For this weeks On The Rise With… Michael has a great interview with up and coming actress Heather Ann Davis. Now, just like with a lot of people, you may not know her name, but you probably recognize her face. Heather has done guest spots on Castle, CSI, Drop Dead Diva and more!
To say she’s on the rise is an understatement!
Michael has a wonderful interview with Heather, so many sure and check it out below!
On The Rise with…
Heather Ann Davis
This week’s interviewee is California native Heather Ann Davis, an up-and-coming actress who’s making a name for herself in some very high-profile guest starring roles on your favorite TV series. And this is only just the beginning of what is sure to be an illustrious career for this talented young lady. Read on to see where she’s been, and most importantly, where she’s going…
Michael Marcelin: What made you decide to get into acting? Was it a case where you saw an actor’s performance in something and you were like “I want to do that”? Or was it something inherent?
Heather Ann Davis: According to my mom, it was something inherent. When I was young, I took a really long time to start talking. Then I started memorizing songs, and once I started learning those words in songs were words that people spoke with, I just (snaps fingers)…I couldn’t stop talking! Almost immediately, I started to do things I thought were funny and watching people’s reactions. I would force my family to sit down in the living room, where they could all see me, and I would stand on the fire place and make up a show for however long I felt like doing it…and they humored me. So it was just from moment one.
MM: What was your first acting job?
HAD: I think my first acting job, that I can remember, was being an orphan in “Annie” in an elementary school play. It was maybe…first grade? And I just remember really getting into the hard knock life. I loved getting really angry about what a rotten, smelly life that was! I was like six (laughs). But yeah, I think that was the bug that bit me for musical theater.
MM: And you ended up doing a lot of theater throughout elementary and high school?
HAD: Yeah, all the way through the end of high school. In fact, by the end of high school, most of my classes were theater or choir classes. That’s all I was interested in doing.
MM: You’re a California native, which is rare for a lot of up-and-coming actors. Do you think being from here gave you a leg up and afforded you opportunities as you were growing up, versus if you’d have grown up somewhere else?
HAD: No. My family is from here…generations of us…but no one did anything in the entertainment industry. I mean, my grandpa sang in a band, but that was more for fun. So that’s as close as it really got. I didn’t know anyone who did this kind of stuff. I might as well have been raised in the mid-West!
MM: Let’s talk about your journey as an actress. Your first big break was on a TV show for The WB called “The Lake”, which was directed by Jason Priestley, of “Beverly Hills, 90210” fame. It also starred a number of other up-and-coming young actors. Tell me about the show. How did you get involved and how was that experience?
HAD: It was one of my first real theatrical auditions, and I went through a couple of rounds for the role. I ultimately chemistry-read with Devin Crittenden, who played my main love interest on the show, and was hired. It was so much fun…like summer camp for acting. We got to go to Big Bear and just act and play…it was a dream come true. I was also really nervous. I could barely talk to anyone at the table read! I just nerded out. I was really excited to work with (producer) Jordan Levin, who worked on so many shows I loved growing up. And it was awesome to work with Elisa Donovan, because “Clueless” was maybe a huge part of my childhood? I may or may not have owned all of the puffy pens and talked all the time about how I was going to get my pastel wardrobe. I got to work with a really nice group of people, a great crew, and talented writers. It was a treat.
MM: Next up you did a series of short films, including one called “Happy Hour” which you also co-wrote. First of all, tell us about the story and what made you decide to write this particular one?
HAD: I had become friends with Megan (Lee Joy) and Joe (Snyder Kloos), who wrote “Happy Hour” with me, and we were all actors who wanted to do something together. So we thought the best way to ensure that was for us to write it. One evening we were just sitting around talking about that, and a story came to mind: what if Megan and Joe were engaged to be engaged forever…Joe kind of has Peter Pan syndrome…and I’m the rebellious sister? And we just got out this giant piece of paper and sharpie and we wrote the outline fairly quickly. Megan and Joe were friends with Cameron Beyl, who I had not yet met, and they immediately said, “Oh, we want Cameron to direct this”! They showed me one of his first projects, “So Long Lonesome”, and I just fell in love with it. I knew I had to work with him. So we asked Cameron if he wanted to be a part of the project, and he did. It was super collaborative. We all had a hand in writing it, and it worked out well.
MM: And you guys got accepted into a film festival and won an award for it, correct?
HAD: Yes, we did! We were accepted into Zero Film Festival, and won Best Mid-length Feature, which was cool. It was all audience voted, so it was nice to have a room full of strangers collectively say “Hey, we liked that!”
MM: It was kind of like Sally Field’s speech for “Norma Rae”. “You like me! You really like me!”
HAD: (laughs) Yes! It felt exactly like that!
MM: Was that the first short film that you’d written, professionally?
HAD: Yes, it was.
MM: From there, you got the chance to work on a video game: the popular “L.A. Noire”. Tell us what you did for it, and how did it come about?
HAD: I did motion capture for “L.A. Noire”. A friend of a friend was a major featured character in the video game, and he was looking for a group of girls to come in to do motion capture work for a couple of scenes. And having grown up a huge video game fan, I jumped at the opportunity. It was awesome! The studio was really cool. We got to wear motion capture suits, and you could see an automatic rendering of what you were doing on a big screen TV. It’s like this big cage with all these lasers…it was so much fun. So cool. I would love to do that again.
MM: After that, you got your first significant role as the lead in a “Twilight” spoof called “Breaking Wind”, which was released to DVD and played huge in the foreign markets. How was that experience? Were you worried about the raunchy aspects of the script or did you dive head first in?
HAD: You have to dive head first in. You have to! The experience was so fun. The other actors…Craig, our writer/director…were so funny, and it was a treat to be able to laugh like that for work every day. You just have to get over any squeamishness you might have right away. For my audition, I did this scene where Bella is seducing Edward, and it’s just going all wrong. She wants him to sleep with her before he turns her into a vampire, but he won’t do it…it’s against his “code”. So she’s desperately trying everything to get him to. In the script, she turns on porn, and then she becomes a stripper in this club, pole dancing, and obviously I couldn’t do all that stuff in the audition. So I came up with a bunch of physical beats to do in the room. I was crying, and doing the Macarena, and spanking myself (laughs). It was really fun.
MM: That same year, you landed another lead role, in the dramatic ensemble called “Here Build Your Homes”, which is the complete opposite side of the spectrum from “Breaking Wind”. It was also heavily improvised. Was this your first improvisational project?
HAD: Yes. Aside from doing Comedy Sportz in high school, it was my first…and definitely my first dramatic improv.
MM: How was the experience?
HAD: It was so creatively full-filling. We worked on it for a year before shooting it. Cameron, who directed “Happy Hour”, also directed this film based on his own idea, and the actors had these individual sessions with him, where he gave us these informational packets with 200 questions about our characters’ backgrounds. So we really worked with him to answer those questions and dial in to who our characters were and their relationships with each other, which was so helpful. Independent of Cameron, the actors would get together sometimes and interact with each other in character…with game nights, for instance…so we could get used to relating to each other in a completely different way. Most of us in the cast are good friends in real life, we had to work on the different dynamics as to who we were becoming for the film. So it was awesome to take the time to sort of build these relationships as these characters before shooting. Megan and I had a shopping day before the shoot where we just stayed in character, and the guy who played my long distance boyfriend, Ben Parslow, would text me in character as well. Ben lived in Portland and was coming down to L.A. to play this character, and I wasn’t going to meet him until he got to set. And he got super into the exercises my friends and I were doing, so he took part by doing the long distance texting and calling. It was just so immersive and awesome.
MM: Up next came even bigger projects for you…a trifecta of guest starring roles on “Castle”, “CSI”, and “Drop Dead Diva”, all within a year of each other. So as not to spoil which is which, you got to play a killer, a murder victim, and a wrongfully accused woman. Of the three, which was your favorite role and why?
HAD: You know, I can’t play favorites because they were all a blast. And all were parts I am really thankful for getting to play. I’ve been lucky…all really positive experiences.
MM: Did you have to audition multiple times for these roles, or did you get them fairly quickly?
HAD: Each one of those roles, I auditioned once, and found out I got the job within 24 to 48 hours.
MM: Congratulations! Not many people can say that’s happened to them in that fashion! You’ve also been getting some attention in the world of TV commercials. Tell us about some of the commercials you’ve done and are currently airing.
HAD: I’m in a Corona commercial that’s currently airing. As far as what you might have seen me in, I did a Metro PCS spot for Tech and Talk, where I made fun of the T-Mobile Girl and begged the Tech and Talk guys for a job, which they mercifully gave me. That was really, really fun to shoot. There was actually an alternate version, where we go for a group hug at the end, and we come out of the hug and I have a moustache too, like the guys, but it never aired. It really should have, it was so funny. And I have one that I just shot that hopefully will be airing soon, that’s very action-y and stunt-y and sexy. I don’t want to say too much about it before it airs, but it’s for a cool sound system and I’m very excited to see it.
MM: Do you have any interest in branching out and doing more writing after the success of “Happy Hour”?
HAD: Yes, absolutely. I’m working on a little something with a friend, but we’re in the early stages of it, so I can’t talk about it too much. At the moment, I believe it’ll be a short, and I’m really excited about it!
MM: What’s something people would be surprised to know about you?
HAD: I’m a travel addict. I’ve driven across the country twice, from L.A. to Maine. I’ve been in almost every state in the United States. And when I say in, I mean I’ve stayed there, not driven through. There are maybe only a handful of states I haven’t seen. Camping was a big part of my life growing up. My family are very outdoorsy types, so we would drive to different states and camp out. I haven’t travelled outside of the U.S. a lot, yet…but there’s a whole lot of U.S. to see! This country is just so amazingly diverse and has so much natural beauty to show off, and I can’t get enough. But currently I’m addicted to Hawaii. I can’t stop. There’s all these places I haven’t been, that I do want to go to, but I will never pass up a trip to Hawaii. It’s just so heavenly.
MM: What’s the one place you haven’t been to that you really want to get to?
HAD: Alaska. I picked up a National Geographic on it when I was little, and there was all of this beautiful photography of nature and people hiking around in these glaciers and I thought, “I have to do that someday!” It just looks so otherworldly and sort of magical to me, because I have never seen anything like that in my life.
MM: If there’s one role in history that you wish you could have played, what would it be?
HAD: I would love to have played any role in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. I want to be a cool elf shooting things in a forest and being all majestic. And to work with Peter Jackson on a text that I love so much? Yes.
MM: Are there any kind of roles you wouldn’t want to play? Some actors are like “I don’t know if I’d ever want to do this kind of thing”.
HAD: No…I can’t say there is. I just feel like there’s something to be experienced and learned from all different walks of life, and I can’t imagine limiting myself in that kind of way to say “Oh I would never want to explore that”. There are no types of people that I do not want to play – the only role I don’t want to do is an insincere one.
MM: What advice would you give aspiring actors who are still trying to get their foot in the door?
HAD: Don’t waste any of your energy comparing yourself to anyone else. Comparison truly is the thief of joy. Your journey is unique and it won’t look like that of anyone else. Celebrate the successes of those around you, celebrate your own, and keep focusing on the work. Acting is not your identity. It can be your job, your hobby, the thing you love the most, but it is not what makes you who you are, and it is not what gives you your value as a human being.
Focus on the things you love and really enjoy about it. Don’t let what you want to do and your goals be dictated by other people telling you what success is. It’s going to be different for you because you’re your own person and you have your own tastes and a different way you want to run your life. So don’t be afraid to take a path that sounds different from what you may have read in an interview, or your friend tells you about their successful friends, don’t be afraid to cut your own path. Keep believing in yourself and keep moving towards your path and goals.
Lastly, always be a student. Always be open to learning more and looking at things in a different way, whether it’s getting a coach or going to classes. Just always be a student of acting. It’s fun. Why wouldn’t you want to keep expanding the ways you can play a role? Just be open to that. I think it’s important.
MM: And if anyone would like to keep up with you and your career, what would be the best way to do so?
HAD: Heather Ann Davis on Facebook, @HeatherAnnDavis on Twitter, HeatherAnnDavis on Instagram, and www.heatheranndavis.com .
Movie: Lord of the Rings, whole trilogy.
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TV Show: Sons of Anarchy and Cosmos, both versions
Musician: The White Stripes and Radiohead
Book: Lord of the Rings, Moloka’i
Game: Zelda:Ocarina of Time
Album: Radiohead’s In Rainbows and OK Computer, White Stripes albums Elephant and Get Behind Me Satan