An Evergreen Christmas with Charleene
by Eric Chase
Bitmap: Where are you originally from?
Charleene: Plant City, FL…the Winter Strawberry Capitol of the World.
Bitmap: Give us 5 words that you think best describe you.
Charleene: Hmmmm…on any given day, these change. Today, it's motivated, intense yet light hearted, vivacious, connecting.
Bitmap: You’re a "sign" (cancer, Sagittarius, Libra etc.), how would you describe your personality in that regard?
Charleene: I'm a Capricorn with my moon in Taurus and Taurus rising…total earth baby. I appreciate finding beauty in all things, am an introvert, believe in the exquisiteness of everyday miracles; I am tenacious and disciplined. I like to check things off my well-planned lists, love to coordinate, and feel alive when I am creating. On the flip, sometimes I sure can be moody and stubborn! I try to find balance, though it isn't always easy… #workingonit
Bitmap: What are the recent projects you've worked on?
Charleene: Since 2012, my fiancé Jeremy Culver and I have been working on feature film AN EVERGREEN CHRISTMAS in which he directed and co wrote with his sister Morgen Culver and in which I starred, co produced, and composed the score. It was just released on November 4 across all platforms and exclusively in Walmart stores with selected screenings in San Francisco, Palm Springs, Nashville, and Tampa.
This year, I also had the pleasure of performing with the Tony Award winning musical ONCE on Broadway as well as the National Touring company. It's been a busy year!
Bitmap: How was that like? How did you get that role?
Charleene: Working in different mediums is always rewarding and challenging to me as a creative, especially when crossing between film and stage. I really enjoy the intimacy and intensity of film, yet appreciate the immediacy and consistency of theatre.
Just like any actor, I went through a series of auditions for ONCE -- first, putting myself on tape for casting (I totally shot a selfie casting on my iPhone), then flying to New York for the subsequent callbacks. I found out the day before my birthday in January that the creatives wanted to meet me, so I flew to New York arriving in one of those gnarly polar vortexes where the wind chill was about -14 degree…uh, I'm a warm-weather Southern girl, so that was a massive shock to the system. I remember traipsing through what seemed like unending arctic winds to get to my dance call, and then a music call, and then more acting callbacks. But in the end, it was all worth it. The show is simply marvelous and I love every minute working with such talented artists.
For the film "An Evergreen Christmas", the casting process was much easier since we produced the project from the ground up. There's something massively rewarding about cultivating a story from conception to completion, especially working with people you intensely respect and just love on so many different levels. I encourage any actor who has a story to tell to surround yourself with creative souls and go for it! It can awaken aspects and energies you didn't even know where there…at least it did for me.
Bitmap: What would you say is your best asset?
Charleene: I was raised to believe that miracles are not only possible, they happen all the time if you remember to just look for them. Although some days are better than others, I try to live my life in a flow of effortlessness that allows for things to unfold naturally nice and easy.
Bitmap: What do others compliment you on the most?
Charleene: Well, whether others verbally compliment on this or not, I try to help others connect in synergistic ways. It brings me a lot of joy when I can help others realize dreams, goals, or aspirations of any kind, or even just to be able to help open interesting doors for them. I've had a lot of incredible people in my life open doors for me that were once closed…I try to pay these favors forward.
Bitmap: How did you get started in acting?
Charleene: I've been on stage since I was a baby…literally. I really started pursing acting in my early twenties with both stage plays and short films, prompting me to study at Circle in the Square in New York. "Nine" and "Hair" were my first official shows as a member of Actors Equity (AEA) in 2008, my SAG card coming the next year in 2009.
Bitmap: What do you enjoy most about being an actress?
Charleene: I love the excitement to explore a character and create a new reality set against an already substantiated reality.
Bitmap: How did you land the role for An Evergreen Christmas?
Charleene: AN EVERGREEN CHRISTMAS was a project of love and family in a variety of ways. Besides the film's main thrust being centered around family and home, the film's production team is family, both the blood and adopted kind. Jeremy Culver, my fiancé, wrote the script with his sister Morgen Culver; Jeremy also directed. Kim Waltrip ("The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby") produced, and she's like an aunt and dear friend all rolled into one. Our Director of Photography Jeff Osborne is basically the brother I never had, while my mother Jennifer Closshey executive produced the film.
Bitmap: What do you like most: Theater or Film?
Charleene: Film is intimate and exposed, while theatre's continuity and immediacy are intoxicating. I like them both.
If I had to choose one, I enjoy the intensity of film. Here, you are utterly emerged in a specific world for several months of creation, and then free to move to a different world and character with a new project in a medium where your work will live forever.
Bitmap: What are some of your hidden talents other than acting?
Charleene: Music is my first passion. I started playing piano when I was two and could read music before I read written words. Picking up a new instrument has always been easy for me...I once learned to play the harp in a day. My primary instrument from the age of 12 on has been the violin. I now play violin more therapeutically than vocationally, though ironically both my roles in ONCE and AN EVERGREEN CHRISTMAS required fiddle skills.
Also, I can tie Christmas gift package bows with my feet. Don't ask.
Bitmap: Where do you want your career to be in two years?
Charleene: I would love to be a regular on a series with a character that is either a musician or somehow dabbles in music, and that I help write music for the show. It would be a fun challenge to keep new music coming for a weekly series, and I always love working with fantastic songwriters! #speakittobeso
Bitmap: As an actress, what would you say has been your biggest obstacle?
Charleene: I think for most people in any line of work, our biggest obstacle is our own fear. Turning off the fear and turning on the faith or hope or courage or compassion or whatever the truthful feeling is of a situation in a particular moment is perhaps the greatest victory I think anybody can have on any given day. Who doesn't benefit form getting out of their own way? I know I surely do...
Bitmap: If you had to walk away from acting today, what memory would you take from it?
Charleene: …the connectivity with people. It's amazing to me how people can really connect with characters we create as actors, and how these connections motivate or inspire or encourage them towards shifts in their own lives or perspectives. I think these moments of clarity are perhaps the some of the most rewarding experiences for me as an actor.
Bitmap: As a successful woman like yourself, why is it important to begin emphasizing female successes and encouraging the next generation?
Charleene: I think success should be cultivated on all levels beyond gender, race, creed, understanding or persuasion of any sort. Being a woman has nothing and everything to do with my success -- I am successful because I embrace who I am as a woman. Encouraging people to embrace who they are as individuals with unique and creative voices can empower the next generation of artists.
Bitmap: If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be?
Charleene:"Have more fun!" I take things waaaaaaaay too seriously. Geez, Charleene. Lighten up.
Bitmap: You do Theater and also cinematic roles. How do you get immerse yourself in such different characters?
Charleene: To my way of thinking, my process as an actor remains the same between the genres; my physical interpretation shifts depending on the environment. For instance, a single eye flicker on screen reads how a shoulder shrug on stage might indicate. Otherwise, the process of character development transcends mediums.
Bitmap: Where is your favorite place to shop?
Charleene: Nordstrom. I appreciate the range of goodies they offer, from classic designer labels to more every day fun casual ware! Both online and in store is a cinch and super easy.
Bitmap: And, of course, to travel?
Charleene: Peaceful places that embrace rejuvenation, like Vancouver, BC, La Jolla, CA, and Longboat Key, FL #sanctuary
Bitmap: Where is one place you haven't been that you'd love to see?
Charleene: I've always wanted to travel to Thailand! Taking a culinary tour through the country is on my bucket list.
Bitmap: Any vacation plans or plans for after this season?
Charleene: We always seem to be working. In fact, our next film project is a romantic comedy with Garry Marshall and Scott Marshall; I'm super stoked about this one! I think I will take a few weeks after the holidays unwind and recoup. Most likely, we'll head to Sarasota, FL to enjoy late mornings, quite afternoons, and evening beach strolls. My little piece of heaven!
Bitmap: What is a dream role you'd love to play or actor you'd like to work with in the future?
Charleene: I've so much respect for actors who embody their characters -- Daniel Day Lewis, Meryl Streep, Ralph Fienes, and Angelina Jolie are tremendous examples. I would love to work with Ms. Jolie one day -- her elegance, dedication to her craft, attention to detail, artistic integrity and connection to humanity deeply inspire me.
Feature: Charleene Closshey
Photographer: Isaac Alvarez
Stylist: Ali Levine
Makeup & Hair: Sabrina Johnson