BEFORE THE SCENE: with Jewel Staite

by AJ Buckley on September 24, 2010

Before the Scene is where we all start. In a small town with our families. In front of a mirror with our friends. The days spent sleeping on a couch. The nights working at a bar. Living with the unknown and surrounded by uncertainty. It’s about the times that define us. It’s about the darkness just before the limelight.
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Jewel Staite is a Canadian actress best known for portraying Kaylee Frye in “Firefly” and “Serenity,” and Dr. Jennifer Keller on “Stargate Atlantis.” She has also been seen on “Warehouse 13″ for the Syfy network.
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Q: What made you want to become an actor?
A: I started acting when I was five, mainly because my parents were trying to find an outlet for my creativity. I just sort of fell into it, and luckily, I’ve always had enough work to support myself. (I’m knocking on wood like a crazy person right now.) So I guess you could say it found me instead of the other way around. I feel like I’ve been doing this job for so long, it’s a part of who I am.

Q: What was your biggest fear?
A: My biggest fear has always been, and probably always will be, the fear of never booking a job again. It’s a completely irrational and totally ridiculous fear, but it consumes me at the end of every job nevertheless. It’s gotten to the point where my agent expects the phone call about a week after the last job wraps, the one where I have a slight tinge of panic to my voice because I’ve started convincing myself that it’s all over. But once I start to rationalize and calm down a little bit, and once the phone starts to ring and I realize that there are always new opportunities being created for me to take advantage of, then it slowly goes away.

Q: What was your lowest point?
A: A few years ago, I went through a period of not working, which happens to everybody. I was at this weird stage in my career where it wasn’t smart to take every offer that came along, because I’d built up this quote that I had worked really hard to achieve. So I had to hold out and say no a lot, which was extremely tough to do. It was also an incredibly slow year to begin with, and I honestly thought I was going to run out of money and become a bartender or something. This coming from the girl who had never worked a “normal” job in her life. I felt really defeated and frustrated, not to mention creatively unfulfilled and really bored. I started saying yes to those jobs I should have been saying no to, and I really do regret doing that. My heart wasn’t in those jobs, and I wasn’t proud of them at all. But I didn’t have much of a choice.

Q: What kept you from walking away?
A: Like I said, it’s who I am! I love what I do. I’ve never let myself forget that. There are elements of this business that aren’t so fun, and the politics of it all can make you think you’re losing your mind, but the payoff, doing what you adore for a living, is so huge, it’s worth all the struggle in the end. There will always be good years, and there will always be not-so-good years. It’s a cycle. You just have to tough it out.

Q: What did you walk away from?
A: Moving down to L.A. was a big step for me. A step that took, like, five years. I finally decided it was now or never, sold the house in Vancouver, said good-bye to my family and my friends and pretty much my entire support system, and took the plunge. Luckily, my husband’s an actor, so we made the move together and had each other to lean on, but it still wasn’t easy, for either one of us. But eventually we created a support system down here, too, and now we’ve really grown to love it here. And I never thought I’d say that!

Q: Who was your closest ally?
A: My husband, Matty, most definitely. He’s a pretty calm person by nature, so I’m free to be the drama queen as much as I need to be. He’s really patient, not only with me, but with life in general. And he makes me laugh. I really lucked out the day I found him.

Q: What were the words that kept you going? How have you changed?
A: The strong will survive. A friend told me that once, right when I moved to L.A. He said, “If you want it bad enough and if you want it for the right reasons, it will happen for you.” L.A. eats dreams alive and sends people back to where they moved from. He said to me, “Just remember…the strong will survive.” I will never forget that.

Q: What words do you have to inspire others?
A: Learn to market yourself in a positive way. Be gracious. Be on time. And throw away all of your “back-up plans.” You don’t need them!
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Over the past six years, AJ has starred as Adam Ross on the hit TV show “CSI:NY,” soon to premiere in its new time slot, Friday nights at 9pm. Originally from Dublin, he has spent the past ten years in Los Angeles, acting and writing. AJ is also currently writing and starring in the web series “Ghostfacers” for Warner Bros (www.GhostFacers.com), and has the romantic comedy “Christmas Mail” opening this winter. Find out more at www.ajbuckley.net.

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