Tag Archives: Emma Stone

La La Land

11 Jan

Can I tell you a secret? 

I was avoiding going to see La La Land.

I know.

And not because I didn’t think I’d enjoy it. In fact, it’s totally my kind of movie. A musical starring two of my favorite actors – clearly a winner. But I was scared.

I was scared because I am getting ready to leave the real La La Land, and I thought it might hurt. A film that I’ve heard described as a love letter to LA. A film showcasing some of the most beautiful locations in Los Angeles. A film about aspiring artists, struggle in the City of Angels, creativity, hope, and finding your own way. A film that just might tug at the heart strings of a girl who tried to give La La Land her best. 

And I was right. It was beautiful, it was my kind of movie, and it broke my heart. 

I have to give it up for Damien Chazelle and the creators of this gorgeous film because they nailed it. They told my story. The story of every actor who came to LA with a dream – every interrupted audition, every draining day job, every frustrating minute stuck in traffic, every awkward moment trying to promote yourself, every rude question about what you are doing with your life, every ounce of doubt that makes you think “maybe I’m not good enough,” every YES that just might change your life. It’s exhausting! It’s exhilarating! It’s Los Angeles. 

And I’m leaving it behind. 

After almost five years, the allure of LA has dimmed, and I realized I was ready to move on. But then this movie ignited some of the old excitement. It made me question my choices. It made me wonder if I truly gave it all I had. Total gut punch. No one likes to question their decisions once they’ve already been made, right?

But I’ve been doing it – reassessing, going over all the options. Driving myself mad. But you know what? The same truths that brought me to the original decision to leave… they’re still true. I love the idea of LA. The real LA? It’s not the same thing. It’s easy to romanticize, sure. Like in a gorgeous movie musical that looks like a glorious dream sequence from one of the classics. (Good job, Mr. Chazelle.) But it’s not the reality, it’s not what it feels like day to day. Truthfully, I never fell in love with Los Angeles, the city. I loved things about it… good friends, the gorgeous view of the San Fernando Valley from Universal that will forever be etched in my mind, passing movie studios every day on my way to work… at a movie studio, new opportunities to explore all the time. There is a lot to enjoy. But it never really became my home. And as much as I love adventure, I also need home. I want both. 

So, we are closing this chapter. And it’s bittersweet. But just because I’m leaving LA doesn’t mean I am leaving my dreams here too. They have grown, expanded, shifted. Yes, I still want to be an actress. That will never change. But I want to get back to my roots – the stage. I want a fantastic theatre community where I can invest myself. A place where I might truly be able to impact people. I also know the Southern market for film and television is booming. Hollywood is not just in Hollywood anymore – not really. So, I can keep looking for my shot. Even more, I want to focus on relationships, family, community, and the things that were made so much more challenging in LA. Quality of life. I want to thrive instead just surviving. And Nashville feels like the perfect place to do it. How exciting! 

I might be leaving the City of Stars, but it will always be a part of me, a risk I’ll never regret taking. And maybe one day we will be back,  but for now I will just be thankful for the opportunities, experiences, and even grander capacity for dreaming that I found in La La Land. 

Speaks To Me Sunday #43

13 Mar

Anyone else? 

This quote reminds me of a hilarious interview with Emma Stone that I saw a while back. She was talking about how, at any point, she could jump out of her chair and run around like a crazy person. That any of us are capable of that. We just choose not to. 

We just choose not to! 

Isn’t that weird to think about? Daily, we have a choice about what kind of person we will be, what we will do. Today I could strut into the mall and start singing showtunes at the top of my lungs. I could order a bunch of food at a restaurant and proceed to throw dishes at the walls. I could wander into the grocery store and do cartwheels up and down the aisles. But I won’t. 

It’s amazing that we have all these feelings, emotions, and possibilities inside each of us. Some good, some bad, some just a little silly… We are in charge of which pieces we let out. 

Sometimes I want to destroy everything, but I’m a good girl. So I don’t. But sometimes it’s empowering to know that I have all this possibility inside me, and I get to decide how I use it. 

I want to use that power, but not to destroy. To build, to create, to help, to love, to leap fearlessly into the life I want.

How do you want to use your power?

Let’s hear it! Comment or find me on Twitter or Instagram: @JoannaHackman.


Top 10 North American Actresses

21 Apr

So, I’ve had these “Top 10” lists running through my brain for a little while.  I have been trying to get to know myself better… as a person and an artist.  (Maybe that sounds silly, but I think it’s important to know your own mind. The things you like and the things you want for yourself.  I know who “Joanna” is essentially, but I wanted to break it down a bit – the little things that make me who I am.) I started thinking about the people I admire and aspire to be like in the industry, the kinds of roles I’d love to play and the films I wish I could have been a part of, the directors I’d like to guide me, the writers whose words I’d like to speak, the actors with whom I’d like to share the silver screen.  What inspires me to be better, drives me to work harder, incites me to action?  That’s what my “Top 10” lists are helping me to find out.

I’m starting this off with what might be the most important category for me since I am a “North American actress” (so named for the one Canadian) and these women are my peers. In no particular order, these are 10 women who have  incredible careers, ridiculous talent, and a whole lot of respect from this girl.


 Meryl Streep (born: 1949 in New Jersey)


  • Favorite Roles: Joanna in Kramer vs. Kramer; Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada; Donna in Mamma Mia!
  • Why: Why Meryl is in my top ten actresses just seems so obvious to me it feels silly to explain!  One of the most prolific women of the silver screen, she has been nominated for more Oscar and Golden Globe awards than any other actor in history.  She seems to truly live in each role she takes on, and I admire that so much. Meryl says she can always be found in the characters she portrays – you can always see her.  This encourages me to bring more of myself to my acting work, and to stop hiding the things I count as imperfections.  According to her, the great secret of acting is to give up – You do your best when you relinquish control.  More great advice from Meryl: “Don’t get discouraged.” and “Don’t mix up the criticism or rejection of the work with the criticism or rejection of you as a human being.”  This is one inspiring and classy lady.

 Emma Stone (born: 1988 in Arizona)


  • Favorite Roles: Olive in Easy A; Hannah in Crazy, Stupid, Love; Skeeter in The Help
  • Why:  I already have a full blog post dedicated to Emma and my hope that one day we will be best friends.  I think she is smart, funny, and adorable.  I have so much respect for the way she has chosen to handle her career as well as the acting choices she has made.  It fuels me so much to see all she has done, knowing we are the same age.  A few favorite quotes: “I can’t think of any better representation of beauty than someone who is unafraid to be herself and “What sets you apart can sometimes feel like a burden and it’s not.  And a lot of the time, it’s what makes you great.”  Emma is the perfect combination of savvy and sassy.

Anna Kendrick (born: 1985 in Maine)


  • Favorite Roles:  Natalie in Up in the Air; Beca in Pitch Perfect; Katherine in 50/50
  • Why:  Starting in theatre as a kid, Anna has been in the business most of her life.  She is the kind of actress who always brings something extra to the roles she plays – big or small.  On top of that, she appears to be completely grounded and focused on remaining humble –An actor should always let humility outweigh ambition.”  From her witty tweets to her awkwardly funny characters, I seriously enjoy the fact that Anna finds the humor in pretty much everything.  Quoted saying, “I actually love actresses who look like they feel really natural. I like Patricia Clarkson, Laura Linney, Frances McDormand. Those are actresses where the second they show up on screen you’re like, oh my gosh, this movie just got so much better.” That is exactly how I feel about Anna. 

 Jennifer Lawrence (born: 1990 in Kentucky)


  • Favorite Roles:  Tiffany in Silver Linings Playbook; Ree in Winter’s Bone; Katniss in The Hunger Games
  • Why:  She is America’s latest sweetheart – with a twist.  Jennifer is known for being off-beat, quirky, and charmingly candid.  Whether she’s got a role in a powerful Indie film or a pop-culture phenomenon, she seems to bring equal parts strength and vulnerability to the characters she plays.  There is something so natural about her, and the whole world is waiting to see what she’ll do next.  (No pressure, Jen) Of her acting style she says, “I don’t invest any of my real emotions.  I don’t take any of my characters’ pain home with me, I don’t even take it to Craft services.  I’ve never been through anything my characters have been through.  And I can’t go looking for roles that are exactly like my life.  I just use my imagination.”  As well as, “I never felt like I completely, 100% understood anything so well as acting.”  This girl is the one to watch. 

 Michelle Williams (born: 1980 in Montana)


  • Favorite Roles: Alma in Brokeback Mountain; Cindy in Blue Valentine; Marilyn Monroe in My Week With Marilyn
  • Why:  Despite her obvious talent and success, Michelle usually seems to fly under the radar.  (Sounds smart to me!)  She has breathed life into some fantastic characters, and has a very truthful, articulate way of describing her journey as an actor.  Michelle is so fully present and committed in each role that she is always mesmerizing to watch.  In opposition to many actresses on this list, Michelle hopes that she is “nowhere to be seen” when she develops her characters.  I admire the way she chooses to push herself – “I find myself saying this all the time during every movie I make, “Why is this is so hard?” And I realize, yes it is. Every movie I make I find kind of excruciating. I get a lot back from it, but I feel like I’m kind of always working at the edge of my ability. I guess that’s what I’m looking for when I go to work. I am trying to become the edge.  An actress and a woman well worth the time. 

 Jessica Chastain (born: 1977 in California)


  • Favorite Roles: Celia in The Help; Maggie in Lawless; Maya in Zero Dark Thirty
  • Why:  Jessica is about as versatile as they come.  She has played such a wide variety of roles, and she is believable in every single one.  Her unique look, serious acting chops, and charisma shot her straight to the top in the acting world.  To her, acting is all about human connection.  I admire her words so much that I am just going to let her speak for herself!  “If I don’t continue to challenge myself and risk failure, I have no business being an actor. I’m not an actor to be a personality. I want to see every part I take like a master class. And you know what? I’m going to fail sometimes. And that’s OK. Because when you fail, you learn more. What an important thing to learn, actor or not.  “I always want to keep doing different things; I don’t want to just concentrate on film. The most important thing for me is being an actor. Film, theatre, television – that’s the career I want. Actresses have so many ups and downs, and we’re not always given wonderful choices. So I always want to find great characters. If that character’s on television or stage, I’m going to go there.”  I find this woman so inspiring.  I hope to emulate her passion and fearlessness.

Anne Hathaway (born: 1982 in New York)


  • Favorite Roles: Kym in Rachel Getting Married;  Lureen in Brokeback Mountain; Fantine in Les Miserables
  • Why: With a truly diverse resume, Anne seems to have done it all.  Smart, poised, and well-spoken, she is a star with staying power.  I have enjoyed seeing her career progress and change over the years.  I respect her drive and work-ethic as well as her talent.  On being an actress she says, “I love working and feeling satisfied when I know I have literally given all the energy that I have” and “I got into this business to be an actress, to scare myself and force myself into a place outside of my comfort zone.”  Wise words.  There will always be interesting things to look forward to from Anne. 

Rachel McAdams (born: 1978 in Canada)


  • Favorite Roles:  Regina George in Mean Girls; Allie in The Notebook; Colee in The Lucky Ones
  • Why:  Rachel is one of the first actresses I truly admired as I began to label myself as an actor.  She continues to inspire me because despite her ups and downs in the business, she has never been forgotten.  People want to see her succeed and they love to watch her.  Some important things for her as an actor are living a normal life, having chemistry with her fellow actors, and being selective about the roles she takes on.  Going against the grain from what (I think) most actors feel, she has said, I love auditioning. Since ‘The Notebook’ and ‘Wedding Crashers,’ I don’t have to audition anymore, and I miss it. You get to show your interpretation of the character. I get nervous when I don’t audition. What if they hate what I want to do?”  This encourages me to view auditions in a more positive light, and make bold choices.  She also said, I have a certain curiosity for life that drives me and propels me forward.”  I want to choose to be as curious as Rachel.

 Emmy Rossum (born: 1986 in New York)


  • Favorite Roles:  Fiona Gallagher in Shameless; Christine in Phantom of the Opera; Ridley in Beautiful Creatures
  • Why:  With the goal of career longevity, Emmy follows her heart when it comes to choosing which roles to play.  She wants to work only on the best things and with the best people.  A brilliantly talented actress and singer, she shines in each role she chooses.  I like that she has many different interests, and that she doesn’t limit herself to just one thing.  When it comes to her acting style she says, I’m heavy on preparation . . . Some actors come to the set and don’t know what scene they’re playing, but that would make me crazy. It’s not about control but perfectionism–my biggest vice and one of my biggest assets.”  I feel like this is something I can relate to because preparation is essential to me, and I have my own love/hate relationship with perfectionism.  The work that Emmy puts into her characters is clear because she seems to become each role so fully.  I also enjoyed her thoughts on René Descartes’ theory about a ball of wax. (You can change its form from solid to liquid, but it’s still the same ball of wax.) – “With acting, you are the same person in a different form. You can only be what you know, and you only truly know yourself.”  Bringing something of yourself into a role is not really optional, but you can shape it into something different.  I love the way Emmy uses that to her advantage. 

 Vera Farmiga (born: 1973 in New Jersey)


  • Favorite Roles: Madolyn in The Departed; Alex in Up in the Air; Norma Bates in Bates Motel
  • Why:  Vera and I have something special in common – How we began our acting careers.  “What happened is that I ended up getting benched in soccer in high school so I tried out for the school play and I got the lead role. Then I just stuck with it.” (The same thing happened to me, but in 7th grade).  Ukrainian-American Vera is a powerful presence on film.  She has had quite a bit of success without ever having to compromise on the kinds of characters she wants to portray.  She says, “As an actor, you’re sort of the court-appointed lawyer of the character.  And that’s what used to draw me to scripts — something in a woman that I wanted to defend, something that I recognized or wanted to understand, something that turned my head.”  I find her to be strong, intelligent, and confident in the way she handles her life and career.  This woman seems to have her priorities straight; which is a big deal when Hollywood makes it so easy to become distracted.  “I really don’t feel a need to be famous. But I do feel a need to make a difference, to shed light on human emotion through acting.”  One more thing Vera and I have in common.

I respect, admire, and adore each of these women.  I intend to learn from them and make wise career moves,  passionate acting choices, and fantastic films.  These wonderful actresses are going to be around for quite some time, and I only hope I’ll have the chance to work with them one day.

My Best Friend, Emma Stone

9 Jul

The only thing I have ever wanted to do is perform.  That dream has taken many different shapes throughout my life, like: a Broadway diva, a pop icon recording artist, a fabulous movie star, and even a trainer/performer at Sea World.  I wanted to do it all.  Really, I still want to do it all.  What it comes down to is the desire to make art.  And not just art, but good art.  I want to tell stories that need to be told, make people think, tap into an audience’s emotions, or even just give them a break from every day life through a good laugh or two.  This is what I want to do with my life.

As an actor, there are a lot of amazing people who influence and inspire me.  People who have careers that I admire and aspire to.  One of my favorites is my best friend, Emma Stone.

Okay, okay.  So, Emma Stone is not actually my best friend, but I really wish she was!  Emma is someone I admire as an actor, role model, and person.  Here are the reasons why I love her, and why I think we would have a beautiful friendship:

  • We were born 11 days apart.  Seriously, that close in age.  I respect the work she has done, and even more so knowing just how young she is.
  • When she was 15, she made a powerpoint presentation to convince her parents to let her move to L.A. to pursue an acting career.  Gutsy and spunky.  The powerpoint is totally something I would have done.  Man, why didn’t I think of that?!
  • She got her start in musical theatre – just like me!
  • We are both self admitted criers.
  • “It’s a scary thing for a woman to put yourself out there and look like an idiot. Look at Lucille Ball. She said, ‘I’m not funny. What I am is brave’. The comediennes I admire are the bravest people who aren’t afraid to look ridiculous. Maybe that’s a harder notion for women – the fear of not looking their best.”  — I want to be brave like this. My whole life I have feared looking ridiculous and failing. This is something I want to work towards.
  • I truly admire her sense of humor and the way she laughs at herself.
  • “Confidence is the only key. I know a lot of people who aren’t traditionally ‘beautiful’ – not symmetrical or perfect-bodied or perfect-skinned. But none of that matters because all that shines through is their confidence, humor and comfort with themselves. I can’t think of any better representation of beauty than someone who is unafraid to be herself.” — What a woman!!!
  • I remember very distinctly the moment I truly decided I wanted to pursue film over theatre.  I was sitting in the movie theatre watching The Help, and Emma Stone came on screen.  She was just driving a convertible… that’s all.  Nothing had really happened yet (I had read the book previously), but I just started crying.  I was completely overwhelmed with the feeling of that is what I want to do. I want to make movies.
  • Her resume is awesome.  I would seriously do pretty much everything she has done.  I enjoy her in all of her movies, and I think she has made very wise career decisions.
  • MTV created a new award to give to her at their movie awards.  They named her a trailblazer.  He whole speech was awesome, but this is my favorite part: “Those people are my creative trailblazers, but I’m not following any of their paths, and what’s incredible about them is they help make me want to be more myself because they’re all originals. And I hope that you’ll find your trailblazers. And, trust me, I do not need to be one of them. I probably shouldn’t be one of them, but that you’ll continue to harness your own originality and what makes you unique ’cause I know that when you’re a teenager — sometimes when you’re an adult — what sets you apart can sometimes feel like a burden and it’s not. And a lot of the time, it’s what makes you great.”  


Emma Stone is definitely one of my trailblazers, and maybe one day she’ll be my best friend, too.