Interview with Kristin Cochell

I majored in Theatre and Film at USC. I studied several different methods on my own after that.

Kristin Cochell_indieactivity

I started my career when I was 15, attending Stagedoor Manor, a theatre immersion camp known for training young artists such as Natalie Portman and Robert Downey Jr, in the Catskills, New York. It was there that I played my first role ‘Helen’ in Playing for Time. After the curtain closed on the first night, my heart was pumping with adrenaline and I, just like so many others, developed an obsession with theatre and film. After I returned to Houston, I started in film doing commercial work until I went off to college at University of Southern California, majoring in Theatre. This is where I discovered Method Acting, from that moment my life was transformed into methods, searching for reasons why a person moves and discovering intentions. My goal was creating the dynamic, breathing character that blows an audience away, blows ME away. When I returned home to Houston, I did what most broke, fresh out of college kids did. I got a full time job with no time to audition so I could afford a place to sleep and food to eat. After 3 years in a corporate world, sitting in a desk job, I was extremely unhappy so I said, “It’s now or Never” and quit my job and started teaching acting classes at a local agency in Houston where my passion was renewed. I can’t explain what happened next. It was an attitude I developed about auditioning that started booking me role after role. The mentality I had towards auditioning was that it never mattered if I booked a role, it only mattered that I did my best to portray an effective character. After working on several projects the last few months and several more to come, it’s still very clear after 12 years that creating characters and the art of performance is where I find my niche.

Did you study acting
I majored in Theatre and Film at University of Southern California from 2006-2009. I studied several different methods on my own after that. I soaked up everything I could get my hands on, books, videos and training in the Bachelor of Arts program at USC had a lot to do with giving me the correct materials that would ultimately jump start my career. Although, none of it is useful without experience and talent by itself is never enough. An actor is selling a business. That business is the actor himself. Acting is not simply reacting. It’s how you break down your characters intentions, their mannerisms, how they speak, sit and stand that all needs to be considered in order for an audience member to not simply state, “She’s a good actress” but instead, “She gave an amazing performance.” The goal is to transport your audience into your world. You’re leading them on a journey and you have to be present in those moments and believe you are there or else no one else will. While a lot of my studying happened when I was younger, it doesn’t mean my learning is over. I continue to research, buy books and learn from other actors, mentors, and friends. Ultimately the goal is to create your own method of performance.

What acting technique do you use
I studied several methods, among which are the Stanislavski System, Meisner Method, Strasberg Method and Stella Adler Method. I spent some time learning the Alexander Technique and currently I’m learning the Chubbuck Method by Ivana Chubbuck. I don’t study one single method and practice that method in particular, I take from every single method and create my own that works best for me. I don’t use Sense Memory as a technique, unless it’s for a very emotional scene. I believe the imagination is the most powerful asset we have. For instance, if you believe the character in front of you is the person they’re meant to be in the script to you, sense memory is not necessary. For the majority of the time, Meisner is my go to method when I’m not sure where to start breaking down a character.

Kristin Cochell_indieactivityWhat wrong impressions do actors hold about acting
I’ve heard a lot about Method acting having a bad reputation, but it’s mostly from people who have never studied method acting. All forms of acting are appreciated. There is not just one single form of method acting, you cannot be “method,” what you can be is well trained in a method of learning your craft. It’s the means by which you approach acting. It is not that my character lives in a car so I’m going to live in a car for three months for my role. That is not method acting. That is one method of approaching acting. Acting is a relaxed, natural and fluid way of being on camera seeing the world in the perspective the character would see it. To understand your character, you have to have a very grounded and complete understanding of yourself.

Do you take courses to improve your craft
I don’t take courses to improve my craft anymore to stay fresh. A lot of my learning comes from reading new books on different approaches to acting, auditioning, practicing daily, finding mentors, and the real challenge to learning in this industry is gaining as much experience as possible. Some of the best moments when I learned something I’ll never forget is when I’ve been on set or collaborating with other actors.

What acting books do you read
A classic for new film actors out there I would have to say is Michael Cains, ‘Acting in Film,’ Larry Silverbergs ‘The Meisner Approach’ Tony Barr’s ‘Acting for the Camera’ and currently I’m reading Ivana Chubbucks, ‘The Power of the Actor.’

How do you keep fit as an actor
I think both mental and physical strength follow after nutrition. If I treat my body well, I have much more energy. Dieting is not always easy in this day and age so to compensate for any malnourishing foods I consume, I have a daily regimen of working out first thing in the morning before I put anything into my body. With decent nutrition and physical exertion, the mental bit is that I don’t stop learning new things. The more I learn, the more my mentality changes and grows.

Kristin Cochell_indieactivityWhen you are offered a role, what is the next thing you do
I read the script and break it down, as well as break down my character before I start memorizing my lines. Sometimes I get the opportunity to rehearse with my costars and other times I don’t. Either way, I’m looking at the script every night before bed until production starts. It might be figuring out a mannerism on one day or finding my intention for a scene on another. I don’t stop developing my character until I’m on set.

How do you lift a character from the pages of a script into a living breathing human
A lot of what I do is done in my preparation. When I look at a script, the way I read through it the first time over is the way I start with my approach to the character. Every character has an Objective, Obstacle and Method of achieving their goal, so what is mine for my character? From then, I start off with using facts. I make a list of my characters facts and then see the world through those facts. Next, finding intention, why would I say that? What do I want? Then ultimately and most importantly, I’ll focus on my relationships with other people and the things around me.

How do you stay fresh on a production set
Sometimes it’s impossible to stay in character without a means of escape. There should always be room to socialize sometimes, but other times shooting happens very quickly and there’s nothing you can do to hold your character in the same place as you planned. The best way to cope with this for me is doing Improv on set in my character. In other words, walk around telling fabulous stories that aren’t true to unsuspecting crew members., do things my character would do. They love it.

Explain a creative choice you took on set
The director in ‘Rat Trap’ gave me a lot of free reign with this short. I was able to be as cruel as I needed to be. He told me simply to taunt a victim before I killed him. I was able to take it to a whole new level with actions. What I was doing before the taunting and during the taunting was what made my character beautiful for this one. More to come, hasn’t been released yet.

Kristin Cochell_indieactivityDescribe a memorable character you have played
I was in a supporting role, an episodic where I played an Elf/Alien priestess in a series called ‘Havoc’: Logical Consequences. (2015) The reason it was so memorable was because I got to work with a blue screen/box for the first time as well as I was wearing prosthetics and elf ears the entire day. It was honestly a dream come true for me that day since I’m obsessed with Sci-fi.

What do you want most from a director
Action. Give me some actions to let me know what kind of person my character is. If they are OCD, it’s not enough to say they are OCD. Tell me how they manifest their OCD. If they pick up something or put it down. Humans are always doing something, we are always busy. How can I keep my character busy doing something?

What actor do you want to work with
Right now, there are two Indie Sci-fi Actors out of Kentucky that have caught my eye. John Wells and Sabrina Scott.

Both of these actors I have been cast to work with on an Indie feature in Colorado next year. I’ve seen their work and follow their work weekly. Both, I respect immensely for their talent, dedication and insight.

How would you advise actors around the world
Relax, NEVER give up and never stop working on your craft. Never fixate on booking a role, that’s the moment when it becomes work. Acting is natural, impulsive. Always focus on your character and doing your character the most justice that you can. How does your character see the world? Live through your character and it is no longer acting, it is simply being.

Briefly write about your career
The most recent productions I’ve done that I’m extremely proud of are The Quantum Terror where I play a heroin in a lovecraftian inspired story written/directed by Christopher Moonlight. It involves tentacles, terror and quantum physics. In the last month I’ve done two shorts that are of note. The ‘Rat Trap’ by Manny Moreno and ‘Kinky Eggs’ by Gary Chason. I’m currently working on a feature film, ‘SOLUS’ by Espinoza Pictures where I play a very vindictive evil woman named BEL, donned the “Goddess of Lust” and the Devils right hand woman. The way these characters have transformed my career is I’ve learned what projects I want to be a part of and what characters I want to bring to life. I wouldn’t be content being an average girl next door type, give me a sci-fi character or villain role and I’ll be over the moon with excitement and ideas.

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