8th May 2023
Photographer: Storm Santos
Hair and Makeup: Aaron Barry
Interview: Amy Bell
Kate Mansi won an Daytime Emmy for outstanding supporting actress for playing Abigail Deveraux. Mansi is now back playing the role of Hunter Clarkman in the new Amazon Freevee TV series 'Casa Grande'.
We chat to Mansi about getting in to acting, playing Hunter and behind the scenes gossip.
Growing up, what was your childhood like?
Loud. I come from a large family where the dynamic was very much ‘lead or be led’.
How did you get into acting, was it a dream you always wanted to pursue?
Yes and no. My dream was to be a dancer and I was laser-focused on that until my high school theatre teacher Mr. Bill Garrett told me if I auditioned for the school play he would give me the credits I needed to go off-campus for dance. I got the lead in that play and it changed my life. I saw The Matrix. And this is exactly why teachers matter- they are the most valuable, and ironically undervalued in society.
You are starring in the new Amazon Frevee ‘Casa Grande’, as Hunter Clarkman, what attracted you to this role and what was the audition process like?
Hunter is an underdog, and I related to her edgy, single-minded determination - I found this role to be incredibly empowering. It had this lasting effect on me which I’m so grateful for it really helped me own all of who I am as a woman and guided me towards making some major shifts in my personal life as a result. The thing that’s most interesting to Hunter for me, is that having been an orphan and finding her way into the family hierarchy, she doesn’t accept limitations put on her by anyone else and positions herself to get what she wants despite people’s perceptions of her or what her place in the world should be. She’s a survivor who knows how to fight dirty if need be and I love that about her.
The audition process was wild because it was in the deep beginnings of Covid in 2020. I had heard inadvertently about the project and told my team to get me an audition for Hunter after I read the script. I knew her - deep in my bones. I just knew I knew who she was. But originally they weren’t sure about me for her because they had different ideas about my work at that time - so I picked a scene from the script that I knew I saw so clearly in my mind from the first time I read it (the motel scene where I blackmail Steve). I took advantage of the fact that I was doing it as a self-tape and not an in-person audition and took A LOT more liberties than I usually would be able to at an in-person audition. My team sent it in and literally the next day, we had an instant reaction. The following chemistry tests etc. were all on Zoom which was bizarre for the newness of that, but opened up a whole new world of opportunities that liberated me to use space differently than I ever had before. I chopped and darkened my hair and cut bangs for Hunter before I even booked the job, I just knew.
Tell us a bit about ‘Casa Grande’, what can viewers expect?
Casa Grande explores the idea of the American dream through the lens of the upper-crust Clarkman family, juxtaposed with the socially invisible migrant workers. It’s special for the way it makes us rethink ‘happiness’, which for the Clarkman family is certainly not synonymous with money/stature like they assume. It’s a story about endurance and sacrifice for the American dream, and more acutely for your personal dreams. Viewers can expect a neo-Western drama that sucks you into their world within the first scene.
Are there any funny stories from on set on ‘Casa Grande’?
There’s a scene I had in the middle of the Clarkman Dairy Farm with the baby calves - and although I didn’t grow up on a dairy farm, I was raised on a small ranch that had livestock so I was excited to shoot this one. Without giving anything away, it’s a big moment for my character to reveal she’s only capable of being vulnerable and letting her guard down around the animals since it’s such a stark contrast to how calculated and tough she is in her relationships. Director Gabriela and I had a whole concept for this moment and once I got in there, this one baby calf stood on my dress so I couldn’t move and then kept nuzzling me once I started crying. He was super playful which wasn’t where I thought it would go but it ended up working great for the scene which we did only that one time because it worked. Good lesson in letting go.
What is next for you in terms of acting? Are you looking to pursue any new endeavors?
I do, one I’m not at liberty to discuss yet but it’s a role that I knew I wanted to play because it relates to the subject matter of endometriosis which I try to be as LOUD a spokesperson as I can for in helping raise awareness for.