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Rebecca Knowles: “Leave a little sparkle wherever you go”

There will always be someone to tell you you’re not good enough or talented enough or that your dreams are too big. Don’t let that person be you. There have been times where I tried to talk myself out of my dream because it didn’t seem realistic or possible. I’m part of a great accountability […]

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There will always be someone to tell you you’re not good enough or talented enough or that your dreams are too big. Don’t let that person be you. There have been times where I tried to talk myself out of my dream because it didn’t seem realistic or possible. I’m part of a great accountability group of women who remind me that our job as artists is to be creative, to play pretend, to use our imagination. What we achieved last year has nothing to do with what is possible next year. I could book a series regular role next month, you could book a national commercial that shoots in Paris next week! This is a career where possibilities are limitless and we are worthy of having those dreams.


As a part of my interview series with popular culture stars, I had the pleasure of interviewing Rebecca Knowles, a bicoastal actor, splitting her time between NYC and LA. Her TV/Film credits include a new Netflix comedy, UNBREAKABLE KIMMY SCHMIDT, indie film IMMORTAL with Dylan Baker, and Brat’s INTERN IN CHIEF which hit 1 million views on YouTube in the first week. Theatrically, she was seen in Lincoln 2020: an award-winning Hollywood Fringe show, and at 54 Below with Michael Cerveris, NYMF, and Pittsburgh CLO.


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

Thank you for inviting me! When I was little, I was always making up plays with my sister and friends. Every family vacation we took usually involved forcing our parents to watch us perform a made-up play about mermaids or princesses or orphans, you know, the usual. When most kids stopped playing with stuffed animals and dolls, I still loved using my imagination and discovered theatre was a way to keep playing make-believe. I performed with a musical theatre troupe, and went to summer theatre camps, including one at Louisa May Alcott’s actual Orchard House, where we got to be characters from Little Women. In middle school, I thought maybe I should be a writer or broadcast journalist, because those seemed like more ‘practical’ careers. But, I eventually realized that the thing I have been doing since I was little was exactly what I wanted to do for the rest of my life!

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

One of the first things I booked was an improvisational gig for a red-carpet premiere of Night at the Museum 3 in NYC. My job was to wear a real costume from the movie and pretend to be a Puritan pilgrim girl during the red carpet and party. We got to be on-location at the actual Museum of Natural History, so it was definitely one of the coolest jobs for someone from a small town. We all had to stay in character the whole time, so some characters like the Mummy and Neanderthal couldn’t speak. Everything I said had to be like someone from centuries ago, pretending I didn’t know what a selfie was, and speaking in Old English. I remember being in absolute awe on the red carpet, seeing rows and rows of photographers and flashing lights; it was surreal. It was so glamorous and a little weird, (I mean I was walking a red carpet next to a Mummy) and was definitely a memorable experience.

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 first moved to the city, I didn’t have a lot of audition experience, so auditioning for big-time theatre was pretty foreign to me. I knew that adults always dressed in nice clothes for job interviews, and that’s kind of what an audition seemed like to me. I remember showing up for a Broadway play open call for a teenage role and I wore a nice dress and high heels, probably looking like I was ready for a formal interview! Once I started going to more auditions, I pretty quickly discovered that people don’t wear formal wear to auditions! It taught me the value of not trying to be what I think people want me to be, and that clothes are a great way into a character.

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

I have a role in an amazing new coming-of-age comedy that will air on Netflix this year, but I can’t talk about it yet! It’s so well-written and endearingly funny — I can’t wait until it comes out. I’m also attached to a feature film shooting fall of 2020, again I can’t say a whole lot, but it’s a really fantastic story that involves cults and murder, so an exciting shift from some of my more comedic projects.

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

Los Angeles and New York seem like such huge cities, but in the entertainment industry, I think if you talk to someone long enough, you usually find out you have a mutual friend and this industry seems like a smaller, less intimidating world. Recently, I did an episode of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and I got to work with a personal inspiration of mine, Ellie Kemper. Carrying a show is not easy — you have the most lines, there’s added pressure…but Ellie was the loveliest human. She was focused yet welcoming, and treated everyone with respect, from the series regulars to the crew, to background actors, and those of us just there for the day. She made everyone feel like they mattered, that their job that day was just as important as hers. And even after she wrapped a long day on set and was leaving for the day, she took the time to stop and talk to a hotel guest and their family. It was an amazing lesson on how to use your power to spread kindness.

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

Burnout is real, no matter where you are in this career. As a non-equity actor, you’re up at 5 am standing in line outside in the winter, then you’re trying to get into your first audition room, or maybe your stress comes from an overwhelming number of auditions, or working long hours as a series regular. I’m definitely still learning what works best for me! Right now, I like meditation to help me recharge, and exercise to help me let off steam. Reminding myself of why I chose acting and why I love it helps me to keep moving forward toward my goals. We’re all different, so my advice to help you keep thriving would be to figure out what you need to stay mentally and physically healthy, and have a routine in place that works for you!

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. 🙂

One of my Psychology teachers said that the joy of doing good deeds for others is greater than doing something for ourselves. So if you’re given 5 dollars, using it to pay for someone else’s coffee will actually make you happier than if you bought yourself one. I love the idea of spreading kindness and I think we could do that by creating a chain of gratitude. What if we picked one person in our life, and wrote a letter telling them how they’ve inspired us and why we’re grateful to them? And then we told them to pass it on. Whether it’s your mail person, your 3rd-grade teacher who helped you love learning, a parent, a sibling, an ex who helped you to grow in some way, the coffee shop employee who remembers your name…telling people why they matter in your life is such a special gift and one that it’s so easy to take for granted!

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

Say thank you!

I’m grateful for the people and opportunities that come my way, but I wasn’t always great at actually telling people how much I appreciate them. I recently just sent a ‘thank you’ email to a wonderful 2nd Assistant Director I worked with on a set, and she wrote back saying that my email made her day, which then made my day! It’s such a simple thing to do, but because it’s so simple, it’s so easy to forget about the impact it can have. Sometimes in my busyness, I don’t get my thank-you’s sent right away and then I feel like it’s too late! But I’ve never had someone tell me: “I don’t accept your thank you because you sent it one month too late.” So, say thank you as much as possible — to the people who bring you in to audition, the people who hire you, the people who look out for you, and the people in your corner supporting you on your journey.

Busy is not the same as success, and success is not the same thing as happiness.

This one is a big one for me. It’s so common, especially in this industry, to fall into the mentality that the busier we are, the more successful we are, or the more deserving we are of success. It’s almost like a competition to see who can survive on the least amount of sleep while working the hardest. Because, there’s this illusion that once we’ve finally have achieved our goal and are successful, we’ll finally be happy. I’ve been working on paying attention to my body, noticing the moments when my schedule is just too much and it might be putting extra stress on me. I’m still not great at finding that elusive balance between work and play, but I’m getting better at adding in self-care and trusting that the work I do is enough.

Dream big.

There will always be someone to tell you you’re not good enough or talented enough or that your dreams are too big. Don’t let that person be you. There have been times where I tried to talk myself out of my dream because it didn’t seem realistic or possible. I’m part of a great accountability group of women who remind me that our job as artists is to be creative, to play pretend, to use our imagination. What we achieved last year has nothing to do with what is possible next year. I could book a series regular role next month, you could book a national commercial that shoots in Paris next week! This is a career where possibilities are limitless and we are worthy of having those dreams.

Ask for what you want.

This is part two of dreaming big. Once you know what you want, then you have to ask for it, because you might just get it! No one can read your mind, but if you take a leap and put yourself out there, then your dreams have a chance to become a reality. Sometimes it’s scary to reach out to people because you think “oh they’re going to be too busy to meet with me” or “I’m not important enough, that another actor has so many more credits.” But I booked my first role on TV after writing to a casting director I had met before, telling them that my goal that year was to book a role on the show they cast and explained why. I said what I wanted, and two days later, without an agent, I got an audition for that show!

Say yes. And say no. And learn the value of both.

I’ve heard people say one or the other, but I love the idea that both words have so much power. I’ve tried saying yes to every opportunity, which taught me a lot…but when I found myself cat sitting for 10 families in one day, riding the subway back and forth and back again…I realized that saying ‘yes’ all the time was really exhausting. I felt spread too thin and it was hard to focus on my goals. On the other hand, sometimes when I only say no, I miss out on really cool opportunities that might take me out of my comfort zone. Photoshoots in the super bloom, indoor skydiving, and meeting really cool people at an intimidating networking event! So now my motto is, both are important; say yes to things that help you to learn and grow, and stand in your worth by saying no to things that no longer serve you.

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

“Leave a little sparkle wherever you go” is one of my favorite quotes. You know those friends that you hang out with, and afterwards you can’t stop smiling? We all have something unique about ourselves, an essence that we leave behind. I love the idea of thinking of that energy we leave behind as our sparkle. It reminds me that being me is enough!

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 feel really grateful to have been supported by so many people in many different capacities. Questions like this always make me sentimental, thinking back to my mom and how she spent so much time and energy getting me to voice lessons, acting and dance classes. Driving me to auditions, home from rehearsals, earning extra money so I could perform at Disney with a musical theatre troupe — giving me access to opportunities to grow as a performer. I’m really grateful to her for making sure I had the chance to get to follow my dreams. Thanks, mom!

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. 🙂

Reese Witherspoon is a personal inspiration of mine. She began in this industry as the naïve, Type A girl-next-door, and pushed back when underestimated by fighting for the opportunity to be seen in other roles. When she wasn’t seeing enough opportunity for women to portray the interesting and nuanced stories that we see in real-life, she decided to fund her own production company to spearhead change. I admire that she uses her voice to give power to others and how supportive she is of her colleagues. She’s been so instrumental in exploring the multi-dimensionality of women in the entertainment industry and does so while spreading sunshine and positivity. I would love to have lunch with her and hear more of her story!

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Follow my journey on Instagram @rebeccasunnybrookfarm or at RebeccaKnowles.net!

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

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