Rising Star Anna Elena Pepe: Why Actors Can Inspire A ‘Put Yourself in Someone Else’s Shoes’ Movement

I think us actors are used to putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes for a job, which helps us see things from their perspective. It would be great if everyone could do that every day. Think about putting yourself into some else’s shoes. That guy we don’t like for instance…why does he behave that way? […]

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I think us actors are used to putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes for a job, which helps us see things from their perspective. It would be great if everyone could do that every day. Think about putting yourself into some else’s shoes. That guy we don’t like for instance…why does he behave that way? Maybe if we try to understand and be compassionate about other people a lot of the hatred in society will disappear. I guess “Put yourself in someone else’s shoes” could be a new movement!

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

Anna is an award winning Italian-English actress and screenwriter working in the USA, UK and Europe. Her mission is to bring to life great, unconventional female characters. She is currently working on a web-series, a short film and 2 full-length films

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

From what I recall, I always wanted to be an actress. Many colleagues will understand, it’s not something you choose, it’s something that chooses you. It’s a gift or a curse, depending on your point of view. As a child, I started telling stories to my classmates at school and staging them as a real performance. I took my first theatre course in high-school, and acted in my first film in my home town in Italy. I then moved to London and continued my acting studies there.

I moved to England because I loved the English theatre tradition and my dream was to grow artistically in that atmosphere. I was very impressed by the space that was given to theatre, and especially to contemporary plays and “new writing”. I really liked the idea of ​​using theatre for a social purpose, to explore today’s problems. I have always been an “author”, I always liked to write, both for theatre and for film and in London I found the right place for me.

In recent years I have had several experiences that have made me grow artistically, both in theatre and film, in English and in Italian. I performed in some shows in the West End (the London equivalent of Broadway) and in films with important directors (Pupi Avati, Richard Blanshard, Johan Nijenhuis). As a voice actor and speaker, I worked for many major brands such as Vodafone, Ryanair, Amazon and for productions such as Warner Bros, Paramount and HBO.

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

I was born in Italy. I spoke good English as a teenager, for as well as I could learn at school. To get better, I used to listen to the BBC broadcast on the international TV channels, and got hold of a few recordings of plays at the Royal Shakespeare Company. The first time I came to England was for a high school student exchange program based in North Yorkshire. I remember arriving at the local train station and realizing…no-one spoke like the BBC people! I really could not understand a word of the Yorkshire accent! Then, I began my journey of understanding and studying different English accents. I remember after a long period in Yorkshire I started auditioning for drama schools in London and people were confused…why does this Italian girl sound like a Northerner? It took me a while, but I’m now ready, every time I am challenged to use a different accent for a part, whether it’s American, British, Middle-Eastern and so on.

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?

It was one of my first jobs. We were filming in Sardinia, a Mediterranean island of Italy. It was like a dream, they flew us to a wonderful island to work with a great director on a great story. I remember we had a dinner party scene. For some reason I hadn’t been eating all day. And there I was, at the table, with a ginormous portion of spaghetti in front of me. So I started eating, FOR REAL. Every take was an opportunity to eat a bit more and I just could not stop. Or I did, just to say my lines at least. For the people who are not in film I should explain why this is really bad. In every take, you should try to repeat the same movements with props. This makes it easier to edit the film. The poor editor must have hated me. He must have thought, who’s that girl constantly eating?

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

One of the projects I have co-written and acted in is a series called “Toto e Daiana”. It’s about Italian immigrants in London and has already won awards and has had great reception at international film-festivals. We are now producing the remaining episodes.

A short-film to be filmed soon is “Agata”, which is a black-comedy that deals with violence against women, immigration and clash of cultures. It is directed by a young female director, Aurora Deiana.

This year, I also crossed the pond and started working in LA as an actress on two very exciting films, one is currently in post production and it’s called “The Central Authority”

It’s a completely socially distanced movie that we shot during the pandemic lockdown. It’s a ground breaking film taking place literally all over the world. For example, I was in London and my scene partner was in LA! It’s a horror comedy with heavy satire elements. We are in a dystopian future, where a pandemic has caused the world-wide collapse of governments. A Central Authority has risen to maintain law and order. My character Dr. Elaine Zhivaga is the head sexologist and intimacy advisor for The Central Authority. There is a lot to learn from her in terms of socially distanced sex!

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

I have interacted with a lot of important people in the film industry over the years. My personal impression is, the more successful someone is, the more they treat you with respect. There is no ego because they don’t need to prove anything. At the same time, they work in a high paced environment where the stakes are high. So, you need to be up to the task. I remember working with this famous director, a living legend of Italian cinema. We were on set and he comes to me and says, your character is working on a train that is passing the border to France, it would make more sense if she spoke French in this scene (instead of Italian). The assistant director speaks French…go and work it out. We are shooting in 20 minutes! Of course, I was anxious but it all worked out well in the end…

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

The first thing would be to cherish ourselves as creative human beings. Whether we are “working” or not does not define us as artists. There is this great book called The Artist Way by Julia Cameron, which gives you daily practical exercises to reconnect with your creative self.

The second piece of advice would be to create a community. You are not alone, you are part of a movement. So find your tribe, people that inspire you, that have the same work ethic you have, people that make you feel good.

As a foreign actor in London, for a few years I felt I did not belong. So I created my own community and with some fellow actors I founded NIAL (Native Italian Actors in London) a community of bilingual artists able to perform anywhere in the world. We are an active group that meets, discusses, exchanges news, and organizes training workshops. Our aim is to create more Italian and English co-productions and to connect not only actors, but also directors, writers and musicians. We support each other, and this makes the life of the actor, which can sometimes be solitary and difficult, a little simpler.

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 love physical exercise, especially outdoors, and I love doing it under the sun. Which is much easier when I am in LA compared to when I am in London. I love hiking, nature inspires me and I get many ideas for my writing just by walking around.

A self-care routine for my mind is definitely utilizing my Buddhist practice. I have been a Buddhist for over ten years now, and it is a philosophy that guides all my actions. You become aware that there is no border between us and the environment and we can actively change what’s around us, by changing ourselves.

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

  • You are enough. I felt a bit of an outsider for a long time, like I didn’t really belong anywhere, but then I realized that was my strength, because I would always have a different point of view that will help me seeing things clearly.
  • If you don’t see people like you on TV then write your way in. Show business is a business and it’s open. If you write something that is relevant people will listen. There are a lot of people like you out there that need to feel represented.
  • Just doing a good audition is not enough. There are a lot of competent performers, you need to be extraordinary, and that is possible only by really channeling yourself. Make every audition really personal, it will make the difference.
  • You are your biggest competition, just focus on what you have to do. Talent is just 10%, the other 90% is dedication. Other people are there to inspire you to do better.
  • Detach from the outcome. Do your best but then let it go. You can’t control everything. You will win some and lose some. In the grand scheme of things, everything will work out.

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

I have heard this “Life Lesson” that really helped me. It was in my Buddhist teachings. Every day put a piece of paper on the floor, and then another one on it and so on. One day, all of a sudden, you will realize that a pile has formed. I guess it is about consistent effort and the trust that it will give good results.

I also once read the phrase There are no pure lands or impure lands. Pure or impure is only the heart of men. In the end it all depends on us and on how we deal with what is around us. Even if the profession of the actor is coveted and competitive, if we focus on preparation and honesty, sooner or later we will reach our goal “.

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 left my family when I was young and moved to a different country. I am still close to them but I developed a wider sense of family that includes friends. The people that can actively support you in daily life. In the last few years I got married and my husband has been my emotional rock, and a practical help! He is a scientist but moonlights as my cameraman and line reader for auditions!

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 think us actors are used to putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes for a job, which helps us see things from their perspective. It would be great if everyone could do that every day. Think about putting yourself into some else’s shoes. That guy we don’t like for instance…why does he behave that way? Maybe if we try to understand and be compassionate about other people a lot of the hatred in society will disappear. I guess “Put yourself in someone else’s shoes” could be a new movement!

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. 🙂

I have a few people who come to mind. Reese Whiterspoon has really changed the game, an actress turned producer who makes some the best written shows on TV. She created a whole new platform for showcasing female talents. I will be honored to have a coffee with her.

There are also a couple of actresses-writers that I really admire and inspired me a lot during my journey. Lena Dunham, for instance. We have a similar age and seeing someone like her having a show of her own produced by HBO in her early twenties was mind-blowing to me. I also really like the work she is doing for mental health awareness and against body shaming.

Rachel Bloom is also a personal hero of mine. I love her humor, I love musicals, and I love how unapologetically cleaver she is with her satire. I think it would be really fun and constructive to have lunch with her.

How can our readers follow you online?

Instagram @annaelenapepe

Twitter @annaEpepe

Facebook Anna Elena Pepe

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

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