…one thing I have in mind is opening up safe centers for kids and teens who are homeless. I want to adopt children one day but in my eyes that not enough. I love kids and want to inspire them and help them all prosper in life.
As a part of my interview series with popular culture stars, I had the pleasure of interviewing actress and singer Jessica Joerndt. Jessica has been acting and performing since she discovered her passion in her high school musical days. Since then, she has worked with coaches and teachers that have developed the likes of Miley Cyrus, Sarah Jessica Parker, Reese Witherspoon and more. She is currently pursuing professional theater in the Cleveland OH and Pittsburgh PA areas with plans to move to Los Angeles in the next year to pursue film and television career.
Thank you so much for joining us Jessica! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Thank you! Well to start, I have always had a fascination with actors. Even when I didn’t know it. When I was little, I was interested in stories and people who told them. I would sing and tell stories of my own. I was also very shy and quiet as I grew up, which of course steered me away from ever performing in front of people.
When I was 14, I interviewed for a performing arts workshop in NYC. The director was a sort of “talent scout” who worked with young actors such as Sarah Jessica Parker, Reese Witherspoon and Broadway stars like Sutton Foster. I was really intrigued by the speech that the director of the program gave: it was all about getting to know yourself and who you really are in order to become the best actor you can be. Something made me want to interview for the program. I interviewed, and I was accepted! The workshop was a week long in NYC and at the end we performed monologues Off-Broadway in the city. While the workshop was scary for me at first, it was also life-changing, I would eventually realize. I joked around with my parents that it was fun to try but not my thing. I was a competitive equestrian at the time and loved it with all of my heart, so I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. However, as I reached my late teens, I continued to be fascinated with films, tv shows, music, actors, and overall humanity. I pushed myself to do my second ever musical at my high school — The Phantom of the Opera- and from there my entire life plan changed. I went from wanting to be a professional equestrian to realizing that there is so much more of me that I don’t know yet, and being an actor was what I should be doing.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?
The most interesting thing about my career so far was a class I was in that took my acting ability and awareness of myself to a higher level. It was at a Mesiner-technique acting school I was studying at, and the class had a name that I can’t quite remember, but it was about finding your truth and developing your emotional range.
The class was the most emotionally difficult but freeing thing I’ve ever done. We had to write “personal monologues”, the teacher called them, where we talked about ourselves and something significant that has happened in our lives that affected us. Then, we had to say them to the entire class. But it wasn’t just sticking our head in a piece of paper and reading. It was also connecting with a person standing in front of us. So as I would read, I would also remember to keep as much eye contact as possible with my partner standing a few feet in front of me, and really tell her what was on my mind.
Eventually, we had our monologues memorized. And as we read them, our teacher would not let us get past a sentence until we said it as truthfully and honestly as we could. So if that meant breaking down into tears, or yelling with anger, that’s what it meant. That was the goal — to speak our truth and feel every bit of it. And at the end, our partner is supposed to tell us how they feel about our story in just a few words.
For some people this class was easy, and for some it was very difficult. It was a little tough for me at first but once I said out-loud what had been weighing on my heart about my life at the time, I became a stronger and more emotionally open person and it has been life-changing for me. When I finally got through my whole monologue with all of my emotions and honesty, my partner looked me in the eye and told me I was inspiring. I’ll never forget that class and what it taught me.
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’ve embarrassed myself quite a few times (LOL), but I’d say the funniest mistake was during my very first musical in 8th grade. It was High School Musical Jr., and I was playing Kelsey Nielsen. I was heading off stage and had to walk down some steps, and I completely missed all of the steps and fell on top of everybody that was waiting at the bottom. We all fell to the ground and I sprained my ankle. Fun times.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I just finished a run of the Ohio Shakespeare Festival’s Measure For Measure, which was such a unique and fun experience. Shakespeare is such an elaborate language to discover, which is such a fulfilling challenge. I got to play my violin and work with some amazing actors and overall fun and welcoming people.
Some other cool projects I worked on recently was the Ohio premiere of Matilda the Musical. It was put on in my hometown of Youngstown, Ohio. We had the original Broadway music conductor of the show, Mike Mortiz, come back to his hometown of Youngstown and conduct us. I played The Acrobat in that production. In the musical, The Acrobat is Miss Honey’s mother, who is deceased, and Matilda makes up stories about what she was like. It was a great experience to learn how to express my character’s emotions using no dialogue, since I am a figment of Matilda’s imagination. We had an amazing local cast and it was such a great experience.
I also recently filmed a world wide web commercial using my guitar for a new guitar company, and I have some great short film opportunities in the works.
Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?
Currently, I am sitting backstage typing this while laughing with my Measure For Measure castmates — they are all really interesting, open, accepting and funny people, probably some of the most chill and cool people I’ve ever worked with.
I also loved hanging out with and working with Natalia Lepore Hagen and Alysia Jordan during my hometown’s production of “Guys and Dolls”. Natalia had just finished the national tour of Phantom of the Opera spin-off “Love Never Dies”, and Alysia Jordan had just finished the national tour of “School of Rock”. They were so sweet and extremely talented, and it was so inspiring to work with them.
I also have met some really amazing acting teachers that have impacted me and made me so much better. Miley Cyrus’s acting coach Marnie Cooper is one, and a few others as well who have worked with now big Hollywood stars. It’s cool to see what coaching and training can do for your career.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
I definitely say that not focusing on your career 24/7 is the best way not to get burned out. Do something every day that is not about work or career. Read a fiction book, watch a tv show and just zone out if you have to. I am an equestrian and have competed since I was little, so now I just love to go out to the farm and work and live a completely different life than I live normally for a day or two. I always leave refreshed and ready to work hard. It’s really important for everyone to take some down time — even if it’s a week or two- and give their minds and body a break.
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. 🙂
Thanks! Wow, what a question. There’s just so much I would love to do. I’m really passionate about advocacy for minority groups and people who are not treated equally. That’s a big one for me. So I’m sure there’s a lot I can do with that. But one thing I do have in mind is opening up safe centers for kids and teens who are homeless. I want to adopt children one day but in my eyes that not enough. I love kids and want to inspire them and help them all prosper in life.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- With acting, be prepared to feel uncomfortable if you want to grow. I didn’t realize just how much soul searching and confronting fears it really takes to be an actor, so I want future actors to know that it’s not easy or something that a couple of lessons can complete for you. It takes a lifetime of learning and pushing yourself.
- Always look to make new connections with like-minded people. You never know when those connections will come into play in your career.
- Learn about the business side — show business. This is crucial for any actor’s success. I studied a lot with Wendy Alane Wright. She’s a talent manager who teaches actors about show business, and without her guidance I wouldn’t have known how to create opportunities for myself and grow my career.
- Don’t expect instant results. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
- Understand that you are enough just as you are, at all times. As long as you are authentically yourself and train to become the best you can be, you will find success of some kind.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Life is a gift, and it offers us the privilege, opportunity, and responsibility to give something back by becoming more.” -Tony Robbins
When I first read this quote, it really impacted me to do something meaningful with my life. I think this quote really summarizes what life is all about. Life is a gift, and life is what we make of it. We can contribute to society and humanity by giving back with who we are. As an actor, this quote fits perfectly. I want to use all I am to become great at what I do and hopefully inspire and influence along the way, and maybe one day have a platform I can use to make a big difference and be a louder voice in this world for goodness and kindness.
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 think every day about how grateful I am to be a part of the acting community. I get to connect with people all around the world who are supportive, positive and inspiring. A few people who I feel really helped me along on my journey so far are the various acting teachers I’ve had the pleasure to learn from, including Jessica Houde Morris who owns the Meisner-technique school I trained at for a year and a half in Cleveland, Jim Bray who taught me the Emotional Truth class and helped me confront some of my own demons, Wendy Alane Wright for inspiring and believing in me, and my mother for being my rock and biggest supporter.
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 would absolutely LOVE to meet and have lunch with Reese Witherspoon. I’d say she is one of my biggest idols and role models in the industry. I think she is an amazing actress, businesswoman and a strong female who uses her platform to advocate for women and their opportunity in the industry and beyond. Another actress I would love to meet is Liz Gillies, currently the star of the CW’s Dynasty. I’ve been following her career since her Nickelodeon days and absolutely love her sense of humor and personality.
On the music front, I would love to meet the amazing Diana Ross, one of the most successful ladies in music. Also, Jewel has been the biggest influence on me musically since I was just a little girl. It’s a goal of mine to meet or even write music with her one day.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
My instagram is @jessjoerndt, Twitter is also @jessjoerndt, and my FB page is Jessica Joerndt. You can also keep up with my work and updates at www.jessicajoerndt.com and my Youtube channel Jessica Joerndt where I post covers, monologues and some acting business tips!
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational!
Thank you for having me! I loved sharing with you.