The beautiful ex-model Sunny Mabrey recently completed principal photography for the highly anticipated Snakes on a Plane, touted as one of the most likely hits of the North American summer movie season, starring opposite Samuel L. Jackson and a plane load of, well, snakes.
But before that, audiences will see her as model who finds new meaning in her life when confronted by an upbeat, dying teenager, in the comedy/drama One Last Thing, which premiered at this year’s Toronto Film Festival. The actress has previously been seen in the likes of “A Midsummer Night’s Rave” as well as guest-starring on acclaimed TV shows; including “CSI,” “Angel” and “Lateline.”
She has starred in several national commercials as well as theater productions while attending the University of Alabama at Mobile, and was featured in the popular GAP “Khakis” campaign. Originally from Gadsden, Alabama, Mabrey has since relocated and currently resides is Los Angeles, California, with her actor/musician husband, Ethan Embry. In this exclusive interview with Paul Fischer, Mabrey talked modelling, snakes and music.
Question: Now there are a number of beautiful, blonde, aspiring actresses in Hollywood. How tough a game is this to you and how hard did you have to fight to get this role?
Mabrey: That’s a valid question. I mean the number of people out there who want to do this are endless and a few of them have the talent and it’s just… really difficult in this entertainment industry, but the role in One Last Thing I really cared about and I wanted to get this one. Most of the times you have to separate yourself from it a little bit and just let it go, if you like it and the auditioning process was really long for me with this. I went in and, probably like November of 2004 and then I went back in to meet the director, Alex, in like December, and then I didn’t hear anything. I heard that they were going to try to cast in New York as well, and, I was like, oh, no, if they go to New York I know they’re going to find a model who can act and, I’ll lose it. But I knew that I was their first choice in Los Angeles so I tried not to put too much into it. But, I don’t know, something about this one just stuck with me. I just wanted it. I really liked the film.
Question: Why did it speak to you so much?
Mabrey: I don’t know. I just feel like I sort of identified with this character. I mean I used to be a model. There are many things that she goes through in this movie that I’ve seen firsthand or have experienced firsthand and, I just like the fact that not only was she a model but, she had her own set of problems, with her, I don’t want to give too much away but she’s pretty much an alcoholic, very depressed and bitter about the whole industry that she’s forced to work in every day.
Question: Could you relate to the burnt out aspect of her? I mean when you were modelling did you go through those, those emotional lows?
Mabrey: To a certain extent, yes. I mean not just with modelling but I’m sure everyone’s done something in their lifetime where they feel like they’ve given all they can give to it creatively and then after that it becomes work I think she had a bitterness toward it that made it very difficult for her to keep working in the industry. I don’t think she cared about her career, and I don’t even think she cared about herself at a certain point.
Question: Was modelling a way for you to get into acting? Was it a means to an end?
Mabrey: No, not really. They’re totally separate. I mean when I first started modelling, my mom went to high school with a modelling agent – someone who is now a modelling agent and she had her class reunion and, I came with her for a little while and the lady saw me and, I think my mom took some pictures or something, but, she liked me and so she sort of started me out with that. At that point I didn’t know that I wanted to be an actor, I thought that I wanted to do something like that. Like I knew that I had sort of a creative, like, hambone as a part of me. [Laughter]. You know I was a little bit of a ham but shy in person, that liked being on stage and liked singing, liked doing little skits with my friends and stuff like that. So I didn’t know what I wanted to do but it was something like that. And, I started modelling and then, went to Paris and Miami and then decided to go back to school and finish college. And, I went to University where I majored in Art, I took a little class in acting and then slowly, I started to do set design, set construction and sort of incorporated the art into the theatre. But, I was getting roles at the same time. I was acting and doing a lot of the lead parts of school plays and stuff. Eventually I just realised that that was one of the things that I wanted to do with that creativity.
Question: Do you think agents would have regarded you with any degree of scepticism initially having come from that world and trying to get into this world?
Mabrey: Yeah. I mean I still face stereotypes – the stereotype sort of label, sometimes. Because, there have been a lot of, actors who were models at one point who have had that label placed on them, but there’s also been a lot of successful ones as well.
Question: So have you finally found your niche then now as an actor do you think? Is this the career path that you’ve set… you’ve set your mind up for doing for as long as you can do it?
Mabrey: As an actor, yes. I would love to do this for as long as I can. And, as long as I keep working steadily like I have been that’s fine with me. another thing that I’m doing is music. So if I could act and do my music at the same time I would be very happy.
Question: What kind of music?
Mabrey: I’m in a band. It’s called Zero the Memory Thief.
Question: That’s an interesting name. How did you come up with that?
Mabrey: well it’s actually a character from this cartoon called The Silverhawks back in the 80’s. Like the villainess. Sort of obscure character….
Question: So you were a geek back when you were younger, is that what you’re saying?
Mabrey: Oh, yeah. for sure. I’m so happy that I did all these geeky things because they’ve given me tools that I can use now.
Question: Now is this an all girl band?
Mabrey: No. My husband is in the band, Ethan Embry, and he plays guitar. And then, another friend of ours, Timothy Jones, is in the band as well.
Question: So have you guys recorded?
Mabrey: Yean we have actually. We’re recording our first EP right now which is just like six songs.
Question: What about live performance?
Mabrey: We’ve played out a little but, we’re trying to get finished with this. We’re spending most of our time in the studio lately trying to do this and then we’re gonna start playing out more.
Question: So I take it your husband had no problem about your seducing a 16-year-old virgin?
Mabrey: [Laughter]. No problems, no. He’s an actor too so he knows how it is, how you’ve got to do some things sometimes that you wouldn’t normally do in real life. He completely understood, supported me and loved the script as well.
Question: Now when you go from doing a character based movie like this and then you go a do a very tiny independent low-budget film called Snakes on a Plane…
Mabrey: Oh, yes… [laughter]…
Question: What goes through your mind when you finally got that gig? I mean had you for example been less keen to do it if Sam Jackson hadn’t been involved?
Mabrey: Well, it always helps when somebody of his calibre decides to do something and believes in a project. I liked the script immediately. I was like, whoa, this is about snakes on a plane but yet I can’t put it down. [Laughter]. It’s very, action packed and interesting to read. But, of course when I heard that he was doing it was like he sort of has that ability to influence people.
Question: What kind of character do you play in this?
Mabrey: I play a flight attendant, Julianna Margulies and I and two other actors are flight attendants.
Question: So do you battle snakes?
Mabrey: Kind of, yeah. [Laughter]. We all do, yes. It’s really crazy.
Question: Now I understand that they re-shot parts of the film to make it edgier to give it a harder ‘R’ rating. Were you involved in that re-shoot?
Mabrey: No, I wasn’t actually, but I was like why didn’t they call me to do re-shoots, and then I found out it’s because they’re making it rated ‘R’ instead of PG-13 and I’m like, oh, they’ve got somebody else to, to do the scary parts. [Laughter]. So that’s fine with me.
Question: Have you seen the film yet?
Mabrey: No, I haven’t.
Question: Why do you think it’s the most anticipated movie of the summer?
Mabrey: I don’t know. It just became this huge thing on the internet and, the blogs are just crazy. You go to IMDB and the posts on the, page where you can leave a message – or post a message – are just endless. You keep scrolling and scrolling and scrolling down, and people are like fighting about it. I think it has something to do with the title and, of course, the subject matter, but, I think the fact that New Line was so bold to go with the, Snakes on a Plane title – which I think was a very good move on their part.
Question: Any idea what you might be doing next Sunny?
Mabrey: Actually I’ve been working on my music mostly, but I’ve got a couple of acting things that I’m looking at right now.