Merissa Czyz

EP 14: Merissa Czyz

IG: @merissaczyz

Episode Transcript (autogenerated)

Merissa Czyz

Dane: [00:00:00] You booked it. Episode 14, Hey, entertainers and performers of the world. I’m your host, Dane Reis, and welcome to you. Booked it. Where I chat with inspiring entertainers, seven days a week by digging into their journey. We’re going to discover everything you need to do to be a successful entertainer, you know?

[00:00:25] Cause. Training, usually skips that part about how to actually make your skills work for you in the real world. Fellow entertainers, my drive here at you booked it is to share the inspiring and incredible journeys of successful entertainers. We are here to support your journey. So go to and join the, you booked it, email community, where we dig deep into truly actionable things you can be doing right now to help you book that next audition, submission or gig.

[00:00:59] If you enjoy this free podcast, please show your support and search for you. Booked it on Apple podcast or your favorite podcast app, where you can subscribe. So you don’t miss an episode, leave a rating and review and to show our appreciation for your fingers crossed five star rating and review. I will give you a shout out on an upcoming episode at now.

[00:01:22] Let’s do this. Oh, righty. I am excited to introduce my guest today. Marissa Chis, are you ready for this Marissa? 

[00:01:33] Merissa: [00:01:33] I am 

[00:01:35] Dane: [00:01:35] wonderful. Marissa is a New York city based actress. After graduating from the Boston conservatory, she traveled the country with the touring production of hair. Once she got back to New York, she made her off Broadway debut at the signature theater and became a member of the ensemble studio theater, where she has helped develop various new plays from upcoming playwrights.

[00:01:59] Marissa can be seen in the short film. Yes God. Yes. Alongside Natalia Dyer from stranger things, which has nearly 3 million views on digital platforms. This year, she appeared in city on a Hill, new Amsterdam and love life. She recorded several children’s audio books. Marissa. That is a quick intro of who you are and what you’ve done, but why don’t you tell us a little bit more about yourself?

[00:02:28] Fill in the gaps, if you will, who you are, where you’re from a little bit more about what you do as a professional in this industry. 

[00:02:38] Merissa: [00:02:38] Sure. Yeah. so I’m Orissa and I grew up in New Jersey and now I live 45 minutes away in New York city. And yeah, so it’s been a journey. I went to school for musical theater and that’s what I primarily did when I first got to New York.

[00:03:00] And then I made this transition into focusing more on. Theater and developing new plays. And then this year I primarily focused on TV and I. They started recording audio books, primarily children’s chapter books. So that was unexpected, but it’s been a great and really fun. And you can probably hear it in my lace that it works for that.

[00:03:27] Dane: [00:03:27] Totally. Tell us a little bit about that transition. And how did that, how did that come about and evolve from doing the music theater to more of the theater and then into the TV and the audio book thing? 

[00:03:42] Merissa: [00:03:42] Yeah, totally. I’m not gonna lie. It was really hard in the beginning because on my resume it said BFA musical theater.

[00:03:52] And that’s what my resume was for a long time. And it was really hard to be taken seriously as just like a regular actress who didn’t sing and. Yeah. And it’s like, one of the reasons why I’m so indebted to ensemble studio theater is because I feel like they took a chance on me. They like saw my work and they were like, yeah, you’re in, you can do this.

[00:04:19] And, once I had them just sort of vouch for me and got that stuff on my resume, then it was like I had knocked down that door. And once that door was knocked down and I was just considered an actress. Then I entered into sort of TV and some worlds. so it was a great, it was a progression and it was definitely tricky, but I knew I was not the first to attempt it and that it was possible.

[00:04:48] And ultimately it’s what I really wanted to do. So I was kind of relentless about getting there. 

[00:04:56] Dane: [00:04:56] Fantastic. Can you, are you referring to getting onto film, getting into TV? 

[00:05:00] Merissa: [00:05:00] Correct. Yeah. And audio books just, I’m not going to lie. It really just kind of landed in my lap. I knew a guy and that’s the story, 

[00:05:10] Dane: [00:05:10] you know what, there is so much to be said about knowing that person and just being at the right place at the right time and having those relationships in place.

[00:05:19] Merissa: [00:05:19] Yeah. Yeah. I mean, you nailed it. That’s exactly what it was. 

[00:05:23] Dane: [00:05:23] Okay, well, let’s move on to our next section here and I am a sucker for a good quote. What’s your favorite quote you’d like to share with our listeners? 

[00:05:33] Merissa: [00:05:33] Sure. So it’s one of Philip Seymour Hoffman signs from almost famous and he says the only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone else when you’re uncool.

[00:05:47] Dane: [00:05:47] I think that’s fantastic. And how. How have you applied that quote to your career and your daily life? 

[00:05:57] Merissa: [00:05:57] Yes. So I heard it for the first time when I was probably 12 and it really resonated with me even back then, because, you know, I always felt a little weird. I was a dorky theater kid, so there’s something about.

[00:06:17] Being authentic and being true to who you are. And, you know, when you find someone else who is also practicing that philosophy and allows themselves to be vulnerable, that’s how kind of real friendships and relationships are formed. And I don’t know. I just think that’s like really beautiful. Yeah.

[00:06:40] Dane: [00:06:40] Absolutely. I love that. Well, let’s move to this next section now. And Marissa, of course you are an entertainer. I am an entertainer. And I think that you would agree this industry is one of the most subjective, brutally, honest, personally emotional industries, either of us know about, and you know, as well as I, that in order to create them to have a successful career in this industry, like you’re having now.

[00:07:08] It takes a lot of dedication and hard work. And while of course there is an outrageous amount of fun excitement being on set, being on that stage. There is. Also our fair share of obstacles and challenges and failures, we are going to experience and we have to learn how to move forward through them. If we have any hopes of continuing to do this professionally.

[00:07:34] So tell us what is one key challenge, obstacle or failure you’ve experienced in your career and how did you come out the other side better because 

[00:07:44] Merissa: [00:07:44] of it. Wow. My audition experience. when I was auditioning for hair is pretty wild. they were having an open singers call and so I got up, I went down, I think, 16 bars and they sent me home.

[00:08:02] And the following morning they were seeing fingers again, it was another open call for singers. So I got up, I went down, I saying another 16 bars and they sent me home the next day they were seeing dancers and I decided to go to the answer call and hi, Dan, I got kept, they had me sing two songs and then I had seven callbacks or something crazy like that.

[00:08:30] And then I booked it and yeah, it’s why it feels right. Because like my life would have been so different. Truly the course of my life would have been totally different if after that first, no, at that singer’s call, if I was just like, okay, you know that dream’s not going to happen. Forget it. You know, that would have been it, but aye.

[00:08:55] Yeah, I really wanted it and I really thought I could do it. And I think sometimes it’s good to have like a little bit of crazy and you to keep knocking on that door and getting what you want. So yeah, that, that story just like, even now, even though it’s my story, it’s my journey. But just thinking back to that moment in time, I’m just like, wow, I’m really glad I stuck with it.

[00:09:19] I’m really glad I did that. For 

[00:09:21] Dane: [00:09:21] sure. And I’m sure that they remembered you by that third time. They’re like, Oh, this girl Academy, she must really want to be in the show. I love that. That’s so good. 

[00:09:34] Merissa: [00:09:34] Thank you. 

[00:09:36] Dane: [00:09:36] All right. Well, let’s move to this next section to a time that I like to call your spotlight moment.

[00:09:43] That one moment in time you realized yes. I am going to be an entertainer for a living or maybe it was, yes, this is what I need to be doing as an entertainer. Tell us about 

[00:09:56] Merissa: [00:09:56] that. Yes. So for better or worse, I am just kindergarten that this is what. I wanted to do, I was obsessed with those old MGM movie musicals, and I’ve seen sound of music and seven brides for seven brothers, like 1 billion times.

[00:10:19]and that was it. And my parents were like, this is weird. This is not normal behavior. yeah, pretty much for as long as I can remember, I’ve just been super into it. I 

[00:10:28] Dane: [00:10:28] love it. And let’s piggyback on that real quick and talk about your number one, booked it moment. Walk us through that day. The auditions, the callbacks.

[00:10:38] What was going on in your life. And what about that moment makes it your favorite? 

[00:10:45]Merissa: [00:10:45] all of them are my favorite. No, I’m just kidding. no, my favorite one is, the first guest star role that I booked for TB because I had had a pretty slow seven, eight months. There was not a ton going on for me. And I had gone in for this show.

[00:11:04]two times before and didn’t get it. And then this role came around and I had a good feeling. I was really right for it. And the audition went well, but then, you know, there was no callback, no producers session. And a couple of days later, I got on a bus and I was going down to Washington DC because I play that I had done was nominated for several Helen Hayes awards.

[00:11:29] And so. In DC. I am in my friend’s apartment, getting all fancy for this award show. And that’s when my phone rang and that’s when I got the offer. And it was just like, what, when does this happen? Like, there are so many terrible days of being in this business, but then you get a day like that, or it’s like so much good.

[00:11:55] And, Yeah, you can’t see my face, but it still brings like a really big smile to my face. 

[00:12:00] Dane: [00:12:00] Oh, I love that. That is such a good story. And you’re right. There are so many times when you even wonder sometimes if, should I even be doing this gosh, but then you have those moments. I mean, look at you, you were getting ready for an awards show because of fantastic work that you did.

[00:12:17] And then you just put the cherry on top with the offer. That’s amazing. 

[00:12:21] Merissa: [00:12:21] Right. And it’s like, maybe this happens to other people all the time, but it has certainly never happened to me before it was, yeah. I’ll never forget it. 

[00:12:34] Dane: [00:12:34] I love it. Thank you for sharing that. Well, let’s take a moment to talk about the present.

[00:12:40] What projects are you working on now? What are you looking forward to? And of course being amidst this global pandemic, how do you see the entertainment industry moving forward in the next couple of years? 

[00:12:54] Merissa: [00:12:54] Right. Yeah. So everything is pretty shut down. so I’ve been working on my writing. I’m working on two pilots that I’ve written and emailing them off to people and forcing them to read them.

[00:13:09] Just trying to maybe get that off the ground. It’s nice to have some control over something in your creative life. I’ve a recently discovered. So that’s been really great and really grounding through all this. I’m looking forward to filming the TD role that I booked before the world shut down. So hopefully that can happen sometime this summer I’m told.

[00:13:33] And, as far as what the entertainment industry is gonna look like, I’m not even gonna speculate. I’m just gonna keep my mouth shut. I just, I truly have no idea. I just don’t know.

[00:13:48] Yeah, truly, always. 

[00:13:50] Dane: [00:13:50] Yep. And I love that you mentioned there for a moment, how you, I guess, are controlling your ability to express your art through the writing that you’re doing. And I think sometimes us as entertainers, we get so caught up on. The only outlet possible for us to do what we do is to be booked in a show or have a gig going on or something like this.

[00:14:14] And we put so much validation into that. And while of course, those are all very big things and we look forward to them. Sometimes I think we lose sight of the fact that we actually have a lot of control over our art and how we express it and how we create it. 

[00:14:30] Merissa: [00:14:30] Yeah. I got tired of just staring at my phone, like willing it to rain after an audition.

[00:14:36] It’s quite torturous as I’m sure. You know, so having my writing to work on. You know, and I can work on it whenever, you know, I can’t sleep at three in the morning. I can go. Right. And it’s not, you’re not depending on anybody else. It’s really just you and your laptop. So, I found it like incredibly fulfilling and it’s cool to like tell people that you have your own stuff going on as well.

[00:15:01] And it’s, I’m excited about it. I’m, I’m proud of the stories that I’ve written and. I don’t know, maybe any playwrights are listening to this and they’re like, what are you talking about? You know, we have our own battles to fight. Like, and maybe that’s true. But as someone who’s primarily an actor just to explore this whole, Ooh, a creative endeavor.

[00:15:23] Yeah. It’s nice to take some control back at the end of 

[00:15:26] Dane: [00:15:26] the day. Absolutely. Well, let’s move on to one of my favorite sections in the interview. I call it the grease lightning round. I’m going to ask you a handful of questions. I want you to answer them as quickly and concisely as possible one after another.

[00:15:44] Are you ready? 

[00:15:46] Merissa: [00:15:46] Yes. 

[00:15:47] Dane: [00:15:47] Great. First question. What was the one thing holding you back from committing to a career as an 

[00:15:54] Merissa: [00:15:54] entertainer? Nothing. Love 

[00:15:57] Dane: [00:15:57] it. Second question. What is the best piece of advice you have ever received? 

[00:16:04] Merissa: [00:16:04] My friend told me that I need to approach my career with a confidence of a mediocre white man.

[00:16:12] Dane: [00:16:12] Wow. Can you go into that a little bit more? 

[00:16:16] Merissa: [00:16:16] Sure. Yeah. I feel like as a woman and I think women in general, if we’re, if we don’t feel. Super qualified for a job. If we think that there is a position to be filled and it could be better filled by someone who is more qualified and more experienced, we hold ourselves back.

[00:16:37] Whereas a mediocre white man will be like, no, I got this. And so that’s what she meant. And just like no nervousness, no embarrassment. Don’t be scared, just like have the confidence to attack and go after what you want. Even if there is someone who might be a little bit more qualified for the job.

[00:16:55] Dane: [00:16:55] Absolutely. But you need to go in there with the attitude that you’ve got this, otherwise it’s quite impossible to book 

[00:17:02] Merissa: [00:17:02] it. Exactly. Yeah. Great. 

[00:17:06] Dane: [00:17:06] And the third question, what is something that is working for you now, or if you’d like to go pre COVID, what was working for you before our industry went on?

[00:17:16] Pause? 

[00:17:17] Merissa: [00:17:17] Sure. So piggybacking off of my last answer, I’ve been Jeff kind of throwing spaghetti at the wall and seeing what sticks during this time and, and cold calling people reaching out and. You know, whether it’s my script or I’m asking for a job, I’ve just decided like, you know, it depends on Nick.

[00:17:40] We’re like literally living through the worst thing to ever happen. So if I email someone and they don’t respond, like that’s the worst thing that can happen. Like, you know, it’s like, it’s been so leveling this whole experience. So. yeah, I’m courageously throwing pasta at the wall. Yeah. Just going with that, just trying anything to kind of keep some career at momentum right now, for 

[00:18:05] Dane: [00:18:05] sure.

[00:18:06] And I think there’s a lot to be said about just what do you have to lose? What’s the worst that could happen? I think. This pandemic also has Al enabled people or made people feel more comfortable about, like you said, just throwing spaghetti at the wall and seeing what sticks, but I don’t think that that’s anything really to stray away from even when all of this resolves that really, what is the worst that can happen by sending an email?

[00:18:32] Yeah, 

[00:18:33] Merissa: [00:18:33] exactly. Exactly. So it’s been a big lesson during this time and I fully intend to just like, carry this attitude with me when we return to normalcy. because that’s how things get done. It’s like auditioning is great, but I imagine things also get done cause like you make them happen on the side.

[00:18:55] And instead of walking through the front door, sometimes you gotta, you know, walking through the back door. 

[00:19:01] Dane: [00:19:01] Absolutely. Yeah. The fifth question. If you had to start your career from scratch, but you still had all the knowledge and experience you’ve collected from your career in this industry, what would you do or not do?

[00:19:17] Would you do anything differently or would you keep it the same? 

[00:19:21] Merissa: [00:19:21] So I would not get a BFA in musical theater. I perhaps would get a BFA in acting, but. Now that I think about it. maybe like a BA in theater with some sort of English writing, thingamajig. I just think the, yeah. Yeah. I just think being well rounded and having like a solid education is so important.

[00:19:49] And I don’t think you need a BFA in musical theater to be on Broadway at the end of the day. I just don’t think that’s necessary. 

[00:19:59] Dane: [00:19:59] Yeah, I’m inclined to agree with you. I mean, it’s when I went to the conservatory, it was not so much to get the degree, but to get training well in a very focused to training, because I also started the industry started performing at a very late age.

[00:20:17]so I needed the training and I’m thankful for that, but I do agree that having a degree is it’s not really all that important. It might get you seen. 

[00:20:26] Merissa: [00:20:26] Right. 

[00:20:27] Dane: [00:20:27] Or first couple of times, but once you get your first couple of jobs, now, people are looking at what you’ve done, not where you went. 

[00:20:32] Merissa: [00:20:32] Yes. 

[00:20:34] Dane: [00:20:34] And at the end of the day, if this is a merit based industry, and if you can do it, you can do it.

[00:20:40] I don’t really care how you’re able to do it. So that’s a great piece of advice. 

[00:20:45] Merissa: [00:20:45] Yeah. 

[00:20:47] Dane: [00:20:47] And. That leads into the last question. What is the golden nugget knowledge drop that you’ve learned from your successful career in this industry that you would like to leave with everyone? 

[00:21:01] Merissa: [00:21:01] So I don’t want to be a Debbie downer, but I believe in honesty and I believe it’s really important to say this.

[00:21:12]so when I graduated, everyone’s told me. You know, it’s going to be really hard. It’s going to be really hard. And I was like, sure, yes, like auditioning rejection. It’s going to be hard, but what, no one told me, but I was not prepared for was the lifestyle of being an actor, which is its own sort of beast in and of itself.

[00:21:39] And it’s really inconsistent and it’s really. Unstable and your talent has nothing to do with that. Like, if you’re a person who needs to wake up in the morning and know that you have a paycheck, and I know that you have health insurance, and you know that when you’re 18 years old, like maybe you shouldn’t go to a BFA program, like maybe the acting lifestyle.

[00:22:04] Would it be for you or maybe you would like, you know, right out of the gate become a famous movie star. Who’s really to say, but the lifestyle is very, very tricky and I just really wish I knew. I mean, I just really didn’t have a clue. 

[00:22:22] Dane: [00:22:22] For sure. And I think that is one of the biggest things that I’m trying to accomplish with this podcast.

[00:22:28] In fact, is the, is that, that gap period between how do you teach someone or span that gap between going to school and getting your training and being able to actually do stuff. And what’s the real world actually like all that space in the middle, we’re trying, I’m really trying to accomplish with this podcast, but also I was interviewing.

[00:22:48] A friend of mine, his name is Ron  and he was telling a story about kind of this inconsistency and this weirdness of this industry, how he said he would, he was singing to, Houston was some Philharmonic in the country, multiple thousands of people in the audience as a soloist, taking his bow in his tuxedo and looking down and realizing he had a food stain on his pants.

[00:23:15] And he’s like, Yeah, but he had a food stain because just the other day, like two days ago he was catering for some party, you know, 

[00:23:24] Merissa: [00:23:24] just, 

[00:23:26] Dane: [00:23:26] you are doing one of the most prestigious things that you’ve ever done in your entire life. One of the career highlights, but then two days ago you were. 

[00:23:37] Merissa: [00:23:37] Yeah. I mean that, that says everything.

[00:23:39] I’ve, I’ve had a similar thing where it’s like, one moment I’m on a TV set. And then the next day I’m in a tiny little coat check room, taking people’s coats. And it’s like, how, what, what is happening? How is this? It’s both it’s, it’s both worlds for. I think for most people and you’re just trying to make it work.

[00:24:03] And, and that it’s like, you it’s like a special skill making it work. It’s like, you need to find the, the employer who understands that you have to go to auditions and that you’re not in the city just to be a bartender or a nanny and, you know, making it all work, having your job, getting to the auditions, being everywhere all at the same time.

[00:24:23] It’s it’s a juggling act. 

[00:24:25] Dane: [00:24:25] For sure. And then you do that long enough and you build the relationships and ideally you get fortunate 

[00:24:32] Merissa: [00:24:32] too. That’s 

[00:24:34] Dane: [00:24:34] all you do. You only do the stuff that you want to do, or you do stuff that is only entertainment-based or in the industry. 

[00:24:40] Merissa: [00:24:40] Exactly. Yeah. Yup. But again, it’s like, they didn’t talk about this senior year.

[00:24:46]at least that’s, to me, or maybe I went to the bathroom when it did, but, I don’t ever remember hearing about. This side of things or health insurance. And, it would have been, I don’t think it would’ve stopped me from pursuing it, but it definitely would have been good to know 

[00:25:02] Dane: [00:25:02] for sure.

[00:25:03] Absolutely. Absolutely. Well, it’s time to wrap up this interview and that means it’s also time to give yourself a plug. Marissa, where can we find you? How do our listeners connect with you? Is there anything you would like to promote? 

[00:25:19]Merissa: [00:25:19] well, I have a website and I have an Instagram and you just need my name for both of those, but my name is spelled kind of funny.

[00:25:27] So, Marissa is spelled M E R I S S a. And my last name is spelled C, Z Y Z. All on the internet and that’s where I am. And you can find me there. 

[00:25:45] Dane: [00:25:45] Perfect. Thank you so much, Marissa. It was a pleasure to have you on today. Thank you so much. 

[00:25:50] Merissa: [00:25:50] Yay. You’re welcome. Thank you. Yeah. 

[00:25:53] Dane: [00:25:53] Thank you so much for joining us today.

[00:25:56] My one call to action for you is to go to and join our free email community. Where we dig deep into a continually growing resource of truly actionable things you can be doing right now to help you advance your entertainment career. Don’t miss an episode. We have a new guest, seven days a week search for you, booked it on Apple podcast or your favorite podcast app and subscribe today.

[00:26:27] All the best to you. We’ll see you tomorrow.