Elysia Rotaru is Busy in Hollywood
Take a glance at Elysia Rotaru's acting resume and the list is long and impressive. As most actors are aware, there's more than just booking the first job. It's the continuous work and effort that goes into securing role after role.
Elysia started at a young age. “From a very young age I was on stage performing piano, dance, school plays, etc. When I got into university my intent was to do a double major in theatre and psychology, but I eventually ended up pursuing my Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theatre, from Simon Fraser University. Shortly after graduating I was scouted by my first agency and my professional career began.”
From there began her career into film and TV, as well as voiceover and MOCAP (Motion capture, for things like video games, animated shows and stunts).
Preparation differs with each role, and Rotaru approaches each role as important as the last. “It all depends on the project and the medium, but primarily, I want to make sure I get the script and any assets I can on the project and then I go into research mode. I want to know and understand the whole story/world first before I get into memorizing lines. If it’s a really physical role, I also need to make sure my body is ready to play. I also like to get some coaching sessions in, to test out ideas, work on scenes and find/develop the character.” Not just confined by the physicality and storyline of a role, Elysia also looks into the more finite details that can make or break a character. “If there’s a dialect needed for the work, I make sure I’m working with a linguist/dialect coach. If it’s at all possible, I love meeting up with cast to read lines and get to know each other, and hop on a call with the director to understand their vision. And of course the script/table work. I like to be as prepared as possible so when the time comes to play, I have that freedom.”
Her preparation and work that she puts in beforehand is something that's made her stand out in the industry. While there are many actors vying for the top roles, it's those who are most prepared that will continuously win out the hard earned roles.
When asked about her preferred way of learning, Elysia was quick to answer that she loved all of it. “I do anything I can to learn and train; I love filling up my toolbox. Go to class, study, be well-read, but also learn to take time for a personal life. Traveling and meeting people around the world helps me do that. I believe my job as an actor is to tell a story and bring a character to life. For me to do that, I need to experience my own life and witness the lives of others, learn new skills and crafts and get an appreciation for other things, like learning about wine! Because you never know when you might need to play a sommelier (laughs).”
Admitting to having once been a beekeeper, Rotaru's list of skills seems quirky and notable. She also has a long list of books she's reading at the moment, while also working on two roles.
Elysia has found connections and challenges in both. After having played so many diverse roles, her approach of putting in the work before getting on set, is key juggling the two roles simultaneously. “I loved playing Alicia Guerrero, alongside Danny Trejo in Dead Again in Tombstone. Aside from the characters name being similar to mine, the father/daughter story was something I aligned with quickly. The other character is a badass boss babe named Taylor Crane, in the soon be released feature film KILL BIRD. The role was the most challenging work I have done to date. The script scared me to be honest, and the elevated language and subject matter of the script was a beast to tackle! And then pairing that with the physicality of the role, it was a lot of work but fun!”
While she's worked with some of the best in the business, her glowing reviews of her co-stars prove her dedication and cheerful demeanour. “Working with Danny Trejo was for sure a dream. What a legend and amazing man he is. Stephen Amell from Arrow was so great to work with, and Jimmy Akingbola, oh man, it was such a pleasure to have those two as scene partners for a season. Joe Zanetti, who wrote and directed KILL BIRD was magic. He really knew what he wanted and also gave Stephen Lobo and I the ability to flavour things with our ideas.” Beside working with some of the top working actors, Elysia has a wish list of people in the industry that she would like to work with. “Up there on my vision board is working with powerhouse women like Kathryn Bigelow and Patty Jenkins, and I’d really love to work with Jon Favreau, Wes Anderson, Jordan Peele, Jean-Marc Vallee, Damien Chazelle, David Fincher, Spike Lee, Paul Thomas Anderson, Pete Docter, Cary Fukunaga, Guillermo del Toro… the list can go on and on. But I would really love to play alongside Keanu Reeves. I could only image how epic it would be to train with him. Hopefully Charlize Theron can join in too (laughs).”
Though one would recognize Elysia most from her film work, you might have heard her voice more than once through your radio, on tv ads and within animations. It's almost a different world to film, with voice work requiring less physicality and a bigger imagination. “There are so many differences because there are so many subdivisions within VO. I do a lot of commercial VO and within that world, there is a lot of ‘cold reading’ involved, rather than ‘character’ development per-say, and you're in and out of the booth rather than on set for twelve plus hours. With animation, you get a script beforehand and you find the character and lift if off the page in a bigger way than on screen, but possibly comparable to a sitcom.”
There are also differences between animations and video games. “It obviously depends on the project. But sessions are around 4 hours. Video games are a whole other world too. Usually more of a ‘real’ performance, less animated delivery, subject to project. And if I’m doing a performance capture shoot as well, it’s like a theatrical, multi-cam set with a whole slew of technical performance boundaries you have to play within, like wearing a Velcro body suit with reflective balls and a head camera.” It's fascinating to know that within the film world there is an entire subdivision of work that's vastly different to film acting. “I think VO is a bit more challenging in certain aspects, as there is really only you, your voice, your body, and the mic. Sometimes there’s no cast to play off of, maybe even no director off the top and feed you ideas; you need to be ok with being self directed at times. And sometimes it can be isolating, by that I mean there is usually no ensemble cast, especially with commercial, industrial and promo VO. It’s just you and the booth. VO really uses a different part of the actor brain and toolbox and pushes me to have to think and ‘act’ differently. Going to the booth is like going to set, but different hours. And no makeup , hair, costume, trailers etc, but there is crafty!”
Connecting with fans has always been a way for actors to keep interest in their work, promote new shows coming out; as well as showing the real side of themselves. Now more than ever, social media is playing a huge part in keeping actors linked to their fans. Rotaru's approach to social media is all about keeping it real. “I love seeing what others are up to and it’s so cool to be able to connect with people around the world. And if you haven’t seen, I love doing stories. I think that where people get to know me a tad more behind the scenes, as I like to keep the keep the stories as REAL as possible.”
My favourite part about writing these interviews is seeing the different pieces of advice and approaches that each artist takes. While so many actors have the same advice (and it must be true if these successful people are saying it over and over), there are always personal differences. Elysia offered up this advice to aspiring actors and artists on turning their dreams into reality. “Giving advice on this topic is one of the hardest things to do as there are so many layers and advice is specific to the individual. I don’t think there is one golden answer, because the business of “booking” is subjective and out of our hands (to a certain degree). With that said, I always encourage people to do what they can, to make sure they are at the top their game and prepared for when they do book! Make sure you train; go to class, keep sharp, work on those cold reads, do scene study classes, dance, sing, sword fight, clown, etc; keep up with the work no matter what, but also in a healthy way that fits into your budget.”
She also speaks about the importance of balance and keeping your mental health in check. “My biggest piece of advice comes in two parts: 1) make sure you make time to have a personal life. There will be periods where you book all the time (yay) and then maybe there will be periods of a lull (also yay). For me the lulls are a great time to brush up on skills for my tool box, travel, spend more time with family and friends, and reflect on my work. 2) try to avoid comparing yourself/your career to others! The ‘no comparison clause’ is huge. It’s a tough mental game to crack for sure, especially with social media shoving a highlight reel of other people’s magical and curated lives in our faces on the daily. So it’s important to realize and acknowledge that you are unique. I like to ask myself, “ How can I be better?” Not better than her or him, but me! One of my coaches Deb Podowski, has that as a motto in class too. “Be better” she says, and I agree. At the end of the day, if you love the industry and want to be in it, are you doing to work? Because if you are, sooner or later, someone will start to notice your hard work and hopefully the bookings come rolling in.”
Currently working on a new project for the new Paramount Network, Elysia still finds time to unwind by surrounding herself with nature. “I have been know to climb random trees in my time (laughs). But truly, I’m surrounded by mother nature all the time. I can be found up on a mountain or out on the water, walking around the neighbourhood, or driving the golf cart while my husband hits a birdie on the green. I love being outside. But I do enjoy a good soak, scrub and mugworts sauna at the Korean day spa.”
Article by: Melissa Riemer