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

Candy Washington: What’s your favorite part about the job? Have any crazy stories for us?
Leah Cevoli: My favorite part about acting is getting to be anything and anyone that you could ever imagine. So much of my time is spent on the business side, the networking, but the absolute best is getting on set or in the booth and turning into that character.

Crazy stories? Hmm, well when I was working on Robot Chicken it seems they always cast me in a role that had to scream at some point, lol. I love screaming, and they know that. Working, on the horror short Body of Work, my character gets murdered, and later returns as a ghost (spoiler alert), and I was airbrushed to look all veiny and decaying, with rotting lips, that was pretty awesome. 

But, I think the craziest thing I’ve ever done as an actor, was a self-produced, no budget video for After Dark Films, where my character has to drown in a swimming pool. My friend Andy Mackenzie (Sushi Girl, MacGruber, True Blood), directed me and was also behind the camera, so he’s pushing me under the water with one hand on my head, and the other operating the camera. I’m in stilettos, a corset, a long skirt and boa, and he’s yelling at me to keep my eyes open longer under water (for the drowning effect), meanwhile, I’m coughing and spitting water up after every take. It was awesome.
The other thing I LOVE about my job is getting to travel to conventions and speak to fans and peers about this industry. In the past few years I’ve been invited to speak at The Freak Show Horror Fest in Orlando, Wonder Con in Anaheim, Comikaze Expo in Los Angeles, and the highlight of my Con experience so far, was this past summer as a guest on The Most Dangerous Women of Comic Con panel in San Diego. I love, love, love, being able to share my story and experiences with a live audience and inspiring others to just live the life of their dreams, no holds barred, no matter what the circumstances. It’s such an awesome feeling to have someone come up to you after a panel and share something that touched them.

CW: What’s one thing that you know now, that you wish you knew when you were first starting out?
LC: Wow, well I have no regrets about my journey, I truly believe that things happen the way they are supposed to. But if I could share wisdom with someone just starting out, it’d probably be to truly embrace the development of not just your craft, but of your mind, body, and spirit too. When I was first starting out in Hollywood, I partied a lot, and although it may look glamorous to be at big fancy parties, the people that are getting the job opportunities are not the ones out partying every night. They’re the people at home, in classes, working out, getting a good night sleep, and taking care of themselves. A lot of people come out to Hollywood and get caught up in the Hollywood Hills party scene, and before you know it, opportunities are passing you by. This career is about longevity. And what that means, is that YOU are your product, and as such you must take care of all aspects of it. Stay away from the energy vampires, surround yourself with positive, healthy friends and hobbies, and take care of your body, with the right food, sleep, and exercise. Or else you’ll find yourself depleted of energy and depressed. I’ve been there. I’m not going back.

CW: I know that you wear many hats in the industry – do you want to tell us about producing?
LC: Sure! I’ve always had a knack for organizing large groups and getting tasks completed. The majority of my producing experience has been with music and charity events, including a fundraiser for the Twin Towers Orphan Fund, right after 9/11 occurred. We had 13 bands, 6 comics, and 10 Emcees at the Key Club in West Hollywood, more recently I produced an event in 2010 called Hollywood Rocks Haiti, where we raised money for Unicef. This experience has now transferred to the screen and I’ve been involved with producing on a few projects, from short films, to web-series.

I enjoy producing, but I’ve found that I’m much more excited about producing something that I also have a role as an actor in. My friend Brooke Lewis, http://youtu.be/4p-oDyBk9rg is someone I look up to for career advice, and years back, she told me that it’s important as an actor to find other skills you have, to help leverage when you come across a project that you’d like to act in. Producing is not for everyone, but I do have a knack for it, so if I’m approached by a project that I truly believe in, I will most definitely put on a producer hat.

As a producer my skills lean towards the organizational, putting all the pieces together, on the ground work. Finding and hiring the right cast and crew. I also have a strong social media following and have been an asset to more than one project in their fundraising and promotional marketing.

To be honest, I’ve been burned a bit in this area, and unfortunately got involved with an unsavory character that utilized my producing and fundraising skills, and then kicked me to the curb right before we were scheduled to shoot. As such, I am much more cautious about who I partner up with, or what projects I put my name too. I’ve learned the hard way that a contract is really only as good as the two people who sign it.

The entertainment industry is tough, and until you have a team of lawyers, managers, and agents looking out for you, you’ve got to do it all yourself.

CW: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
LC: In 5 years, I’d like to be acting in more feature films. My passion is in the horror, romantic comedy, and fantasy genres. I would love to be shooting a feature film every year and working with cutting edge directors. I’ve become much more bi-coastal lately, and have rediscovered what a truly kick-ass city Philadelphia is. There is so much going on here, and so many amazing young artists and filmmakers that I hope to truly expand my work as an actress to both coasts. I see myself as a permanent fixture on the Cons/Panels circuit, hosting award shows, and hopefully have a budding family by then. I also see myself continuing the work I do producing/hosting charity and live music events, and possibly doing more philanthropic work around the world. Oh, and animated features, would really love to give voice to a Pixar or Disney film. That would be so much fun!

CW: What’s one thing that my readers can only find out here about Leah Cevoli?
LC: I am totally afraid of needles and getting blood drawn! I have seven tattoos, and love horror movies, but I hate needles and blood. Go figure!

CW: Upcoming Projects?
LC: I am really excited about 2013! Besides Space Command, which is going to be a game-changer for self-produced projects, I’m also set to star in a trans-media Fantasy project called Legendary, (Teaser: http://youtu.be/z8Hx0gctKmU) this will shoot in Portland, Oregon fall of 2013. This project is very Game of Thrones-esque and my character Honora Ambrosena is a bit of a figure head for the town, a business woman who owns a lot of property and the local tavern, where many dirty deeds are plotted and planned. And then there is, the dark-supernatural feature film shooting in Missouri. Everything, written by Jeffrey Williams, this reminds me of the older tales from the poets like Poe and Shelley, where there’s more than meets the eye, and even the monsters have glimpses of compassion. This was originally a short story, and after the creator saw my audition, he wrote an entirely different role for me, and it transformed from a short to a feature. That’s pretty dang awesome!

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

Contact Leah: