Take your work seriously. What you did on film 10 minutes, 10 months, or 50 years ago will never be erased or forgotten. It will follow your entire career. Always do your best work.
As a part of my interview series with popular culture stars, I had the pleasure of interviewing Debbie Hartner is an award- winning American Actress/ RN who lives in the Philadelphia area. She has starred in dozens of National Television shows and films. She is currently cast in “BOS Brotherhood of Silver” (Rollo Robertson Productions) currently in production for 5 episodes on a cable network with 5.2 million viewers. The drama series will be continued on a National streaming network in 2020. She is currently cast in “Bulletproof Cowboys” (Darrin Archer- Infinity9films) an indie drama film. She has recently completed a film for NetFlix “The Landlord Awakening” (Marque Dixon-Dream Block Films Entertainment) and Indie film “Look into Darkness” (Stephen Mitchell-CineParis Productions). Stephen also directed and produced “The Dearly Departed” an indie screwball comedy being released on Amazon US and Amazon UK soon. In 2015, she was nominated for Best Promising Actor — NAFCA awards in Hollywood (Nollywood and African film critics’ awards) Debbie has received 3 Best supporting actress nominations. One for best supporting actress WMIFF for “The Portrait” and two nominations and two wins for best supporting actress in a film WMIFF and SSUFF for “Technicolour Daydream”. Debbie currently studies Method acting, Stephen Mitchell’s Action/Reaction technique, and Ivana Chubbuck’s technique.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
In 2012, I was an ER Travel Nurse in New York. My nurse recruiter submitted me to a reality show on MTV for ER Travel Nurses “Scrubbin In”. I was cast in season 2. I knew nothing about acting or film, so I took acting classes to help me feel more natural on camera and I was hooked! Acting saved my life. As a nurse, I had to be compassionate and empathic 24/7. The acting classes allowed me to break down the walls and let my raw emotions surface that I held in check for 20 plus years. Now, when I take a role, it is easier for me to become the character. What a liberating experience!
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?
During the filming of “Killing Kennedy” on Fox network, We were filming pickup scenes with Rob Lowe and Ginnifer Goodwin on a vintage hand held video camera. The director gave me a speaking role. When I delivered my lines, they came out as a whisper. I played the role perfectly, my character and I we were having an awestruck/fangirl moment with Rob Lowe/ President Kennedy!
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that? I learned never to eat on set, unless you bring a toothbrush, It’s quite embarrassing to be sent off camera to fix your teeth and face, lol. This occurred on indie project “The Dearly Departed”.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I am currently cast in an Indie film “Bulletproof Cowboys” (Darrin Archer-Infinity9 films) I’m Dottie, who’s an assassin with the flair of a southern belle.
I’m currently in production of “BOS Brotherhood of Silver” a cop drama trilogy with 5 episodes on cable network. This series will be moved to a national streaming network in February, 2020. I play Caroline, who’s in a love triangle.
Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?
In 2014, I was working on the set of VEEP in Baltimore. Julia Louis Dreyfus came into the bathroom as I was exiting and hit me in the head with the door. I was stunned from the blow, she stayed with me, kept asking me how I was feeling. She was extremely kind. After some ice and Tylenol, I was back on set working.
During a film class in Philadelphia, I met Tom Roy (Twelve Monkeys movie) He was teaching the class and we later became close personal friends. He gives me free film advice, and I give him free health care advice.
I’ve had the pleasure of working with Michael Kelly on House of Cards. Extremely nice guy, and we’re Facebook friends!
Because of my extensive Trauma/ER nursing experience, I was consulted by House of Cards to advice Robyn Wright (director) on a trauma scene with Kevin Spacey. Several doctors, and nurses sat down with Robyn (several times) We gave her a crash course in GSW (gunshot wounds) trauma. She was very gracious and open to the advice we gave her, most of our suggestions ended up in the episode.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
“Always be taking a class” words of advice from my good friend, actor Tom Roy. Keep active in the industry. Attend workshops, film functions to support your work and other actors work. Study your craft and never take any correction personally. Any correction is meant to improve the project and your performance. Don’t lose faith in your work. Rejection is the name of the game in film, and you cannot take it personally. Learn from the criticism and work harder at your craft.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
I would open a free medical clinic in the mid Atlantic area to serve the uninsured and medically needy. Staffed by volunteer doctors and nurses, providing mental and physical health care, medications, food, clothing and housing.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
1) I would have invested early in a private coach instead of an acting class. I find that individualized training works better for me and I get more out of the class. I still love to work with other actors in a class, I prefer private training.
2) Limit the amount of free films you do, start knowing your worth early. The more you work you put into your craft, the more you are worth to the industry.
3) Invest in wardrobe from different eras. It saves you money when you need a costume for a certain era quickly, and you don’t have to pay top dollar for the costume.
4) Take your work seriously. What you did on film 10 minutes, 10 months, or 50 years ago will never be erased or forgotten. It will follow your entire career. Always do your best work.
5) Don’t spend a ton of money on a photographer for headshots, or talent agencies that charge you massive fees. All credible agencies will sign you up free or with minimal fees. Watch out for agencies who scam clients. My agent Sylvia Hutson (Hutson Talent Agency) is the biggest advocate on scam awareness. You can find reasonably priced photographers in your area who will give you the perfect head shot, and if not, join Model Mayhem and swap photos for session time with a photographer. Be mindful that you set your limits on what you want to wear in the photographs, many will encourage near nude or nudity. It is your choice and let no one force you into something you are not comfortable with. Lastly, enjoy this wonderful art we call film, it helps us escape our reality and live through the lives of the characters we play!
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Always give your best performance, no matter how the script reads, or what the budget is. A zero dollar budget or a 10 million dollar budget. Always give 110%.
I was studying under Diana Abrecht (method teacher) for a role I was cast in. I was having a difficult time with my role, we discussed my role’s significance. She told me “get out of my head” find something in the character I had in common with and always give 110%, no matter what the budget is, or how the script is written. Always make it your best performance.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
When I started in the film industry, I met a filmmaker in Washington, DC- Gemal Woods. He gave me a small role in the indie project “No Strings, Please” and my SAG card.
Several years ago, I met a casting director from Philadelphia- Roz Fulton. Roz has cast me in several projects and has become a close friend and mentor. She is currently the casting director for “BOS Brotherhood of Silver, Brotherhood of Silver Knights, and Runawayz”. I cannot achieve any success without my husband Ben. He takes me to set, classes, events. He is my biggest cheerleader. He makes the impossible, possible.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. :-)
Meryl Streep- I would love to pick her brain on character choices. What grabs her interest in a project. What roles has she turned down that she later regretted. Has she ever regretted a character choice and wished she could redo the project. Who would be her dream co-star in a film.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Debbie Hartner on Facebook. DebH1270 on Instagram. Debbie Hartner on IMDb
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational!