We had the good fortune of connecting with Debby Gerber and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Debby, why did you pursue a creative career?
I actually didn’t plan the way my life ended up going at all. I am from Switzerland, Basel, and was about to start College to become a Social Worker, like my Dad. I wanted to be able to actively help and support the people who needed it the most. Seeing my Dad’s work and how it impacted people’s lives made me want to follow in his footsteps. I graduated with honors from a school (with focus on social work) that would qualify me to move ahead and go to College. Our School System is a bit different than in the States but even though I graduated with honors, as the runner up from my whole school, my age became a problem. I was 1 year younger than everyone else because I had started school earlier. Due to my age, I was put on a 1 year hold before I was allowed to then go to College. So I had a year to fill and didn’t know what to do… I started to work regular jobs to save some money while I was still living with my parents but soon my dream of once visiting America took form. I’ve always had a fascination with the English Language and how films were made but I never really had the dream of becoming an Actress. Growing up in Switzerland, it’s not something you’re really introduced to. We don’t have Theater in school. You don’t become an Actor in Switzerland. But watching American Films (I started watching them in their original English language with German subtitles) opened up my horizon and an unidentifiable strong urge to be a part of that world started to develop. To tell stories. I’ve watched hours and hours of behind the scenes footage from ‘The Lord of the Rings’ for example and was fascinated by the pure magic of filmmaking. A world I knew very little about. Hollywood, Los Angeles seemed unreachable. Yet that urge grew stronger and as I was working my day jobs trying to senselessly fill up a year before I could start my studies, I took my earnings, packed my bags and went to America. To Los Angeles more specifically. My plan was to perfect my English so I signed up for a 4 month course at the English Language Center in Westwood. Then I had 3 months left on my Visa so I decided to take some Acting Classes. Just to satisfy my own curiosity and to push myself out my shell. I was 20 at the time and on the road to self-discovery. Well, those 2 months of studying Acting at the prestigious ‘The Stella Adler Academy of Acting and Theater’ in the heart of Hollywood, turned into 2 years. After 2 years, I graduated. I had fallen in love with something I had never experienced before. Through the encouragement of my teachers and fellow classmates. I was able to allow myself to really go for it. It is 2020 now and I still live in Los Angeles and work as a full-time Actress. Acting gave me a voice I never knew I had. My passion for helping and supporting others was and is satisfied with hopefully telling powerful stories where people can connect and let go. I can entertain people. I can make them cry or laugh or see themselves in the roles I get to portray. After 10 years in the business and seeing all the good and also all the bad, I now want to help and support young and upcoming Actors. I am always honest about the journey they are about to embark on and want to help prepare them. Shield them from harm, being taken advantage of and teaching them to speak up. I have found my voice and I will use it for the better. So it’s been an incredible journey but with all the trials and tribulations, I am still here. I am still standing. And I will continue to tell stories and reach people’s hearts as long as I am allowed to do so.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
It’s been a long road filled with trials and tribulations. I came to Los Angeles in 2009 and while I still visit my hometown in Switzerland and all my loved ones, whom I miss dearly, I have made new roots in the States. I have learnt a lot in these past 10 almost 11 years, things that in the moment weren’t pleasant or comfortable yet looking back at it, they were all lessons to be learnt to become stronger. I learnt to speak up for myself in an industry that is still very much dominated by men. Thankfully, female voices are gaining power and room is being made for inclusivity but there is still a long way to go. I have learnt to say No in many ways. I have learnt to say negotiate my own contracts for the times when I didn’t have representation. I have learnt that I have value and that my voice matters. And that I can use my voice with the characters I choose to portray, the films I choose to take part in. I want to tell stories that are either hopeful or shed a light on issues we otherwise choose to ignore or not talk about. I want to open up conversions and destroy stigmas about mental health for example and that it’s a good thing to ask for help. I started to discover social media as a strong tool not only to share my work but to shine a light on issues. I am still learning and will continue to learn. I have become more selective with the projects and roles I accept. I ask myself, who can I reach with this story? Whom will this benefit? Who needs to hear this? Will it encourage, empower, shed a light and make people think? I don’t just take jobs for the money anymore. I started all the way on the bottom, fresh out of Acting School back in 2011. I knew no one in the business. I didn’t even know what LA Casting was, how I submit myself etc. But I informed myself, I did research, I started auditioning for student films. Student Films turned into Independent Films, I started booking Commercials and bigger TV Shows. I started booking Independent Feature Films. It was a very slow but steady process of educating myself. About the business. I went to workshops with Casting Directors and Agents and Managers to get more ‘inside information’. I joined SAG-AFTRA and have had the opportunity to attend countless free seminars where we are taught about industry standards, our rights as Actors, rules, contracts, headshots and reels and so much more. They create events where we get to see a film and have well known Actors join us afterwards for ‘Questions and Answers’. I have soaked it all up and all the information I have gathered over the years, information I sometimes which I had known sooner, I want to share to help my fellow Actors in this tough business. We need to stand together and support each other. I try to be as authentic as I can be, in my work but also as a person. I do what I believe is right, I do things the right and honest way. Maybe it will take me longer and it’s harder, but staying true to yourself is the best gift you can make yourself in this business. And don’t give up. As long as that fire is still lit in you, you feel that passion to share stories, then all you need to do is keep going. Do good work, educate yourself, work hard and stay focused. Life works in mysterious ways sometimes.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
California has so much to offer! You can literally go to the beach, surf and eat ice cream and go skiing and drink hot tea 2 hours later in Big Bear. You can go on Film Studio Tours which are fun to get a good behind the scenes glimpse especially if you’re into the film world like Warner Brother’s Studios or Universal Studios (which next to the Studio Tour also has super fun rides). Hollywood Boulevard is sadly not as glamorous anymore as it used to be but see for yourself. Still worth taking a look around at what once was and hopefully will be again. I personally am not a fan of Santa Monica or Venice Beach because they are too crowded, too many tourists. I prefer the more quiet Beaches in Malibu, San Diego or Santa Barbara. I live next to The Grove/ Farmer’s Market in West Hollywood, that’s always a fun place to check out for fresh groceries, delicious food, shopping and night life.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
First and foremost: My parents. Without their support (even though they didn’t always understand what I was doing) I would have never been able to go and continue on this journey. My teachers at The Stella Adler Academy of Acting, most of all Tim McNeil. Their encouragement and trust in me helped me to go on and open myself up to a whole new world. Every Casting Director I have had the chance to audition for. I’ve had wonderful auditions and horrible ones. I am grateful for each of those experiences as they make us stronger. Thank you for seeing me and giving me a platform to perform. Everyone of my family and friends who has supported me along the way, when I had doubts, when I celebrated victories.