Interview: Jessica Lynn Verdi talks Rat Queens, Ripley Improv, and music
Based out of Los Angeles, Jessica Lynn Verdi is one of the most prodigious actresses you'll ever see. In her hometown, she can be seen on stage as part of the all-female improv group Ripley Improv. On Twitch channel Hyper RPG, she can be seen playing Chrissy Jacobs on Bloodcurdling Tales In Time and Hannah on Rat Queens, which is based on the Image Comics series. There's also a great chance you've seen her around in GIF form somewhere.
She took some time out of her schedule to talk with us about Rat Queens' upcoming live event at Gen Con, future plans with Ripley Improv, and her past as a musician.
What was your first run-in with ttrpgs?
Verdi: I was asked to jump into a game with a friend I’ve had since middle school. It seemed like a good way to stay connected with him by having a standing hang out plan. Boy, was I so strangely nervous about roleplaying! I can honestly remember feeling butterflies before my character’s turn. Oh, how times have changed.
You've been featured on Hyper RPG programming for a couple years now. What's it like working with such a talented group of people every week?
Verdi: I honestly haven’t lost my awe for this group. Not only do I feel comfortable to be my playful self with the Hyper crew, they truly delight me. Between being surprised and tickled by their wit to watching them give the audience true and authentic performances, I feel honored to be in the mix.
How did you get involved with Hyper RPG's Rat Queens? Were you familiar with the comic book prior to the show?
Verdi: I didn’t know about Rat Queens until it was an idea that Zac Eubank had percolating. Of course, when I hear about an awesome new show that is female driven, my ears are gonna perk up. I was delighted to learn that Zac was already thinking about this show being a good fit for me. Learning that Emily Jacobson would GM is what made me HAVE to be on the show. Her and I have a rich history of performance together, and I think she is just wonderful, so why wouldn’t I want to be at her table?
You'll be part of the live Rat Queens event at this year's Gen Con. While you're used to performing in front of crowds, this is a much different setting. How excited are you for this occasion?
Verdi: You’re totally right. Any time I’m headed into a new situation, no matter how familiar, there is always a fresh mix of nerves and excitement brewing! I simply cannot wait to be in a room of serious TTRPG fans who know and love what we are doing. We can feel the support when we are in the studio, but to be with the audience live is a whole new level.
Your improv group Ripley Improv has been turning heads at Los Angeles' Impro Studio. How did the group originally meet?
Verdi: I feel like it was a mix of right time, right place, and chemistry. We met in class at Impro Theatre and were at the forefront of bringing shows to the Impro Studio space in Los Feliz. The idea of making us an official all female improv group was solidified by Madi Goff, one of the Ripleys, and the idea fit like a glove. We’ve truly bonded with continued performances and new artistic endeavors, like our brand new Improvised Anthology, but we also work at growing very diligently. I feel continuously blessed to be among these brilliant ladies.
Ripley Improv will unveil their improvised anthology series in the near future. What was it like working on such an unique project?
Verdi: It was magical. Working on this series has almost spoiled us for other projects. We got to spend a week doing what we love with who we love. We improvised a brand new film each day with no idea what the suggestion would be until we began filming. We have truly created a new, groundbreaking way to create media, and it’s hard to find that kind of innovation elsewhere. I’m super excited for the world to see what we did.
This fall, Ripley Improv are debuting a brand new show. Without giving anything away, what can people expect from it?
Verdi: Oh man, I got the chills just thinking about this show. We are excited about waiting to reveal this new genre because we think our fans will be thrilled once they finally know. Our audiences can expect the same level of emotional and cinematic commitment they’ve seen in our YA Dystopia genre, with new physical and intellectual levels we have yet to see. Ugh, I wish I could tell you more!
Many people that watch you play ttrpgs online or see you do improv live don't know that you used to play music. What was that experience like?
Verdi: Music was a huge part of my life. I am a great singer-songwriter, and I’m pretty sure I got it from my grandmother. She wrote songs for Motown. I loved writing songs. They were such a cathartic way to express my emotions, of which I had many. I’d pick up the guitar and usually a song would just flow out in one sitting.
Would you ever return to making music in the future?
Verdi: I was very dedicated to music being my career for a while until I realized that I was more called to be an actor. I haven’t shut that part of me off completely, but I need to be more inspired than I am right now to want to pick up the guitar every day. Both of my brothers are heavily in the music world, and I know that one day, when I’m ready, it’ll be waiting for me. That being said, one of my songs will be featured in the Ripley Improvised Anthology so keep an ear out for that!
What music do you play to get yourself ready for a typical day?
Verdi: I am a very mood oriented listener. It’s important that I identify how I’m feeling so that I know what correct album or playlist to turn on. For example, I have an Ethiopian jazz playlist I like for the mornings, piano songs for while I’m working on the computer, and I have an 80s nostalgia mix for road trips.
You mentioned on the See No Evil podcast that you're a fan of Harvest Moon. What's your history with the game?
Verdi: I love Harvest Moon so much. I’ve tried almost every version of the game since N64. I’ve loved some more than others, but I am always sucked in for the better part of a month when playing that game. I think I like the romance element the best, but that doesn’t mean you won’t find me in the mine for hours on end. I am sort of a completionist when it comes to games; I build up everything I can to the highest level, win all the games, and make all the girls like me before I make a decision.
What other video games are you playing at the moment?
Verdi: I cannot seem to put Zelda BotW down. Talk about completion-ism. This game is the game that keeps on giving.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Verdi: In 5 years, I’ll be on a TV show that I created! Hanging out with my cats. Going on vacation more. Playing at Hyper. And making incredible moves with Ripley Improv.