Very often, actors are trained to stick to the script when being interviewed. And, the script usually reads about as exciting as a McDonald’s menu because the stock answers are nice and neutral, so as to not offend. Like any other journalist/fan, I wanted to find out where to duck, dodge, dive, and duck while soliciting Julie’s answers to the questions burning in our hot little fanhearts. It was especially so for all those fanboys smitten by the gorgeous girl next door turned angel, Anna Milton.
But, there was no need for concern or reconnaissance. Julie McNiven isn’t a jaded starlet with rehearsed lines. You ask her a question, and she’ll give you an honest answer.
In fact, this whole honesty thing runs throughout her life like a vein of gold. In her personal life, her self-honesty leads her to be an earth conscious vegan shopping for an Electric Vehicle while riding a bike as much as possible. She wants to be a responsible member of the human race.
In her professional work, she cares about the quality of her performance the way Antonio Stradivari shaped his masterful violins. She has an unabashedly honest work ethic and is zeroed in on honing and refining herself as an actor, rather than simply waiting for her chance to direct or produce. She doesn’t just want to be in front of the camera.
Work is serious business for Julie McNiven and she loves focusing on the conflicts and personality of her characters because that’s where she finds the room to shave a little here and add a bit there. And, when it’s time for action on the set, she’s giving you her best and most honest work the way a Stradivarius violin gives you a superior sound when in masterful hands.
Julie lives out loud, but peacefully so. She’s honest, open, and unapologetic without any tapdancing or strategy when it comes to herself and her characters. And, we Supernatural fans are all the better for having her in the cast.
So, here are some of her honest answers to some of our most often posed questions. ~Andrew White
How did you get into acting?
I started doing musicals in Jr. High and I fell in love with the stage. While doing community theatre throughout high school I would drive to Boston for film auditions. I went to College and got a degree in Theatre and then I was off to NYC.
What kind of preparation did you have to do to play “Anna” on Supernatural? Do you find yourself taking a different acting approach, since “Anna” is an angel?
I had about a week. I approach Anna with her circumstances, wants, needs, desires and obstacles just as I would any other character. Her being an Angel doesn’t change my view on how to play her.
You mentioned you’ve been studying Angelic lore a bit since you landed this role. Have you found anything interesting that’s shaped your view of Anna and maybe found its way into your performance?
Actually no….Those readings ended up just being for fun. I thought it may bring some insight, but came to realize that it’s way more important to focus on her relationships, wants, etc.
We have heard time and time again about how hard the cast and crew of Supernatural work. Could you give us a glimpse into “a day in the life” of the Supernatural set?
Yes, they work very hard! The crew is always there earlier than the cast and leaves after we leave. The boys end up working 70 or 80 hours a week! For me, I usually worked a 10-15 hour day. I’ll have about two hours at the beginning of the day for hair and make-up. Then we’ll block the first shot, wait for it to be lit…which can be 20-30 min, and shoot. We’ll do a handful of takes…Then move onto to more setups…It can take 3 or 4 hours to shoot a short scene. Of course, if there’s any special effects or stunt work this takes a lot longer. It adds up to be quite a long day.
What is your favorite scene you’ve shot on Supernatural and why was it the most memorable?
I think it’s kind of strange but one of my favorite things to shoot was the hypnosis scene in 4.10. It was a lot of fun to flail around and scream… oh wait… definitely killing Uriel!
At this point in your career, you’ve been on screen and stage for a long time and with a broad range of actors. Is there anyone on the set of Supernatural that you look forward to working with or perhaps an actor who intimidates or inspires you?
I’ve really enjoyed working with all the actors on “Supernatural.” I haven’t done too much with Genevieve. I’d love to work with her more.
If you were writing the role of “Anna,” is there anything you would change about her?
I wouldn’t change anything…but I’d love to know where the Angels go when they disappear.
Your role as Hildy on Mad Men allowed you to deliver some fairly snarky dialog and reveal a character who is much more than meets the eye, as did the most recent appearance on Supernatural where you save Castiel’s bacon (4.16). Tell us about your tough side that helps you do so well with this part of your characters and how you bring it to your performances.
My tough side…hmmmmmm…I really don’t have much of one…it’s not what I’d call tough…its more that I can assert my self when I need to…I think that’s why a tough, or snarky side is so fun to play.
Supernatural fans have a reputation for being overprotective of Sam and Dean Winchester, and female characters have not always fared too well. Is this something you have been aware of and what are your impressions?
Well…i’m definitely aware that some of the fandom…ahem…hates me. But it doesn’t bother me. I’m not so sensitive about stuff like that. As long as the writers and producers are happy with me…I’m happy. 🙂
Did you watch Supernatural before you landed the role of “Anna” and if not, are you caught up on the show now?
I did watch the show. I am my father’s daughter. I watch a lot more sci fi shows than I ever thought I would as a kid.
The Impala has its own following in the Supernatural community. After having been a viewer and then landing the role as Anna, what was it like to have so many scenes in and around the famous Chevy?
Ahh yes, the impala…I didn’t realize how much she was her own character on the show. I don’t really have much to say about her….
How was your first convention experience? Were you nervous or excited? Did you get any advice from any of your actor/actress friends who have attended conventions?
I’ve done 2 so far and they’ve both been a lot fun. I was pretty nervous before my first but everyone was really nice and my jitters faded pretty quickly.
You’ve been all over the place filming various projects. Was filming for Supernatural your first time in Vancouver? Do you like Van? What’s been your favorite location so far throughout your career?
Yes it was my first time to Vancouver. I really enjoyed it there. It did get a bit dark and rainy for my taste but it couldn’t have been more beautiful when the sun was shining.
What’s in high rotation on your iPod and what bands/artists have you loved to see in concert?
I love Regina Specktor, Neko Case, Nina Nastasia, Glen Hansard, The Decemberists, Belle and Sabastian…
If you were “stuck” on a desert island with one other human being – between Misha Collins, Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles – who would you chose?
I’d have to say Misha…he’s restored a house and built a lot of his own furniture. He would be able to build a hut and perhaps even a radio make from a coconut. 🙂
If you could bring one dead character back to life on Supernatural, who would it be?
Pamela! I love her!
What is your ideal role to play?
I don’t have one ideal role. The more variety I get to explore within a character and within myself the better.
If you weren’t acting, what back up career would you have?
I’ve never really thought too hard about a back up career. I love kids though…maybe teaching. Or, I’d have a vegan cafe.
We’d love your recommendations on the following:
-Book you read recently – I’m in the middle of reading “Blue Latitudes…boldly going where Captain Cook has gone before” by Tony Horwitz
-TV program you can’t miss – LOST
-Artist or band you love – Currently obsessed with Zooey Dechanel’s “She And Him.”
-Restaurant you dined at – Real Food Daily, Swingers
In addition to Supernatural, where can we see you on screen next?
“Mad Men” season 3 will start airing in July!
When he’s not watching Supernatural, Andrew White is a freelance outdoors and motorcycling journalist.