Rachel Sennott on Not Fitting the Acting School Mold & Working with Pete Davidson on ‘Bodies Bodies Bodies’

You better start catching up on Rachel Sennott’s work now because she’s amassing must-see credits fast, and with her drive to explore multiple corners of this industry, that list is bound to continue growing at a rip-roaring pace.

Sennott first gained notoriety through comedy, specifically in the stand-up and social media spheres. Her star soared in film with the release of Shiva Baby in 2020, which earned her a number of accolades including a nomination for Breakthrough Performer at the Gotham Awards. Now, in her latest release, A24’s Bodies Bodies Bodies, Sennott stands out big time in an all-around stellar ensemble, showing off such pitch-perfect line delivery, timing, and improv skills that it’s undeniable that nobody could have played the role of Alice quite like she does.

The film focuses on a group of friends riding out a hurricane by partying at a secluded family mansion. At one point, they decide to play Bodies Bodies Bodies. Similar to games like Among Us, one person is labeled the killer and the rest have to figure out who that is before they can kill off the other players. The game is especially vicious right off the bat courtesy of the mix of big personalities, building tensions and toxicity, but that intensity soars above and beyond what any of them could have imagined when one player turns up real dead, not game dead.

With Bodies Bodies Bodies now playing in theaters nationwide, Sennott took the time to join us for an episode of Collider Ladies Night to discuss how she carved her own unique path from dreaming of becoming an actor to being a downright powerhouse in A24’s latest.

Coming to the conclusion that one wants to become an actor is an important step in the journey, but then you actually have to figure out what to do to make it happen. And if you don’t have someone with experience showing you the way, figuring out what you suspect could be the best first step is extremely challenging. But, you have to try something. Sennott certainly did and while she did dub this tactic “embarrassing,” nothing will ever happen without one taking some initiative and chances, right?

“I did some embarrassing things. I sent an email to the casting director of the Twilight movies because I was reading the Twilight books being like, ‘I could be a really good background vampire.’ And it’s like, probably all I had to do was show up. But I was cold emailing people as a child. And honestly, sometimes a cold email works! So I think when I was a kid, I just wanted any way to break in, because I think that if you don’t come from the world of the industry, it’s sort of mystical where you’re like, ‘How do I even get in there?’”

Sennott got some clarity on that matter when she started studying at New York University. She explained, “Just being in the city made me realize I just need to kind of put myself out there as many ways as possible.” And that’s exactly what she did. In addition to her coursework, Sennott started doing stand-up, would be in as many student films as possible, she’d participate in class exercises, write sketches with friends and then some.

Turns out, she was getting some attention for all that work she was doing; she just didn’t find out that people were taking notice until after that fact.

“They would say this when we were in school and I was like, ‘I don’t really believe you,’ but people are watching and they’re looking for new talent, agents and stuff like that. By the time I signed with my agents, they had been like, ‘Oh yeah, we saw you doing stand-up for years, tracking you and seeing sketches and everything.’ But you don’t really realize that. But I think you just have to put yourself out there and do as much good work as possible.”

In addition to putting yourself out there, Sennott also emphasized the value of doing that in a way that’s true to you. While there may be rigid college curriculums and paths that seem more traditional, that doesn’t mean those routes and requirements are best for everyone. She continued:

“I think no matter what, no one is gonna give you the steps, but I just knew that I was like, I did not fit into this mold. What a good student at this specific program is, I am not. It felt like they were trying to whittle down everything that made you you. We’re all doing this monologue and there’s one right way to do it. And what I’ve learned since, doing stand-up [and] writing on my own, everything that I felt bad about myself or anything that would make me different is what also now makes me interesting and gets me in the room or parts. So I think that you just have to carve your own path.”

Not only did Sennott carve her own path, but that path now includes a number of different forms of performance and storytelling. What’s the key to doing it all in an industry that has a habit of boxing creators in to one thing? Here’s what Sennott said:

“Every single day you have an email or whatever. You’re doing stuff that feels important then or like, ‘Oh, you’ve gotta self tape!’ But then there’s things where it’s like, Emma [Seligman] and I started writing Bottoms, the movie that we just shot, the same time she was writing Shiva Baby the feature. We finished the short together and then we started writing it, and so that’s a script that we’ve been working on for years, but then when Shiva Baby came out and we had buzz from that, we were able to be like, ‘We have this other script ready to go,’ and we didn’t have to start from scratch and we could use the momentum. So I feel like, in my head, I was like, ‘Okay, I have to focus on everything, some things that are gonna benefit me right now, which is doing stand-up, doing open mics, but then I’m working on the things so that when I get noticed at the open mic and I go and do an agency meeting, I can say, hey, I also have this. I want to be seen as this.’”

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