It’s a cold, bleak, rainy day outside at the Grove in Los Angeles, and the downpour has driven everyone into shelter until the latest torrent passes. Inside the Marmalade Café patrons pleasantly pass the time with a bit of coffee and a late brunch. Here it’s safe and, more importantly, dry. Outside, the inclement weather has painted everything in muted tones the way that only heavy rain can, as well as flooded streets and snarled traffic, making it nearly impossible to get to appointments on time. But then a vibrant streak of color brushes across the dull canvas outside and Desiree Hall rushes in, with her striking red hair and a smile so bright you could see it in the dark. She apologizes profusely for being late, and it’s hard not to be moved by her genuineness, but after being held by her fathomless gaze for a few moments, the wait was worth it. She orders a cup of coffee and settles in for a long conversation.
Technically, Desiree Hall has been acting since she was a child. “I did little shows and stuff when I was in elementary school and whatever, but when I was about 12 I think I kinda got serious about it,” she says. Growing up in a suburb of Nashville, Tennessee, there wasn’t much opportunity for a young, aspiring actor, so Hall took what she could get, which was modeling and small projects, like music videos. It was in college, however, that Hall pursued acting in earnest. Since then, she’s been acting long enough that she’s lost track of the years. “I don’t know; it’s been a long time.”
Making the decision to become a professional actor, of course, wasn’t easy. “When I was in college,” she says, “all of our professors…said ‘if there’s anything else that lights you up, that you’re passionate about, that you can be happy doing, do that.’ Do it, because it’s tough.” So while Hall has dozens of national commercials under her belt, acting credits in several popular television shows like NCIS , Teen Wolf and Intelligence, and now a lead role in the recent film comedy Best Night Ever, she understands that every achievement is hard won.
“I like how challenging it is,” Hall says after a pensive pause, “but I do wish that it was maybe a little easier to figure out, because like lately I’ve had really great auditions, but then you don’t book things…all of your self-worth – it’s very easy to make it fall solely on the shoulders of your next gig. So sometimes that gets a little…” Unable to find the right word, she groans in frustration instead.
“It’s the endless pursuit. You really have to enjoy the chase, otherwise you’re going to be really unhappy,” she adds. “I mean for me, life is all about what can I do to be happy. To feel fulfilled. To think I’m having an impact somewhere. To grow as a person. So far acting has provided me with that.”
Yet the realities of being a contract player are never far off. “I do sometimes get a little fearful that, you know, what if that next job doesn’t come? What if I’m crazy for thinking I can do this? Because you don’t know; you’re going into rooms with people, trying to be yourself and show what you can do, but also give them what they want, but you don’t know what they want, so it’s this very weird situation to be in.”
“Am I good enough? I know that I am, I can do a lot of things, but you gotta give me a chance!” she pleads playfully. Fortunately, there are still people in the film industry who can recognize talent and they gave Hall that chance, which is how she got involved in the film Best Night Ever.
“When you get an audition,” she explains, “it will say who’s involved… And I recognized them, Aaron (Seltzer) and Jason (Friedberg) right away and I was like, ‘Oh, this could be fun.’” In this over-the-top, raunchy comedy, Hall plays Claire, who is about to get married. So her sister and friends throw her a bachelorette party in Las Vegas, but plans go awry, and the women quickly find themselves in absurd situations, like fleeing from a heavyset naked woman as she chases the women around a hotel. The scene Hall was asked to audition with, however, was one where Claire throws up. “It’s always weird to do something like that in an audition, because do they want me to mime throwing up? I don’t know, but I just went through it, did all the actions and got a callback.”
“I was so excited to do a comedy, because I’ve been wanting to do one, but most of my work had been dramatic so it’s really difficult to get somebody to believe you can do comedic stuff when you’ve only done dramatic stuff.” Yet, no matter how badly Hall wanted a comedy on her résumé, making smart decisions for her career is an ever-present concern, and there were aspects of the script that gave her pause. “The lap dancer scared me a little because I wasn’t sure how we were gonna handle…a pretend penis sitting on my head.” She laughs. Thankfully, while the film certainly toes the line of good taste for the genre, it doesn’t cross it. If nothing else, Best Night Ever showcases Hall’s comedic chops and her bulletproof commitment to a script.
Hall also had fond memories and kind words to share about her castmates. “Our friendship really blossomed; it kind of had to because we were in such close quarters. The four of us basically…had to share a tiny little dressing room… So we were just talking all the time.” She credits the filmmakers for putting together the right people. “Aaron and Jason, [first] they cast the parts well, but secondly, they made sure that we spent enough time together before we started – that there was a rapport. But then on top of that it’s just us acting. You sort of just have to jump into these situations with reckless abandon to make it work, because chemistry is something you can’t really fake… We laughed our heads off the entire time we were shooting.”
With coffee mugs drained and a break in the storm hovering above, it was a good time to part company, but not before finding out how Hall’s current journeyman experiences matched up to her expectations before arriving in Los Angeles. “You know what’s so weird?” she asks. “And this just occurred to me the other day. I had no idea what I was in for coming out here, pursuing this. When you’re so young and full of verve, like “Yeah, I’m gonna go out and kill it!” I don’t think that’s really what you’re thinking about. Like how is the industry going to be? For a long time it was about figuring out how can I get in? So, preconceived notions? I knew it was going to be hard. I didn’t exactly know what that meant, but I guess learning how to navigate these waters has been interesting.”
Follow Desiree Hall at her site: www.desireehall.com.
Read Working Author’s review of Best Night Ever.