It takes a more than just talent to make it in the entertainment industry. The recipe for success calls for hard work, determination, unrelenting drive and a little sprinkle of luck. No one knows that better than Stephanie Szostak. This French/American actress grew up in the suburbs of Paris until she left for college in Virginia. After college, she moved to New York where dove head first into a career in marketing. However, she had a burning desire to pursue another path. After receiving encouragement from family and friends, this bombshell stuck her toes in the waters of acting and quickly made an impact on the scene. Instantly recognizable from her big screen roles, Szostak has played Meryl Streep’s rival, French Vogue Editor, ‘Jacqueline Follet,’ in the cult classic ‘The Devil Wears Prada’, as well as from ‘Iron Man 3′ opposite Robert Downey Jr, ‘Dinner for Schmucks’ opposite Paul Rudd and Steve Carell, and R.I.P.D. opposite Ryan Reynolds and Jeff Bridges.
Stephanie’s most ambitious role to date is a starring role in the USA Network series, “Satisfaction.” ‘Satisfaction’ centers on investment advisor Neil Truman (Matt Passmore, “The Glades”) as he and his wife Grace (Stephanie Szostak) who are sifting through their stagnant relationship when Neil discovers that Grace has been seeing a male escort. After an unusual chain of events, he gains a new perspective on his life and what motivates women, while Grace contemplates whether her needs are being met and if her marriage is worth saving. The series also stars Michelle DeShon (“Hollywood Heights”), Katherine LaNasa (“The Campaign”), Blair Redford (“Switched at Birth”), and Deanna Russo (“Knight Rider”). The series, created by Sean Jablonski (“Nip/Tuck,” “Suits”), quickly became a hit with fans and was renewed for a second season, which will likely premiere this fall.
Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Stephanie Szostak to discuss her unique career path, her evolution as an actor, what fans can expect from the second steamy of ‘Satisfaction’ and more!
What intrigued you early on about the world of acting and how did you get your start in the entertainment industry?
I worked in the corporate world at Chanel when I realized that I didn’t want to do that. That, by chance, led me to modeling. I knew that wasn’t what I wanted to do either but I could make the same amount of money I was making in marketing and it allowed me additional freedom to figure out what it was I wanted to do. I always had a little voice inside my head telling me to take an acting class. I asked people at the modeling agency and they were like, “No, no. You have an accent … ” or “You are to this or that.” I just kept going at it and I eventually found myself in a theater class with an amazing woman by the name of Sandra Lee of The Actor’s Studio. When I went there, I realized that acting was what I really wanted to do. I wasn’t sure at what level I would do it but it was what I wanted to do!
Changing careers like that is a big step. Did you have any reservations leaving a more structured world in business to pursue modeling or acting?
Yes, I was. I was so lucky to be surrounded by so many great people who really encouraged me to do it. My husband always said, “Do it! Do it!” His cousin, who is older than us by a few years, has always been a mentor. I remember he came to pick me up in New York City at my job and I told him my idea. He said, “Do it! Try modeling and you can work part time at my office.” I did that at the beginning. I didn’t just start making a living by modeling because that is very hard to do. Without him and my husband’s support, none of this would have been possible. There was a lot of luck and a lot of people helping me take this chance.
When it comes to your craft, who were some of the people you looked to for inspiration?
There are so many inspirational actresses. I have always loved Kate Winslet. I think she is an amazing actress and any movie she is in I will go see. Cate Blanchett, Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts were also huge influences. I remember reading about Meryl Streep and how she is married, has a family, a husband, who is not in the business, and several children. I had the luck to work with her and she is such a grounded and down-to-Earth person, it was very inspirational to talk to her about her life and how she balanced her family life and continued to work.
Many people will instantly recognize you from the huge part you play on USA’s “Satisfaction.” For those who may just be discovering the series, what can you tell us about the show and the role you play?
The show tells the story of a married couple who have been married for 18 years. They have a 17-year-old daughter. On the surface, they have every reason to be happy and in love but, little by little, they have lost that connection with one another. The story is what drew me to the project. I think it is a very common situation where there is still love and many years of supporting each other but somehow you are no longer connected. There were a lot of great scenes focusing on honesty, meaning you may not want to tell your partner you are not feeling right because you want to protect them. You don’t want to tell them you are unhappy in order to protect the marriage. In the end, I think that can lead to trouble! There is also this thing where this couple may have confused making a living with actually living. The first season is really about them going through the same malaise, six months apart from each other, but never tell each other. Finally, when the husband decides to tell his wife, he is so liberated by the thought of it, he catches her up against the wall sleeping with a male escort. Instead of confronting his wife, he tries to figure out why. In preparing for the role, I read a book called “The Little Book On The Human Shadow.” It was very interesting. Basically, what it talks about is if you don’t make proper space for your sexuality, anger or other darker energies, you may run into the danger of those running wild one day. I think that pretty much sums up what happened to my character, Grace. In season two, which we are filming now, everything is sexier, more provocative and very high energy. We are really pushing the boundaries. It is a very different show to work on this year, so I find that very exciting as well.
What do you consider the biggest challenge you faced so far with the series?
Finding the tone, especially in the first season, was a bit of a challenge. We had a lot of domestic scenes in the house and we wanted to make sure this couple was in love and not bickering. That was important because it is very important that people see them as a happy couple and that they should be together. The tone was very challenging again this season because it is a lot racier and there is a lot about sexuality. To make sure that stays grounded in the story and the journey of the characters can be very challenging.
Where do you hope to see your character go in the future?
I love where she is going! She is being liberated by the truth. She is coming out of her shell and embracing a shadow side of herself. As an actress, that is a lot of fun! The darker it goes, the more fun it is!
What have you picked up from your time working on the series?
The entire cast has been wonderful to work with. Matt is fantastic as a great co-star and has been great about leading everyone on set. He sets a great example and we are all lucky to work with him.
You are lucky to have experienced so many diverse roles in your career. Is there a particular role you are interested in tackling in the short term?
No, I just want to be surprised. I hope to do another movie soon. I don’t really have a set vision. It can be hard sometimes but that is part of the fun. You get these projects that all of a sudden come out of nowhere. Someone may be interested in you and you may love the project and that is thrilling! There is no plan!
Do you desire to one day explore the world behind the camera in a writing or directorial capacity?
Possibly. Nothing soon but I do like to write and I always think about shots and things like that. I would be nowhere ready to do that soon but who knows! Maybe in the future!
When you look back on your career, how have you most evolved as a performer?
I definitely have more confidence. The feeling of belonging where you are and confidence in your work has been a big evolution for me. I think that was something I really struggled with earlier in my career. I did a lot of independent films which happened naturally but my first big studio movie was “Dinner For Schmucks.” I was cast with Paul Rudd and Steve Carrell, which made me very nervous. I think the only thing that made that go away was working more, finding my own way and process. Actually, Robert Downey Jr. was amazing in helping out with that when I worked on “Iron Man 3.”
I know you are an avid golfer. How has the game of golf impacted what you do as an actor?
The reason I got into it was because my dad was a golfer, so I played growing up competitively. I also played in college. It helped me a lot when I started auditioning. A great example is when I auditioned for “Dinner For Schmucks,” I had three or four callbacks. I remember my agent saying, “This is great,” after the second callback. I said, “No. No, it’s not! This is the second round and then there is going to be sudden death!” [laughs] Golf has definitely helped me deal with high pressure situations for sure!
What is the best lesson that can be taken away from your journey to date?
I would say there is not just one way to do it. If you love what you do, continue to work at it and find your own way. Don’t pretend to be someone you are not. Early on, I remember going to auditions and thinking, “Oh my God! What do they want!” I was trying to fit an image I made up in my head and not believing what I had was enough. Believe that you are paving your own road and it is OK that nobody else is doing it like you. That is why you are unique. Embrace that!
I want to thank you for your time today! We look forward to seeing what you have in store for us in the year to come!
Thank you! Have a great day!