Catalina Rojas: Tell me about yourself.
Siena Stann: I don’t really like talking about myself. I think I’m quiet and shy but most people are like “What? No, you’re not.” I’m very friendly and personable, but when I say “shy” I guess I don’t talk about me. When I was on set for Clips, one of the biggest compliments I received was Meghan telling Professor Scoggins, “Siena is just so good with all the people!” I feel the exact opposite. I mean I do I care about the people, but anyway I don’t know what I’m talking about.
CR: What brought you to JPCU?
SS: I wanted to go to a Catholic school because I felt I didn’t know a lot about what being Catholic meant. I thought it was important, my dad had a Catholic education. He was always, my whole life, been “Well I went to a Catholic school.” He’s always saying how important his time at a Catholic school was, so I always kept that at the back of my mind.
I was challenged a lot when I was in the military. I’d always be like “Well, I’m Catholic I can’t do those things.” People would ask why, but I didn’t know how to answer because I didn’t know. I wanted to know and I felt the call to know.
I also had this big passion for acting that I suppressed those five years in the military. It just kept coming back, this passion and this desire to act and perform.
CR: Do you think you found what you were looking for here?
SS: Yes, because I wanted something smaller. I was coming from a really big organization where there’s so many people knowing your business. I really liked how small and intimate JPCU was. When it’s too big, you kind of get lost in the crowd and I like how really concentrated it is. It was very, very different and I think I needed that. I was coming from a different lane, then all of these other personalities and people I’ve never encountered in my life were put in front of me. It was needed for me to grow.
CR: Why did you join the military in the first place?
SS: Whenever I’m asked this question I’ve always said different things to people. Because I felt I didn’t know why. Okay well, I knew why, but I didn’t want to say why. Then after a really long time, it dawned on me. I feel like I joined because I didn’t know who I was. I didn’t do anything in high school. I didn’t really live, I was just a yes-man. Then when the time came, everyone’s going off and I still didn’t know what I wanted to do.
I knew I wanted to act, but I was just so poor and didn’t have any money. I felt like it was a thing in the distance I could never reach, just a dream. I felt like I needed to get out of my environment. I needed to learn, I needed to grow up. I felt naive. I was also just so scared of everything. So I did the scariest thing, and I joined the military. I did it to learn more about who I was as a person.
CR: How did acting become your passion?
SS: When I was in the third grade we were going to do this play I had never of called West Side Story. We watched the movie in class, on one of those really old big box TVs, everyone had to move their chairs really close to see.
It was Rita Moreno and her portrayal of Anita that was a huge factor. She wasn’t Maria, the main girl. And I don’t think I’ve ever seen myself as someone like Maria. I kind of always knew I was rough. Anita was just so colorful. She’d be singing and she would go from happy to sad, there was so much going on. It was my first time seeing drama like that.
West Side Story played a huge role in me wanting to be silly and be weird. Ever since I saw that I was in the playground and we would call acting, “playing pretend.” Like okay what are we going to pretend today? But it’s just acting. My teacher saw how much I was affected by it. So she came up to me one day and told me, you’re going to play Anita. So I played Anita in West Side Story for my first play ever.
CR: Do you prefer on-screen or stage acting? Why?
SS: When I’m doing I always say “Man I wish I was doing the other.” But that means I love them equally. They’re very different in the preparation process. I love the preparation and finding out who your character is and your circumstances. Sometimes it’s easier I feel when you’re on a stage to really feel like you’re in the moment.
When I did my acting practicum I struggled with figuring out who my character was, but if I was on stage I probably wouldn’t have this hard of a time. In The Crucible, I knew who my character was and I was so ready and in it, because you had a month to prepare. When you’re doing on-screen I feel it’s all up to you to go out and find out these things. You have to go out and work with your scene partners and do your research. With theater, you’re kind of forced to practice and rehearse with these people. I love both, but I do think I would rather do on-screen and I can’t tell you because I don’t know. I think it depends on the role and what the story is.
CR: How is preparation different for an on-screen role versus a stage role?
SS: I think it’s different with the role. I don’t think my preparation is ever the same, they’re always different depending on who I’m playing. I spend a lot of time with the script. When I get a script I think it’s really important to read through it and ask myself what is happening, what’s going on. Then I love working with other people, my scene partners and figuring out what their take is.
I like to read the script through as many times as I can, maybe read it once a day. Then just discover, keep discovering and finding new things. Then when you think you have something in your head, an idea of how you want to play something, you read it the next day and discover something else. I approach them both the same, but because you’re working with a camera then an audience how you move is going to be different.
For example, The Crucible and A Midsummer Night’s Dream were very different for me. One was a struggle heavy and the other is a lighter character. With Shakespeare, I spent a lot of time studying the text alone, before putting action to it. For The Crucible, I did a lot of research of the time that it took place in and what was going on. It was important for me to understand what was happening at that time.
CR: At what point does a character become yours? Does the freedom of “creating” a character ever get overwhelming?
SS: I care a lot about the director’s opinion, maybe too much. Whenever I do something and make a choice myself I’ll do it, but then I doubt everything. I talk a lot with Angie about what I’m doing, but she trusts me and she lets me know that. If it’s not working she says she’ll tell me.
You want to do your best. You want to create a queen for Oberon, but you don’t know what Oberon is going to do. You don’t know what he’s going to create. Who are my fairies going to look up to? But you get into costume and have your first costume run-through. I’m not even worried about it because I’ve become the queen. Once it’s going I enjoy the freedom. I stop asking questions and I’ll do what I want. I do love becoming someone else, for a little while.
CR: Who would be your dream co-star?
SS: Everyone knows this answer. My acting fam will know it’s Daniel Day-Lewis. I love his approach to acting. All the things I’ve seen him in, I’m just so captivated. The characters he creates and how he creates them intrigues me. I’m always wanting more at the end of his films.
Photo Courtesy of Siena Stann