Check out our interview with Actress and Director Adria Tennor who can be seen in the Indican Pictures film, One Moment (Winner of the Audience Favorite Award at the 2021 Cinequest Film Festival).
Adria is best known for her recurring role on “Mad Men” and her part in the Academy Award winning film “The Artist.”
Follow Adria @adriatennor
Hi Adria, please tell us a little about you?
Hi! I was born and raised in Michigan, then moved to Maryland for junior high and high school. I attended college in New York where I studied acting & directing. Now, I live in sunny Los Angeles where I’m an actress, a writer, and a pretty good cook. I also love teaching acting and coaching actors virtually at Real Actors Lab.
Describe yourself in 3 words?
HOprahful. Determined. Leo!
How did you get started into acting?
I went to New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. At the end of the four-year program, we did a showcase for agents. I got a commercial agent who helped me land my first commercial. He then introduced me to the film & tv agents at the agency, and I got my first role in a movie playing a twelve-year old boy looking at porn with an amnesiac (Martin Donovan) in Tompkins Square Park in Hal Hartley’s Amateur which premiered in the Directors’ Fortnight at Cannes. It was a weird way to begin my career, but I’m forever proud of that experience.
How has this changed your life?
Being an actor has made it necessary for me to set up my life to always be flexible and to count on nothing. I always have to be available at the drop of a hat to drop everything and pivot to prepping for an audition or job that I didn’t know I was going to have. It’s definitely made me learn to roll with the punches, be adaptable and can-do, a problem solver/solution finder, and a believer that anything is doable and possible. On the flip side of that, I think it has made me less apt to make long-term plans because life is so unsteady and unstable. It’s hard to forecast the future. I’ve dealt with that fluidity by investing in my relationships; my friends and family are my rocks, and I do my best to be the best friend and partner I can possibly be.
What is the best and worst part of being an actress?
The best part is how it feeds my life on a personal and spiritual level. In order to be a good actress, I have to be in impeccable mental and physical health. So, I take very good care of my body and my spirit, and those benefits permeate the rest of my life.
The worst part of being an actress is all the rejection and uncertainty. It can really take a toll. It’s an unnatural amount of negativity and criticism for a person to endure. That’s why focusing on my mental health is so important.
How do you prepare for a role?
I read the whole script. This may sound elementary, but I come across so many actors who don’t do this. While I’m reading, I Google every word or thing or reference with which I’m not SUPER familiar and sometimes even when I am, I do a search anyway. I gather images and information that help me connect with the material in as many ways possible to help me build the world for myself. Then, I look for clues in the material. This is a technique that my teacher Tim Phillips refers to as “Sherlock Holmes-ing the text.” I also reference a list of questions/guideposts created by Michael Shurtleff in his book, “Audition,” that is about so much more than just auditioning. I also use a list of questions that my teacher Larry Moss presents in his book, “Intent to Live.” Then, I begin to learn my lines! Once all the cerebral stuff is done, I let it all go and have fun and lead with my intuition.
Tell us about your work in the film, “One Moment?”
I’m really proud of this film. It was an honor to work with Danny Aiello who was a dream of a scene partner. He was so present and humble and just loved acting and actors. I also loved working with Deirdre O’Connor, our writer/director on this project. I’m on a mission to support and honor female-driven stories, so Deirdre’s film feels very aligned with that ambition. It was inspiring to collaborate with her in making her funny, genuine, moving, heartbreaking story come to life. She blends comedy and tragedy really beautifully in this piece, and I love that I got to play both in the film. Deirdre was supportive, complimentary, and grateful during our shoot, and that energy permeated her set. That feeling of safety is what allowed me to be comfortable enough to access the heartbreak that happens in the story. I also really love the sister relationship that Frankie Ingrassia and I were able to capture. I’m really pleased with the way that comes across in the film, too.
And about your work in popular features “Mad Men,” “Mad Dogs” and Academy Award winning film “The Artist?”
I loved working on Mad Men and witnessing how that show blew up. I worked on the first season before the show had aired, and none of us had any idea what it was going to become. It was gratifying to be part of something that I ended up loving so much myself. I’m so grateful to Laura Schiff, Carrie Audino, and Josh Einsohn, the casting directors of the show, for thinking of me and encouraging Matt Weiner to hire me.
Mad Dogs was also a really inspiring experience. The show, as you probably know, is about four men (played by Steve Zahn, Romany Malco, Michael Imperioli, and Ben Chaplin) who go on a guys’ getaway that goes awry. It’s a pretty male dominated story and vibe. The first episode of the show that I shot, though, was written by a woman – Eileen Myers – and directed by a woman – Uta Briesewitz – and they both killed it. Not only that, but the four leading men understood, appreciated, and respected these women and their work and how it was elevating their work and the show itself. I really loved that part of working on this show – getting to hear these guys whispering to each other and to me in between takes about how great the writing was, how well it was playing, and how the direction really elevated the whole scene. There was something really lovely about witnessing these men appreciate these women that I’ll never forget. Of course, I also can’t wait until we get to a point where men revering women for their expertise and work isn’t novel!
The Artist was a really cool, weird, crazy experience too, especially because none of us had lines. Most of the story was conveyed without words which meant we all had to be pretty great at portraying the story with our expressions, allowing our faces to reveal how we felt about what was happening. Our characters weren’t at liberty to say how we felt or what we thought. We just had to allow the camera in to capture it.
What other projects have you been part of?
Another favorite project of mine was playing Professor Clarissa Hawn on Greek. I loved the cast and crew of this special, moving, funny show, and I loved getting to play such a funny, dorky, well-written role.
I also, of course, have a very special place in my heart for my own pieces – Cracked, Pie and Fetish – as well as my solo show, StripSearch. I love creating my own work and being in something I’ve written is the very best experience of all.
What kind of roles do you like or would like to play and why?
I like to play women who are coming into their power and finding themselves in a funny, surprising way and not taking themselves too seriously while doing so. I love the woman I play in my series, Fetish. I’d love to make more seasons of that show so we can see Paula really come into her own. I think the world loves an underdog hero.
What is the most rewarding part of your work?
Telling relatable stories and hearing people explain how they’ve touched their lives.
What’s your advice for the newer actors?
Spend time studying your craft. Find your posse, your support system, your friends and allies, people who protect your flame when it’s shining bright, instead of blowing it out. Find the people who lift you up, and let go of anyone who drags you down. And I can’t stress this enough: MAKE YOUR OWN WORK!
What would you say are the greatest lessons you learned so far in this business?
You have to create your own opportunities and take very good care of your mental health.
How would your best friend describe you?
Resilient, loyal, and a champion of women and minorities.
If you were a book, what would be the title of the book and why?
I’d title it, “You Can Do Anything You Set Your Mind To,” because I really believe that is true, and I work to impart that belief to my students.
What advice would you give to your younger self and why?
Don’t worry about where you haven’t been or what you haven’t achieved. Look around at where you are right now and trust its perfection. Focus on what you do have, instead of what you don’t because that is the very best way to magnetize and multiply the very best things. And trust your damn self!
What book should every entrepreneur read?
Creating Money by Duane Packer and Sanaya Roman.
What’s next for Adria Tennor in 2022?
I’m going to take a trip to see my family on the East coast. I haven’t seen them since August of 2019 because of the pandemic and life stuff. I’m really looking forward to chilling with my nephews and eating some Maryland Blue crab!
What is your favorite healthy food?
And your favorite cheat food?
My own homemade raw vegan chocolate…
What is your own definition of happiness?
Gratitude for what is right now.
If you could meet someone living or dead, who would it be and why?
I’d really love to meet Mark Duplass. I love his body of work, his ideology, and how he has carved out his own career and place in show business. I also love how he supports other up-and-coming filmmakers.
Best advice ever given?
Listen to and trust your instincts, and they’ll get louder and more and more accurate.
Do you support any charity?
War Child and INARA, both organizations to give aid and medical assistance to children who are victims of war.
Where do you see yourself and your career in 5 years from now?
Acting, directing, and producing my own limited series as well as teaching and giving support to more and more actors.
Favorite song? Why?
“Flagship” by Amanda Shires & Jason Isbell because it’s about truly committing to making a relationship of love and happiness and putting in the work to do so.
What do you think of Social Media?
I love it and use it for good whenever possible.
Where can we follow you?
Book: The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron.
Quote: “Your new life is going to cost you your old one. It’s going to cost you your comfort zone and your sense of direction. It’s going to cost you relationships and friends. It’s going to cost you being liked and understood. It doesn’t matter. The people who are meant for you are going to meet you on the other side. You’re going to build a new comfort zone around the things that actually move you forward. Instead of being liked, you’re going to be loved. Instead of being understood, you’re going to be seen. All you’re going to lose is what was built for a person you no longer are.” — Brianna Wiest
Movie: Life is Beautiful
Tv Series: Mad Men
Favorite Food: Uni Sushi!
Travel Destination: Italy
Sports Team: Oprah Winfrey & Brené Brown
Photo Credit: Ben Cope