Ethnicity & Acting: My Personal Story & Insights

oncrystalstill.12293203_large I have been acting since I was around 8 years old. I started in community theater productions, acted throughout high school and college, and transitioned into film at the age of 21 while still a student at Saint Anselm College. I am of Italian and Irish descent. There might be other things mixed in there too, we think maybe some Greek. Maybe. When looking at me, you mostly see the Southern Italian/Sicilian and never would guess a drop of Irish blood would be present. However, people rarely guess correctly when trying to decipher my ethnicity. What I find most interesting in mainstream media, is the uproar over someone playing a different ethnicity from their own. Granted, there have been many instances where playing someone of a different race is completely awful and racist; what I am talking about is something more subtle. I’m talking about the fact that someone like Al Pacino, a fellow Italian/Sicilian, can play a Cuban immigrant in Scarface; or the fact that when Jennifer Lopez (of Puerto Rican descent) was cast as Tejano superstar Selena in the now famous bio-pic of the same name, the Mexican and Mexican-American communities were outraged. I also find it funny that I am rarely brought in or cast as Caucasian. I am Caucasian. I’m of Italian and Irish heritage who has played more Hispanic and Latina roles than I can count. In the film, On Crystal, I play a Puerto Rican girl who is mildly mentally challenged. And today, I just got called in for another audition to play someone of Hispanic heritage. In a weird twist of fate, that character’s name also happens to be Crystal. Weird.  In my day job in retail, I have had customers blatantly question my ethnicity to my face. I’ve had people think I was Iranian, Egyptian, and even bi-racial.  I’ve gotten called names because of the way I look. And I’m not even the ethnicity that they assume I am. Maybe I should be flattered in some sense.  Maybe it harkens back to when I was in the fourth grade and someone asked if my dad was African American because I was so tan. When I see a breakdown now, and it says “All-American” or “Caucasian,” the sad thing is, I rarely submit for those roles, or go in for the EPAs. And if I do, sometimes I am the tannest Caucasian. BUT, if I go in for a more ethnic role, I fit right in. Awkward. Weird. Again, this is just my personal experience, everyone’s is different. And that’s okay. We as people can’t help the way we look. As Lady Gaga would say, “Baby, you were born this way.”

The Mockumentary That Should Have Won an Oscar:”For Your Consideration” (2006)

Improvisation has always been an essential tool for an actor whether you are in a comedy or a drama. Known for films that only have an outline instead of a set script, Christopher Guest has helped revolutionize the movie-going experience with the “mockumentary” film. Movies like Best in Show, A Mighty Wind, and Waiting for Guffman, all use a core group of actors known for their improvisational skills. Actors like Bob Balaban, Michael McKean,  Harry Shearer, Eugene Levy, Parker Posey, Jane Lynch, Jennifer Coolidge, Fred Willard,  and even Christopher Guest himself, all have  made regular appearances in these films. Their improvisations skills have been put to use in both comedic and dramatic films. One of the most interesting films of Christopher Guest’s is For Your Consideration. Ironically, there was Oscar buzz for Catherine O’Hara’s performance in which she plays an actress vying for an statue of her own. Honestly, I think this movie SHOULD have gotten an Oscar for O’Hara and the movie itself. Catherine O’Hara’s abilities as an actor of both dramatic and comedic caliber are so high that even the apparent face-lift that her character, Marilyn Hack, has, was not done with use of makeup or special effects. As an actor, she had the ability to use her physicality and enhance the performance in an honest way.  Take a look at the clip:

Put this DVD in your queue and watch the pure genius of the cast as they improvise their way through one of the funniest films to parody the film industry. There is more truth to this comedy about drama than in actual documentaries about the industry. I would love to be in a movie like the ones that Christopher Guest produces and directs. I think they are intelligent, funny and pure entertainment. I love seeing skilled actors at work.

Happy Birthday David Krumholtz (Born 5/15/78:) His career is more than “Numb3rs”

In 1993, David Krumholtz made his feature film debut(s) with both Life with Mikey (for which he was nominated for a Young Artist Award) and Addams Family Values. He probably best known to my generation for the two previous films, as well as playing Santa’s sarcastic head elf, Bernard, in The Santa Clause (1994.) In fact, I remember seeing all three of these films in the theaters at the time of their releases. He has since gone on to appear in Numb3rs for six seasons, and can currently be seen in the upcoming comedy, This Is The End, playing himself. His resume is impressive and I’ve always been a fan of his. Here’s a look at a clip from The Addams Family Values: