This month, I am pleased to share an interview with Los Angeles based actress, voiceover artist and singer Emily Berry. You may know Emily from her work on Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Transparent and Scorpion.
In this interview, Emily discusses her many upcoming projects (including 3 films and a pilot!) and how she replenishes her creativity and motivation during her downtime. She also shares some great advice for an actor that has thought about switching up their medium.
How did you start acting?
When I was 7 years old, I went to see the muscial “Oliver” at my local community theatre in Jacksonville, Illinois. There was something so magical about putting on costumes and singing and pretending that was like a beacon. I told my parents afterwards that I wanted to do whatever that was I just saw on stage. To make a long story short, I graduated with a BFA in Musical Theatre from Millikin University in Decatur, IL.
What brought you to Los Angeles?
I was living in Chicago at the time, and a couple of friends from college had moved out here to LA. After a slew of unsuccessful musical theatre auditions in Chicago, I thought maybe I’m meant for on camera work instead and came to visit for a week. I fell in love with the city and knew it’s where I belonged. I moved here a year later.
The life of an actor can be tough. Have you ever felt like giving up acting?
Totally. My husband and I moved to St. Louis, MO in 2008 because the showbiz industry in general was really hurting during the writers' strike. I was able to pursue artistic endeavors there and really enjoy planting seeds in a new market. Sharon Tucci, my wonderful agent in STL, was an integral part of opening some doors which led to getting a lot of voiceover work there. That was an awesome experience - I heard my voice on the radio and local TV, almost ad nauseum! I also got to perform in some musicals again with a really fun company, New Line Theatre. Eventually my husband and I knew we had to get back to Los Angeles. Something very visceral in me knew I wasn’t done pursuing an on-camera career in a larger market, and we really missed the weather, our friends, and the California vibe in general.
What keeps you motivated to stay the course in a very challenging/competitive industry?
Well, my husband is incredibly supportive, so that’s really helpful to have a spouse who cheers you on and wants to you to succeed. Also, I had the opportunity to work in the office of a business called Act Now, which was an actor’s workshop studio. The other actors who worked there were very focused and supportive of each other. That’s when I realized it’s kind of us against the machine, whereas before I felt like it was just me against...well, everyone. Having that support system of like-minded folks made a huge difference because it felt like we were all in this kooky business together. And we all wanted each other to succeed.
Tell me about what you’re working on now.
I had a busy year! I have supporting roles in 3 films now in post-production, shot a pilot co-produced by Blumhouse (Get Out, The Purge) two weeks ago and will be making appearances on upcoming episodes of ABC’s Fresh Off the Boat and Code Black on CBS. Both of those roles were really fun; I’m excited for my friends and fans to see them!
What are some of your favorite ways to spend your time off?
We have two dogs, Ellie Mae (4) and Murphy (7 months), and they get a lot of my free time to go on walks or to the Laurel Canyon Dog Park. I also love taking dance classes and going to dinner with friends. Los Angeles offers some great dining experiences, so I like trying new restaurants or exploring ‘new-to-me’ neighborhoods of the city. Recently, I purchased a keyboard, so my goal in the new year is to get reacquainted with my old friend, mister 88 keys.
Who/What inspires you?
Oh gosh. So many things! I get inspired watching documentaries, listening to people, both older and younger, talk about their life experiences (veterans, nurses, mechanics...everyone). Watching people who aren’t actors talk about themselves/lives/family/livelihoods honestly and openly is actually a big part of how I learn nuances for doing in *my* job. Art of all kinds inspires me as well. Anytime someone is putting out something really personal, it’s a huge risk. Folks who show their vulnerability inspire me a lot. People who push through adversity and fight for what is good is inspiring too. (See? I said ‘so many things’ - I wasn’t kidding!)
What is your dream role?
Probably to be a series regular on a show that really affects people. Comedy or Drama, doesn’t matter. I love telling inspiring stories and making people laugh, so either would be incredible.
Are there other things you enjoy pursuing?
When I was younger I loved performing Musical Theatre, but I think my calling turned out to be on-camera work. You never know, theatre and music is something I can always go back to, should the inspiration strike me. I also really love coaching actors for auditions. That’s something I didn’t realize I would enjoy as much as I do, but I get excited with the actor as we make discoveries about the material, so...who knows!
Do you have any advice to young creative artists beginning their career?
Hmm...well first of all, ya gotta LOVE LOVE LOVE it. There will be months, years even, that this business does NOT love you back and you have to be prepared for that kind of ride.
Try not to take notes from acting teachers or directors personally. You are not standing alone telling this story, there are a BUNCH of people putting this puzzle together, so being a diva about your ‘choices’ serves no one. You are ONE piece of several, sometimes 100+ pieces and everyone’s job is important.
Learn as much as you can and be brutally honest with yourself when your work needs something different. I’ve been in classes of various types (improv, on-camera, scene study, commercial technique) non-stop since moving back to Los Angeles 7 years ago. Being a sponge for the information and pushing through the tough lessons without giving up has been key.
BreakTHROUGHS don’t happen for me without a good old fashioned breakDOWN every now and then. You have to be ok with leaning into the uncomfortability of a new frontier (like a different genre or a challenging character), give yourself permission to BE IN PROCESS, and ENJOY the process. Results will come, but you have to put in the work first. As my current acting teacher, Christinna Chauncey, says “The work is the work is the work is the work.” Boy is she right.
Is there anything you’d like to share that I haven’t asked about? Well, I’m a daddy’s girl. I’m really excited about the possibility of being involved in a project that gets nominated for an award someday so I can take my father on the red carpet.
For updates on Emily and her acting career, follow her on Facebook and Instagram.