TAEM interview with actress Jorjeana Marie

TAEM- The Arts and Entertainment Magazine is proud to present a multi-talented actress to all of our readers. Jorjeana Marie is a long standing comedienne with many credits to her name. Now reaching out into the Indie film circuit she has built up quite a following. Jorjeana, tell us about your early career as a comic and how it adds to your acting abilities.

JM- What I believe is one of the most singularly important factors, aside from imagination, is observation.  The ability to see what’s in front of you and utilize that in some artistic way.  And that’s something that I took from my years of writing and performing stand-up comedy and smushed it into the acting craft.  I didn’t realize I was smushing, but I think that skill of looking at life and seeing EVERYTHING contributes to the creative experience.  That’s also why I believe some of our most commended actors started as comics.  Jamie Fox, Hugh Laurie, Robin Williams, Jim Carrey, etc.  They were able to brilliantly make that transition from sketch or stand-up to leading dramatic actors, I hypothesize, because of their ability to see, when they were looking for fodder for comedy, the pain and joy of life and bring it into their characterizations.  Although that list is all men, I do want to add that I think we’re going to see in the future some incredible dramatic performances from Tina Fey, Amy Poehler and Kristin Wiig.  These women are brilliant.  We’ve already seen some great stuff form Maya Rudolph (Away We Go). I seek to do something similar (God, are you listening, it’s me, a comic) and have spent a lot of time focused on funny roles, but do enjoy occasionally showing the darker sides of a personality.  Although, I must admit, if I had to choose a project to work on for many years, I think I would prefer something fun and light and filled with humor, joy and insight.  And the current project I am working on does a nice job thanks to writer Jason Venokur of blending bitchy with funny/sweet.  And yes, I have observed those qualities in life, so it was a lot of fun to work on that!

TAEM- Tell our readers about the many Improv shows that you appeared in.

JM-Well, it’s an interesting question as I have two different answers.  There’s “The Improv” Stand-Up Comedy Clubs around the country where I do stand-up and the only improvisation I do there is a portion of the act and dependant upon what’s happening with the waiters and their trays or who’s in the front row or what I thought of right before walking on stage, or while just standing there.  And those moments usually end up getting added somehow to the act.  A lot of comics will tell you some of their best material came out of a live show…and I understand that Bridesmaid had sessions of taped improv with the actors and I bet those were incredible to be a part of.  You know, I have to see that movie again- I missed so much of it because I was laughing!

I love working The Improvs-The Pittsburgh Improv gave me my first paid week of stand-up comedy.  I was thrilled.  I opened for Doug Stanhope.  Talk about mixing light and dark…

Spent an incredible experience doing a run at The Dallas Improv opening for Richard Lewis.  It was incredible.  One of those “Oh!  I grew up watching you and now I’m working with you, I’m peeing my pants a little right now, please don’t look” kind of moments.  It was just the two of us.  They call it a two-man show.  I did my time, I think it was a half-hour and then introduced Richard.  He would arrive on stage to blaring Rolling Stones (my favorite band) and then kiss me and say something nice about me (on his behalf, he at least waited til the last night to make a flirty remark) and I would try to walk off stage with out fainting or tripping.  I loved working with him.  Those nights were sold out, standing ovations, high as a kite kind of feelings with no substances-not in my dressing room anyway.  Actually Mr. Lewis was at a point when he was talking openly about that being in his past.  That’s what comedy is for, I think, honesty, baring yourself, being real.  And the best ones do it so well.

The other arm of the question is improv comedy as in being a part of an improvisational troupe where a group of us walk out and make a roomful of people laugh and feel and think (hopefully) and all of this based on ideas, words, thoughts that the audience gives to us.

There are different forms of doing improv and I’m in a group that does many of them.  My group is an established group called The Really Spontaneous Theater Company.  And it’s members have been on Who’s Line is It Anyway, Curb Your Enthusiasm, etc.  They’re incredible people to work with and I had actually seen them perform years earlier, doing entirely improvised one-act plays.  Playwrights sometimes take years to write plays and this company was doing three in a row!!! It astounded me and I said to myself: I want to do that.

And somehow I fooled them into letting me in.  Most of the members of the company are very experienced  and in fact, we had a pretty break-out star and had to postpone some shows due to his schedule.  Jim Meskimen.  He did this incredible video that he put up on Youtube and it went viral and suddenly I’m hearing him on NPR and he’s getting interviewed on news channels, which of course led to more work and fun for him.  He toured with his show and, well, had been an inspiration for how you create your own opportunities.  Amazing year for him!

TAEM- One of your first major television appearances was on Saturday Night Live. How exciting was this for you?

JM-So cool.  Studio 8H.  I’m such a big fan of the show, another, I used to watch when I was a kid.  Definitely without permission.  I loved it.  My favorite moment was actually leaving when I shared an elevator ride down to the lobby.  With Will Farrell.  Not awkward at all.

TAEM- You were also the lead-in for many shows and well known talent. Please give us the names of some of these and tell our readers about some of the solo shows that you performed in.

JM-You did your homework.  I did three one-woman shows in NY.  One of them was at NYU.  I wrote it for myself, but ended up having several actresses perform the pieces and directing it.

My second piece was created with an incredible director, Gus Smythe.  This guy worked with me to create an amazing piece.  It was called Ally, MaryJane and Me and was the story of my overcoming drugs.  Most people don’t think of me as an addict, but I was pretty deep and falling further everyday, and that show was an amazing eperience.  Ally was a character (alcohol), MaryJane (marijuana), Harry (heroin) and so on.  I played about 30 some characters and it was a pretty cool mix of light and dark.  It was performed off Broadway at the John Houseman Studio Theater.

I ended up sending that script to some NY theater companies asking them if they would produce it as a full-length play and it had an Equity run at the 78th St Theater in NY.  Sadly, the attacks on September 11th, 2001 occurred and we were dark for a week.  I made some writing changes as I felt there needed to be and we got back up on our legs again.

Shortly after 9/11 I wrote two more plays.  One was produced at the Neighborhood Playhouse exactly one year after as part of a special event.

The other, another solo show.  It was special to me because I wrote it as a love song to NY.  I really, really love the city.  It saved me.  As much as it taught me lessons and got me into trouble, it saved me.  And “NY, I Love” was my response.  Most of it was in rhyme verse and was produced at Where Eagles Dare Theater.  It was directed by another talented dude, Steven Ditmyer, now the Artistic Director of The Neighborhood Theater.  Unforgettable experience of not being able to cross streets properly or at all, because I would have to stop and write down these lyrics that were just oozing out of my mind.  Most of the responses I got form people after the shows were that they would like a copy of the script.  Which I loved to hear and do plan on publishing.

TAEM- You are focusing more on acting now. Why the switch?

JM- I think it has to do with wanting to be around other people.  As a writer, you’re pretty solitary, I mean you write your own material for stand-up and then you go onstage alone (sometimes you have 2 or 2,000 people looking at you, but you’re the only one up there) and then I did all those one-woman shows.  I just love that interaction and group dynamic.  I also remembered that the moment I decided to do this, it was the result of Neil Simon, I was performing his words and interacting with characters he created and there’s no funnier American Playwright…well, maybe Christopher Durang, but they’re so different, I could never choose.

TAEM- Your early performances were in ‘Kate & Leopold’ and ‘Chappelle’s Show’. Describe the differences between these and your earlier career as a stand-up comic.

JM- Working on Kate and Leopold was an incredible experience because James Mangold selected me for my role,  and I spent two weeks shooting with a rather small crew in this incredible house in NY.  And everyone was abuzz with Hugh Jackman.  I remember James Mangold telling me, “this guy is amazing, he’s got several huge films coming out and it going to be a huge star and he’s the nicest guy.

And he was.  I mean, the nicest.  We actually had  lot of fun, especially with Phillip Bosco.  This guy!  You’ve seen him in a million movies and he’s got this incredible personality.  I loved working with him.  We were doing some night shoots too, so that added to the all the fun.  Nothing like staying up all night and acting with theater legends and rising start. We were always joking and laughing and sometimes that energy would sneak into performances and we even had to do a few re-takes because the Etiquette Superviser said Hugh Jackman’s character wouldn’t be so friendly with a maid.  That was funny, but she was right.  So wed be “very serious” and then bust up about being “very serious’ when we heard cut.

I ended up getting cut, a lot.  And it’s hard to say at first, but it’s not just what ends up in the film.  It’s the experience of, even if you’re the newbie, getting to have the experience.  Being a part of something fun.

And speaking of being a part of something.  Dave Chapelle is generous, kind and brilliant.  Long before his show, on his rise, we were both working doing comedy down in Greenwich Village.  I was so broke.  He bought me a beer and we talked shop and he made me feel better about things that were happening in my life.  ( I think I had just had to follow Chris Rock when he stopped by for an impromptu set at the Boston Comedy Club.  One of the longest times on stage in my life.

Dave made us all laugh, pure comedy.  I mean, he was just good.  All over.  As a person and as a comic.  I was kinda nobody, or I felt like it after bombing sometimes and I never felt like that around him, not for a second.  Dave Chapelle started doing stand-up in DC as a teenager.  And I always thought that was so interesting about him.  I was cutting holes in my jeans to look designer and he was starting a career.  Brilliant individal.  And I loved his Inside the Actors Studio Special and his response to what he went through.  He always stayed upbeat.

TAEM- Tell us about the confidence that you gained from these productions and the themes behind them.

JM- I learned that the more upbeat and fun you are while at the same time getting your job done, the better it is for everyone.  Some of these directors have tremendous pressure on them about money, time, a million things no one is thinking about when they’re watching the movie at the end, and the best ones “never let you see them sweat”.  I guess I learned about professionalism and the importance of appreciating and helping to create a fun environment within the professionalism.  That some people can have such a positive effect on you, and you on them.  Those are my favorite kinds of people.

TAEM- You recently completed two shorts, ‘Mommy & Me’ and ‘The Baby’. What were these all about, and what characters did you play?

JM-Mommy and Me was a funny little, sketchy type film I co-created with Hasna M. and got to do with a good friend Christian Anderson-who was recently on “New Girl” yelling at Zoey Deschanel.  Funniest guy I know.

I wrote and produced and played the lead in The Baby, which was as opposite a piece as you can get.  A drama about physical, emotional and psychological abuse.  Light comedy.

TAEM- You also were the voice actor for several videos. What were these and how different was this for you as opposed to live performances?

JM-I love being a voice actor.  It has nothing to do with your looks or your butt or the color of your hair as so many other opportunities are.  It’s only about your ability to create a believable character with your voice.  And that’s fun to be doing for a living.

The highlight so far was getting a call from my agent that I was going to be working on a confidential Steven Spielberg project.  LMNO.  And then showing up at the studio and finding out it was a large role and I basically got  the script AND was asked to improise an entire alien language in jibberish.  It was the most challenging and rewarding job thus far.  And it’s like forcing yourself to sit on your hands while you wait to find out what’s next with it, because the vision, the story is undeniably intriguing and original.  And that’s all I can say.

TAEM- Jorjeana, you also have many other credits to your career. These included acting coach, writer, and producer. Give us some insight into these.

JM- Yes, I am faculty at The Acting Center in Los Angeles, a safe-haven for new and established artists to expand their abilities, re-invent themselves, write, direct and of course act in projects.

I worked for many years studying and teaching improv with Christopher Smith and when he founded  The Acting Center (with Eric Matheny, Tamra Meskimen and Bill Kilpatrick) I was a student and then sort of an apprentice to Chris and then I was brought on to teach acting full-time.  It was never in my plans to teach acting, improv yes, improv is my life! But teach acting, that was different.  I felt out of place at first, because I’d studied with a lot of acting teachers and I lacked some things.  A beard, for one.  Or a cane to hit people with.  Those were some of my experiences and this was different.  Light, fresh, fun.  Like play.  But there was plenty of room for dark, real, evil characters to emerge on the stage.  I saw amazing changes in students, in their confidence especially.

It was a lot of fun and and I have improv and acting to adults, kids and teens. I taught for many years before that, but improv.  Now, mostly I do private coaching and I even coach improv privately.  And that is a coup.  I didn’t even know you could do that.  But we’ve had requests and I developed a program and that is a lot of fun too!

TAEM- You are also in a project that is in post production. Can you give us a sneak preview of ‘Listen to Grandpa, Andy Ling’ and the role you play in it? Also, tell us about the other great actors that you will be working alongside of.

JM-I’m currently playing Jill, the ex-girlfriend of Andy Ling.  Andy Ling is played by Randall Parks-he’s a dream.  I hated in shooting that I had to beat him over the head with various boxes of crackers, but he took it well.  Very funny guy.  And of course, Eliot Gould.  My mom was immensely impressed and asked if he was single when I told her about the show.  He’s pretty dreamy.  Another one of those actors I’ve been a big fan of most of my life.  And he’s of course very funny in this.  The project is written by Jason Venokur who was writer on Third Rock From the Sun and is really a joy to be involved in.  I don’t know how much I can say, but I do want to tell you that I think my character can easily come across as either hostile, desperate or oddly innocent, and I hope it is a blend of all three.

TAEM- We learned that you are also involved with many charities. Please let our readership know about these.

JM-My dear friend Saranne Rothberg founded Comedy Cures when she found out that

she had cancer.  She made a pact with her then very young daughter that they would laugh 100 times a day and they did and she got better.  She’s incredible.  I met her because I auditioned for her foundation’s improv troupe.  Her daughter and the other kids at the audition wanted me.  She said if they liked me, she did too.  The troupe performed at a lot of places where there were terminally ill patients, especially kids. Paul Newman’s Double H Hole in the Wall, Dream Street, Gilda’s Club and so many others.  Saranne does such amazing work and every time we get together I’m always in awe if the beauty and generosity emanating from her.

Her foundation is online at comedycures.org and so many comedians have donated their time and talents.

Donating time and/or money to charities and groups like this are important to me.  I’ve done some form of volunteering since I was a kid, then for the American Lung Association (my dad had emphysema) and then for many other groups in NY and LA.

I was in NY during 9/11 and headed to the upper East Side to work with the Red Cross.

In LA, I have done some PSAs for My Life My Power, a group started by Daniel Puter, an MMA champion.  He wanted to speak out about bullying and many of the other problems kids and teens face.

And PSA’s for the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, Water Conservation, Narcanon.

I would like to do even more in 2012.

TAEM- Jorjeana, we want to thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to do this interview with The Arts and Entertainment Magazine. You certainly have an exciting, and well rounded career, and one to be proud of. I hope that you keep in contact with us so that our readers can follow you closely.

TAEM

Thank you so much, it’s such a pleasure to reflect on the amazing people I’ve had the opportunity to work with and the pleasure to know.