There is no doubt that Priscilla Quintana has what it takes to be a true force of nature in the entertainment industry. Born and raised in Southern California, Priscilla received a scholarship to attend film school. It was while studying film that she was approached by an agency and began modeling. Shortly after finding success in modeling, Priscilla found herself at a scene study class for her first commercial and fell in love with the world of acting. Armed with beauty, brains and top-notch acting chops, this star on the rise has been turning heads in Hollywood with roles in on various TV series such as “Masters of Sex” and “Training Day.” In the months to come, she will be bringing her talents to the silver screen with two ambitious new films. Horror fans will be able to catch her in the thriller/horror flick, “Polaroid,” from Dimension Films. The film is based off Norwegian director Lars Klevberg’s 2015 acclaimed short, which follows the story of a high school loner who finds a vintage Polaroid camera capable of taking the lives of those whose photographs are taken. In addition to tackling a role in the horror genre, Priscilla will also be seen shining a light on the all-to-real horrors of human trafficking in “Traffik,” which hits theaters in April 2018. In the film, Priscilla stars alongside Paula Patton, William Fichtner, Roselyn Sanchez and Omar Epps. It’s also important to note that Priscilla amazing work doesn’t end when the cameras stop rolling. In her free time, Priscilla remains dedicated to doing her best to make the world a better place. A true animal lover, she lends a helping hand and her heart to the Los Angeles based 501c3 rescue group, WAGS & WALKS, where she fosters dogs and helps prepare them for new lives in their forever homes.
Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Priscilla Quintana to discuss her journey as an actor, the challenges she is faced along the way, her latest projects and much more!
How did you get involved with the arts early on in life?
I come from a very business minded family but I have always known that I wanted to be in the arts. I was involved with local theater productions in high school and I even tried to do pageantry for a while but it was so not my vibe. As I got older, I started doing a little bit of modeling when I moved out to LA to make a little bit of money. That led to doing commercials, which led to what I’m doing now, my true passion, acting!
Coming from a business minded family, what was their reaction when you wanted to pursue a career in acting?
They thought I was crazy at first! [laughs] My mom is the vice-president of the world’s second largest trading company and my stepdad is in real estate. When I told them I wanted to move to Hollywood to pursue film, they probably thought that I was crazy, but they were supportive of my decision and they are very proud of me! I’m the only one in my family who has gone in this direction. My little sister is going to school to become a scientist and my other sister is doing real estate, so I’m though only one who branched out in this direction! [laughs]
What intrigued you about the craft of acting that made you so passionate to pursue it professionally?
That’s a good question. I would say I was intrigued by having the opportunity to live 100 different lives through acting. It probably keeps me away from being a Peeping Tom too! [laughs] I’m always so curious about how other people live their lives and what they do behind closed doors. I’m also intrigued by the psychology of why people are the way that they are and I have a lot of empathy. Those are all things that really attracted me to acting.
Who would you cite as an influence on your work as an actor?
I have to go with Angelina Jolie. It’s probably a bit of a cliche answer but I think she is one of the most incredible human beings on the planet. She is an amazing actress, even her early work in ‘Gia’ or ‘Girl, Interrupted,’ but she is also a humanitarian and an amazing mother. She is creating her own little football team! [laughs] She’s also an ambassador for the United Nations. She is so incredible and she really inspires me in every way. I’m just so in awe of her!
What were some of the first things you did as an actor that have carried forward to the way you approach your craft today?
So, you start off in scene study class. Before you are a professional working actor, you are doing scene study and doing all these plays and stuff. Doing all of that was so much fun and built such a great foundation. From there, I went on to do ‘Masters of Sex’ on Showtime. That was my first speaking role and I remember being so nervous! I had to say just a few lines and I remember being on set shaking! [laughs] It was so thrilling and so exciting! From there, I did ‘Training Day’ and I also did a movie called ‘Traffik,’ which is really important. It touches on human trafficking and how young girls can be exploited. That will be out in 2018 and I’m super excited about it! I think the film has a really important message that is spoken about a lot but maybe not enough!
Tell us a little more about ‘Traffik’ and the role you play in the film?
I got involved through auditioning. I ended up flying out to the beautiful city of Sacramento to shoot it. I can’t say too much but my character is a girl who just happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and her world is completely changed. I open the movie, so I kind of set the foundation for what’s to follow. It’s pretty terrifying!
Speaking of terrifying… good segue there, Priscilla! [laughs]
Yeah, thank you! [laughs]
You have a new film debuting in November called ‘Polaroid.’ I’ve seen the trailer and it looks like a lot of fun and pretty scary. What attracted you to the project?
I know people love scary movies but they had never been up my alley until the last couple of years where I really started to get into them. I just put it out there into the universe like, “I really want to book a horror film. I want to know if it is scary to be on set and what it’s like!” A month later, I ended up booking ‘Polaroid.’ It was the first horror film that I went out for! I envisioned it and it ended up happening. In the film, I basically play myself. The character is a playful, sarcastic, funny, 17 year old girl in high school. I don’t want to give away to much about the character but I will say she is like a mini-me! [laughs]
What else do you feel you might have brought to this character that wasn’t on the original written page?
I would say that I made her a little more than she was on the page and a little bit more witty. On the page, it’s really just words in black and white, so you have to fill in all those empty spaces. What I like to do is fill in those empty spaces with who I am as a person and bring elements of myself out. By doing so, you see the sarcastic and witty side. She might even be a little bossy in the beginning but she definitely calms down throughout the film! [laughs]
You touched on it a little bit there but tell us a little more about your process for bringing a character to life?
I really prep a lot before stepping on set. I will do a whole biography on the character that I’m playing. I will make up their entire past, present and future. I write down a list of objectives like why you are in the scene, the point you want to get across, what the relationships are an so on. It all starts there! Speaking of relationships, I actually met my current boyfriend on the set of ‘Polaroid’ and he actually plays my boyfriend in the movie, so that’s one of those funny little things that happens too!
It sounds like being on set for ‘Polaroid’ was an awesome experience!
Yeah! Like I said, I had always wondered if being on the set of a horror film was going to be scary. It was a great experience and I became such good friends with everyone. We were in Nova Scotia, so it was freezing! It was blizzarding every day, so we had nothing else to do besides becoming a little family! [laughs] It went from us being on set and hanging out all the time to us all hanging out back at the hotel or going to the movies together. That’s what I really liked about this project; I felt really lucky that it turned into one of those really, really great experiences, since I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect on set. I still keep in touch with all of those people and we talk almost every day!
What were the biggest challenges you faced on the film? Was there anything that pushed you to your limits?
Definitely! It’s exhausting being terrified for 14 hours a day on set! [laughs] I was screaming, running around, falling and running from something constantly! I would say that besides the fact that it’s mentally difficult to always be in that space, it’s also really difficult to snap out of it. Once you get back to the hotel, it’s so difficult to just let the day go because you have been playing this character who is absolutely terrified. When you go through your whole day as that person, it’s difficult when you get home. On top of that, it’s physically exhausting to be on your feet for 14 hours a day in addition to the running around and screaming! I lost my voice for almost 3 days on set from all the screaming! [laughs]
Let’s talk a little about the people behind the scenes who make the movie magic happen. What was it like working with the director and the stunt professionals on this film?
Our director, Lars Klevberg, was so amazing! We called him our Viking! [laughs] He’s the most amazing director. What’s really cool about him is that once he got the shot that he wanted, he would allow us to go off, improv and do our own thing, which I’ve never seen happen before. He was about us being able to put our creative input into the project, which I really liked. The girl who did my stunts was so nice, kind, and a total badass. There was one point where I had to be hoisted about 15 or 20 feet in the air and then dropped! It hurt! I did it and thought, “Oh my gosh, I don’t think I can do this again!” She ended up doing it 30 times that day just because that’s the badass she is! It was so cool to see and I really have the utmost respect for her and people in that profession!
You mentioned wanting to do a horror film, putting that idea out into the universe and having it come true. What other types of projects are you looking to tackle in the future?
For my next project, I’m putting it out there that I want to play a role that I normally wouldn’t be cast for. Whenever I get cast, I tend to get typecast as the young, hot girl or sexpot. I’m kind of trying to stay away from that. I really want to do a “Monster-esque” role, similar to what Charlize Theron did with ‘Monster.’ It was so transformative, dark and gritty. I really want to see how far I can push myself!
It’s really cool to hear you aren’t afraid to test your limits! With that said, what do you consider your creative milestones as a young actor?
‘Polaroid’ has to be my number one, obviously. Like I said, when I first read the script, it didn’t seem like there was too much room for creativity just because you know what you are supposed to say, when you’re supposed to say it, and what your intentions are, but our director let us go crazy sometimes. I think that was so much fun, to be able to improv right there on the spot! Another thing I’m really proud of is the improv training I have done in preparation for being an actress. I studied at Groundlings and UCB for a bit. That is one of the scariest and most rewarding things I’ve ever had to do because you have to be able to go on the fly and trust your gut, so that’s actually something I’m really proud of completing.
How do you feel you have most evolved since first starting out?
As you know, I’m still very much in the beginning chapter of my career. All I can say is that I’ve definitely gone from not knowing what to do or expect on a set to being on set and being completely at home. A set can be an intimidating workplace, especially when you’re working opposite of people who’ve been in the business forever. For example, on ‘Polaroid,’ we had Mitch Pileggi, who is an incredible actor from the “X-Files” and everything else. It’s really interesting to be across from them on set and to be able to learn from them. I think that’s something that’s helping me grow quite a bit!
You passion isn’t limited to acting. I know you are a dog lover, as am I. Tell us more about what you’ve been doing in regard to our furry friends! We’d love to help spread the word!
Thank you, I would love that! Right now, I’m currently volunteering with an amazing organization called Wags and Walks. They pull animals from kill shelters and find foster homes for them. A lot of times they are sick, have worms, coccidia, giardia or some other illness. They will take these animals in, nurse them back to health and help them find a great forever home. It’s always difficult though because of the bond you form with the animal, so it can be difficult to finally let them go. I still keep in touch with a lot of my foster families because I can’t quite cut the cord! [laughs] Before I was doing that, I had my own organization with a similar focus. It wasn’t anything near the magnitude of Wags and Walks, it was literally just me. I would go to shelters in the valley and pull dogs that were set to be put down next. My last one was a pitbull named Frank. He was missing a toe, so I called him my little chicken! I’m still in touch with his family and he is living on a farm with 4 other dogs. He’s running around all the time and living the life! It’s so rewarding! I actually just contacted Wags and Walks today about getting another foster, so hopefully I will be able to have another puppy here soon!
That’s so awesome! We are so excited to help spread the word on Wags and Walks and are definitely looking forward to seeing the new addition! We’ve just touched on the tip of iceberg when it comes to your career but you can definitely serve as an inspiration. What’s the best lesson we can take from your journey as an artist?
Oh, wow! That’s a really good question. If I were to give people advice, it would be that if you want something, envision it and don’t stop working until you get there and go above and beyond. I never want to look back at my life and wonder, “What if I had tried a little harder?” or “What if I had put another hour into prepping for that audition?” I never want to think about “What if…” I just try to give 110% to everything I do. I think everyone on my team can account for that. I can be kind of annoying with how persistent I can be sometimes! [laughs] Overall, it’s just because I want this so bad and I’m not afraid to work for it. So, yeah, just give 110% , don’t stop until you get there and then keep going!
Thanks for your time today, Priscilla. We can’t want to see where the journey leads you!
Thank you, Jason. I appreciate you being so diligent about the questions you asked! Take care!