Rena Sofer is one of the hardest working actresses in the industry today. With appearances in shows like Seinfeld, 24, Heroes, Melrose Place, Blind Justice, Just Shoot Me and NCIS to name a few, she has a resume that would be the envy of any working actor in the business. She has just recently returned from filming and episode of the ABC hit series Once Upon A Time. She sits down with the Pop Culture Principle to talk about that appearance, her career and Bon Vivant Candles..a brand new business she is involved with and extremely passionate about.
PCP – You just recently filmed an episode of Once Upon A Time. How did you get involved with the project and how was it working on the show?
RS – Well, I was called in to audition for the part, but at the time I had the flu and couldn’t make the audition. I was so upset because people always told me I looked like Snow White when I was growing up. So, I really wanted to play Snow White’s mother and I thought it would be such a great opportunity. They came back to me later when I was feeling better and I went into audition for the part. They didn’t tell me I had the job until after Christmas and New Year’s. I had auditioned in the middle of December and didn’t find out that I had the job until the first week of January and then I got to go do it and it was amazing. The costumes on the show were amazing. Not only where they comfortable for me, but so much of the character is about the costume and how that costume makes you feel. Being in that costume, it really took me to that place and it was amazing. Bailey Madison who played young Snow White… her costumes were just mind-boggling. How beautiful they were. These people should win Emmys every year for their costumes, they are unbelievable.
PCP – So, let’s go back a bit…when you were 15, you were approached by someone from Elite Modeling agency to become a model and that lead to you getting into acting?
RS – Well, I tried to be a model when I was younger. I tried the petite modeling because I am only 5’5, 5’6. Um, but it just never really worked for me. It just wasn’t my style. So, when that didn’t work for me, the woman who approached me to get into that business said you know what, let’s just start doing acting instead and we went from there and that’s where I have been successful.
PCP – I am always curious, do you remember your first official paying acting job?
RS – Yes, I do. My first official paying acting gig was like a music video for MTV. Well, not really a video but kind of a PSA for MTV and we were lip synching to a song. You know the Michael Jackson song black and white where all the faces morph into each other? It was kind of like that and I also did a test trailer for a movie called The Boy Who Could Fly. So, those were my first paying gigs.
PCP – Many actors get their start in the soap opera world. You worked on Loving and General Hospital. How was it working on a soap opera and what did you take away from the experience on those shows?
RS – Well, the very first soap I ever worked on was Another World and I did 6 episodes of that show. It was a lot of fun. It was all the way in Brooklyn and I lived in New York and it was kind of an interesting experience. Loving was literally like college to me. I mean the people I worked with we became extremely close to each other. We are still friends to this day and I mean we would work together and then go out at night together. It was one of the greatest experiences of my life. Then, I left to come to California and never thinking I was going to do soap but not closing my eyes to it though. Soaps can be a bit heart breaking. You can get a job there, but if the character doesn’t work or the story doesn’t work, they don’t just let you go. They keep you there and you don’t have anything to do and you can’t do anything else. So, it’s a question of whether you want to give up that time and for my first job on Loving, it was a great experience. So, it was questionable the second time I got into it, but when I read the character of Lois on General Hospital I just couldn’t pass her up. To this day, one of the best characters I’ve ever played. Probably my top 3 characters I have ever played on television and I won an Emmy for it. It was a really great experience and I got a lot out of that show.
PCP – What was it like to win the Emmy for the role of Lois?
RS – It was awesome. I was really shocked. My character was the comedic relief of the show and even though I had some emotional moments, when you are sitting at the Emmys and everyone is up for their awards and everyone is crying hysterically on their clips and here is me jumping out of a cake with sparklers. So, it was really funny and I just didn’t expect it and it was amazing. I still have it out and I was so appreciative and humbled by it.
PCP – You have such an amazing body of work and I could talk about a lot of the stuff you’ve worked on, but I’ll just pick a few. I remember the first time I saw you. It was on the muffin tops episode of Seinfeld? What was it like working with Jerry and the cast?
RS – Oh my God! Seinfeld was brilliant. One of the easiest and best jobs I’ve had. They were friends and such a well-oiled machine by that time, you just come in, do your job and leave. Everyone still sees it to this day. I was on an episode of Seinfeld, Friends and a possible love interest on the show Ellen. I’ve been on some amazing, iconic television shows. I am so proud that I got those jobs.
PCP – One of my guilty pleasures from the 90s was the show Melrose Place. It had to be a lot of fun working on that show. I felt so bad for your character on that show.
RS – So unfair going to prison for something Amanda did and then she gets my guy too? So not fair! LOL! It was so great working on that show. First of all, I was a huge fan. I loved Melrose Place and I watched it every single week. I don’t really like those types of shows so it’s a big deal for me to say that. I got to play the crazy cheerleader. Are you kidding me? It was awesome. I even got to sing on the show and I can’t sing so I lip synced everything of course, but it was great and a lot of fun!
PCP – With shows like Melrose Place, Seinfeld, 24 and NCIS who have casts and crew that have been together for a while, do you find it easy to come on as a guest star and fit right in to the rhythm of the show?
RS – Well, it depends on the cast. I’ve joined casts where they really didn’t want me there and don’t really want to spice up their show, not that I am really going to spice up the show. You are an actress who auditioned, got a part and now you can pay your mortgage. Some casts didn’t particularly like me coming on, but three of the casts you mentioned Melrose Place, NCIS and 24 were amazing to work on. Melrose Place was great because they were used to people come in and out. NCIS…never worked with a kinder, more decent group of people…from the top to the bottom. NCIS there was no top or bottom. Mark Harmon treats everyone the same on that show… from an extra to an executive producer. It’s unbelievable and I had never been treated like that in my life. On 24, if you don’t gel with Kiefer Sutherland or the show you can come on and play some magic role and within one scene, they’ve now rewritten you and you’ve been shot. It’s such a testament to be invited back episode after episode. I was there for 14 episodes…until the end of that season… until they really didn’t have anything else for me to do. Kiefer was one of those teachers you had in grade school or high school that was the toughest teacher ever and everyone was terrified of that teacher, but for some reason you get that teacher and you just want that teacher to be proud of you, so you work your butt off. When that teacher at the end of the year gives you your last final exam and you get an A and it says good job, it’s as if you just won the Academy award, so that’s the way I felt about 24.
PCP – 24 was a very stressful show to watch, was it that stressful shooting the show?
RS – Shooting that show was exactly like watching that show. When you were doing a scene when there was gun fire, if you messed up, you had no idea of the domino you have stopped. You have to be on your ball. You have to watch out for those flying bullet parts. It is so exact. It is as quick and as intense as when you are watching it. You would come home so exhausted from the adrenaline rush. It was amazing, really amazing.
PCP – I’ve heard many good things about working with Mark Harmon. You had some great scenes on NCIS with him. What was it like working with Mark?
RS – I loved working with Mark. I was so sad that they never asked me back. I wanted to come back and start some more trouble on that show. LOL
PCP – Acting is a tough business. You continue to have great success. If there is an aspiring actor/actress reading this interview, what advice would you give to him or her?
RS – It’s a really tough business and I have to say the business has really changed in the last 10 years. Because movies aren’t what they use to be and movie actresses have moved into television, so it is much more difficult to get a job. For me, I never chose to be a movie actress because I have children and I didn’t want to be on the road. I didn’t want that kind of life for myself or my children. Family is really important in my life. The thing I’ve noticed now is that so many people want to be an actor because they want to be famous. If you want to be an actor just to be famous, the chances of that happening are slim to none. If you can do nothing else in your life but act, I say God bless you, go with God. I never really want to advise people to go into this business because for me, if there was anything else that I ever wanted to do, I would have done that instead because the heartbreak of the constant rejection and the constant feeling less than and the constant being compared to this person or that person. How big or how tall or how thin or how fat you are. It’s really difficult. You have to have a strong constitution and you have to believe in who you are and what you are doing for it to be a successful venture for you. No matter what that is, but you have to be ready, like a fighter to be knocked out over and over and over again and be ok with that. That’s my advice. I’ve been doing this for 25 years, I’ve had an amazing career, and I’ve been so grateful and thankful for my career. It has slowed down a bit in the last 8 years because I had my youngest daughter and my husband and I decided we don’t want a nanny raising our kid. I really made a very conscious choice to say in Los Angeles. Since there is so little work in Los Angeles now, I have closed myself off to a lot of opportunities as far as my career is concerned starring in series.
So, I started a new business with a friend of mine because I’m trying to parlay other passions I have into other areas of my life. I still love to act; I still love to put myself out there. I just haven’t made it my be all end all anymore. So, the advice is be a fighter, be prepared to be knocked down, but also if you have other interests. Say you want to be an actor but like to write, write your own stuff. Look at Lena Dunham, she writes, directs and produces her own series. I mean this is a kid who probably got the door slammed in her face a million times and look what she has been able to do. So, have other interests, don’t make it your be all end all and believe in yourself.
PCP – When you aren’t working, what do you like to do in your spare time? Hobbies?
RS – Well, I’m a mom with no nanny or babysitter, so that is a full-time job. When I’m not working, I’m a mom. When I am working I have other mom friends help me out. That’s a full-time job.
PCP – While doing my research, came across a product that you are involved with called Bon Vivant candles. Want to talk a bit about the product?
RS – Yes, the website is www.bonvivantcandle.com. This product is responsible for the way my skin looks and helps me age very slowly and gracefully, thank you Dino Morra. I’ve been using his products for years and recently have decided to go into business with him and partner with him as well. I’ve been his guinea pig for the past 14 years and his work shows really well. Our first product that we put out there is this amazing collagen body candle. There is no wax or paraffin in our candle. It’s pure vegetable emulsification, vitamin E and C. One of our main ingredients is a black licorice extract which is a skin lightner and also has tons of collagen. You light the candle and it begins to melt instantly. You use the liquid and you rub it in to your skin. The smells are amazing. We have 3 scents, blood orange, vanilla cocoa and the peony. They make your body smell great and they make your skin feel amazing. It’s a product that no one out there has, very unique and all natural. It isn’t tested on animals either. That’s my other baby right now.
PCP – You just recently joined Twitter. Are you starting to warm up to the social media aspect?
RS – I know, I’m at @Renasofer. I have mixed feelings about the whole social media aspect of life. I guess my issue is I’m not really interested in people knowing what I had for breakfast or showing pictures of my kids. It’s a great way for people to know what you are doing and what you have going on with our work, so it’s a really great opportunity, but I find it a bit difficult to navigate how much you give of yourself and how much you keep to yourself. I’m a very private person, there’s not a lot out there about me, I don’t have a Facebook page, so I am giving it a go. I know Bailey Madison who played young Snow White on Once Upon a Time; she’s got that twitter hash tag stuff down. I’m not really that great, but it’s a learning curve. We’ll see what happens.
PCP – Any upcoming projects you can talk about?
RS – Just gearing up for pilot season and doing some auditions. Once Upon a Time should be airing March 3rd I think, so that’s about it.
The Pop Culture Principle would like to thank Rena Sofer for taking the time out of her busy schedule to talk with us. Please make sure you take a moment and look at the links below.
The Pop Culture Principle
February 8, 2013
EXCLUSIVE – Rena Sofer talks to the Pop Culture Principle