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May 3, 2024

Holly Roth: Gianna Molla Speaks!

May 3, 2024
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Chicago-based actor Holly Roth plays the lead role of Gianna in this week’s Gianna Molla series. She spoke to us about her training and acting career, playing Gianna, and how Gianna Molla’s life and example speak to us today. 

TMB: Tell us about your journey as an actor. 

Holly Roth: Music was my road into acting. When I was growing up, our local church put on a musical every year. My first role may have been a postulant nun in The Sound of Music. I didn't even know what a postulant nun was! I continued to do plays in high school and college, and then trained at UCLA’s graduate acting program. Afterwards, I worked professionally in Los Angeles, Milwaukee, and the Chicago area, with an emphasis on the plays of Shakespeare, and then went on to teach voice, speech and acting. As my family grew, I took some time away from acting, and had largely retired from it until this job. 

TMB: How did you get involved with The Merry Beggars? 

HR: I'm a Relevant Radio listener! I listen to Patrick Madrid every morning after dropping my daughter off at school. I have learned so much from Patrick and so many of the other wonderful on air-hosts. One afternoon, I heard something about a new “entertainment division” starting up at Relevant Radio. I had been at a crossroads in my life and career, praying for discernment, asking “What should I do next, God?” And this comes on the air! I thought “Wow! Really?! Catholic entertainment? I think I might be able to do that.” Eventually, things fell into place. I met with Peter Atkinson, the executive producer of The Merry Beggars. I got to meet Father Rocky. Some time later I saw an audition posted on the website, got the sides, sent it in and, just when I was about to give up - an offer for Gianna came in! Returning to acting with The Merry Beggars has been a blessing. 

TMB: What kind of research and preparation did you do for the role of Gianna?

HR: For every role, I look through the script for clues to the world that the play takes place in; I look for lines where the character talks about herself, and for lines where other characters talk about her. That way, I get to know who the character is.

I read articles about Gianna and her family, trying to figure out what made her tick. Gianna came from a beautiful and holy family, and she was close to her brothers and sisters. Knowing the relationship between characters is key to adding layers to scenes. Like Gianna, my sister is a pediatrician. She has eight children. She is tremendously smart, ambitious, driven - a lot like Gianna. After researching, I knew that my sister was the “model” for my character. 

TMB: How does Gianna speak to you personally, as a woman, a wife and a mother? 

HR:  It was really neat to actually be a wife and mother and play the role of a wife and mother. You get those roles in college or as a young adult before you have the experience to play them! It was exciting to see that the main character in this story is a wife and mother. We don’t see that too often. 

I’ve been away from acting for a number of years now, raising my own children. It’s fun to be back working again, and I think my kids think it's pretty neat too. Before we were married, my husband and I had talked about what we would do if God blessed us with children - would I continue to work or not? We agreed that he would work and I would stay home and take care of the children, at least while they were young. That is not the same path that God had for Gianna Molla  - she worked as a physician while raising her children. There is a scene in one of the episodes - I don’t want to give it away - but Gianna is in her local church, praying. She had felt strongly that the decisions she was making were in line with what God had in mind for her, and then, new circumstances arise, and things are no longer clear. She is kneeling and praying for guidance. Her brother, who is a priest, arrives and she speaks with him, sharing her worries and questions. I love that scene. It is comforting to think that Gianna didn’t always have the answers - you know, just because she later became a saint. She was a real human being - with questions and not always answers. It was such a beautiful experience to play Gianna. I feel like I got to know her a little bit. And I know that she is working in this world even today, bringing miracles of great healing to those who ask, and through those miracles, the joy and love of our Lord. Saint Gianna Molla  - pray for us! 

Holly Roth (Gianna Molla) is happy to return to work as an actor after many years of being a stay-at-home mother. She is a graduate of UCLA’s MFA Acting program. In addition to acting professionally in Chicago and regional theatres in the US, she taught voice, speech, and acting at Barat College for five years.

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