10 THINGS with Amanda Warren
When and how did your love for acting develop?
I attended the Professional Performing Arts School (PPAS) in the theatre district, here in New York, where I studied voice (singing). The fantastic thing about PPAS, is that students may work professionally without compromising his or her academic studies. My mother allowed me to participate in school-related gigs and performances with the youth gospel choir I was involved with and served as alto section leader on weekends (Carnegie Hall, Today…); but, because she wanted me to have as much of a childhood as possible, that’s where my pursuit for professional projects ended. So, I worked as much as possible within my parameters (laughs). I participated in every spring musical my school did while attending: Pippin, Little Shop of Horrors, Once on This Island and Hair. The great thing about those projects was that I was able to work with my peers who were allowed to work professionally and gained some insight as to what it might be like to work with pros. In my junior year, we put up Once on This Island. I played Mama Euralie. There was one moment towards the end of our Friday night performance that I sang “A Part of Us” and something happened on the inside of me. I don’t remember specifically what happened. All I knew, was that the entire auditorium- the band, performers, the audience- were altogether in the same moment, on the same page, living in the same energy. In that moment, I understood what performers meant when they say “this is where the magic happens”. That night, I discovered what magic is and where I could find it, and I wanted to do it again.
You’re off to good start, especially having a background in theater. How has this helped you or given you an edge when it comes to traditional TV/ film?
In television, for sure there’s alacrity with developing your character, because the cast and crew have only 8-12 business days to make a one-hour drama. In America, you get 3-4 weeks of rehearsal before opening a stage production. My colleagues abroad might say, “That’s not enough time either!” but we take what we can get here in the good ol’ U. S. of A. (laughs). Being granted that kind of time (in the theatre) to develop a character, has strengthened my process in television and film. I like to think of it as looking at a road map for a trip: you can either take the scenic route; driving through the mountains, along the river… or you can take the highway and cut your time in half so that you and your friends can get to your destination and get your vacay going! It’s all good either way, as long as you and company arrive to your destination safely and in one piece.
Currently, you star on HBO’s The Leftovers. How did that role come about and what made you decide to sign on?
Ellen Lewis, Ellen Lewis and did I mention Ellen Lewis? (Laughs) She called me in to read for Lucy. Before I could even cross the threshold to her taping room, she said to me, “You’re probably too young for this, but I had to have you come in and read.” I’ve been playing women (and men) chronologically older than me since my days as Mama Euralie at age 15, so I was used to hearing things like that for a long time. There were three scenes. I read two of them and left her office. A few days later, I got word from my manager that Damon and Pete liked what they saw and that Damon would like to meet with me. Damon and I met on a Friday. He was a sheer delight. We talked about process, about Lucy and about how this small fictional New York town (and the world) has been rocked by the event that occurred. My manager and I heard back from Ellen and Damon after the weekend and I received the offer.
You play the role of Lucy Warburton. What is the good and bad of Lucy and why do you enjoy playing her the most?
Lucy is a phenomenal woman to play! The good things about Lucy is that she’s strong-willed, driven, passionate about Mapleton & the citizens living there and will stop at nothing in her pursuit for what she believes in. The bad things about Lucy are that she’s strong-willed, driven, and passionate about Mapleton & the citizens living there and will stop at nothing in her pursuit for what she believes in (laughs). I think what I enjoy most about playing her, is exploring and playing with the tension that lives inside her. She’s got such a beautiful soul and spirit but because of what she’s taken on, she’s put up this thick, concrete wall denying access to her vulnerability to the community around her, so people rarely get to see that side of her. It says so much when she grants a certain small number of people even the tiniest glimpse of this side of her.
What can expect to see from your character’s development in the first season of The Leftovers?
I really can’t say and once you see the upcoming episodes, I don’t think you would have wanted me to tell you. I can say, that the audience is in for some really tasty and delicious moments from Lucy. (Laughs)
You’ve had the chance to work both ends of the spectrum with TV and theater. Which actors work plays a part in your career?
John Cazale, Glenn Close, Joan Allen, Angela Bassett, Robert DeNiro, Marlon Brando, Viola Davis, Michael Fassbender, Al Pacino, Tom Hardy, Frances McDormand, Maggie Smith, Carmen De Lavallade, Jurnee Smollett, Goldie Hawn, Denzel Washington, Edie Falco, James Gandolfini, Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul, Chris Chalk, Vanessa Bell Calloway, Cate Blanchett, Michael K. Williams, Diane Keaton, Whoopi Goldberg, the list goes on and on and on. These acting titans don’t phone it in, they don’t make excuses, the story they’re telling is top priority and they execute the humanity a character without apology.
Let’s talk a little fashion. You are from the Big Apple, so I’m sure this appeals to you. Who are some of your favorite fashion designers that fit your personal style?
Oooh la la. Right you are! DVF, Michael Kors, Ralph Lauren, Haute Hippie, Alexander McQueen, Donna Karan, Versace, Armani, Burberry, again, the list goes on and on and on. Perhaps it’s the artist in me, but, most days I try to reflect the atmosphere my spirit is breathing in and let the wind carry me to the garments that can deliver that look and feeling in my closet.
As we mentioned, you’re a native New Yorker who loves her city. Are there any personal or charitable projects that you are involved with?
I’m still looking. The public school education system has done so much for me that it would be wrong not give anything back. As a Manhattan resident, I’m gutted by what certain landlords are doing, pushing folks who have lived in their apartments for decades, out of their homes, as a greedy tactic to get more rent from newer tenants. It’s one of the most disgusting inhumane things I’ve ever witnessed in my beautiful city. If there’s anything I can do to prevent that from happening to people who don’t have the money for legal fees to fight, put me in coach!
If you weren’t an actress, what other career path would you take?
I prefer not to entertain questions like that. I remember watching an interview with Mr. Denzel Washington and he quite simply said, “There is no plan B.” Once I decided to do this- seriously pursue acting- there was no “plan b”.
Well said. We look forward to seeing more of your work on HBO’s The Leftovers. What other projects do you have coming up in the near future?
We’re still filming so, for the moment, so I’m living in this moment. I’ve decided to enjoy only discussing this wonderful, exciting and thrilling journey The Leftovers has blessed me with.
Catch The Leftovers, Sundays 10PM on HBO
Photo credits: Courtesy of HBO/ The Leftovers & Andreas Hofweber