This story appears in the Summer 2015 Issue of Eidé Magazine.
Story by Emily L. Foley
Photography by ALEX MARTINEZ | Styling by JABE MABREY | Makeup by FABIOLA for NARS at traceymattingly.com | Hair by BOBBY ELIOT using NEXXUS at tmg-la.com | Photo Assistant: RANAE | Shot on location at the W Los Angeles - West Beverly Hills hotel in Los Angeles.
Aca-scuse me? You haven’t seen the musical comedy Pitch Perfect? Not only is that a grievous situation that needs to be remedied — and quickly — but it also puts you in a fairly miniscule group of people. The 2012 sleeper hit focuses on the highs and lows of an all-girls collegiate a cappella group, and became a cultural phenomenon thanks to its offbeat humor, witty dialogue and catchy soundtrack. The film also put actress Anna Camp on the proverbial map. Despite turns in HBO’s “True Blood,” the first season of “The Mindy Project” and Season 4 of “Mad Men,” it was Camp’s portrayal of the uptight and fiercely competitive Aubrey Posen in Pitch Perfect that has given her the facial recognition members of Hollywood both covet and loathe. (Of course, the Southern-bred Camp is all class when it comes to being approached in public.)
“There was never a doubt in my mind that I could deliver those ‘aca-isms’,” laughs Camp about the film’s signature vernacular of adding the prefix of the word ‘a cappella’ to other words (see: aca-awesome, aca-awkward and the ever-popular aca-scuse me). And while Camp could have never predicted that the film would get a sequel (“I knew after I read the script this was different, and everyone was so perfectly cast that no matter what happened with the public reaction, it would always be something magical to me.”), she got to revisit the franchise and Aubrey this summer in Pitch Perfect 2. “It’s a great thing when you’re an actor to get to live with a character you love multiple times,” she says. “My character on ‘True Blood’ was picked up after several seasons off, so you get to see how you’ve grown and how you approach the character. And with Aubrey, I got to see how she has changed, and it’s such a blessing as an actor to do that.” That growth wasn’t reserved solely for the character, but was something Camp, as an actress, also got to experience. “I got to improvise a lot more in the second film,” Camp explains. “In the first one, I was the stick-in-the-mud who was very grounded … But in the second one, Liz (director Elizabeth Banks) gave me lots of freedom. There is a camp scene where I was giving orders, and I was able to riff and do all sorts of things. It was vaguely reminiscent of Parker Posey in Dazed and Confused and really, really fun.”
Those fun moments at work put life in perspective for the 32-year-old South Carolina native. “I know plenty of people in their 30s who don’t know what they want to do, and I feel very lucky that I am literally living my dream,” she says. But living your dream doesn’t mean an easy path, and anyone who has set their sights on Hollywood knows how challenging the industry can be. “There are so few good roles for women, so it’s a real competition to get those good parts,” Camp explains. “There’s a lot of rejection, so you have to love the chase of getting the role. If you don’t love the chase, you’re in the wrong business.” Camp shares that while the competition exists across the board, it is magnified dramatically for women, explaining that for every one script she reads featuring a complex, interesting female character, the next five feature women who are merely sex objects or “there to service the men, who are the main characters.”
Fortunately, Camp isn’t one to take adversity lying down. She’s recently stepped into the role of producer for the first time, because if you can’t find roles you want, why not create them yourself? “I just optioned a book with powerful female roles, and now I’m searching for a female writer and female director,” she says. “It’s really important to me to cast and work with women, so I [love that] by producing, I can create my own projects. I don’t want to be a slave to my agents calling me. I want to create my own work. I want to see more great roles for women.” But don’t think creating female jobs is enough to keep Camp occupied. She confesses, “I’m a workaholic. I come from a hardworking family and I want to always be doing something.” So while she works on her pet project, she’ll also be heading to Tennessee to shoot another film, doing reshoots of an independent film she recently wrapped (“I find that independent films have meatier roles for women, typically.”) and pitching a television show project. “All in a day’s work,” as they say. “I like to have my eggs in a million baskets or I feel like I’m being lazy,” she laughs.
Born and raised in Aiken, S.C. (where her parents still live and she still returns to visit when she goes “home”), Camp has that “Steel Magnolia” gene running deep. “I’m very proud of being from the South, and I think it helped make me a genuinely nice person,” she says. As for the “steel” part of the equation, it was her traditional Southern upbringing and constant support of her parents that taught her to never give up. “My parents supported me in all my acting classes and would drive me around after school and wait in parking lots for hours until rehearsals or auditions were over,” she shares. The next step was earning a degree from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts where she studied acting in depth and learned to speak in standard English, which explains her lack of a regional accent (“The twang still comes out from time to time,” she laughs). Of course, growing up in the South has also seeped into Camp’s closet and kitchen. “I can’t walk past a sundress I don’t fall in love with,” she laughs. “My mom was very Southern and only wore skirts and dresses, and raised me to be a very ladylike and feminine person — and I never want to lose that!” Her signature dishes are also decidedly Southern. “I make a really good bread pudding that is a Paula Deen recipe and uses Krispy Kreme doughnuts as the bread, and I serve it with pecan praline. People freak out for it,” she says. “I also make a supremely Southern chicken where I actually crush up barbecue-flavored potato chips and bread the chicken with that!” Luckily, Camp currently has someone to help with the taste testing. She and her boyfriend, fellow actor Skylar Astin, met while filming Pitch Perfect in 2012, and appeared publicly together for the first time the following summer. Now, the couple can often be seen walking red carpets together, and Astin, in particular, is quite fond of reffering up romantic photos and sentiments to Camp via his Instagram account. Camp tells us she’s “very fortunate to have a very loving relationship,” and often refers to Astin as her best friend (Astin seems partial to the term “soul mate” when referring to Camp on social media).
As for those she looks up to in the industry, she shares: “I’m a big fan of Naomi Watts. I think she’s an incredible actress, and I love the choices she makes. I’m also the biggest Kate Winslet fan. Her naturalism and strength are something to be admired in an actor, and they’re both strong women who are themselves and who take on incredibly great roles and seem to be fearless. I admire the work of fearless actresses.” It should be no surprise that a woman who demonstrates her own courage in her career would admire the greats who have similarly gone before her. Camp made her Broadway debut in 2008 in “A Country House,” and that same year she played alongside a much-buzzed about Daniel Radcliffe in the revival of the show “Equus.” And while much noise was made in the media about Radcliffe’s nudity, it was Camp who appeared alongside him in those nude scenes. A feat she says she would never have done for a film, but was willing to tackle for such a significant role and worthy show.
Earlier this year, she made her way back to the stage in the off-Broadway production of “Verite.” “I didn’t exactly plan to always go back to the stage, but I was aching to do a play, and when I read the script for ‘Verite,’ I thought ‘Man, I want to do this.’ It was a really fascinating journey for the lead character, and I wanted to become a better actor and being on stage is always the biggest challenge,” she explains. “You are really living a life in front of people for two hours, and it takes a lot of focus and energy and forces you to be so present. So while I don’t necessarily plan on always going back to live theater, if I see the right role, I will go fight for it.”