Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Yvonne Zima Talks StartUp, ER, Al Pacino and Method Acting

Yvonne Zima
Yvonne Zima, who recently starred in the Lifetime original movie "Killing Mommy," has an exciting new project coming up, the much-anticipated crime thriller for Crackle called "StartUp." The series stars Martin Freeman (of "Fargo," "Sherlock" and "The Hobbit" fame), Adam Brody ("The OC") and Edi Gathegi ("Twilight"). The story takes place in Miami, where a desperate banker needs to conceal stolen money; a Haitian-American gang lord wants to go legit; and a Cuban-American hacker has an idea that will revolutionize the future of money itself. Forced to work together, they unwittingly create their version of the American dream: organized crime 2.0. The 10-episode series premieres today on Crackle (go to crackle.com for details).

Celebrity Extra: Earlier this year I saw a preview for "StartUp," and I am excited about this one. What can you tell me about it and your role in it?

Yvonne Zima: I think that it will be fantastic. I saw the trailer and I was like, "This is such a steamy, sexy thriller with so many fun layers of different characters from different places." It's really a kaleidoscopic view of crime. I love the idea of Adam Brody doing this serious role. I've always been a fan of him from "The OC." He's just such a terrific actor and a very nice person.

Martin Freeman is amazing in it. He is a fantastic actor. His performance in this is a feast. He's so intense, which is so magnetic. He's amazing to watch. I play Megan, who is a receptionist who is hired at their company because of her looks. Which means she's terrible at her job. She is a quintessential millennial, who's always taking selfies and is just totally inept.

CE: It sounds like a fun role to play, especially against the intensity of the rest.

YZ: She's the comedic relief in an otherwise very serious drama. I shot three episodes — we filmed in Puerto Rico — so I'm recurring, and I hope if the show goes on that they'll bring me back because I had so much fun with the locals. We wrote songs in Spanish and were singing together; it was so much fun. Puerto Rico is a very interesting place.

But yeah, I'm this clucky, bumbling, idiot character, and I think that the audience will be quite relieved sometimes from the tension of the other scenes. This is an intense, crazy drama, but it's super-grounded. It feels very real, and I interrupt that for a laugh or two. That was fun to play. And some of the wardrobe is scandalous.

CE: What are some more of your memories of the shoot?

YZ: I did have a scene with Wayne Knight, who was on "Seinfeld." He was so fun to work with this old-school Hollywood charm in terms of his wit and his humor. In real life he's just a bright light to be around. That was a highlight for me in terms of that gig. I was so happy to have a scene with him.

CE: "ER" was the quintessential hospital drama, reigniting the genre and opening the door for lots of copycats to come. Tell me about your experience working on the show.

YZ: I played the daughter of Anthony Edwards, who was amazing as Goose in "Top Gun," so he wasn't new to this. He was actually a bigger star than someone like George Clooney at the time. I had done several pilots with him long ago, and this was his first show that was successful. And it was cool to see him as an actor early in his career, being so humble and kind. There are all these amazing stories about him defending background actors who aren't treated as nicely as principal actors.

I watched him as he observed these background actors who weren't getting as much food as us regulars on the show, and he was like, "Well, that is not right." So he went to this big food cabinet and essentially took a crowbar, because it was locked, and he was just tossing chips to everyone. He was like: "Who wants carrots? Who wants this?" He felt that this treatment, this class system, it's not right, and I agree it's not right. To witness that as a child, it was very important. Just a lesson in the person I wanted to become and how I want to treat people on a set. And that really stuck with me.

There are wonderful people in this business who look out for each other, and he's one of them. And then there was Noah Wyle and Eriq La Salle, and they're all these hunky, wonderful actors, and this was the beginning of their careers. And that was really cool to be a part of, and it was the beginning of mine as well.


Tom Sizemore and Yvonne Zima in Heat

CE: Speaking of the beginning of your career, pretty much the first movie role you got was opposite Al Pacino in "Heat." I can't even imagine that experience!

YZ: I think I was 5. Basically I had to personally audition with Al Pacino. It's barely a part in the film, but he cared who the child was. And I remember, there were no lines or a scene to do, but I was coloring in a coloring book, and it was kind of an interview. And he was talking to me, and he handpicked me to play that part. And then when we filmed that scene, which is like this epic shoot-out — it is crazy — and I remember I collected a lot of the bullet shells because I thought they were cool keepsakes. I thought Uzis were a cool gun.

In the scene, Al Pacino takes me from Tom Sizemore, who gets shot in the head, and he rescues me. I remember him staying in the scene long after they called "cut," and that was my first experience with method acting. Someone who doesn't break character, just doesn't interrupt the flow of the scene and this scene to the next. Now remember, I was only 5, and I was just like, "You know they called 'cut'?" I didn't get it. Of course, I know now in retrospect. He's a method actor. But I was like: "This is silly. He doesn't know that they called 'cut.' I think that I'll tell him."

CE: I can't stop smiling just picturing little Yvonne telling Al Pacino that he can stop acting now.

YZ: (Laughs) I'm like: "Excuse me, sir, I need to get a bagel. You can just continue by yourself." I was thinking about this the other day, if I ever have a couple of kids of my own, I would love to expose them to the theater very young. I would love for them to see films that invoke empathy, and I think that with millennials and these generations that are slightly younger than me, I'm worried about them as a generation coming up and not being exposed to enough theater and enough stories. I think that the value of my childhood as an actress is really understanding story, human emotions and humanity. And that far supersedes any struggle it might have been. It wasn't ever that hard. I was lucky. I think it was a positive experience.

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