Scottie Thompson is more than just a pretty face. Grace, poise, intelligence and a boatload of acting talent are just a few of the things she brings to the table. Originally hailing from a small town in Virginia, this multi-faceted performer struck out several years ago to bring her considerable talents to Los Angeles. With a string of memorable performances already under her belt, such as the big budget action extravaganza “Skyline and her latest dramtic role in “Lake Effects,” the powers that be in Hollywood have certainly begun to take notice! Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with this amazing young actress to discuss the origins of her journey into the entertainment industry, how she brings a character to life, her latest projects and much more!
We want to give everyone a little background on you. Where did you grow up and how did you get started on your journey into the entertainment industry?
I grew up just outside of Richmond, Virginia in Goochland County, to be exact. I got into this whole because I used to dance ballet. I danced professionally my whole life, so I have always been a performer. When I went to school, I ended up forgoing the dance route and got really into theater when I was in college. That is really how it all started.
What was it about theater that intrigued you more than dance?
Well, when you are a dancer, you are pretty much obsessively a dancer! [laughs] You live it and breathe it. It is a very all encompassing field. I took a year off from it before college, thinking I might pursue dance as a career. I decided I wanted to see a little bit more of the world. As a dancer, I was always more of a performer than a technician. What was so great about theater was that there is such a diversity of characters. It was a more perfect combination of mind and body, in a different sense than dance was for me.
Who would you cite as your biggest professional influences as an actress?
That is a good question. I love Cate Blanchett. I think she is a total chameleon and I really admire her abilities. I also love Judi Dench and Maggie Smith, that whole scene. Katharine Hepburn and Lauren Bacall are also two of my favorites.
As you mentioned you are kind of a small town girl but I know you have done quite a bit of traveling in your years. How big a transition was it for you to make the jump from the east coast to Los Angeles? Any culture shock involved?
Actually, I loved coming here because of the weather! [laughs] I lived in Boston for four years and New York for a winter prior to moving here, so I was really ready for some warmth! [laughs] The thing about LA is that it is such a city of transplants and the west in general has more of an open mentality. I really like that!
One of your latest project is “Lake Effects”. Much of the film was shot in your home state of Virginia. What was that experience like for you and was it a homecoming of sorts?
Yes! It was a wonderful excuse to see my family a little more often than usual! I shouldn’t say it was an excuse, it was more of an added bonus! They were able to come down and see me on set. That was a lot of fun for them. My Mom and Dad were always fans of Jane Seymour, so they got to celebrate my Dad’s birthday in Jane Seymour’s trailer! [laughs] That isn’t something my Dad might have expected when I started out in all of this! [laughs]
For those who might be unfamiliar with film, what can you tell us about it and your character?
“Lake Effects” is a wonderful family drama about a woman who’s father passes away. I play that woman. She is out in LA, living the very fast paced life of a lawyer. She comes home for the funeral after not speaking to her father in over a decade because she felt he had been unfaithful to her mother. She comes home to dig into that mystery a little more and ends up reconnecting to her roots.
What attracted you to this project initially?
A lot of things attracted me to the project. I love the character. I love the journey that she went through and the fact that she seemed to have everything going for her where she was but realizes something was obviously missing after going back home, slowing down her life a little bit and reconnecting with her family and community. That was a very appealing aspect of the film. The comedic elements, that my character is not as much a part of, [laughs] in the film was also appealing to me. There is a side story that is pretty funny and I really liked the way in which that was woven into the narrative.
Are there parts of your personality that the viewer might see shines through in this character?
Yes, I think so. I mean, as an actress living in LA from a pretty small town in Virginia, that goes without saying. I think the experience of reconnecting and being reminded of the support of a family is a big thing for me. I am a very family oriented person and I am really lucky to have such a great family! There are elements that I was able to tap into as she went through that journey. I think that is a big part of it.
They say every actor learns something about from each project. What did you learn from your time on the set and with the cast?
Wow! A lot! It really was such a talented cast. We were working on a very low budget and there are lessons you learn by doing so. Aside from being there and filming and having the opportunity to work with these actors, you have to prepare yourself ahead of time because you are working on a budget and with time constraints. That being said, it was really amazing to see these very seasoned actors, who are doing this project clearly because they care about it and aren’t concerned about the money aspect of it. You could see how much they really care about the role and the character. I remember during a series of scenes with Jeff [Fahey]. Watching him work and seeing the nuances that he would change everything that would effect me and my performance. They were things I wouldn’t expect always. It would put me in a totally open and unplanned place, which I think is a really important thing to explore as an actor — to find those moments that you aren’t expecting. It is hard to find those sometimes, so when you are working with actors who are seeking that as well and who can help you find them, it is a truly unique opportunity.
You have a lot of cool projects coming up. What are the biggest blips on your radar at the moment?
I am in a new pilot for USA Network called “Graceland” by Jeff Eastin, the creator of “White Collar”. It is about six DEA, FBI and Customs agents who all live in a mansion in Manhattan Beach. It is actually based on a true story! It was really fun to film and you couldn’t have asked for a better location! [laughs] I also just did a little spot on the show “Nikita”. That was a lot of fun too because I got to do a lot of stunt work. I have some great scenes with Maggie Q, who is really amazing! I have a couple other things in the works as well!
I am sure it changes project to project but how do you go about preparing for a role be it in a drama like “Lake Effects” or a show like “Graceland”?
Yes. Like you said, it does differ for each role. Certain roles require really serious research into a lifestyle. For example, the role on “Graceland,” I play a DEA agent. I had to learn Russian and I got to speak with agents. These shows, they take these characters very seriously, so they offer you the opportunity to really study. Last year, I played a detective on another project and I was able to follow some cops around. Actually, I was witness to a post-suicide at a gun range which was really intense and not what I expected on a Tuesday!
For those kind of roles, obviously, there are the technical things, if you are playing a doctor or a lawyer. For the emotional side of things for characters, I draw on different elements, largely using my imagination but when there are parallels to your own life it can be beneficial. I take classes to stay fresh and stay truthful in my work. I do scene study work to explore character nuances. They are so many different ways of going about it. I think living life and studying people is a hugely important. Acting is being when you really get down to it!
You have an extremely varied resume so far with having done drama, sci-fi and so on. Is there a particular type of film or genre that you are anxious to tackle in the future?
You bet! [laughs] I would love to get some comedy going. I have taken a couple of improv classes and have been working on developing some things in that area. I would also love to get more into the independent film scene. I would love to do a slightly off-beat, Wes Anderson-style, not that he is independent film, or Christopher Guest-style kind of character roles that are a little off-beat or quirky. I would love to play those types of roles. On the opposite side of the spectrum, an Angelina Jolie in “Girl Interrupted” kinda character would be great too! [laughs] It is kind of all over the board but yes, there are many roles I would love to play!
How do you feel you have evolved as an actor since starting out?
It is funny. I feel like when I first started out, I had no idea what I was doing. There was almost a beneficial element to that where you go into a project without over thinking it. Then when you get into it and try and figure it out and realize that there is no way to figure it out, you just have to stay truthful. It is a journey back to being present. It is a matter of growing and understanding the audition process as well. There are subtle things you learn about audition process like being on set, knowing how to carry yourself in those situations. By that I mean, going from number fifteen on a call sheet to number one as a lead, there are different responsibilities with you are a lead or if you are supporting. I think just spending time in this profession has be been an awesome opportunity to study humanity more deeply. I think that is the main evolution I have gone through — slowing down and really understanding a characters journey.
What is the best piece of advice that someone has given you that you might be able to pass on to an aspiring actor?
I remember at a certain point, I had a pretty intense schedule and was doing two projects at once. I was going from a night shoot, all night, to a day shoot, all day! One of my fellow actors said “You are putting in your time. You have to remember that!” They were reminding me that this doesn’t happen over night, for the most part as there are always exceptions. Being an actor is definitely a marathon, not a sprint!
As far as life beyond acting, do you have any interest in writing, directing or producing?
Definitely! I am actually in the middle of a fourth draft of a screenplay and I have another screenplay that is in the works, along with a TV idea. I am definitely getting into the writing. Most of the projects I am working on, of course, would be vehicles for me to explore other kinds of characters that I would really love to portray. I am not sure about directing. That is a big responsibility! [laughs] It could be a possibility down the road! And producing is a byproduct of trying to get my own work developed and produced. I could definitely see more of that in the future.
Even with a busy schedule, you manage to find time to give back. What can you tell us about you charity work?
Yeah! I work with an organization called Upward Bound House (www.upwardboundhouse.org), which is a charity that helps homeless families and provides them with a halfway point. It provides them with food and housing for, depending on the program, three months to a year. I have been working with them for a while now and I go down there once a week and help to feed families. That is the one that I do most regularly but I am definitely looking into expanding that work. I am really interested in health and exercise, especially in our country. That is something I would definitely like to explore in the future.
What is the best part of being Scottie Thompson these days?
That is a tough one! [laughs] The fact that I get to live by the beach and do what I love!
There is no same in that! I wish I could do it! [laughs]
Yeah! [laughs] The traveling is cool too. The cool thing about what we do is that you are constantly learning. That is definitely one of the best things about what I do. You never stop learning, you are constantly exploring!
Thanks for you time today, Scottie! It has been a true pleasure!
Thank you so much!