Girl Friday: Autumn Reeser
Photography by: Michelle Darlene
Autumn is best known for her acting: The O.C. was huge, Entourage a giant, and ABC’s Last Resort premiere blew them out of the water, but Autumn is so much more than the roles she plays. A gifted painter with a penache for interior decor, her talents span far beyond the television screen. She’s kind, vivacious, and has an infectious laugh that will leave you in stitches. A mother and wife who travels constantly for work, Autumn meets the most demanding of schedules with grace and ease and always a smile. Here’s a little more about what makes her tick.
How did the idea for Move LifeStyle come about?
The short version of the story is I love the blogging community. I think it has given a voice to women who were previously invisible in the mainstream media, and I wanted to be a part of it, to celebrate what I think is a major movement for women. I began working on a shared site with a group of like-minded girlfriends. The more we worked on it, the more we realized that every week our meetings involved intricate scheduling around toddlers, work, dogs, auditions, families, food and everything else under the sun. We realized THAT was what we wanted to talk about. We’re inspired by the current work-life balance dilemma and we want to create a ‘command central’ for the conversation, as well share tips and inspiration for girls like us who are on the go, ambitious, and in love with life.
As an actress, you’ve played many different strong female characters. How much of your personality comes through these roles?
Every character is a slice of me, and allows me to explore different facets that were already within me. I learn from every character I play — I think that’s why I’m drawn to strong women, because I learn so much from them about the woman I aspire to be! Through my characters I’ve learned:
1. How to love myself despite –and because of — my flaws (Taylor Townsend, The O.C.)
2. How to stand up for myself when dominated by someone with a strong personality (Lizzie Grant, Entourage)
3. How to fight for a greater truth in my life (Kylie Sinclair Last Resort)
What has been the most challenging part of being a working actress and a mom?
The sheer difficulty of the balancing act, which is part of what inspired me to create Move. I wanted to talk more with women about the unique realities they face when desiring to have both a family and a career they’re passionate about.
I want all women to be able to do what they love, have their voices and talents heard and appreciated
Because I have a flexible career with a good income, I’m able to make choices that aren’t open to a lot of other women, and even then I still find it difficult. I want all women to be able to do what they love, have their voices and talents heard and appreciated in the workplace, and for the workplace to change to accommodate the needs of parents who want to spend time with their children, yet still give to society in a meaningful way. I have so many friends who have had to leave jobs they love because the current time constraints simply weren’t feasible for them to work and also care for their children. I think it’s important for us to continue to hear women’s perspectives on the workplace, which I hope will lead to changing the current concept of the workday in order to meet the needs of our changing society.
What are you most enjoying about motherhood? What are you finding most challenging?
Parenting my son inspires me everyday to live the life that I want to model for him. There’s no dress rehearsal. This is it. It’s both a gift and a challenge.
Has becoming a mother changed your approach to acting?
I find myself vastly more vulnerable on a daily basis which naturally bleeds over into my work. Empathy plays a much larger part in my understanding of characters now, and in how personal I want to be when I’m telling their stories. It can be frightening, but is definitely more fulfilling.
How do you stay organized and prioritize your time?
This is something I’m still learning how to do! Having a baby really changed my life. The sheer demand of working a child’s needs into my life brought out all the flaws and things that weren’t working. I’m currently in the process of doing a lot of reading about life planning, self esteem, financial planning, leadership, etc etc etc… the list of what needs to be overhauled seems endless sometimes. I also
keep in mind that life never feels ‘done’ or ‘complete’, and to find joy in the journey
try to keep in mind that life never feels ‘done’ or ‘complete’, and to find joy in the journey, even when it’s messy and I feel like I’m failing.
One thing I do is have ‘meetings’ with myself three times a year to assess where I am, what I want, and how I see the rest of the year progressing. I’ve found this to be massively helpful as I grow older and since my life involves more people than just myself. If you live with anyone else, I also recommend weekly household meetings to discuss the upcoming week’s activities, any special needs, any grievances. This keeps small complaints from turning into giant blowups and lets everyone know they will have a chance to be heard and their opinion valued.
You travel constantly for work. How do you keep your relationship with your husband strong when you’re spending long periods of time apart?
My hubby was a professional runner who raced on the European circuit in the summers, so long periods of separation have been part and parcel of our relationship for ten years. Overall, we’ve learned to appreciate our alone time because it makes the time we spend together more meaningful and intentional. (But I’m already looking forward to seeing him again in two weeks!)
Your son has been on more flights than most people in their 20s, do you manage the difficult task of traveling with a baby?
Not well! Honestly, so much of how well the flight goes depends on my state of mind, a fact that my husband has realized for years and always tries to remind me about. It’s completely true! I find that the unpredictability of travel can really unsettle me, so I try hard to remain calm and remind myself that it will all work out in the end. Essentially, my son has flown every other week of his life since he was born in May 2011, so I would say that I have a TON of experience in traveling with a little one. Gone are the days of settling into my seat with a
the unpredictability of travel can really unsettle me, so I try hard to remain calm and remind myself that it will all work out
cup of Starbucks to immerse myself in a new magazine or a good book. Now it’s about paring down the amount of baby junk I need to a manageable amount that doesn’t make me resemble a bag lady. Not sure I’ve mastered it yet, but here go my tips:
1. Bring a stroller and check it at the gate. It will save your back from the strain of lugging everything through the terminal. Also, early family boarding is a god-send; I’m grateful for it every time.
2. If your baby is small, nurse on take-off and landing to help with the change in air pressure.
3. I travel with a small crossbody bag where I keep only my wallet, phone, lip balm and toothbrush; then a diaper bag with all the baby essentials, a book and an iPad. The iPad is a lifesaver on a long flight. Some of our favorite apps right now are Good Night Safari, Sleepi Bear, I Hear Ewe, and My Horse.
4. Bring a backup outfit for baby. Always. At 6 months old, my son ended up on a 5 hour flight wearing just a diaper because I overlooked this essential rule. Oops.
5. Ever since Finn started learning to walk, I’d let him walk up and down the aisles (with me right behind him of course) every couple of hours. You’ll get some strange looks and variations of ‘well-meaning’ opinions from the mommy war trenches, but screw them! A half hour of activity means my little guy is ready to sit still again–possibly even take a nap. Also, he has never once had a meltdown on a plane, so those mommies should thank me for saving their eardrums. You’re welcome, ladies.
Do you have any other essential travel tips?
I have to say, I still really miss those days of traveling solo! I recently flew back to LA alone for a short press trip and you would not believe how luxurious that felt to me. I flew with just a carry-on, bought a coffee and carried it onto the plane with me, and read a book cover-to-cover. I was completely blissed out. My solo girl-on-the-go travel tips are:
1. You can’t go wrong with the following outfit: ballerina flats, dark washed jeans with a bit of stretch, a long sleeve tee layered over a thin cotton tank, topped with a beautiful scarf.
2. Bring three bags: a rolling suitcase, a laptop bag (mine stacks on top of my suitcase), and a good satchel to keep with you at your seat.
3. Your satchel or purse should include: a good book (hardcopy or on the iPad), a bottle of water (purchased at the airport), a sandwich or salad, headphones, and a small travel beauty kit (toothbrush, hand lotion, lip balm, hair bands, and lipstick or eyeliner) to kick up your look right before you land.
How would you describe your style? What role does fashion play in your life?
In LA, I love a tomboy-inspired look (check out my Pinterest board Vintage Tomboy). I’ve always admired style that looks like you live an active life. I love skinny jeans with oxfords or riding boots, and a striped Henley. I find a good coral/orange/red lipstick to be a must for me when I’m in LA, because it makes even the simplest outfits look intentional. In Hawaii, I’m drawn to neutral tones, metallic sandals, draping, natural fabrics, and simple elegance. In my beauty ‘dream life’, I would be wearing my hair loose and in beachy waves, but in reality I haven’t figured out how to style my hair and makeup in the humidity yet, so you’ll most likely find me with a bare face and a ballerina bun.
Fashion is a learned skill for me. I’m very visual, but in life I’ve tended to be drawn first to function, so I spent most of my childhood in a variety of tee shirts and leggings… ah, the 80s. In my teens, I realized what a profound effect style could have on life and the way you are perceived. In my twenties, I reveled in trying on different personas and characters, amassing a HUGE collection of costumes, (as my friends can attest when they raid it every Halloween). Now in my thirties, I’ve finally started to embrace the things I’ve loved all along — the classic gamine style, simple lines, and stripes — and started to see fashion from a more internal perspective instead of trying to please other people or to be someone other than my truest self. This Orson Welles quote sums up my current fashion philosophy: “Style is knowing who you are, what you want to say, and not giving a damn.”
How did your passion for interior design come about?
I spent a long time feeling slightly guilty about how much I enjoyed interior design, until I realized that my love for it comes from a love of simplification, of boiling things down until they just work. When something is RIGHT for your life and the way you live it, you
beauty is very closely tied to simplification and paring things down to their essentials
find that you no longer even have to think about it. I love the challenge in designing interiors; getting to know a space and thinking of all the ways to make it function best for the people who live there. I view design as a puzzle and a call to problem solving. I personally find that for me, beauty is very closely tied to simplification and paring things down to their essentials. When something functions the way you need it to, its essence is beauty.
What’s your favorite space in your home?
Right now I’m renting a mid-century home in Hawaii, and my favorite place there is a lifted window seat from the Japanese tradition, called a ‘tokonoma.’ It’s screened in, so I romanticize the idea of those ‘screened-in’ Southern porches and lie there when the afternoon rainshowers come in, listening to the rain and feeling the wind whip past me. It’s pretty amazing. This house has an incredibly symbiotic relationship with nature, something I’d been missing after 14 years living the concrete jungle of Los Angeles!
What do you consider to be your hardest won or most treasured life lesson?
I really, really treasure my girlfriends and am proud to say I have an amazing and solid group of women who I depend on, love tremendously and who inspire me. Finding and sustaining female friendships has been a core theme of my
My friends are the great treasure of my life
life since I was in adolescence. I am careful with who I become close with, but once we’re ‘in’ with each other, we are bonded for life. I still celebrate the holidays every year with my high school girlfriends. We live very different lives, but we stay close through our shared history and desire to stay connected. My friends are the great treasure of my life.
What are you most enjoying learning about yourself lately?
Moving to Hawaii has allowed me to escape the hustle and bustle of LA, (which I typically thrive on), and discover deeper reserves of strength and focus within myself. I feel like I’m growing into myself as a woman and a mother; this is a profound and exciting time for me. I’m spending more time with my little Finn– long afternoons on the beach with sudden warm downpours, during which we hide under a towel and eat apples together. I’m doing a lot of reading about women’s history, minority rights, leadership and politics, all of which I somewhat blissfully ignored throughout my twenties. I’m working on a mainstream television show I truly love and believe in, which is pushing me to discover new depths within my acting work.
What advice do you have for younger women who may be following in your footsteps?
Make sure you make time to work on your inner life.It’s so easy in the acting business to get drawn into the pursuit of the outer, the flashy, the easy-to-reward, but you will find yourself increasingly dissatisfied as you grow older if this is where you’re finding your sense of self. Spend time getting to know yourself. You’ll be a better actor, friend, daughter, mother, and lover for it. Try to set aside a few hours a week for self reflection, writing, and reading books that will give you more insight into the inner workings of your mind.
How do you see your future?
I’ve realized this year how much more I want to travel. Considering how often I’m on the road for work,
I love the feeling of being a part of something bigger than myself
this may seem strange, but because I started my career at 19, I never bothered to create much time for myself to travel just for personal growth. With time, thought and research, you can do this so inexpensively! Though I feel like I missed the window for backpacking through Europe, in the next ten years I’d still like to visit England, Japan, India, Sweden, Argentina, Ireland, Germany, and Australia. At some point, I’d also like to have another baby, but now that I’m aware of the way that I want to parent, I am really struggling to see how to fit another little person into our already overwhelmed lives. I think that will be an ongoing discussion in our family, as I don’t forsee adding another person for quite a while! I’d like to see Move expand — the stories, exploration and friendships that have developed with creating this site have enriched my life so deeply. I love the feeling of being a part of something bigger than myself and helping other women share their stories.
Girl Friday is a phrase more common to the 1940s and 50s, defined as “a female employee who has a wide range of duties,” and is most recognizable from the film His Girl Friday. Here at Move LifeStyle, we’re resurrecting its saucy vibe for the title of our last column of the week which profiles inspiring women in the workforce.