We had the good fortune of connecting with Michelle Oppedisano and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Michelle, why did you decide to pursue a creative path?
The short answer is FULFILLMENT. The long answer is a little deeper than that: My parents always encouraged me to pursue my dreams, and I never had a question about wanting to be an actor. I think I made that decision when I was 9. My mom was a theatre critic in California when I was little, and I was her theatre buddy. That’s how I got interested in the first place. She put me in children’s theatre, and the rest is history. I never looked back, never had second thoughts and never regretted it (that’s not to say it isn’t a tough path, but I’m sure we will get to that). The yoga came to me in a different way and much later in my life. I started “doing” yoga when I was a teenager, on and off at the gym because it was a “cool” class to take, or I felt like I needed to stretch, or I felt like I “should” be doing it, etc. Then, after I moved to Atlanta, I stumbled across a certain class/teacher, and I call that “Day 1” of truly PRACTICING yoga. I started to realize that the benefits came from the inside out: clearing your head, helping you stay grounded, basically making it possible to handle anything with grace. My anxiety (which I had suffered from for most of my life) almost disappeared. From there, being a teacher came naturally to me because I was so passionate about it. I kept catching myself saying “yoga completely changed my life” or “I can recommend yoga for…,” to anyone who would listen. There has also never been a question about yoga. Both yoga and acting fulfill me in different ways, and I’m not myself when I am not pursuing them.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I pursue acting and yoga equally because I actually think they have a deep connection. I often joke that my purpose is to “spread sunshine [yoga] and tell stories [acting].” I let myself get derailed from what I always thought my path would be: go to college, move to New York and become famous. I probably don’t need to tell you that that’s not how it happened. In fact, two out of those three things still have yet to happen at all, but my life has been a constant lesson to TRUST THE TIMING. Fear held me back from moving to New York right out of college, and instead I found myself working at Disney World in Orlando. I did make it to the New York City area for two years after that but circumstances kept me from actually being able to pursue acting, and then those same circumstances brought me to Atlanta. I believe I was meant to come here to find yoga. As soon as I started truly practicing yoga, my life began to align and my acting career really started, despite the fact that I had already been acting professionally for over 10 years and I did not live in or near New York anymore. My personal experiences, especially the hard ones, made me a better actor. In acting, you’re supposed to keep thinking about your character’s objective. If you forget your lines, think about what your character wants out of the scene, and the words will come to you. If your lines are falling flat, remember what your character wants. The secret ingredient to any good acting performance is the character’s objective. I am always fascinated about how this rule applies to my yoga teaching and, in a bigger picture, my whole life. If I can just remember my purpose, the rest will come to me just as it’s supposed to, and that is what I’m most excited about: what I still have in store, the stories I have yet to tell.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
First of all, I would say to come in the summer. I know, I know – it’s humid – but there are some beautiful lakes here, and some even have beaches! I would definitely say we’d have to spend a day at a lake. Another fun thing to do in the summer is float on the Chattahoochee River. It’s a huge thing there. My friends and I go a lot, and we will attach our floats together in a big circle, place a floating cooler in the middle, turn on some music and float away. It’s so much fun! Atlanta also has some awesome hiking. Sweetwater Creek also has a spot for swimming! One thing I noticed as soon as I moved here was that ATLANTA KNOWS HOW TO COOK FOOD. There are so many great restaurants here. And I know it sounds weird, but if you come to any of Atlanta’s rustic restaurants and see brussels sprouts on the menu, order them. Trust me. For seriously traditional southern comfort food, you have to hit up Mary Mac’s Tea Room in midtown. One of my favorite places ever is The Painted Duck, also in midtown. It is such a fun time. They have duck pin bowling there, which, besides the food and drinks (which are both fantastic), is the only thing you have to pay for! They have all kinds of physical games and things to do: basketball, tabletop shuffleboard, feather-pin bowling, etc. But my favorite part is this big area that looks like a giant pool table, but with soccer balls that you kick into the pockets. It’s tons of fun, and mostly all free. If you’re looking for the best Neapolitan pizza ever, go to Antico pizza (I’m Italian – you can trust me!). The original is in midtown, and there is another one (just as good!) at The Battery, which brings me to my next recommendation… The Battery is an outdoor pavilion that has something for everyone: restaurants of all styles and types of food, great shopping, concerts and the Braves stadium if you’re into sports. Two of my favorite spots at The Battery are Sports and Social and Punch Bowl Social. Both are bars with lots of games and things to do. Ponce City Market is next. This is another must-see. The concept is similar to The Battery: a solid mix with of trendy shops and restaurants, including a cookie dough shop where you order different flavors by the scoop. My favorite part is the rooftop, which boasts a fantastic view of the city, complete with mini-golf, food, drinks and carnival games. Another fun, unique place is Sister Louisa’s Church of the Living Room & Ping Pong Emporium in Edgewood. This is a bar with a very unique decor theme. Atlanta also has lots of great theatre! Even some of the community theatres put on great shows, and if you can catch a show at The Alliance, you may see it on Broadway in the future. The last thing I want to mention is that Atlanta has a lot of great festivals and random events. For instance, I went to a wine event called Sippin’ Safari at the zoo. There are beer festivals, an annual lavender festival and a ton of other events like this. The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My parents, one hundred percent. First of all, the amount of money they must have spent on my acting career from a very young age (lessons, costumes, dance clothes, dance shoes, sheet music, you name it – not to mention college), would probably shock you. I always joke that whenever I get my first big movie contract, I’m writing them a big fat check immediately (even though they don’t care about anything like that). But that doesn’t even compare to the genuine support they have always shown. Even though this isn’t the most stable career path, and most people would have to be crazy to consider it, they have always told me to “just keep doing it until it isn’t fun anymore,” and they are the reason it has never stopped being fun.
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