Confidence in yourself is probably the most important thing you can have. Cultivate it and own it. Know your worth and others will realize it too. Just make sure you don’t ever cross over into arrogance because that will turn people off.
As a part of my interview series with popular culture stars, I had the pleasure of interviewing Julia Sanford. Julia is an accomplished actress who has appeared in such films as “The Prestige” and more recently as a dancer in the soon to be released film “Music” directed by Sia and starring Kate Hudson. Julia has also appeared in numerous television shows, commercials and on stage, most recently in the hilarious play “Come Back!” produced for the 2019 Hollywood Fringe Festival and nominated for Best Comedy of Fringe.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
As a little girl in Alabama, I used to love watching old movies with my mom. When I was about 5 years old, I told her I was going to be an actress. I don’t think she took me seriously but I just knew. When I was about 7 years old, Mom put me in ballet class and I was hooked on that too. When I was a senior in high school, I entered the local Jr. Miss Alabama contest and won the talent competition with my performance of the ballet “The Dying Swan.” A few months later, I won a college scholarship performing that piece in the Miss Alabama contest. I went on to get my BA in theatre with a concentration in dance from the University of Alabama Birmingham.
After college, I realized that my true path was acting, not ballet, so I made the journey to San Francisco to study at American Conservatory Theatre and with a few twists and turns along the way, I began my career as a professional actress.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?
Wow, it’s hard to narrow it down to just one. One that comes to mind is that two days before I was to shoot my scene in “The Prestige” with Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale, I went to spinning class, got down on the floor to stretch and could not get up because my lower back had completely seized up. The pain was excruciating! Some very kind guys at the gym saw that I was in distress and literally pulled me up off the floor and walked me to my car so I could get home. I don’t know how I drove home but I did and spent the rest of the day lying on my bed not able to move because of the pain. My husband said, “I don’t think you’re going to be able to work on the movie”and I said,”I have too!” My neighbor recommended a chiropractor who was able to see me the next day and he did his magic so that I was able to stand and walk and to drive to the set the next morning. It helped that I was in a period costume complete with a corset which supported my aching back all day on set. One of my fondest memories is slowly but surely walking into the makeup trailer that morning and being greeted by the smiling, friendly man in the next chair who said, “Hi, I’m Hugh.” And that’s how I met Hugh Jackman!
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 was shooting my very first commercial back in San Francisco, I was so excited and proud to be working on set as a principal. I was determined to be completely professional and do my best work. At some point, I’m not sure how, I managed to knock over a lamp on set. I was so embarrassed and felt like a clumsy fool. Thank goodness, it didn’t break and the crew picked it right back up and put it in its proper place with no problem at all. I doubt anyone gave it a second thought but I felt like they were all thinking what an unprofessional dolt I was! To this day, I try to be very careful not to bump into anything on set or knock anything over!!
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I’ve been cast in a pilot for a thriller/horror story and I’m very excited to get started because I’ve never worked on a project quite like this before. The other thing I’m going to be working on is something I’ve wanted to do for years but have always let fear and insecurity hold me back. That is singing. I have a friend who is an enormously talented singer and vocal coach and I have decided to work with her on an on-going basis to find my voice. I told her “I think my soul wants to sing” and she said, “I think so too.” I believe I have to honor that.
Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?
I have met so many interesting people over the years that it’s hard to narrow it down to just a few but here are some of them. I’ve already mentioned Hugh Jackman. He is one of the warmest human beings you’d ever hope to meet and it was a treat to work with him! I played Barry Bostwick’s wife on an episode of “Scrubs” and, again, what a lovely experience. He was warm and friendly and very easy to work with. I have a couple more stories that I hold dear. Years ago, I was teaching a step class early on a Sunday morning in Studio City. I was facing a big mirror with the class behind me. I’m concentrating on the routine and making sure everyone was following me when all of a sudden I see that Mary Tyler Moore is taking my class! It was all I could do not to fall off my step but I managed to carry on and finish the class. After the class, she came up to me, complimented me on the class and said that she could tell I was a dancer. I floated home that day. And, here’s one more fun story. Some years ago, I was at a birthday dinner for a friend at a lovely restaurant, Four Oaks, on Beverly Glen. We were a rather large and lively group and after we sang “Happy Birthday” to my friend, I noticed Dolly Parton dining across the patio. A few minutes later, the waiter brought a huge dessert tray to our table and said this is compliments of Miss Parton. Then Miss Parton comes over and asks whose birthday it is. I told her it was my friend Carolyn’s to which Miss Parton replied in her iconic Southern accent, “I was singin’, did ya hear me?” We were thrilled!
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
First of all, take care of yourself. Listen to your inner voice and let it guide you. Take time to do things that make you feel good and that feed your soul. When you feel a little burned out, take a hike, walk on the beach, listen to beautiful music, look at beautiful art, dance, spend time with friends and family, enjoy life. Be kind to others and do what you can to spread love. When the business side of the industry gets frustrating and it seems like you’re going nowhere, find a way to fall back in love with your craft. Rediscover what drew you to acting in the first place. Rekindle the playfulness that makes acting joyful.
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 wish that everyone in this world who feels prejudice or bigotry against people of a different race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, social status, etc. could meet such a person and interact on a very personal level so that people everywhere could see that we have more in common as human beings than we have differences. If everyone on the planet really understood this deep in their heart, I think we would begin to solve many of the problems we have, i.e. hunger, homelessness, poverty, violence and war against each other. If we could somehow engender the feeling that we are all connected, perhaps we would take better care of each other.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- Get to know your authentic self and be that self proudly. Never try to mold yourself into something other than who you are, not for a casting director, not for a lover, not for a friend. Everyone of us is unique and valuable. It is that uniqueness that will get you cast in the roles where you will excel.
- Find a good teacher who inspires you and encourages you to work hard at your craft and to soar as an artist. Never allow a teacher to demean you or make you doubt yourself.
- Confidence in yourself is probably the most important thing you can have. Cultivate it and own it. Know your worth and others will realize it too. Just make sure you don’t ever cross over into arrogance because that will turn people off.
- Always be professional. Be on time and be prepared for your auditions. If you’re not going to be able to make an audition, call casting or have your agent call and let them know. I know this seems obvious but I am always surprised when I hear casting directors talk about how many people just don’t show up for auditions or show up unprepared. Don’t be one of those people because if are, you will soon find yourself not getting any auditions.
- Be kind. We all have bad days and we all get frustrated and down but when you’re out in the world or at an audition or on a set, do your best to be kind to everyone around you. Be kind to the casting assistant, to the production assistant, to your fellow actors, to your agent. Just do your best to be kind to everyone you come in contact with in this world and I think you will find that things just go a lot better for you.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“It’s never too late to be what you might have been.” There have been times, especially over the last few years, when I felt that my career was dwindling down to nothing and that there was nothing ahead for me because I was getting older. But in reality, age is just a number and an attitude. I am a better artist now than I’ve ever been. Life experience gives us so much more to draw from as artists. There are plenty of roles and opportunities still out there for me. It’s up to me to claim them!! It’s never too late to live the life of your dreams!
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 have been blessed with many supportive friends and family members who have cheered me on along the way but I think if I had to name one person that I am most grateful for, it would be my long time teacher, Cliff Osmond. He taught me how to stop “acting” and just be in the situation of the scene. He was very strict about that but he was also very complimentary when he thought you had done a good job. I remember at one point, being frustrated with my work in class and getting down on myself. He told me that talent doesn’t go away, that I just needed to work through whatever was going on. He understood that whatever is going on in your life can affect your work and you have to learn how to deal with that in your career. He gave me a good foundation to grow from.
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. 🙂
There are so many amazing women I’d love to have breakfast or lunch with but I think I’ll say Michelle Obama. I just have so much respect and admiration for her. I’d love to hear her thoughts on the current state of our country and I’d love to hear about the Obama’s new production company and what kind of projects they want to produce.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Facebook: Julia Sanford