Interview: Suteara Vaughn
As an actor, you will experience ups and downs as you pursue your passion and try to make a name for yourself in the industry. For every one actor that experiences success, there are many who do not and end up leaving the profession.
It takes hard work, determination, a love for the craft and a little bit of luck to make it in Hollywood today. One such actor who is headed in the right direction is Suteara Vaughn.
Already beginning to make a name for herself in Hollywood, the Thai-American actress has added some impressive credits to her resume already. She’s appeared in the series Clubbin’, Entourage, Boys Before Friends, where she also served as an associate producer and the TNT hit series Animal Kingdom.
Currently, she can be seen in the recurring role of Ariel on the hit Showtime series Shameless and will be seen starting alongside Michael Shannon, Imogen Poots and Justin Long in the upcoming independent film Frank & Lola.
We sit down with this talented actor to talk about her beginnings in the industry, her thoughts on auditioning and what she thinks about the issue of diversity in Hollywood.
Pop Culture Principle – Did you always know that you wanted to be an actor?
Suteara Vaughn – I did always know! Growing up I went to Catholic school and I did plays, I was involved in sports and just anything that had to do with entertainment because I was a bit of a wild child. I was born in Chicago, so my mom and my dad relocated us to Whittier, Ca which is about twenty miles from Hollywood, and from the time I was three, I was living here. I actually wanted to be Mariah Carey! I just always watched television and knew that I wanted to do that. I also grew up watching I LOVE LUCY!! Lucille Ball is a huge inspiration for me.
Pop Culture Principle – Was your dream to be an actor supported by your family?
Suteara Vaughn – You know; I’ll be honest with you. Just a year and a half ago, my mom was still asking if I wanted to be a veterinarian. My family wanted me to be a doctor or a lawyer and I just told them I didn’t want to do that, but would play one on television TV on day! My mom supports me and she isn’t negative about it, but she does bring up going back to school.
Pop Culture Principle – Do you remember what your first professional acting job was and what that experience was like?
Suteara Vaughn – You know what is so funny, this is random, but it was in a Mariah Carey music video and I don’t remember the name of the video. I was seventeen years old and I was a featured extra. I went on set and filmed but they didn’t end up using that scene, but that was my first professional gig.
Pop Culture Principle – One of your earliest television appearances was on the series Boys Before Friends playing Chloe James. What can you tell us about that series and your character?
Suteara Vaughn – I auditioned for that role and I also became an associate producer on that series. I did get recognized from that show and that fan base was so loyal. It’s sad that the series didn’t go further than it did and again the fans were so solid and I love them, they are great.
Pop Culture Principle – You were also a casting associate and associate producer on Boys Before Friends. How was it juggling all those jobs on the series?
Suteara Vaughn – It was hard because I was just thrown into it. I didn’t mean for it to happen, but it just did! The producer then came to me and told me about the backend and I tried to connect my people with her. It was a big learning experience for me. I am super grateful for it! I did go on to assistant producer on a few upcoming films since then.
Pop Culture Principle – You recently landed the recurring role or Ariel on the Showtime series Shameless. Can you tell us a bit about the audition process for that series?
Suteara Vaughn – I am so happy about Shameless. Animal Kingdom is done by John Wells Productions, so they use the same casting director as Shameless. I didn’t know that and my manager called me to tell me I had an audition as a recurring character on the series. As I looked it up, they had the same casting people as Animal Kingdom. The amazing John Levy Casting office called with the audition, I went in and there were four of us who auditioned and I just knew I killed it. I just felt that I was going to get the role. I prayed a lot! I play Ariel who is a new waitress at Patsies. I think they just finished shooting episode six and so far, I am in episodes two, three and four. I am a huge fan of Shameless! I was born in Cook County in Chicago which is the same place the show is set. It’s like a dream come true and I literally cried when I got this role!
Pop Culture Principle – TNT’s hit series Animal Kingdom was recently renewed for a second season. You appeared in an episode of the series. What was your experience like working on Animal Kingdom?
Suteara Vaughn – I was really nervous at first. I remember getting the sides for the audition and was like "Wow can I do this?" but just decided to go for it and ended up booking. I had a make out scene with Jake Weary and my very first sex scene with Ben Robson. Both guys were so professional and made me feel very comfortable. That put my nerves at ease. The production ran like a well-oiled machine. I had so much fun and was sad to leave when it was over. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience on that series.
Pop Culture Principle – You are also in the upcoming film Frank & Lola which stars Michael Shannon, Justin Long and Rosanna Arquette. Can you tell us about the film and your character Sage?
Suteara Vaughn – I actually shot that film two Christmases ago. I auditioned and was super excited when my manger Larry Hummel called to congratulate me on booking. I flew out to Vegas to shoot the film. Sometimes with these films, you don’t know if anything is going to happen or if they will even get distributed. I was just so excited to actually work with Michael Shannon. When you work with somebody like that, it makes your job easy because he’s such a good actor and so committed. I am excited for this film to come out. The film was accepted to Sundance 2016 and should be out in the fall. I play the character Sage. Can’t wait for people to see the film.
Pop Culture Principle – What are your thoughts on auditioning?
Suteara Vaughn – For me, I love the rush that it gives me. It’s kind of like going on a job interview every single time. I like it, but I think that if an actor doesn’t enjoy doing the work for the audition, they might as well get out of the business. I mean, this week I’ve had four auditions and at first I thought to myself ugh I have to learn all these lines, but once I do it, it’s like a muscle you build and you feel good about yourself. The only time that I don’t like it is when you don’t book any jobs! My opinion on auditioning changes depending what’s going on.
Pop Culture Principle – Recently, there has been a lot of chatter about diversity in film and television. Do you see the industry taking positive steps forward or is there still more work to do?
Suteara Vaughn – I’m just so grateful that many of the network shows today are making it a point to cast diverse talent. I want to say thank you to John Wells Productions because I was doing some research and they have a woman there named Jinny Howe. She is exec VP and head of television for the Warner Bros based banner. She said, “Something I've spoken to John about is making it a priority to get diverse female voices in the mix here."
This type of initiative is really going to help the industry push forward in the diversity department. I think that there is still a lot of work to do, but they are definitely taking steps forward and I see that. Look at me, I have a lot of tattoos and I am Asian and being able to be recognized as an Asian American woman.
I have a platform for people all over the world to see that somebody that looks like me who is a bit curvier and not super stick skinny, are on television and making a difference. I find it amazing and I hope that this industry continues to recognize people like me and other ethnicities that are not just Caucasian. I think there is always more work to do, but the industry is definitely heading in the right direction!
Pop Culture Principle – Do you see yourself as a role model?
Suteara Vaughn – I do. On the show Boys Before Friends, a lot of the fans were young, teenage girls and they would write to me and tell me that my character Chloe was such a powerful woman to look up to and that they wanted to be like me and how she always stood up for people. I would get fan mail from these girls that say that I made them feel like it was ok for them to be their size and to be ethnic. I think that is wonderful and I if I can do that, then my job is done. I still deal with insecurities about myself as well. But this is me, this is my body and this is who I am! Self love baby!! I am glad that the industry is starting to cast that. I just love it.
Pop Culture Principle – Do you see yourself branching out into writing, directing and producing later on down the road?
Suteara Vaughn – I definitely see myself doing more. Right now, I want to book more supporting roles that lead up to me booking a series regular role which is my goal right now. I notice that things for me, they kind of just come to me and I’m not afraid to go for it when it presents itself. Right now, my main focus is acting, but if some doors did open up for me, I would definitely jump through them with all I have!
Pop Culture Principle – Social media is such a big part of our world today, what are your thoughts about social media?
Suteara Vaughn – I have mixed feelings about social media. I know why it’s good, I just feel like that it’s so hard because it takes me out of the moment of what I am doing right now. Also, I think as my career starts moving forward, you have to be careful in what you put out there. I haven’t had anything too crazy yet, but I am assuming as time goes on, that is going to come with the territory.
I don’t have a huge opinion one way or the other. I try to get on their as much and I am doing better. I know that I can always do more, but I just don’t want to be one of those people who can't hold a conversation cause I'm constantly checking my social media account. But at the same time, being online is a really good platform to connect with people and I do love all the sweet fan mail.
Pop Culture Principle – What advice would you give to a someone thinking about becoming an actor?
Suteara Vaughn – Be realistic on your expectations. I was having a conversation about being an actor and being a celebrity. If you want to be a working actor, you need to go to classes, you need to love to audition, you need to be really good at your craft and be really good at sticking around and not giving up. At the end of the day, the ones that make it are the ones that don’t go anywhere and they make it a priority that they love what they are doing and they stick around.
This town has broken a lot of hearts and I think you’ve got to have your sense of self and have other stuff going on as well. This business is so up and down. One minute your hot and then one minute you’re not. It’s really about the down time that makes you who you are. If this is your dream do it. Come out here and try and if it doesn’t work, go back home and do whatever else. At least you can say you tried and to me, failure is doing nothing and not trying. Just be happy and realize that it is what it is. People will go on their own journey and see what is out there for them.
Pop Culture Principle – Are there any other upcoming projects that you can tell us about?
Suteara Vaughn – Right now, it’s auditions, auditions and more auditions! So, I’ll continue to grind and keep moving forward!
We would like to thank Suteara Vaughn for taking time out of her schedule to talk with us. You can catch new episodes of Shameless every Sunday night at 9 PM ET/PT only on Showtime. If you would like to keep up with Suteara's latest news and projects, you can follow her on Twitter @SUTEARA and on Instagram @suteara_vaughn_.