Meet Beth Johnson – Fabiana Aziza Cunningham
What made you want to audition for The Last Days of Judas Iscariot?
My acting coach suggested that I try theater. I do on-camera stuff, commercials and industrial work. But my teacher suggested that I should start trying out for things on stage, probably as a volunteer. Then I was walking my dog and saw posters for auditions! I thought, it’s in my community, I should try out for the heck of it. And here I am! (gives a flabbergasted look)
And here you are! With one of the main roles! I guess your acting teacher had a good idea.
It’s a big role, extremely challenging. I have to know basically the whole script. It’s a lot different from scenes in class, or a 15 second commercial.
What kind of acting work do you do mostly?
I’ve done commercials for DePaul University, Carle Hospital, the Citibank Costco Card. I’m kind of shy about it, I started because my son wanted to to try modeling and I took him to an agent. My son signed a modeling contract, but the agent was also interested in me, and before long I picked up a contract with the parent agency that books modeling, theater and on-camera gigs. This is my fourth year doing it and I learn something new every day.
Can you elaborate on other ways stage acting is different for you than on-camera work?
Oh my yes, it’s all out there. I did a commercial for Blue Cross, Blue Shield Insurance. I drove a golf cart, and there was a camera mounted on the front of it; my portion of the scene was all told via facial expressions. The idea was, we were driving and saw people switching insurance, and I had to turn the golf cart on a dime to follow them. I was so afraid of tipping over the cart and dumping my passenger. We rehearsed it a couple of times and then I just said ‘hang on, here we go’ and steered as hard as I could. Thankfully we got the shot in one take!
I really like the stage. No matter what happens, good, bad, or ugly, there’s something to play to. When I don’t have a line, but a reaction to what someone else is doing on stage, that’s where a lot of the acting is.
You’re playing a whip-smart lawyer. Do you feel a connection to Fabiana?
Absolutely. She is very intelligent and has had a lot of education, but she’s constantly disrespected and talked down to as a female. She’s the consummate underdog. She has a lot of strength and dignity, but she’s flawed and has come to terms with it.