Rachel Griesinger is a New York City Actress and Feminist Activist and we’re going to talk about growing up as a woman, being an actress entrepreneur, and her new play that she’s working on!
Watch her interview here:
Listen to her interview here:
Full Transcript here:
Alice: Hello, everyone. I’m Alice. I’m the media manager for Jubilance. Today, I’m talking to Rachel Griesinger. Rachel is a New York City actress and feminist activist, and we’re going to talk about growing up as a woman, being an actress, entrepreneur, and her new play that she’s working on. Welcome, Rachel! Thank you for joining us.
Rachel: Hi, thank you so much for having me.
Alice: Yes. So, we want to start off with some kind of more fun questions to get us going. Okay, champagne or beer?
Rachel: Oh. It really depends on the situation. I actually– champagne of beers, Miller High Life. I’m going to go there.
Alice: Oh, okay.
Rachel: When I get off work, honestly, that’s what I want.
Alice: Perfect! That sounds nice. Okay, chocolate or cheese?
Rachel: Ah! Alice! These are too hard!
Alice: I mean I just say both, but–
Rachel: I always go cheese. I’m a savory gal.
Alice: Okay, great. And what about tampon or pad?
Rachel: I actually was using The DivaCup for a long time and now I don’t use anything because I have an IUD, and I don’t really bleed.
Alice: What? That’s amazing.
Rachel: Yes, I’m a huge fan of The DivaCup. I was using tampons before that.
Alice: Oh, okay. What IUD do you have?
Rachel: I have the generic of the Merina and I got it for free at Planned Parenthood, just saying. I’ve had it for a couple of years now.
Alice: That’s amazing!
Rachel: Yes, I don’t really bleed.
Alice: I would love to never have a period ever again. That’s great.
Rachel: Yes, yes, yes.
Rachel: But, yay, DivaCups too.
Alice: Amazing! Can you talk about where you from? And what made you move to New York City?
Rachel: Yes. Where I’m from is– as you may know is a slightly complicated answer but I moved around a lot. I was born in Indianapolis but I only lived there until I was like four, I’m not– I wouldn’t say I’m from there. So, I lived all over and before New York, I was in Chicago, which I kind of say it’s home although I have no family there. And then I got into grad school here in New York. I always knew I wanted to move to New York. I think I felt like I was, maybe it sounds kind of corny but I always felt like I was a New Yorker before I was ever in New York and it turned out to be a good fit.
Alice: That’s wonderful. What’s your favorite part about being a New Yorker?
Rachel: Bodegas? My 24-hour bodega. Yes, it’s hard to put your finger on it, right? Because there’s so much but I just think it’s like, I really enjoy the pace of this city. I enjoy being able to come back to where I live. I live on the border of Brooklyn-Queens now. And it feels neighborhood-y and home but also I can go into Manhattan. I just think that there’s a lot of opportunity to be had here.
Alice: That’s wonderful. Part of your background is I know you grew up in Brazil for your high school experience. Can you talk about some cultural differences that you see between the United States and Sao Paulo?
Rachel: Oh, sure, yes. Sao Paulo, yes. I lived in Sao Paulo from 2000 to 2005. My mom’s job moved us there and it’s– the cultural differences are huge. I think probably, for me, the biggest one is there’s this– I can’t really– there’s a term in Portuguese that’s not really translatable, it’s about the person’s way of being. And there’s this sort of passionate, very open quality that Brazilians have, that I feel like most Americans don’t, and that’s not negative, nor positive, it’s just the difference. And for example in other European countries too, as soon as you see someone– like when I would get to high school in the morning and there would be all my group of friends, we’d all be standing there, and before I could start class I would have to go around to every single one and give two-cheek kisses.
Rachel: Yes, every single person, I’d have to go around. And so little things like that where people are very much– physical touch there is very different than here. But also being older and wiser and “woker,” sometimes that was problematic. Like I think about, “Oh, wait, was that okay?” But I think that people are very– the culture is even more sexualized, I would say actually.
Alice: Really? Wow.
Rachel: Than here.
Alice: How so?
Rachel: I mean, even in just things like “Carnaval” like, the Mardi Gras essentially. It’s really normal to just have naked women on the streets. And I think women’s bodies are still more overly sexualized there? But in a way that it’s integrated into the culture. That isn’t here. Also, there were always billboards for Playboy or– nudity and things like that weren’t so–
Alice: Yes, taboo in a way?
Rachel: Yes. They were just, it was just, I hesitate to say normal. Because I also think that there are problems with– in the culture in that way, in Brazilian culture, but it’s just more integrated, it’s just more inherent, sort of, if that makes sense.
Alice: Okay. Yes.
Rachel: People are so friendly.
Alice: That’s great!
Rachel: The most friendly, yes. And they’re amazing, they’re amazing, I love and miss Brazil, every day.
Alice: Wow. And can you talk about your step-by-step process of how you’ve gotten to be where you are, now in Brooklyn and an actress, and you were telling me before this about some projects that you’ve just been working on? Can you talk a little bit about that?
Rachel: I’m not a very step-by-step person, so I’ll start by saying that, I’m very much like, not like I’m completely disorganized and all over the place but I definitely could plan more than I do. I studied theater in undergrad too, but it hasn’t always been my whole life. I think what’s really important about being– any kind of artist but being an actor is– doing, having as many other experiences as you can that aren’t theater-based because I just think that makes you a better storyteller.
Alice: I completely agree.
Rachel: Yes, and I think that that’s really important too as far as empathy and understanding other experiences. I was in Chicago as a working actor for some time, about five years, before I moved to New York and I just felt like there was a feeling I was hitting there in a way and I didn’t think that I was going to really be actually be able to make a living doing things that weren’t– maybe not just acting but things connected to my artistic passions. So, I thought grad school was the answer, and I thought that that would be the best way to enter into New York, as supposed to just moving here. I now, having done grad school here, I don’t know that that is the right way to be honest because I have a ton of debt, but that’s the path I took and I got in and I saved some money, I worked in the restaurant industry for 14 years, so I worked my butt off at a restaurant, saved up some money and moved myself out here and started grad school. Been out of grad school for, gosh what is? Two, over two years.
Alice: Yes, pretty great.
Rachel: I keep reminding myself that this is the long game. I just knew I needed to get an agent, there’s so many, I’m like, “Ah, how do I?” I can’t concisely like– I did get an agent and started going on TV auditions.
Rachel: Yes. I booked a pilot six months out of my grad program, and I was like, “Wow!” Couldn’t believe it, like a recurring role on it too not just– and it was this huge production and had really amazing people attached to the project and it was for NBC Universal, and I got paid super well, and I had like a trailer down the street from the restaurant I worked at, I was like, “What are my worlds?” I was just so– I was like, “This is amazing!” And it went so well, what a paycheck, and then it didn’t get picked up, which happens all the time, but it really, feeling that was—I’ve become pretty used to rejection, you kind of have to be in this. You do 20 auditions and hope that you book one maybe, maybe not. It becomes really hard to know– that can really mess with your brain of like, “Is it me, is it this industry? Like, why am I not?” Anyways, it didn’t happen. I can’t get my footage; I still haven’t been able to see any of my pilot footage.
Rachel: Like, I can’t even get that for a reel, which for an actor is really–
Alice: That’s so crazy. I thought they would at least give you it for your reel.
Rachel: No, because the pilot never aired. NBC doesn’t have to.
Rachel: Anything, yes, I reached–
Alice: Because they own the rights.
Rachel: Everything, yes, I couldn’t get it.
Alice: I know.
Rachel: So, that was a huge bummer and I didn’t book any TV work until two weeks ago.
Rachel: It was a year and a half ago and I booked a co-star, a small co-star role on a new show that’ll be out next year, they’re shooting this season right now. So, I shot that last week, which was exciting, but it just goes to show how hard– it is no small feat just to book one line on a TV show. And in the meantime, I have to really keep all of my other passionate artistic endeavors going.
Alice: Can you talk about that? What are you working on right now? You have a show that you’re working on.
Rachel: Yes, I have a solo show it’s called, Woke Pussy. I’ve never done this before, I’ve never considered myself a writer or anything, but I have journaled my whole life. And I got out of a three and a half year relationship, a little over two years ago, and found myself in my early thirties in New York using dating apps for the first time, and dating, and I found I really enjoy meeting new people, and I’ll say I’m also a very sexual person and I’m very connected to myself in that way and I enjoy just sex and things like that as well, so I was sort of just looking out there for experiences, right? Not necessarily finding a relationship at the time. I started rubbing up against, like navigating my feminism. And how I feel about the tenants of feminism which, they’re personal. And dating, and men, and I’m straight, but I think that there’s– I don’t identify as queer, I have a tendency to be like heteroflexible because I am attracted to women, but I was mostly dating men, right? And I was just, I was becoming– I was having a lot of inner conflict and contradiction about my feminism and self-respect, and sense of self while dating. I started keeping a log, and I kept a log of every single person I went on a date with and it just began as me journaling.
Rachel: Really, it was just me journaling kind of to process my experiences and then it became– I realized I was, like, logging each one, like name, age, what the date was, like–
And I went back to this and then I started this silly thing on Instagram called “toilet time-time” and it literally just came out of like a random moment where I said, “toilet time-time”. And I started filming myself while I was actually peeing on the toilet, you could only see my face, don’t worry.
And I started talking about dating. People were into it. I started getting a lot of responses, I was like, “This is really funny” so I kept doing it, and I kind of integrated that. One night I just sat down and was like, “What if I just made this into a show?”
Rachel: And I wrote, I drafted a quick script, an honestly, half-ass script, and randomly submitted it to a couple of places, forgot about that, and a couple months later got an acceptance letter from United Solo Fest for this, but honestly, I panicked. I went, “Oh, I actually have to do this.”
Alice: That’s awesome!
Rachel: So, that’s sort of what– Yes, and I’m still in the process of making it, it’s November 6th.
Alice: That’s amazing. So, it’s kind of chronicling your time dating in New York.
Rachel: It’s like I want to say, navigating and sort of balancing my feminism. The dissatisfaction also, with the system, and really, I think dissatisfaction, it’s a term to use about how I feel about what’s wrong but– and then also, coming to a self-acceptance is sort of the journey of this character. She’s not quite me, she’s me but like, she’s not totally me.
Alice: Yes, that’s awesome. Wow. I can’t wait for it. So, I will be there. I just have to get my tickets still.
Rachel: Yes, I’ve been bad about promoting it, so I also-
Alice: Yes, send it to me. Can you talk about what is the most rewarding part of being an actress?
Rachel: Yes, that’s tough too. I love performing live. I deal with a lot– I feel like I’m a very high energy person and I can kind of go-go-go, and not realize that I’m burned out. Performing live which unfortunately isn’t something that you get to do all that often as a working actor. In New York, I feel the most like myself when I get to perform live, and I think there’s something really special about that feeling, and that connection of being live in front of an audience, and staring at them and having them stare back at you, and sort of seeing each other. And not– what also excites me the most about performing is my relationship with the people who are there to see the work. The feeling that I get from that is probably the most rewarding. And it doesn’t come often.
Alice: Yes, that’s amazing, Rachel. You kind of talked about this a little bit in that answer but how do you conquer those feelings? Of being a freelancer and just overwhelmed and not having work at different points. That’s just being an actress in the city.
Rachel: Right and, I mean, it looks a little different for everybody, but I think what’s really helpful for me to remind myself of is the overwhelmed and the blues, that kind of blues you can kind of get from after a gig but not having anything else, kind of sort of in-between time.
Rachel: It’s a unique experience to our profession as artists.
Rachel: And that’s the one thing that I have to remind myself of, it’s that when I get down and I get anxiety about it because, of course, I’m human, I do. I have to remind myself that this is not a unique experience for artists, right? And freelancers in general. I have a few things, therapy. I have it today and I’m really looking forward to it. I go to therapy once a week and I’m happy to share my therapy resource too because it’s a great place that has a sliding scale, and it’s just a really good community of therapists. But I do therapy. That for me is essential. So, whatever that looks like for people I think it’s really important for artists and for everybody, but I think specifically for the artist. My schedule is all over the place, I’m coming off of seven shifts in a row. I worked seven straight shifts at my restaurant–
Rachel: –as of last night, that is not normal. I normally do three or four days a week depending on– sometimes I have more income from other acting gigs and when I don’t, I pick up shifts, but everybody was sick at my work this week I kept getting called, I was like, “Yes, seven shifts straight!”
Rachel: For Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tues– over five days, I did seven shifts.
Rachel: Yes, and that’s really hard. And then today I have therapy, I have rehearsal for my solo show, and tomorrow is kind of a day off. And I think it’s really hard when you’re a freelancer and you– in our gig economy to actually give yourself a day off.
Alice: Yes, definitely.
Rachel: You’re always supposed to be looking for more work because I don’t have consistent work in my field. I’m a dialect coach. I just got to coach actually, the character, James Spader’s character on Blacklist has to speak Portuguese, and I sp