PHOTOGRAPHY AND MAKEUP BY TINA TURNBOW
INTERVIEW BY KATINA GOULAKOS
Rachel Skarsten fell into acting accidentally. After her father’s sudden passing, a young Rachel was discovered on a local T.V station and although her career started easy, she eventually learned that show business takes a lot more than talent.
Through hard work, perseverance and an infectious personality, Skarsten has managed to muster up quite the impressive resume.
Currently, you can find Skarsten on Batwoman the television series where she plays the unpredictable Alice.
Coat and Dress by Red Valentino @redvalentino. Rings by APM Monaco @apmmonaco
Imagista: You have a very unusual story when it comes to how you got into this industry, can you tell me a little bit about it?
Rachel Skarsten: A lot of close people have asked me to give their kids advice in regards to how I got into acting and I always joke that you never want to get into acting the way that I did because it fell into my lap in the worst possible way.
When I was nine my father passed away suddenly from cancer, he was a psychologist and had done a lot of pro-bono work for an organization that happened to have a local television station. A few years after he died, I was probably around twelve, the television station was doing an event to honor people who had been instrumental in their success and my father was one of them. They had us on the talk show, my mom spoke and I sang a song. An agent happened to be flipping through the channels and saw me on the program. They ended up contacting the program, who then contacted my mother.
I remember my mother was standing in the kitchen and she told me that this agent had called. My mother asked me if I wanted to go out on an audition and since a lot of my classmates had been going out on auditions, I knew that I could get paid for doing this. I was totally in it for the money. After my father passed, we didn’t have much extra money so I thought it would be a chance to help out.
I honestly think that if I had not booked that first audition, I wouldn’t have continued acting because it was never part of my plan.
Top by 3.1 Phillip Lim @31philliplim.
Imagista: So you ended up booking the first job you went out for?
Rachel Skarsten: Pretty much yeah. And, I think I made like four thousand dollars, which when you are twelve, it is like making it rain. It was very much an extracurricular activity that I enjoyed but I wasn’t really thinking about it in terms of career it was just kind of a fun thing I did on the side.
Then I booked a job that took me down to the US from Canada and it was all-consuming. I realized that this wasn’t what I wanted to do full time, so when the show got canceled I decided to go back to school.
I went to Queens University and I traveled for six months after graduating. When I came back to Toronto I didn’t want to go to grad school and wasn’t really keen on working in an office. My mom jokingly said “maybe you should go back to LA” and I thought that it was a great adventure.
Imagista: Did you find it easy moving back to LA?
Rachel Skarsten: I thought it was going to be as easy for me the second time around, but I was wrong. I thought that everyone would be like “Oh Rachel where have you been” and no one did that.
I didn’t book a job and I lived in my car for a period of time, which is just so cliché. However, it ended up being the best thing that ever happened to me. There was no money, no creativity and yet I still pursued this career, which made me realize how badly I wanted to act.
I eventually got a job and I have been very fortunate ever since I have a torrid love affair with acting.
Top by 3.1 Phillip Lim @31philliplim.
Imagista: You have been in so many projects, both on film and tv, what is the main difference between those two in your opinion?
Rachel Skarsten: Time. I have worked more in television than I have in film and it always shocks me, every time I do a film, in regard to the amount of time they have.
On television, you may do seven scenes a day whereas in a film you may do one or two. I will be on a film set with a sense of urgency that I get from working in television.
I do like the fast pace that comes with a television and the fact that you have a little pressure to hit your marks and get those scenes done.
Imagista: You play Alice Batwoman series, can you tell me what that experience has been like for you?
Rachel Skarsten: It has been a wild ride and I say that because I have always been a fan of Batman, so having anything to do with that universe is thrilling for my child self. I used to wake up and watch reruns of Adam West as Batman, while wearing my Batman pajamas, so it is a world that I am very familiar with. It really means something to me to be able to do it justice.
I think it has also been such an opportunity to get to play this specific character because she is so complex and all over the place. From her mannerisms to her costumes to the way about her, it is just so much fun to allow this character to come to life.
Imagista: You must have been thrilled when you found out you would be working on this project
Rachel Skarsten: Getting this job felt like a dream, I feel like every time I get up and three in the morning to work on a Saturday, I just feel a tremendous amount of gratitude to be going to this set and to have been given this opportunity. And, I am honestly so thankful for this past year and all the wildness that came with it. My life changed in the span of twelve months and I am still on cloud nine!
Top and pants by See by Chloe @seebychloe. Hat by Hat Attack @hatattackny.
Imagista: What do you wish people knew about this industry?
Rachel Skarsten: To be perfectly honest, and I think people need to be more honest about this because the outside world thinks this industry is all glamour. Even when you are a “superstar” there are times in your career that are quieter than others and it is not entirely all in your control. It can be very frustrating and very difficult. I have worked a lot and I have been so blessed but I came off a year of not really working. I had done a pilot that didn’t get picked up and it almost puts your creative life on hold and it can be very challenging.
Imagista: How did you handle not working?
Rachel Skarsten: I was actually just talking about this with my mom. I got this great piece of advice early on in my career and it was that you needed to separate your personal persona from your public and professional persona.
This doesn’t mean that you are two different people, but you need to know that when you are criticized it is not your spirit or your essence; it is you as an actor. You need to detach yourself from the criticism.
I think human beings do this all the time, and social media is a great example of this. We only ever show the good moments and keep the bad hidden.
Imagista: What helps you stay grounded?
Rachel Skarsten: I love to garden at home. After this interview, I have my French lesson. I am learning a language to help keep me intellectually stimulated, plus my boyfriend is French! Having family and friends around me is what keeps me sane and grounded.
Imagista: Are you working on anything else that you want to share with our readers?
Rachel Skarsten: Batwoman is taking up a lot of my time so right now I am not working on any other projects. But, I am a very passionate environmentalist and animal rights, activist. I work with two organizations. One of which is Sealegacy, which is a Canadian organization with Paul Nicklen, who is an incredible human being. This organization tries to petition changes in legislation. I also work with another branch of Sealegacy who specifically targets businesses and try to encourage education.
I am also a foster mom so I always have some dogs running around the house. I do this when I am working and not working. I have actually gotten my hairdresser on set as well as two other actors on the show to become foster parents to animals.
Top by 3.1 Phillip Lim @31philliplim.
Imagista: Can you tell me something I can’t find about you on google?
Rachel Skarsten: As much as I want to answer it, I don’t know what I haven’t said because as you can see I am a pretty open book when it comes to life.
You know what, I will say something that I have been thinking of. My grandmother, who I was very close to was bipolar and that is something I don’t think many people know.
I was informed about it throughout my entire life and watched as she suffered from this mental illness and I should speak more about that part of my life. There was never a stigma surrounding the illness in my family and I was thinking today that I should talk about this more so it is funny you asked me this question.