In times where political and economic problems cast an ominous pall over day-to-day living, art can be both a temporary yet vital escape from the frequent troubles of real life and a vocation that gives storytellers in all mediums a means of helping audiences cope with their crises. Through the art of acting, award-winning Bosnian-born and Canadian-raised performer Mersiha Musovic has both observed and presented characters that have brought audiences equal degrees of hilarity and heart.
On stage, Musovic’s skills, style, and versatility were developed and perfected in an acclaimed series of productions for the North Vancouver Community Theatre (NVCT), including the company’s 2016 all-female adaptation of legendary playwright Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple (where she co-starred as the slovenly Olive Madison), plus her multi-honored performance as the misguided sibling of a grief-stricken mother in the NVCT’s 2015 production of David Lindsay-Abaire’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Rabbit Hole, and her recent portrayal of sale-focused yet customer-infatuated real estate agent Emma Bard in comedienne Allana Harkin’s romantic comedy Real Estate.
Along with commercials, Musovic has supplemented her acclaimed live theater achievements with equally unforgettable star turns in short films and web series. Among the latter: the Sopranos-like mafia spoof comedy Family Business, where she plays a ruthless mobster fighting her clumsy brother to become the top boss of a family crime syndicate, plus Baby Making Time, where Musovic portrays a long-infertile woman who’ll do everything — and then some — to become a mom, and the recently filmed sitcom pilot Roomhates, which co-stars the brilliant actor as the frustrated ex-girlfriend of a man (Michael Deo) she must pretend to stay in love with due to high rent costs and their pressuring parents.
Musovic’s standout short film roles include that of a coffee shop customer annoyed by a barista’s complex menu offerings in Morning Coffee, a caring mother of a woman with a robot boyfriend in the romantic sci-fi comedy Guess What’s Coming to Dinner, and an impatient moviegoer who’s tired of sitting through previews in Movie Date.
As Musovic’s experience and recognition grow with every character she shares, so do the lessons and encouragement she has for the future Mersihas who may be inspired to achieve the same success she’s won from audiences and the performing arts world. In this conversation, Musovic explains how hard work, passion, and lots of inspiration helped her to become both an accomplished thespian — and potentially, a new household name in showbiz.
Chris Hadley: What and who inspired you to pursue an acting career?
Mersiha Musovic: I come from a family who watched a lot of movies when I was growing up in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. One of the biggest movies that made an impression on me as a kid was (the 1988 Oscar-winning Dustin Hoffman-Tom Cruise drama) Rain Man. I remember watching that movie and being so moved by it. I was so invested in the characters and the story. I knew right away that (acting) was what I wanted to do — to make people feel the same way that I felt in that moment.
CH: Who are the actors that you admire the most, and which of their performances made the strongest impression on you?
MM: Meryl Streep is number one. There is a reason why she is the GOAT (greatest of all time). I love her work. The actors that I admire the most now are Issa Rae (Insecure, Awkward Black Girl), Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Fleabag), and Michaela Coel (I May Destroy You). These women are all powerhouses who have created their own shows and continue to build opportunities for themselves and others.
CH: When you began studying acting, what was your training like, what did it require in terms of performance and script interpretation, and what were some of the most important skills that you gained from that training?
MM: I have studied under several teachers who have taught me so much. I spent several years with Michael David Simms doing scene study utilizing the Sanford Meisner technique (a system named after the legendary acting teacher). Some of my other favorite teachers have been Aaron Craven, Dolores Drake, and Tammy Gillis, just to name a few! I’ve learned a lot from all of them (about) auditioning (and) on-camera scene study.
CH: In addition to your on-camera performances, you’ve also done several stage plays as part of the North Vancouver Community Theatre, including an all-female adaptation of Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple. Tell me more about those plays, the characters you played in them, and how the experience of playing in front of audiences helped you to become a better actor.
MM: There is absolutely nothing like live theater. The connection is instant! Theater is and always will be my favorite. I have been extremely lucky to be a part of some amazing productions that have not only allowed me to expand my craft further but also brought me amazing friendships along the way. The two roles that I did with North Vancouver Community Theatre that stand out for me was the role of Emma Bard in Real Estate by Allana Harkin this year which pushed me artistically beyond anything I have ever done on stage.
It was a very rewarding run of the play in every sense of the word and when I found out afterward that I won the (NVCT) Dave Broadfoot Best Comedy Performance award (named after the famed Canadian comedian/NVCT alumnus) for Real Estate, it was the icing on the cake on top of one of the most amazing experiences in my career! The other role that I was extremely lucky to be a part of was the role of Izzy in Rabbit Hole. It was a role that I have spent the most amount of time with across three different theaters and two festivals, (and for that role) I won Best Actress at the Theatre B.C. Annual Provincial Drama Festival and Best Supporting Actress at the North Shore Zone Festival.
CH: When did you make the transition to on-camera acting, what was the first on-camera role you played, what differences did you find between on-camera and stage acting, and what did you learn from that experience?
MM: I started first by doing student films, and as any actor will tell you, I was shocked at how many takes and set-ups you do of a single scene! When you are doing a play, you get one shot that night, (with) no do-overs. I also learned that on-camera acting is about stillness and subtleness whereas in theater you want to make sure you reach them in the last seats of the theater.
CH: You’ve co-starred in several web series, such as Baby Making Time, Family Business, Working From Home, Cool Squad, and #ActorsLife. What are those series about, what characters do you portray in them, and how do those portrayals help to bring out the variety of personalities you represent in those series?
MM: All the comedic characters in the web series that I have done are women who find themselves with high comedic stakes. Baby Making Time is about a woman who cannot get pregnant despite trying for years, #ActorsLife is about a frustrated actress, (and) Working From Home was made at the beginning of the pandemic (and it was) about…you guessed it…working from home during the pandemic.
CH: You’ve also done several shorts, both with your producing partner/fellow actor Michael Deo and with other actors/producers. Discuss your memories of making those films.
MM: I have so many memories. Making your own films is one of the coolest things ever. To have something that you created in your mind come alive is spectacular! You can also run into some real challenges at times. I remember when we were filming the second episode of Baby Making Time, it was a brutal day weather-wise. Snow, rain, you name it. It was coming down. We all had to park several blocks away from the location and carry all the equipment, food, etc. We all had wet shoes by the time we got everything in, and we hadn’t even started shooting yet!
During an exterior shot of Family Business, we had to start and stop a scene several times due to a nearby neighbor mowing his lawn, while also dealing with an obscene amount of smoke from the wildfires and trying to stay six feet apart during COVID. One of my favorite memories I have is a commercial I did a few years ago where I had to make a smoothie and the entire smoothie exploded all over a pristine all-white kitchen. Doing that over and over and then having to get cleaned up and then do it all over again was very entertaining for me. (I’m not) sure (it was entertaining for) the people who had to clean the kitchen every time.
CH: Last year, you and Michael co-starred in the pilot episode of a sitcom called Roomhates. What is that show about, how did you both come up with the concept for it and what’s the current status of its production?
MM: Roomhates is a 30-minute, single-camera sitcom that follows the un-traditional relationship between a couple who has broken up but cannot afford to move out, so they are forced to keep living together and up-keep a facade in front of their nosy families who are waiting on a proposal and babies. I pitched the show to Michael — I was thinking of the state of the economy and the crazy circumstances a couple would go through when they break up but (with) neither wanting to leave their rent-controlled apartment and the pure hilarity that (that situation) would entail. I thought we could shoot it in my apartment, which was (and is) a free location with free parking! We wrapped post-production on it a few months ago and the pilot is now released on YouTube. We are hoping to sell it as a series. We cast ourselves as the leads.
CH: What advice and suggestions would you give to aspiring/current actors and filmmakers, including those who see your work and find inspiration in it? How can they deal with the ups and downs of the entertainment industry, and the craft of acting itself?
MM: My advice would be to embrace being a multi-hyphen artist. The technology of today has given us the ability to expand on our talents whether that’s creating sketches on social media, creating films on our phones, or learning how to edit our work. My other advice would be to not be afraid to fail. It can be so scary to put your work out there. I still have butterflies every single time I release something, but you have to do it. It allows you to grow and learn from every single project you do. Dealing with the ups and downs? Whew….that’s a big one. I think it’s really important to have a life outside of the entertainment industry. Living a full life is not only good for your soul, but will also make you a better actor, writer, etc. You have that much more to bring to your craft.
Find out more about Mersiha Musovic on the actor’s website: