The first time I heard someone say they were going to raise the bar, I thought there was a problem with the neighbourhood pub flooding and they needed to raise the floor level to resolve the issue. However, the more I had heard the term used I soon recognized that it was associated with a higher level of excellence and an overachiever attitude. These days, my granny uses it to describe her pancakes, her potato salad and desserts. She is always raising the bar when company drops by.
Some of us are content with being described as average, as humble or maybe even good enough but for others, these words don’t represent them in the slightest. When they do something, they are all in, much like a poker game. There is no ‘halfway’ or ‘just enough effort’, there is only all in! We all know someone like this. We ask ourselves, how do they do it and what’s their secret? I am trying to answer that same question and feel like I am one step closer.
I recently interviewed the extraordinary actress and fitness guru Veronika London.
It was early afternoon when we spoke; she had already gone to the gym, had prepped some lines for a project and had hired a high performance coach to keep her on top of her game with accountability. She was recently recognized in the Top 100 Hot and Fit in Inside Fitness Magazine. Veronika London is an actress with a compulsion for being the best at everything she does and it truly shows.
London’s performance as the title character in Nadeem Soumah’s gritty feature film, Searching for Angels opposite Vivica A. Fox (Kill Bill, Independence Day) clearly demonstrated her acting ability and dedication. Veronika plays an amnesiac heroin addict who is discovered beaten in the street with no memory of her past. Fearlessly, London shred the trapping that made her a sex symbol and created a riveting gritty portrait of a young woman at serious risk. It was an amazing and stellar performance that put her acting talents front and center. Having worked on shows like Lucifer, Dragged Across Concrete with Vince Vaughn and Mel Gibson and most recently winning the role of bright and bubbly Tiffaney Harper in Legends of Tomorrow. Veronika is pretty good at raising the bar and it was a pleasure having the opportunity to speak with her about her career and how her health and fitness have helped in that success.
“Congratulations on your recognition in the Top 100 Hot and Fit in Inside Fitness Magazine. Is staying fit as important as your acting career?”
“I do make it a priority, primarily because it affects my energy levels. I have better clarity, I sleep better and it keeps me focused. Fitness has always been a part of my life. Growing up, I’ve played sports and have probably been on every team. As an adult I really see the benefits of making it a lifestyle.”
“Since you excel at both acting and fitness, is it fair to say that you put 100 percent into everything you do?”
“Yes, I tend to start new things for one reason and then there’s a different byproduct. I transitioned from doing a lot of keto and a lot of cardio and decided to become vegetarian to get more energy because I realized keto is pretty toxic for you. It’s high fats and not enough grains, your body becomes a little toxic so I became a little more alkalized by adding more greens and stopped the cardio and pretty much everything else because I wanted more energy; that was the main goal. That was about 6 mth.’s ago and I ended up getting completely different unexpected results. I lost weight, was more fit, had more energy and slept better. I even looked better on camera as a by-product of making better choices and taking better care of myself.”
Veronika adds, she likes to challenge herself and doesn’t like the ordinary approach. She likes to test her limits to see how much further she can go. If only you could bottle that and prescribe it, …
“Horseback riding or Harley Davidson?”
“Harley Davidson! It’s 2 different vibes; one is more Zen and one is more a little more wild. I’d say there’s a wild streak to me but I do practice being Zenned out too. It all depends on my mood but if I had to pick one, it would be a Harley.”
“What has been one of your more challenging roles to play?”
“When I first started out I worked on a show, Searching For Angels where I played a woman with a drug addiction. That was a pretty rough one. I didn’t have much credit and was starring alongside with Vivica Fox (Kill Bill, Independence Day) and was shooting outside in -40 in a tank top. Those were things I’ve never experienced before and night shoots. It was a heavy character role, playing a prostitute with amnesia and a drug problem. When you’re outside with those things in mind, you’re in survival mode in discomfort and you’re not really happy there (laughing). Oh my god, what am I doing here? Strangely enough, you don’t notice the cold until they yell ‘cut’ because you’re so focused on what’s happening.”
“Chilidog or nacho platter? What would you rather devour?”
“I’m a vegan right now but there was a time when I loved a juicy New York steak. I’ll probably go back to eating meat again someday. I would definitely choose a nacho platter. I love chips. If I have to choose between salt and sweet I’ll always choose salt, especially crackers; you cannot give me one bag and not expect me to finish it. Anything along those lines, there’s no control; it’s gonna happen. When I go to the movies I’ll get an extra large bag of popcorn with extra butter and eat it till I feel sick. I live across the street from a movie theatre and I get to smell it everyday (laughter).”
“Congrats on your role as bright and bubbly Tiffaney Harper on Legends of Tomorrow. You also play Donatella, a bartender in a biker bar in the upcoming film, The Next Chapter. Did you have any research/training in preparation for either role?”
“It’s funny, before I’d gone in for the audition for the super bubbly Tiffaney Harper I had just taken a wipe-out/injury rollerblading. I was the only brunette out of all the blondes that were all bright and bubbly. I didn’t expect to get the part; I was the only brunette with tattoos and complete opposite. I couldn’t even sit because my legs were so injured. However, in going through a rough time and needing to be extra positive and extra bubbly, I went into that audition room and I went so above and beyond my usual character of playing it mellower. I have a lot of friends that do comedy or stand up and I took on some of that personality and put it into the role and it worked. I was one out of twenty that looked complete opposite of the character and what I thought the character would look like.”
“How long have you currently been acting?”
“It’s been about six years. I did stunt work before and broke my ankle. I had to take 1½ years off to recover and started again 3 years ago when I booked Lucifer in Vancouver. I realized that Vancouver is a good city for my look; there’s a lot of CW and more ethnic/contemporary/modern opportunities for my look and I don’t seem to fall into one category. Most people can’t figure out what nationality I am. I’m half Asian but some people think I look Russian at times. It’s become a great asset to be able to look and perform in a wider range of ethnic roles as opposed to before where they liked to categorize you. If they can’t figure out where you’re from ‘it makes it more interesting, bring her in’.”
“Do you see a shift in more key roles for women in TV and film?”
“Oh definitely; I think just in general and based on ethnicity, there are more leading roles for Asian men, people of colour and women. Behind the scenes, there are more female directors and I definitely see it changing even from when I had started. It’s so refreshing and nice to see more opportunities all around.”
“Do you have a preference between TV or film?”
“The writing has gone so well on a lot of the shows on TV that I don’t really have a preference anymore. A lot of networks like HBO and other private ones like Netflix, Hulu, Crave and Amazon; their writing has become really good and even the SFX has gotten so much better with larger budgets. At the end of the day, wherever the best scripts are is usually what draws a lot of the actors’ attention.”
“What second language would you like to learn?”
“Japanese. I tried taking it several times. I’m half Spanish and have picked up French and Italian and I tried some Portuguese lessons too but I am in love with the Japanese culture. It’s very artistic, its very beautiful and very simple yet elegant at the same time but kind of complicated. The writing too, oh my… it’s art.”
“In one sentence, can you tell me what your career means to you?”
“That’s a tough one… it means expression of oneself through a script to help others escape and feel at the same time.”
“In addition to acting would you also like to write or direct?”
“I’m not sure if I’m there yet to be thinking about those things and I have other friends of mine and people in the industry are better suited for that and naturally have that in them. What I feel I bring to the table is, once I get the script I love to help someone else’s vision come to life. For now though, it’s not my focus or on my plate at all. I feel like there are lots of opportunities to get your work out there and be part of the entire process and I’ve had those opportunities and I’ve tapped into them but it’s not a passion for me and I really love being in front of the camera for the time being.”
“What types of roles get you excited to audition for?”
“I like very layered characters but after working on Legends of Tomorrow I’m leaning toward comedy lately. Coming from a martial arts background and playing darker stuff, its always been an interest of mine but comedy is a skill on its own with timing and to make it come very natural. Some people just naturally have it and are just funny people by nature and others have to work at it. It’s nice to play lighter roles that are full of sunshine and not just very heavy, where you’re so depressed after a 15-hour day.”
“Anyone on your bucket list you’d like to work with?”
“I’ve always been a big fan of Al Pacino or Robert De Niro; that group during that time period. If I ever had a chance to work with them… I’d be so happy. You never really know; when I worked on the film, Dragged Across Concrete, Vince Vaughn was on my list and I never thought that opportunity would come up but I ended up auditioning for it and working on it. It was a great opportunity to work with him and Mel Gibson. Some actors, I follow their careers and there are times where opportunities come up and you get to work with people that you really admire.”
Thank you Veronika London for an inspirational interview. There is much to learn from her example and to aspire to be the best we can be. Success doesn’t have to be a pipe dream or something unobtainable. Instead, it can be at your fingertips and you only need to reach for it.