The movement I would start would be EMPATHY. Putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes before we act or speak can prevent so much hurt and misunderstandings as well as save lives. We never know what someone is going through behind closed doors.
As a part of my interview series with popular culture stars, I had the pleasure of interviewing Venessa Verdugo. Venessa is an actress and writer who has also produced for stage and indie film. MURDER AMONG FRIENDS, FXX’s YOU’RE THE WORST are but a couple of her credits. She is a descendant of the Verdugo land grant Family of Los Angeles whose members include the late actress Elena Verdugo, Governor Pio Pico and a few other more notorious figures whose misdeeds include a domestic squabble, a shooting that led to what was the trial of the century of its day; in exchange for social redemption, land was donated by the guilty party which is now known as Griffith Park.
Thank you so much for joining us Venessa! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I was the first born child in my family and it was a few years before my sister and cousins were born so I was usually around adults or alone. My way of coping was to always be imitating my favorite actresses and characters I saw on television( ie. Jeannie, Samantha, Agent 99). When I did that I noticed my loneliness disappeared and when others watched or engaged with me I felt a special connection with them. I came to life. Years later, my cousin and I snuck into a showing of SCARFACE. We were still kids and had no idea what it was about…LOL! We were shocked to say the least but even as a kid, I was fascinated with the audience reaction and realized acting can be a tool to expose others to people or events they might not have otherwise known about. I wanted to be a part of that!
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?
While working in the casting department for the movie HEAT, I was prepping for the day’s session and on my way to make copies when I turned a corner only to find myself face to face with Al Pacino! Watching him and DeNiro transform themselves over time into cop and criminal was one of the best acting classes I’ve ever had.
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?
One night I arrived early for an acting class. A man arrived a few minutes later. He introduced himself as Ron and we started talking while we waited for the teacher. The topic of dvds came up and I mentioned a new one I bought on boxing that I really enjoyed. I offered to loan it to him. He smiled and politely declined. Later on, I found out his full name was Ron Aurit and he had fought Sugar Ray Leonard, losing by a split decision! It taught me to always know with whom I am speaking…LOL! But seriously, it drove home how important research is when the occasion calls for it.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
As the daughter of a homicide detective, I feel it is important for us as artists to be a voice for those who aren’t able to speak for themselves so in 2010 I wrote and performed my solo show HEIRESS,’69. It’s about the life of coffee heiress Abigail Folger who was murdered by the Manson Family in 1969. In it, she returns to speak at her killers’ parole hearing about the life she had and planned to have before it was so brutally taken from her. She seeks answers as to why her life ended as it did. It is now on Amazon Prime. I’m currently working on an off shoot of HEIRESS,’69. I am also appearing in a one act play at the BrickHouse Theatre.
Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?
Well of course Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro when I worked on the movie HEAT. Everybody who was anybody wanted to be in this movie so many big names came in to read, interview with director Michael Mann. He liked to have all the different parts of the production in one place, like the old studio days so all I had to do was go to the kitchen to find Wes Studie trying to figure out how to start the coffee pot or walk down the hallway and see Jon Voight, David Crosby, Billy Idol. Michael was kind enough to allow me to be on set and watch these and other masters work. Scott Wilson ( In Cold Blood, In the Heat of the Night) was a true mentor and advocate for all actors. He was grace personified and by example taught us to be aware of what was happening in our Union. He died last year and is dearly missed.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Live your life and be sure it includes people, places, things that have nothing to do with Show Biz. There is an entire world out there we need to be connected with in order to be artists Doing so helps us realize what is truly important and what isn’t.
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. 🙂
Wow, that is very kind. Thank you. The movement I would start would be EMPATHY. Putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes before we act or speak can prevent so much hurt and misunderstandings as well as save lives. We never know what someone is going through behind closed doors.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
1.It is called “Show Business” for a reason. Creativity is just a part of the whole; the business side must also be considered (ie. Networking, targeting the right agent, etc. that is right for you.)
2.It is NOT a race. Things happen when they are supposed to happen…in God’s/ Higher Power’s time.
3.Be very careful of whose advice you heed. Just because someone is acclaimed does not mean his/ her word is golden.
4.Constructive criticism should make things more clear not destroy your self esteem. If it does, maybe it is time to find another teacher, class or group of friends.
5.Though it is a competitive industry, there is room at the top for everybody. We each have our own unique interpretations and talents. Each of us is needed.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life? My favorite quote is: Self Worth…
”Sometimes your greatest teachers in life had no idea just what they taught you. Especially those who treated you the worst. The day you said ‘I deserve much better than this’ was the day you graduated from their class!”
It reminds me to take care and value myself. I need to listen to my gut as it has never steered me wrong!
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?
This would be casting director/ producer Bonnie Timmermann. She brought me on as her intern for the movie HEAT. Working in her office helped me learn the business from the ground up. I answered phones, faxed, ran errands, prepped and read with actors and shredded old scripts by hand. In time, Bonnie worked it out with Michael for me to get paid.
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. 🙂
Hands down? Christopher Plummer!
How can our readers follow you on social media?
My website is WWW.VENESSAVERDUGO.COM
Facebook.com/VenessaVerdugo, twitter: @venessaverdugo, Instagram #VenessaVerdugo (@capriven), www.imdb.me/venessaverdugo