“Learn The Business Part Of This Industry And Be Well Rounded So That Acting Isn’t Everything” With Julia Parker
I had the pleasure to interview Julia Parker. Julia has had a successful acting career that has included roles in the Emmy Award winning television series “The People v O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story”, “The Flight that Fought Back”, “CSI:CYBER”, “90210”, “After Lately”, Matthew Perry’s sitcom “Go On”, “Episodes”, “Grace of God”, amongst others. Her film work is extensive and recently includes “Another Time”, “The League of Legend Keepers: Shadows”, “Sand Angels” as well as the award winning “My Name is Lamar”. With her love of acting, Julia has decided to foray into producing. After accepting a role in the 2016 MOV film “Girlfriends of Christmas Past” she also offered to be an Associate Producer on this project. It was an easy decision, after being offered the lead role in the short film “Passage”, to jump at the opportunity to be the Creative Producer with this incredible team of women.”
Yitzi: Thank you so much for your time,. Can you share your “backstory” with us?
I was born in Florida and was always doing lots of things like fishing, climbing coconut palms, horseback riding, swimming at the beach and checking out the local ASPCA to see the new animals that were brought in. I remember, as a child growing up, watching the old classics with Audrey Hepburn, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, Elvis Presley’s films and falling in love with each entertaining story I watched. I moved up to the Boston area while I was still young and thought that I was going to be either a ballerina or an astronaut. My mother was a registered nurse and had other ideas so I ended up majoring in Psychology in college. I never lost the love of film and once I moved to New York City, I found the perfect place to study acting…at HB Studios with Bill Hickey who won an Oscar for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for “Prizzi’s Honor”.
Yitzi: How did you get involved in acting
My very first attempt at acting actually started during my senior year of high school. A school friend of mine was going to be the lead in our senior play. He asked if I would like to try out and I ended up getting cast as the insane character in this play. Shortly after rehearsals started they asked if I would like to be one of the leads instead. I fell in love with acting from that moment on. The funny part of this story is that the school yearbook photographer shot me rehearsing as the insane character so those were the pictures that ended up in my yearbook.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your Acting career?
There are so many stories that I could probably write a book! The one that jumps to mind first is when I was shooting the sci-fi feature, “Alien Armageddon.” I had a role that started out as a scientist who, while working with the aliens that had taken over the world. I was trying to secretly save humanity from extinction. Towards the end of the film, I’m overtaken by the aliens and “turned” into the human-eating queen alien. The funny part of the story comes from the drive I had to do after sitting in an FX makeup chair for 3 hours, then driving along the freeways of Los Angeles to get to set. Even the police that passed me didn’t blink an eye. Not until I was sitting at a red light next to a pickup truck did anyone take notice. This person put his truck in reverse and backed up beside me so he could get a better look!
Yitzi: What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I have quite a few projects coming out soon. I shot two wonderful features last year, “Sand Angels” and “The League of Legend Keepers: Shadows.’ The writer/director of these, Elizabeth Blake-Thomas is one to look out for in the coming year. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to work on her projects and “The League of Legend Keepers: Shadows” is an official selection at the Lady Filmmaker Film Festival in Beverly Hills with multiple nominations including one for my performance. I also just finished acting in and producing a very moving short film called “Passage” which is being submitted to film festivals around the world. I got to produce for the first time with two other amazing female producers, Linda Palmer and Krisd Mauga. This was an incredible experience with so many talented women, both in front of, and behind the camera.
Yitzi: What are you most proud of?
If we’re talking about my life, then I am most proud of how positive, empathetic, supportive, hardworking, strong and a jack-of-all-trades kind of woman that I am.
But if you meant with my acting work, then I’ll have to say it’s a combination of almost all of my projects. Each one is a learning experience in its own way. Whether it was a difficult shoot and I learned patience with a challenging director or a surreal experience, like being cast in the multiple award-winning FX show “The People vs O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story,” where I had the incredible opportunity to portray Patricia Cochran and be amongst award winning cast members, writers and directors. All my projects have brought me to where I am today and I love that I am still busier than ever.
Yitzi: Do you think the acting profession has changed over the past 30 years? How?
I believe the acting profession has changed quite a bit in the last 30 years! With the advancement of technology and the way we can now make movies, podcasts, web series and even TV shows with equipment that’s fairly easy to use and comparatively inexpensive to what was used 30 years ago. Even with auditions, I can tape my auditions at places like Argentum Photo Lab and have it emailed directly to my agent or the casting director. Also, it’s changed quite a bit with the content that can be seen. Netflix, HBO, Hulu, Amazon and now rumors of Apple getting into creating content outside network television with less restrictions. This also comes with a price to actors because of the SAG-AFTRA union negotiations for new media contracts.
Yitzi: What drives you?
I wake up every day challenged by all the opportunities to succeed. There is so much to do and learn and there never seems to be enough time. Whenever I feel like I’m not getting enough acting opportunities, I throw myself back into acting classes, work my own story ideas, pick up my camera or my guitar, connect and collaborate with my many talented industry friends, mentor people, learn something new on Udemy…and the list goes on.
Yitzi: Based on your personal experience, what advice would you give to young people considering a career in Hollywood?
One piece of advice I would give to young people getting into this career is to think about your acting long term. There are so many stories of actors having “overnight success” and when you look at their career over the years, you learn that it’s usually been a long time coming.
Study, learn the business part of this industry and be well rounded so that acting isn’t everything. I was given great advice years ago by CBS’s head of casting, Peter Golden. I was lucky to have gotten a meeting with him and one of the many pieces of advice he gave me was to work on as many student films (thesis preferably), short films, and low-budget indies as I could. You not only build up your demo reel and expand your various characters, but you get to connect with all the up and coming filmmakers of tomorrow. I am still friends with and have worked on current projects with people I shot student films with years ago. I’ve been asked to be a Presenter for the Motion Picture Sound Editor (MPSE) Golden Reel Awards for the past three years and one of the highlights was presenting the Verna Fields Golden Reel Award in Sound Editing for a Student film. Mainly because I know how much this means to them.
Yitzi: Which skills are most important to becoming a successful actor?
There are so many skills that an actor should try to achieve but overall, I think that persistence is one of the most important. If this is your passion, don’t quit! I’ve been in this industry for a long time and if I had quit because I wasn’t getting auditions, callbacks or job offers, I would have left the business a long time ago. I just can’t imagine doing anything else. A couple of years ago I was “on avail” (first choice for a role) for the TV show “The Glades.” This was going to be my biggest TV role to date and possibly put me on the map for many other opportunities. Casting said that I was going to shoot for two months in Fort Lauderdale. I had organized where to live and all the details. The week before I was about to leave, my manager called casting to confirm and asked for all the paperwork and they told her they had offered the role to a “star name” and she had accepted it. Even though I was disappointed…okay, really disappointed, I didn’t give up. You never know why you don’t get certain opportunities but be persistent, inquisitive, hone your craft, always submit yourself to projects, and do things you enjoy doing outside of the acting industry and the jobs will come. Don’t rely on your agents to get the work for you. This is a business and you are the CEO, run it like one. So get out there! Some advice…go to SAG –AFTRA Foundation free screenings and events. Bring business cards to give out when you’re networking, keep yourself in classes when you’re not working so you’re ready when the opportunities show up, read the trades; Variety, Hollywood reporter, Backstage, etc., Watch films and TV shows you think you’d be great in and research the casting directors. Send postcards to them when you book something, get new headshots, get nominated for an award or after they bring you in for an audition. Make sure to workout to keep yourself healthy and fit. Last but not least, support your fellow actors. We’re all in this together!
Yitzi: You are in a position of influence. How have you used your position and skill to help people’s lives?
Besides mentoring quite a few up and coming actors, I try to help in many ways on my social media platform. I support and share other industry friends’ projects, news and updates. I also have a huge love of animals and have help to find foster or permanent homes for stray dogs and cats. Last year a friend of mine and I found two very abused dogs on the streets of L.A., we caught them, took them to a vet, got them on medication and I found wonderful homes for them, with the help of my online community. There are so many ways to have influence to do good for others and show by example.
Yitzi: Who are some of the most famous people you have interacted with?
There have been so many famous people I have had the wonderful opportunity to interact and work with. One of my favorites is the incredibly talented and fun, Brian Krause (“Charmed”), that I worked with on two feature films, “Ashes” and “Ribbons.” I also worked with the wonderful Justin Hartley (“This is Us”) on a feature called “Another Time.” Last year I worked on a Christmas movie, “Girlfriends of Christmas Past,” with Tammin Sursok of “Pretty Little Liars,” as her mom. She was a blast to work with and we laughed through most of the shooting. Jessica Lowndes on “90210,” Matthew Perry and Julie White on “Go On,” Lorenzo Lamas on “Grace of God” and the list goes on. Almost all the known actors that I’ve had the pleasure of working with are extremely down to earth and extremely good at what they do.
Yitzi: Which people in history inspire you the most? Why?
Richard Branson is so inspiring with his pure happiness and level of success, as well as for his ability to inspire others. Oprah, for overcoming an incredibly sad youth to become one of the most powerful women on earth, proving that you can overcome adversities and empower yourself through your desires and vision. Nick Vujicic took control of his life, despite a rare disorder that left him limbless, and now inspires others to live life without limits. Elon Musk is yet another inspiring person because he’s revolutionizing space travel with SpaceX and for helping to slow down global warming with electric cars (Tesla) and solar power (SolarCity).
Yitzi: Who do you aspire to be like one day?
I really aspire to be a better version of myself. But if I could embody any incredibly talented actor, it would have to be the obvious choice of Meryl Streep.