…something related to uniting people from different parts of the world in an attempt to end stereotypes and prejudice. And it would be awesome if it was something related to different languages since I love learning them. I think when you put yourself in a position of learning a language from a different country, you’re sending a message that you accept their culture and want to be part of it too and that’s just beautiful. Maybe my movement would bring lots of people together who would be interested in learning other people’s languages and cultures so we could all truly accept each other. Something like that, if it makes sense!
As a part of my series of the rising stars in popular culture, I had the pleasure of interviewing Priscila Zortea. Priscila is a Brazilian actress and dancer who has called America home for several years. She has worked on films, TV shows, musicals, plays and commercials. She recently wrote and starred on the short film “The Countries We Love” where she tells reals stories about being a legal immigrant in the US. The film has been shown in several film festivals since its premiere at Los Angeles Brazilian Film Festival last December.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
My mother signed me up for ballet classes when I was about 3 years old. Like many mothers do, right? But to my parents’ surprise, this became my biggest passion in life. I grew up dancing and performing in my hometown Casca, in the South of Brazil. I remember doing some theater at school and reenacting scenes from films and soap operas that I used to watch on our backyard. This need to perform to express myself was always present and I can’t seem to get away from it! But nobody from my small town ever became a working artist, so it was pretty difficult to imagine career out of my passions. I dreamed of being a ballet dancer and an actress, but I had no idea what to do to make that happen besides just taking classes and performing. Eventually, I ended up going to school for Journalism in a bigger city. There, I was also able to take my dancing skills to another level with Ballet Vera Bublitz, a well-known school in Brazil that exports ballet dancer to big companies worldwide. I learned and performed a lot from them, won a few awards from national dance competitions and was finally learning what it takes for somebody to become a professional dancer.
When I made the bold decision of moving to New York City on my own, I watched my first Broadway musical and absolutely fell in love with this art form. The talent of those Broadway actors blew my mind! They could dance, sing, act and they were beautiful! It’s like a new dream was born in my heart that day. I then went to school for acting and singing at HB Studio in NYC, on a 2-year conservatory program. I also trained with the best Broadway dancers turned teachers the town could offer. My favorites were Diane Laurenson, Deidre Goodwin, Dana Moore and Jacob Brent. I loved my training years in NYC and all the opportunities to experience performing arts in the city.
So, in summary, dance has brought me to act. And acting has brought me to Los Angeles where I know live and pursue my remaining dreams.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?
At some point in 2014, I was browsing some websites and I found out that Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons from the band KISS has bought an arena football team. I’m not a fan of sports but then I found out they also had dancers! I saw some videos and thought they were incredible! Backstory here: I’ve been a KISS fan since I was 12 years old and I also believe that the main reason I started learning English was because of their music. I’m the kind of person who KISS paints her face every year for Halloween. So, I watched a reality show they had about the development of this football team’s first year and at some point, my idol Paul Stanley was talking about the dancer and he said “We’re looking for Bob Fosse dancers, not college cheerleaders” and I kind of couldn’t believe it! My rock n roll passion talking about my favorite musical theater choreographer! I decided that I needed to be part of this.
The following year, I flew to Los Angeles to audition to be one of the LA KISS Girls and I got the job! It’s so random but so incredibly special to me! I got to represent a brand that I have always loved, I got to meet my favorite rockstars and dance my heart out at an arena with a group of the best dancers Los Angeles could offer.
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 can’t remember anything that simply makes me laugh because it was funny, but I definitely learned some lessons in the beginning. The first time I was hired to be in a musical in NYC, I realized that I didn’t know exactly how to behave as a professional. I used to talk way too much, I used to give opinions where it wasn’t my place to do so. It wasn’t because I was a terrible person, but because I was way too excited and couldn’t keep it to myself. I didn’t know the difference from being a professional who does what the director asks to being in a school where you can discuss things and maybe try to collaborate. But I learned how to stay on my place pretty soon. It was hard, but I got it! hehe
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I’m still overseeing the journey of my film “The Countries We Love” that’s in the film festival circuit right now. I attend the festivals and I’m so glad to share this story with as many people as possible. I’m going to act in a feature film that’s in the works right now. The working title is “Perfection Seeker” and it’s a film about a troubled dancer who faces issues related to her body type. It’s a timely story that I can definitely relate to, so I’m very excited to be part of it.
Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?
When I was in the musical A Chorus Line, I got to work with the uber-talented Italian actor Pasqualino Beltempo. We played the married couple of dancers in the show, Al and Kristine DeLuca. We used to take dance classes together at Broadway Dance Center before we were cast on the same show. The reason I’m mentioning him is because he’s one of the most talented actors and funny person I’ve ever met. We had a great chemistry working together, we could improvise a lot and just play, you know. Al and Kristine are not the most important part of the show, but in our production, I’m pretty sure we stole the scene when we had a chance. So much so that one of the actors that stood on the famous line next to us complained one day that she couldn’t concentrate because we were doing too much and taking the focus away from her scene. Oops. But I had such a great time acting with Pasqualino on that show, I hope we get to work together again.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Self-care is so important! I feel like actors are always trying to be productive and to do more and more. Productivity is great, but you can’t live your life just thinking about that. You need time for yourself, time to not think about acting, maybe an occasional vacation. I was a “do-er” for so long until I eventually burned out myself so that’s when I realized I had to take a different approach to my life and slow down a little. Hollywood is not going anywhere! You got time!
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. 🙂
My movement would probably be something related to uniting people from different parts of the world in an attempt to end stereotypes and prejudice. And it would be awesome if it was something related to different languages since I love learning them. I think when you put yourself in a position of learning a language from a different country, you’re sending a message that you accept their culture and want to be part of it too and that’s just beautiful. Maybe my movement would bring lots of people together who would be interested in learning other people’s languages and cultures so we could all truly accept each other. Something like that, if it makes sense!
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
It’s not a straight line up to success — around 2013 I was doing great and booking acting jobs consistently. I had been auditioning for several productions of a play called “Boing Boing”. I absolutely loved the character and the play and really wanted to do it. I had several callbacks and was still not booking it. Then eventually, a community theater invited me to do this exact play and guess what I did? I said no because I was doing so well at that point, I thought I would book a different job immediately. I didn’t. And I wasted the opportunity of doing a project I loved. I still regret it. Money is not all, but doing a project you fully love is.
You create your own limitations — For a long time, I was telling myself that I couldn’t be part of several projects because I’m a foreigner and “who would want to hire an actress with a bit of an accent to do this part?”. It’s still hard for me to come to terms with not being born here, but I do see now that I give myself limitations that maybe I don’t have. And I bet a lot of people do that too instead of seeing the positive and believing in themselves.
Don’t wait for the opportunity to come, create it — Actors love to complain that they don’t get auditions, opportunities, juicy roles, etc… When they could create those opportunities for themselves nowadays. I don’t thin an actor should obligate him or her to be a writer as well, but how about this actor has a writer friend who he/she could discuss a story or a role and they could collaborate on a project? No, there’s no money in that, but I think we all got into this for the love of art so we should be making art! I never wanted to produce a film, but I did have a story within me that I felt like it needed to be told to the world, that’s why I made “The Countries We Love” film happen. And it was so fulfilling to me to tell a story that’s completely mine and not someone else’s vision. I totally recommend it!
You’re never done learning — No, you’re not an expert at acting because you graduated at a certain program or because you took several classes. I truly believe the work is never done, we must strive to better ourselves everyday and never stop learning. And there are thousands of ways an actor can learn; I don’t mean never leave your scene study class. Learning how to be a better human makes you a better actor; learning different skills might open some doors for you; practicing with friends, watching theater, journaling your experiences, it’s a never-ending list of things you can always be doing to improve yourself, don’t get comfortable.
It takes money to be an actor — I think when I started, I wasn’t aware of how much we need to invest on an acting career. Classes, headshots, marketing, audition outfits, shooting reels, changing your look and having to do it all again, casting websites, private coaching, self-tape auditions, buying equipment for self-tape audition. The list is seriously endless. I think that’s the case in all professions but for some reason when we think about acting, we don’t realize the investment that goes to it at first. Acting is a business like any other and you need to invest in it and it might take years for you to get your investment back from this career. I wish I had been more prepared for that.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Wanting to be someone else is a waste of the person you are” — Kurt Cobain. I think I have spent quite sometime in my life trying to be different, feeling a bit envy of what other people have, trying to fit in to what I’m told showbusiness want, etc. It’s really a waste of my time and a lack of appreciation to the person I am and the talents I have. I now focus on being happy about the fact that I get to be myself.
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’m grateful to everybody who took a chance on me and had me work in his/her projects. I’m beyond grateful to my parents for supporting the choices I’ve made even thought those choices took me really far away from them. I’m grateful to my lifelong best friend, Rodolfo and Luciana, for always believing in me and listening to me no matter how long we stay without seeing each other, they’re always there for me. I’m grateful to my bosses at The Pan Am Experience, Talaat Captan and Anthony Toth, for helping me in so many things and always offering me great opportunities. And I’m grateful to my friend Charley Flyte for holding my hand so many times when I’m having emotional breakdowns related to my career! It’s great to be around artists who can understand you.
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. 🙂
Right now, I’m completely in love with Michelle Williams performance as Gwen Verdon on the show Fosse/Verdon. I would love to have lunch with her and talk about this experience! I have so many questions!!
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational!