Meet the Cast – Mercedes Manning

Mercedes (not pronounced like the car) Manning plays the pivotal role of Jasmine in Other Halves. She stars in the Hulu original series Strictly Sexual, and appears opposite Patrick Wilson in the upcoming Zipper, which will premiere at the Sundance Film Festival during our production.

Why did you decide to get into such a crazy field as acting?

Mercedes Manning

Mercedes Manning

I come from a big family of very gifted visual artists, all of whom have a deep love for storytelling. As a child, I wanted to be a writer, and I dabbled with paints but wasn’t nearly as good as my siblings. In high school, I auditioned for a play my freshman year, and the rest is history. What I love most about this career is that I’m able to combine my love for the written word with the power of visual artistry to tell remarkable stories. I credit my siblings, parents and grandmother for inspiring me every day.

What sort of training do you have?

I attended UC Irvine and earned my B.A. in Theatre with Honors in Acting. While there, I trained with some exemplary professors, including Robert Cohen. Since living in Los Angeles, I have studied with Larry Moss, Annie Grindlay, and Christinna Chauncey. I am also a founding member of Fugitive Kind Theater Company. We are a physically rigorous company, with training rooted in the Viewpoints and Suzuki methods.

What was your first role?

Mercedes on set.

Mercedes as Georgia.

I’ve performed on stage in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York and throughout Eastern Europe, but my first professional film role was opposite Wes Bentley as his wife in the sic-fi indie feature Hirokin. It also stars Julian Sands as the villain who kidnaps me. They were both exceptionally gracious and I’m honored to have worked with them both.

What other projects are you particularly proud of?

Earlier this year I worked on a really sexy political thriller called Zipper opposite Patrick Wilson. I just found out it will be premiering at Sundance in January, and I’m absolutely thrilled!

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

If I had to articulate the through line of my past work and how it leads to Jasmine in Other Halves, it can be summed up in two words: endurance and details.

Mercedes hat

Mercedes relaxing on set.

Nearly every role I’ve created and played on stage and in film has required a sustained focus over long periods of time. In other words, I’ve frequently been cast in projects that took several months, sometimes the better part of year to even begin filming. And in the case of theatre, after months of rehearsals, I’ve had to perform over the course of several weeks, multiple nights a week. You have to develop mental, physical and emotional endurance to maintain not just yourself as a person, but the character you’re playing, the story you’re telling.

My fuel, my fire are the details of my character, the story, the world I’m helping create. The details keep me going, so that when I show up to shoot that first day, I don’t have to think about anything. I can just be present.

What drew you to the character of Jasmine initially?

I was immediately intrigued by the way Jasmine was described in the breakdown: “Organized. Business-Minded. Type-A. Aggressive.” In other words: Bitch. But I knew her to be so much more than that. She has the most to hide, the deepest vulnerabilities beneath all that intimidation and sharpness. I’m so excited to bring her to life.

How do you develop your characters?

I love discovering all the details of a character, large and small. These discoveries are informed by the script, the director, the other actors and my imagination.

Mercedes Manning.

Mercedes Manning.

For Jasmine, I’m figuring out how she takes her coffee, what her favorite smell is, where she shops for clothes, how her apartment is decorated, her favorite book from childhood, what soothes her about being organized, why she’s scared of not being in control, etc. etc. etc. I have a running list of questions that I need to answer in order to know her fully, so I’m working on those. I also have a Pinterest board dedicated to her that I’m using to curate images, quotes, and articles that visually or intellectually represent her.

Do you have other creative projects that you like working on?

I’m currently in rehearsals with Fugitive Kind Theater Company for a limited engagement remount of our award winning show “The Pliant Girls” the first week of January. Loosely based on Aeschylus’ “The Suppliant Women”, it follows 50 blood-stained brides who seek refuge after murdering their husbands on their wedding night. A

dditionally, right before heading up to San Francisco for Other Halves, I’ll be shooting an episode for the web series “theProgram”, “a covert organization where agents are trained to use whatever means necessary to complete their mission – whether it be violence, deception, or sex”.

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

I can’t wait to dive in and play with everyone! Matt did a great job casting all the roles, and I really admire the collaborative nature of the team. We’re going to have blast getting bloody together!

Mercedes Manning

Mercedes Manning