Mornings with Anna Chlumsky
Editor’s Note: In the series ‘Mornings With’ we begin a new day with inspiring talent in film and television, in an equally inspiring place. ROSE & IVY founding editor, Alison Engstrom sits down and chats about morning routines, exciting projects, New York and what inspires them and drives them to be their very best.
I recently had the pleasure of spending a delightful morning with actress Anna Clumsky. Not only is Anna incredibly talented in front of the camera, but she is kind, quick-witted and hilarious to boot—even though she is self-depreciating when it comes to the matter. I chatted with the fellow Brooklynite, in the private dining room of Legacy Records, about her morning ritual—it involves tarot cards—her love of food and of course about the final season of Veep.
Photography by Daniel G. Castillon
Star of HBO’s Emmy Winning Series Veep
Legacy Records, New York
Whole Milk Cappuccino
Would you say you are a morning person?
No (laughs)! If I have the luxury, I’m sleeping in as much as I can. During the week, our days start at seven when my kids get up. Sometimes they’ll wake up earlier, but what’s really cool is that they share a room, so they entertain themselves—that’s their playtime and that’s really important. Now that my daughter's in kindergarten, it’s not as play-based, which is fine for her, she loves structure, but it’s important to get the play time in. Play-based education is so important!
Do you wake up with coffee or tea?
How do you prepare it?
I like using a French press but I think my husband wants to try a Chemex.
Motivating Morning Mantra:
My morning ritual is pulling a tarot card—I’m actually learning to read them. I’ll try and ask the same question everyday for a while so I can compare. It used to be ‘How can I be my best self today?’ but then I got to a place where I was putting too much pressure on myself. Now it’s just, ‘What’s my guide today?’. Some days if it’s like really hairy, I’ll get more specific and ask, ‘How can I find peace today,’ or ‘How can I be of service today,’ those are nice. It’s a scary one if you’re self-centered like me, (laughs) I’m not self-centered, I was just an only child. I think because I grew up acting, I get very protective of having people taking from you, and so the concept of service used to scare me, because it was a way that people could take. But now I’m realizing, it’s actually the most divine way to be, of service, because that’s our whole point, or one of the points. I heard of an exercise that if you do it everyday and then journal it, you get to compare—it’s so much fun, I could talk to you all day about this!
So many people come to New York with a dream. What was yours?
The original dream for New York (pauses). You know metaphysically, we could talk about what was in my conscious mind and what was actually at work, but I think in my conscious mind it was to write. I first started working for Harper Collins writing fiction. I wanted to be Banana Yoshimoto basically because I loved her novels so much. I think that deep down, I truly loved Broadway and theater and needed to be seeing it on a regular basis in order to influence and inspire me again. I think that’s what happened.
Did you have a vision board in your mind of how you wanted your life to ultimately look?
I never did a mood board because I didn’t like the idea of it cluttering my place. In my twenties, I had this funny thing where I had this manila envelope that I would put clippings from magazines inside. Then I got the idea to decorate the actual envelope with the mood board with découpage. Inside there was always travel, tons of places that I wanted to go; there were also pictures of awards—I’d cut out all of the names of the theaters on Broadway from my Playbills. I’d include personal things too, at that time I wanted a dog, so there were a lot of dogs on there, in addition to family and romantic things. Living in a city like New York is your mood board, you’re living within your mood board.
Anna is wearing an All Saints blazer
I read that you once performed ten shows back to back for free here in New York. Looking back, it could be seen as the ‘romantic’ period of one's career, when you persevere and don’t give up. But really when you were in the thick of it, how did you overcome fear and self doubt and not give up?
I’m very metaphysical and Joseph Campbell about things. I really do think that it’s easy to say, ‘I’m never going to give up’ when everything is fine, but then never giving up really counts when you really want to give up. I had a fiction teacher who said in leading a creative life, the only way to fail is if you give up, so failure is only up to you. I don’t know if that’s necessarily true, but for someone who’s afraid of failure—because everyone’s got their pain-point, that’s mine—I think that was extremely relieving and liberating to hear. It gave me the space to at least try. I applied that idea to writing and then when I got back into acting.
How did you land your role as Amy Brookheimer on Veep?
I was in the movie, In the Loop that was with written and directed by Armando Iannucci, who is the creator of Veep, so I was a rehire, which is so amazing. I still to this day cannot believe it.
Working alongside Julia Louis-Dreyfus and your hilarious cast must have been a joy!
We definitely laughed and if you’ve heard I have a very loud cackle, so I think people probably know when I’m awake and when I’m laughing. Compared to them, I am not funny, I take things far too seriously, and I’m a joke killer (laughs)—they’re brilliant and the funniest people on the planet.
CAN YOU SHARE ANY details ABOUT THE final SEASON and your feelings about how the show ends?
It picks up about two months where we left off—a lot of cliffhangers get addressed. Regarding the ending, I’m pleased, especially with the last moment. I was darn pleased.
When things come to end, would you say you are more nostalgic by nature or can you cherish those moments fondly and move on easily?
I’m so grateful. Every day I have just a profound gratitude for what Veep has been; I’m very sappy. The first day of the last episode, Julia cried with everybody and it allowed all of us to share our feelings together, hug each other and just embrace every moment. And you know, that was such a gift on a personal level. We spent at least five months out of the year together, over the course of eight years. Many of us started, or continued families and many babies were born. It was a chunk of life and we spent it together, for all the good and bad, it was a family for that reason. I’m not over it because it changed everything. And again, life goes as it goes, so who’s to say I wouldn’t have had kids, accolades and all of that other stuff. But the way it shook out was this role enabled me create a homestead and build my family—it was life changing.
I hear that you are quite the foodie and love to cook! What’s your specialty?
I make very good beans—I’ll add smoked meat, bacon or chicken—we usually always have that in the fridge. I cook so much that it’s hard to say there’s one thing. Cooking is my therapy; it’s my meditation. The other day I was in such a bad mood, and I was like,"It’s all bullshit, and then I was like, ‘It’s not all bullshit! Sauté garlic in an iron skillet, that’s not bullshit!” I also bake, I’m almost always making something. Recently, my husband took a nap and he woke up and there were muffins and he was like, ‘Did you make muffins while we were all napping?’ and I was like, ‘Yes!’.
Do you follow recipes or are you more adventurous and create your own?
I’m a recipe gal. My dad was a chef, so I grew up in his restaurant. One of his main tenants is if you follow a recipe long enough—it’s like playing a sport, being on stage or playing an instrument—you’ll learn the notes. Once you have that in your muscle memory, then you can start to be like, ‘Oh gee, I don’t have this spice’, so then I’ll riff. Before you do that, you kind of want to know what you’re doing.
As a fellow brooklynite, What would be your perfect day?
We’d definitely walk to Domino Park in Williamsburg—it’s awesome. There’s going to be coffee in there somewhere and my kids will probably have ice cream because we love doing that. Picnicing is also a good thing, if it’s a spring day, and also if we’re calling it ‘perfect’, that means that the picnic went well and we had the best baguette, cheese and olives. When it comes to restaurants, I love Blanca, it’s the restaurant that’s connected to Roberta’s, it’s wonderful and it’s Michelin Star. It only has 12-seats so it’s hard to get reservations. I also love Estela and Tanoreen in Bay Ridge.
What to do love most about living in new york?
I love New York City, it’s got theater, it’s everything that I love and so it will always be home. But I’m not location specific in that I love London as well. I love a lot of places, and I always say, no location is a non-starter. So if ever I had a situation where the work was so compelling and required me to leave and go do it, that’s fine, we will figure it out, because that’s what matters. New York is ours too, it was really nice to be able to go do Veep in Los Angeles and then go home. This last season, and also season five, when I was pregnant with my second, I was flying back and forth every single weekend. It was a lot and I was exhausted, but it’s like, look at how lucky I am that I can do this. I can get on a plane and be at work and then be home and be with my kids. That was not the case 50 years ago, even 30 years ago. It’s exhausting but it’s worth it. You make it work, you just always make it work.