“There’s No Perfect Time To Have A Family So If You Want To Be A Mother The Time Is Now!” With Actress Elisabeth Rohm
“I remember my acting teacher Ivana Chubbuck saying to me, don’t concern yourself with your fears of a child distracting you from your work and goals. She said once you become a mother your heart will grow 10 sizes larger, and therefore, will only enhance all you do and fell and create- your work will only become better and more brilliant because of all that love you’re feeling. She encouraged me that the time is now! And I would say that that’s true of most things the time is always NOW! There’s no perfect readiness moment for anything.”
I had the distinct pleasure to interview television and film actress, Elisabeth Röhm. She is best known for playing Assistant District Attorney Serena Southerlyn in the American TV series Law & Order and Detective Kate Lockley in the TV series Angel.
What is your “backstory”, Elisabeth?
My back story is : Raised by a Memphis Tennessee girl and a German immigrant Father in New York City and eventually moving to Westchester County where I fell in love with nature, horses and dogs. Influenced heavily by all three cultures.- I’d say I’m evenly divided in Thirds; A pleasure seeking and old fashioned southerner who enjoys a good drink, a foreigner who always feels like an outsider looking in and a straightforward New Yorker thriving on cultural stimulation, art, energy commerce and the combustion of people and experiences. Someone once said life is messy and I want to get it all over me! Sent to boarding school at 14 after my parents got divorced which was painful and also necessary because the boarding school I was sent to was for children with disciplinary issues. I was a bit of a mess back then. A Sarah Lawrence girl raised by a mom who was also a Sarah Lawrence girl. A bit of legacy there! I’ve always been encouraged by my Mother to think out-of-the-box, to be progressive and independent, to have a voice and value freedom and to be an original. She always lectured me on fighting against injustice and the false illusions of attachment. Both of my parents were meditators and yogis with transcendental meditation. So, I was heavily influenced in my childhood by Maharishi mahesh yogi and an eastern philosophy on life.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your acting/directing/performing career?
One of the funniest moments in my career sort of pre-dates my breaking into acting. I was working as an assistant to a Film investor who had invested in Natural Born Killers by Oliver Stone. I had been asked to take Oliver Stone from Amagansett to Manhattan to be photographed by Richard Avedon. I already knew at that time I wanted to be an actress so I was sublimely and shall I say someone obsessively interested in everything about Oliver. Mostly I was just so f*ckin nervous. He’s a huge presence! Anyway, as we pulled out of my boss’s house and up to the local gas station in Amagansett I was so distracted by having to drive Oliver in Summer Hamptons traffic that when I was finished pumping the gas I didn’t take the hose out of the car. I pulled away all slick like I had everything handled with the hose still attached to the car and Oliver started yelling to me, ‘Stop, stop, stop you’re attached to the gas tank.’ Needless to say I was humiliated and of course still so young at the time that I couldn’t help but stare at him the entire ride in the rear view mirror. He had to finally ask me if I would stop staring at him so much it was making him uncomfortable. Finally I got him to New York in one piece — thank God! I couldn’t believe I’ve had the privilege of taking such a phenomenal filmmaker to the Richard Avedon studio to take a portrait. What an incredible moment with two iconic and brilliant artists. Needless to say, Oliver is a complete mensch and when I started my acting career in a serious way and came out to Los Angeles he met with me several times and gave me priceless advice on the industry — perspectives I still carry with me.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I’m very excited to be sharing my new series called The Oath, which is dropping on March 8. This first season and 10 episodes will be streamable on Crackle TV. The Oath is a Sony production and also produced by Curtis 50 Cent Jackson. The show is about corrupt gangs within the police department and created by Joe Halpin. It is based on his real life experiences that he endured during his 15 years on the police force. Jeff Thomas and Luis Pietro are our incredible directors- who share with the audience a very gritty, electric and alive style of directing. I think people will really love the shows honesty and emotion! I’m also launching a women’s collection of dresses in the coming holiday season called Lis and Giselle. As far as movies go, I have Will Gardner and Adolescence coming out soon both are independent films.
Who are some of the most famous people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?
Nelson Mandela, Gandhi and the Dalia Lama. I always return back to these three men for inspiration and guidance in my thought and behavior. They encapsulate the peaceful warrior so beautifully.
One of the most meaningful interactions I’ve had with somebody in the entertainment industry that I truly wanted to work with was Robert De Niro. Back in New York during 911 Mayor Bloomberg called together a private dinner at his house in regards to the crisis that New York was in at that time. He invited artists that had contributed to the cities success over the years. Amongst this group were Robert De Niro and the brilliant Jane Rosenthal who I was lucky enough to be seated with (I was invited because of Law and Order). Sam Waterston and Dick Wolf are there too. I remember speaking to Robert and Jane thinking if only I could work with Robert De Niro in a movie. Several years later I was watching the Katie Couric (another New Yorker I admire who I have shared a personal journey with regarding my book Baby Steps and my fight with infertility) interview with Mr. De Niro, David O Russell and Bradley Cooper where they spoke about their experience in making ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ and I thought again, wow now that’s a group I would really be honored to work with. If only I could manifest that! I remember watching Mr De Niro get chocked up in that interview and being so moved by his incredible honesty, heart and soulful vulnerability. I thought the same of David and Bradley. Within a year I had been cast in American Hustle and two years later I made Joy with the same group. Robert De Niro played Jennifer Lawernce and my father — it was a dream come true! Thought I’d creative.
What advice would you give to someone considering a career in Hollywood?
My advice is from Rilke: “Therefore, dear Sir, love your solitude and try to sing out with the pain it causes you. For those who are near you are far away… and this shows that the space around you is beginning to grow vast…. be happy about your growth, in which of course you can’t take anyone with you, and be gentle with those who stay behind; be confident and calm in front of them and don’t torment them with your doubts and don’t frighten them with your faith or joy, which they wouldn’t be able to comprehend. Seek out some simple and true feeling of what you have in common with them, which doesn’t necessarily have to alter when you yourself change again and again; when you see them, love life in a form that is not your own and be indulgent toward those who are growing old, who are afraid of the aloneness that you trust…. and don’t expect any understanding; but believe in a love that is being stored up for you like an inheritance, and have faith that in this love there is a strength and a blessing so large that you can travel as far as you wish without having to step outside it.”
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Thankfully I was raised by hippie mother who always told me to make some noise and take advantage of the opportunity that acting provided me as far as activism and philanthropy. I’ve worked for almost 2 decades with the American Red Cross both nationally and internationally. I’ve been involved with global Green for about a decade as well. St Judes is cause very close to my heart. And since my mother passed away Eight Years ago from heart disease I’ve become very involved with the American Heart Association on behalf of her memory.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
Thankfully I always have had great mentors and gotten the perfect piece of advice at the perfect time!
A. ‘NEXT!’ I remember having done a pilot back in the beginning of my career with Dick Wolf, prior to doing “Law and Order.” The pilot didn’t get picked up and I was very anxious about it and said to Dick Wolf, ‘Nobody cares about me but you, you actually have a reputation! This will hurt your career.’ His sage advice was, ‘NEXT!’ I’ve carried that with me my entire career. For all the failures and the things that haven’t worked out I have never let them stick to me or drag me down for long. My philosophy is always ‘NEXT!’ Always moving forward!
B. There’s no perfect time to have a family so if you want to be a mother the time is now! I remember my acting teacher Ivana Chubbuck saying to me, don’t concern yourself with your fears of a child distracting you from your work and goals. She said once you become a mother your heart will grow 10 sizes larger, and therefore, will only enhance all you do and fell and create- your work will only become better and more brilliant because of all that love you’re feeling. She encouraged me that the time is now! And I would say that that’s true of most things the time is always NOW! There’s no perfect readiness moment for anything.
C. My step mother once told me at the beginning of my career to never stay at party for too long and not worry about going to every door opening. She said my time was much better spent being with my family or my friends. She advised that the people who go to every party and stay too long don’t get anywhere in life! The proverbial dangling carrot doesn’t exist and not to distract myself with illusions of grandeur. The real source is the family unit.
D. My Father always tells me if something bad happens to me that it is my Karma. Not the most sensitive piece of advice I know, but it is something that I have always taken with me. I believe that every action has a consequence and I take that very seriously. I take responsibility for the things that happen to me in my life. I believe in the pay it forward philosophy and I can thank my Father for giving me the awareness that ultimately, the things we do create our Karma.
E. A friend of mine, Eric Hyman, at one point said to me if you want something in life you have to ask for it- Nobody is going to just drop something on your lap. The advice was perfect not only in timing but in essence. You don’t do yourself or anybody else any favors by staying silent and not being clear about what you want, need and deserve. If you want people to surround you and help you in your career and life you have to be clear about what you want. Verbalize it. And put it out into the universe.
F. Two things my Mother always told me that I truly believe have protected and guided me in my daily life. She said to me choose your friends wisely because we become like the people we surround ourselves with. Also, she always said to me SHOW UP! Show up to every day, every moment with all you’ve got — Showing up is half the battle!
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. :-)
The two people I would really love to meet with and get to know would be Oprah Winfrey and Richard Branson. They both completely blow my mind! I’m inspired by how powerful they are and yet how light, positive and generous- Earth angels! Qualities that don’t seem to go together in others.