Hamilton Major: English Literature and Theatre
College Productions: I was in Love's Labour's Lost directed by Carole Bellini-Sharp [professor of theatre] and Miss Julie, which was Grayson McCouch's ['91] senior project. Also I did a production of Godspell, and my senior project, David Mamet's The Woods with fellow theatre major Howard Bender ['93].
Hamilton Mentor: I give a lot of credit to Carole Bellini-Sharp for my decision to become a professional actress. I was not particularly focused on acting my first year at Hamilton, and she really showed me the way. She just had this sense that I should pursue acting. She encouraged me to apply to the British American Drama Academy, where I studied for a semester during my junior year and then received a scholarship to their summer program, where I met the dean of the Yale School of Drama [where she earned her M.F.A.]. I was so lucky to have someone like Carole to shepherd me. Yale was an amazing acting education and gave me a great sense of community.
First Job After Hamilton: Of course I was a waiter in New York City.
The first real job — where I got paid enough to stop waiting tables — was in a national commercial for Clairol with the hilarious and lovely Dr. Ruth Westheimer. I also did a lot of regional theatre: the Philadelphia Theatre Company, Berkshire Theatre Festival, Huntington Theatre Company [in Boston] and the Roundabout and Second Stage in New York. I also had a cool experience early in my career in New York. When I was in between jobs I worked for Sam Mendes [director of American Beauty] as a reader. He was casting Cabaret, and for several months I would come in and read the scenes with all the actors who auditioned. Every now and then after an actor had left the room, he'd turn and ask me, "So, what did you think?" It was great to experience the process from that perspective and to get to act every day.
Other Roles: I was cast in the play Collected Stories, which was performed at The Old Globe in San Diego. It was my first trip to the West Coast, and my agents came down from the LA office to see me. That led to some work on pilots and television roles. I've also done radio plays for NPR.
Big Break: I can't say I've ever had what you'd call a "big break" — only a few almost big breaks. I did a few pilots that didn't get picked up. I was in The Devil Wears Prada, which was a really great experience, but the director called me before it premiered to let me know that they had to cut a certain amount of time and my part was the last to go. That happens all the time.
Favorite Role: I recently played Rosalind in As You Like It at Shakespeare & Company in Lenox [Mass.]. It's a beautiful play and a role you dream about.
Favorite Medium: Definitely theatre. It's different every night and the audience is right there. But half-hour comedies are really like short plays. You shoot in front of a live audience. The writers and producers are changing the script in between takes based on audience reaction, so you have to be on your toes. There's a lot of energy in the room since it's being re-written, filmed, acted and enjoyed all at the same time.
Best-Known Role: I don't really think I have one. I've done a bunch of TV, including a show on the Sci-Fi Channel. My sister Connie ['88] found a funny fan Web site. Every now and then someone on the street will say, "Didn't I see you on such-and-such show?" For a while I seemed to be getting frequently cast as the villain [on CSI Miami and Without a Trace]. I think it's the red hair. If this weren't G-rated I would describe the totally gross way I killed the guy on CSI Miami — that was the first and last time my 90-year-old grandfather tuned in to see me on TV!
Most Recent Role: I recently finished shooting a TV movie for Lifetime called What If God Were the Sun? I play Gena Rowlands' daughter. Needless to say, I have always admired her and could not have been more thrilled to watch her work, work with her and get to know her. She was generous in every way, on camera and off, and even tirelessly indulged our interests in the films she made with her late husband John Cassavetes.
Biggest Challenge: It can feel like there's a lot of rejection, which is hard to take day after day. When I started acting, someone told me to expect to do 100 auditions for each job. In this business the highs are high, and the lows are low; the key is to find a balance and patience.
Actor You Most Admire: There are so many. When doing The Devil Wears Prada, I was at a couple of table reads with Meryl Streep. She was working — finding the role — and did it with the touch of a feather. She's got this light from inside that effortlessly drew everyone in. It was magnetic.
Hobbies: I love to travel, take pictures, ski and play tennis with my husband.
Next Project: Hopefully that "big break!" A script [for an independent film] recently came across my radar that I might be interested in producing.