In this interview, Stephanie Hoston talks about her role in HBO’s Perry Mason and the challenges she faces as an actor or in her career as a whole. Born and raised in Los Angeles, Stephanie is an actor, singer, and director. On March 6th, this rising star will appear on HBO’s Perry Mason.
It’s great to have you here Stephanie, can you tell us a little about yourself? I’m a San Fernando Valley girl, born and raised. I love learning new skills all the time! So far, I’ve trained in boxing, and a little surfing, and now I’m working on roller skating and dancing in heels. It’s all so fun and keeps my life and social pool vibrant and exciting. I’m part Salvadoran on my mom’s side, and I’m Black, Native American, and European on my dad’s side. Being super mixed has made me feel so connected to people from all different walks of life and different parts of history. I Love delving into my family’s past…always love learning new tidbits about my ancestors.
How did you end up choosing this particular career path? And why?
I started out dancing on my living room table, wanting to sing because of Selena Quintanilla. (Laughs)Things changed when I saw Jennifer Lopez in the Selena movie and realized I could do more than just sing by being an actor. Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz also highly influenced me as a kid. As I’ve grown up, I think I just realized there’s nothing else I want to do. A life in entertainment is everything I could dream of… literally.
What quote or saying do you always stick by?
Recently, “if I’m trying, I’m winning,” has been playing over and over in my head. Sometimes, my goals seem so big and out of reach, that even starting feels impossible. I also have a tendency toward perfectionism and control. But if I’m trying, if I’m starting the process, if every chance I get, I’m working, then I’m making progress. That’s success to me.
What is the most rewarding part of your work?
Ooh. I think it’s definitely a tie between the sense of community and collaboration and the response from audiences when they watch. I love the energy of a variety of artistic people listening and working in harmony to create something inspiring and exciting for the world to see. But there’s also the feeling of gratitude people have when they watch something I’ve worked on, and they tell me how much it means to them. It’s almost like that collaboration we had on set translates to the viewers and now they’ve become a part of it too and can incorporate it into their own lives.
What’s the most exciting thing you’ve Read/ seen this week about yourself?
Lol, My eyes went wide reading this question. Not quite so used to reading/seeing things about myself yet. Hmm… The Perry Mason trailers and articles keep coming out and they get me so pumped for the premiere. We all, cast and crew, worked so hard on this show. I can’t wait to see how it turned out!
Where do you find your artistic inspiration?
I find artistic inspiration in watching other artists, new and famous ones, work. I’ve been watching a ton of community theatre, professional theatre, and award-nominated movies recently. Each time, I watch, I learn something new about how they approach a scene or a character. I learn just how much dedication and commitment are vital to working in this industry and it just gets me going!
If you had to give one piece of advice to a budding artist, what would it be?
Just start. Don’t judge yourself. Don’t judge your process. Just get going in any direction. Your voice will come to you, the more new projects you work on. And TAKE A CLASS, if you’re not working. I know it can get pricy, believe me, I’ve been there… but learn in any way you can, whether that be studying movies and tv (of ALL genres) or in class or in a play!
Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?
I suppose some of the most interesting people I’ve interacted with, have been those I’ve met on set. The leads of Perry Mason: Matthew Rhys, Chris Chalk, and Juliet Rylance were such kind, talented, funny people. Jen Tullock, Paul Raci, Fabrizio Guido, Peter Mendoza, and Onahoua Rodriguez all were so delightful to work with. The set of Perry Mason was really a place where so many of us came from very different colorful backgrounds and the best part was how to open we were to listen to those experiences.
How would you describe your development as an artist in terms of interest and challenges, searching for a personal voice, and breakthroughs?
Oof. I think starting out was a very jarring experience. I mean as a kid, growing up in LA, I had so many opportunities in school to be involved in art. Thank God! But I also was very exposed to that concept of fame at a very young age, for the same reason. I was shown a lot of “tips and tricks” on how to become the next “Disney kid”, instead of being encouraged to create for the sake of creativity or as an emotional outlet. For this reason, when I went to film school, I was totally in the dark about what my “voice” was. I think I’m still learning about that. It took me YEARS to realize I just had to get out there and start. That I would figure out my voice over time. That it’s ok to fail. I definitely had a breakthrough in my senior year of college when I directed my thesis film. I realized how much I knew about the filmmaking process, and how much of an opinion I really had about the whole thing. My next big breakthrough was in 2019 when I auditioned for Selena: The Series on Netflix and got SO CLOSE to booking. I didn’t end up booking it, but it opened SO many doors for me in getting auditions. And after that, I didn’t have much a breakthrough until I almost quit acting in 2021, about 2 months before I booked Perry Mason. I realized, loving the process meant doing this for me. Because I love it. For better or for worse.
Can you tell me a little about your role in”Perry Mason”?
(Laughs) All I think I can honestly say is that I’m on the show. That’s it. (Laughs) Gotta leave the audience something to investigate alongside Mr. Mason. Tune in on March 6th when Perry Mason premieres on HBO if you want to find out!
What excites you most about the role and how did you get it? The EXTREMES my character goes through are SO exhilarating. It’s painful but so thrilling to throw me into it and portray a woman of Latin descent during that era. It’s like going into a time machine!
What are your preparation methods when it comes to acting?
Generally, I have a checklist for audition prep. I’ll focus on the tone and the creatives of the show first and then dive into the character and finally focus on the scene. For Perry Mason, I researched a lot of the history of Los Angeles during that era. I read books on the experience of lower-class and Latin people, so I could give myself context on whatever scenes they threw my way. Also, since I live in LA, I tried my best to visit historic sites mentioned in the history books I read. Once I got my scenes, I created playlists of period-appropriate music as well as music from every era, which helped me jump into my imagination on set. I’d rehearse my scenes. And finally, on shoot days, I’d put my wardrobe on, listen to those playlists, and already start imagining I was the character. I’d dream up new scenarios about my life as the character, wonder about the other characters I had relationships with, and wonder about whatever issues my character was facing that day. Take a last look at my lines and head to set.