Interview with storyteller Rochelle Robinson

My name is Rochelle Robinson and I am a storyteller.

Rochelle Robinson

I have been an actor since Jesus wore knee pants. I took up acting in high school because I went to see my boyfriend in a play and it looked like fun…so I auditioned for the next one that came up and got it. Way back in 1984 I auditioned for the prestigious South Coast Repertory Summer Conservatory and got accepted.

I went to San Diego to kind of test the waters, then came to Los Angeles and I’ve been working ever since.

You can find me at

Rochelle Robinson is an actress and writer, known for I Love Dick (2016), Maron (2013) and Southland (2009).

The Interview

BU: Rochelle, I have “known” you for a while and I must say that you’re an incredibly intuitive and caring person. Would I imagine those innate personality traits play into your characters in acting? (*see what I did there? :D) True or false? And please don’t be shy……this is your “other” stage!

RR:  Absolutely true! Acting is an empathetic thing. Allowing yourself to embody a person completely, imagining their circumstances, their wants, and needs, their flaws, their fears…you come to live in their shoes, love what they love, hate what they hate…you can’t walk away from that sort of experience unchanged. I booked a role on The Nine some years ago, the wife of a dead security guard. Our mutual friend was the manager of the bank where he died (played by Chi McBride), and my character had known him for years. But it’s not like in theatre, where you meet and rehearse for six weeks or whatever, and I never even met the actor that played my husband (Michael Emanuel). So you take what the writers give you (and that show had incredible writers) and in your mind, you flesh out what you don’t know. You have imaginary experiences. A wedding, Thanksgiving with the boss, seemingly ordinary days. My one scene was the bank manager coming to talk to me after my husband’s death. So to suffer a loss, you have to have had the thing, to begin with…so I had a marriage. You create memories for yourself as this person, and it brings a history to the words you’re saying. Feeling the loss that the writers have given you is extraordinary and devastating. And also a real gift to be able to do, with bonus points for emotionally moving someone who watches it and says something to you like “I know just how she felt right then”. When someone recognizes something in what you’ve done, that’s huge.

Empathy. I wish human beings were more so, more often.

BU: I agree, and that is my point about you…you really are a genuine person who does care. You seem to do it so effortlessly. This is a quality then that is good to have naturally if you’re going into acting.

BU: I know that you have (and still do!) both Television and Movie parts. Would you like to take about a particular character you have or are currently playing?

RR:   I was fortunate to book a small recurring role on a miniseries that is airing on NatGeo in September. “The Long Road Home” based on the book by Martha Raddatz. Beautiful story. I play Cindy Sheehan, who already IS a very real person and I knew who she was when I booked it. But all I knew of her was her public persona, as an activist. I bought her book so I could learn more about her as a woman, a wife, a mother…and learn about her children, especially her son Casey who died that day in Iraq. She talks about his first words, and the things he liked, and the things they shared. I felt these things. The miniseries was shot mostly in and around Fort Hood, in Texas, where a lot of those guys involved were stationed. Every day we had a moment of silence in their honor. We also happened to be shooting on the anniversary of Black Sunday, and there was a service prior to the start of the work day. It was a beautiful thing to be a part of, I’m really proud of that. And when it premieres, it will be airing simultaneously in 171 countries in 45 languages. Television history, that.

BU: I just watched this trailer:

It brought tears to my eyes……no fooling. You’re very good. But my question is this: As far as film and TV are concerned, is there a preferred venue for you? Movies V TV?

RR:  Not really, I just love telling stories.  I love creating and fleshing things out, and maybe bringing something to the part that nobody saw coming. If that gets to happen on the big screen or the small one, it’s no matter to me.  I feel fortunate just to be working. Incidentally, that role you linked to was written for me. I got a Best Supporting Actress nomination for that from the California Women’s Film Festival. The film was in a lot of festivals and took top prize at two of them, I think. It also went to Cannes. (And thank you, for telling me it brought tears to your eyes).

BU: I am not kidding. I would never kid about something like that. I could feel what you were saying in my bones. I related to it quite easily, and in my opinion (for whatever that’s worth) that is the true mark of great acting!

And I DID want to talk about your being nominated! What a great accomplishment for you!

RR: Thank you, it was cool. I remember getting a text from the director, Seri DeYoung. It was a group text with Hope Jaymes, who played my daughter and also wrote it. Seri said we’d been accepted into the California Women’s Film Festival and “you got a nomination for Best Supporting Actress!” I looked at the text for a long time, then finally responded: “Who are you talking to?” LOL I mean, I’d be excited either way but I had to be sure! I got a lot of notice for that little film, it was a great experience all around. It even went to Cannes.

BU: It’s a great accomplishment.

BU: It seems you understand taking on the character as almost a responsibility? I say that because I believe you try to put yourself in the person’s situation as if you WERE them. Is that correct?

RR:     It is a responsibility, yes.  But a joyous one.

BU: I love that!

BU: I am just curious though…. with movies, there seems to be more time involved as opposed to television which I would think has a smaller window? Is that accurate or no?

I applaud what you do and how you do it.

Still, there is no difference whether it is TV or Film? Are the people the same in both? What I mean by that is are there both producers, editors, directors, etc.? And is the set the same?

Many of us don’t know.

And even, when you are in a role (whether it be TV or film) are the sets the same as far as what we have come to know in WATCHING films…..We see the director in the big chair saying, “no, no, no. Cut!”

Or “That’s a take…that was beautiful!”.
RR:  No, you’re correct. There are plenty of differences, of course…I just meant I don’t prefer one over the other because the process is usually the same for me.

BU: So what are those differences?

RR: Well…even within the medium itself…your audition is different for a three camera comedy than it is a soap opera. It’s different for a procedural drama than it is a commercial. It usually is a matter of tone and timing or pacing.

RR:  Movies do have the luxury of more time. TV shows, an hour-long drama typically shoots in I think 8 days, and a half hour comedy in five. That’s not a hard and fast rule, that’s just my experience most times. And yes, there are a lot of cross over talent both behind the cameras and in front of them. I think even more so now, with the influence of things like Amazon and Netflix, etc.

To answer your question about the sets, they vary…established shows like Last Man Standing are shot in a big building called a sound stage…they’re cool to walk around in. If you watch that show, you know there are areas of Tim Allen’s house, and the store he owns, etc. It’s like an open maze, it’s cool. And the directors are off watching the monitors, they must see how it looks on camera. They will usually walk around after calling cut, then maybe give the crew a couple of notes and maybe the actors as well. Sometimes a technical note like, “start your line when you get to this mark” and sometimes a note about your process or what they ultimately want the viewers to experience. They might have you try it a couple of ways and they choose which way to go in editing.

BU: To me, I think it sounds confusing, but I am sure it is old hat to you now, but for those of us who have ever been on a movie set, what’s it like?

RR: It’s fun! And it’s busy and boring and crazy and cool. It’s impossible to describe because they’re all different.

Typical day: You show up, find the AD (Assistant Director), check in.  He/she takes you to your trailer, shows you where the food truck or Kraft service table is, gives you your contract and paperwork to fill out.   Your wardrobe is in there, you get sent to hair and makeup, then you wait until they call you.                       You meet the other people in the scene, get direction, and do your thing.  You might wait a long time between shots, it might go lickety split.  During “I Love Dick” we all sat around in director’s chairs and played Never Have I Ever. 😉  Actors and crew are great company, I think…interesting people, everyone’s got a story. It’s great work when you can get it, and I am always grateful when I do. J

BU: So, what you are saying is that there is little difference between being on set for TV or Movies?

RR: Yeah, little difference, really.

BU: Have you met some really famous people (besides yourself, of course).

RR: Oh yeah, of course! I was star-struck twice, and neither time was on a set, but out in the “real world”…Once with Fred Astaire, and once with Ray Charles.

BU:  RAY CHARLES? I would love to have met him!

BU: What is the wait time usually from finish to when (it) shows up at the theater or TV? Or is that always different? And while you are waiting are you sworn to secrecy?

RR: You are sworn to secrecy, yes…in fact, you’re contracted to it. You will sign a NDA..Non-Disclosure Agreement. Films take several months to a year, usually, tv is more immediate, it depends on the type of show.

BU: And BY THE WAY, do you have a clip of “I Love Dick?” you can share?

RR: I actually don’t, but it is still on Amazon. I shot four episodes of that and ended up only in three and of those, barely two of them….so there wasn’t really enough to even keep for my reel. Sorry! That’s showbiz.