Celine Rosalie Zoppa talks to About Insider
HI, WELCOME TO ABOUT INSIDER! THANKS FOR TAKING THE TIME TO CHAT WITH US! CAN YOU TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOURSELF, WHO IS CELINE ROSALIE ZOPPE IN YOUR OWN WORDS?
Hmmm, Just a kid from across the pond trying to figure it all out. (Laughs) Let’s see, I’m curious, passionate about what I do, a hard worker and I’m always trying to find ways to do what I love. I’d like to think that I can put a smile on people’s faces when they need it the most.
CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT YOUR BACKGROUND AND HOW IT HAS INFLUENCED YOUR WORK AS AN ACTRESS?
Well, to start at the beginning, I was influenced by watching my mother perform on stage. She was in a different line of work but whenever I sneaked a peek from backstage and saw her dance my eyes lit up and every cell in my being wanted to do art from a very young age. Then she put me in a model agency when I was four years old, which made me very comfortable in front of the camera. I would just allow myself to play and let my essence come out. I always try to remember that feeling whenever I’m in front of a camera, although sometimes it’s inevitable to tense up and be nervous when recording a self tape for instance, because you have to be very vulnerable or you’re not being honest. But then I remember when I was little and how free I was and it always helps to have something to go back to and let out that inner child. I grew up as a competitive gymnast, so my childhood was very constricted, discipline and working hard was extremely important to get to where I needed to be. Five hours in the gym daily, sometimes more doesn’t really leave much time for hobbies or friends, just schoolwork, but I’m grateful for it, because it’s a part of me now. I don’t question whether to do a task at 50% or at 100%, it just happens automatically, which helps a lot with learning lines and being on top of projects, scheduling and daily tasks. It’s the “Just do it” mentality.
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT YOUR EXPERIENCE AT THE OXFORD SCHOOL OF DRAMA AND THE AMERICAN ACADEMY OF DRAMATIC ARTS?
Goodness, where do I start? It was so priceless. Living in the UK for a year was an amazing experience. The Oxford School of Drama is pretty much in the middle of fields between two villages, so taking the school bus every day to get to a place where I was surrounded by people with the same dream as me, incredible teachers to guide me on my journey, with no distractions, focusing on my craft every day, was a dream come true. Of course I wouldn’t have been able to have such an experience without my mom and my family helping me out every step of the way, and my host family showing me British customs and making me feel at home. All the students had to wear black in every class, and we studied everything from Shakespeare to Film, Acting, Musical Theater, Movement, Pantomime, Audition Technique and Animal Studies which was one of my favorites. We studied animals, embodied them and made them more human until we found characters that way. It sounds strange, but it’s a BLAST! At times I still use the skills I learned there.
The American Academy of Dramatic Arts was a completely different experience, not comparable to Oxford but priceless nonetheless. A teacher of mine used to say that she watched me grow from a little girl into a young lady during the three years of my studies.
(Laughs) She was a sweetheart. I feel like I had an idea of what I was doing but at the Academy I cemented ideas into knowledge and skills and I especially figured out what works for me personally. It sort of felt like going to university, but being able to play, not just write essays. It felt more freeing than Oxford. (Thinking) That’s what it did. It freed me up. I had the possibilities to find out what triggered me, and what made me tick as a human being and therefore as an actor. Individuality is huge. There isn’t one method that works for all actors. I had to crack the shell to see inside of me and allow myself to be vulnerable, you know. But every day is a learning experience, we never stop exploring or learning new things about ourselves and the world. In my last year I was cast in four plays with their theater company and it was a blessing to be submerged in my studies, and surrounded by so many wonderful directors, who I still talk to. I can still hear their voices in my head sometimes “Say what you mean and mean what you say!”, Thank you Betty (Laughs). In that time I really grew as an actor and I simply grew up without losing the child within me. I also found a few good friends that I still keep close to this day.
HOW WAS YOUR EXPERIENCE WORKING ON THE FILM HOMMAGE À L’AMOUR AND ITS SUCCESS AT FESTIVALS?
Wow, I remember going to the audition with a french accent, the character was supposed to be French, and I pretty much fooled the director of the movie until he tried to speak French to me. (Laughs) That’s one of the languages I don’t speak yet. We had a ball, in the end he liked me so much that he gave me a shot to play another character in the movie. I would describe the work we did as detailed, passionate, delicate like porcelain and honest. Anthony, the director, was very clear about what kind of film he wanted to make. I loved it, it reminded me of European films back in the day. Our crew was on it, and all the actors were just playing. I was a little nervous my first day on set, but they all made me feel at ease and we approached the scenes from a very real moment before. We were just talking, you could barely tell our improv from the scene apart, which is what you ideally want to happen. The beach scene was shot some night in September I believe, it was extremely cold and we had to swim in the ocean in the moonshine, yes it sounds extremely romantic, and it looks beautiful in the movie, but we were freezing our butts off. (Laughs) We made it through, everybody was just so in sync with each other that we got the shots we needed and got out of there. The film is a tribute to love, with all the ups and downs all humans experience when our hearts belong to someone. The making of it mirrors the cast and crews love of filmmaking. I think it’s beautiful because of the imperfections in it. Also we won Best Feature Film at the Cate Festival which was a joy to experience all our efforts finally bearing fruit.
CAN YOU DISCUSS YOUR ROLE IN LOVE IS NOT LOVE AND ITS IMPACT ON THE FESTIVAL CIRCUIT?
Love is not Love is a very interesting film. Very unique, I have never seen anything like it. My character was actually speaking Czech in the movie, which worked great, because I’m fluent in Czech. The actress opposite me was speaking in another language to me but for some reason we understood each other just fine, it was a very unusual and bizarre moment. Oh, everything is subtitled as well, so everyone will understand. The director wanted it to be a very diverse project filled with different accents and languages to show people from across the world struggling with the same thing: Love. And it did very well in the festival circuit, it screened in 22 countries at around a hundred festivals, winning 126 awards across all categories, worldwide. It was pretty wild. It’s also streaming on Apple TV if you want to give it a whirl. (Laughs)
TELL US MORE ABOUT YOUR RECENT NOMINATION FOR THE BROADWAY WORLD LOS ANGELES AWARDS FOR YOUR ROLE IN TRY NOT TO THINK ABOUT IT, ALICE CHILDRESS.
First of all, let me tell you it was quite a ride. (laughs) The three nominations came as a complete surprise! But I’m really grateful for the recognition we received. Fingers crossed we win! (Laughs) I love working with the director and writer Chris Haas, he’s also a dear friend of mine at this point. His material is always something I can dig my teeth into, on the surface it might not seem like much, just witty chit chat and absurdity, but there is always a deeper meaning behind all his characters and stories. Him and his team know what’s up. They had a clear idea of what they wanted this ensemble play to look like. Chaotic, hilarious and absolutely absurd. We shot a teaser to promote the show which got more than 2000 views on YouTube, we thought we’re off to a good start. This play is truly an ensemble piece, so it wouldn’t have worked if one character was missing. My character was an interesting one to crack. It’s sort of difficult to talk about for me, because I’m not 100% sure how I got there, but I really tried to just be fully me, with all my quirks and weird behaviors. It had multiple moments that I never thought I would ever do on stage, but I just didn’t try to judge anything. (Thinks) I was in a difficult personal situation at the beginning of rehearsals, one of my low points, but I can really say it helped me get out of it by diving deep into the world of this play and channel my insecurities and inner struggles through it. The whole cast worked together to make the play what it ended up to be. We were sold out a lot. (Laughs)
HOW DO YOU APPROACH CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT AND PREPARATION FOR A ROLE?
It really depends from project to project. I like getting solid on the lines but not too solid, so I still have wiggle room to explore in rehearsals or read throughs. I usually do weird accents or something funny to not get stuck in a rut with the lines, so to say. And then I just do my “homework. Research, any information on the time period the project takes place in, etc., of course also I find other little things that just make something my own, but it happens pretty organically, I stop myself from pushing or making something happen, instead I do my best to just relax and let it happen. But prep is always extremely different. Music used to help me a lot for preparation, it seems to put me in an open headspace for exploration. But at the end I always gotta remind myself to throw it all out the window and what sticks in the end, sticks. “Trust your instincts. Forget the lines. Throw it all out.” My boyfriend is good at reminding me of that too (laughs).
IN YOUR OPINION, WHAT ROLE DO YOU BELIEVE ARTISTS AND ENTERTAINERS HAVE IN PROMOTING DIVERSITY AND REPRESENTATION IN THE INDUSTRY?
I believe everybody should have an opinion, first of all. If you’re given an opportunity to be in some kind of spotlight where your opinion may or may not alter audiences opinions then you should be very careful about expressing your own opinions about what you think. If you have a big name it’s easy to alter the opinions of fans without giving them a chance to express and form their own. I believe diversity and representation is of huge importance in our industry. It’s nice seeing kids nowadays grow up with Disney characters that look and talk like them, I think that is something very special. I would say though, producers and casting directors have the last word about who gets cast, it’s on them to keep the casting relevant to the world’s climate.
ANY CHALLENGES YOU’VE FACED IN YOUR CAREER AND HOW YOU OVERCAME THEM?
There are always challenges. (Sighs) I think I stumble over something every day, I’m human and actually the more I allow myself to be imperfect, the more I can allow my characters to be fully human, with inner thoughts, struggles, good moments, bad moments. Even when it’s extremely oxymoronic for people to open up, usually they close themselves off. Actors have to be open in order to be able to choose whether in that moment they decide to close off. I really try to open myself and be fully vulnerable to allow myself to come through. It’s not easy and it requires a lot of relaxation, especially during self tapes. Whenever I record self tapes with my boyfriend Joe I feel extremely comfortable taping, he really gets me to come through, because we really just try to talk to each other. Joe was a finalist at the Actor’s Studio and he’s always looking for real moments and truth, he inspires me in a lot of ways. I also love taping with 1805 Tapes, my friend Louie’s self tape company, his set up is just stunning. We had a talk about anxieties the other day, because I was blocked, doing too much and couldn’t relax and he is really good about just talking to you and grounding everything. To sum it up, I do struggle with tension and relaxation, but I usually get to where I want to be.
CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT A PARTICULARLY MEMORABLE MOMENT OR PROJECT FROM YOUR CAREER SO FAR?
Honestly I gotta think about this for a second. (Thinks for a moment) A pretty memorable one was when we were shooting Hommage and we were at the beach at night shooting a romantic scene in Santa Monica. As I mentioned before we were freezing, and I lost a ring to the ocean but it was everything I dreamed of. There are many moments on stage when my castmates are totally locked in and we are able to throw it all out the window and just play and live our character’s lives. It’s an exhilarating experience when that happens. I’m very grateful for moments like that.
ANY UPCOMING PROJECTS YOU’RE WORKING ON?
I am cast in an upcoming one act play, written by Chris Haas, called You Want It Darker. I can’t disclose the location just yet, but I can say this much: It takes place in a brewery, the play is very bizarre and darkly funny and my character is a neurotic nutcase, or simply put a woman in a situation. (Laughs) She’s also very in love, but not in the generic romantic way, she’s got some grit to her, you know what I mean. It should be interesting. I will have updates where you can see it on my Socials and my website.
WHERE CAN OUR READERS FIND YOU ONLINE?
You can follow my journey on my Instagram @celine.rosalie
I also have my website where you can find updates, as well as my IMDb. You can also check out the teaser for Try Not To Think About It Alice Childress on YouTube. Sadly we don’t have anymore performances, but you can stay updated on the next play I’m cast in. Thank you!
Try Not To Think About It Alice Childress Teaser: www.youtube.com/watch?v=UeXo7XaBJkU