Monday, April 27, 2009

Anyone But Me's Rachael Hip-Flores on Acting, Magic and Villains

Rachael Hip-Flores, who portrays 16-year-old Vivian McMillian in Anyone But Me, is one of those actresses who just exudes a certain magical quality. So it's fitting to learn that she once worked as a magician's assistant and is drawn to the otherworldly characters of literature, cinema and theatre.

A recent graduate of the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University, Rachael has appeared on the New York stage as Curio in Twelfth Night (South Street Seaport Summer Theater Festival); Nellie in Summer and Smoke (Clurman Theater) and Virgilia in Coriolanus (Judith Shakespeare Company). She performed at Shakespeare's Globe theatre in London as Don John/Antonio in Much Ado About Nothing, and has several principal and supporting credits in independent films. And as if that weren't enough for the young actress, she is also a produced playwright, assistant director and teaching artist.

Rachael recently took time out of her busy schedule to answer questions submitted by ABM Fans. Here, in Part 1 of the two-part interview, she discusses what it's like working on ABM, roles she would love to play, and her obsession with villains. Tune in again next week for more on Rachael.

How do you and the other actors prepare to shoot a scene?

RACHAEL HIP-FLORES (RHF): Well, since we shoot out of order, a decent bit of our preparation, at least together, is just about tracking the arc of our characters’ relationships. Is that pretentious enough?

It boils down to “How much have we actually talked to each other before this scene?” For instance, in the journalism class scene with Jessy [Hodges, ABM's Sophie] in Episode 6, we realized that we had actually barely spent any time at all on-screen together, and that that interchange was pretty much Vivian and Sophie’s first real conversation, and so that, of course, affected the way we played it.

We also run lines, repeating them over and over, which, weirdly enough, deepens their meanings or sometimes brings something out that we didn’t even know was there.

Finally, I make my way over to the craft services table and shamelessly stuff my face, sometimes sneaking food into my pockets so I can snack between takes. I feel this is integral to my job.

Do you rehearse at length with each other and with the director before you get to the set, or do you arrive pretty much prepared on your own and just do it?

RHF: I’m not sure if I’d say “at length,” but we definitely do rehearse. I suppose relatively speaking we rehearse a lot – for a two minute scene, we get maybe half an hour with Tina [Cesa Ward, the director] in a studio. And, of course, we all run lines with each other (over and over again) on the day of the shoot, and there’s always the option of asking questions outside of a scheduled rehearsal, but, generally, I’d say we’re expected to show up prepared and just go for it.

If you had to choose a character from your favorite movies/books to play, who would it be?

RHF: Oh man! Everyone!!! Lady Macbeth, Mrs. Coulter or Serafina Pekala from Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials Trilogy, Edmund from King Lear, an Elf in Middle Earth, a Vulcan in Star Trek, a young Princess Leia, Leah Clearwater from the Twilight series (fascinating character), Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar, John Adams in 1776 (that’s one I probably couldn’t get away with), the Witch in Into the Woods, the White Witch in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Ariel or Caliban from The Tempest, Scar or Rafiki from The Lion King, Antigone, anyone in an Aaron Sorkin show, and, clearly, Sylar and/or Liz Lemon need a little sister, and the Island needs a creepy, teen-girl jungle-spirit that turns out to be Jacob…

I’ve just always been drawn to villains, characters who were passionate to a fault, the otherworldly types. I was totally the weird little girl who spent most of her childhood (and adulthood) pretending to be a witch instead of a princess. And I’m pretty much the biggest sci-fi/fantasy nerd you can be while still being a reasonably productive member of society. Oh, and I need to be in a Steven Spielberg movie, just so I can stare up in wonder at something off-screen.

What's your favorite curse word in Spanish?

RHF: Joder (infinitive): The F-bomb. Jodón (accent on the second syllable) is the noun form, and I find it particularly useful when negotiating the New York City subways.

How is it to work on a show that can be seen all over the world?

RHF: It’s so funny because when we were first embarking on this whole thing, it sort of vaguely occurred to me that that could happen, but I quickly dismissed it after remembering my unsuccessful attempt to stream an episode of Lost when I was in Hong Kong. (That’s right. I tried to stream Lost while I was in Hong Kong. See question #3.) So, I pretty much figured we would stay domestic.

Then I started getting Facebook friend requests from, like, Malaysia, and seeing articles about us in Portuguese. Of course, it’s absurdly cool to be a part of a show that has such worldwide appeal, but I’m also sort of amazed because it’s not like we’re dubbed or subtitled, so… It’s humbling on a number of different levels, not the least of which is the linguistic one.

Is there any truth at all to the rumor that you once worked as a magician's assistant?

RHF: Tons of truth! I assisted the incomparably brilliant actor/writer/magician Eric Walton in Gravity and Glass’s (awesome theatre company!) Bell, Book, and Candy. I trained for years in Tibet, learning how to transform into a dove. Now, there’s not a huge demand for this skill, but when it’s needed, I pretty much have a monopoly on the market. Seriously cool stuff, and I had a blast.

Also, can you recommend a world-renowned, ancient, Oriental medicinal remedy that possesses the key to youth, vigor and vitality AND is fully guaranteed to cure rheumatism, autism, chauvinism, Puritanism, arthritis, laryngitis, hepatitis, gout, ichthiosis, halitosis, scoliosis and scurvy?

RHF: Listen, buddy, just ‘cause I’m part Chinese, that doesn’t make me an authority on all things "Oriental." Seriously, though, Dr. Chow’s Super-Magnificent Potion of Incredible; you can pick it up at your nearest deli. If they’re out of Nutella, it makes a suitable substitute. Ditto marshmallow fluff.

On those mornings when you just don't want to get up from under the covers, what makes you?

RHF: Ravenous hunger. Luckily, I don’t have a day job, so that makes getting up decidedly easier, as it tends to take place in the double-digit portion of the morning. To actually answer your question, though, I guess it’s just the knowledge that this is the hard part, and that if I ever want to think of myself as brave or strong (and I’m not gonna lie, I do desperately, desperately want that, cause my first instinct is usually to run away, crying) I have to pick myself up and get over whatever it is that’s bringing me down. This process is usually accompanied by a fair bit of whining. But I’m working on that.

--Edited by Leslie Jaye Goff

Editor's Note: Look for Part 2 of our interview with Rachael next Monday. In the meantime, catch up with our latest episodes on the Anyone But Me Web site!