Miami Living Magazine

Olivia Culpo

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The beautiful actress has a talent for bringing characters to life, and does it flawlessly in playing Val, a brave woman who will do whatever it takes to achieve self-betterment. "I identify with Val a lot, more than almost any character I've played thus far," says Janina. "I was lucky enough to be the child of immigrants, in my real-life, this causes an immense gratitude for the opportunities this country allows us, but it also comes with weight of responsibility to achieve, at least it did for me, and that was my doorway into Val's life." Understanding Val's life was very important to Janina, who always does her homework before becoming a new character. "I am that nerdy actor that writes an entire backstory before I even hit the set," she laughs. Blindspotting, which Janina describes as "incredibly timely", was released in theaters on July 27th. "I hope it causes people to talk to each other more, and it's also funny as hell. I know that sounds confusing because the trailer seems very dramatic, but you're going to laugh a lot, and that's OK—I hope you do!" Janina's passion for acting didn't arise until she was in high school. "I had no idea that I would end up where I am. I grew up as a classical musician, I was a very serious kid," she laughs. "I played piano and percussion—marimba is my major instrument—and I started studying classical voice. I really thought I would be a percussion performance major —I was almost sure of it. Then I was doing a musical in high school, and I had an emotional experience that was not my own. It was the characters, and it was so overwhelming that it made me realize that you can feel somebody else's life, even if it's just for a second. And it was so different than any thing I've ever felt in my very long, 16 years on the planet, at that point. I thought, wow, this is something I must investigate." With her parent's support, Janina started to study theater and went to theater school. "I'm just like a weird art student. I'm one of those ridiculous semi-emo art students. I came out of the womb that way," she exclaims. "Then I went to theater school, I had a double minor in music and psychology. While I was in college, I got signed to Cash Money Records, I spent a lot of time in Miami. Then when the group fell apart, I moved to L.A." Janina feels luck y to have been able to dive into so many different types of roles and is 100% disinterested in repeating characters or even playing anyone like herself. "The whole point of wanting to be an actor came from turning into other people—delving into the psychology of what makes people chose the actions they do." The role that changed her life was playing Papi on The L Word. "My first real gig was on The L Word. I felt like I had just fallen out of theater school and the show gave me a shot. I suddenly found myself around women who already had long careers. These women are powerhouses and the world is completely aware of the ageism within this industr y, so for them to have forged careers that are not only existing late into their for ties, but really dynamic, robust, incredible work. Having conversations with those women, was the best thing that could have happened to me at the beginning of my career," she points out and adds that cast mates Jennifer Beals and Pam Grier helped shape who she is today. "They said so many things that have kept me sane in my career, because, as I said before, I am just a weird ar tist kid and I have to somehow fit into this strange box that is 'Holly wood' to be able to work and remain myself, or risk losing myself in the process," she explains. "And having access to them telling me they didn't lose themselves, showed me that it was possible."

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