This is a question I often ask myself. I will be sitting in the office of a studio head or looking out over a sea of recognizable faces at the Emmy’s or in conversation with someone I grew up emulating on the big screen, and my whole mind goes blank and all I can hear is, “HOW THE HECK DID I GET HERE?!?!”
It’s a valid question, really. I grew up in Milbridge, population somewhere around 1,000 depending on the season. I went to Milbridge Elementary School and graduated from Narraguagus High School. I was a member of the drama club, though in the four years I was at Narraguagus, we did not put up a single play. So how on earth did a little girl from Milbridge become an actress in L.A.?!?
The honest answer is a lot of luck… and hard work, confidence, tears, love, support and perseverance.
I’ve been staring at my computer screen for a couple days now, trying to exactly nail down how it all happened. I give a lot of credit to growing where I did. We had the gift of the most amazing natural playground. I had a vivid imagination that went wild creating whole worlds along our rocky shores. My friends and I spent our summers climbing the rocks, building forts, exploring, discovering, creating… away from the television… computers weren’t really even a thing yet, never mind cell phones. This is definitely where my creative desires were born.
But, the most important thing that got me here is the fact that those creative desires were never discouraged. I had an amazing family who let me have these big dreams and made them seem achievable. When I entered the the Miss Maine Teen pageant on a whim, my family supported me. When I applied to be a student anchor on the national school news program, Channel 1, my family said, “Why not?”. Their support never came with the expectation or the pressure to win or be chosen, but rather the excitement and encouragement to try and experience. Their support gave me the self assurance to put myself out there and not fear failure, because truly what was the worst thing that could happen? Not winning? Not getting chosen? Okay. I would know I tried and that in itself is it’s own win.
When I came to them to say I wanted to move to Los Angeles and pursue acting, they were certainly hesitant. This was more than entering a contest. This was sending their youngest child across the country, to a city where she doesn’t know a soul, to pursue a dream of doing something she’s never done before. In retrospect, I still can’t believe they went for it, but they did. They supported me because they knew I had to try.
And try I did. I got an agent and I started going on auditions… and I auditioned and auditioned and I auditioned. I didn’t book anything. It was my first taste of failure and it was terrifying, but I kept going because I believed in myself and my family believed in me and wouldn’t let me give up. Eventually, I got small parts here and there. I took some time off to go to theater school in New York. But, I auditioned for nearly 10 years before I finally got a big role. I could have thrown in the towel at any point, but I persevered. And I think those 10 years of scrapping were character building and are a huge part of who I am today.
I have since directed two films, because (again) why not? My second film was shot all around Downeast Maine, on the same rocks where I played make-believe as a child. Now I am currently shooting season six of the FXX comedy, THE LEAGUE.
So THAT is how I got here. The road was certainly hard and continues to challenge me every day. I look at it as the work part of what I do for a living, because the jobs, for the most part, feel like play. I know I have truly earned it and it is what I love. I am so proud of my journey. And I am insanely proud of my family for the love and support they gave me every step of the way. Without that, the work feels impossible.
So, if I could offer one piece of advice to anyone reading, it is this: If you have a dream, go for it. You will never regret trying. You will always regret not trying. If you love a dreamer, support them. You will never regret that either.
I can’t wait to see where you all go and how the heck you got there!