Welcome to our Introvert Interviews series where we talk to introverts from all walks of life about their experiences and their introversion.
MaryBeth Schroeder is a model, actress, and is currently writing and acting in a new web series called Casual Hex.
Are there any rampant misconceptions about actors (or models) and their personalities or temperament?
People assume I am comfortable being stared at in my every day life. Whatcha doin? Stop staring. Ha! I’m totally cool with having attention on me if it is for the larger goal of a project or shoot or show. When I’m a piece of a storytelling puzzle, it isn’t actually about me. When I explain to people that I feel bashful or uncomfortable when they look at me, there is always a “BUT YOU’RE AN ACTOR! AREN’T YOU USED TO IT?” No. I’m an actor for a much deeper reason than “I want people to stare at me”. There have been times where I actually hide UNDER something until the time I’m ready to be looked at.
When I first started commuting on the railroad for modeling, there were days where I would just completely hide under my decorative scarf with my headphones and breathe. Then when the train arrived, I was ready to be super-fierce and show up to the casting and be “on”. I still do it sometimes. Whatever. I’m the ghost of public transport. I know a lot of introverted models who do their work and then go home to their nests, not concerned with attention. It’s a thing!
Do your coworkers respect your introversion?
These days I’m lucky to be surrounded by people who know many performers and understand that the variety is important. Any smart person seems to know that variety in temperament creates the best collaborative creative work.
Variety in temperament creates the best collaborative creative work. (Click to Tweet)
On the set of a television show once, I spent hours getting into full body makeup with another model who was full of things to say. By the time we finally got a break, I explained to her that I needed quiet time before we went on set to shoot. She was totally cool about it. I’m often in circumstances where people are spending long hours around one another and respect for boundaries is mark of professionalism. Everyone is working toward the same goal so there is a lot of fidelity between collaborative artists and comfort zones.
In terms of energy, how is modeling different from acting?
I’m deeply invigorated by the process that surrounds my acting work. I love the book work, I love the time I get to stew alone and make notes in my scripts. I even appreciate the weeks where I get submitted for 50 auditions, get called into 2 and book none. I love that flow and I’m comfortable pounding the pavement. It’s nice to get a script and bring myself into the audition room, do my work and then leave it there to let someone decide.
When I’m cast in something, I love that I can do all of my cerebral prep work. I get the opportunity to share my perspectives with people who value them toward the goal of the story. In my experience, getting hired as an actor also comes with the respect that my input is valid and essential. People seem to appreciate that I’m “all about the work”. I stink at small-talk, I don’t want to go out for a drink, I just want to find the connection to the other actors, the script, the intentions and make great stuff. Sometimes it can be hard to work on a project where the rest of the cast is super social and small-talky because all I want to do is the work.
With modelling, it really depends. I’ve done artwork and some fashion that has been so connected where everyone in the room is on the same page and there’s a flow. It’s cool when someone isn’t barking orders and just trusts that flow. I hate when there is arbitrary techno music playing at prep salons or shoots. What’s that all about? It’s always awful. I love the fashion and artwork I’ve done as a model that is highly technical. It’s great to watch visual professionals rocking their crafts.
Are you aware of your temperament when you’re acting or modeling?
Only when there is small talk surrounding what I’m there to do. I’m always there and raring to go and get in the zone of the work. When there’s a ton of waiting around and there are like-minded people to talk to, I get pretty excited and can actually be really talkative and enthusiastic about getting to know people. However, one of my biggest problems is that I’m often trying to give too many people my attention and I can get really drained if I’m too social in the “waiting around” moments. There have been times where I feel like I need to be part of the community of people waiting around instead of just put my headphones on and separate until my it is time to do my work. I feel healthier when I don’t force myself to be part of the group.
I feel healthier when I don’t force myself to be part of the group. (Click to Tweet)
In those moments I am tense but when I’m actually in the zone, it is totally fine. I feel like being a performer is very much my calling. I’ve learned how to use my headphones and music as a “oh she needs space” thing so that I’m not over-socialising and draining myself around more casual projects. I enjoy the strictness of theatre and certain film projects (and even fashion in a way) because people expect me to be in the zone.
I’m at my best when I’m trusted with a ton of responsibility and there’s no time to waste.
What’s your favorite way to recharge after work?
I commute and travel internationally for my work and that’s my favorite alone time! If I’m on a train, I read and I have earplugs and it is marvellous. I love hiding in plain sight. I read a lot of sci-fi books. I do wish international flights had less other humans on them because everyone’s emotions are so heightened on planes.
Because I live gig-to-gig, I get stretches of time off where my duties are just to keep my skills sharp and make sure I’m healthy and planning my next gig. During those stretches of time, I’m often alone on big long walks. I spent a large percentage of my alone time playing guitar, clarinet and singing. I’ve been playing clarinet since I was 8 years old and classical music is a huge part of my life. I baked bread today while listening to Don Giovanni by Mozart. I love setting up my home environment to be completely sensually invigorating. I love cooking and listening to music. I take a lot of baths. I journal daily (even when I’m wildly busy with work).
What is it like writing a web series?
It’s amazing. I wrote the first episode because I made friends with another introverted actress who really understood my weirdness and metaphysical interests. I wanted to just film a scene for my reel because I loved my back and forth with her. So I wrote the scene and then it just turned into a five minute episode. Then when we filmed it, I had other ideas and we had the time so it turned into a ten minute episode. I also compose music for the series and edit it. So it’s really been a cool journey of sharing my inner world through comedy.
I’ve put a lot of time into it because it doesn’t feel like work. I’m exhausted when I’m done writing/filming/editing but it’s the kind of exhausted I love. It makes sense to me. It feels right.
How much of an effect do you think being an introvert has had on your career?
A lot. In the best ways. Preference for time alone means that I can work on things alone. I did a lot of my own booking as a model for a long time. I have the constitution to sit alone for a very long time and work on my submissions for gigs. The rate at which I reply to castings is massive. It doesn’t feel as tedious as other people make it seem.
Having the constitution to go through my lines for a show alone is great. I never get tired of it. When I was in college, I would lock myself in the theatre during time between classes and rehearsal and I’d just do my Shakespeare monologues over and over and over again, being self-reflective. When I’m alone, I dare myself to make wild choices, play the opposite intention. I love the work so much that I can do it alone and engage my imagination fully.
Being an introvert has caused me to say NO to projects that aren’t worth my energy. In this career, we’re taught that people are lined up around the block for our jobs, that we’re replaceable. But if I get a bad vibe or there’s an element to a modelling/acting offer that doesn’t jive with me being at my best—-I have never had qualms with turning it down. I’m great at saying NO and it’s a very refining, confident skill to have in the sea of people who say “yes” just to say yes.
I’m also really openly introverted. So I’ll actually ask for quiet time or decline invitations to “drinks afterwards” because I’m going to go read a book. And I’ll say so. On a few occasions, other introvert pals have felt validated by my outspokenness. I’ll say something like “Not that I don’t love working with you all but I needs me some me time.” and people get it. I seem to get a lot of respect for that. Occasionally, I seem like a rigid jerk to some people. But my boundaries are important. I disrespected them when I was younger and exhausted myself into ill health.
If you were able to travel back in time, is there any advice you would give to your younger introverted self?
Stop pretending to be extroverted. Don’t be around people who make you tired. You’re allowed to take time alone, you’re not a weirdo for being serious about what you do. It’s OK that you don’t have what your family considers a “normal social life” and you’re definitely not a jerk for declining invitations. Accept yourself for your preferences.
Where can people find out more about you?
- on twitter @MRYBTHS
- the first episode of my web series Casual Hex is here: http://vimeo.com/101980855
- Agent Contact Info/Reel: http://www.spotlight.com/interactive/cv/6299-0191-8666