Next Up

Victoria Van Winkle

Name: Victoria Van Winkle

Hometown: Chattanooga, TN

Current Location: Los Angeles, CA

TrunkSpace: When did you know that you wanted to act for a living?
Van Winkle: Unconsciously, I think I always knew, but growing up, pursuing a career in the arts was about as realistic as saying you wanted to be the Little Mermaid when you grew up… which I did want to be the Little Mermaid, so there you go… but performing was just not accepted as a way of making one’s living. It wasn’t until I was in college, having tried on about every career option there was, I decided to take an acting class, and it scared me so bad, specifically how honest I got to be, and that’s when I knew, “I have to do this for the rest of my life.” I think so much of the time, it’s more acceptable to not tell the truth, or shy away from it, which was something I never understood, so for me, this new found truth telling, that was acceptable, and fun, just resonated so deep with who I already was and had always been… a story teller… and now it was a good thing, and provided me with a path I could journey down wholeheartedly. And so I did, I packed up my car and immediately moved to LA.

TrunkSpace: Was there a particular performance or actor/actress from your childhood that you remember being drawn to and inspired by?
Van Winkle: Oh so many! I watched a lot of movies as a kid, many of which were not age appropriate, but I had always been exposed to things before my time. (Laughing) My mom was a huge Patrick Swayze fan, and I remember finding Demi Moore mesmerizing in “Ghost,” but when I saw her in “G.I. Jane,” I was so drawn in. As a little girl I played with Barbies, but instead of a Ken doll, I had a G.I. Joe, and being raised by a single father, I have to admit to being a bit of a tomboy. Seeing someone take on both of those parts, equally feminine, equally tough, and wholly dedicated to the cause of justice while fighting for what one believed in… that every woman should be created equal… made me feel as if she was actually fighting for me. She affected me in my humanity and in my need to be seen as good enough, more than enough even, and though I didn’t have words to articulate such big discoveries then, my heart knew that this story was more than a “female” story or an “army” story, it was a human story, because we all feel insignificant sometimes, beat up, and bullied, and I wanted to be a part of telling such tales of vulnerabilities and heroism. You could say I joined the ranks that day of “wild things that don’t feel sorry for themselves.”

TrunkSpace: How did you decide to approach your career as an actor? Did you formulate a plan of how you wanted to attack what is known for being a hard industry to crack?
Van Winkle: I’m still formulating plans, and then immediately turning around and reminding myself that there aren’t any plans or tricks to this thing, none that I’ve discovered at least thus far, but I think that being a kind and generous person can go a long way. Along with hard work, doing it because you love it and because it brings you life as well as others, hopefully; and in approaching it this way, I think, you can create an attraction about yourself, and people will notice. Besides, it isn’t my job to be noticed, it’s my job to notice other people, to take interest in the words and stories of others. I believe that in doing that, I will and do stand out. I would also include the importance of having found and built for myself a team that has fought and continues to fight so hard for me to become the type of artist I desire to be. I rely on them everyday to push me and encourage me to keep going, keep pursuing, and fighting for what I believe in and want, because when that rejection hits hard and I feel like giving up, it’s my teachers, my agents, my friends and family I look to because they will not let me quit. They remind me we are doing this thing together, and that’s the secret of it all I think. I finally stopped believing I had to do it all myself.

TrunkSpace: When did you decide to move away from your home and pursue acting as a career? How old were you at the time?
Van Winkle: I believe it was my sophomore year in college, 2nd semester, after taking my first acting class as mentioned before, and upon realizing that’s what I wanted to do and had to do, I immediately started looking up schools on the west coast, applied to USC, and by the following semester I was in LA. I was 20 years old.

TrunkSpace: Was that move an easy transition for you initially? How long did it take you to feel at home and find a good support group of friends and peers?
Van Winkle: It was easy in the sense, that I knew I didn’t have any other options because I knew this was the only thing I could possibly be doing, and once my mind was made up, that was it. I remember not having an apartment or room lined up for myself when I got here, even though I had already accepted my admission at USC. It wasn’t until several days before I was set to make the cross-country drive, that a friend of a friend offered to let me bunk at their place while they were out of town for several months. Then of course, I was able to get into housing at USC a few months later, find a job (several actually in order to pay for my schooling and housing), and get on my feet. It was crazy how it worked out so perfectly, making the transition in that way was somewhat miraculous. My story is not what most people experience when looking for housing or living arrangements, it can sometimes be pretty difficult. But as far as finding friends and a place to belong, it was hard then, and unfortunately remains hard. I’ll just say that I’ve had seasons of friends that have been right for those periods of my life, and you know, I do have friends that I’ve had for a really long time and we have to work to remain and stay connected through the time and space over the years. I’ve learned that my home, sometimes, is myself, and my work, and for as lonely as that sounds, I’m an introvert so it works for me. But I also remind myself that I belong to a collective tribe of storytellers, who even if we’ve never met, I know have gone through the same things to get to where they are. And that’s really cool to think about sometimes… it sorta of bonds us together and the times of loneliness and sacrifice don’t seem so hard. Oh, and I also have a dog! He’s home to me for sure, as well as the group of friends I’m living with now, who I hope are “lifers” like myself. This city is so transitional sometimes, making it difficult to find your place and where you belong, but for as hard as it is, it’s that much greater when you do find it, either within yourself, or in others, or both. Hang in there.

TrunkSpace: What has been been your biggest break in terms of a particular role or project thus far?
Van Winkle: Well, I don’t know if I’d call it a break, but definitely a monumental moment for me was the writing, producing, directing, and acting in a short film I created to honor my childhood best friend who committed suicide back in 2014. It still remains the hardest thing I’ve ever had to take on, partly because of how personal the project was, but it has taught me so much about my voice, my beliefs about what my responsibility is as a storyteller… that of telling the truth no matter how difficult and painful. I think it taught me that just as personal as this story was for me, so every story after should be… because every story, every script, even if it’s mostly fictional or imagined, it’s most certainly someone else’s reality, and I have the honor and responsibility to make sure I do justice to that. In other words, it made my work that much more important and exciting, and was definitely a breakthrough if not a “break” in terms of recognition.

TrunkSpace: Is there a specific type of role you’d like to take on or a specific genre that you feel more at home in?
Van Winkle: I am a sucker for a good, gritty drama that is dripping with family dysfunction and all sorts of addictions and issues because let’s face it, we are our parents and family is messy (life is messy), but I love these darker accounts of our humanity because I think there’s more integrity in showing how difficult life can sometimes be whether it’s overcoming loss, or overcoming addictions, or getting your family back, and really showing what that’s like no matter how far we have to swing the pendulum into the darkness of those things, so that we can then swing the pendulum back into the light, and offer up a way out of the most hopeless and heartbreaking stories that are out there. You really can’t tell the truth with one and not the other—the dark and the light of life. One of my favorite movies, is an indie film called “Warrior” and that movie was so heartbreaking, yet so healing for me. It’s about two estranged brothers with an alcoholic father, both so broken in their own way, and it doesn’t ever look like they’ll find their way back to each other, but they do and it’s just… so beautiful. I seriously cry every time I even talk about that film! I really want to do that as a storyteller, step into those messy topics that are too taboo or too risky, or just so painful and difficult because they’re too close to reality, but to do so in order to show that healing is real and it is possible no matter how messy your own story is. Referring back to the short film I did about my friend’s suicide, because it’s such an important topic for me, and also super controversial at times, but it’s these things I want to shed light on… mental illnesses, addictions, loss, broken families, and all the deep, dark hurts we carry around as humans.

TrunkSpace: What would you say is the greatest strength an actor/actress can have outside of acting ability itself?
Van Winkle: Curiosity… to be curious about everything you’re exposed to and that’s around you. I am constantly drawn to things I know nothing about, and I love that because it allows me to explore these whole other parts of my humanity that would otherwise remain dormant unless I allow curiosity to wake them. It’s such a gift when I get a script, and I have no life experience in that area, nothing to compare it to in my own personal story, and so I am forced to go and imagine what the given set of circumstances would be like. Even if I get a story that is perhaps close to my own personal life, I will get curious about what differences there may be and then go explore that because that’s what’s fun for me… experiencing something different than what I already know. I already know what my life is like, I am curious as to what your life is like.

TrunkSpace: What is your ultimate dream when it comes to your acting career? Where would you like your path to lead?
Van Winkle: I feel like most people would answer this with some sort of accolade they hope to acquire, but all I think of are all the stories I hope I get asked to tell… one of the top ones being a sister story with Brie Larson, and yes of course, have it be a gritty drama, dripping with issues and dysfunctions! This is the thing most occupying my mind as of late, but I love writing, and am actually working on writing such a sister story that I’d hope to tell with Brie someday (soon), but yeah, I love all realms of storytelling, and because I sing and write as well, I have hopes for roles that involve my own writing that also allow me to sing. I want my path to lead to a place that is better than what I’ve imagined possible for myself, to find the tribe of storytellers that I already know I am a part of because I see their work and know that we are destined to cross paths one day, but to have that realized and be invited to join what they are already doing would be phenomenal. Ultimately, at the end of the day, I just want my journey to lead to happiness, which for me, is simply sitting on my balcony with a good story in my lap, the sunset and my dog. Ever always imagining and exploring. Wow, that’s so corny… but that’s my happiness.

TrunkSpace: What advice would you give another young aspiring actor/actress who is considering moving away from home to pursue their dream?
Van Winkle: If this is what you want of your life, you have already weighed the pros and cons and have considered the difficulties and hardships, the doubts and what-ifs, then you already have everything you need inside of you. You don’t need any pretty, delicate words from me. Everything you know now… trust it and hold fast to that thing that first moved you to chase this elusive thing, that most will refer to as a “dream,” but let it be for you an imagined reality, something more true for you than your actual life, and watch how that serves you. It will not forsake you. You are the story, friend. Now all you have to do is go be told.

TrunkSpace: Where can people (and casting directors) learn more about you?
Van Winkle: You can ask me to coffee if you like. I’m really into that ancient form of face to face communication, but of course I have all the social media outlets as well. My website is probably a great place to start though because I update it regularly with any performances or live shows I may be playing, so check it out!

Instagram: @victoriakvan

Twitter: @victoriakvan


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