ED- The Eerie Digest is pleased to present actress Courtney Zito to all of our readers. Courtney, you originally had your roots in music. Can you tell our readers about this aspect of your life and where you trained?
CZ- Let me start by saying my birth announcement was “A Star is born” which I always thought was very funny. I literally came out of the womb singing and dancing. I used to walk around at age 2 singing “Tomorrow” from Annie, and by age 3, I was in my first pair of tap shoes. Music was the foundation for everything I am today as a performer. I started studying Opera in High School, and all of my time from then on was spent on stage singing in musicals, dancing and taking vocal lessons. After High School, I went to college at The Crane School of Music at SUNY Potsdam in Potsdam, NY. I must admit that what I wanted to do after high school, was pack my bags and head to New York City to make it on Broadway, but my parents had other plans for me. While at Crane, I studied with amazing vocal coaches such as Carleen Graham, Carl Johengen and Robert Loewen, but as I went through my studies I realized that Opera was not for me. I enjoyed it greatly, but I always had dreams of stardom on Broadway, and in Film & Television. I am grateful to have had opportunity to learn about the greatest composers of our time and sing the likes of Mozart, and Puccini. Music has and will always play a very important role in my life. I like to think that my life has a soundtrack. Whether I am singing it or listening to it. I simply cannot function without a daily dose of music!
ED- You also played roles in theater in such productions as ‘The Philadelphia Story’, ‘Grease’, ‘Bye Bye Birdie’, ‘Oklahoma’, and a host of others. Please share these experiences with us.
CZ- To me, there is no greater rush than that of being on stage. I have always had a hard time pinning myself down as just an actress, or just a singer. I am a performer in every sense of the word, so I always loved musical theatre, because it gave me the opportunity to showcase all of my talents at once, in front of an audience. I was immediately addicted to the applause. And loved to hear the laughter coming from the audience. That’s when I realized I was good at comedy. Making people laugh is the best feeling in the world. But I also realized I could move a person to tears, sometimes even myself! When I was 16, I played Cinderella in “Into the Woods” by Stephen Sondheim. Our performance was actually on my 16th birthday, sadly, my grandmother passed away that day as well. I was devastated, but there was never a question as to if I would go on that night. At the risk of sounding insensitive, in my young mind, the show HAD to go on. It was the only way I could deal with it. I sang a song that night “No one is alone” about one of the character’s mother dying. Something happened to me that night while I sang it and looked at my mother who had tears in her eyes that changed me forever as performer. And it healed me in a way as well. That was the night I knew I could never do anything else.
ED- You also appeared in a number of television show such as ‘Sex In The City’, ‘Passions’, and ‘The Sensible Traveler’. How did this differ for you as opposed to your roles on stage?
CZ- Funny story about Sex & The City, I wish I could say I had a part worth mentioning, but I was just featured. That was my very first paying job, I saved the stub so I can say, “This is where it all started” someday. I went to an open call with 4000 other people and was called to be on the show. We shot in Long Island City until 4am! I was a fan of the show, so it was like a dream to be on a TV set with these women! I laugh when I think back, because I was SO green! But being on set just once, was all it took for me to get hooked. I loved it. I loved the camera, the crew, the action, the hair & make up, the clothes… I was in heaven. Again, this experience just solidified my desire, and ignited the fire within me even more! Guest starring in “The Sensible Traveler” with Dave Foley and Greg Behrendt was a thrill! They are such sweet guys and we had a great time on set. Dave is a comic genius, and made me laugh the entire time we weren’t shooting. I really hope to work with him again in the future! TV and Theatre are completely different animals. In TV, you get as many chances as it takes to get it right. In theatre, you get one shot and if something happens, you have to roll with it and make it work. There is a sense of danger in doing theatre. A thrill that you don’t get with film & TV, but in the latter you can focus more on the subtleties of your performance. You can say so much without saying a word. And that is thrilling to me as well.
ED- Music never really left you, and you have produced several memorable music videos. Tell us about your work with these.
CZ- This is where I got my first taste of producing. I used to be all about being in front of the camera, or on stage. But as I get older, I find that I want to do more, know more. Now it’s about knowing my craft from the bottom up, and the inside out. It was just a natural progression for me to start producing. I produced a music video for Jon Santos of Fallzone. It was his first music video and we wanted it to be special. I helped him come up with a concept for it and got a team together. We shot with Jeff Orsa and Mark Miller at Television 101. We drove out to the Mojave Desert with a few cameras and a guitar and shot this beautiful video in a day. We were like children that day, running around and playing in the desert on these massive salt beds, but Jon and I, as well the team at Television 101, look at that shoot as one of those magical days where creativity flows and everyone has fun in the process. After that video, I taught myself how to edit, and Jon and I produced a short running reality show about trying to make it in our respective industries.
ED- In 2002 you starred in the film ‘Is This It?’ This was a new undertaking for you. How did this shape your career?
CZ- That was my first supporting role in a movie. The character was from New Jersey, which at the time wasn’t a very big stretch for me. She was all the things I was in 2002 with fake nails and heavy make up and thick NY accent. I did a monologue from My Cousin Vinny, you know the one…. “My biological clock is tickin’ like this”, and got the role. It was a great learning experience for me. There was a lot I didn’t know about acting in front of the camera yet, so it was a great first step in the right direction.
ED- Two years later you had a role in the film, ‘Eternal Bliss’. Please let our readers know something about this production and the role that you played
CZ- I played an undercover FBI agent, trying to track down a mind control machine. It was like a sci-fi thriller. My character used people to get what she wanted, and was very manipulative. It was then that I realized I liked playing the bad girl. I was always the good girl or ingénue up until this point, and this opened up a whole new world for me in terms of how I saw myself as an actress. This was my very first lead in a feature. I learned so much on this film and am grateful to the director, Oded Levy, for giving me the role. He was one of the people that really helped me to tone down my “Stage” presence and refine it for film. He really focused on how I used my eyes with the camera, and I have taken that with me on every film since. We shot that film in 5 days. It was exhausting! But it was so much fun, and I grew as an actress during the process.
CZ- The film stars Michael Madsen, Kim Morgan Green, Justin Hartley & Fileena Bahris. Dan Neira directed it. I’m actually really excited about this film! I haven’t seen it yet, as it has been in post production, but I am told that things are moving forward with it and it should be released this year. I played a News Reporter in it. I was very lucky to land the role with these other talented actors. This film was my first break into a movie with name actors attached. It’s a small role, but one that could possibly open doors.
ED-I also understand that you are producing a Web Series. Please tell us about this new venture.
CZ- This project is my baby. I have been working on it, in some form, for 5 years. It actually started out as a book I was writing based on my experiences in Hollywood. I recently decided that that I would make this a web series. The thing I like about New Media is that the sky’s the limit. You can reach people in every country of the world with the click of a button. It makes this very large world of ours seem somewhat smaller. We shoot the pilot in August and then will be shooting the rest of the season over the next few months. The series will air late 2010 or early 2011. It’s being referred to as the “Female Entourage” It’s about the entertainment industry, dating, and friendships. It’s semi-autobiographical, but I did take some creative license here and there. My life is my inspiration. I just decided that I had a story to tell and I wanted to share it. I also am a firm believer in creating your own destiny. I was never the type to sit around and wait for something to happen. We have an amazing cast & crew on board including my cousin, Taryn Teigue, who is co-producing with me. Check my website for all of the details. www.courtneyzito.com
ED- Courtney we want to thank you for taking your time with us and sharing your many experiences with our readers. It has been a pleasure and an honor, and I hope that you will keep us all informed of any new projects that are appearing on the horizon for you. We wish you much luck in the future and definitely hope to hear from you again.
CZ- The pleasure was all mine! Thank you, and I want to thank everyone out there for all of their support. I am very blessed to have such a great support system in place.
Courtney Zito is now the Marketing/Advertizing Executive and in-house Producer for Cineplex Studios. ‘Hollywood Girl’ (my show) will be premiering on www.cineplexstudios.com in October.