Interview with Alexandra Merritt Mathews on being an Actress, Feminist Activist, and being Female

This interview is a transcript from a Facebook Live interview event!  The views of Alexandra are entirely her own and do not reflect the views of Jubilance for PMS.

Alice: Hurray!  We are live!

Alexandra Merritt Mathews: Hi, this is my first live thing.  This is very exciting.

Alice: We’re so excited to have Alexandra Merritt Matthews on with us today. I’m Alice, the social media manager for Jubilance, so welcome everyone. Thanks for watching and tuning in later. So Alexandra is a New York City actress as well as a feminist activist and we’re going to be talking today about growing up as a woman, being an actress, entrepreneur, and as well as Alexandra fighting for women’s rights.  So welcome Alexandra.

Alexandra: Thank you.

Alice: Thank you for joining us.

Alexandra: Thank you for having me. This is great. I think this is a great platform to talk about issues that are still so important.  Who would think in 2019, we would still have to be discussing these things, but yes.

Alice: Yes, here we go.

Alexandra: Yes.

Alice: Yes. But here we’ll start with something a little more fun.

Alexandra: All right. Let’s do it.

Alice: Okay. So I’m going to give you some things and you just have to like to give me your first answer.

Alexandra: Okay.

Alice:  So rosé or champagne?

Alexandra:  Okay, neither because I don’t drink. I know I’m very crazy this way. I actually have never had alcohol and I don’t plan on ever drinking alcohol.

Alice: Wow!

Alexandra: Yes.

Alice: Wow!

Alexandra: So neither, but I will say I love the sparkling cider or like a lemonade in the summer. I love that.

Alice: It’s really refreshing.

Alexandra: I love sparkling water, which I’m drinking right now so.

Alice: Perfect.

Alexandra: Yes.

Alice: Lipstick or lip gloss?

Alexandra: Lipstick.

Alice: Okay.

Alexandra: Yes, because the gloss, here’s my actor mind, it’s like if I have to do a kissing scene later that day, the gloss is more of a problem.

Alice: Oh, really why?

Alexandra: Yes. Well, because it gets on the other person. You know what I’m saying?

Alice: Lipstick doesn’t?

Alexandra: It does, but they make better lipsticks that are more like tint. Do you know? So it’s less of a problem. There are better long-lasting lipsticks that do less damage.

Alice: I just like to look as sparkly as possible.

Alexandra: Right. Because sparkly it looks weird in the light though, if you’re being photographed.

Alice: Well, that’s why I choose lipstick today.

Alexandra: Well, I’m wearing a little bit of ChapStick with a little bit gloss on top. So I’m cheating today because I knew we didn’t have to do crazy.

Alice: Perfect!

Alexandra: Yes.

Alice: Reese’s or M&M’s?

Alexandra: That’s really a problem. Okay. Reese’s.

Alice: Okay.

Alexandra: Yes. Also, I’ve just recently tried this Keto cups, which are like healthy buttercups and they’re made with monk fruit and they’re very good.

Alice: Monk fruit? What?

Alexandra: Yes, yes.

Alice: Yes, check that out.

Alexandra: There is the cacao in it and they sell them at–

Alice: grocery stores?

Alexandra: Yes, they’re pretty good. Check them out, Keto cups.

Alice: Oh, that’s cool. I realize I left the air conditioner on, so I’m going to–

Alexandra: Oh, yes.

Alice: –do that so everyone can hear a little better.

Alexandra: Yes. Thank you. In the meantime, grab your sparkling water for few drinks.

Alice: Okay, so a couple more. Tampon or pad?

Alexandra: Neither.

Alice: What? What do you use?

Alexandra: Because I use Thinx. I use Thinx, T-H-I-N-X. It’s a very popular company that was started a few years ago. Their underwear that you wear.

Alice: Did that need a Tampon or pad at all for that?

Alexandra: No.

Alice: Really?

Alexandra: Right.

Alice: Does it feel okay?

Alexandra: Yes.

Alice: You’re not just like sitting in it?

Alexandra: No. It’s amazing. It’s so much better for the environment. Also, obviously, if I’m doing a show or if I’m going to the theatre where I have to do an all-white gown or something sometimes I will have to wear other things. I will have to use a tampon or a pad. But for the most part, if I can just use Thinx, I do that.

Alice: You just, and you wash them regularly?

Alexandra: Yes, you wash them regularly.

Alice: Wow!

Alexandra: You can wash them. It’s basically the same as a pad or a tampon. You wear them for a certain amount of hours, similar timeline. They’re so much better for the environment because the paper waste that comes from feminine hygiene products. If it’s plastic in particular, like the container for Tampons for instance, that can take forever to decompose or it can never decompose. So it’s a better alternative for the environment.

Alice: Yes. It so interesting.

Alexandra: Yes.

Alice: Yes, I’ve seen those ads and like always thought should I do this–

Alexandra: Yes, I know.

Alice: –but I’m a little nervous.

Alexandra: You should totally try it. I highly recommend it to everyone.

Alice: Wow!

Alexandra: Yes.

Alice: Then what’s always in your purse?

Alexandra: My MTA card.

Alice: Oh yes, the subway card.

Alexandra: Yes.

Alice: When in New York.

Alexandra: Can’t live without it. Yes.

Alice: Yes. Oh, that’s great. So I want to get to know you a little more.

Alexandra: Sure.

Alice: If we can get to get to know who you are. Where are you’re from and what made you move here to New York City?

Alexandra: Okay. Well, I am originally from Buffalo, New York.  I grew up there and then I went to college for undergrad at the University of Chicago. So I moved to Chicago for college. Then my senior year, I ended up applying to Graduate School and I got into a couple of schools in New York, so I moved here for graduate school.

Alice: That’s awesome.

Alexandra: Yes. So it’ll be my four year, New York Anniversary people say I think.

Alice: Oh, I never heard that.

Alexandra: Yes, it will be my fourth year in New York, anniversary next month, this August.

Alice: Oh, that’s awesome.

Alexandra: Yes, yes.

Alice: Wow. What did you love most about Buffalo growing up there?

Alexandra: The people. The people in Buffalo are incredibly special. It’s called the City of Good Neighbors. That’s our slogan. It couldn’t be more true. It’s a very large city; I think a lot of people don’t realize it’s actually the second-largest city in New York other than New York City.

Alice: Oh, wow.

Alexandra: It’s a second largest city in the state. It’s almost half a million people. I mean it’s a very large city and I think for some people they think it’s a quaint little town, but it isn’t.  There’s a joke in buffalo that it’s not six degrees of separation. It’s usually like two or three.

Alice: Oh, that’s cool.

Alexandra: Yes. So yes, it’s the people and the food. [laughs]

Alice: Yes. Speaking of food, can you tell me about those buffalo chicken wings? Are they really better in Buffalo?

Alexandra: A 100 %. First of all, it’s so funny to me because nobody, we don’t call them buffalo. People in Buffalo, don’t call them that. So whenever I’m somewhere that isn’t buffalo, people say, “Oh, do you want buffalo wings?” I’m thinking that you need chicken, chicken wings. Like we just call them chicken wings. So it’s funny to me. But there is a war about who has the best chicken.

Alice: Oh, like different restaurants?

Alexandra: Yes, it’s really true there!

Alice:  Who invented them?

Alexandra: Well, the Anchor Bar, the Anchor Bar invented them.

Alice: Okay.

Alexandra: Maria who is the wife of the people who own that bar. The restaurant invented them because they were running out of snacks at the bar and she just made something to sort of keep the people at the bar happy and drinking and she made these breaded chicken wings and the rest is history. [crosstalk]

Alice: Oh, what a dream.

Alexandra: So the Anchor Bar are the best, those are the best ones. There is a more than some will say this place called Depths is better and it’s not, I just want to be clear. I’m an Anchor Bar person.

Alice: Okay, good. If we ever go to Buffalo or if any of you are from Buffalo–

Alexandra: The Anchor Bar.

Alice: –be sure to try the Anchor Bar.

Alexandra: We even have a location in Buffalo Park.

Alice: Wow!

Alexandra: Your wings today.

Alice: Can you talk about growing up in a household that was all females?

Alexandra: Sure.

Alice: Like what was that experience like?

Alexandra: Right, so–

Alice: It’s a pretty unusual.

Alexandra: It is unusual, although, you know, I think by the time I was in middle school or high school, the statistics were, I want to say, something like 50 or 55% of people were being raised by single parents and mostly single moms. So while it felt unusual at times to be raised by a single mom, it actually wasn’t in the grand scheme of the statistics in the US and in the world. But my mom was a single mom, she was– and still is a lawyer and had a very tough schedule. I was very, very lucky that my grandparents served as basically extra parents. I had a team of people picking me up from school, taking me to dance class, getting me to my trombone lessons and back kind of thing. So it was a team effort, but definitely the two most influential people in my life were my mother and my grandmother and they were pretty amazing, strong women who always put education first and who taught me to compete in a man’s world.

Alice: That’s so awesome.

Alexandra: Yes, yes.

Alice: That’s amazing to grow up with that.

Alexandra: It is. It’s funny, I think about people who grow up in a traditional family. You know, it’s strange for me to even think about it just because I have no frame of reference.

Alice: A nuclear family.

Alexandra: I have no frame of reference for what that’s like. But I think that it’s important to have role models in your life, whether they’re men or women who show you that working hard for what you want is the goal, right. That you should treat everyone with kindness and that you should work hard to achieve your goals. I think no matter if that person is a woman or a man, I think that’s the important message that you need.

Alice: That’s wonderful.

Alexandra: Yes.

Alice: So growing up, what was this, step by step process like getting you here to the city. Becoming an actress–

Alexandra: Becoming an actor.

Alice: –and moving forward from grad school?

Alexandra: Sure.

Alice: That’s pretty different too.

Alexandra: Well, you know, it took me a long time. Some people start acting professionally very young and I was not one of those people. I was very lucky that I went to a wonderful school; shout out to Elmwood Franklin School back from New York. We did school plays every year from the time we were in kindergarten. So I was very fortunate because a lot of people don’t really get to do theater until they’re in middle school or high school because arts programming in this country is suffering more and more every year. Budgets are getting cut, and music teachers are losing jobs and it’s just– it’s sad because kids really need art in their lives at that stage.

So I was very lucky that I went to a school where we did musicals. So I did a play, you know, every year from kindergarten through fourth grade. Then in fifth grade, we still had a fifth and sixth-grade musical and then seventh and eighth-grade play. So I continued to do theater growing up. But it was always one of many things. I played a ton of sports growing up. I was a Jock, I was very academically focused. I was in a band, I was in chorus, I was editing the literary magazine. You know, I was always like an octopus. But that was me in middle school and high school and college too. So theater was always one of those tentacles. It wasn’t ever the only one. But I would say when I was 12 is when I really realized that I might be good enough to do this for a job. That was sort of the first time that I had thought of it in that perspective. I was Miss Hannigan in Annie in sixth grade and that’s, that was one of those moments where I realized, “Oh, this is different.”

Alice: So, that’s what — that’s when you decided to pursue it?

Alexandra: Not even, this is what’s so funny. So then I have that moment and I continued to pursue it and I continued to do summer theater, but I was never allowed to do any professional theater that conflicted with school. So in Buffalo, we actually have a wonderful theater community. There’s a theater for youth, there’s a bunch of experimental theater in Buffalo, there’s Irish Pastor Theater. We have a lot of theater companies in Buffalo. Some of my friends who were also acting at the time were able to be excused from class to participate in the shows, but I was never allowed to. My mom never let me do anything that required to miss class. I also was not allowed to audition for American Idol when I was 16, because she was convinced I would make it and then I’d have to miss school. So anyway, I didn’t do any professional theater growing up at all. Then I went to high school and I went to a school that only did plays. There were no musicals. So that was kind of a shock because I had made my start in musical theater. They ended up being a real blessing because I had to become a good actor. I really had to focus in on just acting without anything else, without music or dance, just acting. And—

Alice: It’s a different skill set.

Alexandra: It was a different skill set. My teacher, shout out to Kristen Kelly, she’s on her way to Edinburgh to do a show right now, she was really the first person that I met who had an MFA who had gone through conservatory training and acting. That was really the first time that idea was planted in my head. So that was a possibility, you could go get a masters and really train. So then I went to college, still not doing acting, and before I went to college, I still didn’t do any professional theater. I did one production of A Chorus Line and I got paid like $20 or something.

Alice: Yes!

Alexandra: Yes, it was great. But when I was deciding on where to go to college, there was a question of whether or not I would go to a conservatory or just a liberal arts school. But I was willing to go for music. I was going to go for the classical voice, so I wasn’t even going to go for acting then.

Alice: Wow!

Alexandra: I ended up making the decision that I wasn’t at the point in my life where I was ready to narrow down to one field. I really enjoyed many subjects and I had so many interests that I just wasn’t prepared to put all of my eggs in one basket. So I ended up going to be the University of Chicago, which was a fabulous school. I got the Liberal Arts Education that I wanted and took a bunch of calculus and different language classes and still some theater classes. I ended up majoring in Comparative Literature, which was a specialization in French and British Literature. Then I ended up with a minor in theater performance studies kind of by accident, just because I took those classes.

Alice: Then why did you continue?

Alexandra: I just —

Alice: Why didn’t–

Alexandra: I don’t know.

Alice: What was that trajectory?

Alexandra:  I wish I had a better answer for you. It got to a certain point where I couldn’t imagine my life without it. Really what happened in college was I did a production called Plath Fuse, which was a musical duet about Sylvia Plath and I played Sylvia Plath. I did the show on and off for about four years and it ended up coming to New York, which is very exciting. That show put myself on the map. To me, I realized I was good enough to do this professionally and that I wanted to. That I wanted to impact people for living and tell stories that I thought needed to be told. So by the time my senior year rolled around, I was thinking of applying to Graduate Programs for Literature, PhD Programs. I had sort of thought I was going to do this, you know, become a professor, become a teacher, maybe even teach high school English, like my favorite teachers. Then I decided or I could just apply to MFA programs. I did. I took the GRE just in case. I never used it because I never did any PhD applications.

Alice: Wow.

Alexandra: Because I got in. I was lucky. I was so, so, so lucky. I want to stress that because MFA programs are so competitive and there are so many elements that go into admission. I was incredibly blessed to get into not only one, but multiple programs to have a choice. I ended up choosing the New School for Drama, which is where I went right after graduating here in Chicago. I started the next year.

Alice: Wow.

Alexandra: Yes.

Alice: And now you’re out of grad school?

Alexandra: Now I’m out.

Alice: So what does life look like now without being in school? I know fall is coming up, so it–

Alexandra:  It’s really–

Alice: –feels like I should be back in it.

Alexandra: Well, it’s really strange because I spent my entire life in school. I was in school for 23 consecutive years or something like that. You know crazy. Because I went right from undergrad to graduate school. So for me, it’s a very big adjustment. It’s huge. I can’t understand why I don’t have 20 things to do every day or why I don’t have three scenes to learn for the next three hours. It’s very strange and I don’t do well with rest. I function best when I am overwhelmed, which is not a healthy habit. I’m totally happy to admit that that’s not good. I don’t advocate that for other people. But for myself, I function best when I’m just barely able to do everything I’m doing. The stress of that somehow motivates me in a way that a normal schedule doesn’t. So you’re trying to set your own schedule. You try to go to the audition. Do your self tapes, go to the gym, do your own thing, see friends when we can, that kind of thing. So it’s hard. I don’t like it. I really don’t like that.

Alice: Yes because you’re– you have to be your own entrepreneur right now.

Alexandra: Yes.

Alice:  So what do you think is the best part about being an actress?

Alexandra: 
For me, the best part about being an actor is the amount of impacting change you can have on a person that you’ve never met.

Alice: With the work that you create?

Alexandra: Yes. I think now in this age with technology and just with the general aura of how people operate now, I think that connection is such a hard thing to find. For someone in an audience in the dark far away from you to have a connection to whatever it is you’re doing, whatever story you are telling, that maybe it pulls at their heartstrings, or it makes them think about something from their life. That is why I do it.

Alice: Have you had a rewarding experience that someone coming up to you afterward?

Alexandra: Yes, I’ve had a couple of them. I’m trying to think of one. You do it for that moment, you do it to touch someone. But in particular, when I was doing Plath Fuse I had a lot of people approach me who struggled with mental illness and it was incredibly moving to hear people who had either attempted to take their own life, or who had struggled with manic depression themselves. I even met one woman who came up to me after the New York production, she had undergone electroshock therapy and in the show — yes, I know. Which people don’t realize that’s still used!  It’s much safer now and it’s much more regular, but at any rate, this woman came up to me, she said, “You know, that scene with the electroshock therapy really resonated with me. I want to thank you for doing the research and diligence.” So that’s always wonderful when you impact someone or when you make someone — my favorite is if you’re playing the bad guy and a person in the audience says, “I felt bad for you. I actually sympathize with you. You you got me. You got me to feel and to realize that you were human too.” That’s really helpful. I like on that too.

Alice: Thank you.

Alexandra: Yes.

Alice:  What tools do you find indispensable for achieving your acting goals?

Alexandra: You need endurance and resolve. Those are two things that a friend of mine, who’s also an actor—you know when you’re friends with actors, you sort of talk amongst yourselves about this. But one thing that my friend mentioned to me recently is endurance and resolve, are really the two things that are going to keep you going. You have to have personal endurance, emotional endurance, and you have to have the resolve to keep showing up at the audition.

Alice: It seems like you kind of can apply it to any industry here.

Alexandra: Sure.

Alice: Like you have to have endurance and resolve–

Alexandra: For anything.

Alice: –for anything that you do to get through today, even if you have PMS or whatever it is.

Alexandra: I mean there are so many jobs that require your full dedication. I think now for better or for worse, the way that our society has shifted is that work has really become a huge priority for most people. Now work is taking over a lot of what used to be family time. You need to figure out how to comfort yourself. That’s something that I hear from a lot of people who have been in the business a lot longer than I have in the acting business is, with the amount of rejection that comes with it. You have to find a way to be able to be okay with yourself, to be alone with yourself, to help yourself get through the hard times. Because of course, you’ll always have, I hope, a network of people who support you. That’s so important, to have a team behind you that’s your family, or your chosen family, or your friends. But really a lot of that has to come within you.

Alice: How do you find that?

Alexandra: I have a therapist.

Alice: –at least overwhelm – okay. Or yes, how does that work here? How do you reduce your stress? How do you reduce overwhelm as an actress or just as a woman?

Alexandra: All joking aside, I think, yes, I’ll joking aside, I think a therapist, everyone should have one. I think there’s such a stigma still with mental health in this country and other countries. But I think in order to process what you deal with, you need an external pair of eyes. So for me, it’s very helpful to talk things out with my therapist, or to figure out a plan if something is going to happen.  It can be helpful to have a professional helping you with that sort of thing. Also, I’m going to say it, but I don’t always follow it. Trying to eat well, try to get a lot of exercise because I do notice when I slip on my diet, which I don’t mean diet to lose weight, I mean just what I eat. When I start to eat more processed foods or something like that, you feel it physically.  It slows you down, you feel kind of tired if you eat a lot of processed foods. I was just going to say if you eat a lot of processed food, the sugar spikes, the ups and downs of your energy levels are so unsettling. So diet is a huge part of it, exercise is a huge part of it. But the other thing is also I think self-love, really learning to accept yourself and to forgive yourself for little things along the way. Because life’s hard enough so if you’re beating yourself up that’s just not helpful. I still do it and let’s not pretend that I don’t, but I’m working on it.

Alice: That’s great.

Alice: Moving on to a lighter subject. What is the most unusual thing you’ve ever seen in New York City?

Alexandra: Well, there are always those guys with the animals, like snakes.  I saw a guy the other day on the street and he had a whole collection of animals. It wasn’t, it was like–

Alice: I think I’ve seen that guy.

Alexandra: Iguana.  He has also had Guinea pigs. It was so random. It was like a collection of animals.

Alice: A parrot.

Alexandra: Yes. Yes. Yes. There’s that guy. Then also the traditional girl stuff on the subway. People like vomiting and other bodily functions, that thing, that kind of thing.

Alice: Yes.

Alexandra: Although I have a good one though. When I was eight, it was my first trip to New York, I went to the empire state building and there was one of these crazy guys, and he was screaming at the top of his lungs and I was so scared. I was a little kid and my mom and my Aunt Barbara who were looking, came up to me and were like, “That’s New York.” That was my first introduction to the crazy random guys screaming and they were right. Because I still see a lot of crazy guys, right on screaming.

Alice:  What are you looking forward to this last month of summer?

Alexandra: Okay. Let me begin with I hate summer.

Alice: Horrible.

Alexandra: I know.

Alice: What is wrong with you?

Alexandra: Well a lot, but we don’t have time to get into that. You know what, I am not a hot weather person. I am a Buffalo person. I’m a Buffalo snow body.

Alice: Yes.

Alexandra: I’m just not meant for this situation. So I’m looking forward to it getting cool.

Alice: Yes. So what are you looking forward to fall?

Alexandra: Fall, I love leaves, no foliage. I love the leaves to change and I love going to Central Park. I know that’s such a corny thing to do, but I love that. I am excited for a big project that’s happening next month. I’ve written my first play.

Alice: Whoa.

Alexandra: Yes. Which is really exciting. I’ve been a writer since I was a kid. I wrote poetry and short stories and essays and that sort of thing. I finally wrote a full length play with my dear friends Eric Shoemaker and we’re workshopping it, in August in New York. So I’m excited  to get that rolling and–

Alice: That’s exciting.

Alexandra: I’m acting in it as well, which is funny.

Alice: So that’s exciting.

Alexandra: Yes, it’ll be great. So I’m excited about that.

Alice: Yes. Do you have any folk traditions that you will have for the city? I mean, like looking at the leaves in Central Park.

Alexandra: You know, it’s funny, a lot of the fall holidays like Halloween, it’s been a long time since I’ve actually saw and did that, because I’m almost always in the rehearsal.

Alice: Oh, okay.

Alexandra: I know that sounds terrible, but it’s been like three or four years since I’ve actually celebrated Halloween because I’m always in a show in the fall. I know.

Alice: Yes, it makes sense.

Alexandra: I know. That’s something kind of interesting to talk about too, is for people who work and people who have demanding jobs where you don’t get holidays off, it’s kind of funny because some of your friends get it and some of them don’t. They will say things like, “Why aren’t you available? You’re always in the rehearsal.” That can be a very tough part of being an actor, because you don’t really get to make your schedule. I mean you do to a certain degree because you agreed to whatever projects you do. But a rehearsal schedule is very intense for a full-length production and it really does limit your social life. You do have to make a lot of sacrifices. You don’t get to see friends as much when you have rehearsal. You don’t get to go home and see your family as much. You have to miss weddings and things like that. It’s a big sacrifice.

Alice: Let’s talk about your social life a little more.

Alexandra: Oh boy.

Alice: So I want to know Alexandra, what do you think it means to be a woman today?

Alexandra: Oh wow. Yes. Do you know what’s so funny?

Alice: What?

Alexandra: Well, a man would never be asked that question.

Alice: That’s true. That’s true.  But I think it is interesting and good for us to think about–

Alexandra: It is.

Alice: –in this time.

Alexandra: I wish we lived in a world where I could say to be a woman right now just means to be a human being. I wish I could say that but I can’t. I think to be a woman now means, to hold your head up. I think it means to stop apologizing for yourself and for your dreams. I think it means going after your goals with all of your heart. I think that’s what it means now to be a woman. It’s just to do what you want to do without apologizing for it and to keep your head up if you keep getting kicked down.

Alice: I think that’s a great definition for it.

Alexandra: Yes.

Alice: Then I’m also curious, something that the Jubilance women have really struggled with is being sidelined for medical care for women’s health.  Have you ever had any experience like that by a doctor or–

Alexandra: Oh sure.

Alice: Here’s some Tylenol. Just take that.

Alexandra: Right. I actually had a very– my full family, the women in my family had very, very bad cramps, debilitating, really, I mean bad. To the point where I would be next to the toilet on the floor, just having my period.

Alice: Every month.

Alexandra: Yes, right.

Alice: Every month this happens.

Alexandra: It got to the point when I was going to college, I realized I can’t do this. I can’t miss class because of this. I mean, how stupid is that? So finally, I ended up going to my gynecologist and I ended up going on the pill, which did help.

Alice: Oh, that’s good.

Alexandra: It lessened my symptoms and I was able to function.

Alice: I know. Yes, I know it helps some women.

Alexandra: But it does not for everybody.

Alice: It’s hard.

Alexandra: I always recommend also, I think a lot of women wait until they’re in their twenties to see a gynecologist. Like a lot of women don’t go in their teenage years.

Alice: It’s embarrassing.

Alexandra: Right. But everyone should go.  I want to tell everyone, go to gynecologist even if you’re not sexually active at the time, even if you don’t think you don’t need to. Go to a gynecologist. I was very lucky that my mom actually had a cyst when she was in high school or early college that was detected by a doctor, and then she ended up having to go to the gynecologist. So from the time I was little, she was very proactive with making sure that I didn’t have the same problem. So I started going to gynecologist when I was 16 or 17 years old.

Alice: That’s great.

Alexandra: Yes. Just for medical purposes because everybody has different issues and you have to stay healthy.

Alice: Yes, and it’s hard. It’s hard to talk about it.

Alexandra: Yes.

Alice: It’s still hard for us as women to talk about it.

Alexandra: It’s frustrating and I know women who to this day have these cramps where they can’t get out of bed, and sometimes they have to miss work or something.

Alice: Yes.

Alexandra: Unfortunately, there is this taboo where it feels like that’s not a real excuse or something to get out of work, or to get out of rehearsal, or if you’re really ill. But I think first of all, if you are experiencing that level of pain and torment, then you definitely need to go the gynecologist and regular doctor too, your primary care physician and figure out a solution because it shouldn’t be cramping your lifestyle. But really you should be able to go to work and do what you need to do and not be affected by it.

Alice: Yes. And not just be dismissed by a doctor.

Alexandra: No. You have typically a doctor, which is a hard thing to find in a country where our healthcare system is crazy.

Alice: Yes. So we’ve kind of been talking about problems today with things as women. Do you have other things that you want to bring up to the table?

Alexandra: I do. I would like everyone to register to vote. If you are not registered to vote, I need you to register immediately. We’ve got a lot of important elections coming up. One of them is the presidential election. But more importantly, we’ve got a lot of important key senate seats coming up. What people don’t realize, I think a lot of the time is that those elections in your local elections are important because without a majority in any of those areas in the house or in the senate, nothing gets passed. We could have a democratic, wonderful president and nothing could get passed because of the senate and the house. So definitely vote.

Alice: Definitely vote for whoever you’re feeling.

Alexandra: Yes.

Alice: If could be a republican or democrat–

Alexandra: It doesn’t matter.

Alice: I just want to put that out there. You should vote.

Alexandra: Yes.

Alice: Let your voice heard.

Alexandra: There are a lot of countries that are literally fighting for the right to vote. So, please.

Alice: We fought for that as women.

Alexandra: Yes, so please don’t throw that away.

Alice: A hundred years ago.

Alexandra: Yes. The turnout needs to be better this time around. So that’s one thing. Then also I’m very focused on the environment right now. Since May, I have not had any single-use plastic ice coffee or ice tea container. Since April or May I have not had any of those from coffee shops or anything.

Alice: That’s amazing. Do you bring something to the coffee shop?

Alexandra: Yes, I bring something with me.

Alice: Okay.

Alexandra: Or I buy coffee and make it at home in a more environmentally conscious way or I buy concentrate that’s packaged in glass bottles.

Alice: Oh, interesting.

Alexandra: The environment is really scrambling. You guys, it’s really bad. By 2030, climate change is going to have impacts that are going to be irreversible if we don’t start. So I really encourage you to not use plastic straws when you can, to not use plastic to-go cups when you can. Also just to think about where your food comes from. You know, I like shopping at the farmer’s market. That’s my secret. It’s the best.

Alice: So good. The produce is better.

Alexandra: Yes. Because it comes from local farms. It’s not processed. I mean it’s– we’re still not at Europe’s level of fresh produce, but you know.

Alice: So how do you think your gender has hurt or helped you?

Alexandra: That’s interesting.  I don’t want to say that I’ve used my feminine wiles, you know, for good and not evil. I used to make that joke and now I’ve backed away from that because that feels outdated to me. But definitely, there are moments where I’ve had to lay on the damsel in distress kind of thing to get what I want, mostly for men. I don’t want to do it. I really don’t. So I don’t do it anymore. But I occasionally used to. Because I would find that they would be less combative if I was a little bit more submissive and calm.

Alice: That’s interesting.

Alexandra: Yes. But I think it’s helped me because, I think women are superheroes and I think it’s helped me deal with so many things that come up in this world and having perspective on what really matters.

Alice: Yes. That’s a great way to put it.

Alexandra: Yes. I think not sweating the small stuff, we’ve got bigger things to worry about.

Alice: What are some concrete ways we can still continue to fight for gender equality?

Alexandra: Sure. So first of all, if you don’t know, women still don’t make the same amount of money as a man. Pay equality still doesn’t exist.

Alice: We just saw that in the football tournament.

Alexandra: I mean–

Alice: The world cup!

Alexandra: They’re actually beating the pants off the men’s game. The men’s team was great. I still support them, but I’m just saying. It’s true, seriously.  So pay equality is huge. In the acting business, I’ve really been appreciative of a bunch of male actors recently who refused their co-stars to be paid less than they are. So there are a lot of awesome dudes out there, shout out to Bradley Whitford who’s an awesome feminist actor and he is very clear when he signs onto things that there’s a woman that his equal, let’s say they’re both series regulars on a television show, they have to be paid the same thing.

Alice: That’s great.

Alexandra: There are a ton of men that are doing this now, which is really awesome. I want to say Keanu Reeves also did this recently because it was so awesome.  So, men, that’s a really huge thing. If you are in a position of power, you can advocate for women to be paid correctly. That’s something that men can do if they’re in the position to do that. You can donate to an organization, organizations like Emily’s List, which raises money for female candidates for politics, all across the board, from presidential to local elections. There are a million great organizations that you should look into about abortion rights in this country and the right to choose.  There’s affordable healthcare for women everywhere.  Like I said, vote and worry about the environment.

Alice: Great. Thank you. If a woman walked up to you asking your advice and you only had a few minutes to get them like, just your best tip about either being an actress or fighting for women’s rights, what would be your tip, just one?

Alexandra: You are enough.

Alice: That’s great.

Alexandra: Yes, you are enough. I think one of my acting teachers, shout out to Audrey Francis from Chicago, said that to me and an acting class when I was in college.  And at the time I didn’t process it as any kind of feminist statement. It was more just about being an actor. I think that it can be applied to being a woman in today’s world. I think there is still this thought in a lot of women’s minds that we have to try and prove that they’re better than men or equal to men. I really want us to get rid of that concept of having to prove ourselves. We are enough. We can write a show, we could be a showrunner, we could be a director. We need to stop telling ourselves that we might not be good enough or we might not be ready yet if we never actually do the opportunities, we won’t find out.

Alice: Yes.

Alexandra: So you are good enough. You are enough.

Alice: What’s next for you?

Alexandra: Well, the play and then I just started filming a series, regular role on Asunder the Series, which is an online soap opera on Manson.

Alice: Yes.

Alexandra: Yes.

Alice: So when is that going to come out?

Alexandra: So post-production will happen in October or November. So my episodes won’t be available for a while, but you can follow my social media and stay tuned there.

Alice: Amazing. Then we have some like more fun ending questions

Alexandra: Oh, yes, let’s do some fun questions.

Alice: Okay. What’s the best book you’ve ever read on the plane? On a train?

Alexandra: Best?

Alice: Yes.

Alexandra: Oh, okay. I just read it. The Tiger’s Wife, I just read it and it’s by Tea Obreht and her new book is coming out and it’s about former Yugoslavia, which is where my people come from. I’m Macedonian, Croatian and German too. It’s an incredible story about what that world was like, the different wars that took place throughout Yugoslavia and the Balkan lands, and just about that culture and about the importance of animals in our society which resonated with me because I have a little kitty.

Alice: Oh, oh, I’ll have to check that out.

Alexandra: Yes.

Alice: Yes.

Alexandra: Her new book comes out this fall, Tea Obreht.

Alice: Okay. I’ll look it up. When did you first start your period?

Alexandra:  Is it bad that I like, this is a seminal moment that I don’t even, I don’t remember.

Alice: Oh my gosh. I was horrified.

Alexandra: You know it’s so funny, I remember my friends’, which I won’t share here.

Alice: That’s okay.

Alexandra: But you know what I’m saying because hers was traumatic.

Alice: Yes. I just felt it was traumatic because it happened.

Alexandra: Mine wasn’t that traumatic.  I think I want to say seventh grade.

Alice:  Who first told you about having your period?

Alexandra: My mom talked about it. I don’t recall any crazy, sit down like let’s get to this, once a month you’ll be in absolute hell. But my family, my mom and my grandma both talked to me about it quite often because like I mentioned, our family had such bad cramps. This was a generational thing that my family was very open about making sure if I had that too, that I knew it was normal and not to freak out.

Alice: That’s great.

Alexandra: Yes.

Alice: It’s good to be able to talk about that and that’s what we hope with Jubilance that all women can begin to sort of share this conversation.

Alexandra: Especially to the mothers out there. I think we– you really can’t be afraid to discuss this sort of thing with your kids because they’re scared. I know a lot of my friends who had their periods young, got them younger in life, or that got them before their parents had talked to them. It was terrifying and in a couple of cases, my mom and grandma were there for my friends to kind of be their guardian at that moment. But I just think it’s not the end of the world. It’s not taboo. It’s a natural occurrence that happens to people. I think everybody should be taught it regardless of gender, because as you know a lot of viewers may or may not know, you may not be a man and you may still have a period. We have a different world now where people are able to realize what their gender, their true gender is. So I want to make sure that the conversation is inclusive to everyone, not just people who are female at work.

Alice: Anything else you’d like to add?

Alexandra:  I guess what I would say is don’t waste too much time doing something that isn’t putting you on the path of what you actually want to do. I’m starting to try and practice that. To practice what I preach because you know, a lot of actors, I’m not alone in this have side hustles or work multiple jobs. I was just with my friend and he works two jobs and he was just saying to me. I don’t have time to actually be preparing for these auditions.  So whatever it is that you’re doing to make ends meet, to keep everything going, do that, but don’t let it totally compromise what you actually want to do. I’m going to try and listen to that too.

Alice: Thank you so much, Alexandra.

Alexandra: Thank you for having me.

Alice: So you can follow Alexander’s journey through theater, through activism on her Instagram @AlexandraMerrittMathews. Or you can go to www.alexandramerrittmathews.com.