I’d like to start a movement to give people the benefit of the doubt. People often think the worst about experiences and other people. But maybe if we think better of people, we would support and respect each other more. Then I truly think everyone would be happier.
I had the pleasure to interview Stacey Van Gorder. Stacey is an actress, writer, and producer based in New York City. She has managed juggling these hats while raising five kids, running half marathons, and even writing a children’s book.
When I was 12, I babysat Elizabeth and Aidan Quinn’s daughter. Aidan Quinn, from the show, “Elementary”, but also from hit movies, “Benny & Joon” and “Legends of the Fall” and many others. When their daughter was asleep, Aidan would let me watch some of his work. He had an early edit of the movie, “The Lemon Sisters,” with Diane Keaton and Carol Kane. The sound wasn’t corrected and the lighting wasn’t perfect, yet I was completely engaged. I thought, “Wow, Aidan is such a nice, normal dad and he gets to go away and make something like this and share it with the world.” I wanted to be apart of something like that. He left quite the impression on me.
Whenever I booked jobs, I thought casting had made a mistake. Other people were more talented than me. They had smaller noses, bigger lips, and were skinnier. I eventually came to own my looks, my body, and the talent that I brought to the table. As a result, I got into the room much more and I booked much more. I’ve traveled the world for commercial work, while also recently immersing myself in film and television. I finally feel comfortable in my skin. Laura Dern once said, “Keep your eyes on your own paper”. We all have our own journey.
I went into audition for a manager and started talking to this guy who was a part of the manager’s team. We talked about movies and actors for a while until I finally said, “Hey, I’m Stacey” and he said, “I know, you were my 3:00.” He was the manager. We had a good laugh. That conversation led to my first national commercial and roles in television. Everyone matters. Be a good person and be nice to everyone, not because you want to get something, but because you would want to be treated the same way.
I just wrote a pilot with a fellow actor, Lucille Hansen, which we shot last month. It’s in editing now and we are looking to sell it. I’m also the voice of Fidelis Care — I love the producer and Fidelis’s campaign to get health insurance coverage for all children. I also booked a role in a feature film, “Goodbye Honey”, as a grieving mom, Mrs. Rodik, who unexpectedly loses her daughter. That shoots in a couple weeks. I would love to produce a feature, but I’m still looking for the right script. If you have one, send it to me. I love to read scripts!
Early on I did featured background work on “The Big C” with Laura Linney. My actions were to go into a store and open the door for her to go in. We did it again and again, and each time we took our beats. Walk, one, two, open, acknowledge each other and walk in. Laura was a rock, never faltering, never missing a beat. At one point, I walked an extra half step and the door opened a second late. She looked at me like, “You missed your beat girl.” I learned about consistency and how each movement matters in a scene. It’s like doing a dance: we all need to stay on the beat.
I also, I worked with Jerry O’Connell on a spot for his show, “The People’s List”. He was completely himself, completely comfortable, friendly with everyone, and genuinely happy to be doing what he does. I found that refreshing. He reminded me that we are all in the same boat. Actors just want to work and do what they love!
Find something that brings you joy outside of acting. We sometimes feel horrible if we don’t get auditions or callbacks or book jobs, but if you have something to keep you happy and occupied on the down days, then I think more work flows in.
Give people the benefit of the doubt. People often think the worst about experiences and other people. But maybe if we think better of people, we would support and respect each other more. Then I truly think everyone would be happier.
“If not now, when?” I thought about acting when I was a kid, but I didn’t have access to training and when I was a teenager, I was a mess. I needed to work for a career to survive. In my early twenties, I thought I was fat and ugly. Chances come and go. Take a chance before it’s gone. Feel beautiful now because in the future you’re going to look back and think, “Damn, young self, why didn’t you embrace yourself and everything around you?” Today, when I contemplate sending an email, making a cold call, or taking a job out of my comfort zone, I think, “Well if you aren’t going to do it now, when will you?” And I do it!
I’ve had a great year and I think a large part of it is because of my agent, Stefanie Fields. She is 110 percent behind me. We started working together this year and we work as a team. If I do well, she does well. I truly believe if you have a partnership with your agent and they know you, what roles are good for you and your type, what roles to call and get you in for, etc., that is huge.
Shonda Rhimes because she’s a writer, producer, showrunner, and mom. She seems unbelievably human. Her incredible stories provide insight into life and the world that we choose to be a part of.
Shonda may be busy, so there is also Michelle Obama, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Tyler Perry, Sharon Horgan, Dax Shepard, Paul Giamatti. Oh yes, I could go on.
Facebook: @MsStaceyVan Gorder / Stacey Van Gorder