arranged a meeting with this manager, and that’s how I got my first manager. So my mother, man, she just she kept asking it anyone she knew for any sort of connection or help.
Wow. That’s like a deep mom lesson that I’m personally learning. Yeah, like just this idea that it’s like, Hey, man, who cares what you want? This kid wants it. You’re gonna help?
man. So interesting. mask. What’s your mom did for a living?
She’s a mortgage banker? Oh, yeah. Totally different.
Yeah, well, also like, you know, mortgage. That’s some real life. tough stuff. I’m sure she has to talk to a lot of people about some rough things where it’s like, Yeah, no, no, there’s not money available for you at all. So that’s, that’s tough skin city. Wow. That’s great. Yeah. So awesome. So tell me about your first manager experience. Like, what happened with that? What kind of work did you do?
Yeah, so I got this manager some time while I was in college, still, maybe towards the end. So I didn’t really get to go on many auditions with her. And then even when I graduated, I felt like auditions were few and far between, you know, she really focuses on a commercial, she did send me on some film and TV over the course of, you know, working together. But she really worked with non union projects a lot. You know, like, like I said, some union projects, for sure. But you know, just really, really connected with non union commercial type stuff. And so I’d go on auditions for Crandon for commercials for non union commercials, and, or sometimes union commercials. And, you know, there were few and far between at first, like for the first two years, I felt like I would get these auditions, you know, every once in a while, sometimes once a month, sometimes a couple times a month, once every six weeks. And I felt frustrated because I really wanted more. But also just you know, there were really great learning grounds for me to learn about how to audition, what’s the process, like you know, I can now explain all those types of things, you know, audition process in my sleep, as to you know, what a typical commercial or print auditions like you know, the amount of times I’ve had to hold a board that says like 600 number 638 you know what I mean? that teaches you a lot you know, it really it It helps but you know, used to get frustrated and be like I’m not going to get these like the chances of me getting something where I’m 674 is is very rare, you know, it happens but it’s really running my chances are only so high so um, well if I looked at anyway, I don’t know if that’s, that’s negative, but that’s how I felt and so that slowly evolved into I guess, her knowing more about me, but also bookings and stuff. So like, I think the first thing I booked with her I can’t remember but like the small projects like I booked industrials with her at first maybe so like, I booked a US Army industrial I was on a couple like training videos for the US Army. And I was in a David’s bridal and dress industrial where you know, anyone who works at Davis brought David’s bridal might be trained with a video that I was on where I played a bride and then you know, I was in like a Bud Light and you know, like, I think it was an industrial to maybe so like, I didn’t those type of things and like print ads, like things that like I really wanted to be in film and TV but like was so happy at least I could be on set or something. And so I really very much appreciated that like learning those stomping grounds and learning all the the knowledge that comes with auditioning. And I think that really helped that when I did get the bigger auditions, I kind of had an idea of what to do and how to do it kind of thing.
Yeah. So did you just jump right into, you know, trying to be full time actor right out of college? Or were you like, you know, working a day job and then just doing auditions every once in a while? How did it? How did it pick up for you? Because you have a lot? You’ve done a lot of things.
Yeah, I think so because I wanted to be an actress since I was six or seven. I know, I gave my mom plenty of notice. And I went to a very, right, I went to a competitive High School in New York City that’s like, you have to take a test to get in. So lots of smart people. And while I was there, I was talking to my mom and my mom’s like, you have to go to college. Like there’s just no ifs or buts. There was no like, oh, maybe we could talk about that. She’s like, you have to go to college. And she’s like, it can’t be an acting program. She’s like, it can’t be can you get like an actual degree to fall back on if needed. And I love school. So like, I was a really good student. I love school. So I was like, Okay, I’ll go to a school that’s very strong in theater, and acting, as well as liberal arts, you know, so I went to Brandeis, which is really great school, I loved it. And when I graduated Brandeis, I was like, okay, mom, I held up my end of the deal. Like I was like, I got a degree, I have that degree I did. Well, I graduated honors, I am now going to start my professional career. So I went at full force. Now I was lucky, I lived in New York, I didn’t want to move to LA. So I lived in New York. And I stayed at my mom’s for a while, so I didn’t have to worry about major New York expenses, like rent and food and the laundry. So that really helped me so I’m super privileged that way, like to tell people right off the bat. That being said, I still would have to get money for my other expenses, like anything that came with like, you know, $112, MetroCard every month, you know, like, yeah, like that. They they’re expensive. So I had to work like side jobs, but it was always in service for my career, it was always like, Okay, I’m making this money. So I could live here, pursue my career, and get headshots, you know, or get paid for this act, pay for my actors access, you know, subscription or my backstage subscription. So, you know, there’s so many expenses that come along with being an actor, it’s, it’s nice to have, you know, money for it. So I would always do these, like, different types of part time jobs. And
like job jobs, or like, you know,
why not 10 jobs, I mean, I’ve done a lot of different types of jobs. So right off the bat, I’m trying to remember I use, I definitely, I suppose that one of my first jobs that I would do is I was a promotional model. So I would go to like festivals and events and bars and restaurants. And I would promote for an alcohol brands. Usually, I don’t have actually done one, I did a couple for Victoria’s Secret. And I did a couple for like vitamins. So it wasn’t always alcohol, but primarily alcohol. And I would give out free swag. And I would get up for drinks. So I wouldn’t make the drinks, but the bartender would make the drinks, and then I would pass them out. And it was just kind of like a pretty face who would like pass around swag or passed around alcohol. So you know, it’s pretty easy job. And it made like $25 an hour. So it was a nice sort of job that I can do on the evenings, while like during the day, I would take classes and try and go on auditions and stuff like that.
Oh, so you were taking like acting classes and stuff?
Oh, for sure. Yeah, I mean, you know, I kept I kept taking acting classes and also like I was hitting the ground running. But I don’t feel like school teaches you or prepares you for the business side very much, which is one of the reasons why I’m writing a book about it. I’m writing a book about all the things I wish I learned when I left school. So it just it kind of you know, it covers everything that you kind of have to learn over time. So like, what makes a good headshot? You know, what, what should your marketing materials be like? How do you do your own reel? How do you like what’s the first couple websites you should try? What kind of things you should look out to first, like the scams, I would just do all these, like, there’s just so many things that come up with like trying to be an actor and learn as to like, like, I would talk to like everybody I knew about Okay, how do you get an agent? How do you do this? How do you introduce yourself to casting directors? How do you get the big audition? That was something I would always ask people I don’t understand, like, I’m looking on these websites. I only see short films and low budget films. I see some commercials. I don’t see the TV shows that I want to be on and they’ll be like, Oh, you need an agent for that like but how do you get an agent like that? Well, you kind of you need to have like enough on your resume. You need like TV credits. A lot of agents want your TV, and I’m like, but how do I get those TV credits without an agent? So I was like, What? This is a catch 22. And they be like, yeah, that’s Yeah, that’s your first catch 22 business, Michelle. So you kind of just have to like, it was a lot of just learning as I went and talking and figuring things out and reading books and just trying to absorb all those answers.
You know, Can I just tell you that in over the course of all the interviews that I’ve done on this podcast, I’ve learned a lot from a lot of different people that went to like highly prestigious schools, about what they’re not teaching them. You know what I mean? Like, there is a lot of highfalutin Shakespeare productions going on where it’s like, yes, super great. But like, could you toss in like, how Willie shakes, got them in the door, like maybe all lesson? Like, you know what I mean? Like, there’s any level of the business part because I feel exactly the same. Like, I produced so many plays and created shows at my college that just had audiences. I never knew what it was to make a show or get human beings in a door, or get a space that wasn’t just handed to me, right? When I got out of college, it was like, Okay, let’s do a play. And I’m, like, great, where? And then somebody was like, Don’t we have to get the rights and it was like, so much stuff that we like, didn’t even know about, because nobody told us that part.
Yeah, and, you know, there’s, it’s interesting, you say that, because I always felt the same way. Like, I feel like, I feel like most undergraduate programs that teach acting, they are not in my head, teaching you how to be an actor out in the real world. They’re teaching you how to act almost like as if it’s a hobby, even if it’s a degree, I think they just kind of are like, we’re going to teach you how to act, we’re going to look at your monologues, we’re going to have you perform them, we’re going to have a show, we’re going to put you know, have you put together the show we’re going to put together but the vagina model, or whatever it is, they’re putting all this stuff up. But I don’t think they have the idea or the understanding or the insight to one a helper can help and how to leave and feel confident that you’re ready to start. I think they feel like oh, well, we taught you how to act. Like that should be enough. Like if you know how to act, then eventually people will find you. And I’m like, No, that’s actually not true at all.
But may I say, and I hope I don’t go get you know, like under fire for saying this. But I think there’s two different kinds of like, theater, as it were, there’s academic theater. And then there’s the real world theater, right? Like how you actually get it done. And the unfortunate part is, a lot of times, the people who are working in the university setting, maybe have never done the other part. Now, personally, I know that Thankfully, the college that I went to the people who have because my teacher was older and is not the guy in charge anymore. But I know that people who are and I’m like pleased to know that they have they lived in the world and did plays and tried and created stuff, and know how to build it from the ground up. So when they teach their students, they’re going to mention that to them. Right. I know, the technical director and the guy who runs the, the program at the college that I went to, and I feel like the students now are getting this full education. Whereas sometimes the teachers that I had, were talking about it in this ethereal, like, what if fashion, where it was like, What do you mean? What if like, how does a person get a play on a stage? Like, you know what I mean? Like, I just wanted to know how to do it, and I had to do it years later. You know what I mean? Here’s later in my career when I was working at another theater, and I was like, I have two weeks off. Can I put up a play in that random room?
And they’re like, Yes, that was like
great. You know, it’s so funny that I feel the same way as you do like completely I’m going to run writing a book about literally this and yet one of my mentors it should be coming out by the time this episode comes. So episode nine right so um, is a Tony nominated director, Kristen hanky from Rock of Ages she did she developed and directed rock pages. She’s also directed film and TV. And she you know, I was interviewing her and she told she said, which is just was the first time anyone said this, really, because everyone else I feel like agrees with you. But she said, you know, she was talking about directing, you know, from a young age and then high school, she got to college, and she went to gotten her she got a masters of USC. And she was like, Yes, I started directing. And I did this and I started you know, directing my own work. And I was directing other people’s work. And she kind of explained a little bit about the resources like getting the set, kind of like what you said and getting the costumes and how to make it work. When you have like no budget. And Ashley’s going, she was like, Oh, yeah, and then I started doing this. Then I got to this big show and I said well, Lisa when you left college What did you do? Like how, like, that’s always I’m like, What is your first role in the industry? It’s always like one of my first questions. And she was like, Well, I’m kind of just always this, I’m always a believer of this adage that like, if, you know, if you do it, so butchering this, but like, if you, if you do it, then the like, it’ll come like your capacity to go, you know, grow like it’ll, oh, I’m totally butchering this. But basically, she said, like, because she kept doing it. more opportunities came to her. So really, when she left college, she said she she was a waitress, too, but she would use that waitressing money to put on shows. And she would just keep doing it and keep doing it and fill her time with doing shows and doing shows and doing shows. And finally, the shows just got bigger and bigger and bigger. Until like, right, you know, very soon after, like, I think she was 23. One, her first big show hit in LA. And then it came to New York. And then a few years later, she had Rock of Ages like she did, she was nominated for Tony 31. So all very young seven, she said that, you know, there’s obviously ups and downs during that whole timeframe. But it was the first time I heard Wow, like she really was able to do it. Like she didn’t have a job she was trying to do to become the director that she is she just kept directing. And it worked. But I always felt like I would do that with acting. And it didn’t work. You know, like I took on almost anything I was casting unless I thought it was very scammy are weird. And I was acting all the time. And I was trying to like book student films and low budget films, maybe it’s different. Because as a director, you’re creating something. So it’s, it’s a bit different than I guess if you’re acting and you really are waiting for someone to give you a role, as opposed to just making their own for yourself. But I just wasn’t taught to do that. Like no matter what type of shows you pray for yourself in school, I really didn’t know how to make that work for yourself outside of school and school. Right. Now you’re not getting given those resources in school.
Yeah, there’s, there’s that whole part. That’s the other thing that I was just thinking of, because she mentioned, you know, the the woman Kristen mentioned doing it, doing it doing it. I’ve always felt that way as well. People aren’t casting me in roles, right? I would never, I would never get a job as a promotional model. Right? I am not a pretty face that people are like, Oh, yeah, what’s up, I have certain roles, I do those things. The only great roles that I have are the ones I made myself. I created to do myself because I wanted to and nobody was asking me to do it. So I had to create these things. That’s actually why I got into improv and sketch because it was like a doorway into figuring out how to do it on your own, as opposed to having a play being written. And you getting cast in that thing. So I don’t know. I mean, I’m down for the idea that you’re right, that most schools don’t teach you, you know, the business side of it. But I guess, sort of also agree with your guests that says that, like, just getting it done and like putting you’re just doing it doing it doing it is going to make you better at it just out of out.
Yeah, I agree. I think that especially with her like, Well, you know, she really just kept going and even during the lows, or even when like, you know, the show didn’t do as well as you’d want it to. She’s kept doing it until like, you know, the opportunities came to her. And I think that’s just super inspiring, and different from what I did, because although I really, you know, hit the ground running in my own way, you know, there’s something different about creating your own opportunities for yourself, which I really didn’t do when I left school. So it’s hard, though a lot
of times people aren’t good at that. That’s like just not their skill, right? Yeah. Like, even in the improv community. We’re always talking about this idea that like, there’s a bunch of us where it’s like, yeah, I want to do a show about this. So and instead of waiting for it, I just call everyone I know, this is like, Hey, can I put up a show at your theater? That’s this, Hey, can I do this at your place? Like, I just make it happen, right? Because I’m like, Oh, I want to do this. I’m going to do it. Whereas a lot of people will go to auditions for stuff, and then they don’t get it. And then they’re like, well, I guess I have to do nothing. You’re like, No, you can do other stuff and getting that show. But there’s other stuff to do. Because I mean, in Austin, there’s a lot of theaters, there is like six improv theaters. And then, like 10 theaters, where you know, they’re putting up plays and co writing plays and stuff like that. Like there’s a ton of opportunity. So whenever I hear about a person who’s like, Oh, well, I guess I didn’t get this show. So I should do nothing now like you know, many other things are going on. Do you know how many like street corners would love you to be doing a song and dance number for you? for them right now like, seriously, like just so much opportunity to be had if you like Believe in yourself been? I feel like they don’t set us up to believe in ourselves. I feel like especially just to even harken back to these people when you were younger. telling you not to Do it. I feel like that vibe is all over the place. When it comes to theater. I feel like there’s this whole, like, be aware as you continue this terrible path. Like, come on, man. You know, like even even my friends now there are people who are real negative, the world’s kind of a little harder, not easy to continue to be an actor or an improviser or whatnot. And a lot of people are like, Guys, I’m out, I’m just going to do something else now and probably not going to perform anymore. And it’s like, it hurts me, it hurts my heart. I get it. I support them, whatever their journey is, I support you. But it’s like, Guys, we can do this. This is going to be okay. You know? So let’s talk about your so your you talked about the book that you want to write? Is that something that you’re working on? Right now in tandem with your podcast?
Yes. So I’ve pretty much finished the book, I am still sort of editing it. And towards the end of the editing process and like putting making things into chapters and stuff, which I didn’t do when I was writing it. And then I have to figure out the next steps after that.
Oh, yeah, that’s a that’s a whole nother world publishing and whatnot to figure out what what goes on in that, you know, reflecting on you know, sort of what you’ve shared with me thus far. I, I love the idea that your personal journey has a lot to do with finding and talking to these different people and having their and learning from their different experiences. And your learning process has a lot to do with talking to people and finding out what the way they look at it and empathizing. And I think that idea of empathy at from an actor perspective is such a like open door to receiving the information that people want to share with you. So it’s, it’s fascinating to see how you’re processing your your own career in the way that it’s like you’re getting better and better with each new person that you talk to, because you’re just soaking it in as a means to make yourself and everyone around you better. I think that’s really cool.
Thank you. That’s such a nice way of putting it. I agree. I hope Yeah.
So tell me, after you get going with potentially it would sound like a different manager after your part time side hustles. When do you start getting into TV and film? How does that work for you? How does it feel for you?
Oh, you know, it’s crazy. Because, you know, like I said, the ups and downs are so many. So I got an agent, you know, I’ve been trying to get an agent for so long. You know, like, I just spent all these workshops and try it out for these agents and submitted to these agents and sent my headshot and resume to people, just all the things I was told to do after talking to people forever about it. I also tried to connect with people had gone to my college and tried to connect with people or agents or new agents or new agents and ask them for agents. And none of those really worked out either. You know, I, the same woman who recommended me to manager recommend me an agent who I met in person. And he kindly declined working with me. So yeah, so to your face. I know he you know, his credit. He did not he, he met me. We talked and it was, I think a lovely conversation at like a Starbucks. And then, you know, I emailed him all my work. And he wrote back being like, you know, I really just don’t think we have room in the roster. Right now. There’s another person that kind of looks like yours, the same type. And I feel like it’d be a disservice to her if we started working with you, too. And so every like, six months later, I wrote to him again, being like, you know, Hey, I just wanted to check in, you know, a year and a half later, and I think I wrote him up until like, two or three years ago. So every time I you know, got new credits, I’d write to him because he was a great agent, but I’m kind of bad about working with them, to be honest. Anyway. So coming out that works out sometimes though, huh? Exactly. And, and so I kept trying. And finally I got this, you know, meeting with an agency, who is, uh, they were based out in LA. And they were, I guess, trying to start a new york division from scratch. And so I guess there were more receptive to bringing on new people, you know, because even now, they tell me like, if you don’t really have any credits, you know, they’re really not going to take a chance on you. And most a lot of agents are like that. So, you know, at the time, I really, you know, I had lots of training on my resume, and film in TBM, IRAs and fmtv, low budget films and student films and lots of theater at an off Broadway show on my resume. But no, like me The film and TV and they took a chance on me and they, you know, I didn’t get an audition for six months after I started working with them. So six months later, I finally got an audition. And the audition was for a big film called Winter’s Tale, which was not the Shakespeare Winter’s Tale. Winter’s Tale. And it was being directed and written by the writer for lots of Oscar winning films, including A Beautiful Mind. I’m legend, I think, Cinderella man. And so the guy who wrote it and is now during his directorial debut leave a cubicle. And key that Bob brought over all these major actors from all the films he’s worked on. So he wrote a beautiful line, which was with Russell Crowe, and Jennifer Connelly, so forced them to be in Winter’s Tale. And he did a legend with Bill Smith. And I think we had another movie with him. So he brought on Bill Smith to the being in the role to be in the movie with Tom Farrell, Tom Farrell was the lead in this movie. And so he like kind of brought on all these kind of connections, I think, to be in this film that he was directing for the first time. And I got an audition for a one line role in this film, right. And through this agent, and I was ecstatic. I mean, this is my first big audition. This was no longer print or commercial ad where I was number 738. You know, this was like a major motion picture. And so I go into this casting office I remember Cindy Tom casting I was remember the office and I remember looking at the big framed pictures of all the movies that she cast. And I sat down and there were all these girls who were like very similar to me like young 20s pretty you know, just like wearing a nice dress or something or what I was wearing. And you know, they all have their clutching their headshots and resumes and their scenes, and I was looking at it one girl next to me is reading a scene called something like sexy girl in bed with Russell Crowe. Like that was the title of her scene or her role or something was like sexy girl in bed with Russell Crowe and so that’s the role Julian brothers not the role I’m going in for him going in for him stone John’s wife, which is this, like Native American roll the film, you know, and his wife, it was it I didn’t even get a name. I just put this person’s wife and I go in and finally to the audition, super excited. And the casting directors telling me She’s like, Okay, this is your bed. This guy, you know, she’s pointing to the reader. He’s going to be your Russell Crowe. And I just want and she’s setting up a scene thinking I’m, I’m being I’m gonna be this Russell Crowe chick girl in bed. Russell Crowe was like, Well, listen, I I don’t mind audition for that role. But I’m coming in for him stone John’s wife. And she was like, oh, oh, totally different. Okay, let’s reset this. And this is this is going to be your bag of muscles, the floor. This is Liz, you’re finding some muscles, and then you’re going to go over there. And that’s going to be a blanket, we’re going to put a blanket on the floor. And you’re going to just pretend that the baby found that baby becomes con feral. And I’m like, Okay, got it. Totally did it. I did exactly what you said. I think it did it twice. And the second time, i strongly remember looking up at the reader who I was playing, you know, I’m stone john, and calling his name Tom stone. JOHN is my only Lyneham stone john. And I remember this moment where he and I looked at each other. And I said his name. And I was like, Ooh, that like there was a hit. So like, there was something in my chest. And it was like a moment. I was like, oh, there was a connection there. Not with the actor. But just like in general, like I was like something that something was there. And I left the audition, thinking I think I got that. And I called my mom. I was like, she was like, how’s the audition? I was like, I think I got it. Like I don’t know how I know. But I was like, and I didn’t hear back for three weeks. But I got it through. That’s the story of my first one. But I really felt like I forgot about the audition, but I knew I was like, I think I’m getting it and then my agent called me from LA he was like, would you want to be in a movie with Will Smith? I was like, I get freaked out and probably screamed.
Yeah, but Okay, so but you were hanstone John’s wife? Did you just meet hanstone john, like you’re done with no famous people anywhere.
No famous people in my scene. I did eat on feral coming out of his trailer though. And I was coming out of AV hair and makeup or something. And I passed him and I thought to myself, like I think that’s contrast. I do a double take thinking like, Chase dichondra he does a double take to me. And I know in my head it was because he thought I was super sexy. But in retrospect, you know, I’m certain John’s wife didn’t have like the sexiest look but she was wearing lots of like layers to her. And they, they basically put no makeup on me. And I say basically, I mean they put no makeup on me. And they curled my eyelashes. I was like the only thing and then they they brushed out my hair. So my hair, my very long thick hair, they brushed out my hair. So my hair was like big, like they didn’t do anything to it. They just brush it out to the point where like it just like if you see the pictures that like some paparazzi person who posted on Google Images, whatever it’s called, whatever those paparazzi, that logo they put on every pictures, but you’ll see my hair is just super big and it takes so much space. And I was like okay, but in my head. I was like, Oh, he’s checking. Yeah.
See, I think he was looking at you because you were playing his mom.
Oh, yeah, probably. Oh, he probably saw it was like, Oh, you’re in the movie. That’s the coolest like you’re probably my mom
like, yeah, working his character. You know, I think of him as a deep thinker. You know? Yeah, I know that you wouldn’t normally think so. But every movie that I’ve seen him in that’s a little off. I’m like, Oh, yeah, this guy thinks deeply. That’s why Yeah, yes, I’ll be in this movie. That’s definitely all about thinking. You’re like, what is happening right now I have films where my husband’s like, I’m not watching this. And I was like, well then leave because I’m getting like the lobster. Oh,
oh, my God, you know. And that actually happened in my boyfriend and I were I saw the lobster. And he left, like with 40 minutes to spare. And I was like, I know, this is weird, but I need to see the rest of this. Oh, yeah. And I definitively can say it and love it. But the whole thing? Yeah, I did.
Yeah. It’s not about liking it or disliking it. You and I here. This is why we’re the similar and I’ll tell you what, it’s not about it’s not about liking or disliking it. It’s about appreciating the art, this person, that movie and the effort. And the detail was so intense. You had to see what they’re gonna do with it. You had to know. You know what I mean? Like, I’ve watched plenty of movies where I’m like, oh, man, this is just a weird allegory, but I’m gonna see what he wants to say. Like, exactly. What was it? I feel like there was a movie called like, dog town or something, which is like this weird, like, filmed play. And it’s about just sad people like everyone, and it’s sad is no happiness from beginning to end. And I was just my husband was like, why this is terrible. Like, left. He was like, What? Everyone’s so sad. I was like, Yes.
Like, and I just looked into it, like, I needed to know, you know, like, I Oh, man. So you know, I love the fact that, that he does those weird movies. And that’s why I think when he was looking at you, he was like, let me take this character into my soul. Because this is my mother. So that’s fun that I love the idea that you got to be in a movie. And my favorite part about acting and film and TV is getting makeup, but you didn’t get the makeup.
Oh, dang. Yeah.
So tell me about how you felt after that. That was your first one, you know, but yeah, stuff. So like, how did you did you do like, make a good connection with these managers out in LA was it like, easy to navigate with them being so far away, like, you know,
it went up and down, because, you know, they were creating this agency in New York, but the owners and the people really in charge of everything, we’re in LA and the ones that I connected to were in LA. So, um, you know, obviously, they would send me on things that were felt the casting out of La that were also considering New York actors. So that really was nice. But also, like, there was this up and down thing was like, on one hand, you know, they went through many people who would leave the New York team, and lots of people who were like the head of the New York department. And so, you know, people would come and go, but the problem would be and it kept coming up. And I kept telling telling them this, they were getting people who are not I felt well connected in the industry, there was one person who had been a manager. So she had some connections, but like, as an agent or manager, you need connections, I think with you know, not I think you need connections with casting directors, you need people that casting directors are like, Oh my god, her him, I love them like, and I bought a little bit of that was one of the people that they worked with, but for the most part, they weren’t people who are well known in the industry. So even my agency wasn’t well known in New York for a long time. And so even till today, I don’t think it’s super on. I think it’s more known in LA, not the current agency, the current agency bandwidth is very is more well known for sure. But the one I had been with was was not and so you know, it was just this difficulty because I just didn’t feel like I was getting a lot of auditions with them. You know, I was getting more auditions with other people are If my new manager at the time and you know, just was frustrated, I would keep saying to them, you know what’s going on and they’ll say, you know, they print out my submission report, they’d be like, I’m submitting you to all of these TV shows, you’re just not getting these auditions. And then always tell me the same thing, which is, maybe you need to update your headshots like, but I just updated my headshots. You think? Yeah, but we still need this look. And we still need a look where you look like a casual college student with a ponytail. So I’d be like, so do you know how much money I put into the side shot, somebody said they spend $800 on so I was like, this is the thing I would always get back. And then I remember saying to my agent one day, you see, I totally believe you that you are submitting me to all of these auditions. However, I’m not getting any of them. And you keep saying it’s because of my headshots, but my manager is getting me auditions pretty frequently, actually. And they’re like, Oh, well, maybe your, your manager needs to be connected to us so that we could I’m like, No, no, I were I’m not signed with you guys. I don’t, I’m not required to give you permission for every time my manager, she gets me something, she’s you know, so there’s like a two fold on that with one hand, you know, it’s nice to have a team that can work together. Because you don’t want to have one person submit you for something that you know another person submit you for the same thing. And then you’re just gonna have to choose who you go on the audition with right? Or you decided to go and give them both a commission. But it was just this complicated thing where I was basically telling my agency, listen, you don’t have the connections to get me these auditions, because my manager is getting them for me, you’re not. So I you know, that says more about how well connected they are, if they’re just if they’re able to get me to the audition, and not as well connected, that you’re not as well connected for not being able to. And I was really frustrating, because on one hand, I didn’t want to leave them. But on the other hand, because I didn’t have anything else. But on the other hand, I really could see that I was I was having a problem that like all my auditions, were really coming from my manager, and very few are coming from my agent that was really frustrating for a long time. Hmm.
Did you know when you went into the Energy Manager agent relationship that was separate? Did you know that that was a smart idea when you did it? Or did it just end up being something that worked in your favor?
Um, I think going into it, I knew that it would be strategic, because, you know, people always ask me, what’s the difference between an agent or manager, there’s a lot of differences based on where you are in your career. If you’re Halle Berry, and you’ve been working with the same manager forever, that managers would be doing something different for for a client, but an agent would, at this level, you know, work with actors that are still trying to get, you know, credits and feel film and TV and may not be going like leads and stuff, right? So actors at this level, their agents, managers often effectively do the same thing. And that might be a controversial topic. People can debate that me on that, but I really feel like they’re both submitting you for roles, they’re both effectively doing the same thing. And so you know, sometimes managers have a bit more of a hands on approach, they take on more of a commission, if they book you something like maybe they’ll work with you on your pictures and be more involved with getting you the right pictures or more involved with making sure resumes, but for the most part, they effectively do the same thing. And so what I felt was, I’d rather have more people submit me for the same role. Now other people might not agree with that. They’ll be like casting directors don’t want to see three people, three people submitting the same person for the same role. Right? They don’t want to see your picture three times. My thought was, if one person has a better like, it’s all about connections, right? So if you’re with an agent, and the agent has a really I’m gonna name America casting directors, because that’s really all I know. But if my if my agent knows kamisha, from bowling, bowling, Nisha casting, which cast like Blue Bloods, right, which is something of booked, but like if they can really, really well, and they know someone from Jonathan Strauss casting really, really well, but they’re not really close with Kim Graham and Judy Henderson casting, then I need someone else who is good friends with Kim, because I can also be in for Kim and Kim is only going to choose 20 to 30 people maybe for an appointment for a role, depending on how many people she decides to conferral. And she might see this admission from this other agent just be like, I don’t know them as well. But I know this other person and so they’re gonna recommend Michelle, I’m gonna bring Michelle. Yeah, I mean, you need a lot of that you need as many people in my opinion, who are good, you can’t just have everybody but good people being able to submit you for for roles, because everyone has just different connections in the industry.
Yeah, now that’s very smart. Plus, you know, you’ve got to protect your own interest. You’ve got to be you’ve got to be the person who, I don’t know. I feel like you have to advocate for yourself, or else no one is going to.
Yeah, exactly. Yeah.
So the more People trying to help you out the better. Absolutely, I felt that’s how I felt. Now I feel like you know, you have great confidence and you seem to be have like a strong pull to get the work done and to be involved in this industry like, how do you? How would you give advice to people who maybe don’t have the drive that you do? You know, I mean, we’ve talked a lot about this idea that like, you know, you have to do stuff for yourself, and like, you have to be researching and like investigating and learning, taking classes becoming better, improving everything, you know, like, but what about those people who are just kind of like,
know how to do that, or I’m nervous, I’m not good enough. Like, what kind of advice you have for people to grab on to it as tightly and, you know, go for the journey the way you have?
To really good question. It’s hard to answer. I teach a lot of communication skills. Okay. So the first way I would say is this. I took a class, maybe a year and something ago, time flies. And it was on Coursera. Do you know of Coursera is it’s like a free courses online from different schools, and so literally free, so it’s great, you can’t be the price. And this particular class was at Yale, I found it on like a Forbes or Business Insider article that said that, like, This class is the number one class a year on alert, okay, I have to check it out. It’s called the science of well being. And it’s all about just the science and statistics and research behind and a very easy to digest way. I mean, like, the classes were like, once a week, you know, you watch a couple videos, and you do what’s called an adjustment. I think that’s what’s called, and you just want to be meditate every day and just see if you like it. So it was very, like, you know, not extensive, but one of the it was all about, like, how to be happy, like, what are the misconceptions of like, what it is to be happy? And why was the sign say? And then what are ways to actually be happy and why because the sign says it. So one of the things was you want to practice doing your signature strengths. And there’s actually a test on it. If you look this up, it’s like signature strengths test, and you learn what your strengths are, essentially. And the logic behind all this is that there’s this misconception, you should be working on your weaknesses all the time. And if you’re not good at something you should be working on that more. The problem is, is that you’re not good at it. So you’re not going to really feel great about yourself all the time. Because your confidence goes down when you play like I play tennis and I don’t play very well, I don’t don’t play a lot. But when I do, I used to get so mad at myself. I’ve been playing tennis since I was a kid, how come at doing more? How come I’m not better? Like how can I not be more consistent with the amount of lessons I’ve had over time, my family’s very big tennis, and uncle’s, a tennis coach for university. So I’ve had a lot of tennis camps through him. But he But anyway, I was not very good at it, I was very mad at myself. And it only came to this point where like this realization where like, I don’t have to be good at tennis, like, I can go and play and no one can see me but I like playing like I’ve got two new drills. And I’m like this. The point being is that, you know, you find your signature strengths you find things you’re really good at. And it doesn’t mean you can’t do things that you’re not good at. But it means try to fill up your day with more things you are good at because your confidence will increase. And somehow through your signature strengths, I think you will be able to find ways into whatever path that it is that you want. So you know, that’s one answer I’d give because I really do believe that you know, find the other things in related that you’re good at and you’d be surprised at how much it comes back to what your original goal was sometimes right like the amount of connections you can get or and I’ve so many stories like this, but like the mentors are that are on my episode too. They’re these two actresses are shawl Shalini and Jackie. But they call themselves shells and jack of things your Tron jack. And so they’re one of their friends of mine. They both are actors, right? They’re both sort of around the same age as me maybe a little older, I think. And they wanted to be actresses. And they also wanted to do like a project together. They did a couple theater stuff. They did a couple of maybe short films, I think. And finally they’re like, you know, we should do a podcast. But what’s it What should it be about? And they both have Tom Mark movies. So they’re like, let’s just do a podcast together where we make hallmark movies. This was like two and a half years ago. And they made this podcast, they did it for a year, right. They release and they really didn’t. It’s not like they had a huge following. They said it wasn’t like they’re following. It’s like massive. But they came up with something good. And then one of them reached out to the CEO hallmark, right. The other girl, by the way, was very, very open on the podcast where she was like, this was not my strength. This is show strength. My strength is just kind of showing up and doing the thing. You know, we’re coming up With the games, the other ones like I’m the producer side of it, too, like they’re both the hosts of the show. But the other one was like I’m, you know, and I remember jack said to Scholl at some point she was like, I was crying and like a bodega that was like a very, you know, wonderful story that stuck out. But she was like, I was kind of bodega a child being like, I want to do this, but I don’t think that I can, this is so not my strength and the other, like, I can’t edit a podcast. That’s, that’s not something I’m good at. I was like, Oh, I’m good at that stuff. I’ll figure that out. I’m good at that stuff. I will do it. I just, I think it’s going to be fun to do it with you. And I think that our dynamic and our rapport, shine. And if you just show up and do the episode, I will take care of the other stuff. So the same girl has the strength to then a year later reach out to the CEO of Hallmark and say, Hey, I heard you guys are going to start a podcast sooner you guys started one I’d love to, we’d love to collaborate with you guys. This is kind of our shake. This is the kind of segments we do. This is the kind of work we do, and wrote this, like long email about all these possible ways to collaborate. And CEO never responded for five weeks. There’s a long, five weeks. And then five weeks later, he was like, Okay, why don’t you come for a meeting? It was like a one line response. And they came for a meeting. And they are now the official Hallmark podcast.
So, you know, I would say, that’s what I would say to this, I would be like, Listen, you they were very open about what their strengths were Oh, and he was even the cooler part. So obviously, they both love being a podcast host. They love their Hallmark podcasts and bubbly sesh for those of you who are interested. And they like a few months later, I mean, and they’ve done some really cool stuff. So now they have this resource behind the sponsor, right. So they’re able to do like major interviews with the actors and the writers and the directors behind these Hallmark films. They run on big Hallmark panels for them, like now that’s all virtual, but at the time, they were flown to different places in LA to do these big events for Hallmark. They’ve gotten like hookups with different brand deals that Hallmark has with people that they’ve tried out like with, with like getting their hair blown out for free, because whatever, all this stuff, and I you know, a few months later, they actually had roles written for them on a hallmark movie, small role. It’s still like very, very, very much their personality, they didn’t audition for it, the roles were written for them. And they were flown to Ohio, and they shot these, they shot these, but then also they got to like do a podcast episode with some of the people from set. And so they got to like film all that and record all that and talk about all that for their social media and for their podcast. And they and they got these roles and they contact in and their trailers and the whole thing. So you know, I just feel like I guess answered your question. You know, I can I can give you advice on how to be extroverted and determined and all that stuff. But I think people get more confidence from doing things that they really enjoy and do well in. And doing more of that I think will help you get to where you want to go. So I think we just maybe focus sometimes and we’re not good at and trying to get better at it. And there’s there’s a point to that, I think but I think there’s also a point to making sure you develop the things you’re good at because that’ll give you the confidence to like go to any room because you’re like I I don’t know much about like doing, you know, being super determined and introducing myself and being extroverted to this director. But I’m really good at editing one of our Sorry, I keep talking so much I feel like but the last and one of the last mentors I’ve had for episode seven is named rune Nariman. And he’s a really good writer. Right, he went to USC for his masters for production and stuff. And he’s a really good writer. And he’s written a, you know, film before that’s, you know, had some, you know, great actors in it. And he writes this really funny read web series called a room considers also plugging him you know, in that way, but he also is a good editor. So his side jobs and I don’t like to say side jobs because they’ve been side careers are, you know, he spent a long time freelancing, doing editing work, and then started working as an editor for Disney and now he works at Netflix. So he is a bit no big editorial analyst at Netflix and does a lot of like this cutting edge meta data work, but also he has an agent and writing and he writes, so I just yeah, I guess I feel like keep doing what it is you’re good at and it’ll help it’ll get to where you want to go.
Yeah, I like that. I also like the idea of not trying to judge it. You know, like, there’s a lot of judgment when you’re like, I wish I was better at this thing. But it’s like okay, great. That’s awesome. Put that in the work on it pile but like what are you awesome at? Yeah, exactly. No, no, you in a large sense to like not even just in a like, in the way that it is good for For you to like, become a better speaker, if you know you’re already good at speaking, right, of course. But if you can see how you could potentially even use that skill in other ways, like it’s like, yeah, I could be home hosts of events and do this for jobs. So that, okay, also Yes. But you’re also not afraid to talk to people in large groups. Are there other things you’d like to help? Because this skill could be used for, you know, local politics, you could use it for, you know, being the loudest person on a picket line, I am the loudest person, always right. So whenever they’re like, we need a loud person, they come to me, you know what I mean? Like, like, We need someone to start this chance. I’m like, got it. You know, yeah, we have skills, and they’re you. Sometimes they’re not, you’re not necessarily going to use them for what you think you’re going to use them for. Right? Right. But it’d be open to the possibilities of where it could possibly take you because I love this idea that this person was like, yeah, I’m down to edit this podcast. And then that, like idea spinning in that head was like, also, let’s give this guy a call and say, hey, let’s work together. Like, the openness to the collaboration is amazing. And that’s, that’s that person’s skill. Right? So grant rate, so fun, man, you’ve just learned so much. I love hearing, like, when you bring up your guests, and these people that you’ve interacted with, you’ve like so soaked up the like wisdom they’ve given you. And I think that that is so amazing. And like, you’re just really using it. Well, you know, not only just putting it out in the world for other people, but like it’s enriching you and like making you a like, richer, better human being.
Right. I feel that way. I appreciate that. I’m glad it comes out that way, because I really do feel like I learned so much from these people.
Well, Michelle, thank you so much for being on the podcast. I really am so glad to have taken the time to chat with you. And I feel such a kindred spirit with you. And I just feel like this has been a great talk. So thank you for doing it.
Thank you so much. I really appreciate it too. And this has been great.
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