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Theater is an actor’s medium – Tonya Cornelisse – Acting My Age Ep. 11


Hi, guys. Renee Pezzotta
here, Acting My Age. This week, I’m sitting down with actress Tonya Cornelisse. She’s
an amazing actress. She just had a successful run in the movie Mope at Sundance this year.
I first met Tonya when she worked on my husband’s very first short horror film, Body of Work. Save yourself. Save
your daughter. Leave tonight. Hi, Renee. Hi, Tonya. Thank you
so much for coming. Oh my gosh, it’s totally
my pleasure. You and I know each
other from my husband’s first short horror film that he directed like a decade ago. God, you mean like
last year ago. Dude, [crosstalk]. I was a ghost. You were. You were scary,
though. I was very ghostly. You’re a phenomenal
actress. Thanks Girl. So tell me about
your journey. When did you first know you wanted to be an actor? I started pretty young.
I danced when I was … started literally like my mom used to get me out of the house
at two years old, tap, jazz, ballet, like literally two, and was pretty serious about
ballet up until about I was 12, 13, and then it got really, really serious. It was like
if you’re going to get into it, it’s going to be every day after school all the time.
And I just, I loved doing it, but it wasn’t what I wanted to do for my career, was to
be a ballerina. And at 13, you have to make that major decision at that point. So I started doing
like semi-professional theater when I was about 13 years old. And then my … did Early
Action Program for NYU for Tisch, had my dad drive me in a snow storm from Michigan to
New York. And I got accepted, and so it was kind of just that. And when did you come
out to Los Angeles? I came out actually
when we did our short, with your husband, your husband’s short. I was still not fully
out here yet. So I’ve been fully out here about eight years. But I was kind of like
just still going back and forth, like dabbling in New York and stuff because I did lots of
theater and- Had you done television
shows in New York? I did. I did like a
soap opera there, and the Law and Orders, and a Sex and the City, and a Sopranos. I did
all. I did the shows in New York. And then I did a couple movies there, but I did a lot
of regional theater. I did Actors Theatre of Louisville, Humana Festival. I understudied
on Broadway. I was part of LAByrinth Theater Company and Ensemble Studio Theatre out there.
So I did … worked for the Alan Arkin with like long-form improv like a ton like
every year, and Cherry Lane Theatre. Anyone who’s in New York knows these theaters. So I did, I was big
in theater. I spent two years at Humana Festival, which is like when the Kentucky Derby is and
stuff. So it was cool, and then did a tour. And so I was all over the place. I was very
young when I did tour; I was like 19. And then, yeah, so I got … Oh, I did this movie;
it was called Zombie Honeymoon. And it was a bunch of us on the Jersey Shore. And it
got into Slamdance, and it got sold to Showtime. And it’s literally on every single night at
like 3:00. I swear, if you look for Zombie Honeymoon tonight at around 3:45 in the morning,
you will be able to watch it. Okay. Bye. Bye. Love you. See you when
you get there. Oh my God, I love you. Got to stay in your seat,
Danny. It’s a rental. Jersey Shore, here I come. Wait. Oh my God. We need
directions. You know what? Don’t even
worry about it. When you came out here
and you started doing TV and film out here, did you start off doing costars,
or did you jump right into guest stars because you had such a background already? Yeah, no, I did costars.
I did whatever. I was down to do like no job is beneath me. I just wanted to do it. And
I had really good management. This is something I find interesting. And I think I don’t know
if I would’ve done it the same way as I did before, but I had really good like solid management
right out of conservatory, right out of acting conservatory, out of Tisch in New York. And
I had a good manager and a good agent. And when I went out here, they weren’t out here,
they were only in New York. So I kind of had to start over. And I immediately went to an
agency out here that folded. Then I bopped around
so much and just because I was so lucky at a young age to have like really representation
I was comfortable with. I liked them. I thought they had integrity and good taste, because
I think that’s important too, because it’s your … They represent who you are. And as
something that I really understand now is that I need like them… like I need to … and
have a real respect as people, not just them being like, “Oh, I’m a fan,” you know,
an artist. So I bopped around
a lot with agencies. And I don’t know if that was a good idea or not, but it was hard because
I went from being like my first seven years in New York to like just having one manager and never thinking about it or anything, to being like, “I don’t
know if I should be with these people or these people.” So I kind of just, all across the
board I’m like a job is a job. You know? Yeah. It’s so important
to have- Yeah, it’s so important. … a good relationship
with your reps. I’ve learned that lesson too. I left somebody that I was with for a good
eight years just last year. And it’s tough because you’ve built something together, but
if you don’t feel respected, usually- And … Yeah. … you just can’t. And it’s like any relationship
too: You can grow apart, you know? Totally. And then don’t force
it. If it’s done, it’s done, you know? Totally. Let’s talk
about some of the jobs you’ve worked on, because you’ve, again, like I said, you’re amazing
on stage. Thank you. I’ve been lucky enough
to see … I saw you in Buried Child. And Yeah, oh, cool. Yeah,
yeah. I just did a big thing with Ensemble Studio Theatre that got great reviews. It
was called Lost in Time. Oh, cool. It was a brand new
play, and the role was, it was one of those roles. It was great. It was- … really cool. It’s
nice too. I always have to go back to that. If I’m a certain time away from theater. I
really long for it. I really long for it. I have to do a couple things a year at least. And what do you find
that you love about theater? It’s just an instant
… It’s an actor’s medium. I mean, with like television, writers and editors, I think more
of that, movies, I think, or directors. But with theater, it is definitely an actor’s
medium. I mean, those lights go down, and it’s you and the audience. And you share this
real-time in this real space in a real moment. And then it’s done. And I don’t think there’s
… I mean that, just that live storytelling of when it’s full, it’s not like you do a
scene from page 48 on Monday, and then next week you do a scene from page two. It’s like
a full interaction in storytelling because I think that’s what it’s about for me, and
I love the storytelling aspect of what we do. So you were just at
Sundance. Yeah. I just got back. Tell me about that. It was amazing. It
was probably the coolest time. I’ve been lucky enough to go a couple times to Sundance. I
wrote a short once called Dog Lovers. It was based off of an improv from Alan Arkin that
I was a filmmaker on, so I got to experience that as well. But this movie, it’s called
Mope, and it was kind of, it had four screenings. They only pick 101 films for competition.
And it went in … It was one of the midnight films. It had the Get Out time slot from … It’s
not a horror film, but it’s definitely edgy. It had the Get Out time slot from like two
years ago. We premiered at The Egyptian. The movie was repped by this great PR agency called
Prodigy, and they had us booked. I mean, I saw no movies except for my premier. But it’s
so special. It is. Yeah, it’s really cool. Totally. Totally. It’s just a ton of
people that love movies, that love cinema, like true cinephiles. Absolutely. So it’s fun. So what keeps you motivated? I don’t know how to
do anything else. No, I don’t know. That’s a lot of people’s
answer. “I don’t know.” Yeah. I just have to
do it. It’s like it’s a curse, torture, blessing. I don’t know. But I just think I can’t not
… I can’t quit it because there’s nothing I’d rather do. And to not do that would be
like I’d be lying to myself. That’s it for this week’s
video. If you like what you saw, give it thumbs up, leave a comment, and be sure and click
“subscribe” and come back every Wednesday for a new video. I’m Renee Pezzotta, Acting
My Age. That was amazing! And I appreciate you
coming so much- Renee- … and spending time. … you are also an
amazing actress as well. And it was my pleasure. Thank you. Yeah. Yay. Yay!

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