Calif. - Actress Elena Finney was in the fifth grade when she
portrayed Maria in a student production of "West Side Story."
Finney said she knew then what she wanted in life and that was
to be an actress. She wasted no time while growing up in the small
town of Norco, Calif.
is Mescalero Apache, Mexican Tarascan and Irish. Her family lived
side-by-side in three houses built by her grandfathers hands,
spread across six acres of land and Finney laughs when she recalls
living in a town where the horses outnumbered the people. Her family
still lives there and Finney loves to go back to get away from the
city. Her grandmother was a devout Catholic but Finney was raised
with a blend of Indian tradition and Catholicism. She fondly remembers
their family medicine woman for whom she has much respect.
10 years Finney has been a struggling actress. She has appeared
in countless student films and theater productions. She went to
UCLA and graduated in 1998 with a degree in theater, film and TV.
After graduation, student films became a valuable teacher as Finney
began to learn camera technique. She built her craft meticulously
and said she never stops learning and that she continually faces
challenges as an actress.
first role was for a TV show called "G versus E" on the
sci fi channel. She played a streetwalker with only one line: "Two
hundred American dollars." Despite the lack of content, she
approached it with the attitude that "there are no small parts,
just small actors." Although it was not the most glamorous
beginning, Finney is kind of glad its where she got started.
She hopes to follow in the footsteps of another ambitious and hard-working
actress/producer who began playing a similarly humble role as a
prostitute, Jodie Foster. Prior to her speaking debut, Finney danced
her way through MTV music videos for Sting, Creed, Tsar and Jessica
Simpson. She even landed parts in a few feature films including,
"Bringing Down The House" and "The Wedding Planner."
Unfortunately, her one-liners ended up cut from both films.
Finney landed a role as a female shaman in the long running WB hit
TV show "Charmed." Finney is learning about producing
and was very impressed by Alyssa Milano who is a producer on the
show. Milano was very spunky and sassy yet had everything under
control. Finney likes the power women in the entertainment industry
can have and she wants to be a part of it. Shes anxious to
be a producer because it would be great to have more creative control.
also landed a small appearance in a Dr. Pepper commercial working
with country singers Reba McEntire and LeAnn Rimes. Their presence
made Finneys experience working on the commercial a positive
has auditioned for many roles over the years and has found that
the most important thing for an actress is the writing. She said
that she has turned down a few roles because they were demeaning
to Indian women. Finney feels that Indian women need to be written
as normal everyday females with ups and downs like anyone else.
She said that not all Indian women live destitute on the reservation
and they shouldnt be stigmatized as poverty stricken. Finney
is also happy to be an actress who can portray women of several
recently performed on the Autrys stage in the Native Voices
production of staged readings of new young Native writers. It was
a very gratifying experience to play a part in their development
as artists. She feels that theater is the medium for more creation
when it comes to writing. She loves acting on film but feels theater
is the place to be and she even wants to write a play for Native
Voices someday. Being an actress has been a wonderful ride for Finney
and she has a passion for it. She loves to write the history of
each of her characters and keeps a journal. She writes everything
down by creating a history to mold each character. Writing has become
it all started with Maria in "West Side Story" when Finney
was in the fifth grade. Performing is what she wanted and that has
taken her to places and challenges she now calls her own.