ACTORS' DIALOGUE: Jennifer Elise Cox & Alanna Ubach

Actresses Jennifer Elise Cox (left in photo) and Alanna Ubach first met on the set of The Brady Bunch Movie, in which Cox pulled off a great Jan Brady and Ubach played Marcia's sexually confused friend, Noreen. They subsequently kept running into each other at auditions in Los Angeles, and instead of competing, they became allies. Cox and Ubach recently met for breakfast to share their thoughts on the audition process, the Method, and ignoring rejection.

Cox can currently be seen in the just-released Ed TV. Her other feature credits include Can't Hardly Wait, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, A Very Brady Sequel, and the upcoming Tiara Tango. On television, Cox has appeared on Clueless, The Parent 'Hood, Murphy Brown, and Wings. She is a graduate of Cal Arts and the High School of Performing Arts in New York.

Ubach, who studied at the Lee Strasberg Institute and with Stella Adler, played a starring role opposite Parker Posey and Lisa Kudrow in last year's indie feature Clockwatchers. Her film credits also include Johns, Freeway, Sister Act II, Renaissance Man, and the upcoming films McClintock's Peach opposite Mike Myers and Ben Stiller and We Met on the Vineyard with Julianna Margulies. On television, she's been seen on Chicago Hope, Providence, Party of Five, ER, Touched by an Angel, and the award-winning children's series Beakman's World. Ubach recently co-wrote the script Life After Donna Dell, a dark, campy 1950s-style musical currently in pre-production. Both Ubach and Cox will act in the film. In her spare time, Ubach is an acting teacher.

Alanna Ubach: You're already established as an actor when you decide that you want it as a career. It's not the falling down, but the staying down that's really dangerous to your life. I think it has to do with going out on auditions, feeling rejected, and being obsessed with rejection. The majority of us actors tend to be really stifled in our own little world, because so many of us have tunnel vision. Ten years from now, you'll look back and think, What did I do with my life besides sit and wait for someone else to judge me? That's not what it's about.

Jennifer Elise Cox: That's so true. I was at that place when I first started. I found rejection was too hard and I wouldn't create projects for myself to keep busy. But now I do it all the time. My friend and I just got up this week at the Improv and did a comedy sketch. It is about creating projects for yourself.

Ubach: As a woman, if I'm not pregnant, I'm going to make another baby in any which way I can. I love to create. My maternal instincts are coming out more and more every single day, which makes it really enjoyable when I go out and audition, because I feel like I'm basically appeasing everyone who's unsure of how to find the character in the production. I think the majority of casting directors and producers and directors who are auditioning us want to be pacified about the project they're doing.

Cox: I really changed my tune and I look at auditions now as an opportunity. I say to myself, "This is what I like to do and I'm getting a chance to do it." I went up for something this week and it came down to me and another girl and I ran into the casting director afterwards and he was like, "We will work together. I just want you to know that." These things pay off. Auditioning is just a huge opportunity. But there are a lot of times when it's just showing up and it can get grueling.

Ubach: I'll tell you what P.O.s me about auditions. Parking. Parking is such a bitch in Los Angeles. And finding these offices. Finding Chatauqua and Ventura and Encino. Where the hell are these offices?

But, usually, I look at auditions as putting on a little play for a real small audience. If you treat it like it's your living room and you invited people over for a party, that's really what makes it cool.

Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!

Cox: A friend of mine from high school asked me, "You got Method with Jan Brady, didn't you?" and I was like, "How did you know?" It's really embarrassing, but I did. You wouldn't have wanted to live with me during that time. I was starting to feel like such a victim. I was so whiny. I love Jan, but I'm embarrassed to say, I got way too into it.

Ubach: Do you totally get in the part all day long before an audition?

Cox: I do. I need time. The Method was what we were taught at the High School of Performing Arts. It's about using sense memory, using your instrument, and becoming that character fully. To a certain extent, I've had to back off a little bit from the Method because I used to go fully into it. It's hard for me, because when I'm creating a character, I'm worried that I'm going lose that character. So for an audition, I need a lot of time to prepare and to really get into this person's head and become this person. I mean, I'll do crazy things like go out to a restaurant as that character.

Ubach: That is fearless! Method training just teaches you how to trust your instincts from the very beginning and define every kind of tension in your body and release it in any which way you can, whether it's on-camera or off. Because tension really gets the best of you and turns you into an exhibitionist and you don't need to be.

Cox: You have to get rid of tension because you can do nothing if you're not relaxed. When you're not relaxed, you're not vulnerable. You're not present.

It's tricky though, because you have to not be vulnerable when you walk into an audition. You have to be confident when you walk in. You have be like, "Well, I'm here and I'm going to do this thing and I have no expectations." But then you have to peel that layer off and be vulnerable, if that's what the character requires. You want to show all of this character that you're going to play.

Ubach: You're coming in with a tuned instrument. You don't want to be tuning your instrument in the orchestra when you're about to play at the Hollywood Bowl. You want to go in there with an incredibly tuned violin, sit down, and know exactly how the bow is going to work, because you've been trained to do that. You already know the strings. You know the notes. You've rehearsed and prepared. And people who wing it lead a short-lived career. Actors, like you, who don't wing it will live to transcend that.

Groovy Vibes

Cox: I went to a psychic recently and it was like a therapy session. She said something that I thought could help anyone. She told me, "Just know that you will always work. Sometimes you'll go a couple of months without it‹you might go a year‹but you'll always work. Just be careful that your energy is always really good when you leave the room because I'm seeing you go out on auditions and after you do the part, you're letting your energy drop and you're not feeling so good about yourself. You're leaving the room with that and people can pick up on that."

It's so important for actors to keep their energy up at an audition. They might do a great job, but then as soon as they're done, they kind of shrivel up. Keep that confidence going. I've talked to a lot of actors who say, "I do a great job, but I have a hard time leaving the room," because that's a really awkward moment. But it's important not to leave your body, not to go outside, and not to shrivel up.

Ubach: Have you ever looked forward to a really good lunch or a meeting you're going to have afterwards? That helps me when I'm leaving an audition.

Cox: That's a really good thing to do. Set up something right afterwards that's fun.

Ubach: I like those William Morris voiceover auditions on El Camino, because there's a Rizzoli [bookstore] right around the corner. There's free valet parking for two hours and you can walk in and just look at the pretty illustrations. Then I'm OK.

Cox: Or write a note to yourself on a Post-it and stick it on your dashboard‹something positive.

Ubach: I am OK!

Cox: From time to time, you just need those things, because you can really lose perspective and become obsessed with rejection. That's not what it's about. You're not meant to get every job and you shouldn't get every job.

That's the good thing about acting. You can do it for life. If you're in it for the long haul, who cares if you didn't get that part? There's always the next one. BSW