South African born actress Amy Letcher has had an incredible three years in the world of entertainment, with roles on some of America’s top shows (including NCIS, Black Sails and Investigation Discovery’s Killer Instincts with Chris Hansen); commercials airing in China, Japan, and the USA; the New York debut of her solo show on the world renowned theatre row; and an appearance on Matthew Weiner’s latest creation, The Romanoffs.
But no journey is all highs, and the young star’s lows have impacted the way she now moves through life.
We sat down with the charismatic actress for a candid and eye-opening chat.
Hi Amy, why don’t you tell us a bit about yourself – your upbringing and who/what inspired you to be an actress?
Hi! Absolutely. I grew up in South Africa, mostly in a province called KwaZulu Natal. Think rolling green mountains and misty forests – that’s pretty much my childhood. I loved it!
As far as acting goes; I honestly can’t explain it except to say that it’s woven into my DNA. I always knew this is what I wanted to do.
You’ve mentioned that some parts of your childhood were idyllic, and some parts not so much. What were the not-so-much parts?
I was bullied pretty severely from a really young age and throughout my school years – physically and verbally – by peers and also by authority figures. I was tiny, so I was an easy target; I was a big personality and inquisitive about everything; I talked a lot and asked a lot of questions in a place and time where ‘little girls should be seen and not heard’. I was different, I suppose; I was a tomboy, not very ladylike, loved climbing trees. I had a little score book that I would take to my brother’s cricket games and I would score for him. I didn’t wear shoes very often. Silly things that shouldn’t matter, but people decide they do. I was also quite a capable child; I was small and I was a year young for my class, but I had a father who told me I could do anything I put my mind to, and I believed him, so I managed to do quite well in a number of areas, and I think there were people who didn’t like that.
It affected me really deeply as a child. Bullying is a form of verbal abuse, and abuse – especially when its inflicted at a young age – can bury itself deep inside your mind. I felt like I had to be perfect so there was nothing for anyone to criticize or pick on. I became obsessed with perfection, and I truly believed that deep down I was very this unlovable, undesirable mess of a thing.
So what brought you through that, and how has that affected you as a performer?
Faith is a big part of my family’s life – which is a very negative experience for so many people, but thankfully for me it was a constant source of hope, and a reminder of love. My family were so supportive – my mom is the mama-bear of all mama-bears, don’t mess with her, she’s a champion – and I grew up believing in a God who sees all of me and loves all of me, and I would come back to that often. And I had people who reinforced that. That was crucial. We as people need to know that we are loved. It’s part of being human. So many people are walking around with a skewed image of themselves because they carry with them the voices of everyone who’s told them they aren’t good enough or they aren’t worthy of love. I don’t want to move through life that way, and I don’t want that for anyone else. As a performer, I have a chance to do something about that; to tell stories that empower and heal and lift people up. Stories that send a message of hope and love into a world that’s hurting. Maybe I can be that reminder for someone; that they’re lovable and worthy of love.
Would you say that message is important to you?
It’s everything. It’s why I’m here. Being in this industry affords me the opportunity to reach people through storytelling. And they won’t always be deep, thought-provoking stories. Sometimes they’ll just make people laugh. That’s important too. Regardless, wherever possible it’s important to me to be intentional about the stories I tell.
Speaking of the stories you tell; you’ve worked on some fantastic projects. Do you have a favorite?
Ha! Not really. They’ve all been great in their own way. Although, let’s be real, walking onto the Universal Studios lot to shoot the [The] Romanoffs title sequence was an absolute dream come true. As was working on NCIS – I’ve been watching the show with my family since I was about twelve, so being on the set and meeting David McCallum was…unreal.
Are there any series/films that you’d love to be a part of?
WOW. So many. I absolutely love reading, and a few of my favorite books are being turned into films. There are characters in them that I would love to bring to life – I mean, I lie awake at night dreaming about these characters! Auri from The Kingkiller Chronicle series by Patrick Rothfuss is one of them – she’s exquisite, truly. Also Eo from the Red Rising series by Pierce Brown, and Isabelle from The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. And then there are shows like Stranger Things and The OA that I would love to be a part of.
You’re trained in screen combat – would you like to do more with that?
Absolutely! I love sword-fighting, and I love roles that are physically demanding. I love being challenged.
So what you’re saying is, the sky’s the limit?
Ha! Even higher.
Amy is currently represented by Minc Talent and After Eden Management in Los Angeles, and ICE Artistes in South Africa.