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Sunset & Vine: For The Sake of an Actor’s Sanity


About four months ago I auditioned for a very big budget, studio movie in all of it’s glory. It was shooting off in a far away land and I had to go into Universal to put it on tape to then be sent to the Directors and Executive Producers already shooting in said far off lands …

First, allow me to put a disclaimer on the vague description of this tale of mine: sorry to be so mysterious. Alas, this is truly the most accurate and honest way to describe the process from within my shoes.

Okay, here is the rundown:

Get the call.

— My mother is in town from the east coast and we are in Santa Monica visiting friends … On a Sunday. The call is big. The Audition (if booked) is a life changer, and I know one of the producers and have worked with the director commercially.

Get the email with script/sides & character breakdown.

— Tell said mother, “We gotta cut this thing short and head home.” It was already 5pm at this point and the read was to be put on tape the next morning, Monday at 9:30 AM. Time was not of the essence. She was down and understands my life very well. We head back to Sunset & Vine.

Obsess with it for a bit, Attack it, Eat it, Smash it, Own it!

— We get back to my place at Sunset & Vine. I print the sides, indulge in the script, memorize it backwards and forwards in order to truly be in the moment and go to work. The real work begins for me when I am “on my feet” – it’s just how I am wired at the end of the day. My mom, Kimmie, is actually a really good reader and will indulge to the fullest with me – it’s great to have her captive. We order dinner in and go to town.

Sleep on it.

— Then comes the time to “let it all go.” Give it up to the heavens and let it settle in your body. We watch a Jon Stewart , have a glass of wine, and hit the hay.

Rinse & Repeat.

— Alarm goes off at 6:30 in the morning for an 8:45 AM leave time ( I wake s-l-o-w-l-y) – and I shower and get right back to where I was at and focus. Hopefully, (and I do believe in the power of “sleeping on it”) there is a deeper connection emotionally and physically from the nights slumber … The character / scene living and breathing in your body through the night.

Show up & Slay it.

— I walk in, focused as hell, lay my heart on the line whilst being an ultimate professional. In other words, offer up that blood, sweat, tears with pleasure. Then say goodbye and try to go on with the rest of my day. I let it go … as best I can. I have actually become pretty good at this! See this:


— Happens all the time.

Let it go.

— For me, there are two parts to “letting it go” : a mental and physical one, and an emotional one. Although, life carries on, after all this is part of my life, the letting go. I have to say though that, to be perfectly honest, the work whether it be an audition or an actual job lives within me for a bit. It is not an instantaneous goodbye. Eventually, however, it does leave my body fully and ON TO THE NEXT ONE! We are only as good as our last job (read), so make it count!


I am at a game night at the Executive Producer’s house of said “big budget, studio film” when he casually mentions…

Executive Producer to role that could literally change my life dramatically: “Tonya, you know how good your tape was. We (Director, Producers, etc.) all loved you and tried so hard to hire you for this role. You completely had the job!”


Me: “What???”

Executive Producer: “Yes! It was a passport thing, we just couldn’t do it and we really tried to find a loop hole. It was a tax break thing, we were forced to hire a European.”

Me: “What?????”

Ahhhhhhhh! Sanity. It was an intense breath of fresh air!

And this is why: This “stuff” is a huge part of my life and it does mean a lot to me no matter how you look it at. This did not change anything for me at all, I still did not have the job, except: Sanity Ensued.

This served as something deeper than just validation. I knew I had done a great audition and really went for it as best I could and I just found out I WAS ENOUGH. Period. We can understand that and believe that, but this career is rough and it is really nice to hear sometimes at the end of the day. When, once in awhile, you actually become aware of the “behind the scenes” reasoning of work you created and produced instead of it vanishing into the great unknown, it’s really nice! It is validating and it is important. We artists are human beings after all and take our vocation seriously, and at the end of the day rejection blows. The nature of the job does not come with a security blanket let alone any type of closure what-so-ever, that is part of the deal we sign up for. Last Saturday I was reminded that, although we can not rely on it, having a bit of insight to the inner-workings of the business can be really refreshing. After all, knowledge is the best type of power one can get.

*photo courtesy of Dollar Photo Club

Tonya Cornelisse

About Tonya Cornelisse

Theatrically, Tonya has worked both on and Off-Broadway honing the stages of The Daryl Roth Theatre, The Cherry Lane, Labyrinth, The Public Theatre, E.S.T., Humana Festival, and many more. In Los Angeles: Sam Shepard's Buried Child at The Whitefire Theatre, IAMA Theatre Company. Tonya is a proud member of Ensemble Studio Theatre, where she can regularly be seen on stage in Los Angeles. Tonya has worked in over 30 films big & small including the upcoming THE VOYAGE OF DOCTOR DOLITTLE with Robert Downey Jr. and LOVE IS NOT LOVE.Other features: BENT, MOPE, GROW HOUSE, Nick Cassavetes’ YELLOW, PELÉ, CRAVE, & THE WOLVES OF SAVIN HILL. She garnered multiple awards from all around the world (including the BFI Award for Best Actress) for her performance in LIMINAL. Television shows include Catastrophe, Trial & Error, How To Get Away With Murder, Scandal, NCIS, Parks & Recreation, ER, Law & Order(s), The Wolfpack of Reseda and the series lead in two of FOX Searchlight’s Digital Webisodes including Crack Whore Galore & The Katie Kooter Show which she also created. In addition to her acting credits, Tonya has penned a number of screenplays, plays and short stories including Dog Lovers, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. She works extensively in Voice Over including Voice of Lexus & Lipton Tea. Tonya is also an award-winning Narrator: TONYA'S NARRATION PROFILE