Amy Gumenick is a gifted actress with an impressive resume of television and film roles including CSI, Bones, Grey’s Anatomy. She is well-known to fans of The CW’s long running show Supernatural for her incredible portrayal of young Mary Winchester. Arrow fans have been riveted watching the talented Gumenick transform into Cupid. Currently, Amy Gumenick has been mesmerizing viewers as Philomena in the AMC period drama TURN: Washington Spies. This August, we can see Gumenick as Sarah in the horror film The Binding. I recently had the opportunity to talk with Amy Gumenick about the various characters she has played. Read what she had to say below.
When did you decide that you wanted to be an actress?
“That’s a funny question because I don’t have one direct answer, but I don’t remember a time when I didn’t know that I wanted to be an actor or performer. It really goes back as far as I can remember. But I did go through periods of like wanting to be an actress and a doctor and a teacher and a social worker and a whatever fill in the blanks kind of thing (laughs). As I got older, I realized that I could be all of those things in being an actress. So many of the big influential moments in my life were the result of seeing someone’s performance so I kind of felt that if I could impact just one person with any role then I’ve done my job. If I could cause them to think a different way or question reality or be inspired to be something or to further define who they are, then that was a success. But the first kind of real, tangible memory I have of being certain that I wanted to be an actress was when I was five years old. I have two older siblings. I have a brother and a sister. My brother is the oldest and he was in a production in high school of Chicago’s musical. I went with my parents. I went every night to every show. I made a little seating area for myself in front of the audience on the floor. I memorized the entire show start to finish. After closing night, I went up to my parents and informed them that I would play Roxie Hart someday. I think it freaked them out a little bit at the time. I had just decided this was what I was going to do. Cut to eleven years later when I sixteen. I auditioned for a production of Chicago. I was cast as Roxie so I kinda fulfilled the first dream. That was probably the most definitive moment for me. But there hasn’t been a time when I haven’t been certain this was what I was meant to be doing. I did alot of community theater. I did alot of dancing. I’m very involved in that world. But my parents were really adamant about me having a normal childhood and going to school. I remember when I was nine years old and we had a conversation at the dinner table and they were like ‘if you go to college and finish school and you still want to act, we’ll support you one hundred percent. I remember I was so sad and I thought they were so mean. But I can honestly say that I can not be more grateful.”
What were some of your most memorable moments on the Supernatural set?
“Wow, all of them (laughs). Working on Supernatural…I’ve said this before in interviews and I stick with it…really, really spoiled me as an actor. The moment you walk onto that set, just the whole tone,the whole energy. Everyone is so friendly and so welcoming and warm and grateful for the work and excited to be there and that’s a rare thing to walk into especially as a guest star. I spent the first episode at the time thinking that was all it was going to be. I met Jensen first. I remember walking onto the set. The very first scene that we shot for In The Beginning, Jensen and I were in the alley when I’m trying to fight him off and he finds out that Mary is a hunter. I had rehearsed the scene with his stunt double just to learn the choreography. When they felt that I was in a place where I was ready to try it out on him, they called us to set. I was so nervous because it was one of my first acting jobs out of college. I really didn’t know what to expect. Jensen walked onto set and gave me a huge hug then took a step back and was like ‘okay, beat me up.’ This just totally broke the ice. And from that moment on…I really have to give Jared and Jensen so much credit because they have been such an incredible inspiration for me and I have learned through them as the lead of a show that your job is so much bigger than acting. They really set the tone and they are so positive and genuinely kind. That trickles down and sets the tone for everyone on set. That’s something twelve years later…I did a convention with them a few weeks ago and they have really maintained that. They are just humble, real individuals who happen to have a job in the spotlight. They taught me how to act on set. For me just coming out college, I couldn’t ask for a better lesson. Those little moments where Jared and Jensen took time to connect with everyone and make you feel like part of the family. I think it shows and is why the show is still so successful. Everyone I’ve met whose worked on Supernatural whether I met them on set or at conventions, everyone has a warmth about them. It’s really an incredible family, this Supernatural family. But to answer your question: it was in the second episode when we filming the awkward family road trip. The director gave us a few minutes to get into character and find the emotional place where we needed to be. Just as they were about to call rolling and shoot the scene, Jared decided that this was the appropriate moment to talk about popping his dog’s adrenal glands. So when action was called, we all were cracking up. We just broke down and couldn’t get it together. It is easy to take yourself too seriously as an actor that you forget those little moments where you can just have fun. There were alot of little moments like that with Jared and Jensen.”
What did you enjoy most about playing Mary Winchester?
“I was stepping into a role that was cherished and loved by the fans and beautifully played by Sam Smith. I was nervous because of this incredible portrayal. But I was very quickly put at ease by the director. He said to me ‘yes, you are playing a character that we know. But if we wanted the same Mary, we would have just made her look younger and have her play it. It’s really important that we capture a different side of Mary and that fans get to see an alternate life so rid yourself of any pressure to recreate what’s already been seen.’ That was nice. I was grateful for that. I think that Mary is such an interesting character. She’s an interesting woman. She’s so complex. It’s rare for an actress to get to play even in one episode the entire emotional arc. To be this strong, powerful badass woman for me in particular was great because I don’t often get to go out for these kinds of roles. From an acting standpoint, it was such an amazing challenge to play a character that I so deeply identify with and loved. That sorta made every scene we filmed feel like a gift.”
What challenges did you face playing Cupid on Arrow?
“Cupid was totally different from any role I ever played before and I think that was partially the reason why I was cast. When I walked into the audition, I didn’t know it was for Cupid. They do alot of code names and fake sides to the audition so that nothing gets leaked. So all I really knew was the character’s name was Redhead. I was given a made up a scene that was actually in the script but different. I saw in the breakdown that she was a redhead, she was a master archer and she was an ex police officer. I kinda went into there with a little bit of an attitude that I was going to have a blast with it thinking that I’m not right for it and I’m not going to get the role so I might as well have fun. I think in some ways that took alot of the pressure off. I just wish that I could recreate that feeling. I was also given the opportunity to learn about archery and to study with an incredible archery expert on the show and take lessons. I’m someone who really enjoys creating the backstory of a character and learning about the history. The physicality of the role, whether it’s the archery or fighting, was an added challenge. On Supernatural, they let me do my own stunts so now I bring that to every set. I kinda push the limits (laughs) to see how much they let me do. I wanted to live in her shoes. Personally, from an acting standpoint, playing a character who was from the comics there was the challenge of how do I be true to this spunky, off balance, quirky woman and not make her a caricature. I wanted to find the humanity, find what drives her and why she is the way that she is. It was really a collaborative effort in creating Cupid. I had the pleasure of meeting Andrew Kreisberg who created Cupid for the comic books who was very involved in the casting process. It was a rare opportunity to be able to pick his brain about how he sees the character and to bring her to life.”
What aspects of your personality do you feel that you bring to Cupid?
“Oh gosh…I don’t know if I should answer that (laughs). It’s funny because every time I talk to someone about Cupid, the first thing I hear is that she’s crazy. Poor Cupid. In my audition, I was reading the first scene and the whole room sorta went silent. Then Andrew who created Cupid stood up and said ‘you have crazy in your eyes. My response was ‘I’m not sure if that’s a compliment or not.’ What I do share with her, what drives her is love and a belief in love, a belief in the happily ever after. How she plays out getting that love may not be the healthiest. But I do think underneath it all, she just wants love. For me, I’m fortunate to come from a loving family and a have a wonderful husband. Cupid strives for these things because she comes from a very broken past. There’s been alot of pain and sadness in her life and she wants love. Even with a villain, you can show the humanity and still make them relatable.”
What do you recall about your audition for TURN?
“I’m a big fan of AMC shows and the cable world in general and that was a world that I really wanted to break into and understand better. They are like beautiful art pieces almost like mini movies. I auditioned for the pilot. I auditioned for both Anna and Mary. I didn’t get it but I built a relationship with the office. You never know who in the room during the audition may remember you down the line. I still felt that I had taken a step into that world. Even reading the script, I felt like I had to be a part of it. When I heard about Philomena, I was thrilled to go back in. She was different from either of the girls that I had gone in for before. It was interesting because I felt very connected to the character. But it…the audition felt like a dream. I didn’t hear anything for awhile. It was a great experience and I met some great people. But I didn’t think that I would get it. Time continued to pass and I didn’t hear anything. I got a phone call quite awhile later. They had called to see whether I was available but there was still nothing official. I was giddy inside but I was reserving excitement until it was official. I got a phone call a few days later saying ‘you’re the first choice for the role.’ But it still wasn’t official. When I finally got the call that I had gotten the role, my whole team was on the phone and was sorta celebrating with me. We were all so invested and excited about the possibilities of what Philomena could become, how involved the character could be and who she should be interacting with. Working on that show and across the board, they are some of the most talented group of artists. From the casting to the designers just the whole cast and crew. It really is such an honor to be working with them to help bring this history to life. It is really an unconventional process. It’s been a really wonderful surprise.”
How would you describe Philomena?
“Philomena is a woman who is looking for love and looking for happiness and looking for purpose and her destiny in life. I think that she is extremely passionate and she knows very clearly what she wants to do. She is very determined. She won’t take no for an answer. I think that she has big dreams and that she also is in touch with reality in the sense that her dreams are alot bigger than the life that she lives and as a result, she gets caught up in relationships that are not socially acceptable or conventional. She’s using the vehicles to getting this life of being this famous stage actress and having this wonderful life and love. I think John Andre fulfills that in a way and he’s her ticket to that dream. She gets lost in that and is blinded by the fairytale, the fantasy of what could be that perhaps at least momentarily she doesn’t realize what actually is. Yet, I don’t think she would do anything differently. She has grown alot as an individual and as a performer. I think that there’s a future for Philomena.”
Are there any current projects that you are able to share with us?
“I’m in The Binding. It’s been an interesting experience filming The Binding. The writer and director is a gentleman who I actually grew up with, Gus Krieger. He was someone who I admired as an artist and as a collaborator. There are people you meet who have that stroke of genius. He was always one of those people. We had lost touch and hadn’t spoken in several years. Then I was randomly contacted by him about a script that he was working on. He said that he would love for me to read it. It was a very early draft, but from page 1, it was brilliant. Months went by. Later, they were casting. I was prepared for several roles. I read for Sarah. They said ‘thanks, that’s all we need.’ I figured that I was either everything that they wanted or nothing that they wanted. I was ultimately cast as Sarah. The only thing that we were missing was a budget. It was actually a few weeks after we started filming that they were reading people for the role of my husband in the film because they were having a hard time casting it. I had starred in a play with my real life husband. We portrayed a dysfunctional couple. Anyway, my husband came into read for the part of my husband in the film and he was cast. So we get to go on this journey together.”
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