Interview: Raychel Diane Weiner
One of the amazing things about life is that you never know what is going to happen day to day. We think that notion fits perfectly when it comes to Raychel Diane Weiner.
At an early age she knew that dance was a career that she wanted to pursue. She poured all her efforts into dance and has performed professionally for companies like St. Louis Ballet, Oregon Ballet Theater, Ballet Arizona and Post:Ballet.
Her dance career led her into acting and her first role was as one of the leads in the Starz series Flesh and Bone. Her work on that show led to roles on series such as Making Moves and Pure Genius. Soon, she will be seen in the upcoming third season of the hit Amazon series Bosch.
With her mind laser focused on film and television, we sat down with Raychel to talk about the transition from dance to acting, what she thinks of reality dance competition shows and where she sees her career heading in the future.
Pop Culture Principle – When did your passion or itch for ballet begin?
Raychel Diane Weiner – My mom put me in ballet when I was about three years old. My mother was a former ballet dancer. I think initially it was a mix between her needing babysitters and also, I was so painfully shy as a kid that it was a forced social interaction. I remember when I was around nine or ten my teachers telling my mom that I was pretty good and that I should continue with ballet. It became part of my every day routine pretty quickly.
Pop Culture Principle – Can you talk about deciding to take ballet to the next level?
Raychel Diane Weiner – If you want to take ballet to the professional level, you can’t half ass it at all and you have to make that decision to go for it really young. I grew up in Southern California and trained at fantastic schools, but there are few and far between, so you have about four or five options of top schools in Southern California. Not only are you making a commitment to spend all that time and put yourself through it, but the entire family has to make the commitment because you are driving so far. I didn’t really fall in love with ballet until I was in high school. I loved the physicality of it, but all of a sudden, the pride kicked in and I was realizing that I was actually on track to be a professional athlete. That’s when I started to think it was actually cool and not some baby ballerina thing.
Pop Culture Principle – When did you decide to enter the acting world?
Raychel Diane Weiner – Well, I’ve always been interesting in acting. My older brother hosted a show on the Disney channel, so I was around it a bit when I was younger. Again, I had to make the choice because when you are trying to be a professional dancer, you just don’t have the time. I’ve always wanted to do it, but once you hit the professional level, you can’t walk away from it because jobs are so few and far between.
Flesh & Bone kind of fell into my lap and was out of the blue. I get an email from a patron of Ballet Arizona which was where I was dancing. She sent me a link to an article that she saw and said that I should submit my headshot. It was this untitled ballet project and I thought it was going to be some cheesy ballet project. I was happy with my job at the time, but I started getting more and more emails from people who said that this character Daphne sounded like me. So finally, after a lot of people telling me to just do it, I sent a headshot and that was it. Next thing I knew, I happened to be off when they were holding acting auditions in San Francisco, so I went and read. It happened really fast and it was kind of a whirlwind and a total dream and I still feel like I’m in the dream.
Pop Culture Principle – Do you think the discipline you are taught as a dancer helped you in your preparation as an actor and how so?
Raychel Diane Weiner – Well, I find it really easy to memorize lines and I think that is from years of having to memorize choreography. The focus that comes with dance really can’t hurt in the acting world. Sometimes I feel that my dance background can work for or against me, there is no in between. I am so used to everything being perfectly timed out, choreographed and on a count. It’s still taking me some time to kind of forget what my body is doing and not being so aware.
Also, not caring about what I look like because in rehearsals and things, you are constantly looking and critiquing yourself in the mirror, but if you bring that into an audition or into filming, it looks stiff and unnatural. It's a wonderful asset to have because I am aware of my body, I understand timing, I can maneuver around a set without having to look where I am going because I am used to stages and things like that, but it also can be a little restricting.
Pop Culture Principle – How realistic was the series Flesh & Bone and did you get to do you own stunts?
Raychel Diane Weiner – Yes, I did all my stunts, including the stripping. I had to train many months for that. As far as the truth, they did a really great job and they asked us a lot of questions. Everyone in the show was either currently dancing professionally or had some semblance of a professional career. It was realistic in many senses, but just like ER isn’t what a real emergency room is like, things are over dramatized a bit. There were moments that were painfully real and it’s unfortunate, but I was really thrilled with how much they spoke to us about that world.
Pop Culture Principle – You had a powerful performance in an episode of the CBS series Pure Genius. What was it like working on that series?
Raychel Diane Weiner – I was really surprised when I got the call that I had booked the episode. Anytime I go in for a character that they say is a ballerina, there is a little hesitation. One of the reasons I booked Daphne on Flesh & Bone was because I didn’t look like your typical ballerina and that’s what they wanted. So, going into this audition, I didn’t think I was going to book it because I have short hair and tattoos. It was a little too far-fetched in my mind for me to play this ballerina. Also, I was retired and I was wondering where they going to make me dance because it’s been a while. Also, when I went in and I saw the other names on the sign in sheet, I knew most of those names from the ballet world. I thought to myself, the goal now is to impress the casting director because I had never read for them before. I did the audition and when I got the call that I had booked the role, I was over the moon!
The show has so many fantastic actors. I am thirty years old, so I grew up watching all of Dermot Mulroney’s rom coms and it was exciting to be on set with him and the rest of the cast. I haven’t experience many sets, but I will say that there wasn’t a moment while filming Pure Genius that I wanted to leave. Every single person was so welcoming and friendly, from the PA to the director to catering. You never once felt like you were a stranger in someone else’s home. It made it so much easier for me because I was a little nervous. It was just a fantastic experience.
Pop Culture Principle – You recently had the premiere of your film Hickey. What can you tell us about that project?
Raychel Diane Weiner – That was the first project that I booked after Flesh & Bone. We shot that about two years ago, and it was a blast and a whirlwind. We shot the full feature film in fifteen days, so they were long days. Coming off of a premium network show and going into an ultra-low budget indie film was a big difference, but it was neat. I felt like all of a sudden I had all this say and it gave me the opportunity to play around. It was super fun, ridiculous and a lot of laughing. We got into a few films festivals and I won an award for best supporting actress which was fun.
Pop Culture Principle – You’ve signed on as Skyler in the upcoming third season of the Amazon hit series Bosch. What, if anything can you tell us about that character?
Raychel Diane Weiner – I was so shocked when I met Titus Welliver. He was the nicest guy, but kind of a hippy. I didn’t really know what he was going to be like and only knew him from his characters, but he was so amazing. I didn’t’ get to work with the entire cast, but everyone was so nice.
It was a different experience because for the most part, it is an older cast. It was kind of cool and fun to watch how they work. Everything was so focused, there was not a lot of clowning around. Everyone went in, knew what they were doing, did their jobs and smiled after they yelled cut.
As far as my character is concerned, again it is something a little different for me. It started out as essentially two episodes which turned into four episodes which was great. My character is essentially somebody’s ride or die girl. The character is not very bright, but maybe a little bit, that’s the interesting aspect of the character. I am really excited to see what those episodes look like.
Pop Culture Principle – What has been your proudest moment so far in your acting career?
Raychel Diane Weiner – I think Flesh & Bone will always be my top. It was the first thing that I ever did, but at this very moment, it was working on Pure Genius. It was my first opportunity to kind of show that I can act. I got a lot of wonderful feedback from Flesh & Bone and some other things I’ve done, but it was the first time that I got to play something very different from myself. There was no hiding at all in that episode and that is probably my proudest moment. I was able to pull it off which was a challenge for me because I am still new and I am still learning.
Pop Culture Principle – What are your thoughts on reality dance competition series such as So You Think You Can Dance?
Raychel Diane Weiner – I love watching those shows, especially So You Think You Can Dance. I wish I could do that because those dancers are so well rounded. The choreography on shows like that are so good and the music. It’s really literal, which I always wished we did more of that in the ballet world. Actually, dancing to a lyric and emoting whatever is being sung. I have some friends that have done very well on those shows and I can’t believe what they can do.
Pop Culture Principle – Where do you see yourself and your career five to ten years down the road?
Raychel Diane Weiner – Well, I would love to of course book a recurring on a television show. Film is fun, but the consistency and the family aspect of television is something that I really like. I’d love to take my dance background into more of an action type of acting. I’d love to do martial arts projects or play a super villain or super hero. You know, I kind of got that tough girl thing going on, so why not utilize it!
Pop Culture Principle – Any other upcoming projects you can tell us about?
Raychel Diane Weiner – Nothing I can talk about at the moment I am biting my nails for something right now that hopefully in the next few weeks I’ll find out if I booked the job. I am super grateful and I have stumbled into this industry and have had some success already. I am not giving up any time soon and I am hoping pilot season will bring some cool things.
A big thank you to Raychel for taking time out of her schedule to talk with us! Remember, Bosch returns for its third season on April 21st, exclusively on Amazon. If you would like to keep up with all of Raychel's latest news and projects, you can follow her on Twitter and Instagram @RaychelDWeiner.
**Photos courtesy of Raychel Diane Weiner/Starz/Alexander Neumann**