Diary of an actress #23: The Unstoppable Leah Cevoli (Part 1)

Candy Washington: Leah, do you want to tell us how you got started in the industry?
Leah Cevoli: When I was a young girl I was always performing for whoever would watch, family gatherings and holidays were my favorite time of year, because I had a captive audience, and being the oldest of five, I had a built in cast of players at my disposal. I took dance classes, modeling, gymnastics, cheerleading, choir, and drama as a child but as I got older I began to let my passions slip to the side, I guess I felt I wasn’t good enough at any one of those things, to seriously pursue any of those as a career, and so I focused more on education. I was/am extremely smart and was always in all the honor classes. A bit of a dichotomy as I was also the girl wearing guns n’ roses t-shirts in those honor classes... a bit of a nerdy/rocker I suppose. I obtained a double degree in Psychology and Elem Education, and then something happened that changed the course of my life. I ended up working on tour with my favorite rock band, Poison in 1999, assisting with Bret Michaels’ fan club. And for me, that was it, it opened my eyes up that there was a whole ‘nother world outside of the Philadelphia/Delaware County area filled with rock stars and movie stars and I wanted to be a part of that. I didn’t know how or why, I just knew that I had to go and give it a shot.

Side Note (This was 15 years ago and Philly was NOT the cultural center and thriving entertainment community that it is today. I didn’t know anyone pursuing a creative life out in my hometown. Things have changed a lot since then!)

So I packed up my bags and my car, with a few hundred dollars in my pocket and no real plans for housing or a job, and I moved to Hollywood, California.
I soon found myself booking rock bands at local clubs, that lead to producing larger events and charity shows, and that lead to hosting/emceeing the events on-stage. After a few years, of barely scraping by (as an independent band promoter/booker, there is no guarantee that you’ll make any money on a given event, you may even lose money), I had an epiphany on my 29th birthday and realized that I was promoting everyone else’s career but my own. I soon switched paths, enrolled in acting classes, began doing extra work, and student films, putting demos and press kits together and began hustling to be a working actor in Hollywood. It’s not easy and as I soon learned, you have got to be ready when opportunity knocks. My first big opportunities came back to back in 2004. I had been working as a non-union extra on the HBO show Deadwood for the entire run of the series, and by 2nd season I was assigned a character name, by 3rd season I had a trailer and a few speaking lines. This was an amazing show to work on, with the most incredible cast and crew. I have life-long friends because of this show, and will always be grateful to David Milch and the kindness and opportunities he bestowed upon not only myself but so many others just starting out in the business. Around the same time, I met a young man named Matt Senreich, who noticing how hard I was working day in and day out as a non-union extra for minimum wage, gave me a shot on his new animated show. One day, I received an email telling me I had to be at their studio the very next day, as an A-list Star had to cancel, and I was going to record the characters instead, not only would this be an amazing opportunity on what was sure to become a hit show, but it was also my taft-hartley into the Screen Actors Guild. I was green as far as voice over acting, went, but I must have done a great job, as they brought me back for 9 episodes in total, and to date I have recorded about 30 character voices for his show, which of course, is the now Emmy award winning Robot Chicken co-produced by Seth Green. I can’t even express how much love and gratitude I have for Matt, Seth, and the entire writing team (Tom, Doug, Dan,..) over there. In the blink of an eye, after 5 long years in Hollywood, I was now officially a Union actor. 

These opportunities would have never happened had I not been pursuing my career full-time. If I had a part-time job somewhere, I may have had to turn down these shows. So when I look back, I know the ability to be open and available to these opportunities, is well worth the struggle of making ends meet. Shortly thereafter, I joined SAG, and have been an active member ever since.

CW: I hear you are involved in a pretty awesome project, please tell us more about it!
LC: Ooh, Space Command! Space Command www.SpaceCommandMovie.com is a project created by writer Marc Zicree (Star Trek, Deep Space Nine, TN ). It is a series of sci-fi feature films that will follow 2 families, The Kemmers, and The Sekanders over the course of about 2 centuries. The thing with Space Command is, the team behind it are people whose faces you may not recognize, but their work you surely do. Our character designer for instance, Iain McCaig designed Darth Maul, as well as a ton of legendary characters and movies, like Interview with a Vampire, Harry Potter, and Avengers; and the producers Marc and Neil Johnson decided that they wanted to produce a film(s) that were studio quality, without having to go through the major studios to make it (or hope that it got made). So Marc and Neil took it to Kickstarter. I first got involved with this project as a social media intern in the spring of 2012. This soon turned into me coordinating and assisting with a very successful San Diego Comic Con Panel, Appearance and Party, and have since been hired as their Social Media Director, as well as an Associate Producer on the project. The entire process has been amazing so far, we tripled our original goal on Kickstarter, raising over $221,000!

The project gets more exciting every day, with many well-known sci fi actors coming on-board every day. (Sybil Danning, Armin Schirmerman, Robert Picardo, etc). We are scheduled to start shooting the first of four movies, Empire, in the spring of 2013. Please follow us on www.twitter.com/SpaceCommandMov as well as Facebook and YouTube.

CW: What are some of the challenges you face as an actress? How do you overcome them? Well, the most obvious, is that there is no linear path. There is no set job-course and promotion path and raises like there are for most traditional jobs. It’s the passion that keeps me going, not the Christmas bonuses, or Vacation Pay. Those things don’t exist for us in the entertainment world.

You have to be really committed to make this career work. You have to be willing to watch your friends back home buy homes, and start families while you’re still living in an apartment, auditioning for day-player and co-star roles. AND you have to be thrilled about it. If the passion is not there, don’t even bother. It’s not an easy path, there are many milestones that will go unnoticed by family and friends, because what seems huge to you, say getting a producer session for a major horror film that you would love to be in, well when you don’t get that role, most of the world sees that as a let-down, and it’s NOT. It’s to be celebrated, because guess what, you got that far, and next time you’ll get farther.

For me personally, I do a lot of yoga, a lot of journaling, and meditation. I focus on the journey, and celebrate each success. I try not to compare myself to anyone else’s journey because we are all unique, and try to be the best me that I can be.

I also try to align myself with great people. Positive people, who want to lift each other up. I’m a connector, I always have been. I enjoy referring people for projects and gigs that I think they would be great for, and in doing so, hopefully that leads to a strong community where people have my back as well. It can be dog eat dog world out in Hollywood, not going to lie, but it can also be a warm, wonderful, community of people who support and respect each other.

Contact Leah:



Next entry: Diary of an actress #24: The Unstoppable Leah Cevoli (Part 2) 

Last entry: Diary of an actress #22: Actor Freddie Fox launches The Definitive White Shirt in St James's, London
Candy Washington7 Comments