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Rising Star Vivian Kerr: “I would love to be involved in helping to educate girls in countries in which women don’t have that access; I think if we could find a way for those young women to be able to tell their own stories it would make a huge difference”

I’m really passionate about education and I would love to be involved somehow in helping to educate girls in countries in which women don’t have that access. I think if we could find a way for those young women to be able to tell their own stories, whether through writing, filmmaking, whatever, and then somehow […]

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I’m really passionate about education and I would love to be involved somehow in helping to educate girls in countries in which women don’t have that access. I think if we could find a way for those young women to be able to tell their own stories, whether through writing, filmmaking, whatever, and then somehow get them to a larger platform, then I think it would make a huge difference by allowing the rest of the world to see what is happening to them.


As a part of my series about pop culture’s rising stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Vivian Kerr. Vivian is a Los Angeles-based actor, writer, director, and producer. Her television credits include episodes of RIZZOLI & ISLES, NEW GIRL, CRIMINAL MINDS, MASTERS OF SEX, CASTLE, and GREY’S ANATOMY. Her film work includes IFC Midnight’s horror thriller THE DEN, comedy short THE ASSISTANT (with Janeane Garofalo), and period piece LINES (about the Bronte sisters, which she also wrote and co-produced). LINES received its world premiere at the Hollyshorts Festival and was described as “superbly executed and utterly touching” by Film Snobbery and “a perfect period piece” by Rogue Cinema. Vivian also wrote, produced, and starred in the web series WE ARE WITH THE BAND (Official Selection — Comedy Pilot, Los Angeles Independent Television Festival). She hosts the interview podcast CONVERSATIONS WITH ACTORS, featuring such actors as Robin Weigert and William Sadler. She earned her BA in Theatre from the University of Southern California and is represented by Authentic Talent and Literary.


Thank you so much for doing this with us Vivian! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

I grew up in Sacramento, California. Neither of my parents are in the entertainment industry, but they both love theatre and the arts, and so that is what set me along this path!

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

The first “real” play I did was “Meet Me In St. Louis” in 8th grade. I remember just being completely obsessed with every aspect — the rehearsal process and learning the lines. I was also terrified. I remember being backstage and hearing the audience come in, and I actually climbed under a table and hid because I needed a moment alone to just close my eyes and try to relax before going on. I remember that my knees were actually shaking, and I was worried people were going to see it. But then I entered and the first thing I did was a sort of prat-fall, and the audience laughed, and I suddenly wasn’t nervous anymore. It was an incredible feeling to have that kind of immediate reaction, so I think from then on I’ve been chasing that feeling!

Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

One year I booked a national Superbowl commercial for Cheerios. And that is like, well, the best you can hope for when it comes to commercials. We were going to shoot it in Thailand so we had our fittings and they booked us first-class tickets to Bangkok and gave us our envelopes of petty cash, and I thought, well hot-damn, I am on my way! And then a few days later there was some civil unrest in the country and I think Cheerios got nervous, or maybe it was the insurance company. Anyway, the shoot was cancelled, and I had to give back this envelope of cash. It was brutal.

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 was on set once and it was right before we were going to shoot a scene and there was another actor, much more experienced, going over their lines. And I had mostly worked in the theatre before that, where everyone just sort of helps everyone and there’s less preciousness over how people prep and work, so I walked over and offered to run their lines with them. And the actor just looked at me like I was insane. I was so naive, and I guess it showed how green I was. But the reality is, I’d probably make the same offer today!

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

I’ve been working on a feature film I wrote called Scrap for about three years now. I wrote it and I plan to star in it and direct it, which is hugely ambitious, and very daunting. But I’m excited because I feel like I’m finally at a place in my career in which I can do all of those things well, or at least take that next step up the ladder.

We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?

I think diversity is incredibly important, and has been a long time coming. You need to be able to “see” yourself portrayed in these cultural images, because they tell children that their experiences are okay and normal. It’s stupid, but I remember being young and being glad to see actresses such as Nicole Kidman and Kate Winslet, because I used to be teased in school for being so pale, because it was cool at the time to be tan and girls were using all this self-tanner, and I thought, well, they’re pale, too!

It’s also important, because not only do we need to see ourselves, but we need to be exposed to people’s experiences that aren’t like our own at all. It expands our capacity for empathy. The best moment will be when we get to a point when it’s not about tokenism and we just have all of these talented artists working together and it’s almost beside the point whether the performers are black, white, gay, straight, able-bodied or not, etc. When we get to a point where interviewers don’t ask questions like, “so, what’s it like to play a strong woman?” then I think we’ll have succeeded.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

One thing I really wish someone had told me was that just because someone has more experience than you do, doesn’t make them right.

I’ve worked with a couple directors who had nice resumes and honestly, just turned out to be terrible to work with. And I think that rather than standing up for what I knew was right, or what I knew the project needed, I just gave in because I thought, “well, they’re the director….” So to expand on that, I wish someone had told me that a director is not God. And the best ones will not only want you to give your own ideas, but they’ll welcome it.

Also, I wish someone had told me not to take rejection so personally. I had a really hard time in the beginning when a casting director would be rude to me or dismissive, or when an actor on set wouldn’t really talk to me. You really have to just take care of yourself, and understand that everyone is under pressure and that it’s not really about you.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

You have to figure out what to do when you’re not working.

To me, the “burn out” doesn’t come when you’re working. That’s the pleasure. The “burn out” comes when you haven’t had a job in six months and you’re back to waiting tables or whatever and you’re not feeling like an artist anymore. You have to keep yourself plugged in. You have to be in an acting class, or a writing class, or an improv class, and not just to distract yourself, but to push yourself to grow.

Even when you’re not getting paid, you can work on becoming a better storyteller. You have to do everything you can to be ready for the next big opportunity, but it’s tough. It’s very, very tough not to burn out and self-sabotage. I’m still learning how to do it!

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire 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’m really passionate about education and I would love to be involved somehow in helping to educate girls in countries in which women don’t have that access. I think if we could find a way for those young women to be able to tell their own stories, whether through writing, filmmaking, whatever, and then somehow get them to a larger platform, then I think it would make a huge difference by allowing the rest of the world to see what is happening to them.

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?

There are so many people who have helped me, but actually one thing that comes to mind is over ten years ago I was doing one of my first professional theatre jobs, and an older actor in the show was just a wonderful mentor to me. I think he knew I was nervous and felt like I had been given a role that I wasn’t really quite up to playing at that point in my career, and he would just say the perfect thing to me at the perfect time.

I remember one time right before my entrance, he just turned around and said to me, “You are so fucking good!” We forget that having someone build you up in a small way like that can make such a difference.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

One of my favorite quotes is, “Character is how you treat someone who can do nothing for you.” I can’t stand it when I see someone treat the catering staff like garbage, or be rude to an assistant. It’s so unnecessary, and these are the same people who will give their producer an expensive wrap-gift, and it’s just like, so egregious that hypocrisy. I hate that sometimes the film industry rewards bad behavior. Everyone just ignores it unless it gets really, really bad. I hope the MeToo movement has changed some of that, but even if it doesn’t involve criminal activity, I’m just surprised sometimes when people aren’t kind.

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 just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

So many people! But let’s go with Stephen Fry. I adore him. I just want to listen to him talk for an hour or two about anything. He’s a genius.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

I’m on Instagram and Twitter @viviankerr, and my film Scrap is also online @scrapthefilm.

This was very meaningful, thank you so much!

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