With 40 acting credits to her name, Stefanie Estes is definitely a talent on the rise. Recently we had the chance to talk with Stephanie about her career in acting, the movie Bethany and her future plans in the acting world.
Was acting something you always wanted to do or did you discover it later in life, like a happy accident?
Stephanie: I think it was something that was all around me during my childhood. My uncle was an opera singer and my mom is an actress so I grew up watching members of my family perform and be in sort of a dramatic environment. But I was a little shy, so I think it was something that appealed to me but it wasn’t until I grew up a bit and gained some confidence and realized it was more exhilarating than scary that I took a shine to it.
Once you realized that you wanted acting as a career how hard was it to break into the business?
Stephanie: It was hard, so hard. You’re constantly hustling and I think every time I book a job it’s going to be the last one, you never know what’s coming next, so you are always a bit nervous and anxious. As far as actually breaking into the business I think I’m still kind of figuring it out. I’ve been lucky that I’ve been able to act many times professionally but I still have to audition, I still have to meet people and get my name and work out there so I suppose the work never really ends.
You mentioned the audition process. Are you at a point where you are comfortable auditioning now or is each time a different type of challenge?
Stephanie: I think I’ve gotten to the point where I’m excited about the opportunity as opposed to being terrified and doubting myself but I think every audition is different. When it is a really big and important audition of course I have terrible nerves, to the point that I think I’m going to throw up during the audition itself. I do think it depends on the temperature of the room you’re auditioning in, sometimes people make you feel very at ease and other times it’s very business-like which is fine, but can leave you feeling like oh my god, what just happened? I think I’ve gotten better at it, I believe it’s a skill you have to hone as you continue along in acting. My initial auditions, I do remember a few that I just tanked and it is an art that really needs to be worked on and there’s no better way than going on a lot of auditions. It really is a weird sort of art form in itself.
What was your reaction when you read the script for the movie Bethany and what interested you about playing the character Claire?
Stephanie: What interested me the most when I read the script was that it wasn’t your typical supernatural horror movie. I like that a lot of the supernatural elements were routed in the character Claire’s own psychological demons and her own mental deterioration that’s going on, I found that really interesting. I think a lot of those movies are the scariest to watch, that mixes the supernatural horror with the psychological and I like that it was a female who was complex and at the end sort of took the reins and stepped up and took charge of her own destiny. Claire is obviously a fragile and wounded character but she’s also very strong and that really appealed to me about playing her.
Do you think the women characters in horror movies are now becoming stronger than those in your average genre film?
Stephanie: That’s an interesting question. I think there is still a common misconception that all the women in horror are just screaming bimbos that get their throats slashed. However, I think dating back to Halloween there is a complex female protagonist and I don’t know if that’s specific to the horror genre but I think a lot of horror filmmakers now are getting better at putting women in interesting roles. I think a lot of horror films I’ve seen recently, like The Babadook or It Follows, have a strong and complex female lead and I was very happy to see that.
The horror genre overall has a very smart and loyal fan base. What is it about Bethany that you think they will enjoy?
Stephanie: I think that mix of the psychological and the supernatural is something that sets it apart from the general fare. It has the bloody and gruesome moments but I think they’re rooted a little more because they stem from a character’s psychological deterioration. I also think it has a good twist at the end, I enjoy horror films that kind of turn in the end and reveal something unexpected, I hope they won’t see it coming, I know I didn’t see it coming when I read the script. I also found that emotionally it resonated with me, it’s a painful realization that’s revealed and I hope audiences will enjoy that.
You’ve done work in theater, TV, shorts and movies. Do you have a favorite genre to work in or do they have their own individual charm?
Stephanie: Yeah, I think they definitely have their own individual charms. For me it comes down to the story and the character because you can have a really cool, compelling character in a short the same way you can in a feature. I guess with a feature you get more screen time and shooting time to develop a performance, which is nice. I think the dream would be to do one of those meaty television shows that go on for years and you really get to sink your teeth into a character.
Who would you say your biggest influences are, people that helped you decide on acting as a career?
Stephanie: I would say my high school drama teacher had a huge impact on my deciding to pursue acting because up until I took class with him I enjoyed acting as a means to express emotions that perhaps I wasn’t able to in my own life. It was sort of a relief for me but with him I really realized that theater and film, it was amazing what you could say with it. You can tell a story that will emotionally impact someone and make them think about something in a completely different way or realize something they hadn’t realized before. He really taught me that acting has a trans-formative power and I think above all else, that’s what really inspired me to be an actor.
When you are working do you like to improvise or stay with the script?
Stephanie: It’s a combination of both and what the director will allow. I’ve been on sets where you had to be word perfect and sets where there was no script and you were improvising the whole time. I guess as an actor I prefer a bit of a mix, sticking to the script but if something happens in the moment that affects you in a certain way, having the freedom to respond to it as you naturally would. I did a horror film about a year ago, it’s called Altar, and we improvised the entire thing. We had an outline of what was supposed to happen in a certain scene but it was all improvised and while it was fun you definitely had to be on your game the whole time. I was lucky that I was surrounded by a group of talented actors that made it easy, and it was more of an ensemble piece anyway, so the bulk of the improvising never fell on just one person.
So what jobs do you have coming up next?
Stephanie: There’s an indie coming out this year called Identity which is a sci-fi/thriller that will have some pretty cool special effects in it. I also have a drama called Nothing Like the Sun, set in the 1960’s and has a lot of really compelling female characters in it. I’m starting work on a horror/comedy web series called Donna’s Inferno so that should be interesting. It’s about a woman trapped in her Los Angeles apartment with some demons from hell and Robert Wagner is playing the devil himself.
I want to thank Stefanie for taking the time to talk with us