Stephanie Andujar – Marjorie Prime

December 18, 2017 by  
Filed under Chaléwood, Interviews

Breaking out in the Academy Award-winning film “Precious” in 2009, actress Stephanie Andujar continues to hustle in an industry she loves and is always on the lookout for opportunities to branch out in different directions.

In her latest film, “Marjorie Prime,” a sci-fi drama that stars Lois Smith, Jon Hamm, Geena Davis and Tim Robbins, Andujar, 31, plays Julie, a caretaker for the title character Marjorie (Smith), an octogenarian who finds comfort in conversing with a virtual image of her late husband Walter when he was a younger man (Hamm).

During one emotionally-resonant scene, Julie, a character who is not seen in the original play from which the film is adapted, confides in virtual Walter about conversations she and Marjorie have about growing old and even communicates with him in Spanish.

A few weeks ago, Andujar jumped on the phone with me to talk about her role in “Marjorie Prime,” what helped her develop the character and how she’s still grinding it out in Hollywood after eight years. She also talked about a few new enterprises she has been working on and how it all fits together under the new Andujar label.

How did you come upon this role in “Marjorie Prime?”

Billy Hopkins was the casting director for the film. He also did “Precious” and some other projects that I’ve been in. I guess he thought, “You know, maybe Steph will fit this role. Let me bring her in.” So, I had an audition. I read a few lines for the character. In the play, they only mention my character Julie. You never see her on stage. [Marjorie Prime director] Michael Almereyda, actually wanted to develop her and give her more of a heartbeat and include her in the family dynamic. That’s when my character evolved. Thank goodness he wanted to add another element to the role.

Talk more about that family dynamic. Julie seems like she’s very close to the family, but Geena Davis’ character, Tess, doesn’t seem completely sold on her. How did you see how she fits in that dynamic?

Yeah, I think I’m seen in [Tess’] eyes as a daughter, but then she is also the daughter of Marjorie, too. For me it was like I was trying to gain the love and the attention from a mom that we all want. But then [Tess’] father is there in this way that is artificial, but comforting. I think it’s interesting how our human emotions interact with technology. You can’t help but feel it’s real in some ways.

Since Julie isn’t physically in the original play, how do you go about developing a character like her for the film version? Did you have conversations with Michael about who she is?

Yeah, Michael had this vision for her background where [Julie’s] father passed away. Her Bible and beliefs have been comforting and soothing for her. It’s how she handles her loss and how she copes with it, yet she is trying to share it with Marjorie, but [the family] is not really having that. The director wanted to build on that. I added to her story a little bit, too. I felt she should approach them, but not try to overpower [Marjorie] with her beliefs. It was really interesting, especially [the scene] where she confides in Jon Hamm’s character, Walter. You get to hear a bit more of her backstory and what she’s dealt with.

When I interviewed you for “Precious” back in 2008, you talked to me a little about your own father, who had just passed away. Did you use your own experience to influence your character in any way?

I always think of my father, no matter what – every day of my life. I miss him so much. There were times on set that I was thinking of him. I’m always thinking of him as a guiding force in my life and my family’s life. I always have him in my heart. [Julie’s background] was something I could relate to. I was taking it all in because it was also sad, too, with what was happening with Marjorie’s character. All those dynamics added up to making it emotional for me. Normally, I’m a happy person. With this film, you can have those interjections because it’s normal, but there was this constant feeling like, “This is some heavy material. What we’re dealing with here is pretty deep.”

Now that you’ve been the industry for a few years, does it still feel like a hustle?

(Laughs) Every day is like a hustle! (Singing) Hustlin’, hustlin’. (Laughs) Yeah, man, I feel like it’s always a constant grind. It’s always a constant hustle. You always want to elevate and grow with what you’re doing. That’s why I created a one-woman show on my digital platform (“StephA: One Woman Show”). It’s on YouTube. I went there creatively so I could spread my wings and show my comedic range as well. A lot of the projects I’ve done have been on the dramatic side. So, this [one-woman show] is to show people that I can be funny, too. I wanted to give a little fragment of what my life is like when you see my show.

Do you think creating your own material like you’ve done with “StephA: One Woman Show” is something a lot of young actors need to do to get themselves out there?

Yeah, I’m a firm believer that you should create what you want and do what you want. The resources are there. It’s like the Golden Age of Social Media – of YouTube and of streaming sites. It’s there for us, so do it! It’s a great outlet. It lets you put out content that you hope is received well and people enjoy. I have fans that’ll tell me, “Yo, Steph, I didn’t know you could do this.” Fans are always looking for something, so you never know if something you create is something they would like. Hopefully, it will pop off from there.

Do you want to use the show as a calling card?

Yeah, exactly. It’s a reference for anyone who wants to see my work, including my family. It’s a family effort. It’s under my Andujar Productions, which I created with my family about two years ago. Now, we have a TV show and my brother is helping me produce music videos. My mother and sister are producers, too. Your family is your most honest critics. They’ll give it to you straight. You can always take their word. My mom is my manager now because she’s my biggest fan.

What else do you do to get your creative juices flowing?

I sew. My grandmother gave me a sewing machine, so I’ve been sewing away! I’ve been making garments. I like to dress up and feel a little fancy. I actually sewed a dress for the “Marjorie Prime” premiere that was in August. My sister has a fashion design background, so I guess it’s in our blood that we know how to sew. My sister helped with the pattern and design for the dress and I sewed it myself. We pulled it together for the premiere. It came out great. [Sewing] is something I want to keep on developing. It’s a lot of fun.

So, if you’re on the red carpet wearing something you made and a reporter asked you, “Who are you wearing?” do you say, “Stephanie Andujar?”

Yeah, it’s actually Andujar Couture because it’s by me and my sister. The tops that I make are more just me, so that would be part of the StephA Collection. But for the dresses, Andujar Couture is going to be the moniker for it.

What celebrities would you like to dress in the future?

Everybody! I’m happy if anybody wears my stuff. I would be so honored. I make my dog clothes, too! I would be so excited. It’s for everybody and anybody.

Oscar nominations are coming in a few weeks. If not enough minorities are nominated, do you think we’re going to get another #OscarsSoWhite backlash?

I just hope the right people are represented no matter what background you come from. I base it on talent and the best performance. It shouldn’t be about anything else. I do want more Latinos and minorities to come and shine and bring their projects to the table, so that way they can help the next generation. If you’ve got the talent and you can perform, shine, no matter where you come from. If one day I can be there to rep Latinos, I’d be happy. It would be an honor. I may not win, but I’m here for my people.

 

Stephanie Andujar – Orange is the New Black

November 28, 2014 by  
Filed under Chaléwood, Interviews

Although she didn’t land a role in the first season of the critically acclaimed show “Orange is the New Black,” auditioning for the Netflix series paid off for actress Stephanie Andujar (“Precious”) when the casting director called her in to read for another role a few months later. In Season 2, Andujar gets significant screen time during a series of flashback scenes in two episodes as a young Rosa Cisneros. During these scenes, viewers are given a look into the shady past of Miss Rosa (Barbara Rosenblat) and learn how she ends up in prison.

During our interview, Andujar, 28, talked to me about how she felt after her initial audition for Season 1 and what she did to help her capture the essence of Miss Rosa through a younger version of the character.

Season 2 of “Orange is the New Black” can currently be seen on Netflix. The show has been renewed for a third season.

“Orange is the New Black” is such a popular show on Netflix. How did you land this gig on Season 2?

Well, I was actually called in by the casting director to read for the role of Young Rosa because I had auditioned for “Orange” before. I auditioned for the [Lorna] Morello character, which is now played by [actress] Yael Stone, who is brilliant. Finally, the Young Rosa part came along. So, it ended up working out.

Were you disappointed that you didn’t get the Morello part when you initially auditioned?

No, I don’t think I was disappointed really. I was happy that I got the opportunity to get in front of these great casting directors. I thought, “You know, if this part doesn’t happen, maybe there will be another part.” I had this feeling after I auditioned that maybe they would call me for something else. Thank god Young Rosa came along!

Did you watch Season 1 before getting the role on Season 2?

Yes, I was already becoming a fan! I was already into the show and then the audition came about. I really hoped it would work out. Then, boom, I ended up booking the part.

How important do you think it is for a show like “Orange” to be able to dramatize the backstories of some of these characters?

I was happy that everyone could see the origin story of how Miss Rosa ended up in prison. It’s interesting that she is this strong Latina woman that everyone was underestimating. Backstories are everything. It makes everything so cohesive. It allows viewers to feel closer to the characters.

In Season 1, Miss Rosa had a small role, so I was surprised her character was explored as much as she was in Season 2. I felt in Season 1, she was very hard to read. Did you feel the same way?

I definitely thought there was some mystery to her. I thought she must have had this crazy thrilling life prior to prison. (Laughs) She is this strong Latina woman who had a husband and then had another husband and went through a lot of heartache trying to be this leader. I was glad she had that mystery, so when Season 2 came around, you could really be introduced to Miss Rosa. I think it was a brilliant introduction.

Do you think Rosa could’ve done something with her life if she had made different decisions or if she hadn’t been caught?

Possibly. I think she could’ve owned her own enterprise. (Laughs) I think it would’ve been something major. You know, I’m not sure. I was just really focused on Young Rosa. I wanted to make sure people knew what kind of person she was. It worked out.

When you got the part of Young Rosa, did you revisit actress Barbara Rosenblat’s performance as Miss Rosa to try and mimic anything she did for the character?

Yes, I was able to go on set when they were filming and see her perform one of her scenes. I wanted to capture her mannerisms and facial expressions and voice. I listened to her voice over and over for about two or three weeks before filming. I listened to that accent and made sure it was embedded in my mind. (Laughs) It was fun research. I really just dove in there to make sure I gave this character life.

Did you get to have any conversations with Barbara about the character?

Not really, but she did come up to me one day when I was filming one of the backstory scenes. She was like, “I had to come and see who my Mini-Me is!” I was like, “Oh my god. It’s great to meet you Barbara! Oh my god!” (Laughs) It was a great moment.

Without giving too much away, what do you think happens to Miss Rosa after her final episode in Season 2?

You know, there are so many fans who were touched by that ending. So many fans cried. You just want her to live out the rest of her life. She went out with a bang.

Do you think you would make a good bank robber in real life? Did they teach you any of the basics to rob a bank on the set?

(Laughs) Well, they did tell me how to hold the gun at one point. I don’t think I would have the same guts as Rosa. I don’t know if I could do something that outrageous. It was a lot of fun to do it on a set though.

Stephanie Andujar – Precious

November 20, 2009 by  
Filed under Chaléwood, Interviews

For actress Stephanie Andujar, her role in the critically acclaimed drama “Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire,” hit close to home.

Born and raised in Manhattan, Andujar, who is of Puerto Rican descent, spent most of her adolescence without her father, who was in and out of jail for drug-related crimes. In “Precious,” she plays Rita, a young girl trying to put her life back together by quitting drugs and attending an alternative school. There, she meets the title character, Precious (Gabourey Sidibe), an overweight and illiterate teenager who is pregnant for the second time with her father’s child and living with an abusive mother (Mo’Nique).

During an interview with me, Andujar, 23, talked about the film, which won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival this year, and what she hopes audiences discover in their own lives after seeing it.

You graduated from Pace University this past May with a degree in business. When did acting become a part of your life?

It’s always been a part of my life. I did a lot of theater growing up in New York. My mom put me in an after-school program for acting. She didn’t want me to be on the streets. Then, I went to a performing arts high school. All I could see myself doing was acting and being an entertainer. I couldn’t picture myself doing anything else.

Tell us about Rita and what interested you in playing this role.

Rita is a former heroine addict. In the book, she can’t read, she has HIV and she’s been a prostitute since she was 12. [The role] hits home because my father was a heroine addict. I’ve dealt with things like that in my family. I’ve always had a tumultuous relationship with my father because he was always in and out of jail.

What did he say about your role in “Precious?”

It was tough to talk about. I just remember when I got the part, he told me I should go to rehab programs to see what they were like. He didn’t get to see “Precious.” He passed away in January.

Did your role give you a better understanding of what your dad was going through?

Oh, man, yes. Heroine is such a tough drug to beat. My father really tried to overcome that. I can see the same in Rita. She had no other choice in her life. In the film, she is ready to get her life together. She wants a better life.

“Precious” is your first film. What was the audition process like for you?

I just remember [director] Lee Daniels telling me in the audition room, “I don’t care how many other girls are out there, you got this part. I want you to play Rita.” I was so excited. At the time, it was only a small independent film. We didn’t know where it was going to go. Now, it’s getting all this press. I feel honored to play this character.

What would tell people who might say this character is stereotypical?

I play this part because it’s a true character. There are so many Latinas out there who are told, “You can’t do this. You can’t do that; just have babies and get on welfare.” They don’t have the guidance to see they can do whatever they want. They can become a Supreme Court Justice. Unfortunately, there are a lot of Latinas who are misguided and go through things like this in life. Other Latinos might say these types of roles are demeaning, but I’m an actor. Why is it demeaning? If a role calls for a pregnant prostitute involved in a murder case, I’m going to play it because that’s what I do. That doesn’t mean I’m limited.

What do you hope audiences who see this film take from it when they leave the theater?

This film is about hardships and getting through difficult things in life. I hope people see that they shouldn’t let things bring them down. They should keep on fighting and succeed. The movie might make some people cry, but the tears will be happy tears. I can’t wait until the world sees it.