Elana Dunkelman was theatrical before she even knew what theater was. “I was 11 years old and I was super dramatic/expressive,” she says. “My mom signed me up for a youth musical theater group. I remember the moment I stepped out onto the stage as a little orphan in Oliver. I was immediately hooked. From then on, there was no other career option in my mind.” A performer’s work is never done. “I continue to take classes, but also I get a ton of practice while I’m coaching other actors. I stay pretty sharp as I’m constantly having to act with and direct my clients.” Each character requires a unique approach. “First, I look at what genre the project lives in – acting for sitcoms is way different than a dark drama. Then I break down the text and the emotionality of the script. Next, I explore how I can truthfully bring myself to the character. After all that, I try my best to let go of preparation and connect with my scene partner!”
Elana stars in a new police drama that will have you on the edge of your seat. “Fox’s Alert: Missing Persons Unit is a procedural drama about the Philadelphia Police Department’s Missing Person’s Unit (MPU). Each episode features a heart-pounding, life-or-death search for a missing person that runs alongside police officers Jason Grant (Scott Caan) and his ex-wife Nikki Batista’s (Dania Ramirez) series-long quest to find out the truth about their long-lost son. I play Rachel, the confident and bubbly medical examiner who has a flirty chemistry with C, played by Petey Gibson.” Rachel helps the team analyze the victims. “She helps the team by doing post-mortem examinations. But sometimes, she may be proven wrong.” Researching medical forensics was key to the role. “I watched some YouTube videos about people who work in the field. There’s a lot of resources on the internet!” She knows Rachel is invested in the pursuit of justice for the victims’ families. “Rachel is a very caring person. She wants to get them answers that could help give them closure. With her postmortem expertise, she’s able to speak for victims who can no longer speak for themselves.”
Elana also spends her free time teaching other actors. “Sumach Studios began back in 2016. I had a weirdly shaped den in my condo and my friend Matt suggested I do tapes in the space. That’s how it all started. I have a larger apartment now with my own office. I have a lot of regular clients who come to me for on-camera and voice auditions. I’ve found a cool niche working with child actors! I’ve also taken on clients for private coaching where we meet once a week to work on their craft. I love group acting classes but I think there’s a benefit to private coaching – I can tailor the lessons to what that actor wants to work on and the whole session is entirely devoted to them!” Helping other actors hone their craft is immensely rewarding for her. Doing so has helped her heal old wounds. ”There used to be a philosophy of breaking actors down – I experienced that in theater school; it’s toxic and unhealthy. It’s been gratifying to help change the paradigm. I want actors to grow in a positive and safe environment, both when they’re working on auditions or on set. I’ve loved seeing my clients be proud of their work and I’m so thrilled if they book something. I’m like a proud parent! An unexpected benefit to coaching is that I’ve found my own passion for acting is refueled by the joy I see in my clients.” Joy is best when multiplied. Alert: Missing Persons Unit is now airing on Fox.
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Elana Dunkelman Gets Our Adrenaline Pumping in “Alert: Missing Persons Unit.” Photo Credit: Kristina Ruddick.