2016-02-03 / Features

Local Express

Amanda Johnson

Performer and resident of Astoria, Amanda Johnson, recently wrapped the lead role in the upcoming indie comedy, The Loser’s Wife, which was filmed partially in Astoria. Originally from Seattle, Johnson graduated from the University of Washington with a degree in theater and communications. Johnson spent her early career as a performer at Walt Disney World while she was training to be a stage manager. While in Orlando, she managed the largest shows on Walt Disney World property, as well as local theater in the community. During her time as a stage manager, she realized her true passion was acting and began studying for the transition.

Upon arriving in New York, Johnson starred in the stage productions War of Art, W.A.S.P.S., The God Particle and Revolution. She has worked at Astoria Performing Arts Center, Abingdon Theatre, Pulse Ensemble Theater, Planet Connections Theater Festivity, and Manhattan Repertory Theater, among others. Her on-camera work includes television, short films and webseries. She is the creator of the short film, Alice in Astoria, filmed entirely in Astoria. To watch Alice in Astoria or find out more about Johnson, visit www.amandajohnson.com

QG: What made you move to Astoria? Did you move here directly from Orlando, Florida?

AJ: When I was planning on moving to New York City, I was sure I’d end up in Manhattan or Brooklyn. Queens never entered my mind. In fact, the only thing I knew about Queens was from the movie, Coming to America, with Eddie Murphy (I love that movie!) My brother was living in Astoria at the time and the plan was I was going to stay on his couch until I found my own place. Well, as things happen in life, after only five days of the couch, we both needed to look for a place ASAP. So we ended up moving in together in Astoria. We were roommates for four years – which thrilled our parents – until we separated ways to move in with our significant others. (We’re now both married to our respective S.O.s.) Yes, I moved here from Orlando.

QG: How did you get the job as a performer at Walt Disney World?

AJ: I started at WDW as part of the college program which is like Disney’s internship program for college students. I was hired as a parade performer, with the intention to become a stage manager. So as I worked as a performer, I studied stage management and mentored with stage managers and trained during my off time. Gradually, I took on assignments that guided me to the position of stage manager.

QG: Tell us a little bit about the TV indie comedy, The Loser’s Wife, that you starred in and recently completed.

AJ: The Loser’s Wife is the story of Jill, a small-time stand up comic on the harrowing, rejection-prone comedy scene. She’s married to Jack, a boxer with one of the biggest losing streaks in history. When Jill accidentally discovers that making fun of Jack’s inability to win brings her fame, it comes at the expense of their marriage – will they survive?

We filmed all of the stand up comedy scenes, and a couple of other scenes, at QED. I’m not a stand up comic, and I knew that in order to play this part I needed that experience. So I did an open mic at QED (27-16 23rd Ave). QED is such a welcoming place for artists and the environment is so supportive and loving. Which I needed because I was absolutely terrified! I told Lamont, the film’s creator, about this magical place and he fell in love with it too.

QG: Who are your favorite actors? Did they inspire you, growing up, to pursue a degree in theater and communications?

AJ: Katharine Hepburn is hands-down my all-time favorite performer. Right now I’m also into Dominic West, Cate Blanchett, and Cynthia Nixon to name a few. Amy Schumer and Tina Fey make me laugh. I’m not sure what inspired me to get a degree in theater or become a performer. I think it’s deeper than that for me. It’s just what I’ve always wanted to do.

QG: Do you have favorite movies, TV shows, Broadway shows that have made big impressions on you in the past, or perhaps, currently?

AJ: August: Osage County on Broadway blew my mind. I left that theater a changed person. I seriously didn’t even notice that it was three hours long – I would have stayed in that seat forever. For TV, right now I’m really into The Affair. It is such a well written and intriguing show. It’s smart – and expects the audience to be smart too. I like that.

Plus, the actors are fantastic. And bonus: it’s filmed in New York!

QG: Do you prefer stage performancing to acting on film? What are the best things about each?

AJ: The stage is where I started and it will always have my heart. One of the things that drew me to theater – both acting and stage management – is that you start with nothing, just this germ of an idea and it grows into this big, beautiful full-blown production. Theater is also live, so it changes every performance, which is a wonderful and necessary part of humanity. But I can’t say I prefer stage to film because they are completely different animals. Film is more intimate and nuanced. The camera will catch something in your face that would never be seen in the back row of a theater. I love the storytelling of acting, whether it’s on stage or film.

QG: Do you have favorite attractions/ destinations in Astoria? What are some of your favorite Astoria restaurants?

AJ: Oh, yes! I LOVE living in

Astoria. I live near the park so I often go there to jog or take a walk or sit on a bench and write. I love the pool in the summer. I think it’s fun that SingleCut

Brewery is in the neighborhood. MP

Taverna, Hinomaru Ramen and Watawa are my favorite places to eat. I’m also really excited about Create, which just opened on Ditmars, and offers healthy food such as salads, soups and juices.

QG: Since you were the creator of

Alice in Astoria, are you becoming more interested in working behind the scenes, rather than front-and-center as a performer?

AJ: Who knows? I’m a big advocate of actors creating their own work. Which is where Alice in Astoria came from in the first place. My biggest desire right now is to be in front of the camera, but I know priorities can change. That being said, I do love writing and continue to do more and more of it. I’d like to see where that takes me in the future – maybe I’ll write a book or a screenplay.

This column was originated in July 2013 by Nicollette Barsamian.

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