Ava Paul ’18: On Screen
If you live in the Philadelphia area or you peruse social media, you may have stumbled across a Pepsi commercial set in a Philly cheesesteak restaurant. And you might have recognized one of the actors: Ava Rose Paul ’18.
The commercial was filmed in an actual Philadelphia steak shop in August 2021, and the guy behind the counter really does work there. But the actual eating of the food? No, Paul didn’t do that. She’s vegan and gluten free. She told the director, “I can’t eat it, but I can fake it.” And that’s exactly what she did.
The Pepsi commercial is just one of many projects the New York City-based Paul is working on. She has a number of commercials under her belt, including for Indeed and Crown Royal. “Commercial work pays the bills,” she says. “Theater gives me life.” She also appeared with Norah Jones in the video for Jones’ holiday song “Christmas Calling (Jolly Jones)”; she’s the Santa who pulls Jones on stage.
“I pinch myself everyday,” says Paul. “I’m very lucky. Luck is on my side, but I also hustle.”
When she’s not acting, Paul is modeling for Macy’s, David’s Bridal, RevZilla, and other companies.
“My mom is a model,” says Paul. “She started when she was 20, and I started when I was 20. It was like a full-circle moment when my parents were driving me to a job for Men’s Wearhouse [my first job]. Usually, we are always driving my mom up to the city for a job, and I asked her how old she was when she started. She said she was 20, and here we were driving to the city for me.”
Acting is something that Paul cultivated as a student at Mercersburg. She landed the starring role in the musical Urinetown as a ninth grader, and she completely devoted her 11th-grade year to theater just to see if she would enjoy doing it as a career. And the answer was yes.
Following graduation, Paul pursued theater at Long Island University at the suggestion of faculty emeritus Laurie Mufson, who Paul credits with helping her get to where she is today. When COVID-19 took hold, Paul’s parents and her teachers at LIU encouraged her to take a gap year to pursue acting full time. The LIU program was changing due to social distancing requirements, so her teachers said, “Just start working. You are ready.” And if the Pepsi commercial is any indication, she certainly is.
Paul is also quick to point out that her fellow classmates at Mercersburg made a huge impact on her, including the late P.J. Flaherty ’16 and Joe Beauregard ’18. She performed on stage with both; Beauregard was her first acting partner, and she believed they would continue acting together beyond Mercersburg: “It makes me so sad, but everything I do is for him because I know he would have done something far greater than me. He just had that natural talent. I just try to be so grateful for the opportunities I have and everything I do is for him and for my friends who didn’t get to have what I had. I always try to give back and think of him.”
As for the future, Paul is eager to travel. She’s trying to secure an agent in Paris or Germany. She loved the opportunity to travel while at Mercersburg, and although the pandemic has curtailed that ability somewhat, Paul looks forward to jumping back into it.
And keep an eye on the stage. In December, Paul began working on a play with her former teacher and mentor, Rachel Bertone. Bertone, an award winning director and choreographer, is in the process of securing producers with the goal of taking the show to Broadway.
“As an actor, you don’t know when your next job is,” Paul says. “It’s never a guarantee. I would love to book a TV show and a comedy, one of those comedies that lasts a while, and you have a job but can also work and do other things on the side. That would be amazing. That would be incredible. Or even just a long Broadway show. But even now I feel like I’m living that dream of being able to work whenever I can.”
Paul feels that if she could go back in time and offer advice to her younger self, she would say, “Keep hustling and you’ll get there. But have fun on the way.”