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Q&A with St. Louis Native Paula Rhodes Prior to Her SLIFF Debut

Categories: Movies
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Paula Rhodes is home.
St. Louis native Paula Rhodes is home to showcase her first lead in a feature film, Shuffle, playing Sunday at the St. Louis International Film Festival

Last night shortly after her arrival to St. Louis (and after she ran into in Jay Duplass, writer and director of Baghead and Cyrus, at Lambert Airport), Daily RFT was able to catch up with Rhodes on her new film, what it's like being back home and, of course, where she went to high school.


Daily RFT: So you were born in Montana. What's your St. Louis connection?

Rhodes: I grew up mostly in St. Louis. Since second grade, I've been Missouri-tastic through high school [Hazelwood Central] to Mizzou.

Oh, you went to Mizzou? 

I think the advertising degree has come in handy to help promote and type up official press releases. When I was looking for a major, acting didn't seem like the most realistic profession in Missouri and yet I was kind of pulled that way. I ended up entering a pageant  as a joke when I was in school because my friends thought it'd be really funny for 5-foot-tall me to do this. Somehow I up winning the darn thing and one of the judges had an acting studio in New York. I [turned that] into an internship for him the next summer. Gave it a whirl and moved out to New York. Unfortunately I can't sing or dance, so I was rather limited to what I could do there, but I learned a lot doing internships at various places and kind of learned the business side of it. And then eventually moved out to L.A.because of the non-singing and dancing [laughs]. 

We just finished watching Shuffle. [Read Riverfront Times' review of the film here.] Congratulations. It was definitely an interesting storyline. What drew you to do the project? 

Most of the team was in place when I came on board. It was the same team that directed and endlessly acted in and produced Validation, which is Kurt's [Kuenne] short film. [Shuffle] Has a lot of heart, which all of Kurt's stuff always has. I loved the love story so much. Something about it jumped out at me.

You certainly sound like this, but we've gotta ask -- are you as optimistic as your character Grace is in the film? 

[Laughs] Well, thank you. Um...I have my moments. I try to be. Right now it's easy to be because it's been a really great fall for me. I just got married.

Congratulations! 

Thank you. On October 1. I got a Carl's Jr. commercial coming out and a Pier 1 commercial running. The husband's got a couple commercials going so we've had a good fall. I've gotta say it's been easy to be optimistic. It's up and down in this profession but I think a big part of why Grace spoke to me was how pure her love was for Lovell [played by T.J. Thyne]. To be able to love somebody where all you really want is for them to be happy, you can't go in with any selfishness or other things that cloud up relationships. And I was really drawn to that, that basic level of where you really, truly love someone--the message of the whole story. I loved the script. I remember reading it when I finally got back, realizing, "Oh my God, I agreed to do this project and I haven't read the script. What was I thinking?" But in reading through it and crying as I read, being so happy that this is a really good script.

What was your impression the first time you saw the final product? 

First time I saw it was terribly nerve-wracking because, right before we did the Hollywood Film Festival premiere, Kurt called me to let me know that they were going to do a screening at USC for Leonard Maltin's class. And of course, Leonard Maltin being a very famous film reviewer, it was a little bit of pressure because you're realizing you're walking in on 300 budding film critics to watch it with. [laughs] I went in and got to meet Leonard and he was amazing and terribly kind. And we all sat down to watch it and he sat right next to me. I watch the whole film for the first time with Leonard Maltin sitting next to me. It was a surreal experience...and then, after the screening, he leaned over to me and said, "Very good job." So it was a great diary entry night and a bucket-list check.

What are you most looking forward to at the closing ceremony of SLIFF Sunday night? 

I think it's going to be a little bit surreal to see the screening and be able to look out at the audience and see a lot of faces from my childhood, friends from elementary school, high school and college, all showing up to say hi and support me. That was one of the things I was most excited about, that we were coming to this particular festival, so that I could share this with so many people that I care about. And show them, "Look, I'm not starving! I'm doing okay!" 


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