Actress Priscilla Wittman: “If more people in this world would truly love and treat their neighbor as their self, there would soon be a revolution of kindness!”

I always say, it doesn’t cost anything to be kind! If more people in this world would truly love and treat their neighbor as their self, there would soon be a revolution of kindness!! Can you imagine what would happen if you truly cared for others as you do yourself? This would indeed revolutionize the […]

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I always say, it doesn’t cost anything to be kind! If more people in this world would truly love and treat their neighbor as their self, there would soon be a revolution of kindness!! Can you imagine what would happen if you truly cared for others as you do yourself? This would indeed revolutionize the way people treat and think each other. I know it’s the Golden Rule, but it only will happen by choosing to take the first step in this direction, and leaving prejudices behind… All steps afterwards will be much easier.

As a part of my interview series with popular culture stars, I had the pleasure of interviewing Priscilla Wittman. Priscilla is a trilingual second generation American actress, composer, singer and educator from Dallas, Texas. She and her husband currently live in Düsseldorf, Germany. She holds a BA in Music, MA in Intercultural Communications, and an Award in Theology, Mission and Ministry from Spurgeon’s College, London, UK.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be an actress. As a child, I was always a bundle of energy, and seemed to provide entertainment to every guest ever invited over our house! When I went to University, I wanted to study to be a professional actress. My dad, on the other hand, thought I should study art, and my mother insisted that I pursue a music degree. I was good at both of these venues but since I had shown the greater interest in music from childhood onwards, it only made sense to continue down this career path. It was during a very difficult transitory period in my life that I turned to acting to “get myself back” so to speak. I gave it a go, and the rest is history!

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?

I started acting in the mid 1990’s, but little did I realize that a series of events in the years which followed would impact my life, and serve as a catalyst for where I am today. In the late 1990’s, I suffered the loss of several close family members, and that, coupled with an automobile accident and major job loss led me through some very difficult times. It wasn’t until 2001, with the decision to move to Europe, I decided to put my acting career on hold. I simply needed more time with my family, and the chance to acclimate to my new surroundings.

It was in 2014 however, during a family visit stateside, I had the chance to connect with a local 48 Hour film team. Working on this short film and feeling the synergy that existed for these two days rekindled my desire to return to my acting. I simply knew the time was right for a comeback! I’ve never regretted this long pause I took, as it gave me the opportunity to see things more clearly and from a different perspective. Now that I’m much older, I’m being cast in roles I never believed possible! I will always have a love for music and still perform occasionally. In 2009, I made my first CD of original Christian music (Te Glorificare). However, acting is something I can see myself doing from now until whenever!!!

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

In my first year of acting, I was really anxious to get started. As most beginning actors know, this can be a daunting challenge. All I knew is that I had to start somewhere. My acting coach suggested to our amateur class that gaining work as an extra might be a good place to start. This sounded awesome to me! Before long, I finally had my first chance to work as background on a local TV series. What an exciting day this was! Not only was I in the middle of a huge production with cameras at every angle, I was called out by the AD on one particular scene to stand on the front row with a few select others. I vividly remember the camera panning back and forth directly in front of me, getting close-ups of the crowd. Within six weeks the episode would air and I couldn’t wait to see the program! As the viewing hour drew to a close, I wondered what happened to the scene I was in. I was sure it wasn’t due to a lack of footage of me or the others. This was my first experience of learning what it meant to end up “on the editing room floor!” I still laugh today about this story and my naivety!

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

Each day brings new opportunities, and at the moment, I’m investing my time with a local English speaking theatre group. We’re preparing Noel Coward’s “Blithe Spirit” for performances starting in November. I’m so excited to be able to play the role of Mrs. Bradman, the doctor’s wife.

Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?

Early on in my career, I remember working on Walker Texas Ranger in the mid 1990’s in Dallas, Texas. Noble Willingham, who played C.D. Parker on the series had also written and directed a play in 1995 called “Dominoes”. I auditioned for him and was chosen as the understudy for the role of Lyla. From that point on, Noble knew who I was, and when working on Walker, he would often invite me to sit with him and chat during the lunch break. The funniest thing however was that we would occasionally bump into each other at one local supermarket in the city. I would always get tickled when he would greet me with that warm, southern drawl of his and say “Hello, little Lady!” I can only believe that was how he remembered me!

Another fond memory I have is working with Burton Gilliam on a pilot episode which sadly never aired. I have never laughed so much as I did during the three days we were filming! He’s a great sport and simply hilarious! Most recently, I worked alongside Hillary Swank as a serious nurse in the film 55 Steps. She is a very gracious woman, and I felt so special that she greeted me each day by name!

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

This industry can be all consuming and is extremely competitive. From the beginning, I felt it necessary to develop a career and have a family alongside acting. In my first few years in this industry, I met too many people who were burned out and discouraged, and others who were willing to sacrifice everything, while they waited for their big break. Sadly, some of those people are no longer with us, and their lives ended tragically. I would recommend that a healthy balance is the key to a successful career. Do take on-going acting classes, have proper headshots and websites, get an agent, network, and all that is necessary for success. However, invest time in your family and friends along the way. Work at a job which will pay the bills, and build a career equally as exciting in another field. Enjoy each day to the fullest — with or without callbacks!!!

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I always say, it doesn’t cost anything to be kind! If more people in this world would truly love and treat their neighbor as their self, there would soon be a revolution of kindness!! Can you imagine what would happen if you truly cared for others as you do yourself? This would indeed revolutionize the way people treat and think each other. I know it’s the Golden Rule, but it only will happen by choosing to take the first step in this direction, and leaving prejudices behind… All steps afterwards will be much easier.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

1. Things in the acting world can change at the last minute, so don’t count your chickens before they are hatched! Early on in my career, my agent excitedly phoned telling me that I was selected by a firm for a regional major marketing campaign, which included billboards, flyers, and a commercial. I was ecstatic, to say the least! The day before the planned shoot however, she phoned and instead of giving me details about where to meet, told me the client had changed their mind! The only explanation I received from her was that they decided to use a blonde instead of a brunette!

2. Be confident in what you can do, and at the same time, know your boundaries and do what is realistic. This requires being honest with yourself. In my first year of acting, I had a chance to audition for a major role as a TV reporter, but in Portuguese! As a near native Spanish speaker, I thought this would be a breeze. I worked an entire afternoon on the Portuguese dialog and on the accent, and prepared my VHS tape (in the 1990’s!) to send to the client. Needless to say, I didn’t come close to what they were looking for. Levelheadedness will migrate you towards the roles which are suitable to you.

3. Rejection is a huge part of this industry, and this could be something newcomers are not often prepared for. Actually, it’s rather like sales — by virtue of your persistence and hard work, you will book a certain number of commercials/films. However, don’t get hung up on what didn’t happen, regardless of how well your audition went, or how much you felt you were so right for the role. Learn not to take it personal, but rather, adopt the phrase “next”, and start preparing for that next audition which could be one you will book!

4. Don’t settle for an agent who is questionable, just because you feel you need one to get your acting career going. Take acting classes, get a professional headshot, network with others in the industry at mixers, premieres, and social gatherings. Be patient, and because you are connected, projects will soon come your way! There are many actors who are not represented but still have success by networking. There are enough roles out there for everyone. A good agent is invaluable, but never stop creating opportunities for yourself.

5. Develop a professional career alongside your acting career. Auditions and acting jobs may be few and far between, and if you are still working just to get by after 20 years, and hoping that your “big break” is just around the corner…think again. Too many actors burn out quickly, so choose to have a balanced life outside of acting, which includes work, family and friends, hobbies, and down-time.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

The American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow once said Perseverance is a great element of success. If you only knock long enough and loud enough at the gate, you are sure to wake up somebody.” I’ve always felt that persistence, coupled with perseverance is an essential element in anyone’s success. I can think of many situations in my life which were discouraging, and could have kept me from reaching my goals. Many times, I simply needed to reassess my current situation, or look for another avenue or means to my target goal. This is where the knocking comes in, and you will be surprised who will open the gate for you!

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

My grandfather, Evangelist Karl F. Wittman, was probably the most influential person in my life. He was one of the old time “Saw Dust Trail” Evangelists, who was inspired and converted under the ministry Billy Sunday, one of the most prominent evangelists in the early 20th Century. My earliest memories are of travelling with my parents and grandparents in full-time Christian ministry until I was 6 years old. The influence and Biblical teachings of my grandfather’s Judeo-Christian beliefs have to this day given me a solid foundation for my life; which has been an endless source of strength during any and every crisis I’ve ever encountered.

My story began with a lifelong history of nosebleeds and chronic anemia which finally made sense when my health took a turn for the worse several years ago, after an automobile accident. It wasn’t long afterwards that I was diagnosed with an inherited blood vessel disorder (HHT) .This was a huge turning point in my life, and propelled me to trust God for even greater things than I had before. Although this disorder progressively worsens with age, and is incurable, it has only strengthened my faith in God, and at the same time, given me courage to trust Him more for what each and every day brings. I am an actress today because of my belief in the Lord, and in knowing that He has a plan for my life. Of course, I am eternally grateful to have been blessed with Godly grandparents, who set the example for me.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂

One person who I feel is making a tremendous impact in all he does is Denzel Washington. I would gladly accept an invitation to have breakfast or lunch with him! Not only is he an amazing actor, but what I find most intriguing is his deeply rooted faith and belief in God. His Christian faith and belief in divine intervention has not only given him strength through the years, but led him to do great things in his career, beyond what he initially deemed possible. However, I believe he is still very humble and down-to-earth. I have so much I’d like to discuss with him about his life’s journey, starting with the fact that both of our fathers were preachers!

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Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational!

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