This is the second of two interviews I was able to conduct with the cast and crew of the short film Ophelia. On Friday, when it premiered at this year’s LA Shorts Fest, I published a review, and just yesterday I was able to share a Q&A with director Andrew Garland.
Playing the eponymous character herself is Ali Mueller. In addition to starring in such programs as ABC’s All My Children and films like STARZ movie Category 5, Mueller is also hard at work creating her own film and television content. She can be found on Twitter and Instagram as @alimueller1.
What did you want to be when you were seven-years-old?
I wanted to be a horse show jumper, a tennis player, an actress, a lawyer and a princess. Four out of five have come true in some shape or form but when I really look at what I wanted to be, it was a performer. A storyteller, expressing my feelings unapologetically.
What was the strangest question you’ve ever been asked in a job interview?
I did a commercial audition once where they asked me to sing “Bohemian Rhapsody”. Now I wouldn’t exactly call myself a singer, but I did know and love the song, despite being notorious for making up my own lyrics rather than ever learning the proper ones. And “Bohemian Rhapsody” is a seriously big song. So I got almost halfway and they stopped me. Didn’t hear back from them.
Do you have any strategies when it comes to interviewing for a job [or auditioning for a role]? [How do you deal with pressure?]
Honestly, rehearsing. Being really prepared, so much so that I’m excited to go in and play and do my work. Also being open to whatever the moment brings. Nerves are actually alright, because you can use them as an internal energy to fuel what you’re going after.
While traditional job interviews and auditioning for a role have their similarities I would assume there were some key differences as well. What was it like trying out for a character whose primary motivation was trying to get a job?
In this particular instance, I didn’t have to audition for the role because I helped create it with the writer/director Anthony Garland. I was looking to play a character with depth, layers and complexity, which can be hard to achieve in a short film, so I’m really happy with how it turned out! Playing the character really forced me to look at my own fears, doubts and insecurities and how they motivate or, more likely, inhibit me.
On a similar note, Ophelia’s own physical appearance is something she makes note of herself pretty early on in the film, with what is and isn’t professional or appropriate. Have you had any work-related experiences similar to this outside of acting?
Quite frequently! As a woman, I feel there is such a narrow margin as to what is and isn’t appropriate, and that seems to change all the time. At the end of the day though, we’re all our own worst critics, and I think that shows in the film.
Without crossing into spoiler territory, Ophelia appears to have a very specific way she deals with pressure. What was it like portraying this, and how do think the short film presents it to the audience?
I did a fair bit of research into people’s various coping mechanisms. As an actor I think you should do your due diligence as to the truth behind what you’re doing. We have a responsibility to represent the people and characteristics we play as honestly as we can, because it’s really for the audience and those people that connect in some way to what you’re doing. Art has always been a mirror for the human experience. As far as how the short presents it, I don’t feel like it draws attention to itself or dwells on it outside of that moment. It’s a quick fix for her internal struggle, but really just a band aid to a bigger and deeper rooted problem.
A large part of the short film has to do with where she is now contrasted with where she though she would be. Do you think that’s true to life, or are childhood dreams typically exactly that, what we wanted as children?
I think it’s part of life. One of the biggest things I have struggled with is accepting where I am right now, in this moment, on my journey — similar to Ophelia. I think it has also been a blessing. My childhood dreams are still with me, some fully realized and others still unfolding. I think adults and society make childhood dreams typical and have diminished the magic of the possibility of what “if”. I look more at what childhood dreams represent than the literal meaning.