Born and raised in San Francisco, actress Natalie Stephany began her acting career on the stage in such plays as Footloose, Beauty and the Beast, and Gypsy, where she had her first speaking role as Baby June. Moving to TV and films enabled her to get her SAG card in 2006 and she’s been busy ever since. One of her most recent roles is as the stand-in for Kate Micucci (Garfunkle & Oats, The Big Bang Theory) in the 2016-slated Unleashed.
Looking somewhat ethnically ambiguous and younger than her almost-25 years, allows for Natalie to fill a wide range of roles. Having nice hands has landed her some hand modeling commercial gigs. Knowing how to drive a stick shift led to her picking up a stunt driving credit in a 2010 episode of America’s Most Wanted. It was a piece of driving she pulled off skillfully, despite making her feel like she was “about to shit her pants.” Natalie tells me she plans on attending stunt driving school in the near future to add that to a regular pert of her repertoire. Read on to see the other topics we covered in this recent interview. Photo at left courtesy of Natalie, herself.
CHRIS CHARLES: It’s a pleasure to finally get a chance to talk to you, Natalie. So, were you born and raised in the Bay Area?
NATALIE STEPHANY: Yes, I was actually born on Potrero Hill in San Francisco. I’m very, very native.
CHRIS: You recently, returned to San Francisco from Minnesota, where you flew to after a stay in Hawaii. Was that a business or pleasure trip or both?
NATALIE: One of them was a pleasure trip, the other one was for business. Lately, I’ve been getting a few jobs in the Midwest because they don’t have any SAG people. I did a commercial in Oklahoma City not too long ago. It’s pretty good money and it’s good to be working union commercials and features and making sure that things are still staying within the union parameters and there’s still jobs, but unfortunately there’s not that many people who are union who want to stay out in the Midwest.
CHRIS: How recently did you get your SAG card?
NATALIE: Mmm, I’ve had mine since 200…6. That’s actually how I met Jackie (Dallas) She’d always seen me on union things and asked me how she could get in the union and one of the people I was supposed to cast to be in a scene for a recent movie that I was in, it was actually an Italian feature film ….he told me at the last minute he couldn’t do it, so I call Jackie and I was like “Do you wanna get your SAG card? This is your way in!” So, she was very excited to get in the union.
CHRIS: Did you start off acting on stage?
NATALIE: Um, yes! Musicals were my first love. I’d been doing that for a while. I did Footloose, Beauty and the Beast. Being part of the union let’s you join the other unions for, basically free. So the theater guild …. AEA, and any other guild you wanna join, they’re all sister unions. So, it was easy to get work and I’m a soprano, so I went to the Royal Academy of London for a semester and I’ve been singing since I was young. I just took the initiative to be in every kind of singing and acting class there was.
CHRIS: What was your very first speaking role?
NATALIE: Um ….on stage it was Gypsy, actually. That was a musical that was running and I was “Baby June.” So, that was my first speaking role. On TV and film ….the only reason I got my SAG card was because I had like a couple lines on a show and they have a certain rule that if you have a line that isn’t just like “hi” or “how are you,” that you have to join the union immediately. So, I basically worked for free that week because the dues were like four grand and what I made was like barely enough for that, but I was blessed to have gotten in so easily, and I’ve more or less retained the same “look.” I’m 5′ tall, I’m 100 pounds and I look basically the same. I’m still playing high schoolers, I’ve played a middle schooler, I did the photo double for Aries Stark for King’s Throne. So, being little and being young-looking apparently has been paying the bills lately.
CHRIS: I see you’re listed at IMDb as “Natalie Stephany Aguilar.” Are you planning on, or have you already dropped “Aguilar” from your professional name?
NATALIE: I don’t use that last name very much because it’s my biological father’s last name and I’ve never met the man, I don’t know who he is, he’s not part of my life, so I don’t feel like any of my work should be a part of that, or that he should be a part of that. But with SAG, it’s sort of hard to change your name and if something’s already taken, you just have to work around it and it depends on how they want to credit you.
CHRIS: Ah, yes I did notice a couple of other Natalie Stephanys when I was doing research on you. So, We have a mutual friend, whom you’ve already mentioned; Jackie Dallas. You said you met her on a project you were both working on?
NATALIE: I’d seen her in multiple projects over the past couple of years but I’d never actually said hi to her, because they always separate union people from non-union, and we eat separate lunches, so there’s not that much commingling. So the project was Unleashed, a movie and it’s with Kate Micucci and Steve Howey, and that’s when we (Jackie and I) first started talking. I was Kate Micucci’s stand-in. She’s on Garfunkel and Oats and a couple of different shows. She’s more of a comedienne…
CHRIS: Well my next question that I have written here, was actually going to be that I see you’ve also worked with Kate Micucci, whom I best know as Raj’s girlfriend from The Big Bang Theory. Would you say she’s the biggest name in Hollywood you’ve worked closely with, so far?
NATALIE: Um, no, I’ve worked with the Coen Brothers. They picked me to be a stand-in and a hand stand-in for Inside Llewyn Davis. I was hand-picked for Paul Thomas Anderson …and we worked together for a while for Master. I was in Steve Jobs and my friend, he’s actually Michael Fassbender’s stand-in and just through like mutual acquaintance I was literally eating with Michael Fassbender for two or three weeks straight and Kate Winslet. It’s an honor to be around those people and they’re so humble and so down-to-earth. I mean, the only person I’ve ever worked with who’s been a little off-putting is probably Joaquin Phoenix, but that’s only because he stays in character even through lunch ….and you’ll see him banging his head against the windows, and he’ll be like “what’s wrong with this?” (laughs) And so, other than that, I worked with way too many people at this point. In San Andreas, Dwayne Johnson was carrying me at some point. I don’t get too “star-shocked” or anything. I mean, once you see them, they’re just average people, they’re just normal people ….but they seem more than that.
CHRIS: You mentioned San Andreas and my next questions here is about the few uncredited roles in some big-budget Hollywood productions. Namely, San Andreas and Terminator Genisys. Any particular memorable experiences from being on those locations?
NATALIE: They’re arbitrary on how they pick what shows up on my IMDb. So, that only has like half of my credits, and even if I appeared multiple times in the film, they’ll pick just one title to give me and, as I mentioned earlier, with SAG actors, especially in San Francisco, they legally have to have like 20 of us on set every day, and there’s a drought of SAG actors. I would see the same people running around doing the same things every day, and when you go watch the movie, you’re just like; “Oh, how did they make 10 people seem like that many?” because we know how many people were really in that scene. So, it’s a lot of work. big budget films. Lately, all I’ll get is some sort of natural disaster or action film. Even with Steve Jobs, the hours aren’t conducive for having any sort of life. I was working from 11:00 PM to 12 noon the next day, most days. Of course, there’s a lot of overtime and I’m union and that’s great but, physically, you have to be in shape. In San Andreas, we were running hours a day and the director’s very nitpicky so he doesn’t want a jog, he wants a sprint, he wants screams. So, it’s very important to spend your free time getting in shape and making sure you’re well-rounded and you’re not just sufficient during these areas. And you can’t really lie, like “Oh yeah, I can do a somersault and run around if when you get on set and can’t.
CHRIS: You also have some stunt credits and one that caught my eye was a car stunt credit in a 2010 episode of America’s Most Wanted. Tell me about that.
NATALIE: Ah, well, I was actually not supposed to be the stunt driver, but the stunt driver did not show up. I was like; “I can drive manual, I’ll do it.” I think I was like 19 at the time, and they actually let me do it. The car had this terrible harness and the camera and I was so scared. It was my third day in LA. I had just gone over there, pushing my luck to see what would happen and I’d gotten that job out of sheer serendipity, like stupid luck. They had me driving backwards at like 60 miles per hour in this little street with all these harnesses and expensive cameras, I was sooo ….I was about to shit in my pants. Pardon my language (laughs). I was like, “I hope they don’t sue me if I break any of this.” My mother’s an attorney so… it was very nerve racking but after that, they gave me the credit for it so it was great. I didn’t even think I was going to get credited but I apparently got stunt work credited so good deal.
CHRIS: Do you have any formal stunt driving training?
NATALIE: Uh, no I haven’t but my brother has been going to precision driving school and he has (experience riding) BMW, Harley, Ducati and all sorts of different things. So, when he has time, I will definitely go with him and practice certain things, so I can add that to my repertoire. I haven’t quite grasped motorcycles yet but I mean to. It’s just a lot to think about, plus thinking about everyone else around you. My brother actually got into a motorcycle accident not too long ago and he was totally lucky because he landed on the grass, so he was fine, but there are definitely things to think about when you do those things. I mean; even if you’re the safest driver in the world, you can’t help everyone else.
CHRIS: How about physical stunt work like taking falls or fight scenes?
NATALIE: No, I really haven’t done too much of that. They do more special effects makeup on me more than anything, which is actually a total pain. I’ve had to buy special solvent to ever get the makeup off me because at the end of the day, you’re just like; “I wanna go home” and I’ve gone home and gone to bed with the makeup still on and woken up looking like I needed to go to the ER. But even when you’re not doing stunt work, on San Andreas, we would get injured all the time. So, some of that blood is real blood because they would wet the floor to make sure everything looks like a tsunami is happening and you have to run on that. It doesn’t matter what precautions you use, people were falling, tripping, so every film has it hazards ….but I’m looking forward to not doing so many disaster movies, but so many are filming over here, and that all involve the Golden Gate Bridge (laughs).
CHRIS: You’ve done some modeling but do you pursue modeling as well as acting?
NATALIE: Yeah I do. I actually just got into that not too long ago, for hand modeling, I mentioned that, with the Coen Brothers. I’m the kind of person who’s always worn a ton of sun screen all the time and I never really thought about it until that particular day when they said, “Oh, you have really great hands and you’re not wearing fake nails, they’re perfect, you have an ‘androgynous’ hand look.” And I recently did a Wells Fargo print job that showed my hands. It’s a little pretentious at times, because I’m sometimes asked why I’m wearing gloves while driving (laughs) but I earn a living off of it. And I have been caught off-guard.like with Wells Fargo. I had gotten a manicure. Just a buff and neutral nail polish …and they actually reimbursed me for my manicure because they wanted “grimy, normal” hands. So it’s weird but I do like it. I mean, you just act silly, just be yourself. I don’t try to take myself too seriously, and if I get jobs, I get jobs. I think not putting too much pressure on it really helps because I have a friend who’s so focused, like; “I need to get this job, I need to get this job!” and she’s just so focused on that, she’s not having fun. I try to have fun on set, talk to people, that’s how I met Jackie. I make new friends, and suddenly they talk to someone else and they got you another job, and you didn’t even audition for that job. So, you should just have fun and not take yourself too seriously.
CHRIS: Are you currently with a modeling agency or do you get your modeling jobs through people you’ve met and worked with?
NATALIE: What surprises everybody, is I’ve never had any (agency) because I you don’t think you need one with social media in the Bay Area. I just did a big commercial for Chevy, where I was featured in the new “Chevy Goes Emoji” commercial (see it here). I sang backup vocals on that and Michael Cera was helping direct it with his friends, and I got that job completely out of the blue, serendipitously. Someone told someone that I was over 18 but looked under 18, boom, boom, got the job. Also, I’m ethnically ambiguous, which apparently makes a lot of money lately; being over 18 but looking younger and being ethnically ambiguous. I’ve had lots of girlfriends who are blonde, blue-eyed, who are not getting jobs because all the clients want ethnically ambiguous for commercials. There was this one time I did a Toyota commercial and they said it was a more “economy car” and they wanted only ethnically ambiguous or African-American people in the commercial and they weren’t supposed to really discriminate, but when I got there, I was literally the only non-African-American person there (laughs). They just blatantly said that it was an economy car commercial and they were marketing it to a specific audience and that was that. I mean, I admire them telling me all this information but sometimes I do feel bad.
CHRIS:(We talk a bit here on being typecast and the pros and cons if you’re ethnically ambiguous.) Well, I supposed in the world of advertising, you don’t worry about offending your non-target audiences. So, shifting gears now; I was doing some research on you and I came across your Tumblr blog entitled “Yes, I am addicted,” and I couldn’t help but notice that a few of your posts there have been removed with a “This image has been removed for violation of one or more of Tumblr’s guidelines.” Now, if I were interviewing, say, Annie Cruz, whom I have, I wouldn’t need to ask this question, because I could imagine what the images violated, but with you; I can’t imagine. So I have to ask: Why were they removed? Any idea?
NATALIE: I just reposted stuff from other Instagrams …I don’t ever remember because I haven’t gone to my Tumblr in like, years
CHRIS: So probably copyright claims? Because the only other things could be nudity, hate or racist content, which I know it couldn’t have been (laughing).
NATALIE: I mean, it could have been nudity, I have no idea. I mean it wasn’t my picture ….but Tumblr sent me a message, through no fault of my own, that they had to remove pictures because the original author
CHRIS: Ah okay, it was copyright claim, because Tumblr’s pretty liberal when it comes to nudity.
NATALIE: Yeah they sent me an e-mail about it and I was like; “Okay, I don’t even remember what picture’s you’re referring to but okay.”
CHRIS: Since we mentioned the subject; what is your stance on doing nude scenes?
NATALIE: I’ve done a lot of nude work ….but again, it’s because I have a retro, ethnically ambiguous look and it’s always been tasteful but I’m not ashamed about it at all. When you do big-budget Hollywood films and appear nude, they give you a “wig” for your pubic area and they put latex on there and it’s not really your nipples, you’re not actually showing anything that belongs to you, so it’s not anything to be ashamed of (laughs).
CHRIS: So you’ve done a nude scene in more than one movie?
NATALIE: In The Master ….I’m trying to think what else …. I was nude for one other thing, I can’t recall the name ….Oh! It was the promo commercial for True Blood. It was just a bunch of us laying in a pile together and I was late for that, and it was also more of a print job. So, I’ll do it. I don’t really mind, and with SAG you get paid 500 dollars per body part so it’s actually pretty lucrative.
CHRIS: Do you often get offered roles that require nudity or get offers to do nude photo shoots?
NATALIE: Umm ….I don’t always. They’ll give me offers, but I’ll have to know more or less, is it tasteful or what sort of nude modeling are they talking about, but I’ve never said that I wouldn’t do anything. I’ve never been one of those people who’s like; “Oh no, I’d never do that.” I mean, there’s a price for everything.
CHRIS: So you’re open to it but you’d have to hear about the project?
NATALIE: Yes I’d have to hear about it, I have to know what the project is involving. I’m not going to go do porn or something. If it’s union, they always have to follow protocol. And for modeling, I have gotten some weird stalker people who have offered me things but I’ve always been smart enough to check up. Like; “Okay, let me see if you really do have a contract with Sag’ or “Let me see of you really are what you say you are,” but I’m looking for really professionals. But I’ve never tried to hinder my bookings by making any blanket statements, “I won’t do this,” or “I won’t do that.” I mean, the last thing I did with Jackie, I was making out with her. We were both lipstick lesbians, so I’ve never hindered myself like that (laughs). CHRIS: Another question I can resist asking: In a film called Kicks, that’s currently in post-production, you’re credited as “Blow Job Girl.” Now, that’s a pretty self-explanatory role title, but can you tell me about your role in that one?
NATALIE: Yeah, I’m actually friends with the director (laughs). So, he thought it was a really funny title to give me on IMDb, which I didn’t find as funny because that’s not what I was booked as ….ah, but I don’t care anymore. I was supposed to be one of the main characters’ girlfriend who you see from time to time in the movie. I didn’t have any lines but I would be around him as one of his girls. He (the character) was in high school and they were having a lot of trouble finding someone over 18 who looked younger and it was a big to-do and the director knew of me from other things and he was like “I know you’ll do it!” and I was like; “Yeah, I’ll show up. I’ll do it.” and I actually got my brother a job as one of the drifters at the race that they were having in the film. It’s not as interesting as you would think. Basically, I got some really nice knee pads, they gave me a little mat. I did that for like an hour (laughs).
CHRIS: Really. Okay, I’ll have to catch that one when it comes out. Any idea when it will be released?
NATALIE: No and really the only thing you can see is the back of my head, really.
CHRIS: IMDb doesn’t have much info on it. Is it a full-length feature?
NATALIE: It’s a full-length feature, It’s SAG, low budget. This is like the second film the director has made, and he won a SAG award for his short film last year. So this is the second bigger film and I have no idea when it’s coming out,they haven’t told me and I haven’t talked to him yet because he just been so busy. But everyone is laughing about that credit on my IMDb, that he thought was just hilarious. I was like “Jeesus, why’d you do that to me? Now everybody’s going to start offering me jobs in porn or something” (laughs). But it’s all in good fun, I don’t care ….and they paid me.
CHRIS: Well you have a really great attitude, I must say.
NATALIE: Well when you’re an artist, you can’t be putting barriers and saying you’re not going to do this, you’re not going to do that because at the end of the day, there’s a certain amount of zeros that get anyone going (laughs). There’s a price for it ….and I don’t take myself too seriously, especially in acting. If you took yourself so seriously, it would be hard to do some other things. But it was funny because the actor who I was doing the simulated fellatio on, he had just turned 18 and was asking me what high school I went to and all this stuff. And I was like; “I don’t go to high school, I’m like eight years older than you. What are you talking about? Stop flirting with me!” (Laughs)
CHRIS: So, do you have any hobbies or interests most people not close you know don’t know about?
NATALIE: Uhh ….most people don’t know about? With my schedule, I’m such a grandma, all I do is like knot and make pies.Baking and knitting are my favorite hobbies. And I actually graduated from UC Berkeley when I was 19 so a lot of people don’t know that about me but on set, everyone assumes I haven’t gone to college or I dropped out or something but that’s not the case (laughs). But I try not to say anything and usually no one knows that I graduated college. You feel like people get certain judgement like; “What are you doing now?” “What’s next?” “You should be a doctor by now” So, the conversations are about how I did it or how I didn’t do it. Um, other than that ….I’m a really boring person. Probably my main hobby is sleeping.
CHRIS: Well with the long and odd hours you work, that’s understandable.
NATALIE: Yeah, and this new commercial we’ve been working on, it’s been like a month of pure running, and pretending to run, back and forth. It’s been arduous. Going to do the commercial, coming back. So, I try spending my free time catching up on my sleep.
CHRIS: With that, I’ll say it’s been a pleasure talking to you this evening, Natalie. In closing, any shout-outs to anyone?
NATALIE: It’s been a pleasure, as well. Shout outs? Umm ….Jackie! I’m so proud of her for finally joining the union, and she’s already gotten like three feature films for this week, so ….congrats! Seriously, she’s already doing it, she’s running with it, she’s really getting all the union work she possibly can.
Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, Chris flirted with the music business there and in Nashville before joining the U.S. Army and serving in South Korea. He remained in Asia for several years afterwards, teaching English and covering the regional entertainment scenes. Currently in a mindset between Seoul and San Francisco, besides Idol Features, you can also catch his writings in the print edition of the quarterly magazine, Effective.
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