Liz Samuel is an actress, producer, and writer with a series now available online called MOMTRESS. She has two kids, ages 14 and 11 and they live in Montclair, NJ. Her daughter also performs but mainly in musicals and her son does voice-over work. They have appeared in a few commercials as a family. Liz’s series, MOMTRESS, is loosely based on her life a Mom and an actress juggling parenting and an acting career.
Tell us a little bit about your history. When did you start acting and how did you get to where you are now?
I have been acting for over 20 years but ‘professionally’ for about 10 years. I studied broadcast journalism at Syracuse University and after college worked very briefly in news, then moved into entertainment or ‘info-tainment’ television. I produced for networks such as VH1, MTV, NBC, Bravo and Lifetime. I was studying acting at night after producing all day and then made the switch to acting ‘full time’ once my kids were in school. I started booking commercials, indie films, and some tv shows and also found myself on the stage performing in theatre.
Photo still from Momtress
What was the spark for going off on your own and creating your own TV series?
A few years ago I was looking at my career and feeling like I wasn’t getting in the room to audition often enough for roles that were right for me so I decided to tell my story and to create my own work. I’m so glad I did! It opened up doors for me, created a platform to showcase my work and it was cathartic as well. I had lost my mother who was my biggest cheerleader and it was so sad to not be able to call her after every audition. I wrote that loss into the story of Momtress and it really resonated with people who have also dealt with deep loss.
You explore a lot of the challenges of being a mom actress in the series (many of which we can all relate to!). Can you give us a highlight of those and which do you personally feel is the most challenging?
Well in the series, you see me in a callback audition for a commercial and just as we’re getting going my cell phone rings and they urge me to answer it because it’s the school nurse. This has happened many times over the years where I am just getting to an audition and my kids need me. I am torn a lot of the time: be there after school to get them to activities or find a sitter who can drive them so I can go to auditions. Or in the case of a big film and being away from them for multiple days. I have to figure out how to schedule sitters and helpers because my husband is often traveling for work and I can’t rely on him to step in. I felt very guilty a few summers ago when I was on set for a few weeks and I couldn’t go on vacation with my kids and husband. He had to go away without me and I just FaceTimed in every day. It was a big opportunity and everyone was happy for me but as a mom, I’m always feeling guilty if I’m not 100% there all of the time.
Photo courtesy of Liz Samuel
What does a day in your life look like?
Oh wow, it really changes every single day but I’ll give you an example of a busy actress/producer day.
7am-get the kids out the door for school, walk the dog, do some laundry
9:30am-meet someone for coffee who I’ve either been neglecting because I’ve been so busy or it’s someone who has reached out to me to get ideas and inspiration because they too want to create their own series. 😉 Or juggle around my schedule because things change minute to minute!
11-12 get ready at home to leave for auditions/meetings in the city
12-1 commute to the city
1-3 auditions, maybe one or two and/or meeting with a potential creative partner for future projects
3-4 commute home
4-6 drive the kids all over town to their activities: soccer, voice lessons, dance, math tutor
6-7 make dinner
7-8 finish up homework with the kids if they need help
8-9 hang out with kids, catch up on things
9-10 bedtime for the kids
10-11 my husband and I try to catch up on TV together
Photo still from Momtress
What are your plans for the series and your career going forward?
I’m trying to find a platform to pick up the series and ultimately fund new episodes moving forward. I’d also like to parlay this into other acting jobs. I’m hoping that if more and more people watch it and enjoy it, I’ll be asked to audition for bigger projects/bigger series. I’d love to not only have my own series but also get cast and work with bigger players. It would be so awesome to work with a production company like Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine to develop projects where I will also get cast in them as well.
Are your children involved in acting? If not, how have you nurtured your creativity with them?
Yes, my daughter just performed in her first Off-Broadway musical this past weekend! She has been performing in school musicals for years and in community theater productions but this was the first time in NYC. My kids have auditioned for commercials since they were babies. My son used to do a lot of print modeling and now he does voice-overs occasionally. He’d rather be playing soccer though LOL But truthfully, I just want them to always know they can create whatever they’d like to, they can be creative with their hands, their minds, their words, their bodies. My daughter loves to dance and she loves to express herself that way. So we’ll see what they do with it in years to come.
Photo courtesy of Liz Samuel
What are some of your favorite things to do, places to go and events to attend with your kids that spark their creativity?
We love to travel as a family! My husband is British and we visit his family in London for Christmas every year. On the way to the UK we started making stopovers in other countries so my kids have been to Iceland, Norway, Ireland, Portugal, and England. We love exploring new cities together, eating new foods together, seeing sights they would never expect to see. Also, introducing them to people we meet when we are traveling. When we spark conversations with other travelers, I feel like it expands their horizons.
Photo courtesy of Liz Samuel.
I would say find an accountability partner. Someone who will hold you to 3 things a week that you must accomplish. They should check in with you to make sure you are fulfilling those goals. It’s really the way I got started with Momtress. I read the book Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert and told my acting coach that I had an idea for a series. He said, “Do it!” And weekly check-ins had me making sure I was following my dreams and fulfilling my goal. It was just baby steps but it got me moving. Also, don’t sit around and wait for things to come to you. Go speak to people who inspire you. Ask them questions, reach out to them for coffee. Keep doing something every single day towards your goal.
Finally, any good advice that you’ve received or words that have motivated you?
Just do it. If you can dream it, you can achieve it. Make things happen. Everyone has their own unique story to tell. And one of my fave quotes is “Be yourself, everyone else is taken.”-Oscar Wilde We put that one on my mom’s stone. She was an artist, a sculptor and a painter. She never worried about what people thought of her. She just kept creating.