Revealing our true selves can be a frightening endeavor. We are concerned about judgement and rejection once we fully let down our guard and show our true identity. Lifetime network’s “Crazy Ex” presents situations in which revealing your true self often has hilarious and negative outcomes. Thankfully for actress Yvette Gregory, this was not the case for her when auditioning. Although a native Australian, Gregory’s American accent is flawless to such a point that her native accent is undetectable. This can sometimes be problematic for actors but Christine Scowley cast Yvette for this Lifetime Series based on her performance. The show’s producers were amazed to find out Gregory is not from the US and remarked that it was just another sign of the actress’s ability to fully invest in her character. Currently in its fifth season, “Crazy Ex” is embedded in the Lifetime line up. This production tells the extraordinary but true stories of past relationships that went awry when one partner’s behavior goes from romantic to excessive to extreme.
“Crazy Ex” is an episodic series which tells different stories of people who just couldn’t control themselves in their romantic lives. Yvette was cast as the lead character Jill in the Episode, “Fumigated, Manipulated and Inseminated”. The storyline follows Yvette’s character and the hilarious drama that ensues when Jill’s plan to clean up her slobbish boyfriend backfires. Her attempts to manipulate her romantic partner into cleanliness fall short and Jill pays the price for it. As Jill, Yvette had to portray a slightly delusional character type, delivering a subtle and natural performance with amusing undertones. While non-actors can sometimes operate under the misconception that acting is pretending, Gregory is quick to point out that it is actually quite the opposite. Finding the true intentions and motivations of the characters which she portrays and placing herself in a similar scenario allows her to “inhabit” the character. She confirms, “We never judge our characters as actors. We find a justifiable means for what we do. Even if I was playing a serial killer, this would be my duty. Crazy people don’t think they’re crazy and anyone who has gone through an emotional breakup knows what that angst feels like, and at the very least has fantasized about revenge. As actors, we in a sense play out that fantasy and fight to win our power back in moments like this.” Portraying and not judging characters like an adult escort (as Yvette did in Amazon’s “Private Sales”) or the polar opposite prudish Beatriz Jones (in Wine Tasting) gives this actress plenty of diversity to connect with, including the somewhat conniving Jill.
There is a fine distinction between trepidation and sensitivity when it comes to an actress portraying a person in real life. Yvette admits to making her own mental note and taking a pause to consider that she would be playing the part of someone who really exists and experienced these occurrences. Mindful of this fact while also delivering the lines and the story she was given, Gregory admits, “There is definitely a difference between performing as a fictional character versus an actual person. As actors, we have a responsibility to take on the mannerisms of true life people as best we can. It doesn’t change my acting technique but it adds to the work that I need to do. For example, if my character has a southern drawl then that’s something I need to bring to my work. If she has a twitch or a stutter, I’d have to incorporate those as if I’d been dealing with them my whole life. I can definitely relate to some of her OCD tendencies but Jill takes things to a level that I wouldn’t. I love a clean and tidy home but to manipulate my loved one into ensuring the house was clean to my standard would never happen. Sometimes you have to let go, as there are bigger fish to fry!”
The tendency in portraying someone who reacts as Jill did in the episode “Fumigated, Manipulated and Inseminated” might be to deliver a big performance to quickly convey some of the more awkward and premeditated actions of Jill. Yvette has received accolades for presenting the inverse of this approach. Her low key and controlled performance proved that sometimes whispering is a much better way than shouting to capture attention. Focusing on body language and what she chose to communicate nonverbally, Gregory presented Jill as a more controlling entity that translated into a performance which was more comedic than menacing. She reveals, “The subtlety comes out with introspective choices I make. If I am thinking something rather than saying it, you’ll see it in my eyes but it’s a lot subtler. The comedy comes from my own insecurities playing through the character. For example, when Jill is being questioned about her actions, there is time where she just gives a “look” rather than saying a word. In this case, the unspoken speaks louder than words. We know exactly what she’s trying to say without saying it and incriminating herself.”
For all of the factors that allowed Gregory to connect with Jill and so powerfully and effectively become her for “Crazy Ex” there are still so many that didn’t make sense for her. The obvious need to control someone in a relationship…even the ways in which relationships are conducted here in the States. While the American accent is easy for Yvette to comprehend and facilitate, the American idea of dating multiple people at the same time is unusual for Australians. A common thread in both cultures are the wild dating/relationship stories like those found in “Crazy Ex” and Yvette is no exception. She concedes, “I had a boyfriend who unbeknownst to me decided to do Mushrooms on the day he was supposed to take me to meet his mother. Needless to say, that meeting never happened and that was the end of that relationship!” The love affair with the boyfriend may not continue but Yvette Gregory’s true romance with acting is the love of her life and is here to stay.