Meet the Cast – Melanie Friedrich as Jana

Melanie Friedrich brings some Old World charm to the cast of Other Halves. We recently had the chance to speak with the German immigrant about her life and career–

When did you first get into acting?

Melanie Friedrich

Melanie Friedrich

I started out in competitive ballroom dancing really young and was used to performing on stage. Eventually, my mom brought me to an open call for the repertory theatre in my hometown Ingolstadt, Germany.

I fell in love with it and booked leads in all the shows. It’s a very difficult feeling to describe; I just felt at home on the theatre stage. The decision to do it professionally came with my year in America as an exchange student during high school. I got to perform “Steel Magnolias” and something just clicked. I wanted to be an actress – and I wanted to do it here, in the USA. So I went home, finished school, came back and here I am!

Have you done any training as an actress?

After numerous years at the repertory theatre in Ingolstadt, and a few theatre festivals and workshops, I went to The American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Los Angeles. I finished the two year program and was part of the Academy Company 2013/14. Additionally, I trained at South Coast Repertory under Karen Hensel, Joanne DeNaut (CSA) and Hal Landon Jr.

What was your first role?

My first role was at the repertory theatre in Ingolstadt. The play translates to “The Special Life of Hilletje Jans”. I played Hilletje Jans, a young orphan traveling across 18th century Netherlands to find her aunt’s tavern. There, she gets blamed for a murder she didn’t commit and after years in prison, returns only to flee dressed as a man. It was a very powerful and demanding, dramatic piece. I loved every minute of it!

What other projects are you particularly proud of?

I am particularly proud of “LOVE – The Beatles Musical”. It was an open air performance back in Germany that closed the season. I was trained to stilt walk for the show. So much fun! Even though it was raining a lot and the giant butterfly wings got hard to manouvre in stilts, every second was worth it.

Birds Production Photo 02

Cast of Birds

One of the most impactful projects I have done was called “Birds”. It addressed teenagers going through difficult situations such as parents divorcing, having a physical handicap, mental distress, pregnancy and homosexuality. I played a lesbian girl in love with her best friend, who dates guys and ends up pregnant. This play was invited to attend the theatre festival in Carrara, Italy.

But as a whole, I am proud of all projects I have done – some more than others – but they all made me into the actress and person I am today. I learned something from every single one of them.

How do you think those roles prepared you to play Jana in Other Halves?

Melanie Friedrich in an upcoming untitled project.

Melanie Friedrich in an upcoming untitled project.

I think life and experience in general prepares you. I am very fortunate to have played a variety of different characters so far. You take bits and pieces from all the roles you’ve played and when appropriate, you use them like a toolbox to create a new individual.

What drew you to the character of Jana initially?

When I read the breakdown of all the characters and decided which one to submit for I went with my gut. And my gut was screaming Jana at me. “Extremely smart, extremely logical. Her people skills are lacking.” was what drew me in. I guess that phrase hit close to home! 😉

How do you approach portraying a character? How are you developing Jana specifically?

I usually spend a lot of time with the script. I try to look at the role through the other character’s eyes. It gives me a clearer unclouded vision of the person. I then go back and compare how the character sees themselves as opposed to how they’re seen by others. This helps a lot with social interactions. And then I throw all that out the window, trust that I did the work and just have fun with it. With Jana specifically, she is so close to my own personality that I just need to relax into it and speak and act through her the way I would do it.

Do you have other creative projects that you like working on? Tell me a little about those.

T.D. Photography 01I did ballroom dancing until I moved to the states in 2011. Now, I just paint every once in a while. I’m not very good at it, but it’s very relaxing and sometimes the outcome isn’t all too bad. In general I am more of an academic person (I guess that’s the German in me) and I am planning on finishing my BA the next few years if my Visa allows it. I also love traveling and planning roadtrips. Anything cultural and historical intrests and fascinates me.

How are you feeling about Other Halves, now that you’ve had a table read with the rest of the cast?

The table read was absolutely incredible. I feel like the whole script came to life and all characters became three dimensional. Every single person was cast perfectly and fits their part 100%. I can’t wait to start rehearsing and to spend more time with the cast and crew.

Taking part in the table read I’m convinced we are going to be in each others lives for a long time. This project is so exciting! I can’t wait to start filming!