Christina Karis may not be a household name just yet, but she will be. With a MFA degree in acting from Regent University, and an amazing amount of talent, Ms. Karis is slowly working her way into the hearts of film audiences. A self-proclaimed dramatic actress, her performance as Alza in “Pieces of Easter” shows she’s equally adept at comedy.
Christina, when did you first discover acting?
I know many people say this, but with all that I am, I can honestly say that acting discovered ME. When I was growing up, we didn’t have a lot of money for extracurricular activities. I remember making up movies all the time and acting them out. I was the writer, star, director, EVERYBODY! My grandmother, who was raising me at the time, was an avid soap opera watcher. In turn, my 7-year-old imagination made up highly melodramatic stories with scandals, slaps (which I performed on myself, by the way), and the craziest twists and turns. I laugh looking back at this. At the time, this imaginary world was so normal to me. I thought this was normal “play” for everyone. It is my life’s journey as an actress to keep my acting in this realm of creativity and possibility. I truly feel my calling is that of a storyteller and my life’s work is to in some capacity, bring stories to life.
What was your first acting role?
Other than my first ‘living room performances’ I’ve done lots of things, but I’d like to comment on some experiences that are dear to my heart. I wrote and performed a one-woman show about Dorothy Dandridge entitled In Our Time. This was in 2008, when I was still in graduate school and blessed with great parts all the time. This was before I went into the “real” world, experienced “real” rejection, and suffered “real” suffering for my art. I understood her fight to some degree, but now, in 2013–I get it so much more. One thing she said was that she just wanted a chance. A chance, not a handout, or a gift, but a chance. There are so many things in this business that have nothing to do with one’s talent, so at the end of the day, I guess we all want just that….a chance. Also, Shelby from Steel Magnolias. I performed this role in a 99-seat Equity Theatre in LA. It is my favorite theatrical experience to date. It was the best of both worlds–a live audience in an intimate setting. It was my first professional show and I was definitely “green”, but it is one I will forever cherish in my heart.
Have you had any acting training?
I attended my first year of graduate school (theater) at the University of Louisville in Louisville, Kentucky and transferred to Regent University in Virginia Beach, VA to finish. I obtained my MFA in acting in 2009. I also spent a summer studying at Circle in the Square Theatre in NYC (2007).
What is your favorite type of character to play?
Wow! I want to do EVERYTHING!! I am a dramatic actress at heart so I’ve always pictured myself in these indie like, slice of life, Woody Allen like films… but I want to do more comedy in the future. I also would love to do action films. A dream of mine is to make a film/films in Spanish, as I’ve been trying to become fluent in the language for the past NINE years! And of course, to work with Denzel Washington…well, I could die happily:)
How did you prepare for the role of Alza in “Pieces of Easter”?
Since I’ve always considered myself more of a ‘dramatic’ actress, the main challenge was getting into that ‘comic timing’ way of doing things. A good friend once told me, “Christina, you are the greatest character you will ever play.” I’ve spent many years pondering this statement and have concluded this is true. My life is my story. Acting is a part of the story but not the story. I applied all of this into ‘creating’ Alza.
Are you anything like Alza?
Ummm….we both like to eat healthy.
What was your favorite scene in the movie?
Wow, that’s a tough one – there were so many wonderful moments. Probably the scene near the end where Lincoln and Alza finally have it out. As an actor, it’s always exciting to ‘get the juices flowing’ – especially when two adversaries are baring their souls with a lot of intensity.
What are your film goals for the future?
Well, I’ve recently moved back to Los Angeles. I’ve been living in Atlanta the past two years after spending over a year in L.A. I am ready to be back here where movies happen. I feel in my heart this is my next stop–probably not the final…but the next, definitely. My dream is to make good art that pays my bills!!!
Several years ago, while I was still in grad school, I was struggling with the idea of if I could even still be an actress since becoming a Christian (I had just recently been baptized). I didn’t know at the time if the two could truly coexist. One night, I was sitting in my apartment when a movie called ‘The Perfect Stranger’ aired. Needless to say, it moved me to tears. I had never heard questions of faith answered that way…questions I myself had. I was astonished while watching the closing credits to find that the film had been shot in Louisville Kentucky, the same city I was living in at the time. I emailed the director (Jefferson) and told him about how moved I was. I was shocked when he called me in to audition for the sequel the very next week! I’ve since worked with Jefferson and Kelly three times, the latest being ‘Pieces of Easter’, my first starring feature film role, which he wrote specifically for me.
They (Kelly and Jefferson) aren’t just friends and mentors to me, they are my family. All this happened because I was so moved by the story they told. I guess that’s why I’m so motivated to be that kind of storyteller. I know how my life changed from that moment…I think about how my storytelling carries the power to change others’ lives..it’s quite thrilling…and humbling.