We had the good fortune of connecting with Annie Karstens and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Annie, Let’s talk about principles and values – what matters to you most?
The principle that matters most to me is Acceptance. When I first started to see some success was when I accepted who I was, what I’m capable of, what I look like, how I sound, my age – the list is endless. Being at odds with myself, fighting against the tide so to speak, establishing ridiculous expectations, only led me down a rabbit hole of insecurity. And not much good can come from a place of insecurity or denial. Acceptance of myself and my circumstances unlocked so many doors for me, both personally and professionally. This acceptance manifested in many ways – my appearance, for example, went from diets, hair dyes and fake tans, to my natural appearance and hair color (I hadn’t seen since middle school); my auditions went from over indulgent emoting and well choreographed motions, to more honest and authentic; my personal life became less fragmented. I stopped trying to be what I thought others wanted to see. I found the relief of knowing that if I’m not the right actor for a particular role, it’s not the end of the world, that I didn’t fail. What a weight off my shoulders, to realize I’m not in competition with anyone, because no one else is me and I can’t be them. With acceptance, I was able to fully step into myself without reservation. And that’s where I’ve found that the real magic happens.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
Finding the stage seemed really easy for me! I did my first play at age 11, and my first commercial a year or so after that. Spending all of my teen years in the theater, even attending a performing arts high school, pretty much just made the stage my home. And the people there, my family. Creating characters, imagining new worlds, connecting with other people – all became second nature. The challenges came when I moved to Los Angeles, and the sea of opportunities became so much bigger. At the same time, my shot at them seemed so much smaller. Finding my footing was really difficult, and I didn’t make great choices when I first got here. I wanted to go to the American Film Market one year, but tickets were super expensive. So, I found out how to become one of the event staff. I got paid to be there, made some amazing connections, and got a glimpse into how movies were born. That really gave me a good perspective on balancing my hopes and dreams with the real and concrete business of making film and television. That helped me shift my focus from “maybe I’ll just be randomly discovered,” to “how do I get to work.” I started doing more workshops, classes, doing non-union television (like ID Discovery channel), as well as student films and one act plays around town. I started making my own content, joined a friend’s web series and joined an improv troop. Opportunities don’t fall into people’s laps often, I learned. So I made my own opportunities. And little by little, my credits built and my connections expanded. I learned more and more about who I am as a person and as an actor. I focused on authenticity and creating good work. That gets noticed. And when I finally did get a commercial agent and I started going out for bigger commercials, I really dug into that world. I absolutely love doing commercials. These are entire stories, compelling arcs, journeys we take as actors — in usually just 30 to 60 seconds. That’s not easy! And as commercial bookings started coming in, my confidence grew. Today, I’m grateful to say I’ve booked three times (a film and two TV shows) during these difficult Covid days. My credits include shows like Westworld, You, Superstore, S.W.A.T. and Kidding, along with feature films and commercials for companies like Geico, Carmax, Apartments.com, and many more.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Ha! During Covid? We’d keep it outdoors of course! LA is an amazing town for that!! We’d definitely go a couple hours up to Big Bear where we’d stay at my friend’s amazing vacation home. We’d do easy day trips to Mt. Baldy to hike. Probably hit up Apple Valley, show the kids the petting zoos there and eat a ton of pie at picnic tables. Definitely a drive up the PCH and hike around Malibu. All the normal Hollywood hotspots are closed, but I’d definitely order in from places like Off Vine, Loves Baked Wings, and Simply Salad. Oooh, and Home in Los Feliz. Of course we’d hike Griffith Park and Runyon, maybe hit the outdoors area of the La Brea Tar Pits or Exposition Park.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
So many wonderful mentors, teachers, coaches and reps have contributed to my career and my confidence. Scott Vandiver, my manager at Spotlight Management, was among the first to believe in me and to tell me that I am enough. Margie Haber, at Margie Haber Studios, helped me push the chip off my shoulder, to see the JOY in acting once again. I came to Margie’s with the baggage of rejection and a fear of failure, and she helped me regain my personal power, to get back to the love of my craft again. My commercial agents at Coast to Coast Talent Group, Hugh Leon and Rachel Flores, did me the biggest favor by passing on me during my first interview with them. I was still stuck in a caricature of what I thought an actor was. That meeting pushed me to find my more authentic self, and after I did and brought them exactly who I really was, they signed me and we’ve had some great wins since. My reps at Lovestone Agency, Brittany Stone and Tony Martinez, took me on with only a couple credits, but because they saw something in me, I was empowered to see something in myself too. Karina Walters, Sam Weaving and Andy Poe are my heroes. My partner, Stephen and our sweet son, Finn, are my life.
First Photo: Jim Cook
Second Photo: Peter Konerko