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Check Out Jessica Lea Risco’s Story

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jessica Lea Risco.

Hi Jessica Lea, please kick things off for us with an introduction to yourself and your story.
I have had a fairly non-traditional path to the industry. Hailing from the frozen Land of Lakes, I first discovered acting at the age of 12 when a friend asked me to go with her to an audition for “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at our local community college. I booked the part of an unnamed fairy in Titania’s fairy chorus and immediately felt at home. I went on to act through high school and studied Theatre at Gustavus Adolphus College in Southern Minnesota where I discovered the ways in which art and storytelling can transform society. Upon graduating, I went to Morocco and served in the Peace Corps as a Youth Development Volunteer. I lived in a small village in the Sahara Desert and instantly fell in love with the life of a nomadic wanderer and community developer. For the next decade, I divided my time between acting for the stage and traveling the world doing development work. I always felt in between worlds and searched for a way to focus on projects that told stories that would have a meaningful impact on our world.

Ten years ago, I decided to pursue acting professionally and move to San Francisco where I built my resume, honed my technique and performed in some of the greatest roles of my life. I never imagined I’d want to do anything other than being on stage. However, a short horror film, “This Little Light,” came my way and I fell in love with acting for the camera. I was fortunate enough to work consistently in the theatres of the Bay Area, spending the past few years helping with the development of new works. I originated the role of Dorothy in the immersive theatre piece, “The Speakeasy” for which I was nominated for Broadway World’s Best Actress in a Feature Role. I love creating new work. I love originating characters. I love helping to foster creativity and collaborate with other artists. Two years ago, I booked a role in my first feature film, “86 Melrose Ave”, playing the lovable introvert, Fiona and decided to move to Los Angeles permanently.

I’ve been in Los Angeles since June 2019 and love living here! I’ve had the opportunity to work, train and create with an amazing community of artists here. During quarantine, I feel lucky to have had the opportunity to write, produce and perform in several of my own film projects, book my first television gig, and take classes with John Ruby, Carole D’Andrea, Risa Bramon Garcia and Richard Seyd. I’ve also created a collective with my collaborating partner, Timothy Huls, called All New People. Our goal is to bring together artists in the community to foster opporutnies to create, collaborate and play. Today, I feel empowered to serve the community by telling meaningful stories about the human condition, vulnerability and our immense capacity to love one another. It is important to me to create a space for artists to gather and feel supported whether it’s a virtual play reading, acting, casting or reading scripts. I also teach yoga online and offer pay-what-you-can classes for artists (and everyone!) to nourish the heads, hearts, muscles and bones.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
It’s not been a smooth road in the sense that it took me many years to figure out which road I wanted to be on. I have been torn between my restless desire to wander and explore the world and my passion and creative spirit as an actress. It hasn’t been until recently that I have learned how to integrate these parts of myself. By serving the community as a producer and organizer, I have been able to bring people together, support artists in their work and tell stories that are meaningful to me.

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
I am a film, television and stage actress. I have spent the majority of my career on stage and have recently transitioned to focusing on film and television work. While acting is my passion, I have also recently discovered that I am a filmmaker and have felt empowered to write and produce my own projects with friends. A yoga teacher and lover of dance parties, I am an extremely physical actress. I discover and develop characters through physical exploration and play. New works and devised pieces allow for a total freedom of creativity and curiosity that lights a flame inside me. I feel proud of a lot of my work. I have played some amazing roles in plays and films that I adore! However, the aspect of my career that I am most proud of at the moment is the film projects I have written, produced and performed in during quarantine. Specifically, my short film “Ruby and Jude”- coming soon- was the first project I have ever created from start to finish. The story integrates one of my best friendships with the profound love and self-discovery I experienced while living in Morocco. I also get to honor the life and heart of one of my greatest teachers, my host mother in Morocco, Fatima, through this story.

What sets me apart is my years of living abroad, particularly in African countries. I feel my time abroad has given me a global perspective and understanding of the human condition that I bring to my work. It was during this time that I truly began to understand the immense capacity of the human heart to love, which is exactly what I want to say with the work I create. Additionally, my yoga focuses on a practice that prepares the mind and body for creative work. I offer both private and public classes weekly. Public classes are pay-what-you-can and open to the public- check my instagram for more information. All are welcome!

The crisis has affected us all in different ways. How has it affected you and any important lessons or epiphanies you can share with us?
Absolutely! That you have to keep moving and that creating art has been my salvation. I have felt so empowered during this time to develop my own work, which has been profound for me. I feel I am a stronger actress and filmmaker because I have had to create opportunities for myself. I have also learned about the power of community as support system right now. I am so grateful for the opportunities and blessings I have had during this time as I know many people are struggling. I feel called to support friends and colleagues to keep creating and coming together as a community of artists during this time.


  • Pay-what-you-can yoga classes: Check my instagram for class times and how to sign-up!

Contact Info:

Image Credits

Alexandra Clayton

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1 Comment

  1. Dan

    October 24, 2021 at 13:18

    JR, you must have read “The Sheltering Sky” by Bowles.

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