“The first time I was paid to act was for a movie theater employee training video. I wore a uniform shirt that was like 6 sizes too big …”
“I once had a commercial audition where I had to get into a pool, breathe out of an oxygen tank and dance underwater.”
Actor Amy Paffrath started performing young by acting and producing school plays and entertaining her family homemade newscasts. By the time she went to college, she was set on a career in journalism. Then she managed to fund her further career through trading with Quantum Code. By the time she graduated, she completed an internship at Entertainment Tonight in Los Angeles, launching her passion and career.
She is best known for her roles as the host of E! News Now, a red carpet correspondent for TV Guide’s Hollywood 411, a series regular on MSN’s The Big Debate, a guest host on both G4’s Attack of The Show and Fuel TV’s The Daily Habit. Currently Amy can be seen as the host of the VH1 hit series, Dating Naked.
Tell us about your family. You grew up with six brothers and sisters?
“I am not only a middle child, but one of FIVE middle children. I come from a very big family! People always ask me what its like to have that many siblings, but I don’t know any different! It would be strange to me to only have one or two. Our house is always loud and full of energy, and I feed off of that. I’ve learned to thrive in chaos. All of my siblings have such different personalities, but we are all close — especially my sisters. We’re like the blond Kardashians. I have a niece and a nephew, and its so fun to see our family get even bigger. I feel like I’m better equipped to relate to the world because of my upbringing. My parents took great care of us but we were never coddled. I had to fend for myself and become a bit of fighter. In a family that size, you have to be strong and assertive to be heard. I am proud of those qualities — they’ve gotten me far in business.”
Were you that family that put on backyard plays?
“More like basement plays! My oldest sister and I started creating shows, and every Saturday, when my extended family got together at my grandparents’ house, we would perform. We would bring everyone downstairs and charge my aunts and uncles admission to see our newscasts or perform skits. It was an early lesson in entrepreneurship!”
When did you fall in love with acting and what did you love about it?
“In elementary school my friends and I produced plays and went around to the other classrooms and performed them. No one asked us to do it, we did it because we loved it. I remember just really enjoying making the other kids laugh. It was such a cool feeling.”
Was your family surprised when you decided to become an actor?
“My family is very blue collar so even though I had been talking about going to California since I was 8, yes, I think they were surprised when the time came for me to actually move. Having a dream is one thing but pursuing it is another. They were supportive but definitely nervous for me. No one in my family had a career in the arts, so it was a foreign concept that seemed impractical. I think more than anything they wanted me to have a sure thing, but as we all know, there is no surefire road map to success in acting. Personally, I never had any doubts. It’s the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do. I was going to work as hard as I needed until I succeeded. There was no “if” in my eyes, only “when.””
Are you married, boyfriend or have kids? Would you talk to us about them?
“I have an amazing husband who is also an actor. We have been married just over two years but we’ve been together almost 10. He was the first guy I met in L.A. Initially, I thought he was too good to be true so I resisted dating him exclusively. Plus, I was brand new in a big city and just wanted to focus on my goals and not be tied down. But he was the real deal! An incredibly sweet, genuine, talented man that treats me like a queen. They always say love finds you when you aren’t looking; that’s definitely true in my case! I feel very blessed that we met when we did. It’s been such a fun journey to experience all the ups and downs of Hollywood together. I don’t know what I’d do without him…he’s my rock.”
Who has been the biggest inspiration to your life and why?
“My grandmother. She has always given me so much encouragement and has always believed in me. Her undying support has made me truly believe anything was possible. My mother has also been a huge influence. I’ve watched her juggle so much: 7 kids, jobs, housework, bills, practices, keeping us fed… She instilled in me the value of hard work, but she also knows how important it is to kick back and relax. She has a great ability to turn it all off and take a time out.
“When I was scared to try something or nervous it wouldn’t work out she would bluntly tell me to just go for it. She didn’t have time to hold my hand and walk me through it; it was very much sink or swim. That’s not to say she isn’t sensitive or warm, she is very much those things! But she has a lot of courage. She lives with no regrets. She taught me that it’s better to have tried and failed than to have always wondered, ‘What if?’”
What was your first professional performance? Can you tell us about it?
“The first time I was paid to act was for a movie theater employee training video. I wore a uniform shirt that was like 6 sizes too big so they used clothes pins to make it more fitted. In the video, I was demonstrating how to tear the tickets and show the customer which theater to go to. When I turned to point them in the right direction, you could see all of the pins. It was pretty hilarious.”
When you moved from Missouri to L.A., what culture shock did you have to deal with?
“I always smile at people and try to make contact with them. But people in L.A. would always say, “You’re so friendly, you’re definitely not from around here!” I think it makes people feel weird. I just want to spread a little joy! It was also very hard to navigate who was genuine and who was not. There are a lot of “producers” who make big promises and say you’re going to be a star and the next thing you know you’re at dinner, and it’s not a business meeting, its a date. It was disheartening at first because when you get to L.A. you feel like you are so close to your dreams. You want to believe everyone! I’ve become a little bit more guarded and have more of a cautious optimism. Plus I have a great team of agents and an incredible manger who help me navigate it all.”
Is auditioning difficult?
“I love auditioning. I see it as an opportunity to play that part if only for the day. It can be difficult because the reader sometimes isn’t connected at all so you have to really create the world for yourself. But as an actor that’s your job! I love the chance to walk into a room, play for a few minutes, and hopefully make a fan. I’m not trying to book the particular job, I’m more interested in creating a relationship so that they will think of me when the perfect role comes up.”
What was your craziest audition?
“I once had a commercial audition where I had to get into a pool, breathe out of an oxygen tank and dance underwater. It was so much fun but nerve racking because I’d never done that before. Now I’m an advanced scuba diver, but that was my first time ever using the apparatus. I was on avail (one of two actors being considered), but didn’t end up booking it.
“I’m just glad I kept my cool — some girls left without even trying. I saw it as a chance to go for it. Yoga breaths saved me that day!”
You recently completed a role in the film Do Over. Can you tell us what the film was about and your role?
“I’m so excited about Do Over! I play Angela; she’s a true guys’ girl and her life is a mess. She’s in love with Sean, played by my husband, who recently moved back to L.A. It’s a fun romantic comedy about second chances. Working with Jonathan Bennett, Zach Lively, and Drew was so fun. We were delirious from shooting at 3:00 a.m., but we had a blast together. We were genuinely laughing every day, which is a huge testament to Gina Field, our amazing costar and producer of the film. She assembled a great team and gave us such fun characters to play. It was an awesome set to be on.”
Do you have any interesting or funny stories from the set?
“We filmed the movie right after I got back from Panama where we filmed Dating Naked. I was still jet lagged and we had 3:00 a.m. call times the first week. I got a bit run down and ended up losing my voice. I had to do press for Dating Naked during the shoot too, so there was a whole day that I wouldn’t speak unless it was on camera. I carried around a notebook and wrote to people. It was very Mariah Carey of me!”
Tell us about your role in Freshwater. Looks scary, yikes!
“Freshwater is going to scare the bejesus out of you! I play Kim, a girly girl who is loyal to her boyfriend despite him being a bit of a jerk. They all go to his parents lake house for the weekend and bad things start to happen. It’s a really cool twist on a classic horror set up. We shot the film in Alabama, three days after my wedding. I literally went from getting married to the location to shoot. It was such a blast! Alison Haislip and I became very close friends because of that film. Turns out we share a love of karaoke. We had quite a few late nights out in Tuscaloosa during the shoot, which was amazing. The south is a fun place to spend a chunk of time during the summer. Great food, awesome people, thunderstorms, and fireflies! I loved every second of it.”
Tell us about your role in the short Stockholm.
“What a fun project! My character is a spoiled L.A. socialite who gets kidnapped, manipulates her captor, and eventually falls in love with him. It’s a cute movie. Writer/director Erich Eilenberger is a friend of mine from a sketch show I do in L.A. It was cool to collaborate on something longer than a typical sketch. He’s a great writer and trusted me with a juicy piece of material — that meant a lot to me. There’s a scene where we were eating chocolate cake. It was so delicious, but by the fourth or fifth take we were really over eating cake. Too rich! I would take big bites to match the wide shots, and have a trash can standing nearby to spit it out in when we cut. So glamorous!”
You had a role in the film Purge: Anarchy. We would love to hear about it.
“I have a small part as a reporter who is warning the town that the purge is about to begin. I loved the first movie so it was an honor and a thrill to be cast in the follow up. I saw it with a huge audience at the premiere and my short but sweet appearance got a huge laugh. That was unexpected, but cool to see! I’ve had so many friends text me or comment on my Facebook page randomly and say, “Did I just see you in the purge?!” When I auditioned for the part, the casting director just looked and me in awe and said, “You’ve done this before haven’t you?” I have actually been a reporter in real life, so playing one is not a stretch by any means. I was happy to have made an impression, and she was happy to have found someone who understood what the role called for.”
Tell us about BK Comedy Series. We understand you wrote and directed the series.
“BK (a.k.a. Boner Killers), is a series of shorts I wrote, directed, and produced with my friend Rebecca Zamolo. I had this idea of hot girls making fatal mistakes to turn guys off. There’s a lot of material surrounding men who screw up. These shorts were meant to poke fun at ourselves, and they are quick and to the point. You laugh and move on. What can I say, I have a short attention span for internet content… These were MY answer to the way-too-long comedy videos I was seeing. Plus I got to cast all of my friends. We want to film more. The series was so easy to film; we would shoot 8 episodes a day. I feel like it has legs so we’ll see where we take it next.”
Did you enjoy writing and directing and will you do it again in the future?
“Yes. I get very serious though. I’m kind of a my-way-or-the-highway director [laughs]. I know what I want! Writing is much easier for me to be collaborative with. I have a few projects in the works. My husband and I are working on some co-writes.”
We read you did stunts in the film The Breaks. That must have been interesting. Can you tell us about it?
“I did, it was exhilarating! My character is an avid rock climber and all-around adrenaline junkie. I’ve been to indoor rock climbing facilities so I thought I knew what I was in for, but it was a totally different experience being on a real mountain. I was a little nervous but once we got up there and started filming it got easier and easier. It’s always going to be physically strenuous, it just isn’t easy to pull yourself over the face of a mountain. But after repeated exposure it gets easier mentally. My costar, John Lerardi, was so wonderful to be around! We would be wedged between two giant boulders staring into an abyss, but we’d be laughing and making jokes. Our DP, Jason Goodall, was dangling over the edge to get these killer shots. No one was faking anything! We were all dedicated to doing what we had to do to create an amazing picture on screen. I’m so proud of the end result. I wish we could go back and do it all over again!”
You have worked with writer/director Charles Band in a couple of films. Can you tell us what kind of a director he is? Is he as fun on set as he seems?
“I’ve shot 6 projects with Charlie, and I’d do 6 more in a heartbeat. He is a legend! Whenever he calls, I eagerly answer, waiting to hear what insane scenario he’s come up with this time. After we shot Evil Bong 2, I knew I wanted to nurture the relationship between he and I. He is a director who knows what he wants and runs a tight ship but also makes sure everyone is having fun along the way. He knows his audience and he doesn’t second guess himself. I admire that. You gotta trust your gut. Charlie goes into filming knowing exactly how he wants the film to look. My husband and I have become close with he and his fiancé, Robin. We frequently have dinner together and have even gone to Vegas together. In fact, the first time we saw Jersey Boys was in Vegas with Charlie and Robin. Now my husband is starring in the show. Funny how things come full circle.”
Of all your work, what was the most fun you had on a set?
“Working on Sullivan & Son has to be one of my favorite experiences. Everyone who worked on that show was so, so nice. Just lovely people! Steve Byrne and I loosely knew each other from the comedy world but he was just so complimentary and kind to me that I felt comfortable even walking into to such a tight-knit set. The entire cast made me feel welcome and like I fit right in. Ahmed Ahmed and I keep in touch. I got to see Leslie Jones do her first guest star appearance, and now she’s a writer and actress on SNL and starring in the new Ghostbusters movie! It’s exciting to see people’s careers take off. Vince Vaughn was an executive producer of the show, so after we filmed the episode we all hung out and had beers onset. It was right before our wedding and Vince gave Drew and I some marriage advice. He said, “Don’t fight with each other. It’s not worth it. Just love each other.” I think that’s pretty solid advice [laughs]!”
That is good marriage advice! What is the best acting advice you ever received?
“Don’t judge the character. Have fun and let go. You get to step into someone else’s shoes, why not swing wildly? Go for it. Don’t edit yourself!”
Do you have some advice for actors in the field that you might share?
“Take risks. Work for free. Don’t judge the character. You’re not always going to play the heartthrob, so have fun playing the sidekick or villan — they have the juiciest parts anyway… Work the material to death, then when you audition or shoot, let it happen. Be organic.
What was your best day ever?
“That’s a hard question, because I feel so lucky to have had some incredible experiences all over the world. My ultimate favorite day is simple: Hot yoga at Earth’s Power followed by church at Mosaic, then riding bikes to brunch and the farmers market with my husband. We’ll take Astro for an afternoon hike and cook dinner before winding down with a reflexology massage and finally Netflix on the couch. Doesn’t get much better than that.”
Has there been any life event that really impacted your acting style? Can you tell us about it?
“I’ve gone through two major losses, one being my oldest sister and the other my father. Their deaths impacted me as a human being. I have this great sense that life is precious and should be lived to the fullest. Emotionally they still carry weight. You can never quite get over losing someone to a terrible disease like ALS, which my father died of in 2009. My sister died of Hodgkin’s at the age of 20, which was hard on everyone in my family. It’s tragic for a parent to lose a child. As far as acting goes, those experiences have helped ground me.”
Is there anything you would like your audience to know about you?
“I think life’s greatest purpose is to give back. I’m involved with many charities including the ALS Association, Childhelp, Art of Elysium, and Thirst Project. We must help lift others up.”
For more information about Amy Paffrath, go to www.amypaffrath.com.
Photography by Marc Cartwright