The HBO Breakout Star: Amanda Crew

22Amanda_Crew_Refinery-2665_SIZED_CROPPhotographed by Rene & Radka.
She describes it as the "swan effect" — the process of going through hair, makeup, and wardrobe to eventually emerge as Monica, the assistant to fictional billionaire Peter Gregory on Silicon Valley. But, when we met Amanda Crew, it became apparent that the 28-year-old actress — and only female series regular on Mike Judge's breakout HBO show — is selling herself short with that description. The British Columbia-born brunette was quick to identify herself as awkward, kind of goofy, and one of the guys, but sit down for a few minutes with her (or watch her pose in Marissa Webb or Edun for the camera) and it becomes clear that there's a whole other side to her as well.
Relatively speaking, Crew has only been L.A. for a short time, moving here about six years ago to pursue bigger acting roles. And, while she's appeared across screens for more than a decade now (you'll perhaps recall her roles in Final Destination 3, Sex Drive, Charlie St. Cloud, or Whistler for any fans of Canadian team dramas) it's her latest work in the Emmy-nominated HBO comedy that's placed her on Hollywood's radar like never before. But, don't even think about writing off her success as a bit of makeup magic. This star has got the chops — and the infectious charm — to keep her success story soaring.

What are some things you've learned about acting since you've started doing it professionally?
“It’s so easy to focus on what you haven’t achieved, what you haven’t accomplished, and just get frustrated when you’re not getting those things. You never take the moment to stop and be like, 'You did it!' It’s always like, 'What’s next?' So, that’s something I’m trying to teach myself more, to have that balance of perspective, of what you’ve accomplished and healthy goals."

Let's talk about Silicon Valley. Congratulations on its success! How did you come to learn about the project?
“During pilot season a few of my friends had mentioned the show. So, when I finally got the audition and got to see the script and see who was involved — I mean, Mike Judge, he’s the god of comedy — I was excited just about that. And, the script was really cool. It’s not a very exciting story, I auditioned for it [and] I remember tripping on the way out of the room on my heels. But, it went well, and I ended up testing. I was really, obviously excited to get the job, especially as the cast started rounding up. Then, as we started shooting, you realize even more how special this project was, and the caliber of talent on this show. I mean, those guys are insanely talented and hilarious.”


Is it intimidating to be the only girl in the cast?
“Not to be the only girl on the cast — that’s not intimidating to me. To be with those guys is intimidating because, whether they’re in standup or improv or sketch, they all have such street cred in the comedy world. Plus, they’re all so sweet and so nice and so welcoming and encouraging and supportive.”

23Amanda_Crew_Refinery-2496_R_SIZEDPhotographed by Rene & Radka.

What prep did you do to play Monica?
“We started filming and realizing how true this world was to Mike Judge and Alec Berg, who’s the showrunner, as they were doing their research and writing it. I started reading more about these women — the Sheryl Sandbergs and Marissa Mayers — who are top of the totem pole in a world that’s dominated by men. And, I was seeing how they navigate through. I think Mike and Alec did a really good job of writing that, because when we did the premiere in Silicon Valley, a bunch of different women came up to me and told me, 'My job is exactly what you’re doing, and you nailed it to a T.' I don’t take that as a compliment for myself. Mike and Alec should be humbled by that, because they did so much research and obviously they did it correctly.”

What’s the biggest difference between you and Monica? And, what’s the biggest similarity?
“I’d say that she’s much more put-together than I am. It’s like a swan effect when I go through hair and makeup. I get 10 pounds of extra hair and a pencil skirt and beautiful makeup. Whereas I'm a jeans-and-T-shirt kind of girl, so that’s different. I think she’s really well-spoken and assertive and doesn’t get flustered easily, where I’m the opposite. I’m awkward and say the wrong thing at the wrong time and am more of a tomboy. But, I think I felt connected to her sense of humor. I feel connected to her drive. I just love that she’s a respected woman in her field and really competent. I feel we all have that strong, driven side of ourselves.”


This year, your cast and crew suffered the huge loss with the passing of Christopher Evan Welch, who played your boss. As a cast, how do you cope?
“Obviously, we were all devastated. I was completely gutted by it. Most of my scenes were with him, if not all of my stuff up to that point. He is such an amazing human being and I learned so much from him. I’m so grateful that I appreciated him as a person and as an actor while I was working with him, as opposed to looking back at it after. You kind of band together, and Mike and Alec I think dealt with it perfectly as far as the writing goes. They’re definitely going to be dealing with it and addressing it in the second season. I don’t know to what extent, because it’s not in my hands, but I know whatever they do, it will be tasteful and also, I’m sure, in connection with his family."

What's been your a-ha moment in your career thus far?
“For so long — and still sometimes — I found myself in that trap of trying to figure out the recipe for success in this industry. You slowly learn that there is no magic formula. Unfortunately, it’s not like if you want to be a lawyer, and you go to college, then [law school], and then you get to the law firm. It’s not painted out like that. There’s not a structure to it like that. So, I’ve just learned to let go of trying to figure it out and just keep your eye on yourself and think, 'Am I happy? Am I doing work that I’m happy with? Am I proud of myself? Cool, keep doing that.' Even if you failed at that audition, what did you learn from it? That’s all you can hope for.”

24Amanda_Crew_Refinery-2476_R_SIZEDPhotographed by Rene & Radka.

Are there any projects coming up that you’re super excited for? You've just shot Age of Adeline with Harrison Ford and Blake Lively!
“Yeah, I filmed that a couple of months ago. It’s coming out in January, which is crazy fast turnaround. It was so cool because getting to meet Harrison Ford was the best. He’s the coolest guy ever and he’s such a pro. He’s always just game to play. He’s being doing it forever, he should be laissez-faire about it, but he just loves what he does.”

Do you find that inspiring as an actor?
“Oh my God, it was so inspiring. I was just like, 'Okay, it can exist, that you don’t lose that spark and that you still treat people with respect. That you can be a professional and still have that joy and fly in a helicopter to set,' something I aspire to, also. So crazy — he just flies his helicopter to set. Like, landed his helicopter right by my trailer.

“Then, I just finished another movie. it’s called Race. It’s the true story about Jesse Owens, who is the African-American runner who competed in the Berlin Olympics at the cusp of World War II. And, that was an exciting one, because I got to work with Jason Sudeikis, who also is a delight."

What kind of potential do you see in yourself that your fans haven’t seen yet? What projects do you want to work on in the future?
“I would love to do more comedy and show that goofier side of myself, because I think people judge you by your outsides, and I think I’m so opposite. People are sometimes surprised by my personality. Growing up, I felt like kind of a weirdo, because the idea of what was cool — you know, being like Britney Spears or that kind of cool — I couldn’t identify with that. Whereas like Avril Lavigne was someone I took comfort in growing up, so I would love if a younger generation took comfort in my personality and what I’m putting out there."

21Amanda_Crew_Refinery-2658_R_SIZED_CROP (1)Photographed by Rene & Radka.

What's a mantra you live by?
“Actually, one of my almost last Instagrams was of this great company called good hYOUman. The guy that started it, his dad died of cancer and he wanted to do something with his story. Basically the whole concept behind the clothing line is, we all have a story. The shirt that I got was the one that says, 'Fuck being perfect.' It’s kind of like owning who you are and saying 'fuck it.' For so long, I struggled with being secure with who I was. Even in acting, for a while there I was like, 'Actors wear oversized sunglasses and carry big cups of Starbucks and gigantic purses. That’s what I’m supposed to look like and dress like this.' For a little bit I felt like I had to be like that. But, as you get more secure with yourself, you’re like, 'This is so not me. I feel like a sheep. So, take it or leave it, this is who I am.' At the end of the day, you’re going to be in your own mind. Your happiness is on yourself.”

Hair by Bethany Brill; Makeup by Riku ; Styled by Emily Holland ; Photographed by Rene & Radka.

Look 1: Jil Stuart coat; Marissa Webb sweater; ETRO trousers; Freda Salvador shoes.
Look 2: Edun sweater tunic and skirt; Topshop boots; Alexis Bittar rings.

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