Photo Credit Marc Von Borstel
If you're seeking a friend for the end of the world you should look no further than Cassandra from Syfy's hit series Z Nation. After all, she has survived a zombie apocalypse. Pisay Pao is the actress behind the tenacious character, having nabbed the role after persistently submitting an unsolicited audition tape (the third in her series of auditions).
Pisay's perseverance is no surprise, as she graces Hollywood with her roots lying in a refugee camp in Thailand. We caught up with Pisay to ask her about working in television, her show and the amazing advice she received from fellow actress, Gina Rodiguez.
On having the courage to pursue a career in acting.
Pisay has always enjoyed performing, but was somewhat stuck in fashion design when she made the leap to pursue an acting career.
"It can be scary for a person to follow their bliss. For me though, it was scarier not to follow my bliss. I was more fearful of living a life of regret. Isn't that funny? That my fear also became my courage? I was so miserable at my job in fact, that one day I came into work and saw a puddle of water on the floor and thought, 'Please god let me slip and fall on this puddle so that I can spend a few days in the hospital and not have to come to work....' It sounds insane, but that was the wake up call I needed to let myself know it was time to move on."
Her first "major gig."
"My first major gig was a regional commercial for Qwest Communications that ran during the Winter Olympics. I think it was also my first commercial booking ever. They flew us down to LA, put us up in the Standard hotel downtown, I had my own trailer, -there was sushi at the craft table! As you can see it was very memorable for me -mostly because sushi is my one of my favorite foods and I have never seen a craft spread quite like that anywhere else. My agent Melissa Baldauf sent me out for it and I am pretty sure she was happy she did."
How moving to LA helped her career.
"The first year was very rough but once I got into acting class and found my community of friends, everything changed. I felt a lot more grounded and more connected to what was going on. I became a better actor simply by applying myself everyday. Seeing my friends and peers working in major projects or creating their own projects also motivated me to push myself as well."
On her "relaxed" method of training.
"Body work and relaxation exercises have been life changing for me. I am a natural dancer. I have never danced professionally but I really believe how we communicate with our bodies can be more honest than the words that come from our mouths. In order to do that though, I have to be really relaxed. It sounds easy but I am sure other actors and non-actors can agree that it i's hard to be relaxed on a daily basis, let alone on a high pressure set or audition room."
On not really preparing for her Z Nation audition.
"I am embarrassed to say that I did not do a lot of preparation. At least maybe not in the way that people might think. I connected with Cassandra and her situation right away. So I wanted to be sure that I did not overthink my lines or override whatever instincts took over me in the audition room. For me, I have to prep differently for each audition based on whatever character I am playing. For Z Nation, it is was all about letting go and trusting my instincts which I think is a huge part of who Cassandra is too."
How she relates to her strong character, Cassandra.
"Aside from being addicted to oxy, being a cannibal, & using her body to lure men to their death? Aside from all those things above, I really relate to how strong she is both emotionally and physically. I can also be quiet and introspective at times as well."
Her favorite on set experience so far and what's to come.
"I honestly would have to kill you if I told you that.....maybe Cassandra and I have that in common after all…. Just kidding. I am loving all of season 2 right now. It is going to be bigger and badder in so many ways. There is a lot of collaboration going on now since the cast and crew is even more comfortable with each other. I do not know if anything compares to that feeling. It is euphoric to create something with people you love and respect and the Z Nation cast and crew are some of my favorite people on earth. Truly."
On how to get on television.
"You know, there are so many ways to break into the industry and by no means am I an expert. However from my experience in LA, I know it really helps to have an agent or a manager or both. Sometimes it is hard for people to get either, so they will take Casting Director workshops where you pay to read in front of a CD who is hopefully legit and actually working on casting current shows. Not everybody loves this idea but I personally think it is great that as artists, we have options as to what path we take. I am a bit of a 'create your own path' kind of girl."
Her best piece of advice for aspiring performers comes from another TV star.
"I heard this one recently from the beautiful and talented, Gina Rodriguez":
"Be so good that they can't ignore you."
Follow your bliss and follow Pisay on Twitter @PisayPao.