Courtesy of Evelyn Giovine ’16
‘Gimme a Break’ chronicles the strange realities of working as an actor in New York City

When auditions are depicted in movies or TV shows, actors are usually shown performing on a stage or in an office. But Evelyn Giovine ’16 says few initial auditions are conducted in person and instead are filmed at home. “You send [the video] to your agent, and they send it casting, and you never hear [from them] again,” she says.

Showing the realities of being a young actor in New York City is a major theme of Gimme a Break, an independent series on YouTube which stars Giovine alongside Gillian Saker and Emma Ishta as a trio of young actors who each confront their own challenges. While Giovine’s character struggles to book a gig, Saker’s contends with cancel culture, all while Ishta’s character experiences sexual harassment in a plotline channeling the #MeToo movement. “While everything is a little bit heightened for dramatic and humor purposes, it’s a pretty close slice of life of what it’s like,” Giovine says.

Giovine concentrated in English at Princeton and earned a certificate in theater. She followed that with an MFA in acting at the Yale School of Drama. Since then, Giovine has appeared in major productions including City on a Hill (Showtime, 2022) and The Crowded Room (Apple TV, 2023). Recently she starred in The Sintern (Tubi, 2024), about a young woman who goes undercover to bring down a corrupt preacher.

A promotional image for “Gimme a Break.”
Courtesy of Evelyn Giovine ’16
But it was in 2021 that Gimme a Break emerged as a collaboration of creatives who wanted to get back to work after COVID shutdowns. Giovine first met her co-creators Emma Ishta and Emily Wiest separately, but when the three met together by happenstance at Giovine’s apartment, they instantly recognized their common experience as aspiring actors in New York City. “And we’re like, oh God, our life is so weird that we live, and should we make something about it?” Giovine says. “Should we write a series? Why not, what do we have to lose?”

Giovine co-produced Gimme a Break on a shoestring budget financed by herself, Wiest, and Ishta. It debuted in April. The trio wrote the series together and recruited a creative team interested in filling out the production roles. Gillian Saker was brought in to play the third lead. “It was a lot of people who basically were at the point in their careers where it’s like, ‘I’ve been assisting the main focus puller, I’ve been assisting the main gaffer, and now I want to be able to do something as the lead person,’” Giovine says.

One of the series’ key contributors was Giovine’s Princeton classmate Cameron Johanning ’16, who served as one of the co-directors. The pair met in their first-year writing seminar, a course taught by Patrick Moran called “Illness as Metaphor.” After graduation, Giovine and Johanning went their separate ways, but eventually the two realized that they were operating in the same industry and could work together. 

“It’s nice to have such a long friendship where you know you’re not going to be misinterpreted,” Johanning says. “Knowing that they’ve got your best interest in mind is such an important thing.” 

Giovine says that the process helped her grow as a performer. Though she was always pushed to develop her own content at Princeton and Yale, Giovine had always resisted the advice, because her primary interest was in acting. “It’s really been the surprise of my professional life that I’ve gotten so much joy and fulfillment from doing it,” she says. “It doesn’t take away from being an actor at all, it makes you a better actor, because you understand how the machine works.”