Today we’d like to introduce you to Sissi Kal.
Sissi, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I began my life journey in the suburbs of Paris, France where I was born and raised up until the age of seventeen. I am a child of Armenian immigrants, my father was born in Beirut, Lebanon and mother in Aleppo, Syria. They both ran from the civil war in Lebanon in the mid-seventies and that is how my younger sister Annie and I were born in France.
At the tender age of seventeen, I felt uprooted and moved with my family to Armenia where I spent one year in Yerevan followed by three years in Beirut; a reality check on just how lucky I was to be living in Paris.
In Beirut, my sister and I started working to provide for our family. After about three years in an amazing company promoting the French language all over Lebanon, I discovered ‘internet chat room’ on Yahoo and surprisingly met my husband. At the time, he was living in Bretagne, France. I decided to come and visit him after three months of online chatting. Back in the days, there were no webcams nor voice calling… After our ‘real’ meeting, it was difficult to have a long-distance relationship, so I moved back to France in March 2001 where I went back to ‘school’ to at least obtain my high school diploma. Almost nineteen years later, we are still going strong!
Alexandre being a chef and a French/American citizen, we decided in 2004 to move to the United States to open a crêperie. We first moved at his aunt and uncle’s home in Pennsylvania, where we spent three months, then purchased a Chrysler Concorde and drove cross-country to Las Vegas, Nevada where we lived for about six years. While working on our business plan, we realized this was not our path. One day, my husband driving home from work hears a commercial for this acting school looking for talents. Knowing acting was my dream, he came home telling me all about it saying I should audition for it. That’s how it all started.
I began taking all kinds of classes in Las Vegas, including all five levels of Second City course where I was taught by Rob Belushi, amongst other great teachers. This was a huge challenge, being a foreigner, with English as a third language. But I did it… after, what I felt at the time, been done studying with all decent acting studios in town, I decided to take classes in Los Angeles, while STILL living in Las Vegas! For about nine months, with a 9-5 Monday through Friday job, every Sunday, I would leave Vegas around 8 am, drive 4 hours, arrive at noon, got lunch, then class from 1 pm through 6 pm at the Acting Center and then drove back home for another 4 hours. Yes, you read that right, for nine months, I drove every Sunday for about 8 hours to go to class… Talk about commitment.
Then, again my husband, being rational, asks a very good question: Why don’t we move to Los Angeles?
In 2011, we make the move to Los Angeles. During the first year, I was paralyzed with fear. Here I am, a child of immigrants, being an immigrant myself, so close to my dream, with all my self-doubt, insecurities, etc. I could not move forward. After a full year of fighting inner demons, I finally get back to my senses and start taking classes at the Ivana Chubbuck studio. A few months later, I add another weekly class with Eric Morris. After two years of training, I start learning about the ‘business’ side of acting. A whole new world… After about another two years of hearing various casting directors, fellow actors, etc., I decided in 2016 to become a ‘professional’ and start auditioning. I also take the big scary plunge: quit my day time job to solely focus on my acting career, all thanks to my supportive and caring husband.
Within a year, I was very fortunate to work on multiple projects to build a resume and a solid demo-reel. Comes April 2017, a close friend, Gregoire Thoby, mentions Atlanta. At the time, I had not heard of the booming in the Southeast, I was so focused on making it in Hollywood. After some reflection, and understanding where I was in my career at the time, it was clever to move again. Three months later, we left California for Georgia. Another amazing road trip!
I have continued my training at the Sara Mornell studio for almost a year and a half now. Within less than two years, I was lucky to recur on MacGyver thanks to the generous Mark Fincannon and get a direct booking on Dynasty from Emmy award-winning casting office Feldstein|Paris. So far, I have worked on over twenty projects where I have been mostly cast in intense roles, including ‘HURRIA’ by gifted director Travis Rush which was shortlisted at the 2018 BAFTA. I had the immense honor to work on powerful movies like ‘LES CONFINÉS’, written and co-directed by very talented and good-hearted Emily Marie Palmer and my first feature shot in the mythical streets of Paris for ‘NOKOMIS’ by a dear friend Anha Senet Łysiak.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
NOT AT ALL.
All kinds of life struggles, just like everyone else’s… but something inside, can not really explain what, does not let me give up no matter how hard it becomes. Including a very supportive community I try to surround myself with.
Some of the struggles are my own demons, this insecurity that I am not enough, that no matter how hard I try I will not succeed, fear that my body is not strong enough to handle the pressure, the eternal unhappiness even if I get that Oscar… you know, I think they call this ‘depression’.
Being raised in a dysfunctional family, being uprooted, not feeling like I belong ANYWHERE but at the same time knowing I belong EVERYWHERE.
My current biggest struggle is being a foreigner, with an accent, trying to break into the acting world, just being ‘ME’. It is indeed a good time as Hollywood’s conversation around diversity is loud, but there is still that little voice inside saying: ‘hey, you have to wait your turn, not now… we’re talking about other minorities right now…’. But how late can I really wait? I want to start a family, I don’t feel I can have it all…
Please tell us more about what you do, what you are currently focused on and most proud of.
For me, acting is a reflection of life.
I am fascinated by studying human behavior and getting the privilege of being a part of sharing these traits on the screen to have a lasting impact on other’s life.
My early on life’s journey was the birth of my thirst for discovering what life in other parts of the world was like and a deep desire to connect with others and to learn about myself through that interaction.
I am able to draw from my multilingual multicultural background and infuse these qualities into my life’s work. I am strengthened by the continuous evolution of who I am as a person therefore who I am as an actress.
Additionally, my purpose is to impact the quality of how people live their lives and on leaving behind a fulfilling legacy I am proud of on a global scale.
I am truly and deeply grateful to have a great honor and ability to share this work in progress through my art, using the medium of television and film, following the steps of inspirational actresses like Kate Winslet, Juliette Binoche, Cate Blanchett, Nicole Kidman, Julianne Moore, and so many others.
Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
Ah… Luck… Well… I do consider myself lucky. Looking back, I can NOT not see how lucky I was/am.
Having this constant battle with ego saying it is not enough, we can not be contempt with all this, more, more, more…
I feel lucky to have met the right people at the right time. Even though I am currently conflicted in my search for a manager, there is this fine line between ‘really wanting’ and ‘letting go’ I am learning to master. Not easy at all!
As I am learning about positive thinking and self-empowerment, I sense that I am getting more and more confused.
Some friends tell me I am an over-thinker… I guess I don’t really know what was luck and what was intentionally created. At this point, I do not really care, all I care about is to feel good.
- Website: www.sissikal.com
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/sissikal/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SissiKal.II
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/SissiKal
- Other: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm3678150/
Robbie Glen Photography, Daniel Meigs, Tristan Alfonsi
Getting in touch: VoyageATL is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.
July 25, 2019 at 4:28 pm
I was at your wedding Sissi. I am a friend of Dawnel. I knew bits of your history, but having read this, your story, amazing. Brave girl. I am very impressed how far you have come, how you are focussed and of course you have the backing and help of a wonderful husband.
Good luck dear for more successes.
August 1, 2019 at 11:08 pm
Thank you dear Ann for these kind words and encouragement. Thank you for taking the time to read the story, I appreciate it. Much love.