We had the good fortune of connecting with Jamie Renee Smith and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Jamie Renee, how do you think about risk?
This is really funny. I actually talk a lot about taking risks with my students. (In addition to acting and directing, I am also a private acting coach and teacher.) I am a firm believer of the adage “Without risk there is no reward.” Having been in the entertainment industry for twenty seven years now, I can certainly say that I live my entire life as a risk taker. Think of it like this: anyone who commits to pursuing a career in the film industry is essentially taking a risk with that career choice alone. In my pursuit of following my acting and directing dreams, I have risked conventionality and stability. I am still unmarried and don’t yet have children, not because I don’t want those things, but because the thirst and drive for my career takes precedence at this juncture in my life and the nature of my everchanging schedule makes it difficult to form stability and to make commitments to other things in life. I’ve risked that stable lifestyle of a white picket fence, the 9-5 job with benefits and health insurance, a couple of rugrats and a dog. I’ve risked it all because while there are so many unknowns within the entertainment industry, I’m talking SO MANY, if you hit that one gig, to hell with the white picket fence. Now we’re talking a Malibu beach house or a sexy cottage in Martha’s Vineyard. We’re talking traveling to other parts of the world for filming, learning about new cultures. We’re talking about living and leading a lifestyle of variety (which is the spice of life, no?) In following stability, I pretty much knew what I was going to get, which would have been fine. But I’m not ok with fine. I want to EXPERIENCE life, not just live it. In following my artistic endeavors, there’s the excitement of knowing that at any given moment, on any given day, my life can drastically change. But in order to be open to those successes, I have to forfeit a stable lifestyle. Being a professional working actor is like being an on-call assistant 24/7. You drop everything to self-tape that audition, scramble to call a friend to be your reader, cancel dates and birthdays, vacations etc. How can I possibly care for 5 dogs when I am running from audition to audition, from set to set? I risk those things because for me, personally, the rewards of the entertainment industry can supersede one’s wildest dreams. In addition to risking conventionality and stability, I also take risks within my auditions. Many of my bookings have come from that little voice in my head that says “Hmm…Jamie…that’s a bold choice…that’s awfully risky…” and then boom! Booked it. If there’s one quote I continue to live by, it’s this: “You’ve got to risk it to get the biscuit.”

Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I started professionally acting at the age of 6. The first guest star I booked (which was actually my very first audition) was on a little show called SAVED BY THE BELL: THE COLLEGE YEARS. Even at 6 I knew it was a big deal to be performing in front of a live studio audience with Tiffani Amber Thiessen. What a trip! After that, I continued to consistently book work until the age of 15, when puberty and changes in the industry went underway. I’ve been in this industry for so long that I remember my Mom using the Thomas Guide to get us from audition to audition — GPS didn’t exist then. I remember black and white headshots and you only had ONE of them…and it was always listed in the Player’s Directory, almost like a giant phonebook for all of the actors in LA. People didn’t email you scripts, they sent a courier to your house with the full script after you booked the job. You’d get the sides FAXED. Man oh man, it feels like all of that was in a completely different lifetime. So much in the industry has changed; IMDb starmeters, instagram and twitter followers, being a YouTube star are all factors that come into play when booking a job, when before it was simply: who is the best actor for the job? With competition severely steep, I’m fortunate and grateful to say that when I reached my 20’s I was able to book more jobs and continue to work in this exponentially growing industry. I’ve been able to receive a BFA from UCLA’s School of Theatre, Film and Television while consistently staying afloat in the entertainment industry which is no easy feat. It’s so strange…I feel as though I did everything backwards. I booked my first tv role when I was 6, as above mentioned, and then worked on countless feature films and television shows all growing up. Then I hit a weird patch where I wasn’t working as much and decided to go for a degree in Theatre. I had never done any theatre in my life until I was 18, excepting a very minuscule role in my kindergarten’s Peter Pan play. A lot of thespians get all of their training in repertory or college which is usually a theatre degree, and then move to LA to hit it big. I did it the other way around. Acting came very easy to me at a young age and I was up for some major roles as a kid. I remember being one of the choices for an upcoming Anthony Hopkins film and if I was to be offered the part, I would have had to shave my head. I was 11 years old. I remember having the emotional discussion with my Mom, saying things like “I don’t want to lose my hair…but it will grow back right? I can get a wig, Mom?” My mom reassured me that I didn’t have to do anything I didn’t want to do, that there will be other roles and it’s ok to have my own boundaries. That’s when I learned what those were. After sleeping on it, the next morning I bravely told my Mom “I will shave my head if I get the part, I want to work with Anthony Hopkins and it’s just hair.” Later that week the role was offered to someone else and while I was disappointed that I didn’t get the part, I remember that I rejoiced with my Mom “I get to keep my hair!!!” So funny that as actors we are constantly going through questions of “Am I willing to give this up? Am I willing to sacrifice this? What am I NOT willing to sacrifice?” Turns out, I’m willing to be the next GI Jane when the time is right 🙂 One thing that I do want to leave readers with is this: not all child actors are abused or forced into it and not all child actors grow up to be train-wrecks. There’s this horrible notion that child actors are slave laborers and that their parents steal all of their money. While that might be true for some, for me, I had a wonderful childhood and wouldn’t give it up for anything. I got to live my wildest dreams, see the world, meet and work with my idols. I saved all of my acting money for college and for investments. I have incredibly loving and supportive parents who kept me in check, who never let it all go to my head. They kept me grounded. For these reasons and many more, I’ve been reminded time and time again that I don’t do this for fame, I do this because it sets my soul on fire. And having been an actor for 27 years now, think of all of the training I have been lucky enough to receive. The 10,000 hours that go into mastering any craft. And some of our favorite actors today were child stars: Shia LaBeouf, Dakota Fanning, Mae Whitman. I think former child stars make some of our best actors today; they grew up in this, it’s in their bones. Additionally, it’s very hard to make the transition from childhood actor to adult actor, so when you see the ones who make it, you know they’ve worked incredibly hard to re-stake their claim in the ground that is Hollywood. There’s something very admirable and inspiring about that kind of perseverance. I hope I can be a part of that inspiration — to inspire artists and creatives to never stop chasing their personal rainbows. To chase your rainbow means to live a life of purpose, and isn’t that what we are all striving for?

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Eeep! This is a very fun question to answer. Where to begin?! Having lived in various parts of Los Angeles for over a decade, let’s start with Koreatown, where I’ve been residing for the past eight years. First of all, I love the location of Koreatown — I always think of the quote from the movie CLUELESS when Cher’s father says “everywhere in LA takes 20 minutes!” I truly feel that Koreatown is the mid-point for all of the other little “boroughs” in Los Angeles, just 20 minutes away from Santa Monica, West Hollywood, North Hollywood, Burbank, Los Feliz and Echo Park. Second of all, the Korean BBQ in K-town is out of this world. My all time favorite place to eat in LA is in the heart of Koreatown at a small place called Soowon Galbi. Hands down the best beef brisket in town. When friends from out of town come to visit, that’s the very first stop. Afterwards, I take them to Olympic Spa where it’s only $20 to use all of the amenities and the only spa that has a Mugworts Bath. If you don’t know what that is, you’re missing out. Venturing out of Koreatown, there’s no way someone can visit Hollywood and not try to get into The Magic Castle. Fun fact: my grandfather was the 27th member to be initiated into The Magic Castle, needless to say, I grew up going to the Castle. Incredibly unique, members only, cocktail attire required. Feels so underground yet elite. Not to mention, who doesn’t like magic? Come on. Another spot I highly recommend for dancing is Bootie LA in Echo Park at the Echoplex. BEST. DANCING. EVER. Not your typical nightclub with a line wrapped around the corner and women shivering in scantily clad dresses. No, no. This is the place where you can wear jeans and a tank top or your favorite costume and go buck wild. The DJs offer a fantastic playlist infusing old school classics like Jackson 5’s “ABC” and then marrying it with something crazy like “Turn Down For What.” I’ve spent many a night sweating my booty off on their dance floor, pun intended. Lastly, my favorite bar in LA is in Hollywood….a well known place called GOOD TIMES AT DAVEY WAYNE’S. It is the most unique and fun bar I’ve been to to date. The entrance is literally walking through a refrigerator and into a 1970s themed “living room” complete with orange shag carpet and a panel of disco vinyl records. There’s an outdoor area with couches and swings and they used to have a plexiglass see-through ceiling outside where a roller-skating couple would do a routine on Friday and Saturday nights above your head. INSANELY COOL. It’s so hard to explain, all I can say is, you must got at least once for the experience. Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I’d like to dedicate my shoutout to the late Marsha Hervey of Smith & Hervey/Grimes. I’m lucky to say that she was my agent for 20 years! Very rare to be with an agent that long in this town. She was right by my side through my childhood, my adolescence, she even kept me on her roster through puberty when I went through the very “awkward” years of my life. She was a huge proponent of me getting my college education at UCLA while still pursuing an acting career, always reminding me that I call the shots. She never forced me into anything and was the best darn negotiator in town. She was more like a Godmother to me — she believed in me every step of the way and I owe almost all of the credits on my resume to her. She passed a few years ago, but I will never forget what she stood for: authenticity, self-respect, and perseverance. And boy was she spunky! I can still hear the smile in her voice when she would personally call me to tell me when I booked something. I owe much of my career to her and her unceasing belief in me. Rest in peace, Queen Marsha.

Website: www.thejamiereneesmith.com

Instagram: @thejrsmith

Facebook: Jamie R. Smith

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