Melanie Ehrlich is the epitome of my “artists to watch” section of my website I started three years ago. Her beginning work, which includes “Feud” and “Downsizing,” gives fans of both the big and small screen someone in it for the long haul and couldn’t be more thrilled with whatever opportunity she takes. Her positivity, though, is what radiates the most as I read this interview over and over. I wish Melanie all the success, and I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I do.
How did you get your start in acting? When did you know you wanted to be an actress?
I’ve always known I wanted to be an actress. I’ve never wanted to be anything else. I started in musical theater when I was younger, with plays at school and local community centers when I was six-years-old. My first musical theater role was as “Sleepy” (the dwarf) in a community theater fairy tale mash-up production of sorts called “The Wonders Of Storybook Land.” Thinking about it now, I’m surprised by how much I remember of that experience. I remember my audition, which consisted of singing a song (I sang “Take Me Out To The Ball Game”) and reciting a poem (“Worm” by Sara Perkins, which I can still recite from memory). I also remember being really excited when the girl playing Snow White talked to me one day at rehearsal—she was a LEAD, and one of the “big kids”(12-years-old). I felt so cool that day. If you want to be really accurate, my first role ever was actually in “The Three Little Pigs” in preschool when I was about three or four-years-old, though I don’t remember that one myself. My mother can tell you all about it though (and often will, if given the opportunity).
What is your worst audition story?
Thankfully, I haven’t had any truly awful auditions! There are projects I’ve turned down if I wasn’t comfortable with the material for whatever reason, but that’s generally happened before reaching the audition stage of the process.
What can you tell us about “Downsizing”? Anything from your part to just the experience on set.
It was the highlight of my career and one of the most incredible experiences of my life, bar none. I’ve been really lucky to have worked with really lovely people throughout my career thus far, but the “Downsizing” set was like none other I’d experienced. There was a really special feeling there; a sense of pride in everyone I encountered, from the producers to hair and makeup to the background actors to the PAs. I don’t think I stopped smiling the entire day. My face actually hurt from smiling so much.
As for my part, I won’t spoil anything! But I will say that you see me interacting with Matt Damon’s character, Paul, in a lovely, poignant scene towards the very end of the film.
Have you seen the film in its entirety? If so, what can you say experienced while watching the film?
Not yet! I haven’t been able to make it to any of the festivals where it’s screened so far and I’m indescribably jealous of everyone who has. I am looking forward to infiltrating a theater in LA with a big group of friends when it comes out in theaters here, though.
Were you as much of a fan of Jessica Lange as your character was with Joan Crawford?
Jessica Lange is a legend! I was really excited to work with and learn from such an iconic veteran. It was very cool to get to watch her at work.
What was the biggest thing you took away from that the world of “Feud,” even if you were only on for a minute?
One thing that really left an impression on me from my experience with “Feud” was not only how efficiently things were run on that set, but how there seemed to always be time for collaboration and artistic adjustments. Sometimes, if a set is tightly run, it can feel stressful and rushed. I didn’t get that sense on the “Feud” set, though; the focus always seemed to be on honoring the artistry and vision of those on both sides of the camera, even as it further developed in the moment.
Working on streaming platforms to cable to everything in-between, is there one you prefer over the others? What are the pros and cons?
That’s a great question, and a loaded/complicated one. The entertainment unions are all going through, shall we say, interesting experiences right now in adapting to the changing face of media—and in particular “new media” (the internet). On set, it only affects me so much; if I’m portraying a character, I am putting my full effort and focus into honestly embodying that character without regard for whether it will be viewed in a giant IMAX theater or on someone’s phone. However, when it comes to building a sustainable career doing the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do with my life, there are certainly very real concerns—and not just with new media, but across all platforms because of how they all impact each other.
What are you working on that we can see you on in the near future?
“Downsizing” is the next major on-screen project I have coming out, but I recently voiced a few awesome characters in this funky little game called “Battle Chef Brigade,” which will be released by Adult Swim Games around the same time (at the end of 2017)! After that, you’ll be able to see me in a film I’m really excited about called “The Miseducation of Cameron Post.” Based on a young adult novel by the same name, it tells the story of a girl forced into a gay conversion therapy program by her ultra-conservative religious family. This was always a special project to me, but after the 2016 election it took on a whole new significance and renewed relevance. It was also my largest film role yet, so I got to spend a few magnificent weeks working with some wonderful people, including Chloë Moretz, who is an incredibly worldly and impressive young woman.
You’ve had many roles as actor, director, casting director, etc.? What do you see doing long term in this profession?
Oh, I am an actor, first and foremost, through and through. I have done some directing, some casting, some producing, some writing, etc. but it’s always been to facilitate my true love, which is performing—both acting and music. My love for the latter which I’ve only recently revived through my very ridiculous passion project, Melanie Plays The Otamatone Poorly But Fervently. I play songs, poorly but fervently, on a ridiculously wonderful (or is it wonderfully ridiculous? Or both?) instrument called the Otamatone. But it all contributes to my long-term goal, which is to educate and uplift people through my work—which I do see mostly consisting of performing. But I also like to have a certain amount of creative control over what I do, so I do see myself producing some of my own work in the future as well.
What has been the biggest “pinch me” moment of your career so far?
There have been many—increasingly—lately! But one of the biggest was when the reviews for “Downsizing” started coming out after it premiered at (and opened) the Venice Film Festival. You have to understand: I filmed in April of last year during the first week of production—which spanned several months and locations (internationally!) afterwards—and then went onto post-production, and THEN finally made it to festivals just last month. So this film has been part of my life for nearly two years at this point—for the majority of which few others (outside of my immediate circle of friends and family) even knew what it was yet! So to not only see people start to talk about it, but to see the sheer deluge of reviews and articles, praise and criticism, and talk of Oscar nominations and the first bit of footage in the trailers…after waiting so long…THAT’S been unreal.
But at the risk of sounding a little saccharine, I feel like every day brings “pinch me” moments, each greater than the last. I moved out here to LA from the only other place I’ve called home (New York) a little less than a year ago, and I don’t take for granted how incredibly lucky I am to live among the people and places and studios and history that I’ve wanted nothing more than to be a part of my entire life. But perhaps most exciting is recognizing, even though I’ve been working as an actor for years, that in many ways…this is just the beginning!