That Girl Meets; Annunziata GianzeroSep 17, 2021
By Natasha Lee.
Annunziata is a dual USA/Italian citizen actress, writer and unapologetic computer nerd based in Atlanta, New York and Los Angeles. She divides her time working in film, theatre and television.
Originally from New York, she is an award-winning, classically trained actress with leading film roles screened theatrically and at over 50 film festivals worldwide. Most recently, she played Adrienne, the French banker in the Amazon reboot of Dean Devlin's hit show Leverage: Redemption (Amazon), recurred as Dr Maya Turner on The Resident (FOX), Carmen Davis on Tyler Perry's The Haves and the Have Nots (OWN), Charlotte Burton on the Jenji Kohan hit Teenage Bounty Hunters (Netflix). In Nickelodeon's Deadtime Stories, she's also played a tough addict on Blue Bloods (CBS), a meth-addicted South Central denizen in TNT's Southland and the iconic evil witch, Bloody Mary Billingsworth, which re-airs every year around Halloween. Next up on the air for Annunziata — Dr Rice in Tales for BET, a councilwoman mom in Covenant: The Vow (AMC+ channel), and just wrapped a recurring role as the Savannah-fabulous Bunny Wheeler on the highly-anticipated First Kill vampire series for Netflix.
Previous favourite theatre leading roles include Duet for One (Winner: Top 5 Leading Actresses), Brecht's Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, Sheila Callaghan's Scab, Tony Tanner's The Trojan Women, and The Two Gentlemen of Verona with West Hollywood Shakespeare in the Parks.
She has worked on both sides of the camera for Sony Pictures, Netflix, Amazon, CBS, Fox, ABC, NBC, TNT, Disney and Universal.
Annunziata was a speaker and presenter at NATPE, VidCon (industry luminary and actor panels) and New Media Expo ("Advice from Award-Winning Actors" panel). She served on the Board of Directors of the Classical Theatre Lab, co-founded the International Academy of Web Television Writers Group East and is a proud member of Women in Film, NYWIFT, SAG-AFTRA and Actors Equity.
Annunziata is also a freelance journalist and activist, writing and fighting for industry diversity, equality and (currently) voter inclusion. She writes for the West View News in Greenwich Village, NYC. She co-wrote the award-winning documentary American Tap, which world-premiered as the opening night film at Lincoln Center and immediately received international distribution. The film tells the controversial story of the origins of tap dance. Highlighting the vibrant and powerful nature of our cultural melting pot while simultaneously dealing unflinchingly with some of the hard truths of our American past (racism, plantation slavery, cultural appropriation) by meticulously documenting an uncelebrated history of primarily African-American dancers.
Annunziata co-wrote and starred in the HBO Women in Comedy competition film Peep Show. She has written a NY-based crime series (Battery Park) and is currently working on a gritty science pilot (Biohackers) and dramedy series (The Olios) about two competing olive oil families because what Italian doesn't think they make "the best" anything? "Nunzi" also hand-makes her own limoncello, and… it's, well…unequivocally the best you will ever taste.
I recently caught up with this incredible lady to ask her a few of our favourite questions...
From your perspective, what does it mean to be successful?
I would say success is doing what you love to do -- whatever it is that feeds your soul – surrounded by people with whom you love to do it. You've got to be enjoying the journey because the goalposts will move. For me, that is creating every single day. At heart, I am a "maker", and every day I make something (a film, a character, an article, script page, a poem or a photo) is a blessed day in my book of life. More success would be doing more of it. Working on projects I believe in with people I love.
What are some obstacles you had to overcome to reach this point of success in your career?
Straight up, I had to convince myself – a girl from a science and math family – that I was worthy. It wasn't something that people in my world just "fell into" because it was not a family trade. And that made the journey difficult because there were no handouts or introductions to early mentors. It was just me, trying to believe that I could do this, even though no one in my periphery had done it.
After college, I moved back to NYC and worked on Wall Street to afford the city's steep rent. At the same time, I took acting classes because I believed (and still do) that was the best place for foundational training. Then, I moved across the country and worked two jobs – receptionist and producers assistant by day, waiter by night – to support myself in Hollywood for years while I took more classes and made my own films. But it's ironic how the things we think are barriers in our youth frequently become great strengths in our adulthood. My family is my rock. And that alone helps me along with the ups and downs of my career. But additionally, my parents, as primarily academicians, passed that onto me and although many times I may have wished for an easier way in, I understand that that's what gave me great respect for the research part of acting, and I can see how I apply that to make my work deeper and truer
Who are some women you are inspired by?
Women company leaders and women politicians. I follow politics pretty closely these days (as likely we all do for obvious reasons). The best leaders understand that theirs is a service position, not a power position. But so many people that go into those fields are power-hungry, so I imagine it's doubly hard to coexist within it if you're one of the good guys. So when I see a woman who I think is really there to get sh*t done for the good of the people – Stacey Abrams, Elizabeth Warren – I am shouting from the rooftops and trying to help out any way I know-how.
In the entertainment business world, women running their shows inspire the heck out of me. This woman who ran my Netflix show, Felicia Henderson, is a badass and a sweet lady all in the same package. Reese Witherspoon is blazing a trail and providing work to other women execs. I'm inspired by women who help other women and toss that old-fashioned you-need-to-compete-with-other-women notion to the curb. It only hurts our future opportunities because it implies that only a limited number of women should be in leadership roles. Sky's the limit, ladies!
What are some of your self-care rituals?
I'm a big DIY-er, so it's tough for me to let go and let someone else take care of me. On my last gig, someone asked me who my facialist was, and I was like, "my who?" I've recently gotten more into self-care because the roles I've been playing are women who would take time to care for themselves. Guess I've got to get one of them facialists now!
It's easy to think self-care is meaningless and superficial because, particularly for women, it manifests in outward results – manicured nails, glowing skin – but it's so much more than that. Self-care is also essential to clearing my head. So my 3x a week run and once-weekly candlelight yoga are part of my ritual.
Sidenote: In answering these questions, I'm noticing that I've really learned most of the lessons in my life through characters. I don't play the roles, do I? The roles play me.
As an actress, how do you get into character? Any tips for aspiring actresses?
I read a LOT. Like, right now, working on a vampire show, I'm into this collection of mystical short stories written with young women in mind, one of which the new Netflix show is based upon. Next, I'm moving on to the classic vamp tales – because you never know what written passages will feed you and provide exciting character nuance.
Sometimes, I will physically immerse myself in the reality of the character in very specific ways. For example, I spent time working on the needle exchange on the Lower Eastside when I played a drug addict. And I spent a lot of time talking with addicts, even out in the local parks. Some of my actions are not entirely advisable, but I do what I can within limits.
Also, I love the research. I don't want to play myself in every role. There's a vast movement now for actors to already "be" their characters, and I'm not on that bus. For example, there's this thinking that you need to be gay to play gay or have a disability to play disabled, etc., but that's not in line with my interpretation of acting. Instead, I believe the magic of theatre and film is that actors and audiences can experience these other worlds and other lives, sometimes with the added benefit that we all emerge with better empathy for the "other". So if I were a huge celebrity on the level of, say, Emma Stone, Kate Winslet or Frances McDormand (meaning producers finance my projects and people watch my films because they know and respect my work), and during the experience, viewers are introduced to a character with which they unexpectedly relate and understand in a way they never did – then that's the job—telling the story so that it affects people and potentially moves them to act and think differently.
I believe in inclusion. Everyone should be allowed to win a role on the merits – but I'm not on board with this current shaming or cancelling that happens when actors play or have played those roles. I mean, they didn't want to hire an actual drug addict when I played one, did they? Or only hire real bankers to play bankers? You see how this theory plays out as applied science.
Who are some of your favourite actresses?
Kate Winslet's transformative nature, Marcia Gay Harden's authenticity, Renee Zellwegger's commitment. Jean Smart's ingenuity. The common thread is these ladies are hard-working leave-no-stone-unturned type of artists. They're also committed to being in service of the story being told.
It takes a great actor to be humble enough to see the big picture and their place within it, rather than simply trying to make a project a star vehicle. I adore chameleon actresses because that comprises the body of my work – a massive range of types and I aim to continue surprising people with what I can learn to do.
What do you feel is your sole purpose?
I'm here to make things. That's my superpower. But the message I want to send with the things I make, that's the sole purpose.
So I suppose the question becomes, what's my personal messaging? I stand for meritocracy, equality, and ethical business practices. You can probably easily draw the lines to who I stand with politically – and in the past, I've often found myself in the place where I know intimately how the good guy finishes last. But I'm still in the fight until the end because I really can't help myself. It's part of my DNA. In a world that sometimes feels full of lies and broken promises, I'm here to be relied upon.
How can our readers keep up to date with all you have going on?
I have a website (annunziata.com) which I try to keep up to date. I am on Instagram (@annunziataactor) and will post my projects as they come out there. If you follow me, I love and respond to comments as much as possible because it's nice that we can have these conversations via media across continents. I'm fairly immersed in the work when I'm working, so I try and catch up when I get some time.
Natasha Lee is a visionary, entrepreneur and advocate for all things SHE led. She has built businesses, raised a family and worked alongside some of the most inspirational women globally.
Her #ThatGirl brand is all about strong female leadership, and she wears what she preaches! Have you seen the red lipstick cute T-shirts?! From an early age (She was an 8-year-old DIVA) to the present day, she worked toward her dreams. Natasha doesn't allow anything to hold her back. You can read all about her journey to becoming That Girl here and if you want to ask her any questions drop into The Community
Stay connected with news and updates!
Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.
Don't worry, your information will not be shared.
We hate SPAM. We will never sell your information, for any reason. Ever.