From starring in her own television show to jetting back-and-forth for onscreen roles in major cities, Houston-native actress Leven Rambin has worked hard to build her career in show business from the ground up, all while maintaining the down-to-earth values on which she was raised. The 29-year-old hometown hero exemplifies what it means to hustle for what you want. Leven’s vivacious nature and eagerness to grow and push boundaries are characteristics that have stuck with her from an early age.
As a young girl, Leven remembers sitting on the bleachers at the Post Oak Little League baseball fields, watching from afar as her brother, Joseph (Joe) Rambin, played pee wee baseball with his team. Sitting alongside her parents, Harold and Karen Rambin, Leven remembers thinking to herself, ‘Why can’t I join the baseball team?’
“Leven said to me one day, ‘Daddy, I want to play little league.’ And I said ‘Well, you’ll be the only girl on the team,’ to which she responded with ‘I don’t care!’”
With a strong will to participate and a family who supported her ideas with unwavering confidence, young Leven showed up to the next baseball practice with a jersey on, ready to play. On my first day at little league, I think it hit me that my bark may have been bigger than my bite…” Leven said. “[My dad] turned around and left me there to figure it out, though. It was a great life lesson, which was ‘finish what you started and you’re not getting bailed out every time your fear tells you that you can’t do something.’
Leven’s adolescent instinct to commit and push limits set before her has remained steadfast within her, as she has continued to repel boundaries throughout the course of her 15-year-long career in show business.
Growing up in the Memorial area of Houston, just west of Downtown, Leven drew artistic inspiration from her peers and hometown stomping ground. Success stories of major, Houston-born stars, like Beyoncé and Hilary Duff, resonated with Leven and transformed her own dreams of succeeding in the industry to feel a little more tangible.
Houston has always encouraged me and loved me and wanted to see me shine and succeed
I think the work ethic people have here is like ‘get down and do it.’ Leven spent her childhood exercising her imagination by putting on plays with her friends, attending acting and singing lessons, and performing in school productions, said Marion Sealy, one of Leven’s close childhood friends.
Rich with capability and the support that her family, friends and mentors, like acting coach Eleese Lester, poured into her, Leven was set up for success early on. After receiving the lead role in a school play at St. Francis Episcopal School in Houston, Leven whole-heartedly pursued her desire to act.
“[My parents] always encouraged me, Leven said. They made me feel like there was no reason why I couldn’t do the things that I wanted to do.”
Her family’s confidence in her stuck with her and in a matter of months, Leven was on a plane to Los Angeles, California, accompanied by her mother, to participate in a large-scale talent scouting event, where scores of casting directors and industry plugs met with young, undiscovered talent, all hopeful to find their next star.
With her abundance of aptitude, edge, and star quality, Leven was bound to impress someone, Howard said. What started as a mother-daughter duo trip to L.A. evolved into a preliminary and defining step in the journey of Leven’s career.
Discovered and Revolutionized
Leven was deservedly discovered and offered her first gig in 2004 on ABC’s soap opera All My Children; a gig that proved to be the gateway to countless other dynamic roles in shows like Grey’s Anatomy, One Tree Hill, Wizards of Waverly Place, CSI: Miami, the sci-fi film The Hunger Games, and many more.
What started as leading roles in middle school theater productions quickly turned into flashing lights and big-league film sets in New York and Los Angeles. Leven’s blend of raw talent and grounded values, mixed with a notable sense of that Houston hustle, set the trajectory of her career in show business on a path that was only destined to go up. It’s been so cool to watch her play so many different roles and evolve so much over the years. She’s such an amazing actress, Sealy said.
After her initial years of exposure to the industry, Leven set off for New York at the age of 23, where she shot The Terminator and attended Playhouse West, a transformative acting school based in Brooklyn. I started to feel like I needed a change in the technique of my craft, Leven explained.
Eager to improve and grow her skill sets, Leven spent two and a half years at Playhouse West, exploring various techniques, and eventually accepted a teaching position there.
It was the best thing I ever did for myself… I thrived after that and had so much more confidence in myself and more of an ability to be deep and real.
Leven utilized this impactful and pivotal point in her journey to establish a new, higher standard for herself and the roles she began to pursue, she said. Knowing that the higher quality roles she wanted to chase were less prominent, Leven stuck faithfully to her goals, even if it meant not working for nine months, she said.
Most recently, Leven was cast in the starring role of NBC Universal’s Gone, a crime drama television series about an FBI agent who was also a kidnap victim involved in sex trafficking. Tapping into her deep-rooted inclination to work hard, Leven tirelessly researched the psyche of kidnap victims to thoroughly understand and prepare for her lead role, with the intent of accurately portraying the depth of her character.
I wanted to be as accurate and truthful as I could, because I knew that survivors would be watching the show and I wanted them to feel heard and honored in what they struggle with day-to-day, Leven said. Ultimately, [my character] was a survivor and didn’t settle for letting her fear of truly living overcome her. That was really inspiring to me, and hopefully to everyone who watched the show.
A nod to her tenacity and enduring work ethic, Leven went to meticulous and thoughtful lengths mentally and emotionally, to understand how to best represent her character in Gone. [Leven] is very passionate about acting and the art of the craft. For her, it’s not at all about being famous. It’s truly an art form and a passion for her, Sealy said.
After consecutive years of taking on the roles of dynamic and vibrant onscreen characters, Leven has modified her sights towards working outside of the spotlight and exploring her other creative passions, like writing and directing. When I was in acting school, we were all encouraged to write and produce our own stuff, like shorts and plays, Leven said.
Having already locked down a writing deal with Sony, Leven is excited at the idea of expanding upon her journey by continuing to produce her own content and gaining experience in the production side of the industry.
It’s like most journeys, you’ve got to always have an idea of where you think you’re going and you just feel your way along and keep turning over rocks and some way or another, you find where you’re meant to go, said Howard.
The origin of Leven’s explorative drive and strong work ethic is also evident in her family members; each of whom exhibit the same commitment to development in their respective crafts.
Leven’s father, Howard, founded Moody Rambin, Houston’s largest full-service commercial real estate company, and spear-headed ‘Keep Houston Beautiful’, an organization focused on beautification, litter reduction and recycling education in the city of Houston. Leven’s mother, Karen, has spent around three decades as a professional, selfless and amazing mother, as Leven described her. Joe, Leven’s brother, is the director at Cushman & Wakefield Inc., a leading global real estate company, while his wife, Liz Lawrie, recently completed her Juris Doctor degree at the University of Houston’s School of Law. Clearly, Leven comes from a family of movers and shakers who are all deep-rooted Houstonians, invested in giving back to their city.
We’re all deep roots Texas, here in Houston – I’m just grateful to be from here.
After over a decade of bouncing around cities to shoot various shows and movies, Leven said she still sees Houston as her safe haven.
“It still feels like home even though I’ve been gone for 15 years. I always feel like I have a backup or like a safe place to be and if I ever change my mind or need a break, I can just come here and enjoy myself and my family,” Rambin said.
Having been born and raised in the lively city of Houston, and with so many friends and family still living in the metropolis, Leven is never short on things to do while in town.
In addition to spending time with her family, Leven makes time to indulge in the fine Tex-Mex at Escalante’s or to catch a show at the historic Heights Theater. Like most Houstonians, Leven loves the city for its endless opportunities for exploration, whether it be the Museum District or Uptown Park.
I love exploring new parts of [the city] and seeing how it’s changed and how it stays the same.
The city served as the foundation in which Leven set off on her journey of hard work, tireless practice, and enduring determination, all within the nurturing environment of her family, peers and creative mentors. The remnants of her Houston roots are still prominent and prevalent in the ways she presents herself and interacts with others today, said her father.
The best thing about Leven’s Houston background is the southern hospitality and the type of character of people she grew up around here in Houston, Howard said of his daughter. [Houstonians] are fine people… and those southern mannerisms still come through in Leven.