Kadia Saraf Talks Acting Tips and Staying Motivated
Working in the entertainment industry with constant set-backs can often get weary and play havoc on self-esteem. We sat down with seasoned actress Kadia Saraf to learn about her method behind staying positive and how the smallest of roles can make a big impact on a career.
HELLO KADIA SARAF, WELCOME TO ABOUT INSIDER! AS A BUSY ACTOR, CAN YOU RUN THROUGH YOUR TYPICAL DAY?
I’m an early riser! I get up at 5am to do my meditation and prayers with a cup of coffee. I find that the time before sunrise is best time to center myself and set intentions. At 6am I head out to the gym and at around 7:30am I’m back home and get started with my day. Depending on the day, I either work on set, have auditions, writing deadlines, dialect class or an ASL lesson. My husband and my oldest son are actors as well so I’m either taping with them or I’m in front of the camera. As you can imagine, I go to bed pretty early. No two days are alike, my morning routine is the only constant.
WHAT KIND OF PROJECTS ARE YOU DRAWN TO?
Anything with Pedro Pascal! Joking. Maybe I’m not. Projects with good writing, compelling characters, and storylines that mean and move something in the world.
WHAT GENRE DO YOU LEAN TOWARDS?
Nowadays good material is strewn across all genres. If I ever had any aversion to a genre, it’s no longer the case. If the writing’s good, I’m in. I mean, look at what Jordan Peele did with the horror genre. I never thought I’d be drawn to horror until he came along with his brilliance. Quality is quality.
WHAT DO YOU DO TO PREPARE FOR A ROLE?
First of all I find out everything I can about the project and the filmmakers involved. I like to see the big picture. If it’s based on a book, I’d typically read it if I have time. With a character based on a real person, I’ll do a deep dive into who they are and their astrology natal chart. Then comes the script. I read it over and over and over. Every time I do a read-through I discover something new about my character. I trust my intuition. I look at what she does when she’s alone, when around others and what other characters say about her. What’s her motivation? What’s her heart of darkness? And what’s her secret? I love giving my character a secret, which I find gives them a little twinkle. I like that. I’m a Scorpio.
WHEN YOU RECEIVE AN AUDITION, WHAT DO YOU DO TO PREPARE?
If the full script is available, I’ll read it in order to get the full context of the audition scenes. I get off-book as soon as possible so I can have freedom to be in the moment when I’m filming. I’ve come to learn that the outfit, hair and makeup inform who the character is real quick. Dress the part, they say! It’s so much fun! Nowadays we self-tape at home so I get to read and play with my husband which adds more fun to the process. Depending on the role I’ll work on it with my acting coach, Ted Sluberski.
DO YOU DO ANYTHING SPECIAL TO GET INTO CHARACTER? IS THERE A SPECIFIC PROCESS?
I’m a trained method actor and I do find it to be powerful and truthful. But when you work in TV there’s rarely time to do sense memory and an extensive warm-up. So, I do a mixture of things. I relate my character to my life so what she says is essentially truthful to me. Also, I find that the clothes, hair and make-up and any physical choices I make can help inform who the character is. At this point, it’s instinctual.
HOW DO YOU OVERCOME PERFORMANCE NERVES?
This is a very important question. Especially since I’ve grappled with it for years. I’ve had debilitating anxiety. It’s a gatekeeper that has protected me from when I was a young child to a parent with a drug addiction. The fight, flight or freeze modes served me back then and now my body remembers it and sends a message to my brain that I’m in danger. It’s a cycle that I had to break because I am no longer in danger. It took a massive panic attack for me to finally address it. It happened on set of SVU. We were setting up a new scene and Mariska came up to me and praised me for the work I did in the scenes the day before. You are probably scratching your head. Why would praise trigger a panic attack? Praise and criticism are two sides of the same coin of validation. On that day I was praised for work I didn’t feel was all that great, so that made me doubt my ability to assess my own work and I put a lot of pressure on myself. I wasn’t centered. I wasn’t secure in myself. So, I took that praise and turned it into self-criticism. When I say massive panic attack, I mean that I thought I was going to die. Nobody really noticed because I kept it together. But I did mess up my lines and thought “That’s it. I’m done for good.” I went home and went into a shame spiral, and I was convinced that nobody would hire me again. I was wrong. As scary as it was, it was actually a blessing. It prompted me to really understand where it came from, and I was able to break the cycle and heal the part of me who was terrified of not being perfect. The part of me that thought that if I failed in some way, I wouldn’t be accepted. I had this false belief that I needed to perfect all the time. And goodness, it’s so far from the truth. I read a book called “Living Untethered” by Michael Alan Singer. He says “anxiety” is excitement that is trying to leave the body. And when we don’t release it or acknowledge it, it remains in the body and the brain thinks we are in trouble. I now tell myself “Ok, I am excited, this is normal. I am always fine, and I’m not going to actually die from this feeling”. I think it’s important to talk more about this because we live in anxious times.
IF YOU COULD CHOOSE ONE ROLE TO PLAY, PAST OR FUTURE, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
My great grandmother Shoshana. I’m developing a limited series about how she and her children had to escape the persecution of the Yemenite Jews in the 1930’s.
WHAT ACTORS INSPIRE YOU?
Goodness… how much time do you have? Frances McDormand! Her presence on screen is magnetic. Aside from her obvious talent, I think her confidence and ability to stay true to herself in this business are admirable.
BEST OR MOST MEMORABLE SHOWBIZ MOMENT SO FAR?
My first day on set on my first gig as a professional actor. It was on the network show “Blindspot”. I played a hostage who’s actually a terrorist (sorry about the spoiler) and I had an intense interrogation scene with the actor Sullivan Stapleton directed by Mark Pellington. Everyone was setting up and getting into position, camera A and B were set up on dollies and suddenly everything seemed to go into slow motion. I remember looking around and taking it all in and thinking “THIS is what I have dreamed of my entire life. This very moment!” It was magical. I don’t remember the takes because I was so deep in character, but I do remember the feeling. After calling “cut”, Mark came up to me and said, “That was fucking amazing!” Definitely nice to hear but it really didn’t help with my validation thing. Haha.
Kadia Saraf Acting Reel
TELL US SOMETHING PEOPLE WOULD BE SURPRISED TO KNOW ABOUT YOU?
I’d say the fact that I am always learning or studying something. I’m either enrolled in a class, learning a new language, or reading. I’m a Gemini Moon so I best navigate the world by learning new things.
WHAT IS ONE MOTTO YOU LIVE BY?
The Serenity Prayer. Give me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, which is everything outside of myself, courage to change the things I can, which is myself and the wisdom to know the difference.
HOW DO YOU STAY MOTIVATED IN YOUR LINE OF WORK – AUDITION AFTER AUDITION?
Oooh that’s a great question! As actors we do a lot of waiting, whether on set between setups or between jobs. The doubtful voices in my head can get very loud during those times. Having a spiritual practice is essential for me. I study Kabbalah, an ancient spiritual wisdom. One of its principles is that there are no coincidences. There’s an order and reason for everything and what we perceive with our senses is not all that exists. In fact, it’s very much limited. Just knowing that there’s a bigger picture helps me to have more certainty.
WHAT’S ONE PIECE OF ADVICE SOMEONE HAS GIVEN YOU THAT YOU LIVE BY?
My dad always says to me, “There are 8 billion people in the world, do you really want to try and change everyone?” Which brings me back to the serenity prayer. Focus on what YOU can change, let the rest go.
ARE YOU ACTIVE ON SOCIAL MEDIA?
I’m mainly on Instagram @kadiasaraf