Introduce yourself! Who are you?
Hi! I’m Anna Frankl-Duval, a London-born, Brooklyn-based actor, singer, voiceover artist, and filmmaker.
Have you ever wanted to start a company?
This is an interesting question to answer as an actor because I am my own company. It took a little while for me to get used to the idea of treating myself like a business – I had always known that it was something I *should* be doing, but it felt overwhelming. Once I realized that my career wasn’t something that was going to happen without me approaching it like a business and having strategies and goals in place, everything in my career began to change and my self-confidence grew too.
Were you scared to start the process?
The entertainment industry can definitely be intimidating, but I always knew that this was the only field that I wanted to work in, so even when there was fear, it was never big enough to overtake my desire to succeed.
Have you ever had anyone doubt you? How did that make you feel?
Of course! It’s a horrible feeling, but if you use it as fuel it can be a fantastic motivator. I knew I wanted to work as an actor and a singer from a young age, so I had to face years of people thinking the I wouldn’t be able to do it. Luckily, as the years have gone on and my career has progressed that happens less and less frequently. Few things feel better than proving that people were wrong to doubt you. We all come across people who doubt us, but it gets dangerous when we absorb those opinions from other people and start to doubt ourselves – we start building invisible walls and restrictions that never had to be there. It took me a long time to learn that other people’s doubts in you are usually about themselves – their own fears, their own mistakes or regrets, their own insecurities – they usually have very little to do with you. The better we get at recognizing that, the quicker we strip away the power that other people’s doubts have over us.
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned along the way?
It’s not really worth doing anything unless you’re doing it completely as yourself, because that’s where the magic is. The older I get, the more at home I feel in myself and that makes everything better – my work, my relationships, and all of my daily experiences.
How do you manage your work-life balance?
As an actor, my schedule varies so much day-to-day that this can be a tough one to stay on top of, so I try to build in little daily habits that keep me grounded and feeling like a human – journaling, working out, walking in the park. Staying organized really helps too! I’m a little old school about it – I use a paper datebook to plan out my schedule and I think that looking at my whole week on paper allows me to see if I’m leaning too far towards working too hard (or playing too hard) so I can readdress it and plan ahead for that very important downtime. I’m also learning to check in with myself and be honest with people if I don’t have the energy or capacity to do something that we’ve planned. That was something that I used to be really bad at, I felt like I had to do everything that I said I would do, and I still try to, but allowing myself that honesty and wiggle room means that I can take care of myself properly and be more present in the things I do.
If you weren’t doing the job you have now, what would you be doing?
I can’t imagine doing anything other than what I’m doing! When I started in this industry, a lot of people used to ask me what my backup plan was, but I never really had one. There’s a Will Smith quote that I came across years ago which I love because it both inspires me and justifies my stubbornness: “There’s no need to have a Plan B, it just distracts from Plan A.”
Do you remember a specific time you overcame adversity?
My mum died when I was 24 years old. I had moved back to London from New York that summer to help her out during her treatment and I ended up staying for three years after she died. Working my way through grief has probably been my biggest challenge to date – when you’re in it, you can’t imagine that you’ll ever find your way out, and when you finally do, you’re a very different person than you were before it all happened. Some of the parts of myself that I treasure the most came out of grief, although I certainly didn’t behave perfectly while my mum was sick or after her death, which is something I really struggled with for a long time. In fact, the whole experience inspired me to write my first short film as a way to try and process and repair the mistakes I had made. As well as writing the film, I produced and starred in it – the entire process was an incredible learning experience – I was figuring out how to do things I had never done before, while leading a team of 19 people and telling a very personal story. The film is called If Only – we shot it in 2017 and since then it has been seen in film festivals both in the U.S. and Europe – it’s super cool to think that people across the country and in other parts of the world have seen this thing I made and heard my version of that story.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
“Today is the first day of the rest of your life” – my mum used to tell me that when I felt like I was stuck in a situation or was feeling really down. The idea that we always have the opportunity to choose the shape of our life, or to change its course completely, is incredibly powerful and liberating to me – I love it.
Looking back, what would you say to 16 year old you?
I would tell 16 year old me to get into the habit of listening to herself and trusting what she hears. I would tell her not to forget how smart she is, but to always remember how much she has to learn and to remain open to that. I would tell her that it’s going to be so much easier when she’s less angry. I would tell her not to waste energy on trying to be perfect, because her flaws are going to turn out to be some of the most interesting and charming parts of her. I would tell her that the best things in life are usually on the other side of vulnerability and fear. I would tell her that 30 year-old her is proud of who she is and still brags about some of the things that she did. I would tell her that I think she’d be proud of who she had turned out to be at 30 and where her life has taken her.
What message do you think every woman should hear?
I think that women need to be reminded to take up space – to inhabit all of who they are and what they think, without apologizing for it – most of us have been conditioned to apologize constantly, and it’s so damaging. When we compromise any part of who we are to cater to someone else’s expectation of who they think we should be, we lose our power and our sense of self. And I think that all women have to remember to support other women, all types of women – the ones who don’t look like you, who don’t have the same experiences as you, who don’t make the same choices as you; do it in a variety of ways – listen to them, cheer them on, learn from them, protect them.
Who comes to mind when you think women who are powerful role models? Why?
I think Emma Thompson is absolutely amazing – not only is she incredibly talented, but she is uncompromising about who she is and what she believes, and always fights for what she thinks is right. But there are so many phenomenal role models in my industry at the moment – Issa Rae, Amy Schumer, Tina Fey, Denise Gough, Abbi Jacobson, Ilana Glazer – all of these women are driven and talented, of course, but they’re also gutsy and outspoken, they create their own opportunities and fight for what they believe – all of them are shattering the long-held expectations that the industry, and society in general, have of women, and I admire them all for that.
What is your greatest fear?
Regret. I am terrified of things that are unchangeable which can make me a very indecisive person at times, usually about the silliest things. Sometimes I have to remind myself that not making a decision is still always making a choice. I don’t want to get to the end of my life and feel like it has passed me by or been shaped as a result of decisions I let other people make – I want to feel proud of who I am and how I have behaved, and to have a whole bunch of ridiculous stories to tell. I want the path I created for myself to be a new one, made up of a mixture of choice and chance.
What motivates you most?
Knowing that I’m capable of doing better and being better – the feeling of not giving my all and not reaching my full potential is just the worst, so I want to do everything I can to avoid that.
What do you do on a daily basis to grow and move forward?
I love to-do lists – I usually start them on a Sunday night when I’m reviewing the week I’ve had and planning my week ahead, and then I add to them as the week goes on. The satisfaction of ticking things off that list gives me a real sense of productivity and fuels me to keep building that momentum. Working out, committing time to my career on a daily basis, and writing morning pages are all super important for me to feel like I have a strong foundation every day to do my best across the board. As a freelancer I’ve also realized that sometimes I need some outside structure, otherwise the days can get away from me. I’m currently enrolled in a 100-day program created by Bonnie Gillespie which is called ‘Get in Gear for the Next Tier’ – it consists of daily tasks to help actors do the work they need to in order to keep building their careers. I’ve already found this incredibly helpful, and I’m only a third of the way through! Creating ways to implement action on a daily basis is something that keeps me moving forward no matter what.
What is one thing people would be surprised to hear about you?
Once people hear me talk they’re usually surprised to find out that I’m not as British as I sound! Although I was born in the UK and am a proud Londoner, I’m actually the daughter of a Hungarian refugee and a French immigrant.
What is your favorite thing about where you live now?
Oh there are so many things! Even after eleven years here, I still find New York completely magical – I see little moments of humanity and kindness and creativity all over the place and I love that. I’m also lucky enough to live in a neighbourhood in Brooklyn with a real community vibe, which is so special in a city where you can also revel in your anonymity.
What are your biggest passions?
I would say that people and the truth are my biggest passions. I’m a proud feminist with an understanding of the importance of intersectionality, an LGBTQ+ ally, and advocate for justice and equality across the board.
Where do you find inspiration?
I find my inspiration in people, whether I know them personally or not, who are doing extraordinary things and defying the odds. Sometimes, when I need to find that fight in me, I remind myself of the huge hurdles some of my family members had to overcome as holocaust survivors and refugees, or of all the people in the world who are struggling but still find ways to give to others and live their lives with amazing kindness and joy, and the people who stand up for what they believe in, no matter the cost – those are the people who inspire me.
Anna Frankl-Duval, a London-born, Brooklyn-based actor, singer, voiceover artist, and filmmaker.