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Unveiling the Journey: An Exclusive Interview with Riley Voelkel

Embarking on a journey through the life and career of actress and model Riley Voelkel reveals a narrative of unexpected turns and unyielding determination. From her humble beginnings in a small town to gracing the screens of acclaimed television series like "HIGHTOWN," Voelkel's path to success is as unique as it is inspiring. In this exclusive interview, she candidly shares insights into her early aspirations, the creative process behind her roles, and the profound impact of her experiences both on and off the screen. Join us as we delve into the captivating story behind the multifaceted talent that is Riley Voelkel.




IRK: Can you share with us a bit about your early life and how your hometown/the environment you were raised in influenced your journey into acting? What made you want to become an actress?


Riley: Looking back, I think I was always a little performer, but my journey into acting wasn't exactly conventional.  Growing up, I was very involved in sports and schoolwork but was never in theater. My high school had a CADD academy program that I found interest in and decided I wanted to pursue structural engineering and become an architect.  I also played competitive softball, trained almost every day, and traveled on the weekends for games. I was offered scholarships to play college softball, and shortly before leaving to do so, I was presented with a completely different opportunity. After just graduating high school, I was driving in my hometown one day, when I heard about an open call casting for modeling over the radio.  Last minute, I decided to go and was then presented with an opportunity to move to LA to begin a modeling career.  As risky as this was, I decided to turn down my college acceptance and move to LA and give it a shot!  I thought "I'll see how it goes for one year and go back to school if it doesn't work out".  Through modeling, I booked commercials, and that led me to sign up for an acting class. During that first class, performing and watching others perform, I felt so much fulfillment, that I decided right then and there I was going to do this for the rest of my life. And that was the day my acting journey began!


IRK: How did you prepare for your role as Renee in your Starz series HIGHTOWN? Did you draw inspiration from any specific sources or experiences?


Riley: When I booked the role of Renee, I was both thrilled and terrified. Renee is an ex-addict, an exotic dancer, a struggling mother, and a survivor who grew up in a dark world. This role was so different from my world or any other character I had played and I knew I was going to need to be vulnerable and messy. I dug deep to find ways I could connect with the character and try to understand the perspective of someone living in her world. I always try to find an element of myself in each character, which gives me a place to pull from when trying to give honest portrayals of emotion in situations I don't have real-life experience with. I watched documentaries, went to clubs, trained in pole dancing, and worked closely with our show-runner Rebecca Cutter to understand Renee and the vision she had for the character. The amazing writing, and the support I received from my cast-mates and the entire Hightown team, were also a huge part in bringing this character to life.



IRK: You've worked on “American Horror Story”, “The Originals,” “Roswell, New Mexico,” and other supernatural or science fiction-themed shows. What draws you to these genres?


Riley: I must give off a supernatural vibe and I'm ok with that! I love playing characters in both fictional and real-life worlds.  Playing a supernatural character is always so much fun and the places you can go with the character are limitless! I mean who doesn't want to pretend to break necks with the twist of a wrist or hunt down aliens? I love the creativity that flows in the fantasy genre.  It's an escape for both the actor and the viewers. All that being said, I really just love telling a character's story, supernatural or not.


IRK: As an actress, what are some of the most rewarding aspects of your craft? Additionally, what are some challenges you've faced in the industry, and how have you overcome them?


Riley: Getting to do what I love as my job is extremely rewarding in itself. I feel very lucky and am extremely grateful that I've been given that opportunity.  Getting to express myself creatively and being inspired by others doing the same makes every day a chance to grow professionally and personally.  Every film and every show takes a huge team of people working together to be made and there is something so beautiful about that.  You not only create a bond with your co-workers but with your viewers as well.  We all have a form of art that we relate or connect to and that makes us not feel alone, and I think that's the most important and rewarding part of it all. It can be scary to share vulnerable sides of yourself with the world, but having even one person connect with them, makes it all worth it.  We work long days, and weird hours, live away from home for months out of the year, and rarely know for sure what or when our next job will be, but it's all part of the journey of getting to do what we love. Also, dealing with the rejection and competition of it all can be challenging, but I always try to remember the role is meant to be mine or is meant for someone else who has also worked very hard.  We are all creators and supporting each other and celebrating each other's successes helps us navigate through the challenging parts of the industry. 


IRK: You've had success both as an actress and as a model. How do you feel your experiences in the modeling industry have influenced your approach to acting, and vice versa?


Riley: Modeling was my segway into acting.  Through modeling, I booked several commercials, and my modeling agency at the time asked if I was interested in acting.  I remember thinking "That's a dream job", and I didn't really think it was an option for me, but decided to try and I fell in love with it. When I first started modeling, I was very nervous and had no clue what I was doing. Over time I built confidence in front of the camera and I think this was a major step leading to my acting career. Since becoming an actor, I'm a lot more comfortable when modeling and see it as a form of acting.  Both worlds involve creative expression and share the goal of making a connection with the audience. 



IRK: As HIGHTOWN comes to an end, what do you hope the viewers will take away from it? What will you take away from your experience as Renee on the show?


Riley: I hope the viewers love the show as much as we loved making it. Our goal was to try and humanize these flawed characters and give honest portrayals of their struggles with addiction, recovery, and redemption and I hope the viewers connected with our characters and their stories. Playing Renee allowed me to break creative walls I hadn't before. I learned so much from the character and my incredibly talented scene partners and I will carry that with me throughout my career. Rebecca Cutter created such a rare and special dynamic on set and the entire cast and crew were so unbelievably supportive of each other that the entire experience is something I will never forget. 


IRK: Many fans admire not just your talent but also your authenticity. How do you balance your demanding career with taking time for yourself and your personal interests or hobbies?


Riley: As much as I love working, I've learned how important it is to prioritize taking care of myself in between shooting. Spending time with friends and family who ground me, staying healthy by eating clean and exercising (pilates and yoga are my favorite), having downtime cuddling with my cat Quentin, and making time to just relax and rejuvenate are all things I've come to prioritize.  We have crazy schedules and it's often difficult to find the time, but I've come to realize just how important it is for my health and mental clarity. Having a daily schedule and treating these things the same as professional tasks has helped me make sure I make the time. When I get overwhelmed, life has a way of reminding me that every day is a gift and I'm always brought back to my basic needs and the importance of them. When these things are taken care of, I have much more energy to spend on my personal interests, growth, and the things that are most important to me. These things are what ground me and allow me to be my most authentic self.  I think it's so important to hold onto your authenticity and who you truly are, and to not let people or circumstances change that. We all have something different to offer which is what makes each of us beautifully unique. 



IRK: Favorite song RN


Riley: Colors - Black Pumas 

 

IRK: Lip Gloss ?


Riley: YSL's Candy Glaze Lip Gloss Sticks 

 

IRK: Jeans?


Riley: Citizens of Humanity - Brynn Drawstring Trouser 

 

IRK: Perfume?


Riley: YSL's Black Opium, Burberry Brit, or anything Chanel. 

 

IRK: Makeup?


Riley: Chanel, Giorgio Armani, Ogee and Patrick Ta



IRK: Can you share with us one of your favorite acting moments or scenes that has left a lasting impact on you, and what made it particularly special or memorable? Could you share with us one of your favorite moments or shoots as a model?


Riley: I've had so many memorable moments throughout my career, but one that started it all was one of my first scenes in television, where I play a "sorority girl" in The Newsroom opposite Jeff Daniels. I was a small part of that now iconic scene and Aaron Sorkin took a chance on me and wrote me into the show.  Getting the opportunity to work with and learn from some of the best in the industry left a massive impact on me that I will forever be grateful for.  As far as modeling, one of my all-time favorite shoots is the one I did with you, IRK Magazine! Brigitte Bardot has always been one of my fashion icons and getting to do a Brigitte-themed shoot was a dream! I loved every minute of recreating some of her iconic looks! 


IRK: What inspired you to create a limited edition merch line? 


Riley: My husband and I had dreams of starting a brand and clothing line together and we felt like merch was a wonderful segway into doing that.  The fans of The Originals and The Vampire Diaries universe are so incredible and we wanted to create something meaningful that they would love!  We wanted the designs to give a nod to the fans and show while still integrating elements of my personal style. We were introduced to Jesa and her company BlankClo who helped us bring this first drop to life with their vintage washed and custom-dyed pieces that felt perfect for our brand style. We had a very successful first drop and are so excited to share what's coming next! The name of our brand is LoveCoven and there will be more drops coming very soon! For updates on the next drop, exclusive content, and future lines you can follow LoveCoven on Instagram @lovecovenco or sign up to join the "coven club" at www.lovecovenco.com


Dress: Nazarene Amictus

IRK: Can you describe a fashion moment from your past that inspired a particular aspect of your personal style?


Riley: I grew up going to a lot of rock and roll concerts and music has always been a big part of my life.  I wore a lot of band shirts and wouldn't say I was exactly "stylish" back then, but I was definitely finding my own style and figuring out how I wanted to express myself. I was inspired by the bands and their confidence in rebellious and edgy styles and statements. Also, growing up my mom always dressed very classic and feminine with lashes and big hair, and I always loved her look.  I think she inspired my feminine style and love for soft textures and glamorous makeup and hair.  I think these moments in my life are what inspired my personal style today.  My style is ever-evolving, but mixing feminine colors and textures with something rock and roll and edgy is still very much a part of my personal style.  


IRK: Many look to celebrities like yourself for style inspiration. Who are some of your own fashion icons or sources of inspiration, and how do they influence your wardrobe choices?


Riley: As I mentioned earlier, Brigitte Bardot has always been a muse of mine.  I'm obsessed with her classic cat-eye liner and that has become my go-to makeup inspo.  I'm always inspired by people who push boundaries with their fashion like Rihanna and love that she adds that edge to every look! For an effortlessly chic look, I love referencing Rosie Huntington-Whiteley's classic style. And for current trends, I look to Hailey Bieber. 


Dress: 831 Minhle


IRK: Do you have a go-to outfit that you rely on for special occasions or moments when you need to make a lasting impression?


Riley: You can't go wrong with an LBD (little black dress) or a slip dress and heels!


IRK: Is there a specific era in fashion history or a cultural movement that inspires your wardrobe choices?


Riley: I'm so happy that 90s fashion has made a comeback! High-waisted jeans, oversized jackets and blazers, claw clips, turtlenecks and slip dresses are all some of my favorite fashion trends inspired by the 90s. 


Dress: MOLA Walker


IRK: Do you find inspiration for your fashion choices from sources beyond the traditional fashion world, such as art, music, or literature?


Riley: Outside of the fashion world, I find inspiration from people I see in my everyday life.  I have a few friends who are incredible artists who constantly inspire me with their use of color, shapes, and self-expression (check @nikizarrabi and her beautiful work).  One of my friends, Janice Rago Carse, collaborated with a clothing brand to create the Synergy line which is a blend of Ella & Eman's designs and Janice's hand-painted artwork. The line is stunning and I was so inspired by both of them! Music can influence my mood which in turn influences my fashion choices for that day. Self-expression in general, whether that's through music, art, or fashion, are all ways to express yourself and I find play a part in how you present yourself to the world. 


Top: Karvanska Umanska Pants: La Rando


IRK: As an actress and model, you've had the opportunity to work with various designers and stylists. Can you share any memorable experiences or collaborations that have influenced your fashion journey?


Riley: Some of my favorite fashion moments have been working with costume designers on set. I think a character's style is a huge part of embodying a role and oftentimes my characters inspire my real-life fashion. On Hightown, we had so much fun creating Renee's different power looks! One of my favorites by our costume designer Ann Bryant, was a deep-cut red blazer, black bra, and layered cross-necklaces.  What my character is wearing truly changes the way I walk into a scene. I kept several items from Renee's closet that I still wear today! Outside of set, I've recently been working with stylist Alison Hernon who's talents in styling and fashion have influenced me to try new patterns, colors, and textures.  I sometimes fall back on what's safe and neutral, but she has inspired me to take more risks and express myself even more through what I wear.    


IRK: We work on spreading info and light on the 17 global goals for the UN, which goals do you align to and why?


Riley: I think all 17 global goals are very important.  One that stands out for me is "Good Health and Well-Being".  I think our mental and physical health as a world society is so incredibly important and the basis for growth in all other global goals



 

Photographer: Jayme Thornton @jaymethornton

Stylist: Cannon @thecannonmediagroup at Ray Brown Pro @Raybrownpro

Hair: Isaac Davidson @isaacdavidsonhair at @fpaartists using Phyto @phytousa

Makeup: Glenn Brownell @glennbrownell at @theonly.agency using NEEN @weareneen

Talent: Riley Voelkel @lifeofrileyv

Fashion Assistants: @winnie_noan @xxmalak @larissapartenio

Special thanks to @marquepr


 

 


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