Beyond Technique with Samantha Rund

Episode 10 : No Obstacles with Mary Lou Belli

September 19, 2020 Samantha Rund Episode 10
Beyond Technique with Samantha Rund
Episode 10 : No Obstacles with Mary Lou Belli
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Beyond Technique with Samantha Rund
Episode 10 : No Obstacles with Mary Lou Belli
Sep 19, 2020 Episode 10
Samantha Rund

Two Time Emmy Award winning director Mary Lou Belli joins Samantha Rund this episode to discuss her experience as a director and the importance of mindset, boundaries, and trust. She shares lessons from working on Girlfriends, useful tips for raising kids, and the 4 things essential to success. 

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Samantha Rund is a professional actor, comedian, and coach who performs on stage and screen across the country. A graduate of Northwestern University, the University of Washington’s Professional Actor Training Program MFA, and Second City’s Improv and Directing Conservatory; she is passionate about enriching people’s lives through the performing arts. Some of her recent acting work includes 3 Busy Debras on Adult Swim, Lady Macbeth in Shakespeare’s Macbeth, and various commercials including Google, Microsoft, and Amazon.

Her company, Beyond Technique Coaching, focuses on using performance principles to empower people to bring more of their whole selves to their lives and work. She works with a wide range of people around the world for performance and personal development. 

www.samantharund.com

www.beyondtechniquecoaching.com


Mary Lou Belli, a two-time Emmy award-winner, has been
directing television for over 20 years. She has done ground-
breaking work on web-series and her award winning short,
America, just won The Hague Fest. Through her teaching, she
supports many of the vibrant diversity programs including the
DGA, ABC/Disney, CBS, Sony, HBO Access, AFI’s Directing
Workshop for Women, and Warner Bros. Directing Workshop
mentoring the next generation of directors. She is the co-author of
four books: “The NEW Sitcom Career Book,” "Acting for Young
Actors," "PERFORM: Acting for the Screen" and “Directors Tell
the Story” which she co-wrote with fellow DGA member Bethany
Rooney. She taught directing at USC for 10 years.

www.maryloubelli.com
Twitter/IG/FB @maryloubelli

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Show Notes Transcript

Two Time Emmy Award winning director Mary Lou Belli joins Samantha Rund this episode to discuss her experience as a director and the importance of mindset, boundaries, and trust. She shares lessons from working on Girlfriends, useful tips for raising kids, and the 4 things essential to success. 

--------------------------------------------------

Samantha Rund is a professional actor, comedian, and coach who performs on stage and screen across the country. A graduate of Northwestern University, the University of Washington’s Professional Actor Training Program MFA, and Second City’s Improv and Directing Conservatory; she is passionate about enriching people’s lives through the performing arts. Some of her recent acting work includes 3 Busy Debras on Adult Swim, Lady Macbeth in Shakespeare’s Macbeth, and various commercials including Google, Microsoft, and Amazon.

Her company, Beyond Technique Coaching, focuses on using performance principles to empower people to bring more of their whole selves to their lives and work. She works with a wide range of people around the world for performance and personal development. 

www.samantharund.com

www.beyondtechniquecoaching.com


Mary Lou Belli, a two-time Emmy award-winner, has been
directing television for over 20 years. She has done ground-
breaking work on web-series and her award winning short,
America, just won The Hague Fest. Through her teaching, she
supports many of the vibrant diversity programs including the
DGA, ABC/Disney, CBS, Sony, HBO Access, AFI’s Directing
Workshop for Women, and Warner Bros. Directing Workshop
mentoring the next generation of directors. She is the co-author of
four books: “The NEW Sitcom Career Book,” "Acting for Young
Actors," "PERFORM: Acting for the Screen" and “Directors Tell
the Story” which she co-wrote with fellow DGA member Bethany
Rooney. She taught directing at USC for 10 years.

www.maryloubelli.com
Twitter/IG/FB @maryloubelli

***If you enjoyed this episode please help spread it’s message****

Like - Share - Subscribe

Give a 5 star review on Apple Podcasts

Post a comment 


Become a patron on PATREON *** 

https://www.patreon.com/beyondtechniquewithsamantharund

Thank you for your support and stay safe and healthy!

Samantha Rund:

Hi, I'm Samantha Rund, actor, comic and creator of Beyond Technique Coaching. This podcast focuses on performance and the many ways it can help enhance our lives, in voice, body, and mind; so we can bring more of our whole selves to our lives and work. Because our whole selves are our best selves. On this podcast, I'll have on some incredible guests we'll be sharing some stories of the ways that performance has helped inform and empower our lives, as well as share tips, techniques, and some of our many experiences. I hope you stick around. And let's have some fun. Welcome back. So for today's episode, I'm absolutely thrilled to have on our next guest. She is incredibly talented. Two time Emmy Award winning director, she's taught at USC, USC for over 10 years, an author, and somehow finds time to teach in the midst of all of this. I cannot wait to hear what she has to share with us. You're gonna want to follow her on her website at maryloubelli.com, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. So please give a warm welcome to Mary Lou Belli.

Mary Lou Belli:

Thank you so much for having me. I'm thrilled to be here.

Samantha Rund:

Oh, thank you. Yeah, so I'm just so I'm, I have a million questions, of course. But how did you get into directing? Was it something that you always wanted to do?

Mary Lou Belli:

No, as a matter of fact, I took one directing class in college. I was I was bossy because I had already stage managed, but I was really not a very good director. A lot of that had to do with a point of view on the world. And I was very, very young. I graduated from college in three years. So you can imagine. Um but, and it was an actor who pulled me aside and said, You're a director, one, you know, in the middle of my coaching somebody. And I thought about it. And I thought, you know, a lot has happened since college and that experience of, you know, evaluating my skill set and thinking, no, you're not very good at this. And then I thought, you know what, this, this really could be exactly where I belong. Because by that point in my acting career, I realized that I really didn't like performing very much. And what I really love to do was rehearse. And solving the puzzle of the character or the story was always tantamount, in terms of what I was going for. So I'm directing just fit right in, and I and I, pretty instantly recognized that, especially through my work in the theater, because I what I did was I went to the theatre company where I was known as an acting member. And I said, Hey, I want to try this directing thing. And it worked out.

Samantha Rund:

Wow, that's awesome. Did you... so if you're already kind of naturally inclined to be a director, I'm always interested in how what we do for a living, or on a daily basis, how it can change our mindset, or outlook on the world. Did you notice any sort of like shifts in?

Mary Lou Belli:

Yeah, I will tell you, I know, it's a it's a very specific thing. Um, ah, although I consider myself a pretty warm, and effusive person. There's a lot in my life that I closed down, in terms of I think, as an actor, emotional availability has to be one of your strongest assets. Um, and I no longer needed that. I needed compassion and empathy.

Samantha Rund:

Right.

Mary Lou Belli:

But those are different from me going "Hey, world, this is me all my insides." And I don't do that anymore. So basically, um my circle of friends was a little bit tighter. And I wasn't, and I don't mean this to be on on on generous, but I was I just became lessemotionally available to everyone.

Samantha Rund:

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

Mary Lou Belli:

And, and I have to say, and it's to this day, I always say, acting is way harder than directing. And it's particularly because of that asset that you need.

Samantha Rund:

Mm hmm. Yeah, I find they're...

Mary Lou Belli:

I'm more private.

Samantha Rund:

Yeah, yeah. I'm such a private person. And when I started doing stand up, people are like, you got to get over that real quick. So I'm like, ah, because I feel like it's different with acting. I could be completely naked on... well, not for real, but like naked on stage, but it's not really me being naked, it's the character. But then with stand up, I'm like, Okay, I got to talk about my real life. But what about my real life do I want to talk about? Am I okay with just everyone hearing?

Mary Lou Belli:

And I swear I do. I'm writing some fiction now. And that's where I'm going, huh? This is, this is a little bit more revealing. And although I have to say I've loved it. You can hide in what the same thing you're talking about when you're playing a character. I can hide behind the fictionalization of these things. But it's also coming through my personal emotional lens.

Samantha Rund:

Right. Yeah. So you started writing fiction. Have you been writing...like, do you have other fiction out? Already out?

Mary Lou Belli:

No this will be my first piece. It's, it's nearly done. It's, it's, um, I don't think it'll go out before I start my first job this season. But I'm hoping that before the end of the year, I have it out to some publishers. So we'll see. It's a collection of short stories, but all related and all sequential. And we'll see. But I also have my fifth nonfiction book out to a publisher right now. So maybe I'll get a book deal for my nonfiction before the end of the year as well.

Samantha Rund:

That's amazing. And we can find that on your social media and of course, your website when it becomes available.

Mary Lou Belli:

Right, exactly. And all four you know, I talked about my other four books on my website already.

Samantha Rund:

Awesome. Yeah. When I was doing a little bit more research in order to prepare for the interview I saw, I did not know this, which I probably shouldn't just admit so readily, but that you directed Girlfriends.

Mary Lou Belli:

Oh, for for, like, six years. Yeah.

Samantha Rund:

And I, I loved that show. It's one of my all time favorite shows.

Mary Lou Belli:

I did too. And, you know, this, this the fact that it's available on Netflix, you know, as of a few weeks ago, yeah. Um, I've always stayed in touch very closely with Tracy, um, and, and Persia as well, but not as much with, um, and Keesha Sharp, but not as much with Golden and Jill. And it's kind of fun because Golden I have been, you know, you know, answering each other's tweets and things like that. So, it's been fun too. Because you have to know you don't spend that long with with a group that amazing and not fall in love.

Samantha Rund:

Right.

Mary Lou Belli:

I love each and every one of them. And Reggie, um, you know, so it was, it was great. And to see them all together, and some of the stuff they've done together for the release. Even playing together and having fun. It just brings it all back. And there was a little thing you know, you think, oh, does anybody remember this? Well, Tracy Ross, every time I would walk on the soundstage in the morning, she would say, and she was always on time and early."Mary Louuuuuuuu" . And as a result, I was "Mary Louuuuu".And the first thing that Golden did when she got back in touch with she said "Mary Louuuuu", like, Oh, you you Oh, so everybody remembers that. And it's also where I met Yvette Nicole Brown and Jennifer Lewis. I mean, I have to tell you, and God bless her Mara Brock, Akil, who gave me that job, and then hired me for the Game. And now I'm working for her production company on Black Lightning for the second season. Well, so, um, Girlfriends is really, really big part of my life.

Samantha Rund:

So amazing.

Mary Lou Belli:

And an amazing show! That I hope the whole world discovers again.

Samantha Rund:

Yes, yes. So if you're when I mean, obviously, you're listening to this podcast, if you're hearing me talk about this. But if you haven't seen it yet, you want to, you want to check it out immediately. And you don't have to take our word for it. Like, it's fantastic. It's so good. So, um, do you have any life lessons from Girlfriends or things that you learned on set that changed your life or you think could change others?

Mary Lou Belli:

Yeah, I will tell you, and this is not a good lesson. And it wasn't mine to learn, but it was mine to have to, you know, I do a huge amount of advocacy work. And on that show, I had invited, I'm a young, up and coming but pretty inexperienced director on the set. And in the in the idea that she was being helpful. She overstepped her bounds. And I have to tell you, as a result, no one was ever allowed to visit set again. So basically, one mistake, you know, and maybe it was mine and not giving out instructions. If you're going to come on set, this is how you should behave. But um again, it wasn't malicious. It was she was trying to be helpful. But um, one of the cast members didn't like it, and I completely understand the cast member was completely in the right. So um, now when I have people shadow me, or, you know, I'm pretty clear about how you should behave on set. Um, and even if you have good intentions, you're a guest there and you need to behave as a guest and not overstep your bounds.

Samantha Rund:

Mm hmm. Yeah, that makes sense. So, yeah, it's really good for people to remember that even when they're trying to be helpful to not necessarily think of, if it's helpful from their perspective, but from what everybody else needs. Do they want that help?

Mary Lou Belli:

That is so perceptive. Absolutely. Absolutely. Um, and yeah, and then it not only if you make mistakes, sometimes there's repercussions for a long time coming.

Samantha Rund:

Wow. Yes. And for everyone else, like, man, I didn't even have a part in that initial.

Mary Lou Belli:

Yeah. And then like, just personal stuff, you know, I did learn a great lesson as a director, there was um an episode I don't know, was the first one that Yvette Nicole Brown did. Or the second one, because she came back to reccurred on that show that I had directed her in. But, um,there was a huge scene. And and Jennifer Lewis, who was playing the mother of Yvette and Jill, um, and Jennifer Lewis's character has a drinking problem, or drinking challenge. And she goes off the wagon. And she, she has a huge, huge drunk scene for which she went on to win an award or multiple awards for for this performance. And she came up to me after the first run through and, you know, sitcoms have this wonderful time when you can rehearse for three days. So what Jen knew she was going to do on camera on Friday. Yeah, was not what she was presenting on Monday, Monday was an exploration. And as a result, um, you know, she was trying one thing on Monday, and then she expanded what she wants to try on Tuesday. And then, you know, it was kind of like a pendulum swing, swinging and finding that sweet spot of what's really, really drunk. Really, really truthful, and really, really funny all at the same time. And she came up to me on the second day and said, trust me. And, you know, it's Jennifer Lewis. I mean, the body of work already was astounding. And I did. And I have to tell you, you know, one of the things I find with young directors is that they're nervous Nellies, and when there's pressure on the outside they're " No, this is what we want from her." And I, my main job that week, was to guard Jennifer's process. And that's what I did. And it's it was a great, great lesson in terms of being a director is that you have to take care of your cast, and where they are in terms of their exploration of the character. Because um executives, you know, people behind me are result oriented. And acting is not a result. craft. It's a process craft. So that was, um, and as a result, you know, Jen has requested me on things, you know, I mean, I, I'm fingers crossed, she just got a new show. And I'm hoping, hoping, hoping to get to work together again, because I adore working with her. And I adore her as a person. And she's just, yeah...

Samantha Rund:

That's awesome.

Mary Lou Belli:

Yeah. And I trust her. Yeah. knows, I trust her. And she knows that I trust actors.

Samantha Rund:

Yeah. I love how you put it. And I've never really thought of directing as the sort of bridge between two worlds in a way. Oh, like, right. And it almost seems like the sort of life lesson takeaway I'm thinking here too, is how applicable it would be for parents. When you're parenting, you know, each child is going to need something a little bit different in order for them to grow and do their best. And then you have your responsibilities of making sure that, you know, they're an upstanding citizen, and safe and all of those other things and just trying to shield them from those worries. So they can blossom. Yeah. But I want to say this is completely off shoot, but just because raising children, which I've raised two amazing kids, but when my... I can't remember if it was when my first or second was born, my AD, who is a prize winning prize winning dog breeder, Oh, wow. made me a dog training book. For a parenting gift. And I have to tell you, it was amazing and really, really helpful. Really?

Mary Lou Belli:

I am not. I am not kidding you. Capperelli I remember that, you know, she's still a friend of mine. And, you know, Westminster dog show we're talking about because she knows what she's doing. But I tell you certain things about training dogs is really good to know about training kids.

Samantha Rund:

Wow. Well, yeah, I don't have kids yet. Um, but uh, hearing my friend who you know, she's recently become a mom talking about when it's time for potty training. And every time after potty she gets a treat. And you know, I have a dog now. And I'm like, well, he gets a treat to when I take him potty. But I feel like I personally feel like I'm being tricked in that situation. Because with the dog, I feel like it's more work for me than him going potty. So it's like, wait, wait, wait, when we come back inside, I should get the treat for having to deal with that. Yeah. What was... do you remember the name of the book? I don't I could ask Mickey. Let me see she remembers. I probably lent it to another parent. Right? Um, do you do any of the, like, correlations come to mind? Yes. I'll tell you, I'll tell you one, immediately. Okay.

Mary Lou Belli:

Um, when you make a decision, stick to it. And be and and instantly enforce it. Like, for instance, I'll tell you the correlation. So whenever I was leaving someplace, or I was leaving, let's say a party with the kids, I would never say we're leaving. And then you know, start around goodbyes, and it would be half an hour before we left. That doesn't that's a mixed message. I never said we're leaving until we were really leaving. So that when I said, we're leaving, because we knew, we were leaving.

Samantha Rund:

Yeah

Mary Lou Belli:

It was...sometimes it was just about that, you know, little things like that.

Samantha Rund:

Makes a lot of sense.

Mary Lou Belli:

Yeah.Yeah. Cuz they, you know, we're leaving and then talking for 20 minutes. is, um, sends, is a complex thing to understand to, three or four year old.

Samantha Rund:

Right. And then they kind of learn to not take you seriously because you don't act immediately on what you say. So it's like, oh, that's not really met right now. That makes alot of sense. Yeah. And I didn't mean, I said, I think I said training kids. I think I meant raising the kids. I didn't even hear training. I went Oh, that sounds terrible. Um, where to go from here. Now, let's see, oh, well, let's talk about how about training directors or teaching? What What do you find, um, anything that's especially fun, or potentially frustrating in moments when you're, you're teaching actors or directors?

Mary Lou Belli:

Well, you know, teaching directors is, is really a gift. I mean, I did it for 10 years on the faculty of USC. And now I do it a lot for training programs, and a huge amount of diversity and advocacy programs for women or people of color, whatever. Um, I, um, what I have found is, and this is just, you know, there's there's rookie mistakes that people make, and if you can kind of get ahead of those and say, Hey, watch that you don't do this, because we all do. I did. Everybody did, does, but don't or try not to, or notice when you are doing it, Yeah. Um, but I would say that's, you know, like things like most young directors over talk things, and my, my, my instruction is keep your eyes on the, your eyes on the eyes of the actor, and especially when we're gonna all be in masks, the moment you see that, oh, I understand what you're saying. You don't even need to finish your sentence walk away. Because the moment that that thing happens in the actor's eyes, like, their start, their creative process is started.

Samantha Rund:

Right.

Mary Lou Belli:

Walk away, to take advantage of how they want to use that note you just gave them. So stop explaining. I literally say Shut up, walk out of the set and say action, Roll camera, whatever. Um, but the other thing you said, you know, what is some some one of the treats, the treat is when you meet someone who has the package, the perfect package for being a great director. Now, that's not to say that people who don't have that package, um, can't become great directors, you know, some of them are have a wildly good imagination, some understand stories, some have a visual sense, it's impeccable, and are missing that leadership skill. So there's, there's all those things to being a good director. And I don't think you're a great director without all of them. Um, so, in terms of that, I, when you see a package that you just go, Oh, wow. It's you just, you know, you know, you know, and then what you want to do is go, Hey, everybody, come look and give this one a chance this one, you know, or it's sometimes that note I get from somebody saying, you know, what, Mary Lou, you told me, I needed to work on this. And I have, and it's made all the difference. So, you know, that's, that's, listen, that's very, very gratifying. So, um, my success is everyone else's success. And, you know, my legacy is not that, Oh, she directed this many episodes, or she wrote this many books or, you know, I'm hoping it was, she paved the way for next generation and that generation looked different. print from the previous generation. That's what I want. Yeah, that's what I want to be known for.

Samantha Rund:

Do you find that you ran into? Like, I feel like this is such a dumb question, because,

Mary Lou Belli:

No dumb questions.

Samantha Rund:

Okay, thanks. I'm like, it's a patriarchal society. So it's like, you know, but were there certain, like roadblocks or challenges? Well, you'd my motto is there are no roadblocks. Only detours. Hey.

Mary Lou Belli:

So were there a bunch of detours I had to take. It was ridiculous. I mean, case in point, there was a point, I know that I was signed the within one four weeks of another director who had very, very, very, very similar credits to mine. And I was at a very good point in my career, I mean, I was working steadily. I hardly got an interview for a year and a half. And that other director, worked, worked worked. He was a man. Now, now, that's not to say that maybe part of that was, first or all it was my fault for staying that long with... something that wasn't working. Another great life lesson. Um, you know, walk away. A bad agent is worse than no agent. And yeah, so, uh, yes, there's always those things, but you can't look at them that way. I mean, if I, if I, if I complained, or whined or, you know, it was no, I, you know, I just put blinders on and say, This is what I do this is and just keep trying, you know, I'll tell you the biggest compliment, I get it from like, close, close friends who have known me over many, many years. They, when they say, you know, Mary Lou, your tenacity, you know, you deserve the success you're having, because of all the work you put into it. And, and, you know, I have to say, that's not that's not singular to my career. It's true for almost any career. You know, Malcolm Gladwell talks about putting in those hours, The Beatles put in those hours, because, you know, so you put in those hours. Um, and as long as there's a basis and that you're good at it. Um, my friend Todd Hollins says four essential things to being successful director joy, you can never lose your joy. You must always expand, you must always work on your craft, you must always expand your network, Joy craft network. And he says, repeat. If you go after you, actually, if you go to the website, because he gave us permission and gave Bethany Rooney and me permission to put it on our website. There's a little beautiful graphic for that joy craft network, repeat if you want to be inspired. And the way you get to it is go to focal press, which is publisher for two of my books, focal press, go to directors tell the story, go to companion website. And that is there along with some other fabulous things, videos, video interviews, you know, little lists, like 10 things to think about before you block a scene. Eight things you should say to a editor, eight things to talk about when you talk to a director of photography, you know, if there's just a lot ofother stuff. To help you good at what you do.

Samantha Rund:

Thank you focal press director's tell the story companion website. Yeah. Okay. Yeah. And it's not as easy as you think because it's a British company. So everything that we kind of think of it that you're going to click on things in the lower right corner. In the upper left, Ah, You'll find it companion website. Awesome. And so thanks for sharing some of those sort of rookie, you know, rookie things to look out for what would you say in your experience with actors, sort of rookie actors versus these other incredible actors you get to work with? And this is this is sad, but the best sort of actor to come on not as a series regular, but as a guest star. And that's where I meet most people. um is an actor who will come on stage, having done their homework, coming prepared, coming with ideas, doing the work, and leaving. So it's the actor that needs... and listen, I am the most supportive director for actors. I'm known as an actor's director. But, um, and I very much guide performances. But for someone who has to constantly be reassured, I want someone to come on with confidence.

Mary Lou Belli:

And not and not need, and not that I can give it if it's needed, especially for something that you're doing this particularly risky or whatever or out of your normal, you know, wheelhouse. But the person who just takes up, they're like time vampires. Mm hmm. I wish I could tell you that, you know, in the theater, there's way more time for that. And I love with theater for that reason, where we can, you know, but um in tv schedule.

Samantha Rund:

Right? Yeah. And they're sort of you have bigger fish to fry. Time is money. And it's just, you're not there to babysit.

Mary Lou Belli:

Yeah, no. On the other hand, I had an actor who I've worked with multiple times on multiple projects, who, who would come in and she'd literally be waiting for me at the door. Because you know, that scene, I have a, say, there's three ways I could go with it. So and then and then I go, okay, and I just stopped where I was, I go, go, and she would show me She goes, I could go this way. I could go this way. And usually it was a joke or a bit or something. But she had worked on it. And she just wanted me to choose one. And I always had a choice because and not that they all weren't good. Because this this woman is a remarkable Tanya, Gennady. She's just a remarkable actress, and gifted and creative and fun. And I mean, I just adore her. But that's the way she would say, I'm not gonna take up a lot of your time I thought about this. I've done my homework, choose. And it was like, a little present each day. I got to set and there would be a little Gennady present.

Samantha Rund:

I love that idea. That's fun. Yeah. I'm taking a long pause to think about what's next. Um, let's see. Pause for myself. Ah, oh, so, um, I guess what I'm curious about too, is what? aside, I know you gave the pillars of like a great director. But for you personally, what is it that drives drives you to continue with, with your work, whether it's teaching or directing, writing? Oh, I, you know, it's the title of directors tell the story. It's about telling stories. I know that from the first book I read. And I'm a huge, huge reader. I mean, I wish I could tell you, my Kindle now reports to me, how many days and how much I'm reading, it's like, it's obscene. And then I watch a huge I consume a huge amount of television and films. So um ah, I have to say, I've always been drawn to telling stories, but also because as an audience how I've been moved by stories. So they like for instance, my book club that I belong to, in my neighborhood, we read a book that I would say universally, um, a lot of us had problems with some of it was just the subject matter was so horrific and difficult. And, you know, it's, you know, when you realize that women being raped is a part of a war strategy. You know, it's, it's hard, but also in the way it was written. Although poetic, it's actually shortlisted or long listed for a Booker, we found a challenging to understand to follow. So there would be discussions in my book club about what, what, what really happened here, was that a dream sequence was that real was I mean, so it was confusing. Yeah. Um, but at the same time, the discussion we had, because the subject matter was so rich, was so fabulous. We had one of our best book club meetings, you know, amongst the nine or 12 women in the group. So when I leave a movie, or I finish a book, and I can talk about it with friends, you know, stories for me, and it's and it's why I'm attracted much more to to stories than nonfiction. I just love that they transport us, not only intellectually, but emotionally. And I think when you've taken an emotional journey, and it's one of the things I you know, I say to people when they're interviewing, or they're writing a cover letter, tell a story. tell your story. Because someone can read a resume and see what you've done. But they get no sense of who you are, or what's important to you, you know, don't leave, don't leave an interview without talking about things other than the job at hand. You know, let them see you. You know, because it's, it's about I think this is true about any workplace, but particularly about show business. It's how you fit in, you know, and I have to tell you, and similarly, I've gone in and watched shows, I mean, I remember distinctly just before, um, I'll remember his name to interviewed with a man in Peter Corona. Corona, Oh, boy

Mary Lou Belli:

The virus. Uh huh, who couldn't have been more elegant and lovely. And it was Netflix was the first people to say, hey, let's stop doing these in person interviews, let's do it, start doing it on zoom, or, you know, whatever it was on. So we did this interview, and I remember all my agents, and he had asked me to look at three series that Netflix was doing. And although I had worked with the star of one of them and had a great working relationship with that star, um, I looked at it went I'm not the right person for this for the show. And then there was another one where I go, I'm perfect for this. So at the same time, but he he said something to me after that interview, or maybe he remarked to my agent, he said, It's so refreshing that you didn't say, Oh, I'm ready for this, I'm ready for all of it, I can do anything. The fact is, you're not best suited to everything. You can, you're probably suited, you know, directors direct, and we can do, you know, but my co author, Bethany Rooney, and dear friend says, you know, a director has to fall in love with every episode, they direct, or every movie they direct. And if it's going to be difficult for you to fall in love with that story, or this genre or this, you know, it's you know, I'm, I'm about to do a show now for Disney Channel. I haven't worked for them in decades. . And I'm so excited to go back and be working with kids, which was my life. You know, I had so many kids centric shows over the years, and I loved every moment of it. And I can't wait to get back to working with you know, a predominantly cast of a cast of predominantly of miners.

Samantha Rund:

Wow, yeah.

Mary Lou Belli:

Because they're at points in their life. I'm sorry for interrupting

Samantha Rund:

Oh, no, you just read my mind. Where they're learning and growing and discovering who they are. And some of that sometimes it's painful. You know, I remember a producer coming up, I was called in on a show because an actress was having a particularly hard problem and and I worked with her and I thought problem here is is not the is not the work is not the acting work she was having she was in a little you know, teenage love affair with her co star, who treated her alternately on days beautifully and then shabbily. Oh, and on the days where it was shabbily she was a mess. And, and interfered with the work. But you know, some of that is you know, she's juggling, you know, kids, they're juggling school, they're juggling growing up, and they're juggling a full time job. So, you know, unless you have empathy to all of those, my agent used to say to executives, when, you know, he would be pitching me for a job. He'd say, you know, Mary Lou actually likes kids. And with both and with my children you know, especially my son, who was, who is and was from the time he was three or four years old, one of the most gregarious people on the planet. Our house was the gathering place. I mean, even you know, to this day, you know, I emailed one of his high school kids who would always come in and he knew he knew I loved Gershwin and he'd sit down a piano and play me Rhapsody in Blue when he would if he was staying for dinner, so I would cook and I would be listening to him. You know, so, I mean, those kids in my, those other students in my kid's life are still a part of my life. I mean, I thought about sending my son some pistachios today, you know, as a little, you know, gift from Mama. Oh, and I thought, No, no, I didn't buy pistachios for my kid. I bought him for his best friend when his friend would stop by. Now, um, yeah, so it's, it's working with kids has its joy. And, and, you know, you have to go back to your query. You have to love what you're doing, and you're not going to be right for everything. So there's going to be interviews where you go, No, not the right match. And I will go after an interview like that and say, I'm going to get this and and then I'll follow it with him. I don't know that I want it. Ah, yes.

Mary Lou Belli:

No, I've come out of like, I'm going to just tell you, I won't name the show. But one of the most misogynist meetings I've ever had. And I just came out, I wanted to take a shower and I thought working with these people on a daily basis, despite the fact that I love the show, and I love some of the actors on it. I thought you know, that's only half My job. The other half is dealing with these assholes I had a meeting with and I want. I don't want to deal with that. Life's too short. You know, you don't have to be that way. There's plenty of wonderful, exciting creative kind people in the business. Life's too short to work with a holes.

Samantha Rund:

Yes, it is. Yeah, yeah. Yeah, I, I love that idea of just like falling in love with stories and and recognizing what's really in line with who you are and what isn't. And just speaking from an actor perspective, I know it took a little while after I finished grad school to understand because you know, you're trained, you can play anything, you could do anything. And it's like, sure I can, but maybe not as believably. And as quickly as that person right there, like, I've got certain things that are just more in my range. And, you know, we all vary, but I think it's important to have that sort of honesty, check with yourself about what does and doesn't really resonate with you. In my children's acting book Acting for Young Actors. I talked about this game that, or this exercise, too. And I adapted it from a person here in Southern California named Sam Christiansen. And it's basically about knowing your type. And I have to say, especially from people who come from the theater and try to do a wide range of exploring during their undergrad or graduate work. Once you get into the business, there's usually a much smaller niche into which you fit. Now, that being said, and I'll tell this whole story. After directing Persia White, for years, on Girlfriends, I had this idea of what her range was, and it was pretty broad, because the character that she played, was all over the place. In terms of, you know, she was trying to go into grad school for this, she was doing this, you know, she always had something else she was exploring as a character. So I thought, oh, I've seen, I've seen a broad range of what Persia can do. And then it was, I think, a year two years later, after the show was over. And we'd kept in touch, she invited me to go see her in a play. What she did in that play, blew my mind, I went, I had no idea, Persia White was was could command this kind of character in such a fabulous way. And as a result, when I was casting a series, maybe another year later, and I thought, okay, I'm gonna bring Persia White in on this. It's not a character I've ever seen her do. But she just showed to me that she had this range that I never imagined, or the or this range that was beyond what I imagined. Because I thought of her as an actress with a lot of range. And to this day, every time I see a new piece of work, she does like whether what she did on Vampire Diaries, whatever I go. She's amazing. It's amazing. She can do anything. So I remember not only bringing her in on that series, but casting her. Yes. You know, and it was and she did a fantastic job. That's awesome. Yeah, you know, um, but at the same time, especially when you're starting, if you can find that little niche, how people are going to see you or how you're going to help people know how to cast you. And knowing that, I think is a huge asset. I mean, there's gobs gobs of acting career coaches, or people who teach about the business of the business, who will almost all of them hit on it. And in my book, um Acting for the Screen. Particularly Gilly Messer, and Bonnie Gillespie. Um, talk about that. And as this Peter Cucuzza university professor, he talks about, you know, just things you need to assess about yourself and your talent, um, before you go out into the workplace. Um, and so, when I have people call me up and say, Hey, I'd love to be seen for this. And I, and I think there's not a million years that I would cast you in that role. As opposed to someone who, you know, there's, I will tell you, there's a wonderful actor named Phil Abrams, who's always ridiculously respectful. And he's not the only one, but will shoot me a quick email saying, Mary Lou think I'm right for this one. And 90% of the time, he's right. And he doesn't shoot me those emails all the time. It's only when it's particularly something I'm directing, and he's perfect for the part. So it's those kinds of actions. Who are very savvy, and strategic and respectful. You know, I don't want 1000 actors saying, hey, see me for this, see me for this see me for this, it's, you know that I wish I had time to answer those kinds of notes. But at the same time when someone hasn't, you know, contacted me in a year and a half, but they're perfect. I go, Oh, my so I'm so glad Phil, contacted me because he's perfect for this. And I haven't thought about him in a while. Because, you know, you know, even though it works all the time. Yeah, that makes sense. I think there's a certain, obviously, like, self awareness that actors need to have of, like, what's the role that you could just get cast in today, without like, just easy, it's as easy as breathing for you. And then sure, develop those other aspects of yourself and show it so that you'll fit into those other things cause, I mean, I wouldn't say like, well, don't train those things. But just be aware of what what you fit into what you don't and then maybe what you'll change people's minds with when they see you and go, Whoa, you can do that. Yeah, but but a lot of it has to do with the fact that we're telling stories with pictures. We're telling stories fast. No, not I'm not talking about how fast we have to do the work. I'm talking about how some how quickly someone has to appear on screen. And for the story to be effective. I have to know. Are they a seedy character? Are they a kind character? Are they mean? Are they nice? You know, there's, there's all sorts of things that before you even open your mouth, and speak your first line, I'm already telling my story, because someone has an impression of what you exude. Right.

Mary Lou Belli:

Um, and if you don't understand that, that's part of the film and television medium, or even the theater medium, but you know, the theater, you have a little a lot more time.

Samantha Rund:

Mm hmm.

Mary Lou Belli:

Um, but it's, it's pretty, it's got to be instant recognition, or, or recognition to like, for instance, I had to cast apart that was going to be recurring in a series I've done for many, many years. And there was a couple ways I could have gone with it. But she was going to be the new girlfriend of a character that the audience knew already. And the audience also knew that was also in love with the the present wife, who was about to be the divorcee. And that divorcee, it was a series regular, so I had to protect that character. So I couldn't bring in a new girlfriend, who was mean or stupid, or, I mean, she had to genuinely like her. And the audience had to genuinely like her. So when I was casting, although I had one choice I could have gone with with this person who was really smart, and really, you know, seemed like a perfect match for the guy. I went with person who just exuded nice more. Because I wanted the audience to say the divorced character is going to like this person, because who wouldn't she really nice. So that became part of what I was looking for when I was casting. Not only somebody who could do the scenes and you know, you know, look right next to this other person, and be their intellectual equal and have a great relationship with the daughter that you know, these people were going to have to co parent now. So it was, but I have someone who was all those things. And Nice.

Samantha Rund:

Yeah. That makes a lot of sense. And social, all those things and guarded.

Mary Lou Belli:

Yes, for my storytelling.

Samantha Rund:

And when you're talking about how important it is like being in a, you know, it's a visual medium, so the audience has to get it right away.

Mary Lou Belli:

Yeah.

Samantha Rund:

I'm just curious how, because I know you're also an activist, but how does Hmm, I'm just thinking of like, a very traditional sort of, like, very thin, young blonde or sort of, like, love interest type versus, like, you know, I'm just gonna say like black women getting to have their natural hair on TV. I didn't see that for ages. And I think the first time I saw Tracy Ellis Ross I'm crying like tears of joy, and also Chris Rock for that amazing movie. Yes. Yeah. And if anybody has not seen it, run out and see right now. America must see this, you know, so. So yes, I understand what you're saying. Yeah. Um, so I want to just talk about that, um, we always need to expand our idea of what that is. And I'll tell you, and it's and it's a ques- and it's a lesson I've learned the bad way. I was volunteering for a wonderful organization called Girls Inc, which is kind of people said it's Girls Club, but it was way, way more It was about empowering young women. And when I had my training before I ever got to interact with any of the girls in the program, they did this this little exercise with us, and they said, draw a picture of a professor. Yeah, I do, or a lab technician, or a doctor, you know, a doctor. And so, you know, yeah, I put on the the scrubs or the, you know, the, the outfit, I put glasses on. And he was a white male. And I have to tell you, when you do that, and you take a look at yourself, and you just go, Wow, I did that. And it was a great not only professional lesson to me, but a great life lesson that now, you know, it's and it's much more not only what they look like, but more I said, What coming from inside? Yep. The energy. Right. And that, and that that's an exercise that, you know, the Sam Christianson thing that I mentioned in acting for young actors. It's addressing that it's not just what you look like, it's the essence of you. So um, yeah. And, you know, there's so many other marginalized groups, it's not just Oh, right

Mary Lou Belli:

Looking at people's color their skin, it has to do with, you know, people in the deaf community, any people you know, who are handicapped, and or challenged in any other way, people. There's just so many gray. Ah, wait, also age weight. Yeah, you just go.Yeah. So,

Samantha Rund:

Yeah. But it is, it is great to hear that energy matters. Of course, energy matters. I mean, but I mean, hearing from somebody that you're aware of that and you're casting and you know, it, it's a so for any of you know, the actors out there who are just feeling down, like maybe you don't look a certain way or not, it's, it's more than just how we look on the outside,

Mary Lou Belli:

But more so it's, there's room for every single type of everybody in the business for those stories. And even more so now. Because as the more our storytelling opens up, and the more diverse story writers start telling those other stories, there's going to be that perfect niche, it's, it's, um, it's great. It's great, because, you know, the world needs, not just stories that relate to, you know, I won't talk about what that stereotype and who's been telling so many of those stories for so many years, but let me just say, you know, go people like Kimberly Pierce, and Mara Brock, Akil, and all those people who are telling other great stories out there. You Know.

Samantha Rund:

Yeah. And I do think that's another great thing. Um, well, one of the great things about social media is, you know, people can see, oh, we're enjoying content from all sorts of people. Yeah, it's kind of the democratization of storytelling. Yeah. Yeah. Great. So, um, we're almost at time. But I do want to ask you, if there's, again, just in light of all of these awesome stories that you've taken us through any sort of life lessons or takeaways for people of things that you've learned from your, your artistic process,

Mary Lou Belli:

Yeah, you know what, um uh and I say this when I teach or when I advocate um a great thing to follow is give to get. So get rid of that entitlement that you're owed anything. You're not think more of being generous and offering what you have to other people. And and they when noting your generosity will want to give back.

Samantha Rund:

I love that. Just give and it's also flowing that energy that giving energy and I think it opens us up to enjoy our lives more anyway. Because our mind like our whole everything shifts.

Mary Lou Belli:

Yeah. Listen, when I get an email from somebody, and they said, I retweeted something or I love what you did. You know, I posted it, I repost it or something like that. Someone's given me something. I'm much more inclined to go. Oh, wow, that was very nice of that person to do it. And then I'm more inclined to help them because it wasn't Mary Lou, can you do this for me?

Samantha Rund:

Yes, right.

Mary Lou Belli:

So think about that in your own life, apply it, and then see how you feel when people ask you for things, because I will tell you, this business has a lot of vampires in it. And I don't mean the kind you know that have diaries. I'm talking about leeches, people who are selfish and self centered, and single minded about their success, and will, and think it should come at the cost of everybody. And, yes, I will tell you, some of those people are hugely successful because of that mindset. But does it make me want to be around them? or help them with their career? Not much. But then you meet someone who is who gives back? I mean, I mean, let's just look at Yvette Nicole Brown. I mean, a remarkable human being, you know, who deserves all the success. And I just can't wait. You know, I have to tell you, in terms of how people cast her, they know, she's funny. They know, she's warm. They know, she's got a great voice, you know, in terms of strong character that you can cast. She has a talent that the world has not seen yet. I won't tell you what it is. But the world I hopefully in her long career will see it. But she's immensely talented in an area that no one has tapped yet.

Samantha Rund:

Ah, okay. Definitely.

Mary Lou Belli:

I hope everyone is curious.

Samantha Rund:

Yes. Definitely curious. And okay, I know that was gonna be the last question. But when you're talking about the the vamp the the non diary vampires, the vampires that don't shimmer in the light. What are some things that you can recommend for people so that they can still be warm and giving... and avoid, you know, avoid the, the vampires?

Mary Lou Belli:

So if you have those... set boundaries.

Samantha Rund:

Yeah.

Mary Lou Belli:

I will do this. Um, and, and just be very clear on it. I think honesty. Is that the easiest thing. And then if those people are just, you know, just draining you completely. You know, have that frank conversation of I can't do this anymore.

Samantha Rund:

Yeah,

Mary Lou Belli:

This is not this is not a tenable relationship. For me. Um, or a nicer way of saying is, you know, I'm concentrating my, my advocacy work or this on this right now.

Samantha Rund:

Right.

Mary Lou Belli:

Moving on, so that you can do it politely, but I have to tell you, sometimes, those people don't take subtle. They don't read subtlety very much. And I always try to be kind, but it's sometimes you just have to, you know, and, and, you know, I, I only learned this by getting hurt. But my husband always says, watch your back. Watch your back. And I don't like to watch my back. Yeah, but, but you know, they say Fool me once. Shame on me fool me.

Samantha Rund:

No, shame on you. Shame on you fool me twice. Shame on me. Yeah.

Mary Lou Belli:

I do believe in that. You know, sometimes it's for me thrice. I know, it doesn't rhyme. Sometimes you've got to burn me twice before I go. You're not healthy for me.

Samantha Rund:

Yeah.

Mary Lou Belli:

And then at the same time, my heart overflows with people. You know, listen, you come to me, and you tell me 10 things you're doing yourself for your career. And I can guide you into possibly prioritizing those things. You come to me and go I don't know what to do.

Samantha Rund:

Not as helpful.

Mary Lou Belli:

So, um, you know, my mother used to say God helps those who help themselves. Well, you know what, that's a good career. career advice too mom.

Samantha Rund:

Yes that is, is definitely. Yeah. Well, I want to thank you again, so much for your time. I'm just Yeah, very grateful for it. And once again, please remember to follow her at www.maryloubelli.com on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. And then of course, if you're looking for a coach to help you with performance skills to bring more of your full self in voice, body and mind to your life and work, you can always reach me at [email protected] If you enjoyed this episode, please like subscribe, share. Every five star review and comment just helps get the message out. And you can always support at Patreon at Beyond Technique with Samantha Rund. Thanks so much and stay safe and stay healthy.