Tell us a little about yourself. Who is Vella "The Artist"?
I like to bring a sense of humor to all of the work that I do as an actor- so I would say; funny, playful, a sense of heart and human connection.
What made you want to get into the arts?
I studied classical piano in an arts boarding school and had thought I was going to be a classic pianist. It turns out when you play classical piano you're in a room by yourself for hours everyday and I really like people and talking to them. When I was practicing I wasn't seeing many people. I had always done plays in school and loved it. So, when I was playing piano, I had realized I wanted to be performing and acting. I auditioned for some theater and piano schools and got into NYU for theatre- and I went.
You also went to Juilliard, right?
Yes, I did Juilliard for Grad school and NYU for under-grad. I did a lot of theater school, like a lot. I should be a doctor in playing pretend.
So, when you went to Juilliard school, did you study any music there?
Interesting fact that I always forget about is that I actually auditioned for the Juilliard pre-college program for piano when I was 15 and I did not get in. I was so upset that I thought Juilliard was the worst and hated them. Years later, I ended up going back there for theater. It was strange being in the same theater again auditioning for something in a completely different department. It's this weird full circle.
Do you think working in music has helped your role in "Crazy Ex- Girlfriend"?
It does, but I don't consider myself a full blown singer. There's a lot of people on our show that are "sang-ers". For example, Donna Champlin, who plays Paula, has been in several Broadway shows, singing 8 times a week. She’s so good. So, I never considered myself a full singer, but I think having played piano for so long actually helped. Especially, since the turn around on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is so fast. We'll get a song, record it the next day and shoot it the day after. It's so fast, you don't get a lot of time with it. There's no sheet music or anything, it's kind of just - go. I think playing piano has helped me more than I realize.
You play the character Heather on "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend", what is she like?
She's kind of over everything.
That makes the singing in your songs so funny.
She gets to do a lot of things in her musical numbers that she wouldn't do in her normal life. But, I guess that's the way it is for everyone on the show, even for Rachel Bloom. Her character is doing things that she wouldn't do in her normal life.
Did you ever get to improv?
We're lip syncing to recorded tracks the day before, so you don't get to improv the singing since it's already done. Sometimes you can add ad libs or words in-between. But, there's mostly more improv in the movement.
How much of a relation do you have with Heather in real life?
We're the opposite. We're nothing alike. Heather is like my later-ego that I have inside of me. I'm much more of someone that likes to people please, I like to be friends with people and don't want to offend them. Whereas, Heather doesn't care and she's just over everything and is like, "i've seen it all". She's what I would be like if i didn't have a filter.
You mostly play comedy roles, is that something you like to stick with or slipped into?
It's something I slipped into. I never really thought about myself as funny or anything, but i think even sometimes when I'm trying to do something serious- people will laugh. it's not something I expected to be doing, but I love making people laugh. It's such an audible connection that you can have with someone. It's therapeutic and I think you can get to more serious things through laughter. When someone is laughing they're a little more open to something serious right after or something with more heart in it. it's unexpected.
In "The Big Sick" you did some drama work, although the film is actually a drama/comedy, where you had an emotional scene.
Yeah. In The Big Sick, the main scene with my character is a rejection scene. So, that's definitely not funny. But, in the grand scheme of things it's a comedy.
Yeah. it makes the harder things easier to deal with.
I love stuff like that. Any drama should also make you laugh and any comedy should speak to you on a deeper level.
If you’re going to have a book, what title would it be?
I feel like my book would be called "Was it weird when that happened?" Every moment of my life, I'm always like- was that weird? And people are usually like... yeah.
What are you currently listening to?
My top 3 songs I’m listening to right now on repeat are: “Better” by Kelela, “Supermodel” by Sza, and “Golden” by Jill Scott.
What are you currently reading?
I am currently reading. “Caucasia” by the amazing Danzy Senna.
If you will be given the chance and opportunity to help a specific charity, what would it be and why?
I actually am working with this nonprofit called, Yamba Malawi, they're this amazing organization that work with orphanages in Malawi in Africa and they help build sustainable business practices for the community there since the government isn't helping them. I'm hoping to go to Africa in January.
Interview: DAVID MOORE