Back To Basics
“Three days of Thanksgiving at my dad’s house,” she recounts to CVLUX. “I literally ate a pumpkin pie a day.”
Then suddenly it’s the New Year and you’re supposed to do a total 180. First of all, it’s hard to do a maneuver like that when you’re sleepy from too much gravy and all of your pants are too tight. And second, it’s difficult to commit to hard work and sacrifice. Torrey DeVitto might not be so disciplined when it comes to eating (“I can kind of justify any indulgence when it comes to food and sweets,” she says, “and when you get me and my sister together ... it’s over”). But when it comes to her career, Torrey is more than willing to give things up in order to get what she wants.
Torrey had a good role model when it came to pursuing a life of performing; her father is Liberty DeVitto, a rock star drummer who worked with the likes of Elton John, the Beach Boys, and Billy Joel.
“We spent every Thanksgiving at Billy Joel’s house...” Torrey remembers. “I grew up with his daughter, Alexa; it was a lot of warm, happy memories.” But her childhood was not without its lessons: “My dad knows what it’s like to be on tour and miss out on people’s birthdays and family events,” she recalls. “He wasn’t able to come to certain things for my sister and I, and he told me early on, that’s the sort of sacrifice you have to make if you want this career.”
And at first a career in music is what Torrey wanted. “When I was about six years old Billy Joel...had a violinist on tour,” Torrey says, “and I was completely enamored with her and followed her around everywhere. At the end of the tour I asked my parents if I could play violin.”
By fourth grade she was playing with the local high school orchestra, and at the age of twelve she performed a solo at Christie Brinkley and Peter Cook’s wedding. Torrey was on track to play violin professionally, until another childhood obsession began to compete with her musical ambitions.
“When I was about seven, I saw Les Miserables on Broadway for the first time ... that sparked me loving to perform for people. I was always picking things up and I was good at things,” she remembers, “but I wasn’t trying to be great.”
She began to act more and more, struggling to balance her two passions. Some sound advice from her father led to one of Torrey’s first real experiences with giving up something she loves.
“The best advice my dad ever gave me was, ‘Find something and try to be great ... Don’t try to be a jack of all trades.’” So Torrey took a good hard look at her passions: acting and the violin. “I knew I didn’t want to be in a professional orchestra forever,” she says, “so ... I made the choice to move to LA and pursue acting as what I wanted to do for my lifetime.”
Torrey DeVitto is the first to admit that making that decision wasn’t easy: “I knew I was putting something I had been doing for 20 years on the back burner,” she tells us. But it wasn’t like she was giving music up for no reason. “It wasn’t time that I’ve just thrown away,” she explains.
In fact, Torrey was pretty much doing the opposite of wasting time. As she puts it, “I was working my ass off.”
First came improving her technique. Guidance from acting teacher, Michael Woolson, gave Torrey both the information and the confidence she needed to start landing jobs. “Coming from Florida, [my acting was] a little bit Nickelodeon-ish, for lack of a better word. I learned so much about acting, and it became much more pleasurable because I learned how to use my life.”
Torrey was especially willing to work her ass off to get into character. “I do whatever it takes to emotionally get me in the place I need to be,” she says, “whether it be a happy place or a sad place.”
And of course, as her father predicted, Torrey spent a lot of time giving up things that she wanted. “There’s so many times I’d be in New York for Thanksgiving visiting my family and I’d get an audition and have to leave all the family fun and fly back to LA,” she says, “or there’s a friend’s birthday and I can’t come ... it’s hard, and it hurts.”
A year after enrolling in acting classes and being fully devoted to the grind, Torrey DeVitto was cast in her first role on the ABC Family drama, Beautiful People. Torrey’s turn as Karen Kerr on Beautiful People was followed by a string of roles where Torrey’s characters all had something funny in common.
“For a while I definitely was playing a little more of a psychotic range of characters—which I love,” Torrey adds, “and I had so much fun.”
In addition to psycho nanny Carrie on One Tree Hill, Torrey played The Vampire Diaries Dr. Meredith Fell, Army Wives wife Maggie Hall, and Pretty Little Liars Melissa Hastings. When asked if she has a preference in terms of parts to play, Torrey’s answer is that of a bonafide hard worker: “I don’t think people realize that, unless you’re Meryl Streep, you don’t really choose what you get,” she says. “I just read, audition, read, audition, and you know, see what happens.”
What happened, it turns out, was the very sane role of pediatrician, Natalie Manning, on Chicago Med.
“This role on Chicago Med is definitely a character that’s closer to me as a person than any other character I’ve played before,” she says. Torrey tells us her character even plays violin on the show, “so I do feel I get to marry both worlds and I’m really happy about that.”
The happiness of her first passion reentering her life is met with the reality that playing a doctor naturally requires new and different types of hard work.
Delivering lines involving medical terminology, “is like learning a different language,” Torrey tells us. “We all have our funny moments on set, we all have our days where these words are not coming out of our mouths, and we get the nervous giggles because of it.”
Beyond medical terminology, even the actions of a doctor are foreign if you haven’t spent years in medical school.
“We’re trying to put on the gloves and two fingers go in one hole and you’re like, ‘I have to start again.’ Or your stethoscope goes flying ... it can turn into a disaster pretty quick!” she says.
In order to avoid looking like Chicago’s least credentialed hospital, Torrey will spend hours pacing city streets and repeating hard-to-remember medical jargon to herself. “I definitely walk around the streets of Chicago ... saying words to myself all day and then I realize, ‘oh, people think I’m crazy.’”
And when other aspects of her job get difficult, Torrey is not afraid to seek advice from family. “If I walk away from a scene and I’m depressed because I think, ‘I could’ve done it better,’ or I didn’t feel like I found it, I call my dad and ask ‘did you ever feel that way?’”
Not surprisingly, Torrey’s dad can empathize. “It’s always reassuring, when you hear somebody that’s had the career my dad’s had, say, ‘yeah, I’ve fallen on my face so many times.’” Torrey turns to her mom when the realities of adulthood become a little overwhelming. “I say ‘Mom, I know I’m 32 years old and I’m supposed to be a grown up but this isn’t working out today. Can I just move back home?’”
But Torrey is only kidding, especially since technically Los Angeles has been her home more than any other place. After a childhood spent on Long Island, then in Florida, and also on tour with her father, she tells us she has lived in LA for 14 and a half years, the longest she’s ever lived in one place. In California she’s carved out a life for herself, and we mean carved because she’s actively worked for it every step of the way.
“I realized the one thing that really gives somebody longevity is work ethic ... natural talent, luck, and confidence only get you so far.”
Torrey will be spending December 31st on tour with boyfriend, Artem Chigvintsev, of Dancing with the Stars fame. “I think this New Year’s will be really great,” she says. Then it’s right back to work.
Torrey DeVitto is a perfect example of how diligence and hard work can be rewarding. We know that’s not as fun of a New Year’s pill to swallow as something like, “Be Zen and envision things coming to you!” But we think it’s refreshing to be told that getting what you want requires really hard work, and a lot of it. And we think actively working towards a goal sounds like a pretty positive way to start out 2017.
Features Editor Logan Guntzelman
Photographer Jim Jordan
Stylist Adena Rohatiner
Stylist Assistants Jeremy Markus Hair Scott King
Makeup Dillon Pena
Manicurist Elisa Wishan
Produced in conjunction with White Cross Productions and White Cross Studios