Throughout my career so far in the entertainment industry, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and working with many wonderful men and women. A number of these individuals have left a strong and lasting impression on my life, and one of these awesome individuals is Amy Reece. I had the pleasure of meeting Amy Reece several years ago when I became a student in her acting class - a class which has helped me to grow tremendously as an actor.
Amy Reece has worked in numerous areas of the entertainment business - as an actor, a casting director and acting coach. It is a true honor to feature Amy in this interview, and I’m certain that my fellow actor friends (and all readers!) will benefit from Amy’s insight and advice about the entertainment industry and about life in general.
Amy’s Background and Path to Entertainment
I asked Amy if she would share a little bit about her background and what led her to working in the entertainment industry. Amy explained that she comes from a family which is very involved in the business:
“My background is in the industry. All [my family members] are creative people who have worked for other companies in the industry as well as independently. I was encouraged to express myself and be creative.”
From a young age, Amy was exposed to entertainment and the craft of acting. Her father, an actor, would take her along to his acting classes. And her mother, a casting director, would frequently have Amy in the casting office with her. As Amy grew older, she realized that she, too, wanted to be involved in the industry and she decided to pursue a career as an actor:
“I always wanted to be an actor and was encouraged to study and really take it seriously. I was allowed to study acting, but I was not permitted to work professionally until I was 16 years old. After I turned 16, I worked quite a bit and helped put myself through some of my college. I went to Boston University and majored in theatre.”
After Boston University, Amy decided to return to Los Angeles to be in the middle of where everything in entertainment was happening:
“I graduated, came home and [booked] a pilot. That was pretty exciting! I was doing the acting thing and studying with many teachers, which I found much more vibrant than a university acting program. I felt the teachers had more freedom and less structure. it was more realistic to me in terms of what the industry was going to be made up of. And these are people who professionally worked in the industry recently. I had a wide range of different teachers who taught me lots of different ways to access myself and were very supportive of me over the years.”
Transitioning into Casting
Amy eventually began to recognize a desire to shift from being in front of the camera to working in casting:
“There came a point where I decided to focus on casting because I was feeling like I wasn’t giving 100% of what I felt needed to be given as an actor. I felt like - if I wasn’t going to do that - I needed to focus on something else. I wanted to learn a different part of the trade, a different creative medium. It allowed me to still pursue my love of acting through other people and support all the actors coming to our office. I love actors. Whether or not I like their work, I love people that are trying to share in this way.”
Amy brings up a fantastic point about focus. It is crucial in the entertainment business (and in any business for that matter) to give total focus and commitment to our goals. When we focus on our passions, much success can and usually does occur. Amy Reece is a perfect example of this, and due in large part to her focus and determination, she’s had a very successful career in casting! Her passion for casting and working with actors is very apparent, and she explains that she has been casting for essentially her entire life:
“My first casting job was really when I was a kid! The school bus would drop me off at my mom’s office and I’d answer the phones. I grew up working around a casting office, just because that’s what my mom did. I was around her working all the time, so I was being trained from a young age.”
Amy’s mother, Penny Perry of Perry/Reece Casting, has operated the very successful casting company for years, and ultimately Amy and her sister began working alongside their mother casting countless projects. Amy worked at Perry/Reece casting for 15 years, primarily casting movie-of-the-week projects for the Hallmark Channel and Pixel, and she loved the experience. (In fact, Amy continues to cast projects for the Hallmark Channel, and she just wrapped up casting of a Hallmark movie titled, “Enchanted Christmas”!)
Amy said of working with her mother and sister:
“One of the reasons I wanted to work there was that it gave us a chance to work together, which was great fun! We laughed a lot, we fought a lot and I’m sure we made many people uncomfortable! In fact, I used to say that the actors aren’t nervous when they come into our office! We kind of take the pressure off the actors by fighting with each other!”
When I asked about her favorite aspect of her job, she replied:
“The thing that I enjoy most about my job is working with the actors - creating a safe space and playing and encouraging actors to play. I really love period pieces, so I enjoy casting that as well. I think you can get wonderful actors who enjoy playing in a different time period. I loved our “Love Come Softly” series, which was a Janet Oke series of books. It had a very “Little House on the Prairie” feel to it, and I was a big fan of that show as well. And it was great to see lots of actors through that perspective.”
Because of Amy’s extensive experience as a casting director, I asked her what she believes is the most important thing that she looks for from an actor who comes in to audition for a project.
“They have access to themselves and they’re present: that’s really how people can introduce their best selves to you. When I introduce myself to anybody - if I’m connected to myself and if I’m present - I’m going to be offering something that’s real, instead of just pushing through with an agenda. I know many actors who are successful, solid, successful actors who don’t audition well or don’t handle that kind of pressure well. It’s very hard; you know you’re nervous, and you have all that energy going through you. If you can learn (it takes practice) to harness and focus that energy into a place that can actually be of service to you, then that’s going to benefit your reading and your work. That’s what we try to work on [in class] as well.”
As a student in Amy’s acting classes, I can verify that Amy provides students with a supportive and encouraging atmosphere which allows actors to be free to learn and grow. I asked Amy if she would explain a bit about her teaching style.
“I’m trying to introduce the actor to different techniques based on what they need to work on for their scenes. A majority of the work focuses on the Meisner Technique of acting, because I think Meisner exercises get actors connected to each other and teaches actors not to push to be in the moment - to not have an agenda. I believe that class is also important, just as a gym is helpful for staying in shape. It’s a place where you can fall on your face and work on roles that you’re not going to be good at because you just don’t have any connection to them at all, or working with things that are not going to be confident with. Whether [it be] accents or your sexuality or whatever it is where you have weakness, you can always find areas to work on. It’s nice to have a space that’s safe that encourages exploration. If you’re a working actor, exploring these things while you’re getting paid is not often a great idea. Actors who are used to exploring these places are more willing to jump in; they have more freedom. They’re less likely to get caught in their heads when they’re in shape and when they’ve been in a good class environment.
“I’m always learning and growing as well, and I think that’s really important for any teacher. There are many things that I don’t know. Every teacher should admit that to themselves, because I think teaching from an ego-place is not where you get the most fruitful work. You always must be confident in what you’re sharing, but you shouldn’t be a bull about it.”
Be True to Who You Are
A major topic which I often cover on my blog and on my YouTube Channel is the importance of embracing one’s individuality. I asked Amy how important is it for an actor to be who she/he is:
“The most important thing that you have to offer is yourself. You have worked for it your whole life; you’ve lived it, and you’re the only one who has experienced life through your own uniqueness. I think it’s the most important thing that an actor has to offer. And that is what I hope people get from my class: learning how to celebrate themselves and what’s special about ourselves but also what’s NOT special about you - where you feel your insecurities and your pain and all of that - because that’s really interesting, too! We all have those things that we can relate to, and when someone’s willing to open up, we all respond to that.”
Considering an Acting Career?
All this amazing and helpful information from Amy Reece might have you feeling rather excited about jumping into an acting career! It’s important to consider if you’re able and willing to dive into such an incredible, yet very difficult industry. If you’re thinking of becoming an actor, Amy shares some advice for you:
“I would say: don’t be an actor if you’re undecided; be something else that’s more reliable. But if you can’t do anything else and you have to be an actor, then throw yourself into it 100% and take responsibility for doing all the things that help you and give you the tools to achieve your goal and support you. You can never rest on your laurels in this business. Nobody can. You have to keep working at it, you have to keep yourself stimulated, keep meeting new people, and it’s difficult to do. You have to keep on keepin‘ on!”
Don’t Give Up (and join Amy’s class!)
I believe that Amy Reece is spot-on with her advice to bravely move forward and “keep on keepin’ on.” The entertainment business is difficult, but when you surround yourself with good people, it is a truly magical industry. I can personally attest to the fact that Amy Reece is an incredibly knowledgeable, humble and inspirational individual, and it is people like her who help to make the entertainment industry as amazing as it is.
To conclude this piece about Amy, I wanted to include a statement that Amy made that sums up her work ethic and attitude about coaching and helping actors:
“I’ve been really fortunate. I’m really grateful. I’ve been very fortunate [to teach] the students that I’ve had the honor to teach, and they’ve had a lot of potential. I’ve enjoyed them!”
We enjoy you, Amy! And anyone who would like to sign up for Amy’s class, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jesse Daley is an actor and a writer who lives and works in Hollywood, California.