Grace Folsom may not be a name familiar to many of you at present, but I have little doubt that you will see and hear a lot more from this actress in the years to come. Her debut feature film performance in the independent New York-set production, Things I Don't Understand, is nothing short of amazing. I was truly impressed by her portrayal of a young person dying of cancer, and so it was with pleasure that I spoke with Grace about acting, movies and working in New York City.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I was born and raised in Arlington VA. I have a BFA from NYU Tisch School of Arts in acting with a minor in computer applications and went to bartending school. I live in one of the greatest cities in the world, have amazing friends (who just recently threw me a wonderful birthday party), and love learning new things. I currently really enjoy learning about the contemporary art world, and the latest new thing that I have tried is Zumba, which is a ton of fun! I love food and wine and cooking, and I steal a lot from Gordon Ramsay's videos on YouTube. I seem to have new favorites all the time. I have 2 full siblings and 4 half siblings and great parents.
My first film I was cast in was when I was in high school. I played a digitally animated computer lady who ended up having feelings. I still haven't seen the footage! My first play was in elementary school. I was a letter in the alphabet (I don't remember which) in the chorus.
So what made you decide to choose acting as a career?
My mom always said she knew I was going to do something creative. I always loved drawing and painting and playing imagination games. I always signed up for everything creative in school, and was in the plays my whole life, but I was a pretty shy kid. I didn't really know until high school that it was what I wanted to do. I had a really great teacher called Carol Cadby who believed in me and gave me a lot of opportunities. By sophomore year, I just knew. I loved every minute of any kind of acting, and it led me to Tisch. When I graduated, I started auditioning, and here I am.
What does Things I Don't Understand, which I understand was your first feature film, mean to you as an actress?
As my first feature, it's a huge literal and symbolic step into the acting world. It means so much to me to be in a film where I really connect with and love the character as well as the cast and crew, and I am so thankful for the outside positive feedback that we've received for our work. I can't wait to see what comes next, but I know I will never forget my first feature!
What was it like working with David Spaltro, the writer and director of Things I Don't Understand?
David was so great to work with. He really knows what he's doing and strives to make everyone on set feel their most comfortable. He was always very open to any ideas that anyone else brought to the table, but at the same time had a crystal vision of what he wanted and how to get there. I am so excited to be working with him on his next film, Wake-up in New York.
You played Sarah, a dying person, in Things I Don't Understand. Did you find it an easy or difficult role to play, and how did you prepare for the role?
That's an interesting question of easy or difficult. When I saw the casting online, I felt like I knew that person. She and I have a lot in common, but of course the difficultly came in the rarity of her situation. Dying young is such an abstract concept to grasp, and it's so different for each person. For me, I boiled it down by researching in depth the way that her cancer works and how it takes over the body, and then looking at how she deals with the relationships in her life and what that says about her personality. Luckily, David gave me lots of juicy information in the script, so there was so much to draw from already! Once I formed a basic idea of all of that, I just let myself sit with her story and fill in the rest of the blanks.
There appears to be a lot of optimism shown by Sarah's character, despite all the difficulties and challenges that she faces. Is that purely based on the script, or has some of your own personality come through in your portrayal of Sarah?
I think any character I play will always have a lot of me in them, whether I like it or not! When I read the script for the first time, it was very clear that Sarah had a mask. She tries to defy the expected by cracking jokes and being almost brazenly open about her condition. And by the time she is introduced in the script, everyone in her life has abandoned her! What a reason to try to be liked by anyone at all who would give you the time of day. I think she was optimistic, but at the same time she was also a very scared young girl who was just coping.
And in terms of my personality coming through, I'd like to think that I'd be able to deal with what she dealt with half as well, but who knows! I'm a middle child, so I do always want everyone around me to be happy, and I think that's a huge part of why Sarah chooses to act the way she does.
I have written before that Things I Don't Understand is one of the best films set in New York City that I have seen in recent times. What are some of your own favorite films that are set in NYC, and why?
Well, thank you kindly!
Honestly, I have always LOVED the movie Working Girl. It is such a perfect romantic comedy and underdog story and example of women's empowerment, and it all takes place in the make or break you city of New York! Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is also one of my favorites and, I don't know if this counts, but the HBO series Angels in America is set mostly in NY. That came out when I was in high school, and it was so mesmerizing and moving and, to the pretty innocent girl that I was, shocking. I still think about it.
What is New York City, where you are currently based, like as a place to live and work?
If I could live in New York my whole life, I probably would. I really love so much about this city. I mean of course there are things that are on the other spectrum, but the great things so outweigh the not so great. I love the art scene in New York, there's always something to see or do, the huge range of people that you could meet even on the subway, the fact that I can walk almost anywhere, Brooklyn Bridge Park, the FOOD, the highline, the way every roof with access becomes magical at night, all the neighborhoods with their battling personalities... I could probably go on for a while. I feel so lucky to live and work here.
Can you tell us something about your new projects since Things I Don't Understand?
Currently I am in a reading of a really great new play, Transcendental Wild Oats, by Chiara Atik, going up at the Ensemble Studio Theatre in the Bloodworks series. I actually am playing a ten year old (you gotta love theatre), who is kind of carried into this extreme transcendental lifestyle with her parents and a few other adults who are simultaneously impassioned and distraught by the insanely disciplined lifestyle they have adopted. We are performing on May 16, and I'm very excited.
But probably my biggest project right now is preparing for my move out to Los Angeles, which I just recently decided to make!
If you get given the opportunity to work with any director of your choice, who would that be, and why?
There are so many talented directors out there I would be so privileged to work with, it's hard to choose one! But, someone who has really intrigued me is Michel Gondry. As I mentioned, I love Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and am so impressed he was involved with both the writing and the directing! I also really enjoyed Science of Sleep. He has such a brilliant and vibrant imagination, I would love to see what his process is like.
What words of wisdom would you share with people who want to pursue a career in acting?
I guess if you want to go in to it, just love it. You kind of have to. And I really do.