VENORA: I wanted to be a hairdresser. I did not want to go to college. My father insisted. Thank God he did. I went to the guidance office and went through every book looking for colleges that didn't require math and science. That left only Fine Art Schools. Boston Conservatory of Music had a drama program, I applied; they gave me a small scholarship and accepted me. Right away I thought, "Maybe the school isn't very good because they took me." I had no idea what I was going into, but I had an immediate attraction to it.
TM: Was there a teacher?
VENORA: There is always one teacher--Miss Ray, a diminutive actress full of piss and vinegar. She was strong and serious about the work. I said, "I think I like this now, this acting thing." I knew I wanted to do the classics because classics satisfy the soul. I saw the Juilliard Company perform at Harvard. When they took a bow I said, "I have to go to that school." My friend said, "Oh you'll never get in. First of all, you have no money. It's very expensive, and they only take about twenty students a year. Forget it." I said, "I'm going to get into that school, and if I don't, I'll be a cashier at Woolworth's." After much trial and error, I was accepted to the Juilliard School with full scholarship. And I'm grateful, grateful to this day, because as hard as the school was--and it was hard--nothing's been harder. Not film.
TM: What's it like in Hollywood?
VENORA: Hollywood taught me how to deal with the politics. I'm not good at it. I need a political manager like a business manager. I'm just an actor. Do I have to deal with saying it right? Could you talk to my political manager so I don't say anything that will implicate me in any way? I always stick my foot in it, but my heart is right.
TM: Do you like working in the theater?
VENORA: I love it. I like the classics because they're always fresh. You say the words in a classical play and they never get old. The best part of me is child-like, not childish. There's a difference. It has to do with discipline. Every scene I'm in is a love scene; the absence of love, the search for love, the discarding of it, and always the need. Love is basic. Love is the hook.
TM: How do you retain that purity, that passion?
VENORA: My mother. She has this child-like heart. Always fascinated by the world. Her extraordinary--I don't know what the word for it is--her rashakuri, and I made that up, but she's got it. She's like salt and light. I'm so glad to be in a place to appreciate her. I'm so restless. I like to move from play to play, from role to role. That's been my education, actually. When I'm playing a Viking, I'll study Vikings. You couldn't get me to sit in class and do that. Whatever I've done, I've been able to immerse myself. I'm one of these hyperactive kids. I need to move. Doing eight shows a week, that gets me calm.