Yeniffer Behrens Interview: The Way Back, El Contratista, Dave And More

Yennifer Behrens is a multitalented actress, producer, and filmmaker who is quite busy with shows on FX, Amazon, Netflix, and appearing in feature films like Ben Affleck’s The Way Back. She brings her Latino heritage wherever she goes in her career to bring diversity to the big and small screen. LRMOnline’s Nancy Tapia recently spoke with Ms. Behrens about her past, present, and future projects.

Yennifer Behrens: Hi. How are you, Nancy?

LRM Online: I’m good. How are you doing?

Behrens: I’m doing great, thank you.

LRM Online: You’re welcome. Well, you’re all over the place. You’re in a lot of stuff coming up.

Behrens: Yeah. All of a sudden, like I, it’s funny how that happens, right? It’s like it’s either feast or famine in this business.

LRM Online: I know.

Behrens: That’s what they say.

LRM Online: I know.

Behrens: You know, and it’s exciting and then it’s like, it’s really, it’s fun. Got to ride the wave.

LRM Online: Yes, of course. I mean, let’s start. You were in Grace and Frankie, right, from Netflix? That’s where it started in January?

Behrens: Yes. In January that was the first scale project that aired this year, and I had the pleasure of working with Martin Sheen, and he’s just so lovely, and everyone on set and the crew, they were just so much fun to work with. I especially loved it because it was a woman director, and again it was just a fun, fun episode. It’s episode 12 in this new season.

LRM Online: Okay.

Behrens: Yeah, the new season.

LRM Online: Great. And then, let’s see, you have El Contratista, The Contractor, right?

Behrens: Yes. El Contratista is a feature film. It’s in Spanish. And I play Elvia, the nanny to the lead boy. Wonderful, wonderful little child actor. Well now he’s the one who, we first met him, he was about nine and now he’s growing up. It’s pretty amazing. And yes, it was just a great action film, a drama action film shot in Ensenada and Rosarito, across the border. And I also had the privilege to be one of the producers with my husband and fellow filmmakers, Manolo Caviesto and Alejandro De Hoyos, gave us the opportunity, and Giorgio Henric is the director, and it was just really a labor of love. Us Latinos getting together from all nationalities, from different countries, you know, like Venezuela, Colombia, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Cuban. And so you hear all the different beautiful accents in Spanish, and yourself.

LRM Online: Yes.

Behrens: Fascinating too.

LRM Online: Yes.

Behrens: You know.

LRM Online: I actually had a chance to view that film.

Behrens: Oh, you did? Okay, great.

LRM Online: I did, yes.

Behrens: So, that’s coming out at the end of March on Spectrum and Amazon.

LRM Online: Yes. Coming out tomorrow, right? On spectrum. February 20th.

Behrens: Yeah.

LRM Online: Amazon March 21st.

Behrens: Exactly. There you go.

LRM Online: I’m helping out here. And then you also have, you have Dave on FX, little comedy. I’m not kind of, I understand when it comes to your character, kind of maybe

Behrens: You could see the billboards all over town. You see Lil Davey little Dave poking out of his boxers. It’s pretty funny. It’s a pretty funny poster. So I play Ms. Lopez Bear. I’m a teacher and it’s a fun episode with Dave and I just get to be a little bit of my bossy self.

LRM Online: It’s like therapy.

Behrens: I don’t know. I’ve been called bossy once or twice in my life.

LRM Online: Hey, it’s okay. We all have our moment.

Behrens: It’s always with love. It always comes with love.

LRM Online: Right. Exactly. That’s right. Okay, so that’s coming out March 4th, but you also have this one coming up March 6th.

Behrens: Yes. I’m especially excited, of course, about The Way Back. It’s a film with Ben Affleck and directed by Kevin O’Connor, who is one of the most gentle souls you can ever work with. I feel really blessed to have had the opportunity to work with him and, and to also play the wife of an actor who’s really special. He just a great, great guy. Puerto Rican actor, Sal Velez, Jr. And we are friends with, with Ben and Jenny, you know, they’re characters in the film. It’s inspirational and it also is a message of never giving up in life, you know, and there’s always a second chance. And that’s how I live my life. To never give up and just be really determined to continue pursuing my dreams. And no matter how all the things I’ve been through in my life, I’ve always gotten up and with the grace of God, and with my faith in God, it has given me that fight, you know, that warrior is never giving up spirit.

LRM Online: That’s definitely a good thing for the viewers to take right from films like this.

Behrens: Absolutely. Absolutely. It’s definitely a must key, and I’m excited. I’m excited for it. It was actually, it was good the coming out, and supposed to come out in October of last year and then they changed the date to now, and which I’m really happy about because in March is such a special month for me. One I loved praying and two, but really, really number one I had my son my first born in March, the first day of spring, March 20th he was born. And so it’s really a special month for me and so I’m very happy that they’re premiering it then.

LRM Online: And how did you get involved into this film, The Way Back?

Behrens: Oh, I auditioned. I owe both of them, The Way Back and Dave to the amazing casting director, Wendy O’Brien, she brought me in, gave me the opportunity to audition and I booked both roles and one of them was actually a self-tape, you know, right now the industry is taking auditions through self-tape, meaning that you spend in your audition. And that one, the one for the FX show was, was a self tape audition. And, and The Way Back was an in-person audition and I, you know, they called me back and I went back, and yeah. And that’s the way it usually happens when you got to go in there and do your best, leave the rest up to the universe, you know.

LRM Online: Well, how do you feel about that process, like now using self-tape a little more beforehand, before doing in-person?

Behrens: You know, I love it and it’s actually the way that I had got my very first break, believe it or not. Back in 1995, I’m going to take you back to 1995, in Miami when I was just starting out and I was aspiring to be here in California. I got an opportunity to audition for a film for the lead and I put myself on tape and it was VHS tape, okay.

LRM Online: Oh my gosh.

Behrens: Like literally, my agent called me into the office and they asked me to come and read the script because they couldn’t send it to me on a very private, so I had to literally go to the office and sit there and read the script and see if I wanted to audition for it. And then I said yes, of course. So they do wanted me to put myself on tape to make sure that I, that I knew how to do some gymnastics. And once I sent that in FedEx, my God, you’re taking me away back. Anyways, so I sent it in, they called back about a month later, saying okay we definitely liked her. We’re going to send three scenes for her to put herself on tape and send them back. So I did that and I didn’t hear back for about two and a half months. And then my agent calls me and says, you’ve booked a part. I said, “What”? You’re going to California. And I was like, “What”! I’ve forgotten about it. So that’s exactly how I was brought to California with the lead role opposite late Pam Bottoms and Karen Black. And they flew me out from Miami to San Francisco. I was there for six weeks shooting my very first lead in a film. And it was all through VHS tapes. That’s a true story right there.

LRM Online: That’s impressive. Tell me you still have that VHS.

Behrens: No I don’t. I’ve been meaning to reach out to the director Steven Kovacs to see if he has it, because obviously I’ve put it on tape and I’ll have to send that off. It’s not like I could keep up. I didn’t think to keep a copy. I remember that. You know, asking different actors to do the scene with me. Right now it’s like it’s just you and you just do your audition and you do the up close, you know, the close up or mid-shot and you send her up. I think it’s great because you get the opportunity to be done with the nerves in the room and if you mess up, you just get to really put in your work and get to shine in your safe space, you know?

LRM Online: Yeah. That’s true.

Behrens: Yeah. So that there’s definitely pros, but then there’s cons because you really can show your personality on a self page with just a really short, you want to and you hope that it, you know, goes through with just your quick slate because back then, 20 years ago, geez, 20 years ago, Jesus, oh my goodness, anyway, they did ask some questions. Then I saw myself on tape, my boyfriend, I remember my boyfriend at the time, he was interviewing me so they got my personality. So I was able to be free. I let them know how excited I was about the opportunity and I just really got to speak on camera with that, before them for about five, seven minutes, you know, because the different questions that they ask. But now, nowadays it’s just a quick, hello, my name is so and so and that’s it. You know.

LRM Online: Right.

Behrens: So you don’t get that opportunity to walk in the room for them to really grab who you are. That’s the only thing that I feel is missing when it comes to a self page. But, it’s the information age.

LRM Online: Well the advantage, you don’t have to wait six months now, right?

Oh my God, no, that’s right. Everything’s a way faster. It’s great. The turnaround is, like, immediately almost. And it is, it’s great. And you know, just looking back, my gosh, I started in the business in 1993 and I was playing little girl and now I’m playing the mom and I’m really grateful for that because the longevity of my career, I’m still standing in. I’ve come a long way and yeah, I’m very, I’m grateful for that. And I just, for me, my message is to those that are starting out, like, there’s peaks and valleys and stick to it because if this is your love, if this is your passion, it’s a lot. It’s a lifelong journey, you know?

LRM Online: We’ll finalize soon, but I did want to say that you’ve come a long ways from that VHS experience. Now you’re an actress, producer, writer, director, and as a CEO and Co-owner of True Form Films Inc. Can you share a little bit about that?

Behrens: Yes, of course. My husband and I, Mauricio Mendoza, we are producers and we create content. We started with a feature film called After School. Our son Adrian, is the lead in Mac. And we did the festival route, we won a lot of awards. We got five Imagine awards, even Best Actor awards. And it’s a very exciting journey as filmmakers because we realize one, it’s so feasible now to create your own content and two, to create projects that we want to create. And as Latinos we, we want to create projects that make a difference, that have with message, that they really inspire and also to play the roles that we don’t necessarily get booked on in the mainstream, you know. For me it was a challenge and it was great because so many times I’ve been so close to booking like a detective or a cop, but it hasn’t happened. I always book like the politician, or the politician’s wife or the mom and stuff, and it’s wonderful, like the teacher and the principal.

So in After School, we created my character to be a police officer. So that’s the beauty of creating your own content because you can, as artists, where we’re staying active, we are giving opportunities to other actors to come play with us. And we’re also creating parts for ourselves that normally we wouldn’t play in again, like in the mainstream, because once they see you as something, normally that’s what we play. Like my husband, he usually plays the, you know, the millionaire. The really, really clean, let’s see, you know, but the boss, you know. He’s the, you know what I mean? Like he’s in a series and he’s a negotiator. And so in After School, he plays the drunk and the teacher that is just, you know, down the knees, down on, on his luck and someone really gritty and dirty.

And that’s what he’s always wanted to explore. So True Form Films has evolved from us creating content for us to being hired by other filmmakers to do co-productions. And because we’ve pretty much grown up in the industry, you know, we’ve known Manolo Caviesto and Alejandro De Hoyos and Jojo Hendrickson for over 20 years. We’ve all been in the business together and we’ve worked with each other one way or the other, either in commercials or other shows or just, you know, hanging out. And so we’ve been able to, our specialty is to help other filmmakers understand that they can get their projects done on a budget, on a micro low budget.

Some people don’t see it’s even possible, but we see, we get the script, we read the script and we see how can we make this happen with the money that you have versus oh, let’s go raise millions of dollars. And then here we are five years later and the millions aren’t here yet and you haven’t done your movie, you know. So, we have really gotten creative and resourceful with making that happen for many filmmakers and ourselves. So, we have over seven for some features under about video music videos shorts. I did, yeah, Maude was my directorial debut and we co-wrote it with Alison Law.

It’s based on a, on a family. It’s based on love. And so we just, and right now we’re in development with a true story called Choices, and it’s a story about a young woman and a mom and a family as well. We, again, we really like to bring stories that matter, that has heart and that’s spiritual inspirational message, you know, for people to really be, to think, you know, just to really be inspired. So, True Form Films, you can check out our website at and you can follow us on Instagram and Facebook, and just look out for what we’re up to.

LRM Online: Of course.

Behrens: Again, if you have a project, you know, definitely can reach out and we can give you a consultation. We’ve also started this last summer, we started teaching and mentoring young artists to do just that. To really embrace themselves for who they are and not wait for people to hire them. You know, it’s like hire yourself. Like you are good enough, you are enough, you can do this and we don’t need to wait. You know what I mean? In the meantime, while you get that big break in the mainstream, create your own content, what is it that your heart wants to express. And so we’re having a lot of fun doing that. We just, they’re mentoring him and we, he’s ready and his parents were ready after a few years of him doing, the Contratista to come out to Hollywood and, and give it a go here. And so we’ve been coaching him and mentoring him and we just got him signed with a manager and an agency and he’s been going out to amazing projects, mainstream projects. And so it’s really exciting to see that. So it’s our way of paying it forward as we have been Hollywood parents as well because my son, our son worked from the time he was three years old until he graduated high school. And now he’s taking a break cause he went to, he’s at Princeton university studying to be an engineer now.

LRM Online: Wow.

Behrens: So we know the ropes on how to get your child into the business, you know. And the do’s and don’ts and all of that. So, that’s what True Form Films is all about. What True Form Films family like you really get the mom and pop perspective because we’re both working actors, we’re both producers, we both directed and we’re, again, co-writing stories that just speak to us.

LRM Online: Well congratulations. I mean I like how true foreign films in this case is, you know, team player, cheerleader for other talent. And I mean, that’s one of the things I enjoy about Indie Films, is like you don’t need to have that big budget but just enough to show you real creativity. I mean, part of the arts.

Behrens: Yep. Yes, yes ma’am. Exactly. And it’s so beautiful to see it because, again, it’s not about how much money, it’s just about how much we work on this and how much hunger you have to actually get it done. And it’s that challenge and you feel super proud of yourself, you know? And as an artist, we just need to surround ourselves with people that are like-minded. People that are going to lift you up and vice versa. Right? Cause it’s a reciprocity. It’s just about teamwork. At least that’s our philosophy. Teamwork makes the dream work.

LRM Online: Nice.

Behrens: Right?

LRM Online: Yes.

Behrens: And so, it’s fun. It’s fun that way. Of course, money doesn’t hurt. Believe me, we want the millions. Bring it, bring it.

LRM Online: Of course.

Behrens: Right. We’re not going to let that stop us, you know. And that’s the message, really. Don’t let the lack of money at the moment, because it’s just temporary, stop you from creating what you want.

LRM Online: That’s right. That’s a good way to live and to spread out there. Behrens, thank you so much for your time. I mean, congratulations. Everything that’s, you know, suddenly coming up within short periods of a time. I’m sure you’re going to go through this roller coaster again and then we’ll be able to chat again about those new projects.

Behrens: Thank you so much, LRM Online. I really appreciate you having me and yes, I look forward to speaking to you again and I’m sure we’ll see each other and Kirsten, I’m sure these days. I’m sure in the meantime I send you a big hug. Because I’m a big hugger.

LRM Online: Gracias. Thank you.

Behrens: Thank you so much, Nancy.

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