Grand Rapids Born, Manistee Native is Making Waves in Hollywood.
Q & A with Toni Trucks
Q: Tell us a little about yourself.
A: First and foremost, I am a proud Manistee native. I was born in Grand Rapids but was raised “Up North” as they say. My parents both still live and work in the Manistee area as well. I built a wonderful foundation as a performer in Manistee. At age seven, I did my first play at the Ramsdell Theatre, a historic treasure in our town. I took dance, drama, and singing. I also watched many movies at The Vogue Theatre (another local treasure). My work in high school theatre finally led me to Interlochen Arts camp which then led me to spend my senior year at the Academy. My Interlochen training helped me to be one of 10 girls selected into the University of Michigan’s Musical Theatre program. While at Michigan, I took time to study acting in London and spent my off months working summer stock at the Music Theatre of Wichita. Upon college graduation, I moved to New York to pound the pavement as a performer. Since then I have traveled as far as Bulgaria for my job but for the most part, I now split my time between Los Angeles and New York doing film, television and stage work.
Q: Did you always wan’t to be an actor? What childhood experiences led you toward acting as a career?
A: I absolutely ALWAYS wanted to perform! I love having an audience. I love singing and creating characters. I think I drove my relatives crazy because every family gathering turned into a live stage show. To this day my cousin Amy and I do a Christmas presentation. When I was seven, my dad took me to see my first play at the Ramsdell Theatre. We sat in the balcony, which is his favorite place to sit. We saw The Most Happy Fella starring your dad– the unforgettable Dominic Naffie. I remember being so impressed with his comfort on stage, such an easy and inviting performer. During one of the scenes, a local girl a little older than me walked across stage carrying a cake. For some reason, I had no idea that kids could do plays. I wanted to be up there so badly. I asked my dad right away if I could be in a play. At intermission he found out that auditions for Sweet Charity were the next day. My dad took me, I got the part, and the rest is history. I think kids naturally grow out of their desire for “play and pretend”… I never did.
Q: How did growing up in Manistee influence your pursuit of acting?
A: I was surrounded by incomparable teachers and a joyful community of people that always told me “YES” and cheered me on! I am so lucky to have been exposed to the creativity and energy of my teachers. They impact me still today. When you are young, you think anything is possible. Manistee continues to shout that truth in my ear no matter how far away I am. For that I will be forever grateful.
Q: How do music, the visual arts, and literature influence your work as an actor? Was it important that you were introduced to the arts in school?
A: As an actor, we are asked to tell other people’s stories every day. So you have to sit in their seat and be able to truthfully convey what the world looks like from their point of view, whether you agree or not. This takes a totally open mind. Give yourself permission to be wowed and inspired regularly. My brother often introduces me to new music, and it is such a gift. My life was influenced so greatly by my teachers. Being exposed to the arts every day in school was the key. We celebrated both the math wiz and the painters all under one roof. This is the way the world should and must be taught.
Q: When and how did you get your first break?
A: In the entertainment industry you get a lot of “First Breaks”. It can be up and down in a blink of an eye. I have many “first break” stories. My first television break came during my time in New York. While performing the lead in Two Gentlemen of Verona, I sent a tape to Los Angeles for a new TV show on Showtime. It was my first television audition. I didn’t hear anything for two weeks. Then I got a call. I was flown to LA on my one day off for a screen test. Two auditions later, I had the job and was moving to Los Angeles. It was a BIG change. I went from a dressing room in the basement to my own trailer on the Paramount Lot in Hollywood. Looking back, it was a very exciting time. It all happened so fast. I did feel a bit like Cinderella.
Q: You have a background in musical theater. Do you see yourself someday performing on Broadway in a musical?
A: YES! All I ever wanted was to work on Broadway. It was my first love. All of my training was for the musical theatre world. My career took an exciting turn the other way, but I do still hope to one day do Broadway.
Q: What has been your favorite role so far?
A: I have gone from secretary to vampire, to doctor and back again. This is the fun of my job. I think if I had to choose, it would be “Anita” from West Side Story. It is such a rich, beautiful play. Anita is just dripping with fire and passion. You also see her through a wide range of emotions over the course of the play. It is very fulfilling as an actor. After a performance, you are exhausted in the best way possible.
Q: How do you stay centered?
A: It’s the everyday things that help me stay centered, happy and healthy. For example, going to the gym and grocery store brings me joy. People joke that I am always at the post office. I do love the post office. I also talk to my parents on the phone a lot. They help keep everything in perspective.
Q: What advice do you have for young people who want to pursue the dramatic arts?
A: In Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Outliers” he talks about what is believed to be the “magic number for true expertise: 10,000 hours” That is, 10,000 hours of practice to achieve a level of mastery in anything.” My advice: GO TO SCHOOL!!! Please train your body and mind. Sharpen all of the tools in your tool box so that you will be ready for anything a director asks. In today’s world we celebrate the 15 minutes of fame game. We are used to getting the fast food talent. I call it “McTalent.” I started training when I was seven years old. I am still learning today and still counting my 10,000 hours. Tick tock, people!
Q: When do we get to see you again on screen or television?
A: I co-star in the Fox Searchlight film “Ruby Sparks”. This dramedy comes from the directors of “Little Miss Sunshine” and has an all-star cast including Paul Dano, Annette Bening, Antonio Benderas and Zoe Kazan. Nov. 16th I will appear in the final installment of the Twilight Saga: “Breaking Dawn Part 2”, as Mary, one of the American Nomadic Vampires. And finally, look for “Made in Jersey,” the new CBS legal drama premiering in early September. We will air every Friday night at 9pm.
Toni Trucks IN TEN
When did you know what you wanted to be when you grew up? I always wanted to be in front of people and entertaining. I was always taking over family gatherings with a “Show” of some kind. I think I settled on the idea of being a performer at the age of six.
What’s your favorite song to listen to right now? I currently am listening to the Gotye song : “Somebody That I Used To Know” but its not by choice, its just playing everywhere. It is a great song though.
Favorite restaurants? I am a major foodie. I travel A LOT so my favs are spread out.
- Los Angeles Favorite: KyoCho (pronounced Ko -Yo- Chon) Korean Fried chicken will rock your life. TRY it at least once.
- New York City: Shake Shack This is a major guilty pleasure.
- If you are looking for an AMAZING MEAL go to San Francisco. My SF Favorite is YANK SING. Its has the best Dim Sum in the city.
- ALSO in San Francisco is Fleur De Lys. It is a once in a lifetime meal. Its run by the french chef Hubert Keller. Pricey but SO WORTH IT!
Do you have any tattoos? (if no – if you had to have a tattoo to save another person’s life what would that tattoo be?) It would read “This tattoo saved someone’s life. What did your’s ever do?”
Favorite cause? HEAD START. This a program that helps low income children have a preschool experience that prepares them for a successful education, career, and life. It is a part of the War On Poverty program that Johnson put into place nearly 50 years ago and is one of the most successful anti poverty programs to date.
Most desired super power? FLIGHT…Its sounds cliche but I just really don’t care for airport security.
What are you reading? Currently I am reading scripts for my new series MADE IN JERSEY on CBS. We premiere Sept 28th at 9pm so we are in thick of filming.
Cream, sugar or both? Neither. No additives.
What’s your claim to fame? I want it to be falling in public but I don’t think its caught on yet.
Paper or plastic? Paper if I have to but I try to go for cloth.
Facebook or Twitter? I get more love on twitter. @tonitrucks But you can find me at both. I have them linked.
Best toppings for an ice cream sundae? HOT FUDGE!
Something you haven’t done yet that you plan to do someday?
Perform on Broadway and travel to Japan.
Your favorite drink? I’m all about water and green tea. If I’m in for a treat, I go for a Cherry Italian Soda…extra cherry!
Favorite thing(s) to dress up in? Pajamas!
Most cherished possession? Two rescue cats. Keenan Ivory Wayans and Lady Chubby Muffin Chops
Ever snoop in other people’s medicine cabinets? Yes, my father’s…Dad, why so many toothbrushes?
Where do you go to get away from it all? The couch works just fine for me.
What’s your most delightful guilty pleasure in Michigan? Getting subs from Big Al’s Pizza in Manistee, MI my hometown. Also SUPERMAN ice cream. YUM.
What’s your favorite room in your home? I just moved to NYC and my kitchen is painted a great Yellow color (Sweet Chamomile). It has beautiful french doors and a 1950’s RCA stove. Its brings me joy everyday.
Hidden Talent? I can talk with my mouth closed… but you gotta see it to believe it.
What’s the kookiest thing in your purse right now? Dental Floss. Its a must.
What’s one thing you wished we would have asked you? Current Passion Projects: I am helping to raise money to restore my hometown movie house THE VOGUE THEATRE. It is a beautiful Art Deco Theatre that was built in 1938. I started a t-shirt campaign called “Made In Manistee” to celebrate the places, people, and products that come out of Manistee. ALL proceeds go to help restore The Vogue. Find out more at www.voguetheatremanistee.org.
Little Known Toni Trucks Relative Facts:
She is a cousin of guitarist Derek Trucks as well as the Allman Brothers percussionist, Butch Trucks.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Jennie Marie Naffie is a Women’s LifeStyle associate publisher and publishes Women’s LifeStyle Northshore each month. About her interview with Toni Trucks, Jennie says, “She is as genuine as she is talented and beautiful.” Connect with Jennie at womenslifestylenorthshore.com.