Before Stephanie Beran could play a bad-to-the-bone femme fatale on screen, she became one in real life.
By the time the St. Louis native stepped in front of a camera for this week's western, Big Kill, Beran had achieved a high level of renegade human being. Beran not only acquired a Bachelor of Science Degree at Missouri State University and graduate with honors, but she also obtained a Masters of Business Administration (aka an MBA) in business and marketing.
While she majored in Business, The 31-year-old actress always had a knack for the theater, and it began at an early age. "When I was nine years old, I watched The Starlight Express in Vegas with my parents. I knew right then I wanted to be on stage," Beran said. "In high school, I got into show choir and did community theater. I think you are born an actor."
While her love for theater brewed an International Thespian Society Performance Scholarship, Beran also craved the books and a normal life. "I wanted a formal upbringing and college experience. I won the scholarship, but I didn't want to major in it, because I didn't feel like it would change the course of my career to have my degree."
Beran didn't make it out to Hollywood until she was 25 years old, which she jokingly admitted made her feel a little old at a young age. "It was a different kind of climb the ladder for me, but I wouldn't change a thing," Beran said. "I've been out to Hollywood, but I am the exact same girl, and that is because I had such a good upbringing."
The ambition doesn't end inside the classroom. Having a passion for martial arts and fitness helped fuel her ambition for action-packed roles. Beran also trained for four years in Muay Thai with a professional fighter, and also is a PADI certified scuba diver. Couple this with extensive training at the Oak Tree Gun Club, and the role of Felicia Stiletto in Big Kill surely came natural to Beran's abilities.
For Beran, the extracurricular aides her drive to be a female action star. "I've always been drawn to roles for tough and strong women, so it was an extra skill for me. I trained with a title-holding fighter," Beran said. The fighting ability didn't make her want to climb into the ring, because that's a whole different career path and it would affect the chief moneymaker, which is the face.
Training in Muay Thai may have started as a fitness exercise and helped her look more convincing on screen, but for Beran, it served as great therapy. According to the actress, the gun practice wasn't just acquiring a cool skill. "I wanted to be comfortable shooting. I want to know how to hold it properly, load it, and gun safety. If I am on set and a gun is put into my hands, I wanted to know how to use it," Beran said.
Beran's path to Big Kill was more conventional: she's married to the writer/director/co-star, Scott Martin. "I got involved with Scott about ten years ago in acting class, and we got married in 2014. He knew I was right for the part." While there was something about getting the role from her husband, Beran loved working with people she cared about and loved.
The western, which is as wild and fun as the trailer suggests, carries the makeup of a passion project and was written 12 years ago. According to Beran, Martin couldn't let it go. "He was never offered to make it for a lot of money, so we held onto it. Then there was a company that needed westerns, and it all happened very fast."
Archstone Pictures produced the film and will be distributing it as well, rolling out this week. Big Kill opens in St. Louis this Friday at Marcus Chesterfield Galaxy, and Beran and Miller will attend a screening of the film on opening night.
For Beran, attending a movie premiere in her hometown is a dream come true that should be registered and not taken for granted. "I feel like we all need to celebrate the moments and the wins, because they are few and far in-between," Beran said. "It's really cool to be going home and have your family come out to your show. I just hope it doesn't snow!"
What's next for Beran? "There's a script called Paradise Springs, which lets me use my Scuba (training). It takes place on an island. I don't want to give too much away, but it would allow me to be in a bathing suit and take a dive," Beran said. "I want to live where there's an ocean and a beach."
Before I let her go, I had to ask Beran what her go-to restaurant is, a place she must eat at when she gets into town. "Two things. Imo's Pizza. You can't get it anywhere else. I love it. There's also an Italian restaurant in a strip mall called Paul Manno's. It's the best Italian food EVER!"
Life is trying to catch up with Beran. For most people, it's the other way around. As she gets into her 30's, the actress has already achieved what many hope to accomplish in a lifetime. Acquiring the seeds of theater desire at a young age, she plotted her course wisely, acquiring a healthy dose of schooling before stepping off into the world of make believe.
On Friday night in front of her hometown, as well as a short drive from Paul Manno's, Beran's career will come full circle as she debuts Big Kill, an indie film with a lot of heart and passion stuffed inside.
One could say heart, passion, and a good head on her shoulders has prepared Beran for the biggest stage of all.