…We have to drastically change the way our education system is run. Most of the funding for schools comes from property tax, which means schools in areas with a great amount of wealth are usually very well funded, where schools in impoverished areas rely on state tax, which makes up a very small percentage of school funding. This just perpetuates the cycle of inequality and generally affects minorities the most. There are so many issues to solve in this world but if we educate as many children as possible we have a greater chance of solving those issues or at least making rational, educated decisions as a society. It all starts with education.
As a part of our interview series with the rising stars in pop culture, I had the pleasure of interviewing Samantha Lyn Parry.
Samantha (you can call her Sam) is an American born, award winning actress whose films have premiered in festivals across the country. Originally from the Hudson Valley, and after a long stint in Philadelphia, she has ventured the 90 miles south to New York City. When Sam isn’t performing, you can find her jogging through the park or in her kitchen attempting to recreate last week’s winning dish on Master Chef. She feels very fortunate to be thriving in a career that for so many people seems out of reach.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I fell in love with acting when I was five years old and played a tree in my first ever on stage production (I imagined I was a great redwood blowing in the winds of northern California). I continued performing in community theater throughout my teenage years. After getting my degree and pursuing several other paths I decided that acting was the only direction that ever made me happy. So I dove in head first and haven’t looked back.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?
In addition to being an actor, I have also dabbled in writing, directing and producing (anything to get a story out there). A few years ago I wrote a play which ran for four days and five sold out performances in Philadelphia before making its way to NYC for an encore performance. The play was about a close knit family torn apart by lack of communication. Well, after one of the shows, a woman came to me crying and told me she hadn’t talked to her brother in almost a year, but after seeing my play she was going to reach out to him and try to mend their relationship. I thought, that’s what this art is all about, evoking a feeling. Changing someone’s perspective through relatable content, whether comedic or dramatic. I have no idea if that woman ever mended her relationship with her brother, but at least there’s the possibility I may have changed someone’s life for the better. And that’s a beautiful thing.
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 once called in to audition for a play without knowing it was a musical. The online breakdown of the piece said nothing about being able to sing and dance, two skills I would not consider myself proficient at. I arrived at the audition with my script in hand along with my headshot and resume. As if I wasn’t nervous enough sitting in the waiting room going over my lines, I began to hear singing coming from the audition room. Then, some jazzy music started playing and I could hear a girl jumping around the room doing turns and pirouettes. My nerves kicked up a notch. What was I going to do? I hadn’t tried singing in a setting outside of my shower since the tenth grade. And dancing? I would fall flat on my face. I thought about running out of there. But I mustered up all my energy, did a few toe touches, and walked into that room with a smile on my face. Needless to say I did not get the role, but I did a nice little jazz number right out the door. The lesson I learned from this, always bring your tap shoes.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
As you can imagine, Covid has put a damper on many projects I was working on before. A week after the shut down in NYC I was set to open a play in Midtown Manhattan, in which I got to play the bad guy (my preferred role =). It was a disappointment to have that and all other projects put on hold, but I have been using this time to brush up on old skills and learn some new ones. I have been taking online classes in Alexander Technique (a useful tool in how to use the energy around you in your acting) and plan on starting some online improve classes in the fall. I have also been improving my skills on the piano and learning the Russian language (what a doozy). I look forward to the day when film and theater ramp back up again, but in the meantime I’m learning a lot.
Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?
I find that all the people I’ve interacted with throughout my career and life have been interesting. I have learned a lot from fellow actors. This industry has a reputation for being cut throat but I find that there are so many kind people who truly want to help and offer amazing advice. There are even numerous extraordinary people I have met throughout my many side hustle jobs in the food industry, clothing stores, gyms, pools, sales (you name it, I’ve done it). I find if you listen, everyone has a story to tell and a lesson to offer.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Burn out happens when you’ve lost sight of why you’re doing what you’re doing; when you’ve stopped loving the process. Every time I start to feel this I take a step back and reexamine my goals. Are my goals happiness oriented or success oriented? Of course success is always a great thing to strive for but if you achieve it without satisfaction then what was the point?
You have been blessed with success in a career path that can be challenging. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path, but seem daunted by the prospect of failure?
The regret that comes with never trying something is the one failure you’ll remember for the rest of your life. And it’s never too late. I made it all the way through college for a completely different career path before coming back to acting. I have colleagues that didn’t start acting until they were in their 60’s, and many of them have had success. It is a difficult career, and there will be many setbacks along the way, but if this is something you truly have a passion for then go for it. And if you find down the road it’s not for you, at least you’ll be able to walk away without the “what if” burning a hole in the back of your heart.
Can you share with our readers any self care routines, practices or treatments that you do to help your body, mind or heart to thrive? Kindly share a story or an example for each.
For my body, I run and/or workout as often as possible. I also stretch daily. For my mind, I am obsessed with learning. I’m constantly trying to find new things to keep my brain active and engaged. For my heart, I spend time with my wonderful family whom I’m lucky enough to be very close to. These are things I do for myself and no one else. Things that keep me feeling happy, energized and engaged. When I lack any of these elements for too long I feel myself become sluggish and unfocused, things that are not beneficial to a fulfilled life or career.
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. Don’t let fear get in the way of what you want to do. I think we are told this a lot, but it’s something that for most people takes time to understand and put into practice. I found when I was finally able to work through my fear of putting myself out there, great things began to happen.
2. Networking isn’t about networking. I tend to be naturally introverted, so at first I was terrified of the word “networking.” However, I’ve realized that all you have to do is speak to the people you find interesting who are working on projects that excite you. You’ll never have to search for the right thing to say if you are genuinely interested because it will already be inside of you. And that’s how you build authentic relationships, which is really all networking is.
3. Don’t compare yourself to others. This is a big one! It’s really hard not to compare yourself to those around you, especially when you’re brought in to audition for a role and there are 30 other girls who look just like you vying for the same part. You may think someone is prettier than you or is a better actress or has better credits or great representation or more education, etc. Trust me, I’ve thought of them all! But they may be thinking the same thing about you. At the end of the day we are all unique and all have something different to offer. Have confidence in who you are and just focus on that.
4. Casting directors are rooting for you to succeed! This one is very actor specific, but one thing I’ve heard from lots of casting directors is that they are not sitting there judging you, hoping that you will fail. They want you to be right for the role because that means their job is done. I think oftentimes as actors we feel that we are at the mercy of the producers and all parts in between, but really this is a collaboration. We as actors are being hired to do a job just like anyone else on the production. If you walk into a casting office with this in mind, the entire process becomes less daunting.
5. Keep working. It doesn’t matter what you’re working on but keep the creative juices flowing. You don’t have to wait for someone to hire you for an acting gig. I have spent a lot of time making silly short films with my friends for no other purpose than to stay creative (and it gave me a great crash course in editing). I also love writing, some of it good and some of it not so good. But it’s a way of continued story telling which is the ultimate goal of an actor as well. Take a class. There are so many great acting, movement, improv and voice classes out there to take advantage of. Finding multiple creative outlets will keep your skills sharp and ready for the moment you do get your next acting job.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I have a Stella Adler quote tattooed on my arm, so I suppose that’s probably my favorite quote (one would think). It goes, “Life crushes the soul, art reminds you that you have one.” Many people think it’s a sad quote but it was never meant to be, by myself or Stella Adler. The message is that life can become monotonous and repetitious. We can get bogged down in the “have to’s” and “should’s” and the responsibilities that take up our time. We can forget to live and feel and pay attention to all that’s happening around us that makes life worthwhile. But art, all forms of art, can stop us in our tracks and bring our souls back to life. Art can make us feel happy, silly, embarrassed, sad, angry, hopeful. Art brings out the feelings we already have inside of us that we forgot were there. Life crushes the soul, art reminds you that you have one. Thank you Stella.
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 is a long list of people I could write about who have helped me throughout my life and career, however I’d like to give the most cliche but accurate answer I can think of, and that is my mother. My mom is an incredible, brave woman who made a mark in the tech field during a time when the industry was comprised of all men. My mom puts love and family above everything else. She has always loved me unconditionally and gave me her full support when I came out of the acting closet and said I would be pursuing this as a career. I have shared every success and every failure with her, and she embraces both with love and compassion.
You are a person of enormous 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. 🙂
One thing I’ve felt for years, that is currently a hot button topic, is that we have to drastically change the way our education system is run. Most of the funding for schools comes from property tax, which means schools in areas with a great amount of wealth are usually very well funded, where schools in impoverished areas rely on state tax, which makes up a very small percentage of school funding. This just perpetuates the cycle of inequality and generally affects minorities the most. There are so many issues to solve in this world but if we educate as many children as possible we have a greater chance of solving those issues or at least making rational, educated decisions as a society. It all starts with education.
We are very blessed that 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. 🙂
This is one of the most difficult questions to answer. My response is changing second to second. But one name that keeps popping into my head is Greta Gerwig. I first fell in love with her work when I saw Frances Ha, towards the beginning of my journey into this art. The characters in all of her pieces are so well developed and real. I’ve always admired people who can act, write, direct, and produce. I find interest in all of these aspects of storytelling. In my minute experience in all of these roles, I find that you learn more about acting from directing, and more about writing from acting, and more about directing from producing and so on. Each part of the storytelling process affects the other, and I would love to know how jumping into each one of these roles has pushed her further as an artist.
How can our readers follow you online?
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational!