"It was surreal," she recalls of learning she'd won the Sundance honor. "I've never won anything performance-based. For me, winning is getting a job."
The role of Ashley was an opportunity for Adams to show a side of herself she hadn't revealed in her previous work, which most notably includes "Catch Me If You Can", in which she plays Leonardo DiCaprio's adoring fiancée, Brenda. "Here it was supposed to be my big break," she says of Catch Me. "And I was unemployed for a year after that. So it's not always what it appears. Looking in, you're, like, 'She's worked with Spielberg,' but I'm, like, 'Um, guys, I need to pay my rent. I need to figure something out.' So there are a lot of little breaks, but I think it's having the perseverance to understand that it's about a body of work and not one particular project."
Adams acknowledges she's had genuine strokes of luck along the way, but her success as an actor has been anything but overnight. For the past ten years, she's been pursuing acting in Los Angeles, where she continues to work with acting teacher Warner Laughlin. Adams has appeared in numerous guest-starring roles on television and in the films "Serving Sara", "Pumpkin", "The Slaughter Rule", "Cruel Intentions 2", and "Psycho Beach Party".
Before arriving in L.A., she spent six years in dinner theatre, first in her native Colorado, then in Minnesota—time Adams remembers fondly. "They were great years. I loved it," she says. "There's such a work ethic involved in theatre that you can't learn in L.A…. Working eight shows a week in the round—there is nothing like it in L.A., that's for sure."
Adams' first break was landing a part in the comedy "Drop Dead Gorgeous", filmed in Minnesota, where she was cast. After she had a good experience on that film and met people in the industry, Adams decided to move to L.A., where she was quickly introduced to manager Stacy Boniello of "The Firm". "I had a cousin who lived out here [whose] friend was represented by her, and, basically, [Boniello] took a meeting with me to sort of be nice to the friend. I think she called New Line, which I had worked with on "Drop Dead Gorgeous", and I guess they said some positive things, and so she decided to work with me during pilot season."
The next stroke of fortune was when Boniello recommended Adams to her first agent, Leanne Coronel at Endeavor. "[Boniello] said, 'I've got this girl I think we should send out and see what happens.' Leanne hadn't even met me because she was on bed rest or something, but she was, like, 'Okay. Let's do it.' So they sent me out, and I got a pilot that year." Adams continues to work with both reps and says Boniello's support has been critical. "I couldn't have stayed as long as I've stayed—with the ups and downs—without her."
While a lot of things came easily to Adams, she recalls having difficulty adapting to the cutthroat nature of Hollywood. "In the theatre environment, it's so familial," says Adams. "I thought that's just how everybody was: Everybody's supportive, and we all rise together. I really thought that, and it took a long time for me to realize that's not necessarily the case. It took me a long time to wrap my head around [the idea] that actors are commodities, it's not always performance-based, and there's so much business involved in it."
Most actors in Adams' current position would be looking to lobby for a choice part in a bigger film with a bigger paycheck. While having financial security sounds nice, Adams is pursuing a different route: at the time of our first interview (July 2005), she was set to fly to New York for a callback in a Broadway musical.
"My dancing needs a little work," she admits, adding that she's honored just to be invited to audition. As for her long-term goals as an actor, she says, "I want to work. I want to do good work in films that I care about…. I just want to always be able to represent myself honestly and to be proud of the work that I'm doing."
Clearly, her attitude needs no work.
Source: Back Stage West