Cult Hub introduces Crystal Rivers – one of the new rising stars on American television who’s already built an impressive resume with appearances on a number of US shows and TV movies. When her pursuit of a career as a gymnast sadly ended with an injury, Rivers turned her talents to the entertainment industry and recently developed her own script-to-directing project. In her interview she discusses her transition from a small town, south of Seattle, to Los Angeles, the type of roles that excite her and shares her experiences on her directorial debut.
Cult Hub: Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got into acting?
Crystal Rivers: I was raised by my Mum in the small town of Des Moines, WA (15 miles south of Seattle, GO SEA HAWKS!) with my two brothers, Craig and Corey. I have always been extremely active; fishing, hiking, white water rafting, camping, any outdoor adventure I can go on, I am there! I started cheer leading and gymnastics when I was 6. By 8, I was traveling the U.S. and Canada for gymnastics competitions and training 5/6 days a week, 5-7 hours a day. Around 11, I was taken to TOPS pre-olympic testing and by age 12 I placed 2nd in Regionals in Hawaii, qualifying for Nationals in Japan. Before Nationals, I suffered a severe injury that took me out of the sport. Shortly after, I was asked to do a power bar and prudential insurance print job as a gymnast and it opened my eyes to a whole new world. I got into school plays, joined dance squads and performed wherever I could.
In high school I remember driving in the car one day with my Mum and hearing a “John Robert Powers” acting school open call audition in Seattle. I wanted to go but was nervous and my Mum encouraged me saying “you were nervous for your first gymnastics meet too and look how far you got. If you don’t try everything, you will never know what you love.” My Mum is the best.
Sure enough, at 17 I was scouted by a Los Angeles talent agent through J.R.P. and they said I needed to move down right away because pilot season was starting. At the time, I had 3 jobs and almost 2 years of community college so it was a big decision. 3 weeks later I hopped in my car and made the trip south. I’ve been acting ever since.
CH: You’re involved in a number of different TV projects including Ghoul on the Chiller Network and Swamp Volcano (aka Miami Magma) on the Syfy channel – what’s it like to star on national tv?
CR: It’s pretty surreal to be honest and I am super grateful. As an actress, I feel like I am always learning and growing, so it’s really difficult to watch myself on screen, let alone know that people all over are watching. Meeting and working with such talented casts and directors has been an amazing experience and the opportunity to watch their techniques have really enhanced my skills as an actor.
CH: You started off your career wanting to be a gymnast but fate had other plans – are you happy with the way things have worked out?
CR: Gymnastics was an incredible life experience. It taught me about hard work, goal setting, perseverance, overcoming fear, mental & physical strength, and was even my first heart break. Fortunately, I believe that everything happens for a reason and I am enjoying the journey of where life takes me.
CH: You come from a small town in Des Moines, south of Seattle and later relocated to Los Angeles after a talent agency tempted you over – was a difficult choice to make? How are you coping with the change?
CR: The decision itself wasn’t difficult. My Mum asked if it was something I wanted to pursue and after I said yes she said “well, if you don’t try you will never know, there are no rules in life, you can be anything, start college at 30, come home in a year, it doesn’t matter, just go for it, if it’s something you love.”
The move down was rough. My brother, Craig, and I took my car (an 89 honda accord with a tied on front bumper and no radio) and my Nana had flown in from England to follow us down in the mini van with my Mum and Corey. It became a mini vacation and a memory I will always cherish.
After they left, and I was alone in my first apartment I remember crying for hours….I went to call some friends back home but they were all in school or busy which made it worse. It was the first time I didn’t have a support system near by and felt truly alone.
L.A. is definitely a culture shock, especially if you are from a small town. People come from all over the world to live here and pursue careers in the entertainment industry so it’s intimidating at first. Eventually, I made friends with common interests by going to free shows that I saw flyers for, auditing acting classes, getting into student films, etc. Now I feel like I have a wonderful group of talented friends with common interests outside of the entertainment industry. I think having the support of positive like-minded friends and colleagues is the key, to me, to survival in Los Angeles.
CH: You’ve just completed your first film Hypnotize Me as co-director – what was like to be behind the camera? Would you like to direct other features in the future?
CR: The whole process, from learning the technical aspect of directing/cinematography, to prepping the film, location scouting, casting, contracts, etc was amazing! I learned so much about myself as a performer as well as what looks good on camera and gained a much higher respect for just how difficult a job it is to direct, produce, and cast a feature.
Co-directing was so much fun, between Bear Badeaux and myself, we were able to collaborate exactly what we wanted out of each scene of the script. We were also fortunate enough to have cast such talented actors that were always prepared to give a great performance on set. Also, because it’s a comedy, we were able to leave room for improv, which kept it entertaining for everyone involved.
Would I direct again? Probably. My passion is acting, but there is something to be said about having an idea and making it come to life on screen in a collaboration with actors, camera operators and a crew that I really love. Maybe next time I will be able to explore directing something dark or dramatic, wherever my path takes me I guess…
CH: What kind of roles do you look for? Is there a genre you’d still like to explore?
CR: I look for roles that I think will be a challenge. I love that feeling of exhaustion at the end of a day of filming. That “wow, I gave it my all and now I can barely move” feeling. Recently, I discovered I like auditioning for movies that were once books/novels because I enjoy reading and respect authors for their ability to fully develop characters and plot.
A role I would love to play would be the lead in a quirky romantic comedy because I am such a sap for them myself. However, I tend to get cast as a victim a lot which has been fun. Each time I try to take it to a darker place and expand. One day, I would like to explore playing the opposite though, maybe a serial killer or something psychotic.
CH: Has there been a project you’re extremely proud of being a part of?
CR: “Hypnotize Me” which is still in post. Whatever the final product is, I know that we (cast, crew, the entire town of Thibodaux and Chackbay LA) put our hearts into it 100%.
CH: Do you prefer making movies or tv shows?
CR: It’s hard to say because I have never really experienced being a series regular or recurring character on a tv show. Right now, I am enjoying movies because I feel like the whole process is much slower so you get to really explore your character. I would imagine being a regular cast member on a show would be the same.
CH: What advice would you give to other actors wishing to make it in the industry?
CR: It’s a roller coaster but don’t give up. If it’s something you truly love and are willing to commit 100% to then it’s worth it! Get involved in student projects, shorts, low budget features, build relationships and be willing to act for free BECAUSE you love it. Stay positive and celebrate every good audition as a victory, every callback as a win and when you book you will be grateful for every second you are on set! Perseverance is key.
CH: What is Crystal Rivers doing next?
CR: Currently, I am playing a recurring super hero character on a web series called “Heroine Legends,” am filming a feature called “Awesome Girl Gang Street Fighter,” and just shot a pilot pitch for MTV. Between all of that we are doing post for “Hypnotize Me” and are hoping to have it out next year!
Find out more about Crystal on www.imdb.me/crystalrivers and check out her latest clips below.
~ Swamp Volcano
Vaskar S. Kayastha is Cult Hub’s contributing film writer focusing on blockbuster movies as well as independent and world cinema. Vaskar graduated with a BA (Hons) in English which focused on the Classics, Medieval, Shakespearean and Ancient Literature. He also has a keen interest in Photography, History, Technology, Theology, Poetry, Ballet, Art, riding his Vespa and eating Gelato. Vaskar is also the Creative Director for TheStyleColumn - a portal for showcasing talented new fashion designers as well as covering global fashion weeks. Find out more about Vaskar on his blog or follow him on twitter.