AFDA Johannesburg alumni, Marielise van Rooyen, was born in Houston, Texas USA, where her parents were working in the Diplomatic service representing South Africa. She moved back to SA a year later (age 1) and grew up and went to school in the suburbs of Linden and Melville in Johannesburg.
In 2003 Marielise started her studies at AFDA and graduated in 2005 with a BA in Live Performance with a major in’ Acting for Screen’.
“I absolutely loved my time at AFDA, for me it was a safe space in which i truly got to know myself and grew as a performer and actor, under the guidance of our wonderful acting lecturer Justin Strydom. As an actor the work you do is very public and for me film school was a way of getting to know my strengths and weaknesses as a performer in a private space. Now that I look back at that time I realise that it was a tremendous luxury being able to hone your craft every day for three years! I was lucky enough to be cast in 11 short films at AFDA ,including our graduation short film “5IVE Minutes” written and directed by Carl Stemmet.” says Marielise.
Marielise started working in the South African entertainment industry in 2004 with a small part as a’ Blue Bulls Cheerleader’ in the Leon Schuster film ‘O Schuck i’m Gatvol’ which lead to roles in more Afrikaans films and television, including ‘Bakgat 2′,’Getroud met Rugby’,Wolwedans in die Skemer’ and in 2010 Marielise and a friend a friend decided to write, direct and star in thei own online comedy skit series called ‘Myne Kleine Ponie’ which led to work as a presenter for the then music TV channel, “MK’ , online content.
In 2009/10 she had the opportunity to intern at a production company in Los Angeles and fell in love with the city. It was a great way of making friends and connections in the American entertainment industry and in 2013 her comedy skits ‘Myne Kleine ponie’ gave her the opportunity to return to LA permanently and work for a production company.
“The past 3 years have been a tremendous learning experience and I’ve been fortunate enough to have worked on some incredible film and television productions! My first acting job in LA was a scene on the CBS drama series ‘Extant’ starring Halle Berry. There were just a few of us in the scene and we were shooting in the ‘Africa’ room in the Natural History Museum in LA. I couldn’t believe that I was in a room dedicated to the continent I’m from with HALLE BERRY and I was getting paid to be there. It was a truly surreal moment!” says Marielise.
Since then Marielise has worked on a few Television shows including NBC’S ‘Growing up Fisher’ starring Jenna Elfman and J.K Simmons, ABC’s ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ , ‘Secrets and Lies’ and Showtime’s ‘House of Lies’ starring Kristen Bell and Don Cheadle. The biggest production she has worked on is a film coming out later this year called ‘Battle of the Sexes’ starring Emma Stone and Steve Carell . It’s based on the true story about the legendary tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs in 1973.
“It was incredible to witness the amount of detail and time that goes into such a big budget period film! It was also pretty awesome wearing original 70’s clothes that had been specially sourced by the costume department! All I can say is that women in the 1970’s definitely had smaller hips.” says Marielise.
Marielise explains that as an actor; “the main difference I’ve noticed between working in South Africa versus working in Hollywood, is the amount of time the production and actors are able to spend on each scene .Because of the much bigger budgets in Hollywood, a lot more time can be spent on really getting to perfect your performance, making sure the emotionality of the scene is being truthfully conveyed. The sure scale of the productions also continue to blow my mind every time I’m on set here. For ‘Secrets and Lies’ we were filming in Paramount Pictures Studios in Hollywood, they kept changing the script so we ended up shooting the same scene over the course of 4 weeks! That was a bit of a dream come true for me, being able to work at my favourite studio for an extended amount of time. I grew up watching Audrey Hepburn films and she was under contract at Paramount Pictures, so the first time i drove into the lot I cried a little, super embarrassing but true.”
Marielise’s dream is to be able to work in both South Africa and Los Angeles and although she have been living and working in LA for the past 3 years her heart will always be in South Africa. “I would love to be telling stories about SA again!” says Marielise in closing.