Please introduce yourself. What do you do? Why? What do you want people to know about you?
Bonjour, Guten Tag! My name is Whitney Richardson. I’m an actor based out of the DMV area. Wow! Where do I even begin? Well, for starters… I loathe writing about myself, but when you get such an opportunity to tell your story there’s just no way to pass that up. Let’s Dive right in. No, I never wanted to be an actor or focus on anything in the arts for that matter. Despite my natural gift for the creative field. I started crafting at the age of seven or eight. I know what thinking, “Yeah, so did me and half the kids that age.” However, I had a paintbrush in my hands crafting amazing paintings that were showcased at my school art shows and entered into a few contests for the unique young artist. I loved to paint tigers They are still my favorite animal to this day. I was drawing and painted all the time during my youth. My mom was always my number one fan cheering the loudest in my corner. She was in constant awe of my painting as drawings. The animation was my northern star. I drew Disney characters constantly. So…why didn’t I want anything to do with the arts? When I was fated to. Let’s dig a little deeper. At the age of about 10, I told my mom “I did NOT want to be a starving artist.” I was going to be…(Wait for it) a lawyer. I know what you are thinking, “What’s wrong with that? It’s a very ambitious goal.” Nothing, Ablsouly nothing is wrong with that! Let me inform you of the issue here. Firstly, I was going through a law and order phase, secondly, I know schooling was never going to be an issue. I loved school. If I could get paid for going to school forever I probably would! The reality is, I’m the kind of person who is overly nice to everyone. The thought of me convicting another human being to life in jail or worse was like eating nine chili cheese dogs because your friend dared you to, and then getting on the drop tower of death ride because you just couldn’t say no…I’ll leave the rest to your imagination. That dream didn’t stay very long. By the time I entered high school my only focus was making all A’s to get into the best college, being an athlete, and finding the quickest way to make money and travel the world. However, art never truly left my life completely. It was always there lurking like a friend you don’t see as often anymore, but know they’ll be there if you ever truly need them. I went to an academy high school under the art department because like I said before that passion never strayed far. I received my fair share of art awards. Moving forward into my college years, I felt that tug to stretch my creative legs. I found myself yet again at the crossroads where the fated flashing arrows signaling, “ This way.” I stopped to admire but continued in the opposite direction. I reveled in my painting and foreign language classes taking up most of my freshman and sophomore years. In the middle of my sophomore year, a business guest speaker came to campus to speak about his experience in the international business field. The moment I heard him speak I was hooked. I was off again on private planes and dreaming of dancing money trees. I informed my advisor at the time that I would be switching my major to international business and global management. ( a mouth full…I know) So, There I was my junior year—so close to the Canadian border I could telephone can-string a friend. I picked the coldest, most wintery, and most extremely beautiful place (When it wasn’t a blizzard) to finish out my college years. Oh boy, did I give myself an educational whiplash. The I.B. Program at Penn State Erie was tough and only offered at that campus alone. I had no intentions of an easy junior or senior year. The I.B. Program was a fast track of completing 2 degrees in 4 years. So, not only had I traveled insanely far from home, and completely pushed the arts to the back burner, but I had now quadrupled my course load while also being an athlete and in clubs. Sufficient to say, I graduated on time with a ridiculous amount of classes completed. When I graduated I thought, this is it! This is what I’ve been waiting for, and there it was…that dang dancing money tree again! Looking back, pursuing the arts was starting to become inevitable. At his point my artist friend, the one always there lurking. Oh, their still very much present and at this point graciously allowing me to walk into the brick wall of denial. Anyway, I HAD DONE IT! I graduated! I told myself, “ this was the beginning of forever.” It was the longest beginning of a never-ending job application process, after application process after…well, you get it. In the meantime, I worked different jobs all very interesting. I used the baking and pastry skills that I had acquired during my high school days at the career and technology Center for baking and pasty and additional skill sets during my time at L’Institut Paul Bocuse, in Lyon France in college to bring in some extra spending money. Oh! Look at that there’s my artist friend again always there when I need’em. I know you are pondering when on earth will i open my eyes to see what is right in front of me. Well, hold on to your shorts because land is just nearly in sight (Land’Ho!). I landed my first big job out of college with a very popular non-profit. I was there for two years when I first started unraveling at the seams. This would be the perfect time to refill the snack and stretch your legs because it’s all downhill from here…or uphill depending on how you look at it. I was having a nervous breakdown in my 20s and I didn’t even get to go buy a red sports car…life really is unfair. During my time working at the non-profit, I’ll forever be grateful for the VP of marking who became a great mentor to me. To this day ill never forget the career advice she gave me. She was a woman who told it like it is but was always reasonable. Her advice set the wheels in motion to dust off my artistic gears and get my artistic energy flowing again. But that’s the funny thing about life, theirs is always a wrench to be thrown in leaving you smoking on the side of the road. I was overjoyed at the offer to go work for a prominent athletic brand. I wanted this opportunity so badly. I enjoyed this career ride to the fullest. I gave 4 1/2 years before fate came knocking again. You know that saying, “ Bad things can happen, and often do—but they only take up a few pages of your story; and anyone can survive a few pages.” (by James A. Owen) I had come to this dead stop in my career and my life. I felt like woke up one day and said, “This can’t be it… this can’t be all there is.” With that question, I was no longer at a crossroad—but standing on top of a cliff. I had been building this perfect ideology from the time I was eight years old. Now at the top of all of my choices, all of my decisions that lead me to this moment. The fated blinking arrows were gone and all that was left was a vast of nothingness and a cliff edge. So naturally, I think, “ Do I jump? Or do I just continue to stand still in this void of nothing?” At that moment I closed my eyes. Flashes of what led me to this point sparked behind my eyelids. All I could do was smile, then chuckle, and then give a full belly laugh. In the midst of chasing that darn dancing money tree. I remembered moments when I had given in to my artist friend who never left. I started taking graphic design classes, which lead to pursuing a master’s degree in t.v. and film, and then acting! FINALLY! I could almost hear my artistic friend yelling. It’s funny because for a moment that friend sounded suspiciously like myself. I took a deep breath as my eyes fluttered open—without hesitation…I jumped. My arms out feeling the wind against my face. I’ve never felt so free! To this day I’ve yet to look back. I can wholeheartedly say the Creative and performing artist side of myself has been fully accepted. I’m whole once again. Oh, by the way; I still see that dancing money tree now and again. That’s just life; I finally understand it now. The temptation will never go away, But I’m no longer in it for the chase, I know my leaves have already begun to bloom and one day soon I’ll have a tree of my very own. One I can be proud of that blossoms fruitfully because of hard work, love, devotion, and creative drive. Fearing the unknown is okay, but you must face it head-on. Never let fear and greed corner you or stop you from getting where you truly belong. I know I never will again.
I’ve experienced so many amazing wounders as an actor from background work to commercials to leading roles. You can see me on HBO’s We Own this City and Camp Dragon Online as Zevaria the elf high priestess. Projects releasing this year and 2023, Aimless (Anyana) directed by Avery Carlton Fields (Fields of Gold Productions), and Poison Tree (Nichole) directed by International award-winning author Aaron K. Crocker (669 Productions). PenPals a short film directed by Mark Hoelscher and Parker Lombardo is an official selection in the Wheaton Film Festival and the Alexandra Film Festival. When It’s Over (Jasmine) directed by Joel Brown (Good Idea Productions). Sold out its Premiere at Angelika Pop-up at Union Market in Washington, DC this past September. Voices in the Vineyard (Denise) directed by Alejandro Chamorro (Chamorro Films) Premieres November 5.th in Maryland. Europe Film Festival (Winner Best Trailer), MegaFlix Film Awards (Winner Best Poster), Fortean Film Festival (Winner Best Poster), Yule Film Fest (Offical Selection). Officially announced I’ve been cast as Jasmine in the upcoming feature film Wendigo directed by Michael Tuthill and Kevin Sylvain (Lucid Images Production).
What qualities make you different and unique from everyone else in the industry?
I am making sure to use my good DNA genetics to the fullest. I’m taking full advantage of the fact that I don’t look my age which in this business is a very good thing. Knowing ill still be getting cast as a high school senior or college student for a good while still is a blessing. I thoroughly enjoy working with the youth. I enjoy the learning dynamics that are both given and received when working with the next generation. I believe that my ever-lasting ebullient personality is a great additive to my latest career plunge into voice acting. My love for culture, accents/dialects, and anthropology; creates my “It” factor. The study of humanity is fascinating to me. I realized how much my 3 loves blend so well into the arts, my curiosity in studying human behavior and how it translates into character development brings life into the authenticity of performing.
Describe THAT moment when you realized you’re doing what you were born to do.
There have been a few of these “Moments” for me, but the most memorable moment that comes to mind; the first surreal moment was at the beginning of my acting career. Like many, background acting played a huge part in getting my feet wet for how large-scale sets are run. From all of the trailers, cameras, people, and food to the extended downtime that all background actors eventually become accustomed to. In the beginning, I spent a fair amount of time doing background work in NYC. My very first time being on a large-scale set was on House of Cards. I remember going through a few emotions. Excitement, joy, nervousness, anxiety, and curiosity. My mom is a huge House of Cards fan and she was beyond thrilled when I told her. I remember receiving the email with all the important information, and I saw the call sheet for the first time. I know when people hear “background actor” it has a stigma, but for someone who was very green and on this new journey of letting go of fear and putting their passion first, it was a very strong moment for me. However, my waking moment happened on set. I was taking everything around and absorbing it like a sponge. A few others and I were placed in our positions (we are portraying interns) the director yelled “action!” and out-walked Kevin Spacey on cue. He walked right in front of the other BG actors and I delivered his lines and then turned to us. Right after that Robin Wright walked out to join him on her mark. By the time “cut” was yelled, I had to blink myself back to reality. What was shocking wasn’t so much that it was Spacey and Wright dead smack in front of me (although that was amazing) no, it was—here was Francis and Claire Underwood. Two characters my mom and I would watch on Friday nights and be in awe of the deliverance that Spacy and Wright brought to these characters time and time again. There I am getting to wittness this art form in the flesh live in real-time. It was a little overwhelming and slightly intimidating and wonderfully spectacular all at the same time. However, the icing on the cake happened in between takes while cameras were being switched into new positions when Spacey started to chat with us (the BG interns) asking if we were having fun. At that moment, I knew this is what I wanted to do forever. It was a gracious act to initiate a simple conversation. For me, I saw this as a reminder that at the end of the day we are all just people, all just human. Sure we have titles and certain statures but at the end of the day, it cost nothing to be humble, kind, and decent. For me, I knew I was going to work every single day to get to that level of discipline as an actor in my performance, but above all, I never wanted this amazing journey that I’m on to ever stop me from reminding myself to stay humble and kind. Everyone needs an “I hope you have a good day,” “how are you,” or “I hope you’re having fun.” On cue when “action!” was called, he effortlessly transitioned right back into Francis seamlessly. Watching Him and Robin work brought a smile to my face and I knew at that moment that’s the kind of joy I want to bring to others through my performance.
What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve had to go through and how did you grow through it?
Wow, that’s truly a loaded question. For me, there have been many challenges, but the biggest I would say is coming to terms with the fact that there’s a time and place for each and everything. No matter how badly we think we want or deserve something. What’s for you is for you and when it’s your time receive what yours you will. By keeping fear at bay and not letting the fact of the unknown stop me from chasing my dreams. There have been many moments while on this career path that I’ve had to come to humbling moments to take mental timeouts to recenter myself so that I could continue moving forward and not become stuck in those challenging moments. No one likes to hear the word “NO” which is a discouraging and unfortunate fact that all artist face in this career field. When I fell into clouded moments, I had to remind myself how far I had come. All for the sacrifices I made to get me this far so shifting my focus, I began focusing more on finding creative ways to find creative outlets and sharing my experiences with others. Of course, making money is important, but it should be the sole focus, especially as a creative. Chasing the “money tree” never made me truly happy, but performing did; connecting to others did. Taking myself out of the rat race and just living and flourishing in my own unique creative space is where I found peace within myself. Peace with the fact that every submission wouldn’t be a yes, but enjoying those opportunities for what they were… a way to flex my skills and have fun. There’s a quote by Oscar Wilde that I live by, “Be yourself, everyone else is already taken.” If I did that…well, then I had already won.
Who are the TOP 3 people you’d want to meet that could elevate your career or business? Why these specific individuals?
Viola Davis: Viola Comes from such a humble beginning and I idolize her grace, elegance, and work ethic shown in her performances and her everyday life. I follow her on social media and she’s always using her platform to shine a light on all the amazingly talented individuals that are all around the world and it’s such a selfless act. The way she brings to life these very difficult and emotional characters is truly amazing to see.
Susan Sarandon: I’ve been a Susan Sarandon fan since I was 10 years old. My mom and I would cuddle up to watch Stepmom and The Client all time—these are still our favorites to this day, and during the holidays we would always watch Safe Passage because the movie always brought out his family stays together no matter what nostalgia. I remember being so utterly captivated by Sarandon in these loving “mom” Characters that she would take on. Her performance was always so real and down to earth. She makes you feel like part of the family by just watching. It would be an absolute honor to be mentored by her if given the chance.
Jodie Foster: Jodie Foster in my mind is a pure genius. To have a moment in a room with her just to pick her brain on scholarly discussions would be mind-blowing let alone what she brings to the table as an actress. Her intellect for me sets the bar that actors are so much more complex than given credit for. Along with all of her contributions not only as an actor, but as a filmmaker as well, it would be a rewarding experience to meet her.
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