While on the formal path to successfully emerge into the STEM field following her Stanford University graduation, rising actress and women's rights advocate Avianna Mynhier longed to fulfill her inner, artistry flame. While exploring the depths of her passions, natural-born talents granted Avianna a recurring spot on the hit AMC show, The Walking Dead and the upcoming Amazon Prime series, Panic. Although ascending toward a triumphant and prosperous career, Avianna still felt a recurring urge to assist fellow dreamers in fueling their true, inner-flames. Now, after tirelessly working toward her goal, Avianna can be seen thriving within the podcast community via her original podcast, Uprising, assisting young individuals globally in fulfilling their personal life’s mission or, in Avianna’s word, uprising. In this exclusive interview, Avianna discusses her experience working on her newest Amazon series, how she became a women’s rights activist, and where she drew inspiration from when building her new podcast, Uprising.
Megan Morgante: Did anyone or anything, in particular, inspire you to enter the entertainment industry.
Avianna Mynhier: I've always loved the arts. I studied science in school, under the premise that I wanted to see more women in engineering. I researched startups in tech all over Silicon Valley and when I got there, I knew I wanted to be a part of that. But, what I didn't account for, was my own passion and what made me happy. By the time I graduated and started working in tech, I realized that my heart was elsewhere and my artistic cup was empty. I took a risk and I moved to LA and gave it a shot. I don't have any connections, outside of my sister being an aspiring director, but it was passion that led me there.
MM: Let’s discuss how you went from a Stanford college graduate to starring in AMC’s The Walking Dead?
AM: I came to LA and knew nothing [laughs]. I soon learned that there's a difference between performing on stage and performing on camera. I saw that there were subtlety and nuance that I hadn't trained in before, so I started looking into on-camera classes. Eventually, my manager reached out and informed me that they saw that I had been actively training, and they were curious if I was interested in meeting. I was sending out emails every day, and I looked at artistry with a more logical mindset. I'd send thirty emails a day instead of one email a day to an agent. I thought, “That has to increase my odds, right?” I looked at it with an emphasis on having some say, rather than everything's out of my hands and that the arts have to be so arbitrary. I did my best to control the variables, but when The Walking Dead audition came, it was so random because I hadn’t even received a script [laughs]. I was working two jobs at the time to hustle and pay rent, and I got to the call to audition when I was working for a surgeon in Beverly Hills. I said, “I need to go, my manager called and said I have to film and send off this audition in the next few hours.” I recorded a voice memo on my phone as I was driving, memorizing as I went to tape it, and by the next morning, I got the call saying we need to get you on a plane this afternoon.
MM: You star in the newly released Amazon Prime series, Panic. Can you give an overview of the show and what viewers can expect to see?
AM: The drama-thriller series is centered around a group of teenagers who are competing in dangerous games to get out of their small, dilapidated town.
MM: What does the series hold for your character, Abby? Do you feel you relate to her in any way?
AM: She's probably the opposite of my character in The Walking Dead. My character in The Walking Dead is terse, blunt, and powerful, while Abby is sweet and well-liked. I would say I relate more to Abby than Rachel [laughs].
MM: Let's talk a bit about The Walking Dead. What has your experience been like working with the cast and crew during filming?
AM: I honestly didn't know what to expect. It was my first real gig within the industry, and to this day, I'm overwhelmed by the familial love that swirls around that set. I felt welcomed by both the veterans and the more recent actors. Everybody wanted to be together and hang out at each other's houses; to this day, I'm very close with a lot of the cast and the crew as well. Everyone involved really wants to produce a great product, and you feel this sense of camaraderie in doing so, which was really beautiful. Filming even inspired me to start my podcast. I started having conversations with these other artists and realized that the fan base for The Walking Dead really wanted to hear more behind-the-scenes content. So, I have a bunch of the actors from the show on my podcast too.
MM: Speaking of, you recently founded your podcast, Uprising… Congratulations! Tell us a little bit about how you joined the podcasting community?
AM: Dan Fogler, who plays Luke on The Walking Dead, is on my podcast and also has a podcast of his own. He has been podcasting for a while, and he totally inspired me. But, what also inspired the podcast and made me jump on the bandwagon was all the division that I saw in the world, especially while we've all been in lockdown. I’m saddened by the division in our country and I wanted to contribute to a more positive, inclusive culture. I wanted to create a space where people could come and expect that every episode would be a different kind of person, from perhaps different kinds of professions and backgrounds. I wanted there to be diversity in that sense, and I wanted different people's life stories. I make sure that every guest is different from the next so we can all understand and build empathy with people, ideas and experiences outside of our own. It's much harder to hate someone you're looking in the eyes. As much as it was a passion project, it really started because of the social unrest that was getting to my core. I figured that there was some small way that I could put positive, inspiring people in one space, so listeners could go back and expect to feel uplifted when they're at home alone.
MM: What do you hope the listeners will take away with them after indulging in your episodes?
AM: I hope that listeners find inspiration, and this inspiration contributes to their own personal uprising. I named the show Uprising because I wanted to play on the negative connotation of the word uprising, and flip it on its head. What if we brought just as much vigor and excitement to a positive cultural uprising? At the end of every episode, I ask each guest what they want to create an uprising about, and I hope that it ignites the listeners' thoughts about the uprising within themselves and leads them with confidence in that direction.
MM: You're very passionate about women empowerment and you frequently participate in conventions regarding the movement. Tell us a little bit about what sparks that fire in you.
AM: I think my fire was first lit at the end of high school. The boys were encouraged to go for positions of power while my fellow girls were encouraged to be polite and wait their turn. I wanted to be the editor-in-chief of our school newspaper, and I told the teacher who ran it that I didn't know why I hadn’t been considered for the role, as I believed I was fully prepared for the effort. His response, or his reasoning, to me was, “I've never had a woman do it.” I got to college and was able to meaningfully participate, but unfortunately, saw how few women there were in the STEM field. When I began attending conventions and wanting to understand more of the science field, I learned how much money is put in women's hands to invest in being entrepreneurs. The numbers are strikingly sad. About three to four percent of venture capital money goes to women. I started hearing all of these saddening stats and realized that I wanted to take part in the movement. It's important to learn, even if it's sad, and to actively participate in progressing the health, rights, and well-being of women. When I went to India for two months, I worked in a village called Konganapuram, where I taught English, social science, and computers to grades K through twelve. I quickly realized that gender inequality is a global issue and that the United States needs to be a leader. That’s why I’m really excited about having a South Asian, Black woman serve as Vice President of the United States.
MM: Do you have any hobbies or passions that you enjoy partaking in when you're not acting or doing your podcast?
AM: Oh my gosh, yes! I love reading, archery, and playing the guitar. I also like strategy board games, I’m very nerdy with that [laughs]. I take my family and friend time very seriously. I love going back and watching old films and seeing Christopher Walken and Meryl Streep when they were in their twenties, figuring out their artistry. I love embroidery, which I just picked up during Covid.
MM: Have you ever experienced any notable challenges throughout your career or in your personal life?
AM: Nobody gets out alive. You have to navigate the world knowing that everybody's dealing with their own struggles. I grew up in a predominantly white community, dancing, and I received a lot of weird discrimination about my hair and the color of my skin. It really shook my confidence. I also felt a lot of discrimination being a woman in tech. I was often the only girl in the room or involved in the conversation. If you happen to enjoy a nice bold lip, it is as if nobody will take your work or your value seriously. Within the last year, health issues have unfortunately hit everybody. My dad had a seizure, and they found a brain tumor, which required brain surgery. Since mid-2019, it's been a really tumultuous time, just a reminder that no one and no family is impenetrable. I came to realize during that really intense, traumatic time involving my dad's health, that all the adversity in my life has shaped me into who I am.
MM: If you could give a piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be?
AM: When I was young, I was focused on the concept of perfection. I wanted to have the perfect grades, and I wanted to be the perfect daughter. My dad emigrated from Singapore, so I felt this pressure to make him proud, make sure that the strife that he experienced growing up was worthwhile, and that paving the path was not wasted on me. With that being said, I would tell myself to embrace imperfection, because I don't think perfection necessarily yields this holistic progress and happiness that I originally thought. I'd say to release the societal concepts of perfection and look inward.
Photography by Megan Morgante