One might think that years of practice at parenting would have made Amber and Mitchell experts at telling their kids no by the time the came around to their fifth. Instead, it seemed to have the opposite effect, as if the first four had exhausted them so thoroughly that arguing no longer seemed worth it, and their daughter Raina's claim that she wanted to be an actress was a lot easier to deal with than say, her oldest sister's insistence that she would be getting her bellybutton pierced whether they liked her or not. They agreeably enrolled her in acting classes after school, attended all of her community theatre productions, and even acquiesced when she asked for the opportunity to enter 50-city search sponsored by Macy's for a young actress to play the lead in a Broadway-bound revival of Annie. With an ABC documentary crew following her and her fellow competitors the whole way, she sang and danced her way to the title role, a huge surprise for the family of the nine year old, who now had to figure out how to rearrange their lives to make room for Raina's pre-Broadway tour and new career.
As it turned out, they wouldn't have to make any permanent changes. Raina's mother accompanied her on the national tour that preceded the show's Broadway opening, but for the young, largely untrained actress, performances began to take their toll, and she began to suffer vocal fatigue and recurring illnesses, leaving her on vocal rest or worse, confined to bed, for most of her time that wasn't spent in rehearsals or performing. After 106 performances on tour and two weeks before her Broadway debut, Annie's producers fired Raina, replacing her with one of the show's other orphans for the remainder of the tour and the Broadway run. The Arquette family would spend the next four years in a heated battle with Macy's after suing for breach of contract that would end in a multi-million dollar settlement, but for the brokenhearted yet ever optimistic Raina, the money wasn't what mattered; she just wanted to find the other door that was supposed to open when the first one closed.
Raina enrolled in Manhattan's Professional Performing Arts High School when she became of age, having retained her love of performing despite not having pursued many opportunities after the tabloid disaster that had branded her Little Ousted Annie. Instead, her interests had turned to pageantry - a pedestrian pursuit in the opinion of some of her peers, but one she enjoyed without guilt or shame all the same - where she turned out to be much more successful, representing New York in the 2004 Miss Teen USA pageant and went on to win the Miss Teen USA title, with winnings including scholarship money, a modeling contract, and a guest appearance on the soap opera Passions. While touring with her sister Miss USA titleholders in her reigning year, she was also taking auditions, and appeared in several one or two episode stints on television shows before finishing high school. It was after her graduation that she landed her first regular role as the teen daughter of the title character on The Bill Engvall Show, which she stayed with until the show's cancellation after three seasons.
Though she would continue to work in television, taking on her second regular role in Pan Am a couple of years later, Raina had set her sights on the big screen. Being met with resistance did little to slow the roll of the starry-eyed idealist, who accepted being told no with a smile and stayed almost frustratingly rooted in the belief that things that were meant to happen would happen when they were meant to happen. Eventually, she would find a niche in quirky indie projects and offbeat comedies. Eager to learn, blissfully without pretense of any kind of superiority, and oddly immune to being screamed at by tired, overworked directors or fussy, overdramatic costars, she was the kind of actress people wanted to work with again, whether because they genuinely liked her or just liked the fact that she'd generally do what they told her to without questions. Sure, there was something about her that seemed to stay green, an unwavering naivety that accompanied her bright smiles and relentless insistence in looking on the bright side, but that was half her charm. She didn't want to argue about salaries or fight over script interpretations and intentions. She just wanted to act. She was workable. She was clay.
In the end, maybe that had nothing to do with the call that would change everything about her steady but largely unastonishing career. On the other hand, maybe it had everything to do with it.
"We're doing some cast shifting for La La Land. How would you feel about coming in for a read?"
Buzz for the Chazelle-penned and directed film was already roaring when Raina went in for her first private audition, but that was nothing compared to what picked up when it was announced she would be replacing the previously cast actress, who had dropped out for "scheduling reasons". And even that would be nothing compared to press attention that would come when the movie was released, shortly before award season began. The enthusiasm behind the film was ultimately mixed - was it a beautiful, transporting tribute to old Hollywood and a simpler time, or just another trite film rife with cliche and white nostalgia? Did the actors' less than professionally trained singing and dancing skills add to their charm, or would have taking the time to seek out actors with actual talent in those fields have made for a better movie? Did they really deserve all of those Golden Globes, and would the Academy Awards just be more of the same old circle jerk?
According to Raina: does it really matter? She's finally exactly where she wants to be.
I, TONYA (2018)
... tonya harding
LIGHT ON BROKEN GLASS (2017)
... young melody harper
THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE (2017)
... saskia shumann
LA LA LAND (2016)
JAMES WHITE (2015)
THAT AWKWARD MOMENT (2014)
WHAT IF (2013)
BREATHE IN (2013)
... lauren reynolds
... casey letter
THE DEATH AND RETURN OF SUPERMAN (SHORT, 2011)
... power girl
SILENT HOUSE (2011)
REMEMBER THE DAZE (2007)
PAN AM (2011-2012)
... laura cameron (14 episodes)
CSI: CRIME SCENE INVESTIGATION (2010)
... molly sinclair (1 episode)
... blonde (1 episode)
LAW AND ORDER
... christina 'tina' divola bernardi
THE BILL ENGVALL SHOW
... lauren pearson (31 episodes)
... amber (1 episode)
... mascot (1 episode)
one life to live (2006)
... britney (2 episodes)
grounded for life (2005)
... angelica (1 episode)
ANNIE (1996-1997, NATIONAL TOUR)
THE MISS TEEN USA PAGEANT (2008)
... herself - co-host
the miss teen usa pageant (2004)
... herself - miss new york
★ was not popular or considered particularly talented among her high school classmates, who found her participation in pageants low brow and would often accuse her of relying on her looks to get by.
★ guilible and trusting, she is an excellent target for pranks of all kinds, and is a frequent and easy target for them because she doesn't stay mad.
★ is fluent in american sign language, a skill she openly admits to taking on in middle school solely to impress a cute partially deaf boy she had a crush on.
★ other talents: ice skating, sewing, running in heels, making babies smile, laughing at unfunny men convincingly.
★ has a terrible immune system and will catch anything that's going around. pops vitamin c like it's candy to avoid catching something at a critical time.
★ was lambasted by donald trump on twitter in october of 2016 after appearing at a hillary rally. trump spoke ill of her as a representative for the miss usa pageants, calling her "a liberal sheep", declaring that her runner-up should have taken the title, and pointing out that she'd "gained a few pounds since winning". sad!
★ aspired to be a flight attendant as a young child and frequently cites pan am as getting to live a dream.
★ despite having a deep love for musicals, generally avoids auditioning for them like the plague since the "annie incident" from her childhood. her la la land audition was the first time she had agreed to openly reflect upon what had happened in years.
★ was given the "sandy" dog she had trained with for the national tour of annie from the production's animal trainer when she was fired as a show of support for her and against the handling of her dismissal.
despite being around in various capacities for years, raina's recent explosion onto the scene has come with the kind of excitement that buzzfeed and tumblr grasp onto and gif to excess, almost guaranteeing her oversaturation in the media within a few months. sweet, charming, and lacking the knowledge of how to ask the paparazzi to leave you alone without sounding like a jerk, she's gracious (sometimes overly so) with the media, who in turn tend to project her kindly. (in progress)
mitchell, father, ##lawyer. consummate angry new yorker. would take you to court just for the fun of it.
amber, mother, ##bakery owner. southern belle. mama bear. will tell mitchell to stop yelling at you, but probably doesn't mean it.