I always hear from fans asking for more stuff about True Jackson, VP, now in its second season on Nickelodeon and returning with new episodes beginning tomorrow( Saturday June 26). Nickelodeon shows aren't usually in our wheelhouse, but we recently had the chance to speak to Danielle Bisutti who plays Amanda Cantwell, VP of Women's Fashion at Mad Style on True Jackson, VP.
Though not specifically about the ratings we covered a wide variety of topics with Danielle from how she got involved in the show, what it's like taping in front of a live studio audience and some of her favorite guest stars to high fashion.
1. Hi Danielle! Can you tell us a little bit about your character on the show "True Jackson VP" on Nickelodeon and how you got involved with the show?
I received the audition for TJVP like any other audition except the moment I read the sides for Ms. Amanda Cantwell, I remember saying out loud, "Oh, I know this woman." Ms. Amanda Cantwell is regarded as True's nemesis in the office but she would argue that she is just completely misunderstood. It has been an absolute pleasure bringing her to life! She is the resident Diva- usually dressed in some sort of restrictive, uptight black and white outfit mixed with a dash of "little girl" - a concealed characteristic that seems to seep out every now and again in her smattering of vulnerable moments. She believes her jokes to be incredibly funny, lets out a boisterous snort when she laughs, dances a little bit goofy, and finds her snarky nature to be simply delightful. Amanda has worked with great ambition, diligence and courage to garner the prestigious position of Vice President in the diverse and innovative fashion empire known as Mad Style. One can only empathize with Amanda's frustration when a 15 year old girl who is selling sandwiches in Mad Style's lobby gets hired to become the Vice President of the Kids Division, simply because she changed the buttons on one of our designs to orange buttons, and shortened the pants to make them more fun.
Amanda's commitment to excellence and desire to be nothing but the best have gotten her this far and all she really hopes for is a little acknowledgement from Mr. Madigan, from whom she is constantly seeking approval. She's a survivor who lives her life abiding two mottos: "When life hands you a lemon make a tart du citron (that's "lemon tart" en Francais) and ACATT- the acronym for "Always Couture All The Time" . To Amanda, fashion is a way of life and dealing with a bunch of teenagers in the office leaves her in the constant state of being flustered. Although she regards herself as being immovable, professionally put together and polished to perfection when dealing with the kids- or "moppets" as she likes to refer to them- on a day in- day out basis, only frustration, envy and exasperation ensue. Amanda is not an angry woman by nature however she is prone to an more indignant outlook on life when things aren't favoring her position. Things don't come as easily to Amanda as they do for True. Even though she regards True as "Lady Luck" the truth of the matter is that she admires True's free, whimsical nature, incredible talent and her fly by the seat of your pants- kind of creativity. True has really changed Amanda's perspective on life and her approach to fashion, HOWEVER Amanda would never admit this out loud to True and for the record still considers herself to be the most creative and innovative designer that the offices of Mad Style has to offer the world of fashion.
2. Recently "True Jackson VP's" one hour TV Movie "Trapped in Paris" averaged 3.4 million total viewers winning its timeslot and leading Nickelodeon to another weekly cable win in total day viewing. Cable TV's popularity continues to grow each season. What differences are there from your perspective between doing a show on cable instead of a broadcast network?
I would venture to say that there might be a little more room for creative license on cable networks opposed to the "major networks". Maybe there are less cooks in the kitchen? It seems like the creatives have more control in regards to the overall project and perspective from which it is told. I know for Nickelodeon the focus and audience draw is two fold: comedic shows that the kids enjoy coupled with educational lessons that the parents can appreciate. TJVP feels more like a the trend in the early to late 90's with TJI-Friday sitcom programming: Entertainment for the whole Family to enjoy together. We have just as many adult "parent" fans as we do kids and teenagers.
3. One of Nickelodeon’s tag lines is “the number one entertainment brand for kids,” with Nickelodeon being available in over 85% of the homes in the US and its shows being highly viewed by kids, what kind of responsibility does that put on you as an adult, on a show that caters to tweens and teens?
Working on a Nickelodeon show has certainly stepped me into the shoes of a role model, a responsibility that I welcome. There's an implied moral barometer to what I am able to do outside the world of family programming but most my own personal views and comfort level are in alignment with those limitations regardless of my current "position". My work in True Jackson V.P. and my faith-based feature film "No Greater Love" has certainly made me somewhat of a household name in the family demographic which is a true blessing. However, I don't feel limited by the path that I am currently on because ultimately I am going to do what I feel comfortable doing as an artist which might make some person somewhere not too happy with me AND I am okay with that. I had incredible role models as an adolescent and so nothing gives me more joy than to encourage my fans to embrace who who are and to always strive for turning their dreams into realities. I constantly tell them that there is no one else like them on the planet and that they are here for a very specific purpose. The same can be said about their own personal sense of fashion: Your clothes don't need to necessarily follow the latest trends or the fashion updates; rather, they should follow your own personality and if the two intersect then so be it. It's just the truth and they appreciate being reminded of it.
4. Do you have any crazy fan stories or anything your fans have done for you?
Well I do have some pretty special, highly creative, intelligent and talented fans out there- if I do say so myself! I've had fans design everything from a Danielle Bisutti clothing line, jewelry, skate boards, handbags, paintings, sketches, written stories, parody rap songs about my love for fashion, youtube picture collages set to my songs- I mean really creative and thoughtful creations. They have recorded music videos for my songs as well as doing cover versions of them on youtube. They have played me in movies that they have written and directed. Two of my fans in Canada sang one of my songs at their talent show and posted it on youtube. One very dedicated fan helps me orchestrate live video CHATS with my fans which enable me to have a more personal connection with them. They've all become really good friends on facebook- building a community of creativity and expression. All of their love, support and creativity has really touched me- more so because I get the sense that I am making a positive impact on their lives through my art and that is the biggest blessing of all.
5. "True Jackson VP" tapes in front of a live, studio audience - how do you think that affects your performance?
It's an incredible rush to feed off of the frenetic energy of a live studio audience. Nothing can beat it! I come from a theater background so having that sort of give and take relationship with the audience is unparalleled. To have all those fresh eyes experience the same story-line that the actors, writers and creatives have been hearing for the past 3 days somewhat breathes the life back into the storytelling. There's a quickening that can only happen in the moment to moment when the joke is being heard for the first time. So that's the major upside to having a live studio audience. However there is also something really great about not having the pressure of a live studio audience and just sort of unfurling in the process of the "block and shoot". They both have a duality that's inevitable. Either way we strive to keep the work and moments honest and real, every time. And in either case scenario- that can sometimes be a challenge when jousting the sheer nature of repetition.
6. Who have been some of your favorite guest stars on the show?
We have had the good fortune of garnering some incredible actor's as our guest stars. Here's a LONG LIST of my favorites (in no particular order except for the first guy who makes me super giddy and giggly whenever he is on set):
- Michael Weaver (who plays my fiance Brock Champion AKA "Peru's greatest shortstop)
- Stephen Dunham
- Andy Richter
- Julie Bowen
- David Anthony Higgins
- John Cena
- Vivica Fox
- French Stewart
- Pamela Adlon
- Stephen Tobolowsky
- Tom Kenny
(I'm sure I'm forgetting someone brilliant.....darn it!)
7. "True Jackson VP" takes place in the world of fashion - and you have been coined as a fashion icon on the rise. What do you love most about fashion, and how do you choose the styles that we have seen you in on the red carpet, and on television as your character "Amanda Cantwell?"
I've been coined as a fashion icon on the rise? You just made one of my childhood dreams come true! My mom tells me that at the tender age of two years old I was already hand selecting the outfits I wanted to wear that day. My great grandmother (Nonny) and Grandmother (Nonna) both worked for Gucci when they lived in Italy and both my mother Diana and Aunt Cristina were high fashion models so I suppose a flair for fashion runs in my genes. In fact- my Nona, Renata Ferrare, has handed down the most amazing vintage Gucci pieces- one of which is an aubergine colored suede skirt that I wore to the audition for TJVP's Amanda Cantwell.
What I love most about fashion is choosing the perfect outfit that tells the world how you are feeling that day. And in the same token the right outfit can also change the current mood that you are in for the better. Fashion can also be an opportunity to express a more covert aspect of yourself- like a chameleon you can change your the colors of who you "think" yourself to be. In regards to the fashion of True Jackson V.P. we really got lucky to have Ms. Allison Freer as our wardrobe stylist. From day one Allison has knocked it out of the park when selecting dresses and designer brands for Amanda to wear. I wear a lot of Karen Millen dresses and separates- she just knows exactly how to cut a garment to accentuate and support a woman's shape. I also wear a lot of Diane Von Furstenburg, DKNY, BCBG, BEBE, Eli Tahari, Alice & Olivia, Nanette Lepore, Nicole Miller, Halo, and French Connection.
For the red carpet, I just keep in consideration the nature of the event I am attending, take an inventory of what's hot, exciting and cutting edge on the runway and then I find the perfect outfit that fits my body well making me feel like a million bucks. Of course adding the perfect accessories and tailoring the hair and make-up to accommodate the look is the next order of business. And no red carpet look is complete without enhancing it with the perfect pair of shoes. (Carrie Bradshaw would be so proud.) Then you can walk out the door with the utmost confidence and excitement to show the world what you are made of from the inside out!
8. Do you have any upcoming projects in the works that you want on our readers radar?
We are currently shooting 14 more episodes of Nickelodeon's "True Jackson V.P." on the Paramount lot which has been such a dream come true! My faith-based film "No Greater Love" continues to sell off the shelves and receive tremendous support from the Christian churches. I am just wrapping up a new music project: a cover song 4 track E.P. entitled "I Will Cover You". Songs include a piano and vocal cover of Bob Dylan's "Make You Feel My Love", Bruce Springsteen's "I'm On Fire", Patti Griffin's "Let Him Fly" and the Rescue's "Take My Heart With You". I am using a painting inspired by the project entitled "The Four Corners of My Heart" as the cover art. It's the first time I will be showing the world the aspect of my painting so I am both exhilarated and terrified. The E.P. will be available online where ever digital downloads are sold. My website is about to under major reconstructive surgery which will house all of my creative endeavors- from old to new- as well as be a meeting place for community to build, support and express.