Before moving from her native New Zealand to California, actor Stefania LaVie Owen went to her older sister to ask for advice. “She said ‘Don’t let acting define you. Always have it as something you’re passionate about, something you’re good at, something you’re excited about, but never let it define you,’” Owen recalls. “‘You are your own person. Remember, everyone loves you for who you are with or without the acting.’”
The 19-year-old talent, who made her film debut in The Lovely Bones at the age of 11, took the advice to heart. She will only continue acting while she’s passionate about it and, while she hopes to always feel that fire, “you never know.”
Owen’s acting career came as a surprise to her. It began when she signed up to do commercials with her sisters in Wellington, New Zealand. From there, she gained notice and eventually started auditioning for American projects, landing roles in Running Wilde, The Carrie Diaries, and Krampus.
Despite her burgeoning acting career, Owen stays open-minded about her future. “I just like to create things,” she explains. Her short list of goals includes higher education, writing a play, short film, or television show, working with people with mental disabilities, and starting a business with her sisters. “I have so many different passions and my goal is to actually do it all and to use acting as a platform in order to get all of those things accomplished,” she says.
Owen currently stars as Jenny in MCC Theater’s production of Anna Jordan’s Yen. The show tells the story of two brothers, Bobbie and Hench, whose mother has left them alone for quite some time. They spend their days playing video games and watching porn until their neighbor, Jenny, takes an interest in their dog and, by association, in them.
“What I love about Jenny is that she sees these circumstances and immediately wants to help,” says Owen. “She’s loving, compassionate and empathetic, but she’s also been through a great trauma and tends to close herself off to people.” In preparing for the role, Owen drew from personal experiences. “I’m very close with my sisters and the relationship that Jenny has with Bobbie and Hench reminds me of my relationship with them a lot.”
As Yen marks her professional stage debut, Owen entered rehearsals unsure about the process. “When you’re working in television and film, you get one good take and it’s a wrap, so I was expecting to get it 100 percent on the first day, but obviously that wasn’t the case,” she laughs. “That’s what the rehearsal process is for.” Eager to take on new challenges, she’s learned her character’s Welsh accent by watching television shows and movies recommended to her by a dialect coach. “It was scary at first because there weren’t that many YouTube tutorials, but now it just turns on by itself,” she says.
And her globe-hopping isn’t relegated to speech. “I really want to go traveling to Europe with my friends,” she says. “We have a plan to go to France all together and spend a month just traveling. I also want to do great movies and challenge myself with different roles.”
No matter what her next step, one thing is certain: “[I’m going] to just continue to be confident within myself and not to care about what other people think of me,” she says. “If you’re confident and you love yourself, then people are drawn to you and you’re going to create a genuine community around you that loves you for who you are.”