Haley Ramm has spent the better part of her young in front of a camera; honing her craft and making a name for herself in the entertainment industry. Over the past 12 years, as a result of her work in film and television, she has developed on of the most unique and impressive resumes any young actress could hope for. At only 22 years old, Haley has already worked with Hollywood veterans such as Jodie Foster, Sean Penn, Halle Berry and Hugh Jackman, and this list continues to grow. Ramm’s film credits include ‘Skateland,’ which premiered at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival, the feature films ‘Red State,’ ‘Rubber,’ ‘Almost Kings,’ ‘X Men: The Last Stand,’ ‘Flightplan,’ ‘Into The Wild,’ and a host of indies from her early years as the go-to child actress for some of the Southwest’s most creative young filmmakers.
Her innocent beauty coupled with her gritty roles makes her a standout among young Hollywood, last year Haley took her talent to prime-time with co-stars Italia Ricci and Mary Page Keller in “Chasing Life.” The series follows April (Ricci), a young woman who is trying to balance her career and family, and discovers unexpectedly that she has cancer. Haley stars as ‘Brenna,’ the rebellious teen sister of April. Ramm’s character will no doubt push the envelope on the show as ‘Brenna’ struggles with her sexuality, school and her secret sister ’Natalie Ortiz’ played by Jessica Meraz. Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently sat down with Haley Ramm to discuss her blossoming career, the challenges of bringing her character from script to screen and what the future might hold for both her and her character!
How did you get started with your career in the entertainment industry?
I started when I was around 6 years old in Dallas, Texas. I always loved performing and I was obsessed with movies and live performances. I was a huge fan of “Grease” and “That Thing You Do.” I really wanted to be Liv Tyler! [laughs] I’m also obsessed with the 1960s! [laughs] Watching Liv Tyler in that role was huge for me. I knew that is what I wanted to do. She seemed so relaxed and cool! My dad signed me up for an acting class and I fell in love with it! It was always a thing I have loved to do! I have always felt comfortable doing it and sometimes uncomfortable in the best way! It really pushes you when you are in an uncomfortable situation and allows you to learn about yourself! I came to it at that young age because sports were never my thing and I am not very musically inclined! [laughs] Acting has always been the thing I have really held on to! I convinced my mom, when I was around 11 years old, to move to Los Angeles for a short period of time. We were just going to come out for pilot season, like many kids do with their parents. Had I known how difficult it was going to be to come out here and pursue this, I probably would have passed! [laughs] I am really thankful that we were a little bit naive. From that point, I started booking small roles and became super consistent. I kind of couldn’t go home because there was always something new popping up! My dad and brother moved out here with us when I was about 16 years old. Now, we all live out here and we love it and I am still doing what I love! I realized what a sacrifice this was for my family but now, as I get a little older, it hits me even more. I am very thankful my family has always given me their full support!
Who were some of the other actors or mentors you looked to for inspiration?
As far as mentors, I have always had really good acting coaches who have become like family to me. It is a similar case with my manager. I have been with her since I was 11 years old. I feel like I have a bunch of second moms who have mentored and looked after me along the way! When it comes to actresses who have inspired me, I have a list a mile long. I have always looked up to Cate Blanchett and Meryl Streep. There are also young actresses like Jennifer Lawrence and other actresses doing these indie roles. They are my favorite films to watch. I am obsessed with Brie Larson in “Short Term 12.” I think I watched it three times in one day! She is so, so great!
You have quite a nice resume from your works so far. Along the way, you worked with some huge names. How have those experiences impacted you as an actor?
I think it really impacted me because starting at such a young age and working with actors who were so successful and talented. All of the roles I had in those films, like working with Jodie Foster in “Flightplan,” were very small roles but I was able to be on set for the whole month. “Flightplan” took place on an airplane, so for continuity reasons I had to be there every day. That was the best way to start out and it was such a great learning experience! Jodie Foster was so sweet and very aware of the younger actors on set. She would make a point to talk to us and make us feel really comfortable, which was super nice. Being able to watch her and being able to sit back without a huge responsibility was very much a gift. Then, working with Sean Penn in “Into The Wild,” I had a few small scenes. Some of those scenes were cut out because he had five hours of footage that he had to get rid of. He was so kind to me and really took the time to talk to me about the character and my feelings. He gave me tips and I felt like I really learned a lot from him even though it was such a small role. I totally appreciate that because all of it has stuck with me. I think a lot of people don’t take the time to perfect the smaller roles in the movies but I guess that is why he is so good at what he does. I have been very fortunate to work with the people I have gotten to work with and there are a bunch more I would love to work with! Hopefully, I will have bigger roles alongside them and continue to learn.
You have been very busy lately with your latest project, ABC Family’s “Chasing Life.” How did you get involved with the series?
“Chasing Life” started a while ago. It is something we all kind of laugh about at work. We started filming the pilot two years ago and we were pushed back due to scheduling. We didn’t know if they were going to pick us up. We have always been the show that has been pushed back but they care about it a lot, so they are very excited about it. It was all about timing! They wanted us to premiere at the right time. It has been a long time coming. We had filmed a lot of episodes before we even premiered. I think that by the time the show hit the air, we had just finished shooting our 20th episode. It was nice not having the pressure of hearing the reviews and what the critics were saying while we were going to work. It was nice because it was almost like playtime. It was our own little baby for a while until we finally got to share it with everyone. It is something I am truly thankful for and it is an incredible character to play. I love what our show is about and the topics we focus on. Playing a bisexual character has been really, really fun. It is great to see how responsive people have been and how people can relate to my character, especially teenagers who are actually going through what I play on TV. It is really fun to hear their responses and good feedback. It is definitely a show I am proud to be a part of because it means something to someone in some way. Whether it is being bisexual, knowing someone who has had cancer or being a caretaker, there are a lot of important topics addressed. The show has such a big ensemble with different stories and characters, I think there is something for everyone to relate to.
What did you bring to the character of Brenna that wasn’t on the written page?
When you are starting a new project, especially a TV show, you have no idea of where your character is going. “Chasing Life” is my first series regular job. I have done recurring roles, guest starring roles and movies in the past. In those cases, you have read the entire script and know where the character is going and what it is you are about to tackle. With this character, I always had a feeling that she was going to have some trouble ahead and have some of those teenager-ish aspects of it to conquer but I had no idea we were going to go into the whole bisexual storyline. I was talking to our producer and writers when we first started and asked them where the character was going. They mentioned that one of their family members is bisexual and one of the characters might end up being bisexual as well. I was hoping it would be my character because it sounded like a fun and challenging role to play. Several episodes in, I found out where they were taking it. I think what I have brought to it myself is that I have gone through taking care of someone with health issues. My mom was sick for a while and having gone through that personally and then being able to do the scenes with Italia [Ricci] and learning about her character’s condition was something I could really relate to.
When you take on a new character, do you have a particular process for bringing them to life?
Yeah. I do have somewhat of a process but it changes depending on who I am working with and what their process is like. When you are working with new people, you have to mesh together and see how they do things. I think the director’s energy kind of affects my energy and what I bring to the character. I do things like making up a backstory for the character to keep in my head. That always helps me bring a sense of realism to it all.
Where do hope the character might go in the future? What are your hopes and aspirations for her?
I hope that Brenna always stays true to herself. I think it is cool that she is 16 or 17 years old and is very comfortable being herself. That is the time where it is hard to be comfortable in life because you are changing so much and you don’t know what you want to do. It is a super weird time in life where you are figuring everything out or at least attempting to! [laughs] I hope that she continues to be herself throughout it all! I hope she goes to college. I think it would be cool if she turns her life around, gets more organized and becomes more of an adult. I think it would be cool to see her go abroad and maybe do something for herself! Focusing on school would be great for her! [laughs] She is all over the place now, so I think it would be cool if Brenna went to a really good college and surprised everyone! [laughs] I am excited to be getting back to work on the series. We have had a very long hiatus. By the time we go back in March, it will have been eight months. I am so excited to go back to work and see what they have written for us and what happens to all of the characters. I think there is going to be a lot of good, juicy stuff coming up this season! I couldn’t be more excited!
Looking back at your career, how have you most evolved as an actor?
Honestly, I think my biggest evolution is becoming more relaxed, comfortable and not overthinking everything. I think there is something beautiful about stepping into work and having a fresh mind and the view that anything could happen. When I was younger, I definitely over-planned, over-rehearsed and wanted everything to be perfect all of the time. Now, I have learned to go with the flow and take it all as it comes, whether it is in a scene or with life!
Is there a particular role or genre you are eager to tackle in the near future?
Yeah! Any type of period piece! I would love to play any character from the 1800s up to the 1920s or 1930s, all the way up to the 1960s or 1970s. All of them! I love costume design! I have always said that if I wasn’t an actress, I probably would have gone into costume design. I looked into it for a while and thought that it would have been super fun but to have the time to step away from the career you have been building and working hard on for years is very difficult. It is hard to take time off to pursue those endeavors but it is definitely something I am interested in!
When you aren’t focused on the series or other aspects of your career, what do you like to do creatively?
I really like writing. I have always loved writing but I haven’t been the most focused writer. My mom has always been a writer, so I grew up reading little short stories that she wrote. I do love it but it isn’t something I have pursued seriously, I think it would be cool to explore it more in the future, maybe when I feel more comfortable doing it. I enjoy vintage clothing and that world. I like hiking with friends and having interesting conversations. That is a fun thing, especially when you are in your 20s and trying to figure life out! [laughs] I think all of those are really good distractions for me!
You can serve as a great inspiration to young actors. What is the biggest lesson we can learn from your story so far?
Wow! I would say, keep your head up! If you have a passion, go for it. Make sure you really love it before diving in, especially when it comes to something like acting. It can take so much away from you in a way and bring you down so often because there will always someone there to knock you down, so honestly, if you don’t absolutely love it, it might not be worth it. Do what you really, really love and, if you truly love it, go for it!
Thank you for your time today, Haley! It has been a pleasure and we can’t wait to see what you have in store for us in the years to come!
Thank you, Jason! Thanks for taking the time to talk to me! Talk to you soon!
Jason Price founded the mighty Icon Vs. Icon more than a decade ago. Along the way, he’s assembled an amazing group of like-minded individuals to spread the word on some of the most unique people and projects on the pop culture landscape.