When it comes to young Hollywood, new talent breezes in and out of the spotlight as quickly as the weekly tabloids change headlines. But every now and then, a star with staying power comes along. Judging from the upward trajectory of up-and-comer Camille Mana's career
, this actress is worth keeping an eye on.
Currently in New York as part of the cast for the off-Broadway play, Asuncion
, this L.A. girl is making her mark on the stage alongside Oscar-nominated actor Jesse Eisenberg (who also wrote the play), Remy Auberjonois and Justin Bartha.
Mana is also lighting up the silver screen in Norman
, a hit during last year’s international film festival season and currently in select theatres across North America. Mana is a standout in this dark comedy about a troubled teen (Dan Byrd of Easy A
) who gets strangled in a deep web of lies. (FYI: the original soundtrack/score by Andrew Bird is worth a visit to iTunes!)
With a knack for sniffing out (not to mention landing) interesting roles characterized by comedic quirks, the actress’s taste for the unusual is the impetus behind her rise to stardom. "You're encouraged to be weird in comedy, rather than pretty. I'll choose weird over pretty…any day."
Recently extended until Dec. 18, Asuncion
is Mana's life for the next few weeks. She talked to Hardly
in between rehearsals about what it takes to become successful in Hollywood, what it means to her to represent the Asian community on screen, and life out of the spotlight.
When did you know you wanted to be an actor?
I think I was 10 when I saw Phantom of the Opera
onstage and it lit me up like a Christmas tree. I tinkered around reading the local Classifieds to suss out the prospect of acting. I think that was a small seed. It was at 13 that I got serious and upped my game to actual acting craft manuals and industry trade papers. I told my parents that I wanted to pursue it, and they may as well have locked me in the basement for being a loon. Ha, they were so not into the idea. I mean, what parents are?
Once you won over your parents and started acting, what launched your career?
I'm still waiting for that moment to happen. Kidding…Well, I'd say it is sort of a steady thing, building an acting career. Financially stability for me came with One on One
. I was so fortunate to be cast as a regular on a TV show that had already had four steady seasons on air, and for it to be syndicated. That kind of paved the way for me to be considered for roles in feature films, and soon after that I landed roles in two feature films Smart People
, so in an instant I went from TV actress to film actress.
And then that was it?
I don't think success can ever feel definitive in this business, because the sky is the limit. I think in a way, acting careers are cyclical rather than linear. It's two steps forward, one step back. You think you've found your next big move, and then it doesn't quite pan out the way you had envisaged. Just like life. I'm just trying to stay in the moment. There is plenty to celebrate along the journey.
Like you said, you’ve done your share of TV, as well as film, and now you’re onstage. Do you prefer films or performing in front of a live audience?
I'm grateful that I get to enjoy both! It's been a while since I've done a play, so I am relishing the challenge and the adrenaline that comes with it. Acting is so much more respected on stage in New York than it is in the commercial realm of Hollywood, so I'm getting to appreciate playing with the big boys, so to speak. I'm sure that I'll be happy to get back to the grind of TV and film auditions soon enough... It's all flying by so quickly.
Let’s talk about Asuncion. What’s your character’s story?
I play a young woman named Asuncion who has just emigrated from the Philippines and moves into Edgar (Eisenberg) and Vinny's (Bartha) New York apartment. It's sort of an isolated den of intellectualism and a microcosm of two young men who have read everything about the world. And in comes Asuncion, who is of the world. Initially, we as the audience — along with the two boys — have many preconceived notions of who this woman might be, and ultimately I think their ideologies are challenged. The play explores knowledge vs. experience, and how even the most educated among us can still harbor latent prejudices and misconceptions.