… on New Territories in Film, Motherhood, and Being a Woman.
by Elle Morris & Sophia Fox-Sowell
photography James White
The idea that female empowerment doesn’t derive from the use of your body, but of your ambition, has been ingrained in Elisabeth Röhm since childhood. “I was not raised to believe that I had to over-sexualize myself for attention.” She believes that autonomy doesn’t come from being sexual. It comes from being in your truth. “I definitely feel the ability to be creative is intrinsically created with being able to think.”
Finding your truth. It’s not just a phrase for Elisabeth Röhm, it’s her mantra.
The honest truth for her is that “if you don’t want something bad enough that you’re willing to lose sight of the land, don’t even bother setting sail.” The idea of surrendering yourself to the unknown in order achieve something great became especially trying for her when she was trying to conceive.
Discovering that she couldn’t have her daughter naturally,she made the big leap of faith into parenthood by pursuing IVF. And that leap of faith, that gut instinct, has affected how she pursues everything in her life since. “When it comes to family, I think you can have it all. You can go to college, you can have a career, and you can have children, and you can fall in love.”
In America, a traditionally patriarchal society, Elisabeth recognizes the dualism women face in discovering their identity. But, she still believes that women need to discover who they are instead of what society thinks they should be. “It’s challenging to find a balance between being a nurturer and being a hunter.”
“You’re damn right it is–especially in a society whose gender roles are constantly reversing between men and women.”
As women, finding your voice is as important as Finding Nemo. It gives women strength and power. Speaking of her daughter, “I want her to have a voice. I want her to respect her mind and her thoughts.”
Elisabeth has rediscovered her own voice through the power of the Internet; or rather, the level of exposure that the Internet provides.
She began blogging a few years ago and instantly developed a relationship with her readers because of how comfortable she is in her truth. She believes that women intrinsically want the truth. “Women are great communicators;” so by being accessible and vulnerable, She doesn’t portray the fantasy of being a woman. Instead, she’s telling the truth.
“With acting, you’re bringing parts of yourself to a character and finding out how they’re different from you. Writing, it’s really just you. There’s no spin. It’s very freeing. I act, I play other people. It’s nice to share my journey just from my kitchen table.”
As a veteran actress of television, film is uncharted territory Comparing the two mediums, she says film is “almost like you’ve been abducted. And then you come back having had this experience, you’re forever changed.”
Elisabeth reminisces on how the cast of a TV series ultimately becomes a second home. That familiarity with her fellow actors helps develop her own character because of the “day in and day out relationship you’ve built with this other family.”
She enjoys working with other actors and observing their process, how they find their truth. And though she hasn’t had any experience on the stage, it’s a medium of acting that she finds fascinating. “You’re giving the same performance, over and over again. But it’s the lack of sameness that makes it exciting. You’re a different person everyday, so you’re bringing that in within the context of the play. You say, how is this going to affect my character today.”
Having dual citizenship in both the United States and Germany, she recognizes that in order to become a global citizen, you need to have cultural awareness. “Maybe it’s because I was raised by an immigrant. But [it’s important] to know that the world is big and not just this microcosm of LA.”
With the younger generation becoming more deeply immersed in technology, she struggles with the difficulty of balancing the benefits of technology with obsessive system overload. It has gotten to the point where some children don’t know how to go into a room with toys, stuffed animals, and dollhouses to just play make believe. “We live in Venice. So it’s pretty urban. I can’t just send her out into the woods and say, ‘Go play make believe. Come back with a wet nose and I’ll make you some soup.’”
Her daughter attends Lycee, a prestigious French school in Los Angeles that offers a thorough immersion programs from preschool to 12th grade. “I think being multilingual is important, it’s on the road to value other languages.”
Although there are a variety of languages spoken in California, it’s curious that as a transplanted New Yorker, she didn’t raise her daughter in the Big Apple. But similar to many East Coasters who migrate west, a good deal of her family is putting down roots in the City of Angels. “I think because as an actor you travel so much, on any given day you could be relocated to another city. I miss NY a lot, but I really chose to have her be close to her family.”
Now that she has a daughter, those feminine ideals are more prevalent than ever. “I want her to be feminine, and I want her to be in touch with her body. And one day when she’s older, I want her to be mesmerized by love as we all have been, and will continue to be over and over.”
It’s true, you fall madly in love and you forget the universe around you. But the trick is finding that balance in all of your relationships in life. Not just a male-female relationship. It’s a mother-daughter relationship. “We should be who we are instead of who others want us to be.”
For Elisabeth Röhm, love is sustenance. That’s why she was drawn to American Hustle. “It’s basically a story of how people survive. How they survive, is through love.” She believes that love is the thread of hope in humanity.