BWW Interview: Actress Renée Willett Talks RUN WITH THE HUNTED, Stand Up Comedy, and Preparing for Roles
Renée Willett is a New York actress and comedienne. She performs stand up and has an impressive acting resume. She took the time to speak with us about her latest project, Run With the Hunted, how she prepares for a role, and her interest in producing. Check out her answers below!
Renée, can you tell me a bit about yourself? How did you get into acting?
I've wanted to be an actress ever since I watched my first episode of Barney and found out what an actress was. From that moment when the spark was lit, this dream has embodied every part of my being. Professionally, my acting career began after graduating from college at USC. Once introduced to life on set, I started to discover what I was most attracted to: comedy. I look up to actresses like Lucille Ball, Elizabeth Banks, and Leslie Mann.
I know you're also into comedy and doing stand up-do you find it more challenging than acting?
I do in some aspects. I write my own material, which isn't so much as challenging, because it's what I love, as it is simply more of an effort and time-consuming. Just as going to open mics and simply getting up there is an effort. Getting on stage, performing in front of [hopefully] drunk strangers, making fun of myself is, to me, simply exhilarating, it's what I was meant to do. I just see it as getting all the attention with a spotlight on my face as I talk about myself, how could that be a challenge.
Can you tell me about your character in RUN WITH THE HUNTED? What drew you to the project?
My role as Keryn, the Sheriff Office Receptionist was alluring to me for multiple reasons. First, my character continually gets inappropriately harassed by her boss for years-a topic that is important to me and one I think is perfect to bring to light during the current times. Second, my character spans over the course of 15 years, something I thought would be really fun to do. It was definitely a new experience within my career that I very much enjoyed.
Run With the Hunted seemed like such a different type of project for me to be apart of, something out of my wheelhouse. I'm not just talking about creatively. We shot in Tulsa, Oklahoma, a place I never thought I would go in my life. I very much enjoyed the opportunity to experience a new culture, one that is very different from the city life I am used to. I welcome jobs that will also provide me with new experiences in many ways.
How do you usually prepare for a role?
Usually I start by flushing out my character: likes, dislikes, opinion, relationship with each character, purpose, etc., scene by scene. I make little notes, ideas I have on how I want to say certain words or lines, my feelings coming into the lines and so on. Then at a later time I'll come back to it, see if my view on the lines have changed. Later I'll run my lines scene by scene so I know them well and do not have to worry about them. Working them out loud is always the best way to see what works.
This role in Run With the Hunted was definitely a new experience within my career. I very much enjoyed it. I made some choices like speaking very slightly deeper, and embodying a more haggard persona of someone who is disappointed in her life that she is still in the same dead end job with the same horrible boss. That mixed with the makeup; lines of wrinkles and such all over my face to make me look older, was really cool. It was an adventure!
You have an extensive acting career onscreen, are you interested in doing theatre as well?
As a New Yorker how could I not be. I'll never forget when I was about 5 I got to sit front row at PRINCESS AND THE PEA on Broadway starring Sarah Jessica Parker, and she reached out to me at one point during the show. I was so close to being on stage I could taste it. I love being on stage and performing. Especially if it's in a successful show where I could potentially be working night after night on Broadway! It was just WICKED's 15-year anniversary, I can't believe I was 10 the first time I saw it. It's shows like that which have shaped my passion as a performer. I was also invited backstage of HAMILTON. It was so incredible seeing all that goes on backstage of one of my favorite shows. Granted that was only a few years ago when I was already a bit older but it still had that same sparkling effect on me that I had as a little girl. The Dream.
Is there a certain project you've worked on that stands out to you or that is your favorite?
THE COMEDIAN. On one of the first films I've ever done I got to work opposite Robert De Niro and Edie Falco in New York City. As a New Yorker shooting in Tribeca with Mister Tribeca himself was a whirlwind.
What is your dream role?
I have multiple answers to that question:
-An INDIANA JONES or BACK TO THE FUTURE remake, with Spielberg directing of course. Except the lead would be a woman, me!
-My favorite show is GAME OF THRONES, if I could be in one of those prequels they are cooking up that would be a dream.
-I also love superhero films. If I could be a part of the Marvel cinematic universe with special powers, be an X-Men or play Lois Laine because who wouldn't want to kiss Superman, that would be a dream come true as well.
Do you have a dream director or actor you'd love to collaborate with that you haven't yet?
My dream has always been to land a role in a Judd Apatow film as well as work opposite Will Farrell and/or Ben Stiller. Working with any of those geniuses would be a dream.
When you're not acting what do you enjoy doing?
I love to travel; just last month I was in Thailand shooting a show, Argentina to snowboard, NY, LA and Oklahoma for the first-time shooting Run With the Hunted.
I love to eat; I'm a big foodie, always needing to check out the hot restaurants.
I'm also a big jock; I love to play tennis, snowboard, box, work out and attend sports games involving my favorite teams like the New York Giants.
Are you interested in working behind the camera at all-Maybe directing or producing?
I have been producing along the way and do enjoy the financial, analytical side to producing very much. I have produced 5 features (with stars like Robert De Niro, Edie Falco, Jennifer Aniston, Alec Baldwin, Demi Moore and Molly Ringwald) and 4 short films (one of which had Susan Sarandon and Boris McGiver). Now I want to create something of my own, something I believe in. So this will be my first step into creative producing.
Do you have any advice for people pursing a career in acting?
Pursuing a career as an actress has its challenges. Find ways to make yourself stand out from the pack. Do what you think you're good at, complement your strengths.
Do you have any future projects coming up that you could tell us about?
I have some stand up shows coming up in NYC. I have a couple of indie movies coming out soon including KINGFISH with Molly Ringwald and Kevin Corrigan. I am also shooting two films in the next few months; one called CUTMAN with Val Kilmer and another called DITCH PLAINS with Famke Janssen. I just wrapped on a TV show in Thailand and NYC that will release within the next few months.
Run With the Hunted will be released in 2019
Keep up with Renée on Instagram - @ReneeWillett
Image courtesy of Renée Willett