Interview: Brittany Curran on Her Role in ‘The Magicians’, Auditions and Acting Dry Spells

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Actress Brittany Curran

“I’ve never lost that childish joy and excitement that I had in the beginning of my career. I think that’s one of the only ways you can survive in this industry” – Brittany Curran

It’s not hard to believe that Brittany Curran has been acting professionally since she was 11-years old. She’s smart, really funny and has some great advice and stories from her already long career.

From Men of a Certain Age, Twisted and Chicago Fire, she’s now starring in the SyFy Channel’s The Magicians. As Brittany tells it, the show is about The show is “these college aged students who find out the fairy tale books that they read about as kids are actually real. The students find out that they are real magicians who can actually do magic, and they end up traveling to the fairy tale world of the books, called Fillory.” Her character, Fen, had a lot going on this past season, thanks in part to the producers making her a series-regular.

Brittany talks about the show, auditions and her year-and-a-half acting dry-spell. And she’s also got some great advice, whether you’re just starting out or have been in the game for years.

You became a series regular this year.

Brittany Curran: I did, yeah! I was recurring before, and they just bumped me up to series regular for season three. Of course now going into season four as well. Yeah, I was so excited.

Did you know, filming your last couple episodes of season 2, that this would happen? Or did it just come as a surprise?

Brittany Curran: You know, it’s funny. It was one of the actors on the show that kind of mentioned it offhand to me partway through season two. Since it was coming from another actor and not a producer, I was like, “Oh no, they’re just, you know, I don’t know about that.” I had a feeling the actor was just being nice to me. But then I started hearing it more and more through unofficial channels. Again, I never like to get excited about things before they actually happen, but because so many people were mentioning it, I thought, “Oh, wait, maybe this is actually a real thing.” But then I got the official call several months after we wrapped. So I was actually on hiatus when I found out officially that I was a series regular. I was back in LA in my office. I got the call, and I was just … I teared up a little bit. I was so excited. (laughs)

You’ve been on a bunch of shows before and you’ve done movies. Did you still get super excited to hear that news?

Brittany Curran: Yeah. Every new project … Every project is new to me. I’ve never lost that childish joy and excitement that I had in the beginning of my career. I think that’s one of the only ways you can survive in this industry, ’cause this industry is so crazy and so full of no’s that the only way to really be happy is to celebrate your wins. Even though I’ve been doing this for almost 20 years, honestly, every new project, I genuinely am really, really happy and grateful for.

I’m an actor too, so I completely understand. I totally get what you mean. I read about your audition for the show. It’s kind of a funny story, yet kind of scary when it’s actually happening.

 Brittany Curran: (laughs) Yeah, when I didn’t see the last scene? As an actor, you realize how much of a nightmare that was. Yeah. It was so weird. I still don’t understand how it happened. I was in the middle of filming another movie at the time, and so I was little distracted, I’m sure. It was the one day I had off of the entire shoot of this other movie. So the timing was perfect. I was able to make it to read for the producers of The Magicians. I didn’t have any ink in my computer, so I was just going over the lines on my computer, just scrolling down the electronic document. When I finally got to Raleigh Studios, which is where the production office is, they handed me the print sides. Even in the waiting room, I was going over it again, and I still didn’t flip all of the pages. Again, this sounds insane. I still don’t understand how this is physically possible. It wasn’t until I was in the room. The first two scenes went great. Then I saw the casting director flip to another page. I was like, “Oh my god.” I was just honest with them. I was like, “Guys, I have no idea how I’ve managed this, but I did not see that last scene.” (laughs)

There was nothing to do but be honest at that point. I just asked to go outside for a second and go over it. Fortunately, I picked it up pretty quickly and came back in. Yeah, yeah. Our producer Laurie Lieser told me months later that they were impressed that I was a quick read on the scene. I was like, “Oh good, so I should do this in every audition now. I should just think I don’t see the sides and come in and nail it.” And she was like, “Yeah, no. I mean, don’t ever do it again.” (laughs)

It just happened to work this time. I still literally don’t know. This story sounds so dumb, because it makes no sense. That’s how it happened. I still don’t understand how.

I can totally understand that happening. You’re working a lot, and then you have one day off. I can completely see that happening. Especially to me. 

 Brittany Curran: Yeah, you get it. My head was in a million places. I just missed something. It just happened to be an entire scene. (laughs)

You live in LA most of full time, but you film on location. How do you like filming on location?

Brittany Curran: I lived in LA for about 17 years. When I started on The Magicians, what happens is … We film in Vancouver, Canada. I just relocate and move up to Canada for six months out of the year. So since I started this show, I’ve been living half in Canada and half in Los Angeles. I just sublet my LA apartment and get a new apartment up in Vancouver and live there for six months. I love it. I’ve fallen in love with Vancouver.

I’ve never been there. Everybody who works up there says it’s just great.

Brittany Curran: It’s really great. It’s such a beautiful city. There’s so much great food. It’s a very active city. Everybody’s always outside doing something active. It just feels like a very healthy city. I just love it so much.

I’ve filmed a couple things where I’ve had to be on location. I actually like it a lot better just cause you’re more immersed in it, you know?

Brittany Curran: I do. Yeah. I mean, there’s definitely upsides to filming in both LA and on location. One of the things that, yeah I love about filming on location is you’re removed from the rest of your life, so it extra forces you to just focus at your project at hand. You also start to associate that place with that project and that character. It kind of feels like you’re in a different world during that shoot. Of course all the actors and everybody are also up there, and we usually get apartments pretty close to each other, so we get to explore this new place together and then hang out at work. It’s kind of this cool little camaraderie but in another country.

You guys also did a musical episode. How was that? Had you sang before?

Brittany Curran: I had sung for fun. I did some choir in middle school, but I had never sung professionally. I had never really sung publicly on my own. I always loved singing, but I wasn’t really sure how good of a singer I was. Then the episode came up, and I just trained really hard for it. I was like, “Hey! This is actually pretty awesome.” So, yeah! I’ve been focusing on singing more. But I had never ever done anything like that before. I think the producers were a little bit surprised too. In a good way, thank god! (laughs) It was just a blast.

Did that give you the bug to maybe try and do a full-on musical? Like theater? Something like that?

Brittany Curran: Oh, totally, yeah. Another crazy thing is, I had never been to a Broadway show in my entire life.

Really?

Brittany Curran: Yeah, which is so weird. Especially ’cause I lived in Massachusetts for a while, so close to New York. But I was in New York about a month ago, and I finally went to see my first Broadway show. I went to see Chicago. I loved it! I have that bug now. So I would love to do a full-fledged musical. That would be such a dream come true.

You started acting really young. What was the first professional thing you did where you got your SAG card?

Brittany Curran: The first professional thing I did was, I did an episode of Mad TV.  It was so much fun. I played the youngest daughter Ruthie on a 7th Heaven skit.

11-year-old Brittany did not understand about half the jokes, but I knew that the adults found them funny. (laughs) It was such a great first job. Everyone was so nice. I discovered craft services that day and really figured out that I picked the right career after seeing all the food. So that was my first professional job, and then I did a couple commercials. I got to do a commercial with Michelle Kwan. She was one of my heroes growing up since I figure skate and did a book report on her in sixth grade. Then I got to work with her, and it was just the coolest thing ever. Then I was in 13 Going on 30. Then everything just kind of kept going from there. I’ve been really fortunate. I’ve worked relatively steady since then.

Speaking of that, I saw that you had an acting dry spell for a little while.

Brittany Curran: I did.

What was that like to go through? I imagine you were still auditioning and everything at the time, right?

Brittany Curran: Yeah. It was rough, because I had never had a dry spell like that before. I started going to school at UCLA. I had gone to community college leading up to that. My education was always really important to me. So I started going to UCLA for my last two years. I kept working a little bit, but I took a mini, like a half break I would say. Cause I was so focused on my studies it kind of slowed it down a little bit. Then I graduated, and I just had this really long dry spell. I had no idea why. It was incredibly humbling. I got my first job ever that wasn’t acting, and that was really humbling.

Wow.

Brittany Curran: Yeah, I worked as a barista for a few months, and I had never ever imagined doing that. God, I am so glad I did though, ’cause I like to think of myself as a very grateful, cheerful person, but there’s nothing like all the sudden not being able to do the thing that you love for a long period of time to make you truly realize how fortunate you are.

It just makes me so much more grateful. It’s funny, because during that dry spell, that was about a year and a half, two years, you have some people that stop believing in you, both personally and professionally, and that happened to me.

It really makes you realize who truly cares and who truly believes in you. My manager, Matt Luber, was one of those people. My boyfriend James was one of those people. A bunch of other people too. It honestly made me so much more grateful for these incredible people in my life. On both the personal and professional sides.

I also realized the little things about acting that I didn’t realize how much I loved. Like the idea of walking into my trailer in the morning and then seeing my wardrobe for the day and getting excited ’cause I wasn’t sure what outfit the producer was going to pick. And then I think, “Cool, this is the outfit I’m gonna wear in these scenes now.” Little things like that, that I kinda took for granted. It really put it all in perspective. Even though it sucked so bad while I was going through it, I’m actually really, really happy now that it’s happened. (laughs)

I do a lot of theater, and I do TV and film stuff, but mostly theater right now.  People come up and ask you, “Are you still acting?”

Brittany Curran: Yeah

That’s my favorite question, and by favorite, I mean the worst question ever. I just wanna hit someone in the face.

Brittany Curran: (laughs) No, I totally feel your pain. I know, I’m like, “Yes, you idiot!” Just kidding. (laughs).

What was your worst audition ever? Or what has been your worst audition ever?

Brittany Curran: Oh my god, I can tell you exactly what it was. I’m not gonna say what it was for, ’cause I don’t wanna out anybody (laughs). It was for this really big horror film and had this movie star guy in it as the lead, who I love, had nothing to do with him. Okay, so, some of the scenes were in a basement, so it doesn’t really narrow it down at all. Some of the scenes were in a basement, and the audition itself … I’m talking, this is a big studio film. I went to the audition, and the audition was in a basement. Not of a home, but of a professional building. But still, I was like, “Oh my god, that’s kinda creepy.”

And then I get in, and the casting director has her husband there with her, who I don’t think was a casting director, reading the lines with me. Which is fine, I mean, I don’t mind. But the husband was getting so into the character that it was getting really, really creepy while he was reading the lines with me. My character is supposed to be freaked out, and we cut the first scene, and the casting director’s like, “We need to do that again, you’re acting creeped out.” And I wanted to be like, “Well, one, that’s what’s happening in the scene. And two, your husband is creepy as fuck.” (laughs)

She also asked me when I first walked in, she was like, “Are you a Mormon?” And I said, “What? No.” And she was like, “Your hair looks like a Mormon.” And I was like, “What does that even mean?” And I just remember it just being … I fortunately had not having any nightmare audition stories, but I used to remember that whole audition was just so odd and off-putting. She didn’t understand why it was so off-putting.

But probably the funniest audition that happened to me that was horrifying but in a totally different way was, I was auditioning for Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, that Matthew McConaughey movie with Jennifer Garner. So Emma Stone and I had been in acting class together when we were younger. She was always lovely and just absolutely hilarious and stuck out, really truly stuck out in class. I’m not saying that ’cause she’s a star now. She always really did. So anyways, I went in. I met with the director. I did the scenes, and they were all laughing hysterically. Not that, you know, not that you think you killed it means you actually killed it, but I was like, “I’m pretty sure I did.”

So I walk out of the audition feeling on top of the world. I knew it was pretty narrowed down at that point. I remember, Emma was not a star yet, I just had remembered her from acting class. I look to my left when I get out the waiting room, and she’s sitting right there. And in my head I was like, “Damn it! It’s that hilarious girl from my class!” When we said hi and hugged, and I really liked her, but I just knew how funny she was, and I was like, “Uh-oh. This might be a problem, ’cause she’s going in right after me.” And then of course she booked it, which she totally deserves it, and then went on to do her thing. But I was like, “Oh, I knew it from the second I left that audition that she was gonna nail it.” Which she totally deserves, and I was just like, “No! I wanna do this role!” (laughs)

What’s your advice for younger actors, since you’ve been doing this since you were a young girl.

Brittany Curran: Yeah, I would tell them, definitely look at it, this is such an overused quote, definitely look at it as a marathon, not a sprint, because to them you see that your favorite actor’s succeeding, and to you it looks like that it just happened overnight and they just became this thing overnight. Especially when you’re young it looks that way. A lot of these cool overnight success stories, like you didn’t see all of the years and years and years that they put in before they got to that point. All you see is their success, you know? It’s good to remind yourself that most actors have been through a lot to get to the place that they are and to let that inspire you and not discourage you, you know? That there’s a lot of hoops you have to jump through. But also fill your life with other things. If you’re just the actor that does nothing all day and waits by the phone for a call, first of all, you’re not gonna be a very good actor because you’re not out there living life and having human experiences to draw off of, and also you’re gonna drive yourself crazy. You’re gonna have a shitty life just waiting for things to happen you know?

Right.

Brittany Curran: Do other things, you know? I did ice skating, and I write, and I write poetry, and I hike, and I hang out with friends, and I write about wine, and all these other things in my life that really helps me. Also, make your own projects. There’s no reason in today’s day and age not to make your own projects. You have the technology. You don’t need a big budget. You can literally go out there with your iPhone and just shoot a one-minute short with your friends, you know?

Steven Soderbergh just filmed Unsane with his iPhone.

Brittany Curran: Oh my god, really?

And it’s really good.

Brittany Curran: That is so cool, and see? There we go. Case in point. You can do anything.

The Magicians airs on SyFy

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Lance Carter is an actor and the Editor of Daily Actor.

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