Nurse Dina on Chicago Med, Amanda Grace Marcheschi, Chats Career Journey
Amanda Grace Marcheschi is an actress and performer that had an incredible road to success. She sat down with Casting Depot to talk about her journey and tips for others aspiring to get into the industry.
What’s your full name and occupation?
My professional name is Amanda Grace Marcheschi. When I married in 2016, I legally took my husband’s last name (Manfosky). I am a stage, screen and voice over actor. I have also worked in other parts of the industry such as a singer, dancer, director, choreographer, and model.
Tell us about you and your career.
From a young age, I was drawn to the performing arts. Nothing really feels more natural to me than singing, acting, and being connected to the creative, artistic world. Music, theater, and dance were very much a part of my upbringing and regular rituals of my family. Growing up, I was always surrounded by gifted artists because they were in my own family! My parents and grandparents nurtured my talent and I was fortunate enough to perform professionally with their touring groups The Original Starlites and The Anawim Players. I participated in lessons for a variety of performing arts and was the first to sign up for school plays and theater summer camps. I couldn’t get enough! At the same time, I feel like I was a well-rounded kid. I played sports, too, and loved being an athlete as well as an artist.
When I was seven years old, I asked Santa for a talent agent. Santa never came through, but I didn’t let that stop me. I started professionally acting, singing, and modeling by the time I was 8 years old. Throughout my adolescence, I honed my craft, taking lessons of every kind, and performing as much as I could. My passion and path were clear to me, and I was determined to continue my pursuit of professional acting and singing. I was fortunate to attend college for acting and musical theater. In Chicago after graduation and during my time in New York City, I was also fortunate to star in several productions and really enjoyed the theater scene. At the time, I thought I wanted to continue pursuing stage theater, singing and dancing under the bright lights of Broadway, and perform musicals the rest of my life. After a couple years in NYC and around the country, I really started to miss Chicago and my family there. I booked a 3 month theater gig in Chicago and used that as a way to move back. Once back, I was cast in a few commercials and independent films and quickly realized that TV & film acting was where I wanted to be. From there I was able to book commercials, industrials, music videos, some short films, etc. All of that led to more work and more exciting roles and opportunities!
Tell us about your credits.
Over the years I’ve had a long and versatile career appearing on stage, film, television, internet radio and music videos. I currently play “Nurse Dina” on the NBC drama Chicago Med and, through Dick Wolf’s ‘One Chicago’ universe, I’ve also made appearances on Chicago Fire & Chicago PD. I starred as “Rebecca” in Christopher Nolen’s comedic film Four Season’s playing opposite Keith Robinson and Christian Keyes. As a musical theater actress, I’ve appeared on several stages in New York City, Chicago and other regional theaters across the country. I’ve worked with many amazingly talented and noteworthy individuals, including the legendary Charles Strouse. Some of my favorite stage roles include “Lois/Bianca” (Kiss Me Kate), “Kate McGowan” (Titanic), “Dorothy” (Wizard of Oz) and the title role in Cinderella.
Not wanting to miss any aspect of the industry, I’ve accepted opportunities to model, in print, on the runway, for artists, at beauty shows and even for board game boxes! I competed and won my very first (and only) beauty pageant where I became the Italian-American ambassador, attending numerous events with political dignitaries and reigned as Queen of Chicago’s hugely attended, annual parade. I’ve been seen and heard in numerous commercials and voice overs, recorded an original cast album and lent my voice to other artists, soloing on their original recordings. I’ve worked with some amazing musical talent and was fortunate enough to be featured in music videos by Ezra, Polar Bear Club, Poison and Mike Epps!
Did you have to make difficult choices and what are the lessons learned?
I’ve had to make some difficult decisions, absolutely. As an actor, there are so many unknowns So many things that affect our career and so many things that are beyond our control. Because of this, I’m always overthinking and second guessing every decision I make. Should I move to LA, should I have stayed in NY, should I take this job over that job, will I regret doing this crazy gig down the road, should I have kids, will being pregnant halt my career, can I be a mom and give my family the attention they deserve while still giving my career the attention it needs? So many questions and difficult choices. I had to listen to my heart each time and make a decision I knew I could live with. I think the best actors are the ones who embrace all aspects of life. The things that make our lives richer and more beautiful, give more life to the characters we play. So don’t be afraid to live your life. Yes, it’s good to be dedicated as an actor, but don’t let it prevent you from experiencing life to the fullest. Something else I’ve learned, and wish I knew as a younger actor, was to not worry about “doing it right”. The only “right” way is to be me. Just me. Amanda is enough in that casting room. I don’t need to prove myself or make sure they love me. Doing the work and seeing who I bring to the character is all that’s needed.
What advice do you have for people looking to break into the industry?
I recommend taking as many classes as you can to sharpen your tools and become a more versatile actor. Coaches and instructors offer different techniques, so be sure to work with a diverse range. You will be surprised at how these lessons expand your skills and you may discover methods you didn’t realize were out there! I think people think acting is comparable to small children playing pretend. What people may not realize is that acting is an art, and like any artform, you need to continually refine and expand your skillset. Raw talent is wonderful, but everyone needs to hone their craft. Acting is one of the most competitive industries out there, and isn’t for the weak of heart, since so much of being an actor is being let down after an audition. As actors, we don’t always get the role we hoped for, and this kind of thing is just part of the business. I encourage aspiring actors and performers to find ways to stay centered through this process. One way is to remind yourself why you love acting and continue to gain support and inspiration from fellow actors in the performing arts community. Always try to access this inspiration, and keep it in the front of your mind on the days you just want to throw in the towel. And, as always, stay grounded. There are lots of different roles out there. Remember to have perspective no matter where you are in your career and be grateful for all the opportunities you are granted. It might sound trite, but I honestly feel lucky to have a job where I get to play “dress up” and “make believe” for a living. As you can tell, I’m delightfully in touch with my inner child. This makes it all the more fun to play with my two adorable boys who are 2 years old and 4 months old.
What are your favorite shows/films?
Friends and Arrested Development are my two favorite sitcoms. I’ve probably seen every episode ten times each and find myself reciting most of the dialogue right along with them. A dream job would be a series regular in a similar type of ensemble based show. Such amazing writers and the casts--oh my goodness, such talent! Everyday at work would feel like Christmas! I have always been a huge Dick Wolf fan, even long before my One Chicago days. So as far as TV dramas, Law & Order SVU is probably my favorite. I’ve seen just about every one of those episodes too and there are a TON!! I would definitely love to guest star on that show. Maybe Nurse Dina is on vacation in New York? You know, just in case they need any storyline ideas. haha There are so many good films that I love. When choosing a movie to watch, I usually gravitate towards comedy over drama. I have a great appreciation for dramas, but I’m a sucker for a good comedy. The ones over the years that I will watch again and again and always make me laugh without fail... that’s the sign of a good comedy. Big Daddy and Mean Girls immediately come to mind and I have to say that Home Alone was such a huge part of my childhood that I still watch it any time it’s on television. But my biggest weakness is movies where the character finds themself in a different body! Freaky Friday, 13 Going on 30, The Change Up, 17 Again... I could watch those all day, every day!
What is it like to be a working actor during COVID?
Back in March I was still filming season 5 of Chicago Med. I was working as a reader for a theater audition when I got an email from production saying that a crew member had tested positive for Covid-19. Things started snowballing and unfortunately filming was forced to shut down, thus cutting the season 3 episodes short. It was definitely the right decision, but I know it was very disappointing for a lot of actors, especially some who were making their debut in one of the cancelled episodes. When we first went into lockdown, we all thought this would last a maybe a month or so. Nobody anticipated their entire career to be at stake. As actors, our jobs are always on the line. Nothing is permanent and we are always looking for our next job. With the lockdown, there wasn't even any job to look for! Theaters cancelled their entire season and SAG-AFTRA halted all production. As a singer, I often sang at weddings. Now almost all of those were cancelled too. Day to day life started to get very stifling and I needed to find a creative outlet somehow. I was offered a couple opportunities to perform and had to turn them down because there were not enough protocols in place to minimize the risk involved. However, I was able to continue recording voice over dramas. That was really great because we could be in the recording booth alone, do our part and leave. And with the director only communicating through the headset, there was no physical contact with anyone. I was so grateful for these voice over dramas as it was really my only chance to act for a while. I was also able to squeeze a modeling gig in right before I gave birth in July. It was only myself and the photographer on set and we stayed socially distant and he wore a mask at all times. It felt great to get in front of a camera and to do it safely.
After several months, a few remote auditions started to trickle in. Of course everything had to be filmed at home by ourselves. This can already be a tricky chore for an actor but it becomes much more difficult when you have an infant and a toddler at home like I do. Getting the perfect lighting, sound, background and the perfect take to send is a lot more time consuming than simply walking into a casting office. Plus, I’m having to “direct” the audition myself. There is no one else there to give you a note or adjustment so I just do my best and hope that it’s what they were looking for. The pressure to have the perfect at home self tape set up has been challenging. It’s one of the few things we’re able to control and of course we want it to be the best possible. Casting directors know we can do as many takes as we want so they presume we are sending the absolute best. However, there is often a very short turn around time from when the audition email is sent and the time it’s due. Additionally, I have to try to find a time to tape when the baby isn’t crying or nursing and my toddler isn’t endlessly singing nursery rhymes or throwing toys in the background. This means I’m often doing my hair and make up at 10pm in preparation to tape an audition. I usually can only do a few takes before exhaustion from the day sets in or the baby needs me. Deciding which take to use depends on what is best overall given the lights, sound, other technical aspects and the performance. Sometimes the best performance is not the best take because of something technical, so I have to make sure I do my best every take and use what is the best overall. Realizing I needed more at home equipment, I asked for and got a ring light and tripod for my birthday. My husband has also been extremely helpful with my self tapes and has acted as both my scene partner and my camera man. Utilizing what they can in terms of filming and production, two of my auditions were scripted as if we were on a Zoom call. Then the callback with the director was done on an actual Zoom call with the casting director and other actors. Everything virtual is still a new world we’re all navigating but starting to get used to. I really hope we go back to in person everything when it’s safe again, but my fear is that we won’t. Casting directors, directors and producers all seem to prefer the virtual auditioning and self tapes. It has some advantages for sure, but as an actor, I need to connect to the other people in the room.
The whole production crew and cast of the One Chicago series were eagerly awaiting word of when we might resume filming. We had to hear from the governor, NBC and the producers at Chicago Med before we knew of a tentative start date. I was thrilled to learn I would be filming the first episode of Chicago Med’s 6th season in late September. I had to get a series of Covid-19 tests and self quarantine before even getting a wardrobe fitting. All employees are tested everyday they are at the studio and the days leading up to them and temperatures are checked daily as well. Masks are required at all times except when filming. The actors can take them off when rolling and they put them right back on when the director calls “cut”! I’m a bit lucky in the sense that I’m in essentially a hazmat suit so I don’t have to wear a mask but that is because I am completely enclosed in a helmet and everything! I feel very safe in the suit but it gets very hot and it's very difficult to see out of with the lights they added inside the suit so the camera can see my face. I have so much respect for the medical professionals who actually have to wear these suits and sacrifice so much to care for the lives of others. This pandemic has really shined a light on just how special these dedicated and selfless individuals are.
Social distancing is practiced on set and all around the studio so unfortunately socializing definitely isn’t what it used to be. Only 2 actors are allowed in the hair/makeup trailer at a time and we are separated by a clear, plastic wall. Our actor chairs which used to be inches apart are now scattered several yards away from each other. Meals used to be spent chatting at long tables with buffets of huge amounts of food. Now we get “to go” meals in a box and have to eat them isolated in our trailer. There is a limited amount of time we are allowed to spend on set so there is a more serious tone as everyone works with precision to get the job done as efficiently as possible. No time for joking around and can’t afford careless mistakes. Every day we are able to film is a gift and a privilege we don’t take for granted. On my first day of scheduled filming, a PA came over to tell me I was “wrapped” for the day. I quickly learned that everyone was being sent home due to a crew member testing positive for Covid-19. Production shut down for 2 weeks as we made sure it was safe to return. Everyday I would wait to hear when I would be needed on set again and when I would need to come in for testing, etc. Planning ahead is very important when arranging child care for your 2 small children. This virus has made things very hard to plan because things are often so unpredictable. However, I have to say that Dick Wolf productions, NBC and everyone at Cinespace have really gone above and beyond to make filming in a pandemic the safest and best possible experience. I am so grateful for all the measures they have taken to ensure our safety and keep our jobs secure.
Last week I filmed two promotions from my living room for TV programming that will be seen all over the world. It’s nuts to think that 11 million people will be watching something that was done with just myself and a masked camera man. During the pandemic, I also found myself featured in a commercial for Marquee Sports Network and I didn’t even have to do a thing! They used footage taken from over a year prior and released the commercial this summer. It was fun to see myself continually popping up on the screen, especially since this new exposure was an unexpected bonus.
How can we find you online?
http://www.amandamarcheschi.com/ https://www.imdb.com/name/nm6019998/?ref_=fn_al_nm_1 https://www.instagram.com/amandamarcheschi/ https://twitter.com/AmandaMarches https://www.facebook.com/amanda.marcheschi.3/