"I love falling into a character and discovering a part of myself I didn't know"
Jordan Van Clief is a Los Angeles based actress, writer, producer, director who will basically fill any role to finish a project ("But mostly I'm an actor and writer"). Recently, Jordan has written, produced and starred in Failure is an Option, a hilarious dramedy about Katrina, a millennial who gets rejected from grad school after moving her entire life across the country to go. Now she must discover her purpose in life the old fashioned way by hiding from her problems until rent is due.
Jordan has won multiple awards for her role as Katrina, including Best Actress in an Indie Film at Festigious and Best Performance of Fest at the Actors Awards. The jury described her performance as brilliant: "You've seen the "millennial character" on screen before, but you've never seen Katrina. She's more anxious, extreme, impulsive, depressed and dramatic, yet charming and lovable... Jordan's chemistry with Taylor Murphy- Sinclair (who plays her roommate, Lisa) is great! Unlike Katrina, Lisa is calm and positive. She gives well-thought-out answers – exactly what Katrina needs. She does her best to help her poor friend, but things only get worse- surprisingly, for both of them.”
We invited Jordan to join us for an interview. Here's her story.
Jordan, congratulations on your fantastic performance as Katrina. Before we talk about her, please tell us a bit about yourself. How did you get into filmmaking?
I moved to LA and quickly learned that the best way to consistently act was to create my own work, I made a silly web series to get me SAG-E and then never stopped creating.
You moved here (Los Angeles) when you were 21 or so? What prompted you to do it?
I had just graduated from American University in Washington DC and my best friend Eddie Leavy and I decided to take the plunge and move out right after graduation and neither of us have ever left! We love this crazy city. Acting has always been my passion and this city has become my home.
Jordan Van Clief in Failure is an Option
Who are your favorite filmmakers/actors and what do you like about their work?
I love female creators, the obvious ones of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. I'm super inspired by Issa Rae with her work starting from Awkward Black Girl and Rachel Bloom and the masterpiece that is Crazy Ex Girlfriend. There are so many incredible woman paving the way for more and more female filmmakers. And it wouldn't be a complete list with Reese Witherspoon or Jada Pinkett Smith and their new production companies. Women helping women.
Jordan Van Clief in #ToothFairies
Tell us about your role as Vivian in the ToothFairies series (season 3)? You’ve been portraying this character for quite some time now, in what ways do you feel she has changed and developed?
Vivian was a really fun role to write and act in. She started out as a stone cold bitch, but a bitchy character is one note and good for a laugh here and there, but not much substance. The fun with Vivian (like most characters) is finding the layers. You need to have vulnerable moments, softness, to make a hard character seem real. Nothing was better than watching Ron Swanson laugh at cats, it made him human.
How do you normally prepare for an audition? Any tips?
Always read things out loud. Saying things in your head is just not the same. Talk to yourself, it doesn't matter. The world doesn't care if there's one more person being a crazy.
Alongside acting, you also write, produce and direct. You say that you'd fill any role to finish a project. But what is your favorite thing to do?
I love acting and writing the very most. Acting has always been my absolute favorite, I love falling into a character and discovering a part of myself I didn't know. We don't connect with facts, we connect with stories. I think it's so important for everyone's story to be told.
What do you do in between productions?
(In Rihana's voice) Work work work work work.
As Katrina in Failure is an Option
It's hard not to fall in love with Katrina. Yes, she's got issues, anxiety, and whatnot, but she's so charming and entertaining. How did you prepare for the role? Did you feel her character reflected yours, in a way, when you were writing the screenplay?
I had a rough 2018 and the script came from that. Humor is a defense mechanism but it's also a way to cope. Sometimes you cry so much you start laughing. I loved Katrina because she deals with moderate anxiety and depression, which I think a lot of people do. She's able to do the day to day stuff, but there are times where it feels like her whole world is caving in. She is truly a part of who I am so it wasn't difficult to play her. I will say, I did throw up doing the opening scene 7 times. By the seventh take my body was like "Am I having a panic attack?" And I lost my breakfast.
Do you feel it’s easier to portray a character you’ve written, as opposed to a character written by someone else?
I write so I can star in my own work, so yes, it's definitely easier because my finger prints are all over that character. It's so fun and challenging to jump into other peoples work as well. The fun with acting is you can never predict what a character will bring out in you, although I write it, it's always different from the page to the screen. I love writing my own work because it gives me the flexibility of changing things on the fly if they don't work and trying things out that might seem too large just to see how it plays.
Jordan Van Clief and Taylor Murphy-Sinclair in Failure is an Option
We bet it took everything to make it happen. What were some of the biggest challenges for you?
I fundraised for this film through Seed&Spark and it was incredibly challenging to ask for money. I truly believed in this project, but to get over the mental hurdle of asking for help was hard. Luckily I have a lot of determination and an incredible network of friends and I was able to hit my goal and spend all this money to make my film beautiful. I love my web series, The Tooth Fairies, but it was made on a budget of $200 and it shows. I was really able to visually capture what I wanted with some money behind the project, but boy was it hard.
Let’s talk about your future! Where do you see yourself in ten years? What would you like to focus on?
I hope I am writing and acting and doing all the wonderful creative things that give me life. I also hope to own a dog by that point, maybe two. Hopefully I'll be rich enough to shop at Whole Foods. And be in my own sitcom. You know, the good life.
Where can our readers follow your work?
Failure is an Option Trailer