Asking questions or asking for help is not a bad thing. Nothing is worse than not understanding something and being too shy or too proud to ask in fear of embarrassment. Filmmaking is a collaborative effort. If you’re just starting out and do not know where to begin or if you’re on set and you’re unsure about something, ask. Be direct and keep it short. There are a lot of sudden changes in filmmaking and you have to be able to adjust.
As a part of our interview series with the rising stars in pop culture, I had the pleasure of interviewing Grae Marino, an actress, writer, director. She began performing in musical theatre as a child, and later transitioned into film and television. Her credits include commercials, independent films, and plays and more recently the thriller, Inheritance(2020), starring Simon Pegg and Lily Collins. She hopes to encourage people to pursue their dreams, and to move through the world with kindness.
Your Passion is Calling.
Make it P.O.P!
Powerful on Purpose!
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I grew up in a music-loving household. My father was once a bass singer for a gospel group called, The Dixie Hummingbirds. My mother would sing a lot with us as children and was mean with a tambourine. She also studied music growing up. Our family is full of creativity and artists. I often watched television and musicals with my father, all of the classics, Carmen Jones, The King and I, and Shirley Temple films, but to me, it never really mattered if music was the main aspect of a show or not, I was just in awe. I recall telling my father that, I too, wanted to perform when I was very young while we were watching Shirley.
Shortly after, I was blessed to be able to perform in musicals, and I did throughout my childhood, which would later introduce me to the world of dance after I received a ballet scholarship from one of the performances. To think back on those days it makes me smile to think that, even as a child, I was apart of so many beautiful stories that brought people laughter, and provoked thought, made a connection with them, and I am honestly just grateful that I still get to do it. So, I would say that aside from my being completely passionate about it, it is my way of honoring my father, my family, and my Creator. I truly do not think or dream of doing anything else. It was and still is a love that I cannot explain and has remained a constant all through my life. I don’t think that will ever change.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?
Not many people know this, but I auditioned for the lead role of P-Valley, which in case no one knows is a show about a strip club in Mississippi. It was my first in-person audition after moving to Tennessee. When I got to the audition I saw that there was no pole and was both relieved because I cannot do any tricks (I can’t even get up a pole), but also uneasy because it has been a very very long time since I have worn heels, so I was counting on the pole being there to keep me stable on my 4-inch platform shoes. I did the acting side of the audition and the dancing part, half-terrified because of my shoes. After the dancing audition the casting director, the Wonderful Winsome Sinclair said “Beautiful,” and then asked me about pole tricks. I replied that I was better with a pole, and she asked if I could get up the pole and I honestly answered, no. Though this role wasn’t meant for me, I enjoyed the audition and it challenged me. It was a fun experience and I am thankful to have had the opportunity.
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?
I had my first espresso on the set of Tomorrowland, which I didn’t really need, but I make it a habit to try new things. One of the actors was playing country music while we were on break at four in the morning, and the caffeine kicked in and a friend and I went into full-on Dosey-doe. The director was recording us and said he was going to put it on YouTube. I don’t think he did, thankfully, but I did learn never to drink espresso unless I truly needed to.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
Before the pandemic, we completed filming for a short film titled, Natives by R Jason Rawlings and Dave Godbout, which will be released on the film festival circuit. More recently we wrapped a feature film titled, Close Caption, by Jaron Lockridge. You can find the movie page on Facebook for more details and a trailer will be released in September.
As artists, we are always creating or we should be. You will hear in every class and from every professional that you should be creating your own content. I have been using this time to do just that, to rest, learn, build, and create. I will be releasing a short titled Pieces in November on Youtube. I am currently in pre-production for two shorts, a uniquely-styled thriller titled, For Ever, and a musical. I also have a book that I am slowly working on and a new brand, called Make it P.O.P!, that I will be releasing sometime next year, along with a show for children under that brand, called Pals on Play, where I hope to collaborate with artists around the world to educate and entertain little ones.
Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?
I have been blessed to interact with some incredible people both in the music industry and in the film industry. I hold every interaction dear to me so I really can’t just list a few as each person that has shared a moment of their time with me has added some type of value to my journey. I do not have any really interesting stories about anyone…just yet. Just many beautiful conversations that have made an impact on me.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Make resting a priority
Make sure you are getting enough sleep, I cannot stress that enough. It is how our bodies repair and recharge. You can power nap or take yourself to your favorite spot and relax, get a massage, take a soothing bath, or lounge in a hammock.
Maintain a healthy routine
Sit yourself down and create a schedule, make alarms to keep yourself on task and timely. Get yourself an accountability partner or a mentor. Spend time getting organized, plan your workouts. Start with what your natural routine is and see where you can fit other activities into your schedule, but do not overload yourself.
Turn to other avenues of your creativity
Write, paint, dance, play music, read a book. Venture out of your norm and learn something new. There are so many videos and apps out there to learn to do almost anything you may have had an interest in but left it only as a thought.
Take a trip.
Go hiking or biking, to the lake, on a road trip, take a walk or run. It doesn’t need to be a big deal, just get some fresh air and new scenery. Stay active.
Find a quiet place
There is always noise, internally and externally. Grab whatever moments you can to be still. There is power and clarity in stillness and rejuvenation that can be found when we decide to stop being busy and just be, no music, no phones, no nothing. Sometimes doing nothing for a moment is what we need when we can’t figure out what we should be doing.
Set Healthy Boundaries
Put yourself first, it’s not being selfish, trust me. ‘You cannot serve from an empty vessel’, also known as, You cannot pour from an empty cup, it’s true. How can you give from a depleted source? Temet nosce, know thyself. Be realistic and honest with yourself about your capacity as to how much you can manage, and do not make promises you cannot keep. Set boundaries with your devices, time, and energy, your overall health is key to your craft. It is absolutely ok to say no thank you, I cannot, or not right now, without retaining any guilt. Take the time and the effort to love and care for yourselves with as much care as you pour into others and your art.
It is different for everyone and only you will know what forms of self-care will work for you in the best way. If you’re not sure what works, try out different methods until you find the methods that work for you.
You have been blessed with success in a career path that can be challenging. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path, but seem daunted by the prospect of failure?
Failure is a part of the learning process, it comes with the territory of making an effort. Just like a baby learning to walk, what do they do? They struggle, they fall, and they try again. They get back up repeatedly until they are able to get the hang of it. Acting is a lot like that, but I say, if the passion is burning inside you, do it. Go to a class, create your own content, get on a set as crew or background, and learn what goes on.
It’s very easy to think yourself out of doing anything, and if you just sit there long enough life will pass you by. That fearful thinking of what if I’m bad, or what if I get embarrassed, or what if they don’t like me? You have to turn that thinking around to new ‘what ifs’. What if you’re great? What if you succeed? What if you are well-received?
You have to move past that fear of failure and just try. Why risk living with regret because you were too afraid to do anything at all? If you could inspire someone, create change, or open up minds through the service of doing something that you love, wouldn’t you take the chance? The key is to remind yourself in the tough times of why do you want to do it, to begin with, and to renew your why as time goes on. That, faith, a real love for it, and persistence, along with the community you will build along the way, will carry you through. You just need to make certain that you are doing it for the right reasons. Remember, dreams are never achieved without making mistakes.
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 like to start my mornings by waking up with gratitude. I believe that it encourages a healthy mindset for the day. You can always think about everything that you woke up thankful for if your day becomes a little difficult and find a smile and comfort there. Waking up grateful is a habit that should be practiced daily, I think it also helps to remind me to not take anything for granted.
Take your vitamins. Especially us ladies. It is so easy for us to become depleted in many of the minerals and vitamins our bodies need and not even be aware of it until we feel it or visit a doctor. I know that I am susceptible to anemia, so I take great care to take my multi-vitamins every single day along with a fruit or veggie smoothie during my morning routine.
Remember to breathe. I am very fond of Meditation and Yoga, pilates, and dance, still do ballet on occasion, or Tae Kwon Do. I also love to sing, so anytime I feel it is necessary, I will sing, I do not care where I am, and only in my free time. I will sing praise and worship songs, songs from musicals, or from bands and singers I enjoy, or I will just listen to music. What is most important when all is said and done is to remember to enjoy the journey. Don’t obsess and don’t take anything too personally or too seriously (including yourself). Make time for your family and friends and stay frosty.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
Only five, huh? This question made me giggle, but only because I am still learning new things every day that I wish I knew before.
- Here’s a shovel, get ready to dig. Acting requires you to know yourself deeply. Things you may have thought you have dealt with need to be processed thoroughly. I used to run from a lot of shame. Shame about my past, insecurities, and things that I blamed myself for, that I had to revisit as an older, and more mature version of myself in order to say, “People go through stuff, and it is okay. You’re okay.” You will always keep learning about yourself as you continue.
- Asking questions or asking for help is not a bad thing. Nothing is worse than not understanding something and being too shy or too proud to ask in fear of embarrassment. Filmmaking is a collaborative effort. If you’re just starting out and do not know where to begin or if you’re on set and you’re unsure about something, ask. Be direct and keep it short. There are a lot of sudden changes in filmmaking and you have to be able to adjust.
- Learn the technical aspects. Things are much easier now with more videographers, photographers, influencers, and filmmakers sharing how-to tips. I’ve always had to send in self-tape auditions but now it will be the new normal for health and safety reasons. It took me a long time to figure out how to maneuver lighting and camera settings and how to figure out sound when I first started. It was overwhelming. Learn now.
- You don’t own anyone an explanation. Due to some of the experiences of my life, I eventually developed anxiety, and whenever I’d err, or commit a faux pas, I’d immediately go into rambling the whole backstory for my mistake and try to explain myself or correct any misunderstanding. I have learned not to do that, but instead, breathe and move on. We all have our flaws, and make mistakes. Don’t dwell. Don’t worry about what anyone else thinks of you. Just be a kind human to the best of your ability.
- Embrace the journey. It is not a race. It is more like that family road trip you took as a kid, where you kept asking your parents, “are we there yet?”, meaning you audition, book, work, and then you’re back to square one when the job is done. The space between leaves room for you to enjoy your life. It is the time that you can use to reflect on things, spend time with your family, or just simply unwind after an adventure before heading onto the next. Everyone’s adventure in this journey will be different, easier for some and more difficult for others, and that’s just the way it is. Don’t stress about it. Make new friends, and collaborate often, support your colleagues, and keep moving forward.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
It may have been a cloudy day outside. It also may have stormed, but even from this, the most beautiful flowers bloom.
I do not have a favorite life lesson quote. However, this quote is something that I wrote that is in direct correlation with my life and I do have other quotes that I enjoy as reminders. This quote reminds me of where I’ve been, where I am, and to keep the faith and know that everything will always work out how it is meant to even if things look bleak and feel awful. Just like the weather so much is out of our control, all you can do is keep going and growing.
I am a fan of many of Bruce Lee’s quotes, though.
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 whole family.My mother, my husband, my boys, my sisters, my dear friend, Charlotte, everyone I’ve had the pleasure of working with, and everyone who has ever been or will be a part of my films. So, to anyone who has ever been there for me, or that has looked out for me, taken a chance on me, or that has supported me in any way, shape, or form, I am so very grateful for you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
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. 🙂
I honestly do not think of myself as an enormous influence, but if I was to create a movement, it would be one based upon encouraging one another. We are all going through so much together with this pandemic, fires, hurricanes, and heartbreaking human behavior, on top of dealing with our own private lives that it is so crucial that we uplift each other and look out for one another.
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. 🙂
This is a tough one, I think that I would like to sit and pick the brains of Janet Jackson, Tim Burton, and Phylicia Rashad to start, but there are more. Janet, because she was also a part of the inspiration that led me to entertain, along with Ms. Rashad, whom I think is just marvelous both as an actress and as a woman. Tim, I love his uniqueness and how it comes through in his art.
How can our readers follow you online?
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational!