HELLO AMERICA! So many actors come to Hollywood totally unprepared to enter the craft of film. Then there are those like actress PAULIE ROJAS, who recently graduated from the theater department at U.S.C., where she worked tirelessly to hone her skills and perfect her craft. As a result, this beautiful young actress is rapidly taking Hollywood by storm. Only months out of college, Rojas’s talent, professionalism, and dedication have already paid off. She’s been signed by respected Hollywood talent agent Tony Martinez, of Greater Vision Artists (GVA), and she recently wrapped a co-starring role in the eagerly-anticipated horror film “The Last Resort.”
Recently, I had the opportunity to sit down with Rojas for an interview. Her answers to a wide range of questions dealing with the entertainment industry and her personal history make it easy to understand why Paulie Rojas is an actress to be reckoned with in the future of filmdom.
MSJ: WHEN DID YOU DISCOVER THAT YOU WANTED TO BECOME AN ACTRESS?
PAULIE: I can’t remember when I discovered I wanted to be an actress; it’s just been something I’ve always wanted to be. My grandfather, Roberto Canedo, was a famous movie star in Mexico’s Golden Age of cinema. He even won two Arieles, which is the Mexican equivalent of an Oscar. I remember being very young, sitting with my grandmother and watching my grandfather on the television set. I didn’t understand what he was doing. Why was he dressed as a devil? Why was he yelling? Why was he charming other beautiful women besides my grandmother? It was all so overwhelming, but I loved it. I knew that whatever he was doing, I wanted to do it, too. I didn’t even know acting had a name.
MSJ: SO, ACTING IS DEFINITELY IN YOUR BLOOD. WHAT WAS IT LIKE HAVING SUCH A FAMOUS GRANDFATHER?
PAULIE: When I was about five, my family took me to Disneyland. My grandfather came along too. I remember people constantly coming up to him and wanting to hug him, talk to him, shake his hand, and even kiss him! And it wasn’t just Disneyland, it was walking to the market in Mexico City or even just catching a taxi. This remained forever imprinted in my mind. His audience gave my grandfather so much love because his films moved them and made them feel different emotions. They loved him for that. I see acting as giving something back to the world. Just like I saw my grandfather do to his beloved audience.
MSJ: GOING TO USC MUST HAVE OFFERED NUMEROUS ADVANTAGES ”“ HOW DID THEY SERVE YOUR CAREER OBJECTIVES?
PAULIE: Going to USC was an amazing experience. It was truly a time of self-discovery. Although I recently graduated with a BFA in acting, I did the BA program my first two years there. One of the advantages of being in the BA program was that I had time to play with the idea of minoring in French, philosophy, or dance. At the same time I was immersed in the acting world. As a freshman, I got the lead role in the BA show, playing the title role in Oscar Wilde’s “Lady Windermere’s Fan.” That was my first time working with professor/director Michael Keenan. He became my mentor, and I have always admired his profound intelligence, sense of humor, wit, eloquence, and creativity (I can really go on and on). I had the pleasure of working with him on shows as his leading lady for three years at USC.
USC is such a respectable and revered acting school; opportunities came left and right. Through USC, I had the opportunity to work with the prestigious Los Angeles Women’s Shakespeare Company, and see Lisa Wolpe, Fran Bennett and Natsuko Ohama (now a BFA professor at USC) at work. Friends of mine got the opportunity to perform with the Center Theatre Group at the Ahmanson in the production of “Dead End,” because of their affiliation with USC.
One of the things I loved about USC was its emphasis on classic and modern literature. I love reading and learning and I felt confident about graduating from USC with the grand repertoire of literature I had read. I truly respect well-read actors, not just actors who read sides. USC stimulates actors both artistically and intellectually. . .
MSJ: DURING THOSE YEARS OF STUDY, WHAT WERE SOME OF THE HIGH AND LOW MOMENTS AS AN ACTRESS?
PAULIE: Every actor goes through highs and lows. That’s the nature of the beast. When it comes to the low moments, it’s getting back up on your feet that strengthens you. The first semester of my freshman year, I auditioned for every main stage show there was. I got called back for a few but ended up not getting a role. I was heartbroken, and then I auditioned for the Brand New Theatre shows (an all-student run, written, directed, and produced company at USC). Sure enough, I got cast in the finger-snapping, shock-inducing “PMS! The Musical!” I have to admit, my first thought was, “What is my mother going to think?!” From being seen in this production, however, people asked me to be a part of their next MFA shows, student films, and class scenes. The next semester, I was cast as the lead in “Lady Windermere’s Fan,” and I ended up having one of the most amazing semesters at USC.
Another high for me was being the lead in Feydeau’s “An Absolute Turkey,” and the Swan in Ferenc Molnar’s “The Swan.” Another great moment for me was when I was welcomed into the BFA program in my junior year. I decided to go from the BA program to the BFA program because of the conservatory-style teaching. Also in my junior year, I was cast as Liudmila in Maxim Gorky’s “A Mother.” This role wasn’t the damsel in distress, or the princess roles that I had played the past three years (don’t get me wrong; I will always love playing the ingÃ©nue). Mary-Joan Negro directed “A Mother” and saw that I had the diversity and skill to play a young, distraught, tortured soul. It was a highlight for me to be able to tear myself apart on stage and have relationships with other characters in a darker light. I proved to myself that I could do characters of the light and graceful, as well as the dark and tortured.
MSJ: APART FROM MICHAEL KEENAN, WHO WERE SOME OF YOUR OTHER MAJOR INFLUENCES AT USC?
PAULIE: USC has wonderful professors who care and give immensely to their students. One can easily develop more than just a student-teacher relationship. Indeed, I feel as though I have developed very deep friendships with many of my professors. I want to mention three who inspire me to no end: First, Jack Rowe, the Assistant Dean of the USC School of Theatre. His dedication to the theater students is endless. He gives his students everything he has to offer. His intelligence and insight is awe-inspiring. Then there’s Joe Hacker. He offers the most help in matters of the actual acting industry. He talks about what makes a good audition good, and his hands-on on-camera classes give students a unique and very applicable education to the world that all actors encounter (hopefully) on a daily basis. And last, but certainly not least, there’s Mary-Joan Negro. From her, I learned passion, love, and respect for acting. I learned that acting is action and not emotions. Emotions come from acting but the actor needn’t be concerned with that. An actor’s concern is to get the objective done as effectively as possible, and there will be obstacles that will conflict with that objective.
MSJ: BEFORE YOU GRADUATED, YOU RECEIVED A VERY IMPRESSIVE HONOR
PAULIE: Yes, in May I won the Ava Greenwald Memorial Award, an achievement that I am very proud of. Ten graduating seniors were nominated to perform in front of a panel of judges that included Joe Mantegna, casting director April Webster, and Ava’s long-time friend, Cindy Kanie-Guastaferro. I went up against 9 extremely bright and gifted performers. It was a great honor to have won. In fact, it took me a while to actually believe I did. Up until the award ceremony, I kept worrying that it was all a bad joke! It wasn’t”¦and I have the pictures to prove it!
MSJ: WHAT WOULD YOU DO IF YOU WEREN’T ACTING?
PAULIE: To be honest, I don’t know what I would do if I wasn’t an actress. Actually, part of me thinks I would move to Spain or Italy and open up my very own vineyard. I’m hoping to still do that, but after I’m more established and forty years old. But as a twenty-one year old, nothing makes me happy like performing and acting. I don’t ever doubt that acting is what I’m meant to be doing with my life.
MSJ: WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVORITE ASPECTS OF HOLLYWOOD?
PAULIE: I’ve always loved old Hollywood. I grew up watching “My Fair Lady” and “Gone With The Wind.” I’ve always had a fascination with the glamour and elegance of the old days. I always manage to surround myself with something that has to do with old Hollywood; either a poster of James Dean, a biography of Audrey Hepburn somewhere in my apartment, a fantastic vintage dress in my closet, and thoughts that I would still love to marry Gregory Peck. My roommate even looks like Elizabeth Taylor!
HOW DID YOU COME TO BE CAST IN THE FILM THAT’S ABOUT TO BE RELEASED?
I submitted myself on an acting submission site. I told my agent I had booked it, and he was skeptical, because it wasn’t a big-budget film. But it was being cast by two excellent casting directors, Patricia Noland and Ted Hann (“Mind of Mencia”), and that made a big difference, because I knew I’d be working with a top-notch cast. Plus, I’ve always wanted to do a horror film!
The movie’s called “The Last Resort,” directed by Brandon Nutt. We shot in 110-degree weather in a desert compound called Zzyzx, which is in the Mojave Desert on the way to Las Vegas. The story is about a group of girls who go on a beach vacation in Mexico and end up being possessed by evil spirits in an old, deserted resort. I play Amber Selvaggio, an anorexic girl who gets possessed and eats everything in sight, including her friend Kathleen. Not exactly Shaw”¦I’d like to think of it as more Brechtian. Maybe?
MSJ: IT SOUNDS LIKE A LOT OF FUN
PAULIE: It was. I had a blast. And I got to work with a great group of actors.
WHEN YOU’RE ALONE AT NIGHT AND POSSIBLY LOOKING INTO A MIRROR, WHAT AND WHOM DO YOU SEE?
When I look at myself in the mirror I see humility, gratefulness, and ambition. I have a terrible fear of being forgotten (I don’t think I’ve ever admitted this to anyone). I see a great paradox when I see myself. I see someone who is innately extremely shy and yet extremely loud when surrounded by her friends and family. I see someone who wants everything out of life but doubts sometimes that she deserves it. I’m someone who loves to learn but hates being taught. I see someone who thinks she is old and wise and yet filled with childish thoughts. I see someone who on the outside looks vulnerable, innocent, and breakable, but on the inside is a tough little cookie.
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