Living the Hollywood dreamWoodbury native Lisa Rotondi has appeared in some of Hollywood’s top television shows and movies.
By: Amber Kispert-Smith, Woodbury Bulletin
Woodbury native Lisa Rotondi said she always had a passion for acting, but she never admitted it to anyone.
“I was sort of embarrassed that I liked acting and I wanted to do it, so I never told anyone,” she said. “I never did school plays or anything.”
Now Rotondi, 39, has appeared in some of Hollywood’s top television shows and movies.
The Woodbury High School graduate has appeared in such films as “Jerry Maguire,” “Between the Sheets” and “Bottle Rocket.”
Rotondi has also appeared on a number of television shows including: “Crossing Jordan,” “The O.C.,” “NYPD Blue,” “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” “Walker, Texas Ranger” and “Friends.”
Rotondi’s newest film, “Trattoria,” was featured at the Minneapolis Food and Wine Festival on Oct. 27.
A love of acting
Even though she never acted in school plays, Rotondi’s first introduction to acting happened early in life when her mother would drive her to acting classes at a St. Paul theater.
However, it wasn’t until college at the University of Minnesota-Duluth when Rotondi really started developing a love of acting.
Next she moved to San Diego, Calif., with the intention of studying marine biology and working with dolphins at Sea World.
At that time, Rotondi also started taking acting classes.
After appearing in commercials and student films, Rotondi was hooked.
“I just decided it was the best thing,” she said. “I loved it so much.”
Rotondi picked up her life and moved out to Los Angeles where she started studying at a two-year acting school.
“I don’t know what it was,” she said, “I just realized that I loved acting.”
Rotondi’s family still lives in Woodbury.
She said her favorite aspect of acting is being able to connect with her audience.
“It can be the most brilliant thing to connect with somebody,” she said. “In society today we’re missing connections – people walk around in their own little bubble.
“So it’s a really great gift to be able to do this.”
Even though Rotondi said she loves acting, it can also be a very difficult business.
“Acting is the human condition, it is psychology,” she said. “But it can also be torture.
“I’ll always tell children that want to be actors that if you can do anything else you should because this is a really hard business,” she said. “But if you have to do it you have to do it.”
Finding her way
For her first three years in Los Angeles, Rotondi worked her way through plays, commercials and small films before getting her first major film role in the Wes Anderson film “Bottle Rocket.”
“It’s really an up-and-down ride,” she said. “There’s an illusion with young people of what being famous is.
“It is a grind and it is not easy – it’s not as glamorous as people think.”
The majority of Rotondi’s film and television roles have been guest star roles or small parts.
However, she has had lead roles in a number of small independent films.
“I’m a middle-class actor if you will,” she said. “I’m certainly not famous.”
When it comes to playing a role, Rotondi said she likes to break down the role.
“You need to put yourself into these imaginary storylines and be truthful,” she said. “It’s about breaking scenes down and doing your homework and learning about characters as real people as opposed to caricatures.”
Rotondi’s newest film, “Trattoria,” tells the story of Chef Sal Sartini and his second wife Cecelia, played by Rotondi, who have just opened their new restaurant and are trying to get the reviews and buzz that restaurants need to succeed in the competitive San Francisco culinary scene. As they work out the kinks and get the restaurant running smoothly, Sal’s estranged college-age son comes to visit and help out in the restaurant.
Sal works more and more to attract customers and be prepared for when the all-important food critic comes in, falling into the same pattern of workaholism that dissolved his first marriage and separated him from his son originally. He no longer enjoys himself and forgets why he became a chef in the first place – his love of food and cooking.
Sal also loses sight of what is really important – family.
With the help of his son, Chef Sartini must learn to rekindle his passion for cooking and life, and not make the same mistakes again.
“It’s such a great little slice of life film – it’s funny and poignant,” Rotondi said. “It’s an alternative to what is in the multiplexes.”
Rotondi said she was attracted to the role in “Trattoria” because of her family upbringing.
“My family is Italian, so I grew up eating really good food,” she said. “That’s just how I grew up.
“So, this film just felt like a part of me and my home and my family.”
Looking to the future
Rotondi has two more films that will soon be released: “Hatfields and McCoys: Bad Blood” and “Aggression Scale.”
However, her next big project is producing her own film.
Her film, “Go Destroyer,” tells the story of a hockey player and is loosely based on a person she met who died tragically in a car accident.
After nine years of work, Rotondi has finally secured a director – a friend – and has acquired the funding.
She is just about ready to start casting.
“It’s been a crazy ride for the past nine years,” she said. “But it’s going to be amazing.”
Rotondi said she would like to write and produce more films in the future.
She said she would even like to open her own production company someday.
“I would like to be in a position where I can be a part of telling good stories,” she said. “Whether that’s television, film or both, I’ll welcome it.
“I want to make movies that are different than what’s in the big multiplexes right now.”
Rotondi said she’s not about to give up on her acting though.
“Do I want to be Julia Roberts? Of course,” she said. “Do I think that’s possible right now? Probably not.
“I just want to be a genuine actor and do this for the rest of my life – and along the way enjoy my life.”