Shed. Create. Book The Room.

Posted by Alysia Reiner
Richard "RB" Botto Richard "RB" Botto

Alysia Reiner is just one of those people. You know the kind. They illuminate the room and leave a vapor trail of positive energy in their wake. Their indomitable spirit infuses all who come in contact. Some people just have "it" ... Alysia has "it" in spades.

Alysia is an award winning actress, producer, mother, humanitarian, and outspoken environmentalist. She tackles each of these endeavors with passion, intelligence, determination, and a whole lotta heart.

As an actress, Alysia has appeared in indie darlings (Sideways, Kissing Jessica Stein) to top rated television series (30 Rock, The Sopranos). She's currently starring as Fig in the new Netfix series, Orange Is The New Black, which premieres this July.

I asked Alysia to share some of the tricks to her success - from the audition process to staying positive to driving forward. As is her selfless nature, she accepted without hesitation.



When RB asked me to guest blog, tell a personal story and give some advice, I shuddered. So much wisdom has been written. From great essays that went viral like Frank Langella's The Demon Seesaw Actors Ride to Julia Cameron's bible The Artists Way, there's so much to say and nothing to say ... The same demons the divine Langella and Cameron speak of remind me that I am an actor, not a writer, and what if no one wants to read my words?

But just like when I walk onto a stage, onto a set, into the next audition or meeting or awards show or whatever, even if the demons are chatting away on my shoulder, I can just pretend I have some wisdom to share. I can start by sharing a story that's kind of an ode to a frequent blogger on this site, let's see if you can figure out who...

I was new in LA and self-submitted for a film. When I then auditioned for the wonderful John Jackson to go on tape, I noticed everyone else auditioning was from CAA, ICM, WMA...I found it odd, kinda cool, but mostly I ignored it and did my job. And I did what I always try to do after an audition: FORGET ABOUT IT (more on that later).

A month or so later I got a call, literally as I was stepping off a plane, (I had gone back to NYC to do another guest star on a Law & Order, the NY actor's bread and butter) and Evan, the director's assistant, said the director was eager to meet me. PS Evan is now a successful writer himself - NOTE TO READER: BE KIND TO EVERYONE, YOUR PATHS WILL CROSS AGAIN.

Okay now here's the funny part... I had self-submitted having no idea what I was submitting for. A friend sent the character description of a pretty 20s Armenian woman, knowing I had Armenian roots. So when Evan called and said "The director wants to meet you, but could you come to him in Solvang,CA?" I said something to the effect of "Evan, you seem like a really nice guy so I'm gonna be honest with you: I know nothing about this project, I know nothing about this film or the budget, so before I haul my ass 2 hours there and back, can you at least tell me the last thing this director did?" There was a long pause, then he said:

"Uhhh, the film "About Schmidt" with Jack Nicholson"...

I said quickly "Okay then, I guess I'll be hauling ass tomorrow won't I?"

Yes that was Sideways, based on the fabulous Rex Pickett's (THE BLOGGER I MENTIONED) book, and I was blessed to work with that director, the AMAZING Alexander Payne.

So maybe, given that experience, the first thing I'll suggest is DO YOUR RESEARCH! Get IMDB Pro and know who and what exactly you are auditioning for. And here are some more words I live by, some things that regularly save my "ready to haul" ass:

    An amazing acting coach I had - Ian Tucker (Googling him just now I see I shared him with the comic genius Will Ferrell would talk about how important it is to "be a shedder." When you walk into an audition room, if you come in with all your baggage you are so screwed. No one likes to hold any one else's baggage. SHED YOUR CRAP. Shed the last audition. Shed the guy who cut you off on the 101. Shed the fight with your mother. Shed that you woke up with puffy eyes, feel fat, have a pimple on your nose or feel like the elephant man. SHED IT. Walk in and have fun. Be surprised. Find a way.
    Here is a quick list of ways I shed:
    • Exercise (I love to kickbox my shitty auditions away)
    • Family - have a kid and PLAY with them a lot
    • Other Interests - cheese making, kite surfing, balloon animal sculptor you name it, (Facebook comparing does not count).
    • Nature - go for a hike, dance in the ocean, etc
    • Affirmations, or if that's too new age-y for ya, find inspirational blogs and pin them (I love Notsalmon & The Daily Buddha)
    • Chocolate (if all else fails)
    • Go help someone - like for real - can be a friend or a stranger in a soup kitchen - people with real problems.
    • Try to save the world (for me its the environment)
    No, not an entourage or your agents and managers and PR people (though I am so grateful to my team but that is another article). No, cultivate a team of amazing other artists you love to play with - writers, directors, actors - and make up your own stuff so you aren't always feeling like you are waiting for the next job. This was a hard one for me, because I had a bad case of the "I DON'T WANNA'S," meaning people should just give me jobs, I DON'T WANNA have to make my own. Do some therapy, figure out your shit, and go make stuff. Make stuff make stuff make stuff. And read the War of Art. Creating is what artists do and that is how we are happy and thriving. And look at your heroes. They all have production companies, right? They are doing the same thing.
    Okay I'm gonna be so super vulnerable and honest here, with a shout out to my soul baring heroes Brene Brown ( & and Oprah ( I started a file in my email called "Cheerleading." And whenever I get awesome compliments or special words, especially from people I love and respect or fancy folks in my industry, I save them for an emotionally rainy day. Our demons save all the mean voices: the people who called us names, who said we would never make it, so why not save the compliments IN WRITING to do battle with the demons?? Now here's the truth: I ALWAYS FORGET TO LOOK AT THEM WHEN I AM HAVING A CRAPPY DAY. And I just thought of them today because 5 blurbs for this article seemed better than 4. And maybe this will help remind me to look at them.
    The genius Dallas Travers, who is a dear friend and who I recommend every new actor to work with, taught me this phrase: "Book The Room." It means don't worry about booking the audition, there are too many things completely not in your control. Instead book the room. Sometimes it takes many auditions for the same casting director, director, writer, TV show, etc, before you get the job. Keep doing amazing work and keep booking the room.

    My favorite story about this idea is the job I am doing now, Orange Is the New Black. I read the script, fell madly in love with it, worked my ass off on the audition. I got great notes the moment before going into the room (from the not only Emmy winner, but amazingly genuine, warm and delightful Jenn Euston) and I tried to take those notes in. I met Jenji Kohan (Weeds creator) and tried not to throw up on her, just do my work and then SHED IT. I wrote my thank you notes, and forgot it. OK there was one day of heartbreak that I didn't get it, and then I reaaaaaallly did forget it. And then the magic call came. The offer for a different role on the show. Didn't even audition, they just offered it to me. And now I'm on a show I love doing, it's incredibly well written, directed by luminaries like Jodie Foster, and I feel beyond lucky that the NETFLIX and LIONSGATE execs are some of the coolest Hollywood folks I have ever met. I guess I booked the room.

So my friends...Go play. Go shed. Go create. Go book. GO BE.


Alysia is shooting the recurring role of Fig on Orange Is the New Black, the new Netflix series by Jenji Kohan (who created Weeds) which premieres JULY 11, and just wrapped Are We Officially Dating with Zac Efron.

For more fancy credits, sparkly pictures and words she has said go to, become a fan on Facebook, and follow her @alysiareiner.

Alysia is available for questions and remarks in the Comments section below.

Marlon Brando calling...
register for stage 32 Register / Log In