Bree Klauser: “Keep track of everyone you meet”

I want to raise up the voices of people living with disabilities and have their and their loved one’s stories be heard in order to make lasting changes in how they are viewed in our society. Be it physical disabilities like my own or those who are living with developmental/cognitive disabilities. This also should extend […]

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I want to raise up the voices of people living with disabilities and have their and their loved one’s stories be heard in order to make lasting changes in how they are viewed in our society. Be it physical disabilities like my own or those who are living with developmental/cognitive disabilities. This also should extend to those suffering from mental illnesses in that their experiences also qualify them as people who are equally marginalized and dismissed as those with other disabilities.

As a part of our interview series with the rising stars in pop culture, I had the pleasure of interviewing Bree Klauser.

Bree Klauser is a New York-based Actress, Singer, Voiceover Artist, and Comedienne who happens to have been born legally blind / Low Vision with a condition called Achromatopsia. In 2019 Bree made her on-screen debut as Matal in the Apple PTV + original series “SEE”. In August of 2020, Bree stars as Emma Gable in the new Audible Original, Series “Phreaks”, alongside Carrie Coone, Christian Slater, Ben McKenzie, and Justice Smith.

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

When I was 6 years old my mom took me to see my first Broadway show, Les Miserables. I remember seeing the little girl who was playing Cossette and telling my mom that I wanted to be up on stage. Shortly after that, I’d drag her to take me to auditions for community plays, dance classes, and singing and acting lessons. This led to me pursuing a BFA in acting at Brooklyn College, then 3 years as a singer-songwriter and frontwoman of a band, Bree And The Whatevers, and finally a return to acting. For many years, people have told me I should look into voice acting, probably because I have such a unique voice and a background in improv comedy. I spent the last couple of years learning about voice over while pursuing on-camera and theatrical work, and just when I was starting to wonder where my next gig was and then- BAM — I’m playing the lead role in the new Audible Original “Phreaks”. Voice acting to me is so freeing because limited by your physical appearance as to what characters you can play… and you can go to work in your Pajamas:). Although my creative focus has shifted over the years, I’ve kept the spirit of that little girl who wants to tell stories to the world.

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

I had the very bizarre but exhilarating experience of getting to walk the red carpet at a Hollywood premiere on my first major job. It was so surreal to be flown out to stay at the swankiest hotel I’ve stayed at to date, and get all dolled up for the event. Usually, I’m not what you would call a glamorous girly girl, but we had so much fun creating a classic Hollywood-inspired look. Pulling up to the event, you could see a massive crowd waiting on bated breath to see who would come out next. When I stepped out people asked to take selfies with me, and I was like “who, me?” When I finally walked the carpet by myself it felt like a whirlwind had swept me up. All the camera shutters and people shouting to get your attention and pose for them. As a visually impaired person, I didn’t know where to look and found myself saying “Where? I can’t see you!” I managed to make it through without tripping on my dress, which was honestly a big success in my book. Then it was like a big family reunion seeing my fellow cast-mates after over half a year. Alfre Woodard even took me under her wing and was gracious enough to interview with the press alongside her. It was an incredible accomplishment for the whole production, and for me seeing the final product on the big Imax screen was deeply gratifying. I will never forget that night.

*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?

When I was 11 performing in a community theatre show, I decided to go to the bathroom between scenes. It was a musical and we were using lavalier mics with battery packs that clipped to the inside of our pants or underwear. I suppose I had to go pretty bad because I forgot to unclip the mic pack and not only did I end up dropping the whole lavalier mic in the toilet without realizing it, but the whole audience could hear the flushing because the mic was live. I guess the lesson here is to always check if your mic is hot and look before you flush.

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

I am very honored to be portraying the lead role of Emma Gable in the new Audible Original “Phreaks”. Phreaks is a moving and suspenseful period drama that tells the story of a group of ragtag phone hackers in the 1970s who figured out how to crack the global telephone network and forge the first virtual community. Thematically it’s very relevant to today’s culture of banding together as a community that believes in something together. The series is an immersive, full-cast scripted audio drama starring Golden Globe Award Winner Christian Slater, Carrie Coon, Ben McKenzie, Justice Smith, and many more talented voices, and directed by the incredible Shana Feinberg. I was excited to try something new when making Phreaks — I flexed different acting muscles while performing an audio project, and had a lot of fun in the process. “Phreaks” is available exclusively on Audible. I can’t wait for people to hear it.

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

To name a few, definitely Alfre Woodard, Jason Momoa, and Hera Hilmar. I had the pleasure of working with all three of them on “See”. Enough can’t be said about Alfre. She is a walking master class when it comes to acting. I remember sitting next to her and seeing her prepare her lines for that day and watching her process — it was incredible. Her talent is only magnified by her empathy. She was like a mother to us on set, looking after our little cast family. She would call me “princess” and my favorite, “pistol”.

Jason Momoa is the life of the party but also very kind and generous. He was also very approachable from the first table read, just chilling on the floor with the rest of us. He always knew how to keep up the morale on set during those long, hard, wet days. He even threw a party for the entire cast and crew the day before Thanksgiving. It was so epic!

Hera Hilmar is a powerful Icelandic actress and is one of the most lovely and humble people I’ve ever met. We got to know each other on the long rides to and from the set, and she was always such a great listener and took great interest and care in the lives of everyone around her. We have kept in touch and even had the opportunity to visit her in Iceland last summer. I was in awe of what a generous and gracious host she was. I am blessed to have met them all.

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

Sleep when you’re tired, eat when you’re hungry, exercise regularly, and take vitamins to keep your stamina up. Always make time to call your loved ones. Partying can always wait.

Can you share with our readers any self-care routines, practices, or treatments that you do to help your body, mind, or heart to thrive? Kindly share a story or an example for each.

I have found while working and in times of stress, like the challenging time we are all living through, a meditation practice is crucial. I’m someone whose mind is always racing, so I find that working with a guided meditation app {Headspace}, helps me find my center and focus. Also as a Voice Actress and singer, vocal health is paramount. I don’t feel like myself when my voice isn’t 100%. Through years of studying voice as well as trial and error with home remedies and diet, I have found a great balance that allows me to do a 5-hour recording session without going hoarse. One of the best tricks I’ve learned from fellow pros in voice over is to always have room temperature water and a green apple on hand when recording a session.

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. Nothing is the end-all-be-all, and nothing is going to make or break you: I remember my college BFA showcase, thinking this was going to be my “big break” and that I was going to get the best agent and that would be it. Then on the day of the showcase, I got laryngitis and thought it was the end of the world and the end of my career… which it clearly was not.

2. Keep track of everyone you meet: When I was younger, I would go to the theatre auditions and open cattle calls without a thought in the world who was behind the table or the camera. What I was missing out on was getting to know and take a genuine interest in people on all sides of the creative team and process, which is how one truly networks in this business.

3. 99% of the time it’s not about you: When you’re working on a huge set or at a big busy studio like Audible, alongside several name actors, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. But you have to remind yourself that you were hired to fill a particular role, and you are just one tiny piece of a larger creative picture. The director/producer has a thousand problems to solve, 99% of which are not concerning you. The same goes for not getting the role — 99% of the time it is not in your control and it is never a discredit to your talent.

4. Nothing is a fluke… you are meant for every role you are given: It’s very common for performers to experience imposter syndrome when you finally land that juicy starring role. Going back to that first day at Audible Studios recording “Phreaks”, I felt a bit overwhelmed. I had done some voiceover before but nothing this big. At first, I felt as if I did not deserve to be part of a project of this magnitude and I’ll admit I felt like I was getting a crash course from our amazing director Shana Feinberg. Once I found my groove, this project was challenging and really satisfying to work on, allowing me to explore different elements of my performance through my voice, delivering the dialogue from the vibrant script penned from the wonderfully creative of the writer, Matt Derby. I realized that as performers we do so much work every day, whether it is working on our craft, prepping for auditions, or dealing with the business end of things, no one earns anything from just luck.

5. Honesty and transparency are key. Don’t pretend to be someone you’re not: For years I would hide my invisible disability, fearful of telling the truth to the industry. Because I do not need a cane or service animal or read braille, when most people meet me they have no idea that I am low vision. I would use that to my advantage to try to blend in with everyone else. It was like I was doing double duty and putting extra pressure on myself as an actor. pretending I had normal sight on top of creating a character. While in reality, I was disadvantaging myself by being dishonest. Now that I’m able to be completely transparent about my disability, not only can the people in charge provide the accommodations I need, now there is a trust with the creative teams, allowing me to take more risks creatively. Now that I am fully out of the closet about my low vision I get to focus on creating the characters without doing the overtime of pretending to have 20/20 vision.

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

My lovely life partner of over 6 years will often tell me the same thing time and again. When he sees me stressed out or putting too much pressure on myself and emotionally drained he says, “You can’t run a marathon on a broken leg.” If an Olympic athlete broke their leg they wouldn’t be expected to run a marathon right then. Yet when we exhaust ourselves or experience grief we’re expected by today’s #hustle culture to “push through the pain” instead of taking the valuable downtime or self-care we need to recharge. I feel this is especially relevant right now. When our country is in social unrest and there’s a global pandemic going on, it’s perfectly normal to not be ok somedays. Some may say with all this extra time on our hand we should all be writing 10 screenplays and learning 5 languages, but I say if you’re not ok right now, rest that broken leg so you can run the marathon another day.

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

I would not be the person I am today or have achieved what I have in life without my mother. Although I was the baby and she was sometimes very protective of me, she never treated me like a disabled child. When I was 4, she fervently fought for my right to be in mainstream school as opposed to special education because she knew I was capable of. She has always supported my dreams. Growing up she was the one who would bring me around to my auditions and classes, all along suffering from a disability herself, Vasculitis. She was diagnosed in her late-thirties when I was only 6 years old. She is still living strong today despite her disease, which is is a testament to her resilience of spirit. My mother is also responsible for instilling a strong sense of humor in me and a light-hearted outlook on life. I remember having a friend over after one of her major brain surgeries, and she demonstrated to them how she could now balance a golf ball in the indent in her head from the surgery. This sometimes sick sense of humor is how my family got through all tough times. Thanks to her I strive to face life with the same sense of humor and resilience.

*You are a person of enormous 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. 🙂

Disability makes up one the largest minority group on the planet, yet we have a long way to go in terms of our awareness and recognition when it comes to cases of human rights on a global scale. I want to raise up the voices of people living with disabilities and have their and their loved one’s stories be heard in order to make lasting changes in how they are viewed in our society. Be it physical disabilities like my own or those who are living with developmental/cognitive disabilities. This also should extend to those suffering from mental illnesses in that their experiences also qualify them as people who are equally marginalized and dismissed as those with other disabilities.

We are very blessed that 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. 🙂

Oooo such a tough one! There are so many living legends that I’ve idolized and who I would be flabbergasted to meet. The first names to come to mind are Carol Burnett, Liza Minnelli, Bette Milder. But I would probably be so awestruck. I feel if I had to pick someone to have lunch with (or in this case probably have a bottle wine), it would have to be Stephen Colbert. I have had a crush on him since I was 11 years old and would stay up late to watch the Colbert Report. I bought both of his books. Nowadays I watch The Late Show from the night before every morning on youtube. As an entertainer, I would love to know all about his days at Second City and Chicago because I’m a big improv comedy nerd. The man is simultaneously effortlessly charismatic while being silly and zany. Not only would I learn a lot about comedy from him but it would just be a really fun, long conversation.

How can our readers follow you online?

You can follow me on my Instagram at @Bree_Klauser_Official

@BreeKlauser on twitter

and my website

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

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