"Music supervision is sort of my meditation... You know, [my husband] Bill will call me and say, 'that song that you put in there doesn't work,' and I love the challenge of finding something new," says Emmy-nominated actress and music supervisor Christa Miller, remarking on the gratitude she feels to be able to work both on-screen and behind the scenes. Known not only for her roles in shows such as Scrubs, Cougar Town, and most recently, Shrinking, she is also responsible for selecting the scene-setting tunes in these titles, among others. Christa recently sat down with TelevisionAcademy.com to discuss her dual role on set, her extensive love of music, and more.
Here are five things you didn't know about Christa Miller.
As an actress and a music supervisor, how do you find a balance between doing both jobs?
My biggest love is working on a show while also doing the music. That is so important to me because I use music in my acting process. After I read a script, I always bank music before we start filming — for the entire season! I make playlists of songs that I think would work not only for my character but everyone else's characters. Using these playlists gives me a sense musically of what all the characters are going through. I do this without even knowing where they're going to place music in the episode because, in the edit, it will turn out differently. I have a long drive to work in the morning, and I listen to these playlists during those drives throughout the week. I just know the songs that give me chills and make me think, "Oh, I know exactly what this episode's about!"
What is one hidden talent you have that fans would be surprised to find out about?
Growing up in New York, I went to an all-girls school, so I had to think of creative ways to meet and talk to boys. I'm an athlete, so I would always play football with them. I can throw a mean spiral and hold my own in a boy's football game! I also had my first surfing lesson this week and got up on the board on my first try.
If you had to choose a profession other than acting and music supervision, what would you do?
I love my job, so it's hard to imagine doing anything else, but I would be a professional rockhound and look for rocks all day. Or, since my first surfing lesson went so well, I may go pro in a few weeks. We'll see!
Do you have a go-to artist or album you always listen to? Or something that's on repeat for you at the moment?
Because I make elaborate playlists, it's hard to narrow down, but I will tell you my favorite song is "This Must Be the Place" by Talking Heads. I'll also give you the names of some bands that always come up on my different playlists. Those bands are obviously Talking Heads, David Bowie, Arcade Fire, The Strokes, Francis and the Lights, The War on Drugs, The Notorious B.I.G., Florence and the Machine, Lana Del Rey, The National, Bon Iver and of course, of course, Charlotte Lawrence. Oh, I also love the English Beat and General Public... "Tenderness" is a great song.
What's the most memorable moment you have had on a set as a music supervisor?
I've had a bunch! Sometimes, even before I read a script, I'll choose one of my songs (I call them magical songs) that gives me goosebumps, and I know I want to use it. So, when I read a script and realize I can use one of those songs, it's very exciting. Music has given me so much, so I love using songs from a singer/songwriter or band just starting their career. TV is the new radio, so if I can give back and use a new band's song, and everyone loves it, it makes me feel really good. I also don't like using on-the-nose songs; sometimes, I like to use fast songs in slow moments. So, when I put those songs in, and they work, it just makes my heart sing. Those are the moments that I really live for.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.