Our interview with talented actress Brownyn Reed from “Law and Order SVU” & the new star of the national production of “Dirty Dancing” playing the classic role as “Baby”.
Bronwyn please tell us a little about you?
I was born and raised in Los Angeles, CA, and spent my summers growing up in Ireland. I went to the LA County High School for the Arts as a Theatre Major, which was such an incredible experience. It was literally like FAME the movie, except wilder and more artistically intense. I loved it. From there I went to Stanford University, and was able to study everything under the sun from Italian Language and Art History (I studied abroad in Florence for a year), to Codebreaking, to my most favorite course, Camera As Witness, an incredible documentary film class that shed light on international conflict resolution. All the while I was acting throughout, often in multiple shows at a time, which was a crazy ride. Right before graduation I was lucky enough to receive the Jack Kent Cooke Graduate Arts Award, a $50,000 scholarship allowing me to train at LAMDA in London, where I received my Masters. That was definitely the best year of my life to date. Living in London and training all year at such a high level was really a dream come true. I learned so much about myself as a woman and as an artist, and also met the greatest actor I had ever seen work, a man in my class who is now my life partner. So it really was a life-changing experience for me, in multiple ways.
Describe yourself in 3 words?
Crystal. Spice. Unicorn.
Who is your biggest supporter?
My partner, Michael Sutherland, who is the greatest artist I have ever known.
How did you get started acting?
A love for the arts was instilled in me at a very young age. My mother went to great lengths to expose me to arts and culture in every way and I was shown and taught so much through her. She trained as an actor and is now a poet as well, so the arts were and are very much a part of her life too. My father was also a huge supporter and worked in the business as a screenwriter, director, producer, and developer, so together they really let me really follow that path, and were huge supporters of my creative dreams in their own ways. I started very young, and balanced school shows with extra-curricular professional work and majored in acting at the high school, university, and graduate level. So now to be making a living as an actor is literally a dream come true.
Did your family support your decision to become an actress?
Yes, absolutely. I was very certain from a young age that this was what I was going to do, and everyone, my mother, father, brother, extended family–they all accepted it. There was simply no debate. I made my choice and they helped me realize that dream, encouraging me every step of the way.
How do you prepare for a role?
It definitely depends on the project, and the creative team I am working with, becauseI have many different angles and approaches I can take. Sometimes I will do an enormous amount of research, sometimes I will dedicate weeks or months to finding the right voice or physicality, and sometimes I just go very method. But for this project, my biggest area of preparation was the dance. I trained with Joffrey Ballet and ABT when I was younger, and dance was a huge part of my life, but years ago I suffered a really bad injury and broke my foot, and had to really cool it on the dance for a while–years really. So this process has been incredibly healing for me because I got to rehab my foot and get back into dancing shape again. This past summer was like the montage from Save The Last Dance…I was so sore! But now my body has adjusted and I’m so so happy and proud to be able to really call myself a dancer again.
Tell us about your role as Baby in “Dirty Dancing”? And the production is based on the movie?
Playing Baby is a total joy. I love her spirit. She’s so smart and so brave and so compassionate. But she’s also so relatable. We can all remember feeling like we aren’t pretty enough or popular enough or sexy enough. So to get to play the arc of the awkward girl in the corner becoming the confident dancer taking center stage is such a blast. She sticks to her guns and never backs down and I love that about her. And so does Johnny.
And yes, the production is “the classic story on stage.” It is everything you know and love from the film, only more. We have all of the iconic lines, moments, music, costumes, and choreography, but so many new things as well. As amazing and iconic as the movie is (and it truly is and always has been one of my favorites), there is something about having all of those elements I just mentioned performed live in front of you that really is its own unique experience. It’s incredibly fun and entertaining and will not disappoint. Come and see it!
What’s your favorite part working on “Dirty Dancing”?
Oh there are so many things to mention. My cast and crew and creative team are incredible. I love working with them. It’s rare to find a group so talented but also so supportive and fun. We really are like a family. And I have to say I’m obsessed with my wig. I’ve always had long, fairly straight hair, so to get to dance with the short curls is such a fun transformation, and so iconically “Baby.” If I had to pick one distinct moment though, it would probably be the big final lift. I feel like I’m flying! It’s a moment you can’t fear at all. If you fear it for just a split second, you will break, or fall, so you have to take that leap of faith and it’s a great thing to do every night. It’s very empowering.
And now about “Law and Order SVU”?
SVU was such a wonderful experience. I’m still hoping to return to the show at some point, and since I haven’t been brutally killed off yet, it’s very possible I could in the future. Much like this tour, the “family” of that show is so tight-knit, talented, and hard-working. Between the incredible former showrunner Warren Leight and the leading lady Mariska Hargitay, I really was in the best hands possible. Because I played Mariska’s nanny, all of my scenes were with her, and I am honored to call her a friend and mentor. She is truly a superhero – with the show, her incredible foundation, her amazing husband and three adorable children, I really don’t know how she does it all, and so well. She really wins at life. She’s a huge inspiration to me.
What advice would you give to those who want to be in this business?
Never Give up.
What are the 3 things you can’t live without?
Chapstick, tea, baths.
How’s your typical day?
Now that I’m on tour it’s geared entirely toward what I need to prepare for the show. Whether that’s extra sleep to make sure my body gets enough rest, extra food so I have enough fuel, meditating to relax, yoga to stretch, or netflix to chill…I do what I can to stay in tip-top shape.
Something people don’t know about you?
I’m bisexual and equal rights for the entire LGBTQ community are of the utmost importance to me.. Love is love is love is love is love. We must never forget that. I also do a pretty mean Louis Armstrong impression.
Five years from now you will be…
Hopefully very happy and fulfilled. I strive to strike the balance of working on great projects while also having time to enjoy my life, build my home, and travel the world. I dream of continuing my career in film, tv, and theatre and would love to emulate artists I look up to the most – Marion Cotillard, Michelle Williams, Cate Blanchett, Annette Bening, Meryl Streep, Julianne Moore, Kate Winslet, Robin Wright. Robin is actually a dear friend and mentor as well, and speaking of dirty dancing–she can tear up the dance floor like NO ONE ELSE. It’s actually insane how good she is. So hopefully in five years I will have the opportunity to do my own interesting and fulfilling work, make bold choices and vacillate between all platforms. On the personal side, it gives me great joy to think of having and/or adopting children, when the time is right.
What kind of music do you like? And don’t like?
Definitely depends on my mood. I generally sway between a chill/melancholic/romanticsuicide vibe (Cat power, Bon Iver, Sufjan Stevens, Elliot Smith), my old school faves (Billie Holiday, Etta James, Ella Fitzgerald, Ray Charles, Louis Armstrong) and…freaky time (Ariana Grande, Drake, James Blake, Miguel, Jason Derulo, The Weeknd, and of course Bey).
Your idea of a perfect Sunday is?
Sleeping in, a big brunch, a long walk, some yoga, a trip to the farmer’s market, a good book, cooking dinner with a glass of wine and my Etta James record on in the background, a good movie, bubblebath, tea, co*tus, cuddles, sleeeeep
How’s a normal day in your life?
Ideally it’s exactly the list above. But now that I’m on tour it’s not quiiiite that experience. Lots of planes and buses and hotels. And of course thrilling live performances and experiencing the country like I never have before. So through it all I just do my best to take care of myself.
What is your favorite healthy food?
Because I have been vegan for almost three years now, basically everything I eat is healthy. My favorite things are avocado (I eat it constantly, in everything), Vega powder for smoothies (how I start every day) and pad thai (can’t get enough–it’s always my go to). Veganism is very important to me not only on a personal level with the way it’s shaped my body and health, but also on a spiritual and political level. I really love every aspect of it. I have never been happier or healthier, had more energy, been in better shape, or been more positive about my contribution to the planet and to the wellbeing and safety of other creatures on the earth.
And your favorite cheat food?
Do you have any hobbies?
I love to cook and am obsessed with interior design & decorating. I could spend hours on pinterest and instagram finding new inspiration on how to better my home, and look forward to flipping houses in the future.
Do you support any charities?
PETA, Canvass For A Cause, the campaigns of Bernie Sanders & Jill Stein
What do you think of Social Media?
That’s a tricky one. On the one hand I sort of hate how it’s affected our culture – the idea that nothing is valued unless it’s posted, followed, or liked. But on the other hand I think if it’s used in the right way it can actually be a very positive thing and I have learned a lot from people that I follow and look up to in that respect. It can be a very powerful platform for good, and can bring people together in unprecedented ways.
Where we can follow you?
Quote: “There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. … No artist is pleased. [There is] no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.” – Martha Graham
Favorite Book: The Time Traveler’s Wife & Just Kids
Sports Team: Lakers
Restaurant/Bar: The Butcher’s Daughter & Gjelina (both in Venice, LA)
Drink: La Croix for every day. Red wine for pasta. Bellinis for special occasions. And Margaritas with salt for nights out.
Favorite music: James Blake & Cat Power & Ariana Grande
Travel destination: Tulum & Bali & Cannes
Movie: Casablanca & Shakespeare in Love & The Birdcage
Tv Show: The Affair & The Fall & The Night Of
Photo credit: David Noles