Mornings with Grace Van Dien
Editor’s Note: In the series ‘Mornings With’ we begin a new day with inspiring talent in film and television, in an equally inspiring place. ROSE & IVY founding editor, Alison Engstrom sits down and chats about morning routines, exciting projects, New York and what inspires them and drives them to be their very best.
On a recent sunny morning, when the tulips and flowering tree were basking in their spring glory, I met actress and fellow Libra Grace Van Dien at Mailano. Within spending a few moments with Grace, I was immediately drawn to her infectious energy and kindness. I chatted with her over tea about how she prepared for her role as Katie on the hit NBC series The Village and how her dad—actor Casper Van Dien—has helped her navigate the industry and her creative expression of painting. We also switched gears and talked about her darker role of playing Sharon Tate in the new film, Charlie Says, which debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival earlier this month. My conversation with Grace was honest and moving. I’m really excited for what she is going to do next.
Be sure to tune into the season finale of The Village on NBC tonight at 8pm EST.
Maialino at the Gramercy Park Hotel
Green Tea with Honey
Would You Say You’re a Morning Person?
I enjoy my nights more, but I don’t stay up very late. I try to but I’m usually pretty tired. I wake up early around 5 am most mornings, which I don’t mind. I hop in the shower for a few minutes, just to start my day clear-headed. My days can last between 8 to 12 hours but I love it—it goes by so fast.
Do You Wake Up with Coffee or Tea?
I usually drink coffee with cream in the morning but I don’t really like it. I just do it because when I’m working on set, I need to live on coffee most of the time. When I am done working, I try to wean off by drinking green tea.
How Do You Prepare It?
If I’m at home, I just do ground instant coffee; but when I go out, I’ll do coffee with almond creamer.
Motivating Morning Mantra:
I don’t, but I probably should. I keep telling myself I want to start each morning by saying I love you too myself, but lately I’ve been procrastinating on self-love.
Tell me more about your character Katie on The Village. What have you loved about playing her?
Playing Katie was really fun because a lot of characters start somewhere and something changes them along the way; but with Katie, she started in a pretty normal place in her life, by just being a teenager. She matured and got more powerful from her challenge of being pregnant at seventeen.
What do you hope that viewers take away from watching the show?
There are a lot of relatable storylines, but I hope it opens up people's eyes. The general message that we’re all hoping people take away from the show is that we’ll be able to learn to love more and be there for everyone. It’s about showing that everyone has a challenge, but if you have people to lean on, it’s easier to get through it.
Have you heard any reactions from any fans about your character?
Yes, a lot of people have said that it hurts to watch Katie’s story, but it’s relatable and they watch it anyway.
How did you prepare for the role?
I watched a lot of pregnant videos from different women, but not Teen Mom, because I think a lot of the time on TV, teen moms are portrayed negatively and Katie is not portrayed that way. Instead, I watched every pregnant video I could get my hands on for women of all ages.
Was there anything that you learned about yourself while filming the show from a technical or more personal stand point?
It’s the most I’ve been on set ever. I didn’t learn anything from a technical standpoint, but definitely more on a personal level. I don’t have a relationship with my mom, so having a pregnant belly every day and getting into the mindset of being a mother just kind of threw me a bit. I never had to think about that before. It put into perspective of having a kid and not being in their life. (Pauses). All the scenes where I’m crying, I’m either thinking about that or Mufasa dying in The Lion King. Those were my two things. I didn’t even have to tap into it, it just happened.
Where in Brooklyn did you film?
We love Brooklyn. Did you discover any favorite places where you filmed?
I designated the closest dancing spot that was two blocks away from my apartment in Greenpoint, as the cast’s dancing spot and they all hopped on board with it for some reason. And then Michaela McManus, who plays my mom, we’d go to different local restaurants. I love pasta, but I have celiac disease, so I eat gluten-free pasta. I’m not too big on sweets, so if you ask me what I want for dessert, I’d say pasta!
Pasta with chocolate sauce?
No, no! I’m not Buddy the Elf! (laughs)
Are there any actresses whose career you have admired?
I admire both the Jessicas—I think Jessica Chastain is awesome. I love all of her choices, she’s such a powerhouse in all that she’s doing. I also love Jessica Lange too and how she acts with her hands, it’s dream-like.
What advice has your dad, actor Casper Van Dien, given you about the ins and outs of acting?
It’s really nice to have someone who has had so much success in their career be close to me. He’s always been so grounded and humble. Growing up, that’s always how he was; it’s nice to see that and be reminded of that every day. Whenever there’s a rough patch, he’s like, ‘I’ve been there!’. Everything I’m experiencing, he has experienced, so it’s familiar and they aren’t original feelings, which is good.
It’s really interesting though because we don’t have the same preferences for getting into a role. He likes to write out his lines three times. I used to do that but then I realized that just rehearsing it for five minutes, puts it in my head better than writing it out three times. I did it for years, and then at the end of it, I’d be like, I have no idea what I’m saying! I’d space out while I was writing. Now, I go through the scene three times, maybe with a friend, and then it’s in my head.
I see how you have worked with him in an upcoming film, Lady Driver. Tell us about that experience.
I don’t actually work with him. His role passes away early on in the film so I actually never even have a scene with him. I have worked with him before though. When I was 17, the first project I have ever worked on, he played my dad but also directed. He’s my favorite director I’ve worked with—he’s the best.
Since you have had experience on both the big and small screens, which medium do you prefer?
Now having experienced both, I do prefer movies. Just because it feels less rushed and like everyone has the same idea in their head, rather than with TV, you have to make sure everyone is on board, even people you haven’t met. With television, you’re catering to an audience, but with film, you’re catering to an art.
Do you gravitate towards more dramatic roles?
I guess so! One day I’d like to do a comedy, but I don’t know if I’d be successful at it. People like to see me in more of a dramatic role, I think.
Your film Charlie Says, which recently debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival about the cult leader charles manson. Can you share how you prepared for the role of Sharon Tate?
It’s a dark film. I don’t want to spoil anything, but when you initially meet my character, it’s a pretty heavy scene. It’s a small role, but I wanted to get it right. So I read Sharon Tate: Recollection written by her sister Debra Tate and Roman Polanski and I watched all of her interviews and movies. It was the most difficult thing I’ve done. She is so sweet and pure; I have sisters and it’s really hard to think about. I cried a lot for her. I booked the role two and a half months before actually filming it, so I had a lot of time to get used to it, but there’s just no getting used to that kind of situation or circumstance. Everyone on set—the crew, the director, the writers, the cast—were so respectful of the character and the story. I think we did a respectful portrayal of everyone’s side in this.
How do you unwind after a long day of shooting?
I paint a lot to get out any emotion or feeling. Right now, I’m working with acrylic—I tried to paint with oils, but they take so long to dry and I don’t have the patience!
Do you have any summer travel plans?
My dad’s away filming in Louisiana for the summer, so I’m watching his dog. I have two cats and then I’m taking care of his German Shepard. I want a dog, but it’s just so hard right now, cats are easy to travel with—it’s so easy. I rescued them, so we don’t know their breed, but one of them is really funny looking. I also like driving up to the Redwoods, it’s so awesome. I always laughed at tree huggers, but the second I first got up there, I went on a six-hour hike and I hugged all the trees.
Can you share what’s next for you?
Right now I’m just auditioning and we’ll soon find out about the next season of The Village, so knock on wood, guys!
You can catch Grace on The Village airing on NBC at 8pm EST. You can also follow her journey on Instagram.
A very special thank you to Maialino and Liz Scodari