A Fil-Am actor’s life: Camille Mana
Fourth of a series
LOS ANGELES—When “Asuncion,” the first play written by actor Jesse Eisenberg, premiered off-Broadway in 2011, the titular Filipino character went to Camille Mana. That was when we first met Camille, after an evening performance at the Cherry Lane Theater with Jesse (who also acted), Justin Bartha and Rene Auberjonois.
Camille, praised by critics in her portrayal of Asuncion, whose arrival in the apartment of Jesse’s and Justin’s characters destabilizes their “bro” friendship, went on to appear in TV shows and films, including several Sundance and Toronto Film Festival features.
She stayed in touch with the Oscar- and Golden Globe-nominated actor (for “The Social Network”) who has since written and mounted two more plays.
“Jesse is a busy man and a recent father, to boot!” exclaimed Camille, who completed her undergraduate Economics studies at UC Berkeley in six semesters so she could pursue her acting career. “He’s lovely. I very much treasured working with him, and saw one of his more recent plays. He has a big heart, and is easily one of the brightest people I’ve ever met.”
The Orange County native’s credits include “Smart People” with Dennis Quaid, “Cake” with Jennifer Aniston, “Norman” with Dan Byrd and Adam Goldberg, “College” with Haley Bennett and Drake Bell, “Speed-Dating” starring Chris Elliott, and “High School” with Colin Hanks.
Her recent performances were in “Five Star Fouad,” with Dominic West and Ken Davitian, and ABC Digital and Hulu’s “This Isn’t Working.”
The Fil-Am produced award-winning short films which were screened in various festivals, including SXSW, Slamdance, HBO Comedy Festival, Montreal Comedy Festival and NBC Comedy Shortcuts.
In addition, Camille has mentored over 100 working actors.
How would you describe your journey as an actor so far? I’m super grateful for all of it. I’ve had both higher highs than I could have anticipated and some low lows, as well.
I’m sure that even my fiery, inspired, 13-year-old self would be proud of the endurance that has sustained this trajectory all these years. And self-discovery is a major gift of pursuing this particular craft.
How do you prepare for an audition? Any good luck rituals? Oh, I’m full of rituals! Some too silly to share. But some key things are script analysis, running the material with a trusted actor friend, wearing something appropriate for that character (I love dressing down as weird or frumpy, or glamming up—any direction that feels right). I consider the tone and style of the writing or director, even my physicality or vocal register, etc.
So, anything about the material that feels fresh, personal and creative—finding that is important.
What is the most frustrating part of trying to land roles in Hollywood? That it is often not necessarily a scientific or logical process. It is less a meritocracy than one would like to believe. You can really only control maybe 30 to 50 percent: your training, self-awareness, hustle, vulnerability, range, creativity, business acumen and individual truth as an artist.
The rest: the way you walk, how strangers perceive your essence, the slant (or lack thereof) of your eyes, timing of how you fit into current trends, how you age (or don’t), how middle America sees you belonging inside their TV screens, even whether you remind a producer of his ex-wife. None of that is in your control. Then, you make peace with it all.
How do you handle rejection? The average person in the workforce endures less rejection in her adult career than an actor faces before lunchtime each day.
Any actor has likely been pitched by his agent or manager for more than a dozen job opportunities, and gotten crickets, or flat out “no” many times over. And that’s for those who have reached a level to have attained reps.
Prior to that, you’re rejected thousands of times. The inane reasons can be a laughable: “too tall, too short, too pretty, not pretty enough,” etc. But at the end of the day, you have to remember—that this is a crazy, upside-down land.
At best, I can say that I handle it better than most in that I have stayed in the game, and no end in sight.
Have there been times when you almost gave up? Any professional actor in the game for over a decade would be lying if they said they haven’t thought about trading it in for some normalcy.
I’ve learned that the bottom line is, no one path is truly “happier,” no matter how it looks. We get to carve out our own journey. And that’s freedom.
Do you, as an actor of color, feel that opportunities for minorities are improving or getting worse? And do you think that the inclusion rider (mentioned by Frances McDormand in her best actress acceptance speech in this year’s Oscars) is helping? It’s the best time in history to be an actor of color. It is a completely different game entering the field now. So, I’m excited for the new crop of kids coming up in this generation.
As far as inclusion riders and the like, I just read that Jessica Chastain was able to increase Octavia Spencer’s (pay) quote on a project by 500 percent of her previous quote.
Given that Spencer is a thrice Oscar-nominated actress and even an Oscar winner, it seems safe to say that pay parity issues will continue as long as they’re allowed to. That’s business. Period. But, when those with power can speak for the underempowered, there’s always some hope. And there are many signs of hope around us.
What’s your stand on whitewashing in Hollywood? It has obviously been going on since the beginning of western storytelling. That said, I am glad that it’s a household term now, and that it is in the zeitgeist.
I understand and support activism in bringing awareness to the topic, to create a platform for dialogue, to put pressure on decision-makers to move past this process.
I think it’s important for A-list actors in a position of power to make conscientious choices. But, it should come from an earnestness to support diverse storytelling, rather than a fear of becoming the target of an Internet shaming campaign.
(Next: Ron Nery Jr.)
E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at http://twitter.com/nepalesruben.
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