She's played serious on plenty of shows like Vampire Diaries and Army Wives, but actress Torrey DeVitto would rather send in the clown.

Torrey DeVitto used to quiver like a seismograph when she had to audition for a part. “It would affect my performance hugely because I just could not get control of my nerves,” she says over coffee at a diner in Pasadena, Los Angeles. When she heard about a clown class from her drama teacher, she thought that might help overcome her fear and trembling. 

“My teacher said, ‘We have this guy, Anson Mount, coming in. He’s going to do a course in clown.’ I thought, ‘Oh, my God, I’m going to take it. That’s going to help with my nerves. If I can get through a clown class and perform as a clown, I can do anything.’ 

“So I pictured Anson to be an old, Italian guy with grey hair. And when he showed up I said, ‘Oh, my God, my teacher is insanely attractive. How am I going to make a fool of myself in front of this guy?’”

It turns out she had no trouble making a fool of herself, and then some. At the end of the course Mount (who stars in Hell On Wheels) required his students to present a five-minute sketch utilising their clown ‘persona’.

“I don’t know how, but my clown had ended up being a pregnant referee. It was so weird. So, for my performance I brought in real raw beef and onions. I wrapped the onions in the beef, rapped this song by Ludacris, and cut up the onions and beef and rubbed it all over me while I was rapping.

“And after I was done, Anson was looking at me and he said, ‘Excuse me, ma’m, WHAT are you doing?’ I said, ‘I don’t know!’ After that I thought, ‘If I can do that in front of a whole class, I can do anything’.”

She has played a doctor on Vampire Diaries, a former soldier on Army Wives, and the bratty older sister on Pretty Little Liars. But DeVitto, 30, isn’t like any of those characters. She grew up playing the violin, the daughter of a drummer who performed with Billy Joel for 30 years. 

By the time she was 15, she was travelling to Austria and Germany with a youth orchestra and dabbling in modelling. At 16, she moved to Chicago and later to Japan to model. The tour in Japan turned out to be unforgettable.

“My mother went with me, got me set up in my apartment, and then she left, and I was by myself for two months. It was Sept 11, which was pretty crazy. I was out there by myself. I was terrified because I saw it on TV, but nobody spoke English who could tell me what was happening, so I just saw the visuals and didn’t know what was going on.

“The phone lines were down for a while, and I couldn’t get hold of my family. And my sister and my dad were in New York at the time. Luckily, everybody was OK, but I asked to go home early.”

She says she never liked modelling. “I was always around tall (women). And I’ve always been thin. I’m not saying I wasn’t thin, but I was a kid. I had a little tummy and was curvier at that age, and I was around these stick, very serious, big, tall models.

“So, I was the one coming in with McDonald’s at 10 o’clock at night. And they were eating carrot sticks. I was, like, ‘Something doesn’t feel right here.’ But I did make a lot of friends and had the time of my life. But as far as being on the job, I never felt like a model. I didn’t feel like I fit in there.”

She finally found her niche when she took her first acting class. A photographer suggested the class might help her relax in front of the camera. It worked, but she broke up with modelling for her new love, acting.

Graduating from high school early, at 17 DeVitto came to LA to pick a manager, and moved back to Florida until she was 18. Then she packed up her Explorer Sport and moved west to become an actress.

She’s been in LA for 12 years and has paid her dues – dining on Ramen Noodles and KFC biscuits, and making ends meet by working at the California Pizza Kitchen, the Tangerine Cafe, Abercrombie & Fitch and Urban Outfitters. She was employed by a yoga facility, but never practised yoga. “I just answered phones,” she says.

She married and, after two years, divorced Paul Wesley, her co-star on Vampire Diaries, but insists she’s eager to marry again and have a family. She’s been working with a coach, whom she calls “a teacher, guide and mentor”.

Following her parents divorce and her own, she says: “There’s been a lot of time for reflection and a lot of work I’m doing with this teacher and you realise, ‘Oh, God, shoulda, coulda, woulda – maybe. But that all needed to happen to get me to see everything that I saw, to be here, to be working on all of this now, to grow from it, to become who I am.” – Tribune News Service