Hangin’ with Monica Moore Smith
Monica is an absolute delight to be around. From an early age, she has always had a creative mind and passion for anything and everything. She discovered acting when her sister asked her to come be a part of “Oklahoma.” There she learned the wonders of having a career in the world of make-believe. And she has excelled at it in a massive way. After her part in a Mormon Message went viral, opportunities started pouring in. She booked a lead role in the remake of “Saturday’s Warrior.” This led to more amazing opportunities, and Monica continues to share her joy wherever she goes. Monica’s personality is infectious and people absolutely want to be around her. She has also acknowledged the gifts and talents God has given her and is constantly seeking new ways to share her light with the world. We talked about her journey as an actress and what she is now seeking to create. Hope you enjoy her podcast!!
About Monica Moore Smith
Monica Moore Smith’s highlights include:
- Featuring in more than a dozen films.
- Performing in dozens of musicals.
- Working in modeling and motivational speaking.
- A bright future ahead, with multiple films in production.
She was born in Boca Raton, Florida, on July 27, 1997. It wasn’t long after that before Monica found her passion for acting in the sunny state.
It was on the set of “Oklahoma” that she says that she fell in love with the idea of acting when she saw the set lighting, with everyone going about their business to make the film come together.
Monica comes from a family of six siblings. She always had a bright outlook on life from a young age. She was active in soccer, softball, swimming, and karate as a young child. More importantly, she had a deep passion for singing, acting, and other performance arts — which she has been doing to date.
Though homeschooled from kindergarten through high school, Monica was able to explore the arts in a formal school setting when she got to high school. She got enrolled at Pioneer High School for Performing Arts classes while continuing her primary education at home.
Monica excelled at her performing arts classes. She was so good that she was awarded a talent scholarship to Brigham Young University, where she majored in Music Dance Theater. This would turn out to be the foundation for her career, as she now works as an actor, singer, dancer, speaker, and model.
She married her long-time boyfriend in 2018. And she is still working on several notable films, in addition to a flurry of her own projects.
Monica has been a talented actor since she was a child. She continued performing on small stages, and it was during one of her musical gigs in 2013 that she caught the attention of a director and won herself an audition, launching her acting career.
Her career took off in 2016 when she starred in the film “Saturday’s Warrior,” popularly considered a cult classic. “Saturday’s Warrior” is about two siblings who make binding promises in their pre-existence lives, only to end up taking drastically different paths when they come into the world and grow up.
“Saturday’s Warrior” was just the first of a trio of films that Monica would feature in. She also played a prominent role in the movie “Tim Timmerman: Hope of America.” This film is about a young man with high ambitions of becoming a big-shot politician. Tim loses his way as he goes through school, eventually hoping for hopes of a bright political career in an exploitative relationship with a senator’s daughter.
Monica’s latest appearance was in the film “Deidra & Laney Rob a Train,” which premiered in 2017. This is a touching film about two sisters who turn into train robbers following their mother’s imprisonment. The film has a solid rating of 6.1 on IMDb and 92% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Monica has featured in more than a dozen films, including:
- The 12 Bloody Days of Christmas (2020)
- Agua Donkeys (2020)
- Romance in the Outfield: Double Play (2020)
- Simmer (2020)
- Paranoid (2019)
- Room Enough (2019)
- Waiting On You (2019)
- Twice the Dream (2019)
- Stalker (2019)
- 13 Bullets (2018)
- To Have and to Hold (2018)
- Dysfunctional: Brogan Kelby (2017)
- The Killing Pact (2017)
- Unsung Heroes (2016)
- Conflicted Felons (2016)
- You Never Know How Much Good You Do (2014)
- Jonah and the Great Fish (2011)
It is also worth noting that Monica played a prominent role in sending out the viral message “Bullying — Stop It,” which was released when bullying was recognized as a serious problem across the US.
Monica Moore Smith’s career as an actor has just started. In addition to the films listed above, she is also to feature in dozens of other movies and musicals.
Monica is currently working on three more films, all of which should be released in 2021. These include “Even in Dreams,” “Mission Stories,” and “Lights, Camera, Romance.” She is also working on several personal projects, many of which you can watch on her personal YouTube channel. Monica Moore Smith has a long and bright career ahead of her, especially considering how quickly she has landed prominent roles in notable films.
Monica Moore Smith Podcast Transcription
Charan: All right, guys. Welcome back to the Lemonade Stand Podcast. I am your host Charan Prabhakar and I’m with the delightful, the beautiful, Monica Moore Smith. I don’t know if she’s blushing, but she’s…
Monica: I’m wearing foundation, but underneath, yes.
Charan: Underneath, yeah. No, it’s fantastic and it’s crazy because I have known of Monica’s work for some time. I’ve seen a lot of videos pop up in my feed, like YouTube videos, if I ever get TikTok, I’ll probably get TikTok videos, and a lot of movies, which is really where I’ve known her from. I’ve seen some of her work before, and it’s so great to see how much she works, and the directors that I’ve worked with in the past have used her and have just spoken so highly of her. And so I was so excited, and it’s funny, Monica, because we have seen each other in passing.
Monica: That’s same goes for you. I’ve seen so much of your work and I’ve seen you in places or come across you, but I’ve never worked with you.
Charan: We haven’t worked with each other.
Charan: Until was it like a week or two ago?
Monica: Literally a week ago, yeah.
Charan: Yeah, and we finally worked together and we were like, “Oh my gosh, why haven’t we worked together?” And it was funny, the thing we worked on was some internal industrial video.
Monica: I know, no one is going to see it, no one will know.
Charan: No one will see it, no one will know.
Monica: That we worked together.
Charan: But the memories that we made.
Monica: They will be there.
Charan: No, and it was really great working with you and it was super fun and I remember thinking, “Oh my gosh, Monica needs to be on this podcast, how can I convince her? What do I need to do to bribe her to come?”
Charan: Money, of course.
Charan: Money and puppies, guys, so really that’s what you need.
Monica: It works.
Monica Moore Smith’s Lemonade Stand Story
Charan: But, Monica, thank you so much, thank you so much for joining me, this is so awesome. So the Lemonade Stand podcast is all about people’s lemonade stand stories, their creator stories, right? When they were young they may have had their own lemonade stand business, and they may have succeeded; they may have failed. Did you ever have your own lemonade stand business as a little girl?
Monica: I did.
Charan: You did? Yes.
Monica: The only person that purchased lemonade was my mother and my father.
Charan: So great.
Monica: It went well.
Charan: It went really well.
Monica: Yeah, and then I put my own money in the jar just to make it look like I did better, but…
Charan: You did? Oh, that’s fantastic.
Charan: Well you know what? A lot of people’s lemonade stand experiences are like that, right?
Charan: But what motivated you to get that going to begin with?
Monica: The lemonade stand or acting?
Charan: The lemonade stand; let’s talk about the lemonade stand.
Monica: Oh, okay.
Charan: And then we’ll shift to the acting.
Monica: I’m like, the metaphorical lemonade stand?
Monica: Initially, I think I had read- so I was homeschooled.
Monica: Which, I love being homeschooled. I think it put me ahead in a lot of aspects, but I was reading some entrepreneur book for young kids, and there was this girl who was 12, and she was selling bracelets and making a living and I was like, “I want to do that.”
Monica: And my mom was like, “Well maybe start with the lemonade stand because we already have the stuff for that. And so you can build to bracelets.”
Charan: Okay. Yeah.
Monica: That didn’t work out super well, but that was my inspiration was reading about some girl.
Monica: I love to read and I was like, “I want to do that; I want to make money.”
Charan: Oh, I love it.
Charan: So did you shift to bracelets ever?
Monica: I did, I didn’t really make a living off of that either.
Charan: Yeah, for sure.
Monica: And also, when we turn eight in my family, that is when you start paying for things.
Monica: And so if I wanted to do sports or get clothes or anything like that, I mean they paid for food, obviously, but then I would have to make the money.
Monica: So I was just trying to be scrappy and think of ways to make money, so I mowed lawns.
Charan: Did you come up with anything?
Monica: Mowing lawns, babysitting, I sold glow sticks for a hot minute, flashlights.
Charan: Oh, nice, nice.
Monica: I did a lot of concessions at different theaters, at basketball games.
Monica: I was the chick with the little cart of things walking around, selling, I did random door-to-door stuff. I did a lot of whatever I could just to make something.
Charan: Yeah, so you already had that entrepreneur spirit in you though?
Monica: Oh yeah, both of my parents were, so I was kind of raised on that.
Charan: Okay, are you the oldest in your family? Or where do you fall?
Monica: No, I have three older sisters and two younger brothers.
Charan: Okay, so you’re kind of middle, right?
Monica: Yeah, I have to share the middle spot.
Charan: Oh, man.
Monica: [crosstalk 00:05:44].
Monica Moore Smith Talks About How She Got Into Acting
Charan: That’s it, that’s exactly what it is, right? So then you were doing all of these fun, creative things. How did you get into acting?
Monica: That was really cred to my sister, because I was very shy, I was not inclined to that. I was the tomboy, which is hard to believe now, because I’m a very girly girl, but I grew up in sports. My plan was to own a karate dojo.
Monica: But my sister was the outgoing ham one, and she was doing theater. And she basically was like, “Hey can you come be in ‘Oklahoma’ as a farmer kid? We need extra kids.” And she said she would get me ice cream, so I was like, “Yes, I’m down.” And then that sold me,. I just loved everyone. It was all of these adults coming together and then some of us kids, and it was like this pretend world. And we were all playing pretend. And I just thought that was so cool then like, “These are adults and this is their job.” So that kind of really sold me on theater. And then eventually I got into film through theater, kind of.
Charan: Well, it’s interesting because it’s funny that you say “pretend” for a living. That’s why I did it. I’m like, “Wait a minute. You’re telling me-“
Monica: I don’t have to do a job.
Charan: “… that instead of doing an actual job, I could actually pretend for a living?” And that was what motivated me and I get to work with our friends as well.
Monica: That’s always fun.
Charan: No, that’s awesome. So you did theater growing up?
Monica: Well, yeah, like in high school I went to a performing arts charter school and then did some acting groups. And then through there, one of the casting directors that was casting Mormon Messages saw me in a talent show. And then I did a show with him and then they were like, “Hey, come be in this audition for this Mormon Message as a mean girl.” We went through rounds and rounds of auditions. And then at the last minute they were like, I was helping them with some callbacks and they were just having me read opposite the other actors auditioning. And at this point I was like, “Oh, I’m going to be-“
Charan: The mean girl.
Monica: … it was like I was slated to be the mean girl. And then I was reading for the bullied girl and they were like, “Wait, actually…” And then I got cast in that Mormon Message and that blew up. And then from there it was like, “Hey, I’ll try this film thing.” And a year or two after that, I started doing it full time.
Charan: Oh man, that’s so amazing. And it’s great because you were able to make a name for yourself, just kind of out of the gate in a sense.
Monica: Yeah, I got lucky there.
Charan: Well, it’s cool though, because like people got to see your worth and they got to see how you’re able to create a character. And I remember that specific Mormon Message, right? And it’s so good because I look at who you are right now and who that girl was that you were playing and I’m like, “Wow, world of a difference.”
Monica: Well, thank you, I hope so.
Charan: But you were so good. And it was it drew people in and I know it really impacted a lot of people, right?
Monica: Yeah, thank you.
Charan: And so I think that ability to tell stories and to really connect with an audience and have them feel those and feel those feels — it’s so important as an actor, actress.
Monica: I think also credit to the great director and crew, because I didn’t know what I was doing. And they were very kind and welcoming and just let me wing it and gave me directions. So that was huge. And I think my process of having good people around me.
Charan: Absolutely. And that same director, we were just talking earlier, directed me in something, and it was funny because also for a Mormon Message type of thing-
Charan: … bullying, if you will. And I remember, I was to get really upset and scream, is what I was supposed to do. And so I went into this office building and I started screaming and at the thing, and the director was like, “That was really good, man.” But what he failed to warn was there were people working outside that building, like what was going to actually happen. So when I came out of the audition, people outside were terrified because they heard me screaming and I’m like, “Guys-“
Monica: Oh, no.
Charan: “… audition, guys.” It was fun. It was so good. It was just a joke.
Monica: Pretend, playing pretend. We’re good.
Charan: Play pretend. We’re so good.
Monica: We’re good. End scene.
Charan: End scene. And so anyway, it was a great experience.
Monica: That’s so cool.
Charan: So you transitioned from that little Mormon Message, not a little Mormon Message, but to doing big feature films, though, and how did that go for you? How were you able to get there?
Monica: I honestly think a lot of it is luck, and also I think a big thing was me being in theater and transitioning into film when I auditioned for “Saturday’s,” where that was my first film. I was so intimidated by it. I had a vocal teacher recommend me to the director, so it was through theater again. And I was like… I think part of me, why I got the role, because they for a long time, we did auditions for, like, a year back and forth. And at the time, especially I wasn’t typical ingenue, I think I’ve transitioned more into that, and with my look as I’ve gotten older, but at the time I was more quirky and newbie. And I think just because I didn’t think I would get the role at all, I think that’s why I did well.
Monica: And I’ve looked into this and researched around when you don’t want something and flow state and how like… Because I was like, “I’m not going to get this anyway. I’m just going to have fun and just make bold choices and just enjoy the process because I know I won’t book it.” And I think because of that, I think that’s why they would say to me that I was doing it. They were like, “There’s something different.” And I think it’s not that I… Because I’m like, “There are so many talented people.” I don’t think it was more talented than anyone. I think it was just because I was uninhibited. Because of the sheer fact, I was like, “I’m not going to book this.” And then I was like, “Oh, that’s maybe a trick.”
Charan: Yeah, that’s a trick, right?
Charan: I definitely want to dive into that, that exact thought process. So I’m really good friends with Michael Buster who directed that movie.
Monica: Yes, he was great.
Charan: He’s a great, great guy. And it’s interesting because we’ve had so many conversations about acting and-
Monica: He was an actor first-
Charan: … an actor first, right.
Monica: … which really is fantastic.
Charan: Yeah. And he understands human beings and how you can craft a story and how to make it flow and everything like that. But what you were mentioning about being in that flow state of feeling like, “Well, I’m not going to get this anyway, so I’m just going to go for it. I’m just going to just to have fun. It’s just fun for me.” Right?
Monica: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Charan: I think there’s a real powerful energy in that thought process with all things in life, really. Because a lot of times we find ourselves chasing something, right? Whatever our passion is. “We got to chase it, we got to get it down and get…” And with that comes this level of desperation, this level of energy that is thrown out there that stinks, and you can always feel that sense of desperation with certain people that work around you that are always looking for something.
Monica: You can feel it. It is tangible.
Charan: You can feel it; it’s very tangible.
Monica: And also, I think there’s something with, it’s like, I think there’s this one book I’m reading about the “it” factor and the audition process. And he takes a more scientific approach about it, like what they do with sports fitness. And his whole thing is like, we have these people who train and train actors and then they get in the audition room and when they care about something, they can’t perform at their full capacity. And it’s a huge problem, because it’s like, “I am this good, but then once I care, I freeze up and the anxiety and all that stuff. How do we break through that?” And I think that’s a huge part of it.
Charan: So how do you break through it for yourself?
Monica: I’ve been looking into a lot of different things, actually, recently, because I’ve noticed, I feel like I’m trying to get back more into the mental state I used to be in when I was just fresh, because I was like, no one has any expectations. I hadn’t worked with anyone. I didn’t know anyone. I was dorky theater kid. So like, I feel if I did anything it was like, “Oh, okay, whatever, no one cared.”
Monica: But I feel now because I’ve been working consistently, I’ve noticed more recently, I think you constantly have to be greasing the wheel because you will… Even if you reach a peak or something, you’ll either stagnate or go backwards. And I found that because I fear there’s expectations, I’ve almost had more anxiety around performance and being on set, of like, “Okay, well, the last time I worked with this person, I exceeded their expectations. So now I have to top myself again and how do I do that?”
Monica: And then I end up freezing up. And so I’ve been looking into some different resources, and a lot of it has been… I feel like when we do become full-time, we forget that we did it because it was fun. And I think I’ve started to focus more on A, I think something that helped me a lot in the beginning was something that we learn in other aspects of our life, like socially, because I was a kid that was more reserved. I had read a lot about like, “Okay, how to be not shy.” And a lot of it was, we trip ourselves up when we focus so much on ourselves. And something that really helps me is, “Okay, I’m coming here to perform, and I’ve been giving these gifts and I should be using these talents to better someone else’s day.”
Monica: And I think once you start thinking altruistically, you’re not going to get stuck in this weird thing. And then you get in your head and then you go on this cycle. And so I think when you can think, “Okay, how can I help my scene partner? How can I be a better scene partner to them? How can I engage with them better?” And I think when you start thinking altruistically, that’s a huge thing.
Monica: I think, also, mental health in general. I think therapy and therapeutic practices and cognitive behavior therapy and applying those within acting. There’s one book that my friend recommended to me, Eric Morris, and I had never heard anyone talk about him, because there’s Uta Hagen, there’s Meisner — the acting teachers, a lot of people talk about — but his whole thing is kind of, what do you do when you do freeze up? That’s his whole process. And I’m getting more into the books, but it’s really just breaking down, it’s a mix of a therapeutic practice with the acting because your mental health, that is a part of your instrument-
Monica: … it’s a huge thing. And so I’ve found applying the things that I learned in therapy, in different practices and thinking outside of myself, have been huge. And just having fun. If I’m not having fun, that’s when I go, “Okay, whatever, I’m just not going to worry about the product. I’m going to focus on enjoying myself and enjoying the time around with other people.” And then I think, too, you’re a better person to work with. I think when you’re uptight and you’re like, “I’m sucking,” then you don’t treat other people as well. You’re in your head and people don’t want to work with you. So I found those things currently are what I’m trying to do to help me break out of that expectation anxiety.
Charan: Expectations, anxiety. Man, you have dropped pearls and pearls of wisdom and-
Monica: Oh, stop.
Charan: … but no, it’s very interesting some of the things you were saying, like I was thinking about my own experience with acting. I started here in Utah, right? I was doing stuff here and it was fun; it was great. But back in 2007, 2008, I started noticing there just wasn’t enough opportunities for me as an Indian actor being in Utah. And also I felt some of those same things of anxiety, expectations, all this stuff, but when I would actually book the film and have fun, I was like, “This is amazing. This is so fun. I’m having such a good time.” So I never expected to move to LA. I never thought that was going to be my path. But the last film I did in Utah, all the other actors were LA besides me, of the five of us that were the leads.
Monica: Oh, I didn’t know that.
Charan: Yeah. And the other four were like, “Charan, you should come to LA. We will help you. We will help you get an agent.” And they really put those good thoughts in there. I’m like, “Whoa, what would life look like in LA?” And the more and more I thought about it, I got excited. So I went to LA and people are like, “Well, what was your LA experience life?” And I’m like, “Well, I liken it to the fall of Adam and Eve.” And then they go, “Oh, what does that even mean?” I’m like, “Look, they fell, but they fell forward like they needed to.”
Monica: Yeah, that’s true.
Charan: And that’s how it felt like, it felt like initially, when I got there. I’m like, “I have no clue what I’m doing. It’s a huge ocean, all of a sudden. And I have no idea.” But I knew that this is where I was supposed to be. And the first couple of years were challenging, like trying to figure things out. But then it got in a groove. And I started to book a lot more when I took that exact advice that you said, having fun. I’m like, “You know what…” I went through enough auditions to be like, “Oh dude, not another audition.” I’m like, “Okay, fine. Let’s just do it. Whatever. Whatever happens it doesn’t matter. I’m excited because I get to act.”
Monica: That’s exactly, that mindset of, “I am in this business to act, auditioning is literally a chance to stretch that talent with an audience for free.”
Charan: For free. And that’s what it was. It was this thought of like, “Oh, this is cool. This is another opportunity for me to act. It doesn’t matter if it’s a movie or not. It’s like, I get to act, this is fun.”
Charan: And so just the audition was… Someone gave me the opportunity to act, and that’s what I came to LA to do, to act.
Charan: And when I started doing that, it became a lot more fun. And I remember then I would go into these audition rooms, and we’d have what’s called, you have your regular audition and then you also have what’s called a producer session. And the producer session is a little bit more intensive, like a lot more people there, high-end producers. And I remember going into one for an HBO show, and a lot of people were there, and they put me on the spot and they said, “Okay…” Because I was auditioning for a teacher role. And so I did the lines and they’re like, “Oh, that was really good. That was great.” And they’re like, “Okay, cool. Now we want you to teach us something.” And there’s this whole group of people-
Monica: Impromptu go.
Charan: … impromptu teach.
Monica: Like, “Oh, acting crap.”
Charan: I know, exactly.
Monica: How do you do that?
Charan: How do I do that? And all of a sudden I’m like, “Okay, let’s do this.” And I love doing magic tricks. It’s like a little side thing I like to do.
Monica: I didn’t know that.
Charan: And so I’m like, “Okay guys, I’m going to teach you guys how to do a magic trick.” And they’re like, “Wait, are you serious?” I’m like, “Absolutely. I need a volunteer though.” As I got someone, one of the producers, to come join me and I’m like, “Okay, now we’re going to teach you guys some basic sleight-of-the-hand coin tricks.” And I’m like, “Now, everyone do this with me.” And I made them all participate with me. I ended up getting the part all because-
Monica: That’s amazing.
Charan: … I was just having so much fun, right?
Charan: I didn’t care what was going to be the end result. I just wanted to have fun at that moment.
Monica: And by nature of that, all of them enjoyed it.
Charan: [crosstalk 00:21:39] good time.
Monica: It wasn’t like, “I’m sitting here for an audition. The 60th person I’ve seen. I’m bored out of my mind.” You were just a solution to their problems. It’s like, “Great, awesome. He knows how to teach.”
Charan: Yeah. And the thing was, what I’ve learned from the whole acting business for myself is if I can come alive, like, if whatever I do makes me come alive and feel good, it’s almost, I’m giving permission for other people to come alive. And what people really want is to come alive.
Monica: That’s why film. That’s why we watch movies. That’s why Netflix.
Charan: Yeah, exactly. We have this connection. And I think even working with you a week ago, and seeing your own work in other people’s projects that I’ve known, it’s like, I feel you have that ability to come alive within yourself and help other people come alive. And that’s why people are drawn to you because instantly they’re like, “We feel joy around Monica, and we want to keep working with her and keep helping her out.” So I think like you’re on [crosstalk 00:22:42].
Monica: [crosstalk 00:22:42].
Charan: Right. No, it’s good. It’s amazing. So I want to shift topics a little bit real quick. Now, every Lemonade Stand story has their lemons, right?
Monica Moore Smith Talks About Turning Lemons into Lemonade
Charan: There are moments when you are struggling in life where you’re like, “Oh man, I don’t know how I’m going to get through this.” Has there been a moment in your own life where you’re like, “This was lemons, I don’t know how to turn it around, but I’m going to try.”
Monica: I think, I mean the big one would be divorce fairly recently and I’m pretty open about that. So I think if anyone follows me, they know. I think it was one of those things of, I feel I was working very hard and trying to get all my ducks in a row. And this was one aspect of my life that was just chaotic. And I mean, I think a lot of it, honestly, for me having work with something that did give me something to push through, of having that purpose of like, “I don’t know why.” Because I was to the point where it was like I wanted to die. I was just to that point of suicidal and just feeling I can’t exist anymore. I can’t go through this anymore.
Monica: But I kept feeling like, “No, I know I have this work to do.” And that was something that did keep me going. And like, I don’t know why, because I was to the point where I was a shell of myself and I wasn’t really mentally there, but I did know I was like, “Okay, I know this one thing, and I know I need to do this. And I know I have some purpose in this. So I’m just going to keep doing that until I figure things out.”
Charan: And you’re really strong to be able to do that.
Monica: Thank you.
Charan: Because especially during those tough times when you are able to see the purpose for why we’re doing what we’re doing and to be able to see through that and to see purpose is powerful.
Monica: I think that’s the huge thing for me, because I had never in my life really… I feel I was fairly typically… I’d definitely gone through hard things, but I feel I’m a fairly happy-go-lucky kind of person, where it’s like, “I don’t want anything to get me down.” And I don’t believe in toxic positivity. I believe it’s very important to work through emotions and address those. But-
Charan: You believe in being authentic.
Monica: … yeah, that’s important.
Charan: But not necessarily like, “Oh my gosh, everything’s perfect all the time.”
Monica: Yeah. But I’m also like, I believe in using those things that happen to your strengths, and this was the first time I feel in my life, I’d really, really, really hit a low point of just questioning everything. But I love listening to Jordan B. Peterson. That’s what he talks about of like, “Regardless of how bad someone’s circumstances are, and granted I have so much to be grateful for.” So it’s like, “Yes, there are people that have way worse situations.” But for me personally, everyone’s trials will be hard for them. And the one thing that I think does push us through is purpose, because we’re not always going to be happy.
Monica: Joy is not going to always be the ultimate goal, because we’re not always going to feel that. And so for me having purpose and having a clear why of why I’m in the industry, why I do acting, because yes, it’s fun. And that’s initially why I got into it was like, “Yeah, I love this. We’re playing pretend. And it’s something that I can get in the flow state in and I can do for hours and just get lost in.” But I think the longer in it, the more you realize there has to be more than just “this is fun.”
Monica: And I think purpose is a huge thing that got me through that.
Monica Moore Smith Talks About Purpose
Charan: So what is your purpose then? Why stick with it and what was it that helped you get through that really, really difficult time of your life?
Monica: I think for me there’s multiple things, and it’s shifted over the years a little bit. One thing, my number one thing is, I believe I’m personally someone that believes in God, and I feel like we are all given talents. And I think whether you’re a more spiritual person or whatever it is, I think we all have that shared belief of, we all do have inherent gifts. And I feel like, “Well, okay, I know that all of us have unique qualities that are a part of this earth only because I’m here and each person has something that without them being here would be lost. And I know for myself, this was something that I felt like I could use my talents in for the better, and also too, for me, I felt like…” So I think that’s one thing is like, “Okay, this is something that I feel I’m good at that I really enjoy that I feel I could use for the betterment of other people.”
Monica: But also I think for me, it’s like, “I want to create certain spaces…” And I guess my other thing was like, I would see roles and I’d hear a lot of different women kind of talk about like, “Oh, this role isn’t being made.” Like, “These roles are frustrating.” Or it’s like, “Here’s another stereotype.” And I feel for me it’s like, “Well, you know what? I’ve complained about that stuff, but at the same time it’s like, you know what? I can just start creating that stuff. I can just start building a platform for myself so that I can just start making what I want to happen and opening those doors instead of being mad that those doors don’t exist.” And so for me, I hope to one day, I’ve kind of seen what Reese Witherspoon has done and what Margot Robbie has done, having their own production companies and getting scripts like “I, Tonya” and casting herself in it, and it’s stuff that wouldn’t usually happen.
Monica: Those doors… like they had to create those doors and they had to open them. And I feel that’s something I want to do for myself and people who are like me, who have asked like, “Well, okay, well, how do you get in this industry, especially if you’re a religious person?” A lot of people go, “Well, you shouldn’t go into film if you’re religious.” Or stuff like that. And I feel there is a lot of potential or paths that can be paved besides just like… I feel also religious film gets a bad rap because Christian film, a lot of Christian film is, they have a lot of budget. You wouldn’t believe it. I have a lot of budget, but there are a lot of them are done by pastors who aren’t filmmakers. And so you have stuff that’s very rigid and hounding a message in, as opposed to something more that I would want create and hope to make more space for it, because I feel there’s black and white in the industry.
Monica: It’s kind of like, you’ve either got Euphoria or you’ve got PureFlix or Hallmark. And, I don’t know, I just want to also share stories, especially like, domestic abuse is something I’m very passionate about now. And I’ve been talking with some people of getting some film done in regards to that, because I feel that is also something I have insight to. I know a lot about. And that’s also something I see sometimes in film, it’s very stereotypical. And so I feel I found kind of whys of here are things I want to make that I think will make an impact and a difference that at the end of my life, I can go, “I’m good.”
Charan: Wow. Man, this is amazing.
Monica: I’m like, “No, that was a lot of tangent.”
Charan: That was fantastic.
Monica: I’m like, “Here’s my six different whys.”
Charan: No, I love that. So back in 2008, I had this really fun experience where… I do like these fun, little goofy pranks when I’m teach-
Monica: Yeah, I’ve seen those.
Charan: … I teach snowboarding and I was pranking someone that wasn’t a snowboarding instructor. Anyway, Ben Stiller was there, you know? And-
Monica: Did you know this?
Charan: Yeah, I knew this because-
Charan: … well, I didn’t know he was watching me but because I had met him the day before. He and his wife and stuff come to Sundance, where I was teaching it. And so I had met him briefly. The next day I was doing this prank and he waves to me, but I don’t want to blow my cover, so I give him a little head nod, you know? So my boss who was teaching him was like… Ben was like, “What the heck? This guy was so nice to me. Why is he blowing me off right now?” And my boss said, “No, no, listen, he’s got to be incognito. He’s actually pulling a prank on this girl right now.” And anyway, I didn’t know all of this, but like-
Monica: You sleighted Ben Stiller.
Charan: … I really did, it felt pretty good. But he thought it was so funny. So afterwards he came up to me, he’s like, “Dude, can I just shake your hand?” I’m like, “Wait, what?”
Monica: “I’m so confused.
Charan: I’m like, “Wait what, my hand, what?” And he’s like, “Look, that was some of the funniest stuff I’ve ever seen.” And so he asked to see the footage and I showed it to him and he was crying, laughing. It’s one of those days where you’re like-
Monica: Is this happening?
Charan: … is this is real life?
Monica: Ben Stiller himself.
Charan: … yeah, Ben Stiller. So then the next day, we were talking and he’s like, “Listen, what is your story? What do you want to do in life?” And I said, “Well, I want to get into acting. I’ve been doing that here in Utah, I’m going to move to LA.” He’s like, “Oh, you want to be an actor?” I said, “Well, yeah, but listen, I don’t want to… You’re asking me, I’m telling you, but I don’t need anything from you.” He’s like, “No, listen, let me give you some advice.”
Charan: So he sat me down and the main thing he kept emphasizing: create your own path. He kept saying that. He’s like, “You got to persevere, but you’ve got to create your own path, whatever that path looks like.” And he was so gracious. He gave me some phone numbers, like to his assistant who was… His production company. He’s like, “When you get to LA give me your stuff, I can’t promise anything’s going to actually happen, but just give me your stuff.” Anyway, I love that advice from someone that’s done it.
Monica: Oh, yeah, take advice from the people you want to be like.
Charan: Absolutely. And the main reason I moved back from LA to Utah was like, “Well, I’ve seen it and I want to create my own stuff. I know what it feels like.” And like you, I’m a very religious person. And had like very, very many blessings in my life. And I realized the things that make me feel most fulfilled is what I can create stories that can share those positive Christian value, Christian messages, but in a not so overly cheesy way.
Monica: In an authentic way.
Charan: In an authentic way.
Monica: I think oftentimes when… I think religious people make the mistake of, “Oh, a religious message means perfection.” And that’s, I don’t think anyone relates to that.
Charan: No, no, nor should they.
Charan: And so it’s been a really fun journey for me, because I am in the process of creating some shows, and it’s been fun, because it’s like, “Whoa, this is like, what is my voice? What do I want to share with this?” And it’s just been awesome. And so currently I’m working with a company called VidAngel.
Monica: Oh, yeah.
Charan: So we’re creating shows with them right now. And I got a chance to… There’s a cool show that they’re producing right now called “The Chosen” that I got to be a part of. And just seeing how things have been created over there I’m like, “Okay, this is it. I’ve got to do it. I have to do it. There’s no excuse.” And so it’s just been awesome.
Monica: Well, and probably also, I found when you create stuff, you fully get to spread your creative wings, obviously, like everything’s a collaborative process and it’s important to be able to work with other people. But when you go from being an actor where sometimes things are very rigid where it’s like, “Here’s a script; we want this delivery and fit into this box.” Some directors are more collaborative, like Michael Buster is great, because he was an actor and was very open to that.
Monica: But sometimes you have jobs where that’s how it is. You have a specific way of doing things. But when you start creating, you go, “Oh my gosh, wait a second.” There’s all this possibility. And it’s a whole different muscle to stretch where it’s like, “Wait, I have to hone down these ideas now and figure out what I want to do.” Because you have all these possibilities.
Charan: And with those possibilities, it does feel exhausting sometimes.
Monica: Oh, yeah.
Charan: Because it’s so many things I’m like, “Oh my gosh, I got to do these and I got to do that.”
Monica: [crosstalk 00:35:30] I’m just like, “Ah, which thing to start with?”
Charan: What do I do? Yeah. And so with those things I have to just go one step at a time, one day at a time and be like, “Okay, if I can get this stuff done today, it’s going to be a good day.” So it’s been good because I’m, been able to set some really clear goals for myself and get things done. And it’s been awesome. And the creative process… I still act because that’s what I really want to do, but I act in this stuff that I’m creating. And, yeah, it’s just such a joy. It’s amazing.
Monica: I think the “one step at a time” thing is important especially. I don’t know if like, I feel other creatives relate to this too, especially being in the business of this perfectionist mentality. And I’m trying to get over this myself of like, “Ugh, but I don’t want to start something until I feel like I know exactly how it’s going to turn out and that it’s going to be perfect. It has to be good enough.” And then you don’t finish anything or don’t put things out because they’re not good enough. And so that’s something I’ve been trying to learn. Like, you know what, just start, just do something, just make it, it’s going to be imperfect, and then that’s how you improve.
Charan: That’s exactly it because you’re not creating just one thing.
Charan: Your whole life can be creation. We’ve talked about this before. I’ve got two actual friends of mine Corbin Allred and Jasen Wade, and together the three of us created an acting course that we’re excited to push out. And it’s so funny, because we had a billion different ideas and we’re like, “Where do we begin? What do you do?” And we’re like, “Let’s just start typing.” And we got a Google Doc out and we just started typing. And it just was a miracle how things started forming as we started typing, right? “Oh, no, let’s not put that in there. Let’s put this in there.” And it’s also incredible how much ADHD the three of us have together. It was just the worst-
Monica: [crosstalk 00:37:21] when you get actors with high openness scale, it’s like you’re just trying to hone in. Sorry.
Charan: … it was very difficult, like a week before we were supposed to start shooting, I went down to Cedar City to go work with them. I’m like, “Okay guys, we’ve scheduled like a week out. We’re we’re about to shoot-“
Monica: And we need to finish this.
Charan: … we haven’t finished this course. We’ve got to start typing. I’m coming to Cedar City and let’s all get together and work, right? Absolutely. We’re in. And we got there and at least four of the five hours we worked, four of those five hours, we spent talking about aliens. We didn’t even-
Monica: Like a plot to a movie, just straight aliens.
Charan: … no, we just talked about, “Hey, did you have any [crosstalk 00:38:07]-“
Monica: Like the Area 51, right, all that stuff?
Charan: … we started talking about like our own UFO experiences and we just [crosstalk 00:38:12] the best time.
Monica: Each of you?
Charan: Yeah. Because we individually [crosstalk 00:38:16]-
Monica: That’s amazing.
Charan: “… you’ve seen a UFO?” “I’ve seen UFO.”
Monica: I haven’t. I’m missing out.
Charan: Well, you know what you are missing out. It’s fantastic. So we were talking about that and we’re like, “Guys, oh my gosh, we haven’t done anything.” And so when we finally got to it, we were too tired. So it was so unproductive, but we had a great time. We had a great time and somehow, or other, we were still able to put it together and make it happen. So it really is. It’s one of those processes where you have to just keep creating and being okay with like, “Hey, you know what? Yeah, we didn’t get what we needed to get done, but we had a good time, let’s just keep moving forward-“
Monica: Yeah, just keep going.
Charan: “… and not beating yourself up too much.”
Monica: Yeah, for real, I get that.
Charan: Okay. So last couple of questions for you.
Monica Moore Smith Talks About What Brings Her Joy
Charan: What brings you joy right now?
Monica: I think, I feel a lot of things, honestly. There’s a podcast I’m listening to called the [Full Cup 00:39:13] and his whole — it’s this therapist and his daughter — and his whole thing is, and I’ve kind of been seeing this in my life of like, what happens when you truly live intentionally and do things out of personal choice and out of “I want to do this. I’m deciding to do this” as opposed to “I need to do this. I should do this. This is what other people tell me to do. Or if I don’t do this, someone won’t like me.” Or whatever the reason is. And I think this applies to any place in your life. And I think especially coming out of my relationship where a lot of things were dictated, and I couldn’t really make my own decisions, kind of now starting a new, pretty much in saying, “Okay, well, what do I like? What do I want to do? How do I want to spend my time? How long do I want to go to the gym for? How long do I want to shower for?”
Monica: These little things. I’ve realized how much joy just comes in truly exercising our agency from a thoughtful place. And also I think a huge thing is now being more specific about my goals and what I want in life, where I can see myself growing, even if it’s a little bit, and it’s tiny steps of like, just the past month like, I started taking magnesium every day and I was like, “I’m going to do this every day.” And before I’d been like, “I’ll do it.” And then I don’t. And just little things like, “I’ve done this every day for a full month. I’m so proud of myself.” Little things like that.
Monica: And/or being more consistent with friends and checking up on friends, little things, I feel, when you find joy in the mundane and in creating routine and stability, especially in a crazy film life, I feel little things like that, little bits of growth. And I think a huge thing, too, is connection. I feel that’s something I kind of lost. And I think when you go through an abusive relationship, connection is the last thing that happens. You don’t get any of that. And I think I’ve really learned, “Oh my gosh, how precious relationships are. And yes, career is amazing, but balance is so important because you can be so and depressed.”
Charan: Oh yeah, absolutely.
Monica: And I think people can get so successful and so method and so into their art that it’s like, “Why are you doing all of this?” Your relationships are thrown to the side. Things don’t matter if you don’t have balance and if you aren’t a real, individual being, and I think just the mundane and connections and really living intentionally. And I love like… There was something I heard that was, anxiety and depression are either about living in the past or in the future. And obviously mental illness is real, and I experienced that. But I found that along with therapy, I have been able to help my mental issues with really just focusing on what am I grateful for now.
Monica: Not so much what am I worried about or what happened in the past or these things that hurt me and really just focusing on like, “I’m here now, I’m having this connection. I’m with these great people, we’re making art or I’m just out to dinner or I’m going shopping at a craft store and that’s exciting.” Like little things. So I think it’s just the balance and appreciation, because you can really be happy if you just focus on that. And so I think it’s all those little things.
Charan: One of the things that you were mentioning that I thought was so powerful is agency, right? The agency we have to choose for ourselves. And I think back to every time I was unhappy in my life and I realized every single time I was unhappy, I had given my power away.
Monica: You were living for someone else.
Charan: I was giving my power away to someone else to rule over me, or a thought to rule over me or a [crosstalk 00:43:23] to rule over me. And I had plenty of those. And when COVID hit and everything shut down, I remember really praying a lot and being like, “What is it that I need the most right now?” And I felt so clearly God telling me, “Charan, go have more fun in your life.” And I’m like, “Oh, I love that revelation. It’s amazing.”
Monica: I literally wrote that down in my notes the other day, I’m like, “Enjoy things more.”
Charan: And I did. I’m like, “Wait, what? Are you serious?” And He’s like, “Yes, I want you to go have more fun.” And then I’m like, “Huh, wait, hang on. Are you kidding me? Because this is, I got to give- be responsible.” “I want you to have more fun.”
Monica: “Hey, you’re giving me something hard to do.” He’s like, “No.”
Charan: And I said, “Wait, why is this so important for you that I have more fun?” And he said something so profound after. He’s like, “Because when you’re having fun, you’re at least authentic.” I’m like, “Oh.” He’s like, “Charan for so long you haven’t been authentic. You’ve been lying to yourself. You’ve been living in this shoulda, woulda, coulda. You’ve done so many things that are good, but really what you wanted to do, you did it because other people told you you’re supposed to do that.”
Monica: [crosstalk 00:44:32], “Oh, great. You’re doing awesome.” He’s like, “Well.”
Charan: Okay. I guess this is what supposed to be doing, right?
Charan: So I had so many narratives in my head telling me I should be doing this, I should be doing that, this is where I should focus my life on. And that really started to weigh me down and he said, and I remember God as saying, “Look, I can build you up. I can absolutely build you up. But why would I want to build you to be a false sense of yourself? I would rather build you up to be your authentic self. And build [crosstalk 00:44:58].”
Monica: Yeah, because that’s the beauty of it. That’s why you’re you, that’s why you’re here.
Charan: Exactly. And in creating your own path, what feels good to you? What’s your story that you want to share with the world? And so just realizing that and saying, “Hey, you know what? I’m taking the power back to myself. I’m going to make the choice.” No one is telling me I can only do this for so long, I choose to do this for so long. I choose to do this type of exercise because I love doing this type of exercise. I choose to go play tennis because I love playing tennis. All those different things has helped me to be, “Wow, I feel so much more purposeful and so much more happy.” And what I feel is so sad is the people that I know that are utterly depressed and utterly sorrowful have, like you said, you lived in the past or the present or, I mean, in the future, but they have had these expectations, these stories, these fantasies not be fulfilled.
Charan: And they feel like either God’s failed them or they feel that either just things just haven’t worked out, so why try? But the truth is, if you live right now and if you have power within yourself right now and you’re alive right now, you feel so good, you feel so alive. You don’t even care what happens next. You’re like, “You know what? I feel great. I feel wonderful right now.” And it’s amazing. So I love that perspective that you had of like, “Hey, I’m going to a craft store because I choose to go to a craft store.” I love it.
Monica: Yeah. I’ve done this thing, this practice, it’s actually from a planner that I found forever ago, like Panda Planner, and the whole thing is like a most productive happiness planner. And what I do every morning is I write out three things that I’m grateful for and three things also that I’m looking forward to. And I think those things like, that’s even if you’re worried about the future, it’s like here’s things to look forward to. So if I think of the future, I automatically go to something exciting. And then if I’m thinking of the, now I’m thinking of what I’m grateful for. And I feel like with that, you really can’t go wrong.
Charan: Yeah, your focus is so much on the good stuff that there’s no real room for-
Monica: That you can get through the bad stuff.
Monica Moore Smith’s Advice to Her Younger Self
Charan: … yeah. You can get through the bad stuff. So last question, having all this knowledge, having all this insights, what would you tell the young Monica Moore Smith?
Monica: I mean, that’s a good question. I hadn’t really thought about that. I think a big thing is, maybe, especially growing up, I was very caught up in identity of like, “I need to do everything perfectly and if I am not perfect, then I’m tainted.” And I think especially coming out of divorce now, I’m like, I realize I have to be okay with the fact that even to some other people I’ve been told that it’s like, “Oh, well now you’re used up because you’re divorced and we don’t want someone like that.”
Monica: Obviously, that’s a false narrative, but I think, in my mind I was like, “I’m going to do everything right, and so then I’ll only get married once and then everything will fall in place if I just work really hard. And if I just don’t mess up and I grin and bear it.” And I think I would just tell younger self of not to worry so much about how I label myself or sort of an expectation around myself as much as just focusing on learning.
Monica: And I think I was so focused on doing everything right that I couldn’t just relax. It was exhausting. It was getting really tiring that I was so rigid with everything. And even in just everything like socially and making sure that I was always doing the right thing and sounding right and all this stuff, and it’s like, I wasn’t experiencing.
Charan: You weren’t living.
Monica: I wasn’t living, yeah. And it wears you down. And if you’re exhausted before you even hit 20, that’s not good. And so I tell younger self of like, yes, it was great cause I was super productive and I started working for a lot of my friends. And so in some means I was like more successful, but at the same time, I think I could have still done those things and had a completely different mental view. And I think I would have been more… I think I would just tell younger self to understand that God loves me in my duality and not because of what I do, but just the nature that I exist.
Charan: Just because of who you are.
Monica: Yeah. So I could screw up royally and it doesn’t change-
Charan: His love for you.
Monica: … my worth or… Yeah. And whatever that is for people, whether that’s spiritual or whatever, that’s just inherent worth if you don’t believe in God. I think we all kind of have that there’s something more, there’s hope for that. And I think I would just love myself more, not be so hard.
Charan: That is such a profound answer. And it’s so true. I think, and I talk to people about that all the time I say, “You know what, because of who you already are and of your unconditional worth and because God loves you right now, nothing you do in life will be greater than who you already are.” You’re already so infinitely worth so much to God and it’s amazing. And it was interesting. I was having a conversation with a friend of mine yesterday and she’s in almost mid-thirties, not married, and she was feeling down on herself and was just saying like, “Wow, I feel the stress of, like, desperation and stuff like that because like, oh, this hasn’t happened; that hasn’t happened. And what do I do?”
Charan: And yada, yada, yada. And I was listening to her and sharing my own thoughts. And then she asked me, because I’m older than that, and she’s like, “Well, how are you doing?” And I’m like, “I’m freaking fantastic.” She said,”Wait, are you serious?” And I’m like, “I’m doing great. I really am.” And I do, because I just feel good. I feel happy and I feel very alive. And I started thinking, “Well, what is it that makes me feel that way?” And I realized, because in my earlier twenties, I had those thought processes of “I got to be perfect. Everything’s that happened right now. And I got to do this and got to do that.” And as I’ve gotten older, I’ve relaxed. And as I relaxed more, I’ve come alive more. And I have more energy now than I did in my twenties like by far, and I do way more fun stuff. And I feel I’m creating a lot more than I did back then, because I have like-
Monica: You can’t create when you’re so full of stress.
Charan: … when you’re full of stress, exactly. And so anyway, it’s been great. So I love that message that you shared, because I think it’s so applicable to everybody. Relax, relax. Just chill because right now who you already are is greater than anything you could ever do. So that’s so awesome.
Charan: Well, Monica, seriously, it’s such a pleasure having you on this Lemonade Stand Podcast-
Monica: Thank you, thanks for having me.
Charan: … this has been so great. I love conversations like this. It helps me out so much.
Charan: So I appreciate that. Any last words or anything?
Monica: I think just last thing, something kind of a motto coming out of divorced and just a slight transition for me was as something that I say to myself often, I have like a reminder on my phone, three words of “following peace, following light and following love.” And those things have just kind of, that’s how I’ve learned to like, here’s what I focus on is following these three things. And that helps me make decisions in my life.
Charan: I love that. That’s great. Peace, light and love.
Monica: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Charan: Fantastic. Well, thank you so much, Monica for the Lemonade Stand Podcast-
Monica: Thank you.
Charan: … interview has been awesome. And we will talk to you soon.
Charan: Thanks so much for listening to the Lemonade Stand Podcast, and we hope you enjoyed this episode. Be sure to subscribe to the podcast on whatever platform you use to be alerted when we release new episodes. We’d also love to hear your feedback and reviews, and if you or someone you know has an awesome lemonade sound story, please reach out to us on social media and let us know. Thanks so much and have a great day.