Interview with Heather Fusari

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Heather Fusari grew up in a large family and every summer her uncle and cousin would come down to visit. So one of the early years they had this great idea to put on what one may consider a ‘Talent Show.’ And in doing that, Heather fell in love with writing sketches and new material and then performing them in front of her family. However, time passed and it wasn’t until she was in her senior year of high school for the history fair that she realized she’s meant to act.

For the fair they were given options, one of them was a performance piece. Mind you, Heather Fusari hadn’t performed since she was little and never in front of all of her peers, but she definitely didn’t want to do a poster, that would be too boring. So Heather researched, wrote and performed a ‘One-Woman’ piece addressing the McCarthy Era. And she loved it, She was terrified, but the energy she felt on stage was like nothing Heather felt before. So the journey began.

indieactivity: Did you study acting?
Heather: Oh yes! When I knew that I wanted to be an actor, I educated myself, reading every book, play and script I could get my hands on. I watched films that challenged my way of thinking, I studied actors whom I enjoyed their work, researched what they studied, and the first school I attended was Rose Bruford College, in London, England. I chose that school because Gary Oldman had studied there, he was and still is one of my favorite actors.

After attending Rose Bruford I went back to Florida for just long enough to save up money, working two jobs, to move myself up to NYC to study Sanford Meisner’s technique at the Neighborhood Playhouse. His technique really stripped a lot of my bad habits, it forced me to LISTEN, to take in the other person in a far deeper manner than just their words. It also gave me more freedom to use my imagination, rather than try to dig up my feelings from, say when ‘my grandma died.’

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Heather Fusari in Her Calling (2017)

After studying there I was working on stage, but I continued to, as I do to this day, keep honing in on my craft, constantly looking to make myself stronger as an actor. So I found a Tim Phillips, whom I still study with and helps me out tremendously. Tim helped me become so crystal clear and specific with my craft, which has helped me tremendously with my close-ups. It’s such a great thing to hear a director on set say to the cinematographer, I want to get a close-up, when you know he never got a close up of the other actor, that’s when I know my work is specific. Tim also instilled in me to TRUST myself, trust that all my hard work is there without a shadow of a doubt.

indieactivity: What acting technique do you use?
Heather: Mainly: Meisner Technique, and tools from Tim Phillips. Yet, I have studied many techniques throughout my acting career, taking bits and pieces from each one. Another technique I use more for instrumental work is Eric Morris’.

indieactivity: Do you take courses to improve your craft?
Heather: I love learning, so yes, I will take classes to learn just about anything. However, I don’t necessarily like ‘intensives’ or quick little workshops because I feel like the majority of people just want a quick fix. They want the instant gratification in a profession which evolves throughout your entire life.

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Heather Fusari in Her Calling (2017)

indieactivity: What acting books do you read?
Heather: ‘Audition for your Career, Not the Job.’ By Tim Phillips, ‘Intent to Live’ by Larry Moss, ‘Sanford Meisner on Acting’ by Meisner, ‘Being and Doing: a workbook for actors’ by Eric Morris, and ‘How to avoid the Cutting Room Floor’ by Jordan Goldman

indieactivity: How do you keep fit as an actor?
Heather: Physically: Running, yoga, hiking, canoeing, basically, anything outdoors.

Mentally: I feed my mind with great books, challenging material. I will watch shows that make me think, like ‘Black Mirror,’ ‘Wolf Hall,’ ‘The Affair.’ Shows that people may not like because the tempo tends to be slower. However, when the story is interesting and the actors are truthfully in that world, I could watch them for 10-15 minutes without one word being spoken. To me, it’s about being completely present when I’m watching, rather than just having something on in the background.

indieactivity: How do you prepare for a role, when you get it?
Heather: I like knowing who I’m working with, if it’s a director or writer who have a particular style, what is it. What’s the tonality of the piece? I’ll read the script several times, asking several questions aloud as I go, to see what the writers trying to tell me about my character, the other people and circumstances she encounters, and so on. And then I get to work on crafting her.

Coming from a theatre background, I wish I had rehearsal, but far more often I’ll get a script, do the work at home and show up on set being ready to roll with the punches… which is a lot more fun than some people try to make you believe. Show up prepared and ready to play, and you’re going to have so much fun!!

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indieactivity: How do you create a character from a script into a person?
Heather: It all depends on the role, world, etc. If it’s a character, like the role I just played in my latest film, Blood Country. It was set just after the Civil War, I researched and read everything I could get my hands on including the Ken Burns’ Civil War documentary, which I recommend everyone watch. I get a better understanding of the story and her purpose in this world. Then I begin to craft, first with the physicality, I work on the way she moves. Some of my favorite ways of finding her movement and energy is to find the essence of animals, inanimate objects, and even random people I see out in public while I’m people watching. Then I move onto craft the other aspects of my character from there.

indieactivity: How do you stay fresh on a production set?
Heather: My teacher, Tim Phillips always says, ‘you don’t have to act if you know who the Bitch is.’ We in life don’t feel exhausted when we’re driving through traffic and yell at a dozen people for doing something stupid, we may get exhausted at other things, but knowing, specifically, who that other person is to me, knowing exactly how I feel about them, I could do that all day long and not feel tired. I think actors feel tired when there’s a forgery involved, or uncertainty. But having that specificity breathes freedom into my work that I never experienced before working with Tim and his tools.

indieactivity: Describe a memorable character you played?
Heather: Oh goodness gracious. I loved playing the role of Tilda in the play ‘Echoes,’ by N. Richard Nash. She was so much fun to play. On stage, she and the other character, Sam, are in an asylum going back and forth between reality and illusion. I found so much freedom and vulnerability in her spontaneity and the connection she had with not only the other character, but of the worlds they were creating. I felt so alive every night after performing, even though the play was a rollercoaster of emotions.

indieactivity: Explain one creative choice you took on set?
Heather: One, eh? I’m going to go back to the theatre for this one, while doing Rabbit Hole the director was brilliant enough to give the other actor and I the freedom to explore our characters. Yet one day in rehearsal he gave me a different direction that I hadn’t even thought of, it was an action during this one pivotal scene of the play. Just that One change of movement colored that moment far greater than I had found before. It was beautiful and unexpected.

indieactivity: What do you want most from a director?
Heather: I love directors! I love working with a director who sees the whole picture, but can still be so present with me in the world that we’re creating, and direct me in really fine-tuning each moment. I absolutely love directors who allow me to bring for the first take or two what I’ve crafted, and then gives me adjustments to play around with, it’s my haven!!! I love being challenged!!

indieactivity: What actors do you long to work with?
Heather: Marion Cotillard

indieactivity: Why?
Heather: Marion’s work is so beautifully raw and connected. Anything she does I’m drawn to watching. She is an actress of our time who is truly a passionate artist.

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On set ‘Ladies Room’

indieactivity: What advice would you give to actors?
Heather: Do it. Throw yourself into the creative world. Learn as much as you can, not only in your field, but in everything that makes a film or theatre work. Never stop growing, keep your curiosity alive, ask questions when you don’t know. I’ve followed my passion through many doubts, not only my own, but from some of the closest people to me.; don’t listen to nah -ayers. Keep following YOUR heart, and take risks.

indieactivity: Briefly write about your career?
Heather: I have been fortunate enough to begin my career on the stage because I really built my foundation through the process of rehearsals, and experimenting with different choices and living in the character’s world through the entire performance. There are no cuts, or redo’s, you make a mistake, you have to figure out a way around it.

I’ve done plays on stages in London, NYC, Los Angeles and Atlanta. I’ve worked with incredible filmmakers who are passionate about storytelling. I’ve been blessed to travel to new places I may never have been for acting, meeting new people almost each time. And now, I have started my own production company, Badb Films. I’ve already done two films this year, I wrote, produced and starred in one of those films taken place during the Civil War. I’ve fallen in love with the writing side of the film industry so I’m constantly working and creating new projects that I’m passionate about doing. Follow Heather Fusari on the links below.

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