I had the opportunity to speak with the delightful Joy Osmanski, a woman with so many talents and such an impressive career that I suspect she may have superpowers. Joy was bubbly, funny, self-deprecating, incredibly down-to-earth, with a very healthy perspective on pursuing the arts and specifically acting. When I remarked on how accomplished she was, she was quick to reply, “I’m happy it seems that way, but I do have many flaws and challenges that I have had to overcome.” We discussed her background, in addition to her magnificent career and her two new series, Duncanville, and Stargirl.
From a very young age, Joy has gravitated to the arts, and she credits her parents for being so supportive of her creative interests. She considers herself “really lucky” and recognizes that having parents like hers is “something special.” Joy’s parents signed her up for ballet lessons in Olympia, Washington, at the age of 3, and the world of dance was one that enraptured her. She was obsessed with watching dance and reading books about it, and happily reports that she “never had a dance mom” or “parents living vicariously through [her].”
Joy also studied piano as a child, naturally excelling at that endeavor as well. When she expressed to her parents that she wanted a break from the instrument, they immediately approved of her decision. Joy received “no overt pressure” from her family, which enabled her to find and hone the things for which she felt the most enjoyment and passion. She later resumed her studies on piano, yet another skill that she can add to her arsenal.
Joy’s entire life, she was always moving at rocket-speed, hungry for something, but not sure what. A few weeks into kindergarten, she was promoted to first grade. And Joy would take her grades seriously all throughout her schooling, besting her classmates academically with ease. She was competitive, taking enough college classes during her senior year of high school to graduate with a creative writing and studio art degree from Principia College in three years.
While Joy was attracted to the beauty of dance early on, she would come to know the athleticism and the hurt that go hand in hand with dancing. She now can attest that dancers might “look like they are just floating along,” but often perform through “profound pain.” Joy danced all the way through high school and a little past college, booking professional jobs whenever she could, before starting a career as a graphic designer in Boston. She moved to the West Coast a year later, where she started her own graphic design business. However, she found working from home alone to be very isolating, and she missed the performing arts, particularly that sense of “community.” Dancing was no longer everything to Joy. She had thought for a while she might pursue it for the entirety of her career but felt motivated to perform in another way.
Joy auditioned for a community production of Our Town, “in that way you do when you don’t know anything and have nothing to lose.” In lieu of a monologue, she auditioned with some non-fiction writing she was really fond of and was given the lead role. Joy was over the moon. “There is a phenomenon – and I don’t think there is a word for this yet, but they have to come up with one – when you book the job, that is the best feeling you will ever have.” This feeling is magical, if short-lived, “because before you know it, reality sets in, and you actually have to put in the work to make the show happen.”
Joy’s parents would always say, “find something that you love so much; you would do it for free.” And Joy has acted for free many times, happily. Acting offers “little to no stability.” Joy understands why aspiring actors are always told, “if you could do anything else, do it,” because she knows firsthand that “acting is such a grueling lifestyle.” But in Joy’s case, what she had been searching for was a sense of belonging and creativity and collaboration that she only found as an actor. She was thrilled to go to the University of California, San Diego, to “get a strong foundation in theatre,” and receive her MFA.
Joy and her husband, Corey Brill, relocated to Los Angeles, where she has steadily worked in television and film, making a point to do theatre whenever she is able.
Duncanville centers around the life of Duncan Harris, voiced by Amy Poehler. Duncan is a 15-year-old boy who is always on the verge of making a choice he will regret. Duncan lives with his mom, Annie, also voiced by Amy Poehler, his dad Jack, voiced by Ty Burrell, his sister Kimberly, voiced by Riki Lindhome, and his 5-year-old adopted sister Jing, voiced by Joy.
“Jing is this little pearl of wisdom” at such a young age, and a character Joy relishes playing. It is a project that for Joy has taken so long (two years) to come into fruition. But overall, she describes the experience as a “pinch-me opportunity.” Joy would be at a table read and find herself sitting next to Amy Pohler, a woman she has long admired, and thinking, “Oh my God, what am I doing here?”
Auditioning for voice acting roles is straight-forward, compared to live-action ones. The voice actors record each line multiple times, and Joy found it fun to see little pieces of each episode and the physicality of her character come to life. She appreciated seeing some of her own gestures, such as her clasped hands, represented in the way Jing moved.
Stargirl is about Courtney Whitmore, a sophomore in high school who comes across a staff with cosmic powers, and inspires a brand new generation of superheroes.
Stargirl will feature Joy as supervillain Paula Brooks, also referred to as Tigress. Tigress does not have any superpowers, but she is a force to be reckoned with, possessing a background in weaponry and a knack for hand-to-hand combat.
A villainous role is a departure from the parts that Joy has played in the past, but it was surprisingly not hard for her to get into character. Tigress is a parent, just like Joy, and she certainly doesn’t see herself as a villain. Joy struggled initially with the intensity of getting physically ready for the role. Only a year earlier, she had given birth to her daughter, and when they showed her the “smallish and tight” super suit she was supposed to wear as Tigress, she “literally started to sweat.” Joy knew that the person who embodied this suit needed to be strong, and she was determined to do her character justice. Her dance training made things easier for her. “Everything is choreographed; it is precise, even the stuff that looks like chaos.” After mastering the blocking in her fight scenes, Joy was proud to be able to perform many of her own stunts.
NEW YORK CITY
Joy was recently in New York to shoot an episode of a horror anthology series for Hulu, called Monsterland. Every episode is different and is based on the book of Nathan Ballingrud’s short stories, North American Lake Monsters. Joy looked at her role as a creative challenge, involving three hours of special effects makeup. She boasted that Monsterland’s set was refreshingly “female-centric,” asserting that she “felt a tangible difference” being a part of a set with so much female representation.
There is a series of peaks and valleys in the life of an actor. Joy does her best to appreciate the peaks and to stay positive during the valleys, having learned to cultivate such a positive outlook throughout her journey as an artist. Catch Joy in Duncanville on Sundays at 8:30pm ET on FOX and in Stargirl starting in Spring 2020, on The CW.