Setting yourself apart in the highly competitive business of acting is no small feat, as any actor will tell you. Getting the opportunity to be chosen to audition for a casting director is a privilege. Heather Marsden knew when she came to LA from Detroit, that she would face an uphill battle. Surprisingly, her determination, passion, desire, love of the arts and perseverance paid off. She soon started landing recurring and guest-starring roles in TV, as well as starring in many Indie films, where the diversity of roles gave her the freedom to stretch her acting ability.
We caught up with this busy actress who recently returned from NY where she reprised her role as the drugged out daughter of the President in "The Beastly Bombing," to give us some insight into what drives her and her plan to make her mark on Hollywood
LA’s the Place: Heather, you seem to have a lot going on in your career. You have "Crash N Burn" which will be released in November, "Under the Knife" in post-production and "American Summer" which comes out in theatres in February. In addition, you were nominated as Best Actress for the short ‘Blinders’ in the Hollywood DV Festival, as well as "The Beastly Bombing" which won Best Musical of the Year at the LA Weekly Awards, in which you are the lead female. But I would like to know, how did you achieve this coming from a small town, Utica, outside of Detroit, to make this leap to Hollywood?
Heather Marie Marsden: Well, it definitely didn’t happen all in one day! I had a dream, and I was absolutely determined to live my life doing what I always dreamed I would do. I remember literally looking through the Detroit Classifieds for work as an actor. I knew it was a job, and isn’t that where you look for a job? Obviously, there was nothing there (although they seemed to need a lot of *ahem* "dancers" downtown) and it was then that I realized, "’Tis time for me to go". So, I went.
LATP: What were some of the challenges that you faced as a new actress in Hollywood with no experience, trying to acquire representation?
HMM: Fortunately, when I moved to Hollywood, I had a National Tour of Sweet Charity, and some other theatre under my belt. My NY agent referred me to my LA agent. However, as most new actors in L.A. experience, getting that elusive SAG card was a doozy. You have to work in film or TV to get it, but you can’t work in film or TV unless you have it. It is a very frustrating loop. But, with blissful naiveté, insane stick-to-it-ness and dedication to make every audition a priority, including getting to a lot of them on the same 10-speed bike my Mom had given me for my 15th birthday, I eventually booked a guest star role on a TV show and got my card. Bottom line, keep the faith, and keep on truckin’. Or peddlin’.
LATP: You have obviously done quite a lot of work, to name a few, "Charmed" "Suddenly Susan," "Drake & Josh," among several others. How do you prepare for these roles to set yourself apart to stand out as an actress?
HMM: I don’t deliberately try to set myself apart. I think that would seem false. Fortunately, as people, we’re all so different, that none of us are going to say the same line the same way, anyways. For me, I need to fall in love with what I’m doing. When I’m working on a script, I usually fall in love with the character I’m developing, and therefore, end up handing myself over to it. On the downside of that theory, every time I don’t get a role, it’s like going through a bad breakup!
LATP: Most actors would be scared to do a live stage show, because they know with film they can redo their scenes and with editing they can look brilliant. Here you are as the female lead in "The Beastly Bombing," a stage show, which won Musical of the Year at the LAWeekly Awards, and is nominated for an Ovation Award for Best Musical, as well as being sold out in New York. How do you make that transition from Film to Stage and which one do you prefer?
HMM: That’s a tough question. It’s like trying to separate the peanut butter from the chocolate. My goal with my acting is to be the most complete artist I can be. I feel very fortunate to be able to work in all theatrical mediums, and I believe they actually feed each other. Maybe it’s because I started in the theatre, but theatre definitely feels like home. There’s just something so delicious about treading the boards with the feeling in your stomach that you’re flying without a net…. I love it. With stage, you also have the opportunity to go back each night and tweak your performance or try something new. And I love the immediate human connection between actor and audience. You can really feel it up there. With film, the work is done in more of a bubble, and when your work is done, it is done. That brilliant new idea that you have in the car on the way home from set doesn’t always get a chance to be explored, and you certainly have no idea how the film is going to turn out until the end. However, filmmaking is more prone to happy accidents. In one of my films, we were setting up to shoot a spiteful, argumentative scene in a really tiny room in a bar. The camera wouldn’t fit through the door, so, to make the shot work, my costar and I had to be positioned in such a way that forced us to do the scene nose to nose. This, of course, changed the whole energy and approach to the scene. So, ultimately, in having to respond to the needs of the camera, the big, loud argument scene became a sexy, witty, intimately barbed scene that ultimately is one of my favorite scenes I’ve ever shot.
LATP: In "The Beastly Bombing" you play the drugged up daughter of the President. In American Summer," you go from a Real Estate Agent by day to a dominatrix at night. With such diverse roles, how do you prepare for these roles? Do you rent movies and observe the druggies? Do you go to a place to observe a dominatrix? How do you embody the character to make it as natural as possible?
HMM: I was invited to a dominatrix barbeque… that would’ve been a riot, huh? As far as "the doing of the drugs for research", I haven’t really seen it work for anyone yet. One of the things I do when prepping for a role to help "make it natural", is discovering how similar and dissimilar I am from the character I will play. For example, I’m a precocious and curious person, but the characters in Beastly and American Summer take precociousness and curiosity to a whole other level.. A level that in real life would put me in jail!
LATP: Do you have a preference as to whether you would like to be on a television series or if you would like to do film next?
HMM: When it’s a good script, and good characters, that’s what matters. Making movies is like dating, you get to fall in love with different characters and stories, then you move on to the next. Being on a series is like a marriage. Hopefully you’re in love with it, and hopefully together you can make it to a golden anniversary! Either way, I’m always on the lookout for good and interesting projects.
LATP: I understand you are also a singer, tell us about that.
HMM: I have co-written and released two albums, "Pieces of Skye", and "The Harratt Sessions", as well as had a Billboard hit with the single "Venice Freak". My music has been heard on LA radio (thanks 103.1 fm!!) as well as international and satellite radio, and MTV Europe. I’ve had a lot of surreal moments with my music, for example, I was in a Macy’s and looked up at the music video they were playing in the store, and thought, "wow, that girl looks familiar…" then I realized it was me in my video…. Or when my song "Stalker" (they call it "Gonna Get You") from "Pieces of Skye" was used on a Law & Order episode. The storyline had the main character, a recording artist, singing in the studio as well as performing in her music video. They used my song for all of that. It was super trippy hearing my voice come out of another actress’s body. She did a great job, by the way. I think my most memorable music moment to date, however, is when, early one morning, while looking my most elegant, (hair in a ponytail and pjs on the body), while executing the most glamorous of tasks, (pooper scooping my front lawn), my record label called to congratulate me with the news that not only had I charted in Billboard my first week out, but I was also being released on a Divas Compilation album. Ah, the irony of life.
LATP: Do you see something like producing or directing in your future?
HMM: I have zero desire to direct. Nada. I do have one of the funniest scripts I’ve ever read, "That Time of the Month," in the developmental stage that I am a producer on.
LATP: What do you see as a dream role that you would like to play, that would stretch you as an actress and show your acting chops?
HMM: I would LOVE to do a movie musical in the essence of "Mahogany" or "The Fabulous Baker Boys"…. Maybe a story based on Ann-Margaret.
LATP: What is interesting is that I notice you sheep herd with your Aussie dog Viggo, which is very unusual. You are a snowboarder, a dancer and a singer. Is there anything else that your audience is yet to learn about you?
HMM: Besides everything that I haven’t learned about my own self yet, I’m obsessed with the "Thin Man" movies, I organize my closets according to color, "Shiny Disco Balls" is my favorite Dance Dance Revolution song, and yesterday I just made my first piece of pottery. It was a bowl. It was crooked.
LATP: Which actor and actress do you admire?
HMM: Wow. That’s a loaded question. I get compared to Reese Witherspoon and Naomi Watts a lot. I will see anything that Susan Sarandon, Jodie Foster, Helena Bonham Carter or Cate Blanchett is in, and I’d like to have a sit-down lunch with Cher. Followed by a gelato with Johnny Depp.
LATP: If you couldn’t be an entertainer, what other career would you choose?
HMM: Good Question.
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Written by Gianna Brighton