Tonight I’m chatting with Danielle Sepulveres, writer, actor and stand-in extraordinaire. As you’ll see in tonight’s episode, Danielle plays Stella Cross on Dietland. (Danielle wants to start the hashtag #JusticeforStella – so maybe we can get that trending tonight!) Danielle is also Julianna Margulies’s long-time stand-in. Her writing has appeared in The Washington Post, Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls, Racked, Curbed and more, and she is also a screenwriter and is developing TV projects. She is totally funny on social media, and I’ve included her handles below so you can start following her.
SARAI: You worked as Julianna Margulies’s stand-in on Dietland, and you had previously worked with her on The Good Wife. I don’t think many people outside the industry know what a stand-in does. Can you give us the scoop? Also, is it common for a stand-in to work with the same actor from show to show?
DANIELLE: Sure! Ok so a stand-in watches what’s called a marking rehearsal of the scene to see exactly what the actor does and at what part in the dialogue do they do it while a camera assistant marks the standing points with colored tape. Some basic examples are noting how they sit in the scene, where do they move around, do they lean, do they pick up an object and if so with which hand. Then while the actors are getting touched up by hair makeup and wardrobe to be camera ready, the stand in does all the movements for the camera and lighting departments so everything can be set and lit properly for when the actor comes back to set and filming can immediately start. It’s meant for efficiency and to save time. Not everyone works with the same actor show to show, it often depends on the actor’s preference (basically if they like you and you do a good job!). I’ve heard that Jeff Bridges and Will Smith take the same stand in with them on every job and I believe Robin Williams also did it when he was alive. I’m sure there are others who do as well. I loved working all those years with Julianna on TGW and was thrilled to be asked to work with her again.
SARAI: You also play Stella Cross on Dietland. How did that casting come about? What was the experience like?
DANIELLE: That was a huge surprise! I left set one day and casting called to say there had been a production meeting for the next episode and they had discussed me as a possibility to play Stella if I was interested. Having read the book I knew who Stella was and how polarizing the reaction is (and would be) to what happens to her so I was intrigued to play her. I know her death upsets people but Dietland to me always felt like its content is asking hard questions about us as a society and demanding cultural shifts. And one thing I believe needs to shift is how mainstream feminism still shuts out sex workers and Jennifer—as radical as they are in their vigilantism—still fall into that trap. Stella is lumped in with terrible men because of her connection to them. In reality women are often asked to answer for men’s bad behavior or punished for it by being adjacent to it. The experience of shooting it was kind of wild; shooting fake porn is quite a long, exhausting (and very naked) day. The crew made me feel completely comfortable, I never felt unsafe or that I couldn’t speak up or ask questions. I had a blast with the incredible wardrobe department wearing the Stella outfits they had put together for me including all their assistance to make my boobs look far larger than they are. Haha. However, the cemetery scene was SO COLD and trying not to breathe while playing dead when your body is determined to shiver is a skill I’m now putting on my resume.
SARAI: Your main focus is actually writing, and you’ve written screenplays and developed TV projects that I hope we see on the air one day soon. What kind of material do you write?
DANIELLE: For about five years I have been writing personal and reported essays on ignored aspects of women’s sexual health, relationships, grief and starting over, as well as my experiences working in TV and film. I feel like dark humor with some fun elements of hope is my niche and the show/film ideas I’ve written scripts of reflect that. Like a Jane the Virgin meets Fleabag kind of tone if that makes sense.
Connect with Danielle on social media: