I think a big issue right now for people is always looking onto social media and seeing all of these perfect people; perfectly happy. You see people around you advancing in phenomenal ways and while it’s always good to be happy for them, I think people feel they are so far behind everyone else in life. I think it is important for people to realize that social media and especially Instagram is that “highlight reel” so to speak. Not only that, but you’re seeing an edited, air brushed, altered version of what this person wants you to see. I think, part of it is also trying to fit into a mold of what the industry “tells” you to be. What size you need to be, what shape, what height. Slowly, this is starting to change and the industry is becoming more accepting and welcoming to the perfectly, imperfect. That is the movement I would like to start. The “Perfectly, Imperfect Campaign,” where we celebrate one another for our sizes, shapes, and backgrounds.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Elaina Adrianna. Elaina Adrianna, born in Germany, is an award-winning, Spanish-speaking, actress known for Silence, Sessions, House of Cards, Jimmy Kimmel Live! and several other productions. Elaina Adrianna has also distinguished herself as a pageant queen, an award-winning equestrian, an award-winning vocalist, a martial artist, and a world traveler reaching over 30 countries. She has used these life experiences in several roles.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
When I was younger, my family was stationed in Hanau, Germany, due to us being a military family. Military bases are essentially a little piece of the U.S. in a confined space. On this military base, there was a theater- the Five Pfennig Playhouse. One day after school I decided to audition for my first play, Babes in Toyland, and landed the role of little Sally Waters. And that was it. Over the course of 3 years in Germany I did several shows and eventually landed the lead as Cat in The Ugly Duckling. After Germany we were transferred to Virginia. Through all of middle school and high school, I shifted heavily into sports and acting took a back seat.
After graduating, I was accepted into George Mason University and soon found out they had the best rated Theater Program in the state which meant it was also highly competitive. I had a choice to make. I could either choose a major I could be semi-happy with, or after years of not acting I could pick out a monologue and a song, and try to make it in the program.
On the day of my audition, I walked into the audition room where there were two men seated and eager to see what I had going for me, after all my theater experience was lengthy. I was so nervous. I forgot my monologue multiple times, my voice cracked when I sang, but I was re-directed a few times and did not give up. I was sure I failed. A few weeks later I got a letter in the mail stating that I made it in.
You would think that this would mean the start of a great career. Wrong. I found out in my first two years at Mason that the program had many student directors which meant they were casting their friends from the theater fraternity in the season shows. I auditioned for every show and made it into only one. Later I found out the director who cast me for this role caught backlash for not casting a friend. I knew my chances of being cast again were slim. I had a choice to make, again. I could keep doing the same thing, auditioning for theater shows at Mason and getting rejected, or dive deep into the world of TV and Film with barely any knowledge on how to do it. But that was always the goal for me, to one day move into the world of television and film, and so I did.
While on the east coast, I accumulated several lead roles in film and and landed multiple co-stars and guest- stars in various shows. I became a Union actress (a dream I had for years) and set my sights on LA. Not even a month after I graduated with my degrees in Theater and Communication, I made it to Hollywood to start the good fight again in a new place. On day one, I made it on to Jimmy Kimmel Live!
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?
Talk about a messed up experience. (Fair warning- This story is not for those with weak stomachs.)
I was playing a guest star in a show called Nightmare Next Door. The story followed the true story of a law student that was stalked, murdered and dismembered in her apartment. On the day of the murder/dismemberment scene, the crew informed me that they bought a frozen chicken to cut with a saw blade so that when the saw pulled up into frame, you would see what appeared to be flesh on the ridges of the blade. So the time came for the scene, I was positioned in the bath tub and the frozen chicken was placed next to my leg. The scene went on so long that by the end of shooting, the chicken was no longer frozen but reeked horribly and was mixed with fake blood. It was truly one of the worst smells I have ever encountered and paired with the visual of the fake blood- just lovely. We finally wrapped that scene and I had never been happier to break for lunch. I walked in to see what the caterer brought for the day…chicken. Loads and loads of pretty much just chicken. Needless to say, I lost my appetite for the day.
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?
During the one show I did at Mason, I was playing a girl who took the virginity of the main character. The scene was scripted so that I, playing a dancer, would crawl onto our protagonist’s bed and start doing all kinds of comical stretches. I would then seduce him into out first kiss and pull him onto the bed. The lights would black out and we would undress under the covers and simulate a sex scene with a comedic climax for the main character. The lights would then come back up and we would “re-dress” under the covers and I would leave. Well, on the day of the first performance, I found out we really were stripping down to our underwear so the audience would see the clothing on the ground- what a great day to choose lacy underwear. I thought, “Well, I’ll be getting dressed under the covers so no one will see it anyway.”
The show started and our scene was up. Everything went smoothly. The audience laughed at our faux-climax scene. Finally, the lights came back up and I stood up with the blanket to dress myself and bent over to grab my leggings. And there went my blanket. My blanket fell to the floor and there I was basically naked. I looked up and out into the audience and directly in my line of sight were my dad and brother, completely beat red-faced and my mom laughing hysterically. On top of that, it was a thrust stage meaning audiences are on 3 sides of you which in turn, meant a lot of people got a view of my bare butt and a whole lot more. Talk about an intro back into the theater. I learned that no matter what, things will happen that are out of your control and you just have to roll with the punches.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I just had the pleasure of doing a film called “Silence.” The film focuses on the story of a young woman who gets into an accident and loses her hearing. She struggles to move on with her life and accept the new disability. The thing I loved most about this film was we had an American Sign Language (ASL) instructor come on set and give both me and the other actors a class on ASL and how to properly communicate. I loved the opportunity to jump into this exciting new experience and end up with a film that made an impact on audiences. The tough part about this was the team had 48 hours to come up with a script, learn the lines, learn ASL, shoot, edit and turn the project in.
The film was made for the 48 Hour Film Project in which we competed against over one hundred and fifty other films in LA. My producer ended up pulling the genre of “silent film” (each team pulls one of several possible genres and must create the film in the confines of it). My team, Transplant Pictures, wanted to do something memorable and came up with this amazing story! We ended up winning several awards including, Best Actress (me), Audience Award, Best Directing (Jack Swiker), Best Editing and BEST FILM! Winning best film meant we advanced to Filmapalooza!
Filmapalooza is an international film festival held in a different city each year. This year we headed to Orlando! Filmapalooza showcases every film that won Best Film in their respective city. Each film is screened at a movie theater and the grand champions are crowned. Even more, the top 10 films advance to the Cannes Film Festival which is held every year in May! Our entire team was very much looking forward to the festival and the opportunity to share this film with even more film makers and audience members.
Update- Our film ended up being the first to screen at the Walt Disney Amphitheater as one of the 10 films selected to go to the Cannes Film Festival!! It is also the first time Los Angeles 48 Hour Film Project is being represented at Cannes.
Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?
Filmapalooza was absolutely amazing! I met people from over 80 countries and watched their stories unfold on screen. It was so unique to see how different people all over the world take a story and put their cultural spin on it to make something fascinating. The 10 films selected to go to Cannes represented all different cultures and viewpoints in the world and varied methods of storytelling on screen. I’m so very excited to be included as one of the few American teams headed there this year in May.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
My favorite way to avoid burning out is to find new hobbies that can double as extra skills I may use later on in my acting career. For example, I joined a mixed martial arts dojo to learn a new skillset for future roles and ended up falling in love with it. I know many people burn off stress by going to the gym or hiking out here in Los Angeles and this was my unique way of doing just that with an additional goal in mind.
I’ve been working with Richard Mesquita at Richard Mesquita Martial Arts for over a year now learning American Kenpo and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. In turn, I’ve been able to record clips and edit them into mini skills clips for my team to submit to casting. Having a good exercise program that can double as a new skill is an excellent way to reduce stress, stay in shape, and gain experience.
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. 🙂
I think a big issue right now for people is always looking onto social media and seeing all of these perfect people; perfectly happy. You see people around you advancing in phenomenal ways and while it’s always good to be happy for them, I think people feel they are so far behind everyone else in life. I think it is important for people to realize that social media and especially Instagram is that “highlight reel” so to speak.
Not only that, but you’re seeing an edited, air brushed, altered version of what this person wants you to see. I think, part of it is also trying to fit into a mold of what the industry “tells” you to be. What size you need to be, what shape, what height. Slowly, this is starting to change and the industry is becoming more accepting and welcoming to the perfectly, imperfect. That is the movement I would like to start. The “Perfectly, Imperfect Campaign,” where we celebrate one another for our sizes, shapes, and backgrounds.
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’re not alone in your struggles. As I said before, social media is everyone’s highlight reel and it is important to remember that. You are not alone in getting those 100 “no’s” or getting pinned for a show and losing it. It happens to everyone and it will happen to you too. Keep fighting.
- Network. Networking and earning the respect of others holding will help you find amazing opportunities. Even if you don’t get granted some amazing opportunity up front, it’s worth it to expand your network and just get to know people who are in the same industry as you. You never know what might happen.
- Train consistently. I find it crucial to be in acting classes every month, working on my craft. It’s easy to think, “I know this stuff, I don’t need to keep going to class.” But acting is the same as playing a sport and in LA, you’re basically competing at the Olympics level of acting. If you don’t train, you will get rusty.
- Always be willing to learn. As an actor I think it is so crucial to learn as much as you can from everyone around you and then take the pieces that effect you the most and use them to mold your acting style.
- Take time to celebrate the successes. Even a small success is HUGE and it is worth taking time to be proud of yourself. It is very easy to just brush by those small roles and think they aren’t enough but each role is a stepping stone to the next. Enjoy those moments.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
When I was in middle school, I was involved in several sports. My parents were always very supportive- so supportive in fact that my mom (of Brazilian and Venezuelan background) would wear a highlighter pink coat and yell “¡No te dejes!” from the stands. That saying loosely translates to don’t let yourself be taken advantage of/left in the dust. In other words, it was her way of saying to keep fighting and never give up.
I know I have a very tough fight in the career I feel I’ve been called to, and those words have always been a reminder to keep on kicking and punching my way through those barriers.
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?
First, I have to give a huge shout out to Transplant Pictures. These guys are each amazing talents in the entertainment world and come together to compete in the 48 Hour Film Project as a tight knit crew who have know each other for years. They took a chance on me to tell the stories we have brought to the big screen and now, thanks to that faith in me and a collaborative effort- we have had our stories told all over the world on international screens and this year, we get to screen the Cannes International Film Festival!
Another person who has helped me is Richard Mesquita from RMMA. He has trained me the past two years in martial arts and that has become such a good outlet for me. Also, he has supported each step of the way that I’ve been here in LA.
Last not certainly not least, my friends and family. Without their constant love and support, this would be very difficult to do.
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. 🙂
If I had the chance, I would love to have lunch with Ryan Murphey. I am SUCH a fan of his shows and their uniqueness. Whenever I see Ryan Murphey is attached to a project, I make sure to keep it on my radar for when it releases.
I’m also a huge fan of Patti Jenkins for continuously bringing phenomenal female-oriented films to the big screen. I love that she is one of the few directors that care to share these stories and always has impeccable execution.
Jason Blum would be a pretty interesting lunch as well. I’ve read up on him quite a bit and how he has grown from the ground up. I’ve read his philosophy on which films he chooses to take on and why, and I find his method of thinking to be pretty different from the norm. I’m a big fan of his films.
I have to include Emily Blunt as well. I had the opportunity to hear her speak at a Q&A after a screening of Mary Poppins and she was so open, honest, and funny. I love seeing actresses who are genuinely wonderful and fun to hear from. She has been one of my all time favorite actresses for a while due to her ability to adapt to every single genre and any role thrown her way. Finding out that she was such a kind and real person was awesome. She also has some killer stories of behind-the-scenes things from several films she has been a part of.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Instagram is my primary way to connect with people.
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational!