Monday, May 25, 2009

Chatting with Christine Meyers

Christine Meyers, one of the stars of Beautiful Kid (pictured above) written by Mike Carty spoke with me about her number one passion, acting. Her and her new husband live in sunny LA and are soaking up their creative juices together(they are both working actors). It was fun to learn about the acting world out there and where it’s taking her. Her journey seems to have only just begun.

When did you move to LA?

My husband and I came out here almost two years ago. We were back and forth for a while but now we’re settled here.

How would you compare NY to LA?

I was just thinking about this…it’s taken me awhile to adjust to LA. I was in New York for ten years…everybody knows it’s a survival city and I was getting tired of the lifestyle and ready for a change.… so I really thought I would come to LA and immediately love it but it took me some time to adjust. They’re hard to compare because the lifestyle is very different.

Terror has said you were the favorite actress.

That’s so sweet to hear.

Didn’t you win an award?

No, but Dan won for best actor which was very deserved, he gave his everything to the film, he really did. And John won for best supporting actor which was awesome.

In college you studied acting?

Yeah, I studied acting (BFA) at NYU and graduated in 2000. I studied at Playwrights horizons for the first couple of years, then I got a minor in social/issue based theater, and then I studied at Stone Street Studios which is when I signed with an agency and started working professionally.

I read somewhere that you were in Vanilla Sky?

That was soon after I graduated….I had never been in a big budget movie production before so I answered an open call for extras. I was so excited to be there! I was talking to everyone, finding out what they all did. I ended up being moved to a spot right in front of the camera. I got to be directed by Cameron Crowe and while we were shooting Tom Cruise began an improv scene with me. Cameron Crowe liked it, so we improved a few more times. The improved scene didn't make the cut by I am still in there for a little scene near the beginning.

What’s he like?

He’s really nice, I had a good time.

Can you compare being part of a big production film like Vanilla Sky to a smaller one like Beautiful Kid?

I like that indie vibe…I like the scale. On an independent film, I feel very involved in the project and the whole process as opposed to a big film where you have less involvement unless you’re a big talent. I have had leads in a few more indie films that are in post production now. Making an indie film is special because you end up spending so much concentrated time with a small group of people and they become your family in a way. And when you go onto another film you meet new friends and become close to them and you start the process all over again.

How are indie actors paid?

Well it depends. For the ones that I worked on I was paid a day rate…and then the rest depends on percentages that you agree on in your contract for if the film gets bought and released…so we hope it gets released and everyone loves it.

On the set of Beautiful Kid, did you have a favorite person you liked working with?

Well the people I worked with the most were Dan and Javier and I worked a lot with John and they were unbelievable. Being the only girl on the set a lot of the time could have been tough, but I felt really safe and protected. A lot of that had to do with Colum and Patrick as well - they made the sure the environment was very supportive which was amazing for my first time on a feature set. And I realize now what a gift it is to feel that supported creatively because then you can be free to explore and play with your character. And John made me laugh all the time, he was so spontaneous, he would just pull out these phrases! And he really helped me to understand the characters and the vibe that we were going for in the film.

And Malachy! What was it like working with Malacy McCourt?

I had limited scenes with Malachy but he was great. He’s come to a couple of plays that I did in New York over the years and he is really wonderful actor and artist. And Frank…I thought was very present and free. I really enjoyed working with him. Especially after reading his books and being a fan… I worked him up and then to have met him! So, I guess I am saying I didn't have a favorite person!

What about the young girl?

Halley? Halley was great…she was unbelievable, I was really impressed with her work in the film. We didn’t have a lot of dialogue together. I did see she was really able to take risks. Her character is kind of the voice of reason and to she had to be the "mother" in a young child's body and that takes a lot of groundedness. And you can see with the way that her career has gone how talented she is. I was very impressed by her.

Is there more jobs for acting in LA?

Yes, because entertainment is the main industry here but the flip side is there are many more people in the field….it was a huge eye opener for me. I had no idea it was so big. At first it’s a bit daunting and you can get stuck thinking about all the actors here who look like you and do what you do and how hard it is and then you kind of realize that it’s pointless to think this way. Once you kind of determine what you want for yourself and what you have to offer, all you can do is go into the room and do what you do to the best of your ability. I’ve also found that the creativity here is incredible. Everyone has an idea and is working on something. Production in the industry is weird right now with the recession, but with Youtube and other outlets…it’s still a pretty creative time. So there is negative and positive aspects to it.

Your husband’s an actor?

Yeah, we met almost eight years ago on the set of Guiding Light.

Doing what?

I was working for a week shooting the part of a college girl who was friends with one of the main characters and he was a recurring character and we happened to be shooting on the same day….we just got married last June.

Where did you go for your wedding?

Cape Cod…

You did a few plays?

I did many off, and off-off broadway shows. I also worked with a theater company that was run out of one of the hospitals and dealt with education on HIV/AIDS and STDs. We would be trained and then develop shows that would be taken into the NYC schools, teen programs, and colleges in the Northeast. It was a great job and it was great to work with an issue I feel very strongly about. Since I’ve been out here I did a play that was a grant from the LA History project for Edgefest Theater festival exploring the history of the LA public school system and it's ability (or lack of ability) to meet the needs of the students and community schools…so there is theater in LA.

I just saw this incredible play, The Fifth of July and I remember thinking, how do these actors remember all these lines, it seems so impossible! When you’re doing plays whether it be in an education setting or as a huge production play, how do remember all those lines?

The memorization of the lines is part of your job as an actor. So if you don’t have a system you‘re in trouble. Memorizing is actually pretty easy for me. It’s playing a snapshot and it’s really about connecting with what the story is and once you get that, then the lines kind of come anyway and they just make sense. I actually love the type of acting a play entails because you get to play the whole arc of the character at once. Whereas in films you just do little bits. Sometimes it’s hard to walk off set and feel good about what you did.

Would you ever teach acting?

I have. I ran a theater program in New Jersey and I enjoyed it but teaching acting is not my calling. I actually do a lot of counseling of actors…I’m a nutritional counselor.

Oh, that’s your other job?

Yeah, I counsel actors who are losing or gaining weight for roles or who are trying to clean up their diets or stay at a healthy weight without starving themselves. Being in the business…your body is your instrument. When I started working professionally, I saw a lot of eating disorders and fad diets and I was thinking how can one be in this business and not have issues around food? I knew that if I was going to make a career out of acting, I wanted to get a clear handle on how to care for my body, keep it healthy, and lose or gain weight safely. So I went to a school in NYC, and while I was there I had an actress approach me about counseling her. And found out I really love it. It is very important to address this aspect of being an actor because if you get a part where you have to lose weight and you starve yourself to do it then by the time you get on set, you are in no shape to be creative - all you can think about is the fact that you are starving! And your work suffers. Versus, knowing how to lose the weight in a healthy way so that you are still creative and able to work and you’re not running off the set to grab slice of pizza. There are so many actors that have to leave the acting because of the damage they’ve done to their bodies.

Look at Jared Leto gaining like a hundred pounds for his lead in a role or Christian Bale becoming a skeleton for one of his…I think it’s great you are there to provide actors the right tools to do this and not damage themselves permanently! Can you compare yourself to Fiona or Bridget (the female characters of Beautiful Kid)?

My character, Bridget was quite a product of her environment. She was a character that really had a lot of pride toward the community and the people she grew up with. I think she’s very smart in her own way. Whereas the other character, Fiona really applied herself and was interested in getting out of the community. Having a future elsewhere. Bridget didn’t have that drive. I think they were pretty opposite, but I think both are smartly developed; one is engrossed in the world she grew up in and the other wasn't…and then there’s Dan's character who’s caught between the two. Bridget gave him a lot of slack for his desire to leave…she wanted her family of friends to remain there, those two guys were her family.

Are you more of a Bridget or a Fiona?

I left my home at 17, so in that way I’m similar to Fiona. But I go back to visit my family a lot and I have a lot of loyalty towards them, so in that way I am similar to Bridget. I guess a combination of the two. It would have been really hard to play this character without an understanding of why she does the things she does. She was very protective of them. Her actions were sometimes ones I wouldn’t chose, you know? When she has little understanding of Dan's character's desire to move, I wouldn’t do that. But I think Mike did a great job writing characters that are not black and white. You feel bad about what happens in the end, you'd love to see him move on, but yet there’s love there…he did a great job with creating "gray" characters. They are great to watch and to play.

I agree with you Christine! Beautiful Kid was beautiful! Everyone loved how you played your character. I think in no time you will be awarded best actress for it. I’m looking so forward to seeing you in Madness and Genius, please let me know of its release!

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