Hollywood, CA: December 23, 2015
Born in Bulgaria, MARIETTA MELROSE was certain from a young age that acting was her first and foremost passion. After taking summer courses at top UK drama schools such as RADA and LAMDA, Marietta was accepted at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, where she trained for 3 years, graduating with a BA in Acting in 2015. She is a talented and a driven actress who not only auditions for roles but is also capable of creating her own work by producing various projects, everything from from Fringe Theater to a Web Series in which she has also taken a starring role. We caught up with Ms. Melrose during her recent visit to Hollywood and sat down for a chat.
Hollywood Revealed: When and how did you decide to be an actress?
Marietta Melrose: There wasn’t one particular moment when I consciously decided to be an actress. I’ve been involved with the arts since kindergarten. I was a very sociable, opened kid, generally in a good mood and ready to make people laugh. When I was about five or six, I was a bit of a show off, often taking the microphone from local bands and performers, and sometimes upstaging them. Everyone likes a kid with stage presence, and I was told I had some. I soon enrolled in a music school in Bulgaria where I learned discipline and hard work.
HR: Who and what were your first influences?
MM: One of the Top Bulgarian singers of all times- Lili Ivanova, was my first influence. Her stage presence, voice and emotional engagement when singing were a trigger for me to want me to pursue a life in the arts. When I was young Jackie Chan was quite popular in Bulgaria and he has always made me laugh. His comedy timing and the way he made acting seem easy also influenced me toward a a career in the entertainment industry.
Currently my influences are legendary actors such as Meryl Streep, Marion Cottillard and Cate Blanchett.
HR: How did you start your journey?
MM: I used to be in an Arts School where I did drama as an extracurricular activity. However, it was only once a week. I still remember it was every Wednesday, end of the day. The teacher was a famous Bulgarian actor- Vencislav Kissiov who had his own acting studio, that people could only attend with an invitation. I was invited and had the luxury of rehearsing and performing in a real functioning theater. At the age of ten I had the honor of playing, Juliet in “Romeo and Juliet.” From that point forward I started being involved in numerous theater and TV shows.
HR: What other parts did you do back home?
MM: I enrolled in another acting studio lead by Petar Vurbanov and I feel that it was a turning point in my career. The studio was well known for preparing students to get into the National Academy for Stage and Film- Natfiz. I always had a feeling that I would study abroad. I have felt that my country is somehow too small and limited to satisfy my desires. I believe that actors needs to be in one of the big centers in order to be noticed- New York, LA or London. Going back to your question, the part that I am best known for is “Aglaya” in the stage adaptation of the novel written by Dostoevski “Idiot” which was later turned into TV series. The process was transformative and the team was incredible.
I have to say that I had the best time being taught by Petar Vurbanov. I was one of his favorite students and that is all I needed in order to soar, someone who believed in me. I became determined to audition for top drama schools in London and also Juilliard.
HR: How did the auditions go?
MM: t was the most challenging and stressful year in my life but also the most rewarding. I was still in high school so I had to study for exams and at the same time fly to UK and New York a couple of times. The first audition I had was at Royal Central School of Speech and Drama where I felt I very comfortable and connected with the atmosphere of the school. It was a whole day of audition with a group warm up and some improvisation exercises. I felt that this was the place for me to be.
The Tony award nominated director Wilson Milam auditioned me and seemed to really like me. He told me I will get a recall for the next round on the same day. Officially I was meant to be notified in 3 weeks time. I had callbacks at Guildhall and Juilliard and got accepted at Royal Central School of Speech and Drama.
During my training I got the chance to work with wonderful professionals who are famous in the British theater. People such as John Wright, Catherine Alexander and Sinead Rushe. Drama School is great for teaching you discipline, collaboration and respect for the process. I cannot stand actors who act like divas and think it is all about them.
HR: You have performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival twice in a roll; can you tell us more about your experience?
MM: Yes, The Fringe Festival has been the best learning curve for me. I was used to the British way of the ritualistic pre-show preparation and warm ups. I confess, there was pressure in getting used to the quick get in and get no time to focus in the space we were performing in.
The first time I did the Festival was in 2014 with a newly written play called “We Were Kings”. The director, Jordan Blackwood, who now works with the amazing theater company DV8, was so easy to work with. He was always ready to explore, change and amend, always istening to the actors’ concerns. I was the only female in the team and I felt that the dynamic was very interesting. The work was focused and precise, we had ownership of the show and the actors had fun! We got 5-star reviews, a London transfer and also we got nominated for the NSDF Award. I was thrilled.
On the back of “We Were Kings” I got two other jobs, another project at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and also a devised play in London.
The artistic director of Red Belly Black Theater Company, Kate Goodfellow, an incredible actress, saw my performance in “We Were Kings” and invited me to be part of her new show which was meant to be “devised, physical and using vertical beds”. That is all I knew when I agreed to be on board. We were meeting up every week sharing poetry, moments from our past relationships and slowly finding our way through it. We were structuring the show for a year so it was a long process of physical circus type training, writing and devising. The directors Vicki Baron and Elizabeth Williams were passionate and patient.
Thanks to a couple of investors and the producing skills of Kate we had the luxury of a publicist, Chloe Nelkin, who was looking after the production. Companies such as Theatre Re and Gecko came to see the show and we got some really good feedback. I got some agent interest and also a producer showed interest from America. I got a London agent thanks to the Fringe production and also connections all over the world.
A couple of months later after the Fringe Festival I went to LA and met with a few top producers who were interested in the way I write and improvise. They wanted to discuss ideas about how to get seen and noticed in Hollywood. I sent them I couple of pilot ideas and now I am in discussions about having my comedy TV series produced and when it sets up I will be playing one of the leads.
HR: How does the acting scene in LA compare to Bulgaria?
MM: There is no place for comparison. Hollywood is the center of the film industry. There is no other place, which is so opened to accepting and encouraging new talent. Of course Bulgaria is trying to find its way and attract more American productions thanks to out great locations and much cheaper prices. Even though there is not enough money in the arts, Bulgarian artists are making progress in creating their own work and having an impact on the world stage.
HR: What was the best day and the worst day in your acting career?
MM: Fortunately, I have been blessed and lucky to have had good days and in my work I am trying to hold on to them and the positive memories.
The best day I would say is when I got accepted at Royal Central School of Speech and Drama and got to the final round at Juilliard. It was all on the same day and I was the happiest person in the world.
The worst day was when I received my very first end of year assessments at Drama school. I felt I had worked so hard and I was devastated that my final results was not good enough.
HR: You were in LA for 3 weeks, can you tell us about your success there?
MM: Thanks to some successful meetings I got recommended by a producer and introduced to a personal manager. It seems like my writing skills and creative ideas for collaborative projects will be my way into acting which is a very exciting possibility for me as an artist. Because of my TV series meetings, I signed with Stefan Jacobs, who is a manager and a producer as well. Stefan has worked with many A list stars including Luke Evans, Kevin Spacey, Vanessa Redgrave, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Ethan Hawke.
Two days after I got signed he sent me a script for a film called “The Wonder Girls”. The director and writer of the script is Anthony Meindl who is a top acting coach in Hollywood and is also a director. It turned out that Anthony was already familiar with my work as he had seen productions of mine in London at the Embassy Theatre.
After I read the script I knew that I would do anything to be involved with this production. I loved the story-line, I cried about 5 times while reading it. If good actors jump on board there are some Oscar winning parts here. I managed to convince Stefan that Bulgaria would be a great location to shoot the film so he invited me to be the local producer for the film and potentially have some time on screen too. We also made plans to produce my comedy TV show together. I couldn’t have hoped for a better way to end 2015. It is one thing to be established in Europe and a whole different game to break in to Hollywood. I am thrilled to see what 2016 has in store for me and I am sure it will be another busy year involving hard work and a wide spectrum of emotions. I am ready to meet the demands of Hollywood and develop my full potential.
HR: What do you think has helped you achieve everything you have so far?
MM: As an actress I am extremely hard working and I am always willing to put in the hours and devote my full attention and commitment. I believe to succeed in the industry nowadays also involves being able to put on the business hat as well. I feel it is extremely important. I try and use my acting skills in differentiating when I am Marietta the actress, Marietta the producer or Marietta the artist. Of course finding the balance is not an easy task. However I enjoy being on the production side of film making, finding investors, looking for locations and negotiating for discounts. I feel a much more empowered actress and when I am auditioning I am full of joy and confidence as I know they are only looking for solutions that hopefully I can provide.
HR: What advise do you have to other young actors who share a similar dream as you do?
MM: Don’t play it safe. Always be fearless. Most of the time it is down to luck and not talent. So don’t beat yourself up about all the things that are not under your control. Stay focused on what you can do and how you can improve. Your life is your art. Be positive and follow your instincts.
HR: Those are great words to live by. Thanks for talking with us.
MM: Thank you.
Check out Marietta’s website HERE
Portraits by:Laura Burke
Production Photos by: Mihaela Bodlovic.