You should carefully choose where you get your training. Don’t just go to the studio with the most advertising dollars. The top Google results are the ones who have money to spend on advertising. See where actors you’ve admired have studied, and check those places out. See where your trusted teachers or talented friends recommend. Then call these places up and ask all of your questions. Where you study will take up a lot of your time, money, and talent — choose wisely!
As a part of our series about pop culture’s rising stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Elliot Frances Flynn.
Elliot Frances Flynn is an up and coming actress. She will make her feature film debut in the Smiths-infused comedy-drama Shoplifters of the World in early 2021, and then will be seen in films from Yale Productions, Miramax and more, opposite award-winning talent and other rising stars. A definition cool girl with an androgynous edge, she’s also a secret nerd with a face like an open book. 2021 will be a good year for Elliot, but it will be just the beginning.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
Thanks for having me. I grew up in the Hudson Valley, in New York, where I’m still based. I’m an identical triplet, and my sisters and I were encouraged to model and do commercial work at a young age. I was a really quiet kid though; I was really into reading and writing. I was constantly making up stories and playing really intricate pretend games with my sisters. I loved Harry Potter to death, so I was constantly writing my own stories about the characters, and playing games as the characters… The series really made me into someone who loved storytelling, and world-building and fiction. So I decided I wanted to be the person who goes on these fantastical journeys or adventures. This leads me to want to be an actress.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
When I was a pre-teen, my sisters and I were on the Nickelodeon show The Naked Brothers Band. The show was Alex and Nat Wolff, when they were kids, making music in this fictionalized band. It was our first audition for a TV show; they were looking for triplets to be in a couple of episodes, but I didn’t think we were going to get it. But, we got the part, and we had a great time on that show. The cast and crew were like a family, especially with Nat and Alex being brothers, and their father playing their father, and their mom, Polly Draper, produced the show. The cast was basically a bunch of kids, so we got to hang out all day. I remember eating a lot of Swedish Fish at crafty, and we all got in trouble during our school hours because we weren’t doing our homework. I was so dazzled by everything. The energy was so exciting. From then on, I knew I actually wanted to be an actor, because I got a taste of what it was like. I was so happy when the first film I ever shot, Shoplifters of the World, had the same vibe — a bunch of kids — or young adults, really — just hanging out.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
The first thing that comes to mind is how Shoplifters of the World came together for me. It’s a comedy-drama that takes place in the ’80s, about fans of the British band The Smiths. I love The Smiths — they remind me of when I was a teenager when I started to really have my own interests, and first romances and stuff. I actually remember when the original casting for the film was announced — it was in 2012, I think, and I was procrastinating my school work scrolling through IMDB. That was so long ago — this film really has been a labor of love for Stephen (Kijak, the director) and Lorianne Hall, who wrote the script, and Joe Manganiello, who produced the film, as well as starred in it — I’m so excited the film is finally coming out this year. I clicked the casting announcement just to read it, because I was like “oh hey, I like the Smiths”. I remember feeling kind of forlorn, because I also thought, “why can’t I do stuff like this?” I’m not even kidding! And then, years later, the film was finally going into production, and they were casting the supporting roles. Looking at all the characters, the character that sounded most appealing to me, and most like me, was a character for a guy. But, I loved the sound of Punk Paul, and my look was very androgynous at the time, so I just thought, “I’m submitting for this!” And then the audition request came, and I had to get it done really fast. My mom taped it for me, and I got dressed up like an 80’s punk, and I threw myself into it 100%. It was the middle of the night, too. Then they offered me the part! It’s still crazy to me how serendipitous it all was. The Smiths are very special to me, and now, even more so.
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?
Oh man… one of my first auditions, when I decided to really pursue acting, was a total mess. If I had known better, I never would have gone. It was for a web series, which at this point, I’m sure has disappeared into the ether. There was like eight people behind the casting table, and they had us all improv in groups of five. Which, I mean, is really a bad idea, and the only prompt was that we were all on drugs, which made it worse. The, I guess he was the creator, was giving us all characters on the spot, and they were all really stereotypical and offensive. There wasn’t anything of substance, and no thoughts to turn into actions or anything. So before he’s like “and go!” I was like, “Can you clarify that?” meaning, that he hadn’t given me anything of substance to do. He was definitely offended by that, but he gave me one bit more of information that I was able to work with. And I nailed the character. But I didn’t get that part, probably because I spoke up. Thankfully! The lesson I learned was to do more due diligence before showing up to those auditions, the kind of auditions I was finding on my own at the time. Despite the hunger you might feel to work, to act, not every job is going to be worth your time. You get to decide, based on your goals, what’s worth it and what isn’t.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I recently wrapped some films that I am so excited for, but I don’t think I can say very much. I’ll say that I had never considered myself a Sci-fi person, but that’s where my career has taken me. When I realized that sci-fi films really, at their core, are about humanity, I got a lot less confused. The film might be about aliens or time travel or space or whatever, but at their core, they are about being human, and how human beings relate to one another. Sorry, but the stuff I’m currently working on, I definitely can’t talk about! The NDA police will come for me. I’ll say in the future, I want to produce my own work. I want to bridge my original love of writing, to my current love, acting. I’m working on some feature-length scripts — coming of age stories, and stories about womanhood and sexuality. The screenplay preoccupying my mind most of the time is about how the internet may lead young women astray when it comes to empowerment, and be more of an agent of chaos and hurt.
We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?
I think sometimes, unfortunately, filmmakers say their films reflect our reality, but they just don’t. Like, “your story is based in NYC — where are all the people of color?!” So, reason one — to show diversity is to truly reflect our current world. Reason two, no conflicting groups will never come to an understanding if they’re staying in their insular bubble. We need to see stories by people who are not like us, to understand people who are not like us, in one way or another. Reason three — aren’t we all a little tired of seeing movie after movie about masculine, straight white men? Our culture would be so much more of an understanding place. I want to say a more interesting place, too.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- Your network is super important.
I’ve worked with some of the same people over and over again. And those people have connected me with their friends working on cool stuff. And I’ve connected my people with my other people. Meet people constantly.
2. Networking done right is be cool.
It is not the super scary thing it sounds like, and it’s not robotic either. It’s just you talking to like-minded people. It’s a conversation! And everyone wants to broaden their circle. Don’t be nervous.
3. No one will look out for your career like you will.
A director once said this to me. I was one of the leads in a small production of Much Ado About Nothing in NYC, but right before tech week, this unbelievable opportunity was on the table for me. It was an audition like nothing I had ever had before, and if I got the part, I was going to have to leave immediately for Vancouver. I told the director, and I was so stressed about it, but she was real with me. She said that if I get the part, go, because no one is going to look out for my career like me. The show would go on without me — I had an understudy! I didn’t get the part, but I did get some amazing advice out of the whole experience.
4. You should have training in your market.
This is a lesser-known one, but if you’re going to NYC to pursue acting, your training at your tiny liberal arts school in the Midwest is not going to mean a lot. Which NYC studio you’ve studied at is going to tell the director, or casting, about you. When I started auditioning regularly in NYC, I studied at the Barrow Group. If someone knows the Barrow Group, they’ll know that my performance will be grounded in realism, and true to me as a person. Don’t give anyone the chance to look at your training and be confused, like, “where is that, and why do I care?”
5. You should carefully choose where you get your training.
Don’t just go to the studio with the most advertising dollars. The top Google results are the ones who have money to spend on advertising. See where actors you’ve admired have studied, and check those places out. See where your trusted teachers or talented friends recommend. Then call these places up and ask all of your questions. Where you study will take up a lot of your time, money, and talent — choose wisely!
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Being an actor is constantly riding the wave. So just ride the wave. Do your job — be prepared for auditions, that sort of thing. And when crazy stuff comes your way, like “you’re in hair and makeup but we just changed your entire monologue. Did you see it? Will you be ready to do it in fifteen minutes?”, you ride that wave. You do what you can. I made it through that moment unscathed!
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire 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’m really passionate about mental health being just as important as physical health. Recently, I had the great and scary experience of getting more intimate with my own mental health, and my own sadness, for a short film called “Memories of Rain” by Elizabeth Mehling, a young filmmaker. It’s a beautiful, creative live-action and stops motion film about a young woman who must literally battle her inner demons to win back control of her mind, and ultimately, win back her love. I realized that mental health issues need to be taken more seriously, especially in LGBTQ+ communities. If I could inspire a movement, it would be to destigmatize issues around mental health, and talking about mental health. My experience with the film taught me, “It’s okay to not be okay”. Elizabeth and I are talking about this on the festival circuit, but I’d love to inspire a larger audience, or see everyone get really passionate about the issue in a large wave… You’ve got me thinking now!
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?
I’d say my first year at college, my acting professor really inspired me. We just clicked. The techniques she taught us, like Meisner, really worked for me. I felt very safe with her, and she believed in me. That class was the first time I felt like I had something to offer, really.
I remember early on in class she challenged us to react emotionally, immediately, without thinking to whatever question a classmate threw our way. One classmate asked her boyfriend if he thought she was honestly beautiful, which was funny. I was scared of whatever I would be asked, because I don’t hide my feelings at all, and while that means I would’ve “aced” the assignment or whatever, I’m sometimes really embarrassed that I can’t hide anything. My teacher asked me, “do you think you have what it takes to be a successful actor?” and my face just crumbled, thinking like ‘no way, not ever, something is just wrong with me.’ But, she believed in me, and every step along the way… every success I’ve had, I think of her because now I believe in me too, pretty much.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
One of my favorite quotes, and it’s kind of become my mantra, is “whatever is meant to be will not pass you.” It puts me at ease every time I’m freaking out over an audition, or anything really. This industry is fraught with rejection, and you can’t become attached to every audition you have. Give it your all, but forget about it once it’s over. If the part is yours, you’ll get it, and that’s just it. It really calms me before an audition. Then, I go into the room, and I’m just along for the ride.
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 just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
I am blushing just thinking about answering this question… Patti Smith comes to mind. She is just a person of such strong, easeful presence. You can see it in her interviews, the way she talks. I’ve had a poster of her on my wall forever. “Because the Night” and “Babelogue”have such a space in my heart. Her poetry too. She is someone who has always been in pursuit of art, not fame or anything else, and I find that really inspiring.
How can our readers follow you online?
This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!