Chiara Aurelia can currently be seen in Netflix‘s drama ‘Luckiest Girl Alive’. For her lead role in the Freeform drama series ‘Cruel Summer’ she earned a 2021 Critic‘s Choice Award nomination in the category of ‘Best Actress in a Drama Series‘. Besides acting, Chiara is very passionate about supporting various organizations helping animals.
Chiara, you’re starring in ‘Luckiest Girl Alive’ as the younger version of Mila Kunis’ character Ani, who is reeling from a sexual assault and a school shooting. These are two very hard topics for someone to take on. How did you deal with portraying someone who went through such traumatic experiences?
Ani’s trauma is definitely very intense, but I also think that it’s a really important part of the story and the film as a whole. And I think something that’s so wonderful about our film is that we’re talking about a matter that is more difficult and is darker than a normal conversation and we wanna bring light to these kind of terrible and traumatic events. Taking on Ani was honestly a privilege and an opportunity that I’m very grateful for, to be able to be a part of a film that talked about some important topics that I think really need to be discussed more.
What preparations did you have to go through to be able to portray Ani?
There was a lot of research that needed to be done. I needed to properly just educate myself about gun violence and also about sexual assault and trauma more than anything. The root of the film is about trauma and as you can follow, about someone’s journey and how one day or one event can impact someone for pretty much the rest of their life, which I think is really what we’re talking about. And what’s really important to be discussed is I think people look at survivors of trauma 30 years down the road and question them or judge them. And we’re trying to kind of shed some light on a woman’s journey.
These two topics are well known nowadays, specially in the US. One is too often in the news and the other a lot less then it actually happens. What is your view on these difficult matters?
I think there’s only one view to have. Sexual assault happens to 99 % of women and it’s probably the least discussed thing. It’s the most difficult thing for people to get arrested for. It’s the most difficult thing for people to get charged for. I think that we need to make change and hopefully films and television and telling people’s stories and women’s stories and discussing these events is gonna make an impact worldwide. I think more education, people learning more, knowing more what to say, knowing how to talk, knowing how to approach these situations is really important. Having boys educated more about consent is also really important.
And we need gun control, so there’s really nothing else to say there.
You star in Freeform’s drama series ‘Cruel Summer’, that takes place over the course of three summers (1993, 1994, 1995). In this series you portray Jeanette over three years with varying character traits during each of the time periods. How did this unique opportunity allow you to showcase your range as an actress?
It was a huge opportunity. I remember reading the script for the first time and going “Wow, this would be a really big challenge”. And I think that’s something that really excites an actor. ‘Luckiest Girl Alive’ and ‘Cruel Summer’ both were projects that I read and I was like “This would be really hard, I must be a part of this”. Jeanette was a huge challenge. I think being able to differentiate the years between 1993 and 94 and 95 and kind of having that opportunity as an actress, to look at the different sides of one human, is like an acting excercise. A reference that I have that’s very different actually, but in some way kind of brings some similarity, is Tatiana Maslany’s performance in ‘Orphan Black’, which was so incredible because it was the first time that I saw one actress tackle a bunch of different characters in one project. You’re like just watching this literal one woman run this entire show herself and kill it. And obviously it’s very different cause Jeanette is the same person, but getting to be able to work on the transformation with the team and everyone involved in the project was a very unique and special opportunity.
The performance earned you a 2021 Critic‘s Choice Award nomination in the category of ‘Best Actress in a Drama Series‘. But you’ve also won the Young Entertainer Award twice. What does such recognition for your work mean to you?
It’s obviously amazing. I’m very grateful and I think it’s so wonderful that people have acknowledged me for the work that I’ve done. And I feel like that’s a little support and pat on the back that a lot of actors don’t get the opportunity to receive. So I couldn’t be more grateful for the position I’m at in my life and my career. And it’s definitely motivation.
That being said, I pretty much have no acknowledgement of the fact that any of those things happened. And I think I called my manager only like a week ago and I was like “Did I actually get nominated for a Critic’s Choice Award?” You idolize these things and dream of being in that position, but once you’re there, it’s almost like it just comes and goes so quickly. It’s like, I think I missed it, I don’t know where it went.
Chiara, you are a passionate activist who supports various organizations, such as No Kill Los Angeles, Best Friends Animal Society and The Angel Food Project. Why are these organizations so dear and important to you?
I have definitely done quite a bit of work with different charities and organizations. That’s something that my mom taught me actually from a really young age. I’m living in such a place of privilege in my life right now and in my life as a whole, I grew up with a roof over my head and food to eat every day. I had a really great support system and a lot of people don’t have that. And we’re dealing with a lot in our society all the time. And RAINN specifically is an organization I really wanna start working with. They work with sexual assault advocacy and we worked quite a bit with them on ‘Luckiest Girl Alive’ as well.
From a really young age, my mom said if I wanna work and make money as a kid who basically doesn’t need to make money, then I need to be donating a portion of it. And I need to be focused on giving back to others if I’m gonna be in such a place of privilege myself. And as I’ve gotten older, it’s definitely a little bit more tricky, cause I need to live myself as well. But I definitely think that you can donate anything – time, money, energy, your thoughts and prayers and bring more conversations to light. I think there’s a lot of different ways to help out the world around you, but I think that that’s something that my generation as a whole really needs to work on. We’re very center focused and even when we’re not center focused, we’re doing something for the validation of others or we’re doing something to see the reaction of somebody else. And I think that if we’re living in a constant state of selfishness, we’re never gonna advance our society at all. So that’s something I work on personally and I think we all have to work on, being able to prioritize others and care for your neighbors and your friends and your environment.
As you said, giving your time and energy means so much more than just donating your money. And many people don’t realize that.
Yes. There is many ways to help, no matter where you are, no matter what you’re doing. Obviously there are people who do not have the time and physically cannot and they need to support themselves. And I think that those people themselves are people that we should be trying to help. But if you have the time and you have the energy and you have the resources, it’s really important that you use them. And especially as someone in the industry who has a platform, we all have a platform and we should be using it to help.
You started acting at a very early age. When you now look back on the beginnings of your career and the dreams that you then had for your career, how does your current success measure up to them?
I I started doing theater when I was four actually, but I didn’t start working professionally until I was a little older.
This is something I think about all the time, actually. As a kid, you dream of something and it’s crazy to have your dreams coming true every day. I mean, just the fact that I’m living in a place and doing things and working in an industry and people talk to me about their movies and consider casting me in them. And then I’ve gotten to work on films and work with incredible actors and directors and fantastic people in this industry. I’m so incredibly grateful, but it’s so easy to forget. You get so wrapped up in the moment and all of a sudden you’re like “Wow, I’ve done so many things that I couldn’t even have imagined were possible five years ago”. It kind of just goes right by. It’s the same way as I was talking about awards. It’s like “Oh, this is what I’m supposed to be waiting my entire life to be excited about”. And then you go one night and then it’s done and you’re onto the next thing.
I think it’s important to be just focused in the moment, which is something that I work on a lot. And grounded and centered in living in the moment and not worrying too much about what’s coming next and what happened before. Just enjoying every day and being able to feel how lucky I am and how happy I am and enjoy all the opportunities I’ve gotten.
What is the most important thing you look for when you’re being cast on a new project?
It totally depends on the project and the film and the people involved. And telling stories that I feel have gravity and weight to them and are important things that we should be talking about or complex female characters. I definitely gravitate towards a little complexity.
Viola Davis once said, I think in her Oscar speech, how all of the most important stories are basically of the people that died and never really got to tell their stories. And the opportunity that we get to bring these characters and these people pretty much back to life and be able to tell their story and talk about something that they experienced is such a unique job that we have. Special job. So any film that I feel like covers that is something I want to be a part of. I also like lighter stuff too. I wanna do a comedy.
To you, what is the hardest thing about balancing work and personal life?
I think you just said it, balancing work and personal life. It can definitely be a challenge and I think that’s something a lot of actors struggle with is. You’re traveling a lot and you’re kind of going to different places and becoming different people and it can be really hard to separate your characters from yourself. And I think that I’m really lucky. I have a really incredible support system. I have an amazing mom who loves me unconditionally and family and friends who are constantly there to support me and bring me back down to earth. And a lot of people don’t have that. But the fact that I do, is a privilege and it really helps me come home from work at the end of the day and remember that I’m Chiara and I have a whole life that is really important to me too.
Where will we be seeing you next? Can you share a bit with us on your upcoming projects?
I don’t really have too much to say other than there’s some great stuff in the works and I can’t wait to see what’s happening next.
And if I asked you, without thinking about it too much, who comes first to mind that you would really wanna work with in your career?
Oh my God, there’s too many. Guillermo del Toro, Michelle Williams, Alejandro Iñárritu, Steven Spielberg, Matthew McConaughey, Viola Davis, Julie Andrews. That’s a big one. I love Julie Andrews and like a hundred million more people.
Talent: Chiara Aurelia
Photographer: Sam Dameshek
Stylist: Anastasia Walker
Make-up: Katrina Klein @ The Wall Group using Chanel Beauty
Hair: Bobby Eliot @ The Wall Group using Fekkai
Photography assistant: Carly Hildebrant
Editor: Timi Letonja
This interview was done for Numéro Netherlands by Jana Letonja.