Actress Giovannie Pico really is the girl next door.
She even lives with her mom and family, who take care of her six-year-old son. But beneath the megawatt smile, she just loves attention.
Actress Giovannie Pico really is the girl next door.
She even lives with her mom and family, who take care of her six-year-old son. But beneath the megawatt smile, she just loves attention.
That love for being in the spotlight eventually led her to became an actress. And since appearing in four episodes, as recurring Med Student Ludlow on NBC’s ER in 2004/2005, she has performed in numerous stage, film and television productions.
Most recently, she was seen on FOX’s TV show, “Bones,” as Rose Alipio. Episode: “The Man in the Cell.” And last fall, she starred-in and co-produced the Sci-Fi TV pilot Kambal: The Twins of Prophecy through Desert Rose Productions.
In addition to her acting work, she’s also appeared in commercial ads for companies such as American Express. She’s performed on stage in Strip World for San Francisco’s Exit Street Theater, and co-directed The Vagina Monologues 2006 at the Herbst Theater in San Francisco. Last summer she was invited to direct “Usaping Puki” for the Filipina Women’s Network as part of Eve Ensler’s “Until the Violence Stops” campaign in New York.
Asiance recently sat down with Giovannie at the Que Tal Cafe in San Francisco to find out what’s up? And in a bare-all interview, she strips off her girl next door image and reveals the “magic” of acting, what “sells” in Hollywood and what it’s like being a young mother.
ASIANCE: So tell us what you’re working on now.
Giovannie Pico: Post-production wise, I’m working on Kambal: The Twins of Prophecy. And that’s like a martial arts action adventure with this guy Jeff Francisco and directed by Stephen Reedy, who was nominated for an MTV Movie Award last year. So we’re doing pickup shots on that and we’re trying to finish it up. I just did an episode of Bones in January. And I just found out that I was offered a small role on the Gilmore Girls.
ASIANCE: How did you become an actress? Where did you get your start?
Giovannie Pico: It was funny because I was in this marriage that…that uh… that… that the guy kept me away from society. We basically lived in the woods in a population of fewer than 200 people and people would call up, like telemarketers and such and be like, “Oh, you have a good voice.” So I was thinking from that I should get into voice overs, and so I put a really ghetto voice-over demo together and I sent it to one of the top agencies in San Francisco. When they called me in for an interview, I ended up signing with the agency that day and they sent me on my first audition and I booked my first game job, doing a video game that very same day– and that’s how I got started in acting.
ASIANCE: Tell us more about doing video game voice overs.
Giovannie Pico: Doing video games is really, really fun because you don’t have to get up and get yourself all ready and put makeup on. You can just kind of roll out of bed and do your work. (laughs). I’ve played a couple of fun characters. The last person I played was Mirei Mikuna in Phantasy Star Universe. They have two video games coming out. They just released one last year. It’s supposed to be big in the gaming world. But I’m not a big gamer, so I really don’t know.
ASIANCE: So you started in video games. How did you segue into film and TV?
Giovannie Pico: Since I signed with one of the top agencies, I felt like I had to get on the ball. So I started taking acting classes at this place called First Take in San Francisco. And my teacher Nancy Berwid eventually became my manager and under her tutelage I got signed with an awesome agent down in L.A. and I just started going on auditions.
ASIANCE: What inspires your acting work?
Giovannie Pico: I mean actors are weird. We all have this desire for attention. (laughs) In a lot of ways we’re all like messed up somehow… I mean, all the actors I meet are amazingly open people, you know. I guess the thing that inspires me to keep on acting is the fact that I get to try out different roles and see things from other people’s shoes. I think when you don’t get all egotistical about it and you keep yourself humble, you get to be more compassionate about others because it’s your job to really figure out what somebody else is going through — and you can’t really judge anybody anymore.
ASIANCE: On your web page (http://www.giovannie.com), you mention wanting to experience “more than one life.” Explain.
Giovannie Pico: For every single role that you play, you have to put yourself in their shoes. You have to kind of do things to see things from their shoes. So…for example. I’m going to be doing a movie that’s still in pre-production and I’ll be playing one of the strippers. I personally come from a place where I believed that when you get married, it’s like forever, or at least I would have hoped so… and that sex is sacred.
And so it was initially really hard for me to initially go to the opposite extreme… it’s like a very, very difficult thing for me. I would do things like go to strip clubs, I’d read biographies of Jenna Jameson, things like that. I’d talk to people that stripped for a living. I’d go to pole dancing/strip classes or whatever. And you learn that they’re not really very different from who you think you are and we’re all basically the same. Their humanity comes through, you know, and you see that.
Some of these girls they come from such broken places that that’s the only thing that they know how to do. It’s so easy for us to be like: “I’m not like that person at all.” And being an actor, it’s your job to figure out how are you like that person. And I think it does bring us closer to one another because you can see where they’re coming from.
Like a murderer, for example, it sounds horrible but you get into this space of why they would do that. Is it because they think life would be easier without that other person? Is it because it’s just total vengeance? What would lead that person to do that? I mean that just fascinates me to no end.
If you’re Asian American, Indian American or Latino, you’re a very wanted and needed commodity in the industry.
ASIANCE: Take us through your experience with strippers. Did you spend a lot of time at strip clubs? What was that like?
Giovannie Pico: I totally did. I also did a theater show called Strip World. I played this girl named Anna Lisa. Seriously, I love dancing and I think it’s fun. I don’t know that in my real life if I could put myself in that position because I do think that sex is sacred and my goodies are for private, not public consumption, both literally and figuratively… But yeah, I did go into strip clubs a lot. (Laughs)
ASIANCE: What did you learn?
Giovannie Pico: It’s funny because one of the girls that was in the show with us was an actual stripper. And she was the one you would have never thought was. She looked so innocent. And she let me into her world…. It’s a lot of catty stuff, but there’s also a real camaraderie there, too, with girls like protecting each other… And watch out for this person…. And also, you learn the exploitations they go through. Like, in the clubs you have to pay a dancers fee to dance there, like you actually have to pay to dance, which sucks because you’re already putting yourself out there. Some of them are stereotypical, working to go to school. Some of them made the choice to do that maybe because they don”t have the education or they didn’t stay in school. Some of them have kids and it’s the only thing they think that they can do. You just kind of empathize with them.
ASIANCE: As an actress being in that environment, how did you get them to open up to you?
Givoannie Pico: It’s not like being with them as an actress. It’s just like being with them as a person. Really caring about them. So what is it like? Not just saying from the standpoint, “Oh, I am researching this.” Just being like “How is your day going? What do you love or hate about this?” You know, just like talking to them like people. (Laughs) Just hanging out. If you come to it from “I’m researching this,” it kind of sucks. I have a six-year-old kid. And if circumstances were different and I didn’t have the support of my family, I could totally see myself doing something like that if I didn’t have a choice, because I have to put food on my kid’s plate. I could totally see myself [doing that], but thank god that I don’t because I don’t think I could handle it day in and day out.
ASIANCE: Tell us about motherhood. What’s that brought to you as a person? As an actress?
Giovannie Pico: Motherhood is the most amazing thing ever because you have to learn to love somebody unconditionally. You know, so many of our relationships are based on conditional things. You give me this; I give you this, for this amount of time, until it doesn’t work out anymore. With being a mom, no matter what my kid does I’m going to love him and I’m going to fight to the death for him. I mean being a young mother that does bring alot more, I guess, emotional depth to stuff that I do.
ASIANCE: Tell us about your experiences in acting classes. What was it like on your first day?
Giovannie Pico: Well, it was really weird for me because my school First Take was really the first acting school I went to. I went to a couple classes at American Conservatory Theater when I was a teenager. But that was like after school stuff and I wasn’t really into acting. You have to come to acting with a lot of humility, you know, because it’s really a craft where the only way you can make scenes magical is if you bring yourself to it. And for actors to say: I’m playing this “character,” or whatever, and it removes their own humanity from it; it doesn’t bring the magic to the scene, especially with film and TV.
In film and TV, the magic is brought when you bring yourself to it. Like my teacher says, “Human beings are so complex. You can’t ever really duplicate another human being. But who we are with all our complexities, that’s what makes a scene magical.” And you have to be okay with not being great. There are two things in our classes that we say. These are like my teacher’s catch phrases. First one is “Embrace the sucking.” Being okay with just floundering and failing because that’s the only way you learn. And if you’re so wound up with doing a good scene or having it be a certain way, you’re going to lose the whole magic of it because you are trying o control it so much. You’re going to learn a lot slower because you’re not allowing yourself to fail and learn from it – “ and being okay with looking like a fool.
The second thing we say in class is “You are enough.” Meaning everything that you are enough to bring to the role. There’s no need to be what you think “sexy” is or what you think “intellectual” is or what you think “powerful” is because we all have that in us and once we just own that in ourselves and bring that to the scene then that’s enough. Our classes are mixed-levels, so we have newbie beginners to professionals working in the Los Angeles industry, in the same class, because we learn from each other. I learn a lot from working with somebody that’s new because it reminds me to go back to basics. So there’s no like level, level two, level three in our classes.
ASIANCE: Tell us about your character types. [What do you “sell?”]
Giovannie Pico: This is so funny because a couple of years ago I was always like “I want to be a bad ass … I want to be a “hot sexy girl.” [But] that’s not what I sell. (Laughs) And if I have my headshot geared toward the “hot sexy girl,” there are so many girls with that innately in them and that’s their strength. That’s not to say that I can’t be a “hot sexy
girl” or a “bad ass”, because I can. But what I sell is girl next door, quirky, dorky, naive sometimes, smart, you know, intellectual. That’s what I sell – that’s what I kind of lead off with.
Like in this stripper movie, I get to be like the hot sexy girl kind of sort of, but in my way. In the way that Giovannie can be hot and sexy, not like in the way that Angelina Jolie can
be hot and sexy. (laughs)
ASIANCE: But doesn’t that typecast you? Or stereotype you?
Giovannie Pico: You know what the thing is so many actors say? “I don’t want to be typecast. I don’t want to be stereotyped.” I would be so lucky to be typecast and stereotyped because getting ANY work in this industry is so hard in the first place.
ASIANCE: So you wouldn’t mind being Mary Ann on Gilligan’s Island?
Giovannie Pico: No. Totally not! And once I’ve built enough work and a director says, “Okay, let’s try having you play Ginger,” but that comes with time. You’re not going to start out playing every single role out there because you need experience. People are going to hire you with what you bring to the table, what you lead out stronger with. For me it’s Mary Ann, you know, and I’m okay with that. Later on down the line if I want to play Ginger, and somebody wants to give me the opportunity to do so, or if I create the opportunity for myself, then I will.
Technology is getting so amazing these days. We can take cameras and Final Cut Pro, and make our own stuff. But I would be so lucky to be typecast. I would be so lucky to be stereotyped. I did this interview on Filipino-Americans in the media, and they’re like “Do you play stereotypical roles”? Sometimes we have to. Like the gay and lesbian community, before they got their own shows, before they got cast in real roles where they’re related to everyday life, they had to play the stereotypes. And it’s the same thing with any minority.
ASIANCE: Okay so, take us through the process of getting booked for an acting role in Hollywood.
Giovannie Pico: What happens is your Agent and Managers get the script breakdowns and they submit you for the role. If you have enough credits or the casting director is interested in you, they call you in for an audition. They’ll have what’s called a pre-read, where you read with a casting director and a casting director’s assistant and if they like you they’ll call you back and you’ll usually read for the producer and director. Sometimes they’ll have call backs, sometimes they’ll have screen tests, but then you’ll hopefully book the job after that.
Asian Americans in this market are really hot because there’s this incentive with unions like SAG and AFTRA that give to producers who promote diversity in casting. If you’re Asian American, Indian American or Latino, you’re a very wanted and needed commodity in the industry.
If you want to get into the industry, I recommend taking classes because even if you do get an agent or a casting director is interested in you and you’re not ready to audition competitively, it could actually hurt you. They’ll think, “Oh, this person is so green – they just wasted my time”. There’s a limited amount of slots. If you aren’t ready and you waste the casting director’s time, they might blacklist you and they won’t call you for like three years. Seriously, I heard stories about this.
If you’re in the San Francisco Market, it’s mainly a commercial market, which pays really well. So you’re definitely going to want to get a happy smiley headshot that says you can sell anything. You’ll probably want to get a commercial agent in whatever market you’re in because commercials pay really well.
For film and TV you need to get a good theatrical headshot, which is usually not smiling. Then you need to put together a cover letter. In the cover letter, don’t just say “Hi, I’m an Asian actor and I need representation, would you please consider me?” because that’s not going to sell you. You want to be able to sell yourself on what makes you special. What is it about you that casting directors or agents are going to love? Is it because you’re a hard worker? Are you in classes all the time? Have you booked work? What do people say that you are? Are you the girl next door? Are you edgy? You know, like Rocker Chick? Or are you a blue collar worker? What do you fit in? What can they sell you as? Have that in your cover letter. Make it short and sweet. Be funny, if you can. And then attach your headshot and resume, contact number to reach you at and just do your mail outs to agencies. If they don’t need you at that time, don’t take it as a rejection. Another three months send your stuff out again because things change all the time with agencies. People leave. People don’t want to act anymore. So don’t give up on that. That’s how you get started.
ASIANCE: What was your favorite moment on American Yearbook?
Giovannie Pico: American Yearbook was my first film. I’m really proud of that because my part was originally written for a Caucasian girl and I went in and read for it. The director Brian Ging cast me as the lead girl. I was like thank you, thank you, thank you! I just loved being on that set. Brian Ging spoiled me because it was my first film set and he was very nurturing. I met some of my best friends there, Nicky McGrath and Jon Carlo Alvarez, who played Chance. They ended up being really good friends of mine. I hadn’t kissed anybody in a while then and I had to do a kissing scene that I kind of enjoyed. (laughs) Not necessarily because of the guy, just because I was kissing somebody. (wicked laughter)
ASIANCE: What was it like on the set of ER?
Giovannie Pico: I was very fortunate because there’s a guy in my class named James Carraway and he’s an older actor. We’re both SF actors, but we both got cast in the same episode. It was funny because this is ER! I’m so freaking lucky! ER is my first Hollywood job. And it was a recurring role on an Emmy Award winning show, which is like “Ahhh!!! Not only that, but James Carraway, who I’ve known for two years in class, was on the set with me. So instead of me freaking out as much as I could have been being on my first Hollywood job, his presence grounded me and I was very fortunate to have that.
My first scene is working with Mekhi Phifer. He’s a hot shot doctor — and I’m this newbie med student who’s, “I don’t know what to do. These are just bumps.” And it turns out to be cancer. And the instructions from the director to me were to follow him around like a little bee. Just say, “I don’t know what I’m doing” (does whiny voice) and stuff like that. So I had to stick by him like glue. That’s what the director told me. And one time the director yelled cut, but I didn’t hear her yell cut, so when Mekhi started walking off, I followed him and he turned around — and he was like what are you doing? (laughs) Totally embarrassing.
ASIANCE: What advice do you have for aspiring Asian Americans who want to break into Hollywood?
Giovannie Pico: If you are passionate about being an actor…follow it. It sounds very clichÃ©, but don’t let anyone talk you out of following your dreams. I really do believe that the Universe is conspiring to shower us with blessings and helping us to lead the fullest lives that we can lead.
For more information about Giovannie Pico, please visit her website at www.giovannie.com