Interview: Nerding Out with Rachel Miner
We got to sit down with Rachel Miner right after New York Comic Con to discuss, well basically a little bit of everything. Rachel is currently the Executive Director of Random Act, “a non-profit organization aiming to conquer the world one random act of kindness at a time.” We discussed everything from current Random Acts partnerships, to Star Wars, Supernatural, feminism in media, poetry, and greek philosophers. Rachel is truly a beautiful and brilliant renaissance woman who just happens to be living in the year 2017.
Before jumping into the interview, we wanted to share two projects that Rachel is currently a part of in collaboration with the charitable online merchandising portal, Stands.
First is the “If I Could Tell You” calendar campaign. It features women from the cast of Supernatural. 100% of profits benefit the Jacmel Children’s Center in Haiti. You can learn more and purchase the calendar via the Stands website.
The other project she is currently a part of, also through Stands, is a t-shirt campaign that will support Random Acts in their mission to help with the recovery efforts in Puerto Rico.100% of profits will go to Random Acts to help the Por Los Nuestros Fund aid with the major humanitarian crisis that has left people with a lack of shelter, food, clean drinking water, and electricity. You can learn more and purchase a t-shirt also via the Stands website.
Nerds and Beyond: What was your journey or path to joining the Random Acts team?
Rachel: First, thank you. I am glad to be here with you today. I don’t know what my path is. It’s probably not the clearest. It’s one born of complete love and adoration. I’ve always admired what Random Acts is doing, and I’ve tried to quietly support it from the background. I’m also a bit of a charity nerd, in that I’m always looking for ways to better help the world. So as where some people may know football stats, I can give you charity stats where I’m like “this is the time when UNICEF partnered with this global world forum, and they did something with Sundance, and it was really cool.” That’s the stuff that interests me, and where I spend a lot of my energy. I also, I love to study everything. It’s an interesting thing because I’m a bit of an autodidact, so I don’t have degrees to prove that so I think if I went out to get a traditional job in the job market, I would be at a loss. That is what I always ran up against in trying to do charitable work is that I would have to start at the lowest, lowest rung and for various reasons, even though I’m completely willing, and my heart is there for reasons including physical ones that’s hard for me to do because I’m just not good at physically getting places to buy coffee for people. So this really fit perfectly. Misha has the kindest biggest heart of anyone I know, and somehow it all fell together. I was supporting other campaigns, I got oddly passionate about saving the Nepal forest during GISHWHES. It was just a genuine thing, to me it was the most exciting thing to be a part of, and so there was nothing planned about that. It just grew so beautifully and so organically, and I think we all left feeling so great about that. It was just a beautiful moment for all of us, i think, and i think that was what was part of what led to this moment, and this opportunity, but you probably have to pick Misha’s brain more about how it actually magically happened. All I know is that when he asked, I said “yes” unequivocally very enthusiastically, and I’m very happy to be doing it.
Nerds and Beyond: You mentioned the participation you had in the GISHWHES project, and you also did the “Be The Clarence Campaign.” I feel like there is this beautiful dysfunctional, functional family that has been created. Really there is just this entire community feel between GISHWHES, Stands, and Random Acts. It all seems to be coming together for really amazing things.
Rachel: Absolutely. They are my tribe. I couldn’t agree more, and I couldn’t be more excited about it. It’s like a dream come true to be able to spend time with and dream with them. There is a really cool energy. I’m glad it’s perceived from the outside, and it is very genuine. From the outside I want people to know that none of this is actually plotted or planned, it’s just organic. I’m vibrating with that excitement.
Nerds and Beyond: Along the lines of Random Acts, since it is a new journey for you. Have you thought about your vision for the organization, whether it’s big picture, or what you and your team might be thinking about in a more future oriented way?
Rachel: Yes, and I’m trying to think of how much I want to say because I’m one of those people who really believes in doing not saying. So I would like my actions to prove themselves, and I don’t want to get ahead of myself in talking about all that I’m dreaming because I want it to just be a reality, but I definitely think given my love of all things “trying to save the world,” I think that where Random Acts fits in is in the place of inspiration, and our mandate is to bring hope where there is a lot of hopelessness and confusion, especially this day and age. I think the majority of the world, we want to be doing good, and we want to be helping each other, and we don’t always know how, and we are all exhausted, and we are all overworked, and we are getting home at the end of the day, and we only have so much attention and energy, and it just helps to see examples and to be given, some kind of guidance on how we can all be a part of making the world better. So I see that as the vision of Random Acts which RA already does, and it’s just a matter of heightening that. It’s about how we are encouraging that, and telling those stories, and forming those groups, and making it easier to support each other, and guide each other through what it’s going to take to make this world better.
Nerds and Beyond: The way I interpret RA is almost random pockets of people all over the world that are doing amazing things in their communities. I think that is one of the things I love about the organization. The grants you give or the help you give different organizations to help enhance the good work they are already doing, but also doing the RA projects.
Rachel: A lot of it is about bringing attention to that as well, showing each other that that can happen. We all need to know that it doesn’t take that much. We all can leave our house and in small ways make the world better. We might not be able to as an organization or as individuals to resolve the refugee situation, but to see that we can change the lives of one family and to see how connected we are to people across the world going through something, and that we can make it a different world for at least one person, I think that shifts, that changes the direction of all of us in the world. It challenges the idea that these are entrenched problems we can never resolve. I think we need to combat that feeling.
Nerds and Beyond: In social justice theory there is a concept called the “Cycle of Liberation” because so much of what is talked about is the loss of hope over so much that is happening, so it helps with embracing that there are things we can do and it isn’t hopeless. It addresses how you access not losing that hope so you don’t give up because there is just so much happening that can seem overwhelming even to the most well-intentioned amazing people.
Rachel: This is exactly my area of interest too. We are all going back and forth, oscillating between that extreme desire to be there for each other, touch each other, love each other and make the world better, and that feeling of exhaustion and giving up, and apathy. The feeling that it will never happen. Sometimes I think that almost the more desire there is to change things, to make things better, the more likely we are to just hit against that wall of hopelessness.
Nerds and Beyond: This is perhaps a more personal question. In the amazing interview you did for Hypable, you talk about moments. Moments where you interact with somebody, and that might change your day or your trajectory in a positive way. Can you think of a moment whether recently or in your life that stands out?
Rachel: There are so many thousands per day probably. As I said, at least for myself on a moment to moment basis I try to operate at a level of extreme enthusiasm, but because of that too I’ve always been someone who gets very easily hurt. I’ve had that since I was a little kid. I think when I first started walking, at like 8 months old I apparently would walk up to strangers and go sit on their laps because I love human connection, and I always wanted that, but because of that too I have experienced a heck of a lot of rejection. You can imagine that little kid trying to navigate their way through school. So when you want to run up to everyone and hug them, you are going to experience some major pain and rejection. Because of that I feel like I’m always working at owning that, and just feeling that willingness to be open, even though if that comes with rejections that doesn’t mean that I’m impervious to feeling down and hurt. So there are so many moments when just a kind word or gesture or even us sitting here, just connection, has changed me for the better, and I know it. Doing The Clarence campaign, I got to work with some really amazing people. I love the people at Stands so much, Michelle (who runs Stands) is a beautiful human being. There are a few things that she just said and did in an unobtrusive or showy way that just changed me forever. She acknowledged things that as an actress that sometimes you don’t get acknowledged a lot for. I hate to say it because it sounds egocentric, but for your brain. You don’t get acknowledged a lot for the way you think, and certainly not business acumen or strategy or anything like that. Mostly you get acknowledged for your physicality. The other things are not expected by actresses, it’s just not something most people think of. There are just many times that she acknowledged that in me, or strengthen that in me. There are more recent moments when she did that for me.
Nerds and Beyond: I think Stands is a really powerful business in that the partnerships that they do with celebrities aren’t just about borrowing their “face” for something, they try to partner around what someone is passionate about, what they care about, ask if they want to partner around the strategizing of bringing something to life.
Rachel: It was a lot of fun, they are just very open and capable. They are very open to collaboration. It was just an exciting partnership. It’s an ennobling thing when you have ideas and then you see them executed in an even better way than you ever imagined.
Nerds and Beyond: Transitioning a bit, you worked on Supernatural as a really beloved character, the demon Meg, and you are part of the convention circuit for the show. There is this group of amazing women all working together. The new spin-off, Wayward Sisters is coming out soon. I think all of this is a reflection of how everyone works together. What is it like for you being part of that energy with these amazing women?
Rachel: It’s a magical thing. It’s interesting too because the last Stand Wayward campaign was right before the Clarence campaign, and it was an incredible wave of energy with all of us, and all of us wanting to support each other. It just feels right and beautiful, and I couldn’t be more proud. It’s funny, probably around 7 years ago, my first convention was an Asylum convention in England, and I was asked: “what would be your ideal show to do?” And I said, “basically Supernatural, but women.” So this is incredible to see because I think most of us as girl wanted examples of strength and didn’t necessarily have them. We know how very very important that is. It still disturbs me how much of the time there are female characters, which yes may be really strong and admirable, but I think a lot of males in the industry think they are only popular because they are so sexy, and they show some skin, or whatever it is. I am so passionate about the idea that we can shift that. I feel like this all ties together because it’s all about making the world a better place, and trying to make it what we believe it can be. It’s the message that was behind Clarence, it’s the message behind Wayward, it’s a message of strength of owning who we are individually and not trying to fit some mold or image.
Nerds and Beyond: Kind of along those lines, and based on what you said at Asylum, would you have any interest if the opportunity came about to have a role on Wayward Sisters?
Rachel: Absolutely, I would do anything with any of the people involved in Supernatural, I love them so much. I would be there in a heartbeat. I am always hesitant because I don’t want to make it sound like I’m campaigning or like I’ll be upset if I’m not, but anytime that I’m asked I’ll be there for anything needed.
Nerds and Beyond: My next question is a little lighthearted. I saw that you tweeted about Star Wars, and I love Star Wars. My question is, what do you nerd out about?
Rachel: I’m so happy you are asking me about Star Wars. Oh my gosh, I nerd out about everything. We would be here all night. You need to focus me in on my nerdy areas, but Star Wars is definitely one of them. I grew up on that.
Nerds and Beyond: Well you did have the amazing “Aren’t you a little short for a Stormtrooper” line that Robbie [Thompson] wrote.
Rachel: I’m the luckiest. I can’t believe i got to say that. That was a highlight of my life, I’m just very very lucky. Yeah, Star Wars has always been a part of my life, I can’t think of time when it wasn’t. My mom saw Return of the Jedi, I think, while I was in her stomach, and she said there was a point when Luke and Darth were fighting that I kicked more than I ever had before. I would just watch the films over and over, I wanted to be a Jedi.
Nerds and Beyond: I was going to ask if you connected more with the light side or the dark side, but I’m not surprised.
Rachel: I mean I would like to say I was cool and wanted to be the dark side, but no. I love the Ewoks. I was a little kid too. I used to tell stories a lot about the “floppy pit”, my parents couldn’t figure out what I was talking about. I was talking about the Sarlacc Pit. I did a lot of story telling. Surprise, surprise I was always telling stories as a child.
Nerds and Beyond: I feel like you have a very creative energy, do you write at all?
Rachel: I do. Writing has always been a part of my life. I was actually telling Robbie that I feel more like a failed writer in my life, more than an actress who had success. Most of my life I just have taken a lot of notes and written a lot of stories, it has always been such a great part of my life, but I have never for whatever reason, indulged it enough to completely do it. Like I have parts of novels, but I think it’s something that to me, it’s just like breathing. I see it as just a necessity of life. I think it’s very important, especially for people who are very sensitive or empathetic to have that outlet. It pulled me through countless really confusing times in my life when I was overwhelmed by all the emotion I was taking in, and didn’t know how to process it all. Something about that time with a notebook, I still do this. Being able to take all those thoughts in your head and putting them out to paper. No one ever has to see it, but it just is the best way to sort through things.
Nerds and Beyond: Next question…
Rachel: Actually, I don’t think we talked enough about Star Wars.
Nerds and Beyond: I would love to talk more about Star Wars, so I’ll ask, since you are drawn to the Jedi (even though Sith have them too), what color do you think your lightsaber would be?
Rachel: Oh my goodness. I so want other people to answer for me. I am much more interested in asking what color do others think. I went for blue automatically, but i don’t know.
Nerds and Beyond: Do you know anything about the newer Star Wars characters?
Rachel: I don’t know as many, but I love the new Star Wars films. I think it’s exciting as a woman, to see the new characters. Again, it’s not just about sexuality or beauty, even though they are beautiful, it’s about the strength. It’s so incredible to see that. Especially for those of us who wanted to grow up to be Luke or Han, I mean Leia was awesome, but we wanted to see someone who was just the strength. Another favorite moment for me was in Rogue One, the moment of “I’m one with the force, the force is with me,” that moment, it just stayed with me. There was also a point in my life when I was doing the Diary of Anne Frank on Broadway with Natalie Portman when she came out in the Star Wars films. So I got to see those films when they premiered. So that was an exciting Star Wars time in my life.
Nerds and Beyond: Sidenote, you should look up Ahsoka Tano. She is an amazing character from Star Wars “Clone Wars” and “Rebels” the cartoons, and there is something about you that I would see you with her lightsabers. Hers are white. She has two. She was Anakin Skywalker’s padawan.
Rachel: That would be perfect. Oh my goodness, I am so excited. Can you send me a link or something? (I did).
Nerds and Beyond: So during New York Comic Con you facilitated the panel for the Pop Culture Hero Coalition, an anti-bullying campaign. You were with the American Gods cast. Can you talk a little bit about what motivated you to enter that space and facilitate the conversation, which ties in beautifully with Random Acts.
Rachel: So Random Acts is partnering with them for the Crisis Support Network. IMAlive is part of that as well, as is To Write Love on Her Arms. Amazing organizations, I think we are all there for the same reasons. So much of what we have touched on tonight as well, it’s all about supporting each other, and giving each other the tools to know how to navigate through some of the more difficult times in life. I am very very excited about that. I like to show, more than to just talk about it, but our intention is that we will be collaborating. It makes such a difference. I wish that I could connect with every person that has ever felt alone in the world, and be there personally to help guide them through any way I can. Because I can’t do that, I want to make sure there are as many things in the world that are there to help guide them through that. So this talk was also an anti-bullying talk, it was so much about being a strength for each other and setting those examples. To me New York Comic Con is a great place for embracing who we are and not feeling any shame for that, and being proud. It will allow us not only to be strong for ourselves, but for our friends who need us. Bullying is successful when we keep our mouths shut. It’s not just the person bullying, it’s all the bystanders. So I believe you have to have enough of a feeling of confidence and be willingness to be yourself no matter what judgement you run into, in order to stand-up for others as well.
Nerds and Beyond: So final question, Riley from Wayward Daughters (who we both agree is amazing) suggested this question, who is a role model or mentor or just someone you look up to, inspires you, or motivates you, especially in taking on this new journey with Random Acts?
Rachel: It’s interesting. I actually have files of inspirational people, so I can go on and on. I look to different people during different times. For example Gandhi was always been someone. The “Be the Clarence” campaign had some inspiration from him. Gandhi has been one of those people who I have turned to a lot as an example of what it is to have indomitable will and strength of spirit and believe in something that isn’t necessarily a realistic dream. Jane Goodall is someone I’ve always looked up to. Einstein, Hypatia, the philosopher. Socrates. These seem like embarrassingly obvious. I always have trouble pronouncing Thales the first Greek philosopher who was really noticed. I think there is something brilliant about people who are trying to tackle those ideas. Bacon. Christopher Wren because he is one of those people who looked at these broad strokes of life, he tried to redesign all of London to be more efficient. I am pulling random people, but there are so many people. Basically almost any of the Enlightenment philosophers because they tried to tackle and understand anything. Also all the transcendentalist poets. I don’t know if you know much about them? They were a bunch of incredible minds in that group. You have Emerson and Thoreau and some of the people we know in that group, but also Margaret Fuller is someone I really look up to, and I might actually be related to. She was probably the first feminist on record writing about modern feminism. They started the first communes, like vegetarian communes. They were total failures because they were a bunch of poets who couldn’t farm. They were really bad at it, but I love that sense that we can change the world. I love that idea, and I don’t think we realize how much of the world did change because of a few thinkers like that who were trying to make a difference. Probably the entire sixties movement was born from that original 1800s transcendentalist movement in New England. There are so many other people. I look at everyone from Audrey Hepburn to Angelina Jolie. It is that feeling of us being able to go on the front lines and do something and make some real change. That’s what inspires me.
Thank you Rachel for being so generous with your time. We learned a lot and hope we can connect with her again soon!