Jenna Lyng Adams is an American actress, producer, and director. She is in The Kominsky Method on Netflix. As a writer, she is currently penning a dark comedy pilot script for HBO Max called “So Much”. In our conversation, you will learn how Jenna likes most about her job, what inspires her, and the biggest challenge she had to overcome.
Jenna Lyng Adams: “Your bones aren’t made of glass. You can take life’s knocks.” from the film Amelie.
I grew up in Minnesota, right outside of Minneapolis, and really loved theater, and there is plenty of it in the Twin Cities. I worked at several theater companies in the area, as well as school plays. My interest in film began as a teenager renting independent and foreign films. And Netflix was actually a huge game-changer for me. Granted, there wasn’t a streaming service then, but I could get DVDs that weren’t available in my hometown and have them mailed directly to me. As my world opened up, I bought a camera to start making my own short films.
From there, I applied to film school and ended up at Emerson College where I earned my BFA in Film Production. I’ve always juggled acting and filmmaking because I love all aspects of storytelling. Even now, I’m always hopping back and forth between acting and writing projects — but I absolutely love it!
As an actor, I want to find the raw, emotional truth of a scene. There is this buzz of electricity in your body when you hit that chord. It’s scary and thrilling all at once. And similarly, when you watch an actor perform something so raw, you feel that. It’s what gives you goosebumps. As a writer, I love being able to hop into different characters’ minds. It’s freeing compared to a singular acting role. But conversely, you have to create the emotional truth rather than find it.
Jenna Lyng Adams recently shot an indie thriller called The Presence out in Louisiana and the Virgin Islands. “Two very different locations! I’m really excited about that project, and hopefully can announce more about it soon” Jenna said.
I am always inspired by multi-hyphenate women. At the top of my list, this year is Phoebe Waller-Bridge of Fleabag — aka the most perfect television show of all time! And Reese Witherspoon has been paving the way for years with her production company Hello Sunshine. She champions female protagonists, writers, and producers from all backgrounds. I follow everything that comes out of their door.
I’m more of an “everything in moderation including moderation” type! In terms of fitness I love HIIT circuit training, boxing, yoga, and hiking. I tend to get bored easily, so I mix it up a fair amount. I don’t have any dietary restrictions but overall follow the “don’t eat too much — eat mostly plants” mindset as much as possible. When you start to eat what makes you feel good, then the unhealthy stuff mostly falls to the wayside. I cook a lot, and that helps me control what I put in my body.
I’ve wanted to be an actress since I was very young. In college, I focused on filmmaking because I wanted to learn that skill. But I knew I would get back into acting once I moved to LA after graduation. I was fortunate enough to get work behind the camera while I was finding my footing as an actress. And I’m incredibly grateful for all of the production jobs because they made me very comfortable on-set, whereas most actors are only on-set when they book a gig. And as a UPM or producer, you have to know how every department works and that serves me well when I’m working as an actor.
My version of mediating is cooking and gardening. I’ll play some music and chop vegetables. Or pick weeds in the yard and garden beds. Those are my favorite times to think or clear my head. I try to journal in the morning as much as possible. It gets all of the loose ends out of my mind so I can focus on my day. And lists! I love making to-do lists. Since I’m juggling so many things at any given time (whether acting gigs, auditions, or writing projects), I rely on my planner and lists to keep me going. And moving into the end of the year, I’ve definitely started my goals for 2020!
Currently, I don’t have an acting coach or mentor. When I first moved to LA, I tried several classes and coaches, staying at some longer than others. I don’t subscribe to any schools of acting but instead, prefer to take what resonates with me and leave the rest. In the end, the emotional truth is what is most important. Never try to force something you don’t feel. If you focus on what the core of the scene is about, your instincts will lead you the right way.
I’m a Midwestern girl at my core. I hate rudeness, it makes my hair curl! Common decency goes a long way. You never know what someone else is going through at any given time, and sometimes a small gesture can go further than you think. Also, the way you treat those who can do nothing for you defines your character.
I think to get through the early years in Los Angeles. I grew up so far away from Hollywood with limited knowledge and zero connections to the business. Trying to get your career started here can be like running uphill for years. Any creative field comes with a lot of rejection and a lot of “almosts”, but the key is to persevere if it’s what you really want.
If I don’t have an early meeting or call time, I have a cup of coffee in the backyard with my cats. I try to journal as well. This time is very important to my mental and emotional health. After some outside time, I make breakfast. I’m a big breakfast person. Then I check my to-do lists and catch-up on emails or phone calls. My friend Kathryn and I call this “secretary” time.
I recently watched Amazon’s Undone in one sitting, and absolutely loved it. The story is haunting, soulful, sarcastic, mind-bending all rolled into one. I also just saw Parasite in theaters, which is now one of my favorite movies of all time along with Bong Joon-Ho’s Okja. Now I’m in the middle of season 3 of The Crown. It’s fabulous. I will watch Olivia Colman do anything.
Coffee! Sort of kidding. I’ve actually always been a very self-motivated person — to the point of burning myself out sometimes. If anything, I’ve had to learn how to pace myself and calm down a little bit. I don’t want to sprint through life all the time, it’s important to look around even as you move forward.
Probably this morning in my yard! That is my favorite time of day.
Never Surrender & Other Stubborn Stories by Jenna Lyng Adams
When I was just starting out as an actor, someone told me that in order to book a job, the stars have to align. Success as an actor is a combination of a lot of hard work — but also some really good luck. And the more I auditioned and worked the more it rang true. Not only do you need to give a great audition, but you have to impress everyone at every stage of the process.
The casting directors, the producers, the director, the studio and network executives. Everyone has to sign off on you. And if you’re new, everyone has to agree to take that chance on you. At any point, someone can say they don’t like you for it, or you’re not experienced enough for the role. Or you’re too tall/short, young/old, brunette/blonde, etc. Most of that is out of your control. The most important thing is, you need to embrace the part that is in your control and never take an opportunity for granted. You need to be ready for when the stars do align.
I would love to have my own TV show as a Writer/Actor/Producer. And also, I would love to help reform waste and plastic use on film and television productions. There is an epic amount of trash produced every single day on-set, and especially considering how progressive our industry is, we should be adopting more sustainable practices and leading the way for others to follow.
I’d love to hear from more female screenwriters and showrunners. As well as female entrepreneurs and business owners— especially those with sustainable business practices!
If you like Jenna Lyng and her story, you may also like our article with Christa B. Allen [/mepr-show]