tessa gourin is the up and coming actress with her sights set on the silver screen

We chat to the William Esper Studio student as she lands her first film role.

by i-D Staff
12 November 2015, 12:15am

21-year-old poet, actress and New York it-girl Tessa Gourin has just finished filming her first movie. A student at The William Esper Studio (the acting school that gave us Amy Schumer, Jeff Goldblum and Aaron Eckhart), Gourin stars as the lead character, Mary, in The Lucky Guy; a dark rom-com about a colleague completely infatuated with her, although she has no idea he exists. As the budding silver screen star runs around China Town with photographer Atisha Paulson, we caught up on growing up in the Big Apple, how to break into the entertainment industry, and why weirdos are always the coolest people to hang with.

What did you want to be when you were growing up?I have wanted to be an actor for as long as I remember. I think I may have switched it up to wanting to be a pop star briefly, but I never saw myself being anything other than an entertainer.

What's the hardest part of growing up?
What isn't?! One of the most difficult parts of growing up for me was realising that people aren't who I thought they were. When it comes to my friendships, regardless of if they are new or old, I'm extremely loyal. I don't lie; I'm actually incapable, which is weird for someone who plays make believe for a living. I am, and always have been, an open book. But it's taken me a while to realise that that's not exactly a common thing and not everyone you meet and vibe with deserves your trust.

What's the bravest thing you can do as a young person?
Be your true, unfiltered self at all times. You know when you see a Facebook photo of yourself from 2007? And you're like, "why the fuck would I wear that?" That's how I feel about a lot of the stuff I did growing up. I wasted so much time and energy trying to fit in and hide parts of myself because I thought people would judge me. The way I dressed didn't reflect my personality, the way I acted didn't reflect my soul, and the people who I wanted so desperately to fit in with, definitely didn't reflect my morals or interests. I wish I had learned sooner that the "weirdos" are the most fun to be around, the quiet "nerds" are the most insightful, and the "cool girls" are the most miserable and insecure. It's so much better to have two true friends than 10 fake ones.

How did you get into acting?
I sort of just popped out of the womb ready to perform. Haha, I mean, I don't know. I can't really pinpoint it because I feel like it's just always been a huge part of my life. In elementary school, drama was the only class where I wasn't staring at the clock the entire time. I used to interact with my classmates as these different characters that I created with different voices, names, and back-stories. I went to an all girls Catholic school, so the faculty didn't really know how to handle me, let alone the multiple characters I brought along.

What advice would you give other young people wanting to break into the film industry?
Geez, I don't know. I mean I'm really still breaking into it myself. There's so much more I need to learn and experience before I'm at the point in my career where I have much advice to give. I'm still not even signed with an agency. Not to say I'm an amateur, but I still have a lot of work ahead of me! I guess the only words of wisdom I can give are: to be in this business you need to be ready to hear the word "no" over and over again and still find it in yourself to keep trying. You definitely need some thick skin. Rejection is a massive part of this industry.

How was the experience of filming your first movie?
Imagine your biggest and wildest dream in the entire world coming true. Well, that's what it felt like- completely surreal.

How did you get involved in The Lucky Guy?
I was at Soho House in New York for a friend's birthday and we ran into one of her friends, Alex B. Wright. He mentioned he was working on casting a film he had spent the past year writing, so I asked if he'd be open to letting me read for it. I guess he just assumed I was one of those classic girls who thinks that looks and mildly good social skills automatically make you an "actress" because he said: "sure, but we are looking for a new talent. I can't just give you a role. I'm sure we could put you in as a bartender or something." I would have been grateful to play anything, but I ended up reading for the lead and to my surprise, I got the part!

What was it you liked about the script?
I loved how even though the actual plot of the movie was relatively dark, the characters and dialogue were so quirky and ridiculous that the comedic aspects really shine through a lot of the darkness. I think it's difficult to pull off a dark comedy because it's usually more dark than comedic or vice versa, but The Lucky Guy is as equally hilarious as it is haunting.

Are there any similarities between you and your character?
Definitely! Mary is extremely cynical, especially when it comes to relationships and men in general. It's interesting because up until recently, I was a hopeless romantic; I believed in the fairytale. It just so happened that in the time between me auditioning and filming, I was screwed over by a lot of people (mainly guys) in my personal life. While it was extremely shocking and hurtful, I am actually glad that it played out the way it did because the pain turned out to be useful for getting into character. In a nutshell, that's Mary's character; betrayed by the guy she's completely in love with, she closes herself off to any possibility of a relationship to ensure that she'll never get hurt again—or, well maybe that's just the shell of the nut. You'll have to see the movie to find out!

What's your favourite movie of all time?
Girl, Interrupted.

What was the last film that made you cry?
Mysterious Skin.

What was the last film that made you laugh?
Midnight in Paris.

What's your dream role?
I have always wanted to star in a Law & Order: SVU episode, but aside from that I would love to play a roll similar to Angelina Jolie as Lisa in Girl, Interrupted. I've always been attracted to troubled and misunderstood characters. I guess they're the most relatable to me.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years time?
I hope I've made it as a successful and established actress. Ideally, you'll be able to peep my name on the list of Oscar nominees for best actress!



Photography Atisha Paulson

Atisha Paulson
alex b wright
tessa gourin
the lucky guy
william esper studio