Turner Network Television - Cast Iron Studios Talent Diversity Initiative


In 2015, I was blessed to be accepted into a program sponsored by Turner Network Television and Cast Iron Studios which offered free acting classes for diverse actors in the Pacific Northwest with high “bookability.” Agencies throughout the PNW nominated actors. Selected actors from this pool were then invited to apply. I applied and was terrified that I would not get in because we were asked not to miss any classes as our sponsors were generously footing the bill, but we were required to note any potential dates that we would be absent. I had a family wedding I felt I could not miss. How could I say “no” to family? I was so looking forward seeing all my relatives again after many, many years. I never got to see them - being three-thousand miles away in Seattle. But similarly, how could I say “no” to TNT and Cast Iron? I didn’t want to handle this incorrectly. My family and my career are important to me, and I risked jeopardizing my relationship with both. Anyone who knows me knows I analyze everything down to a pulp (much to the dismay of others). I remember sitting on the couch in our room at work after everyone had left and gave one of my dear mentors from my previous job a call. Eric picked up the phone. “Eric, should I leave out the wedding on the application, or should I note it? But what if I do this program and have to miss the wedding? What if I do this program and go to the wedding, and I burn a bridge with these amazing benefactors? Opportunities like this just don’t ever happen.” I really felt, somehow, the Universe had given me an amazing opportunity, and I was about to blow it. I could feel, in my bones, that this program was going to affect my career for the better. Eric told me to take a deep breath, and he said: “Baby, the Universe is on your side. It’s already leading you. The Universe brought you to KIRO 7 where you would meet a photographer who you’d open up to about your dreams who gave you FREE headshots to help with those goals,” (this would, of course, be Eric), “It is already written in the stars, baby girl. So go ahead and write your conflict down because it’s the right thing to do, and whatever happens, you are still going to make it. It’s already there. It is written in the stars.” My agent, in similar but not-quite-as-poignant words, encouraged me to do the same. I crossed my fingers. The admissions team accepted my conflict, and even better, accepted me into the program. After three perfect Autumns in Portland, I am now a graduate of this program - having met some of my best friends and teachers during my journey. Since my time in there, I have done commercials and modeling gigs and have even become a member of SAG-AFTRA - something people work many years to achieve. My classmates have done commercials, TV shows, catalogs, etc. During the course, we learned tricks of the trade, played street performing and acting games, rehearsed and ran scenes in audition and on-camera scenarios, laughed at ridiculous stories about actors and crew on-set, met with Norberto Barba (second-to-the-top left photo - Director and Executive Producer of NBC's Grimm who's also directed episodes of Law & Order SVU, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, NCIS: Los Angeles, The Mentalist, Apollo 11, etc.) and heard his inspiring words about the future of the industry and the "magical moments of cinema," etc. Our coaches, Jana Lee Hamblin and Scott Rogers, did an amazing job teaching us and prepping us for our mock auditions with Cast Iron Studios (Twilight, Wild, Leverage, The Librarians, etc.). We received feedback, had a Q&A session, and enjoyed a special guest talk and press reception (I made it on the Portland news!) where Oregon state representatives and the Mayor and First Lady of Portland (middle right photo) were also in attendance. We also got a quick intro. into stunt fighting thanks to Kendall Wells as well as an intro. into accents, dialects, and languages thanks to Mary Mac. I looked forward to driving and carpooling over six hours every Saturday to Portland and back because I knew I'd be breaking down scenes with my scene partners, playing some Columbian Hypnosis and "Who, sir? I, sir?", enjoying lunch chats about fitness (while I'd be devouring my "platter" of beef jerky ;) - Brian, Sharae, Joe, and Eduardo) and laughing, joking, and critiquing our audition and on-screen work in a non-judgmental, non-competitive, and encouraging environment. This experience has been invaluable. I am so grateful for the network of like-minded individuals I met in the Northwest who are passionate about storytelling. Awesome to think our own stories started here. I have grown as an actor and as a human being, and I am forever thankful to have been an original member of TNT-Cast Iron Studios’ Talent Diversity Initiative. The following is a post I had written summarizing my second year in the program. It is full of inside jokes, and that’s how you know there was a lot of love:

Who sir, I sir? No. BECCA!

“Life is made up of meetings and partings.” And “Parts is Parts.” And this part is over, but it will be an experience I will carry in my heart for years to come. Well…“maybe I’ll just hold it.” ;) The Universe brought us together for a reason, and I am eternally grateful.

What a privilege it has been to work alongside these fellow brown and ethnically ambiguous people. Our class was made up of old friends and new friends. We laughed. We cried. We had a good time. We came (that’s what she said). We saw. We conquered. I found my long-lost big sister. I felt butterflies again. I felt alive. And in the year we have been apart, one of us has beaten cancer, some of us have booked roles, a few of us found love, a couple of us moved to be closer to making our dreams come true, and we’ve all found each other again.

Thanks again to Lana and the gang at Cast Iron and Turner Network Television for sponsoring our Intermediate class. And, hopefully, it’s not too early to put in a plug for an Advanced class for next year (or sooner) ;)

There is something special about this group - a camaraderie that words fail to aptly capture. As iron sharpens iron, I am grateful to have Scott, Jana, and my class in my corner to break me down, build me up, rinse and repeat. I am a better storyteller because I know them.

Meisner. Method. Space yachts (coming 2017). One thing’s for sure. I will never put on make-up, take a shower, have a cup of coffee, or feel the Sun the same way again.

This was therapy of the best kind (I had an epic rap battle with myself for crying out loud). We would yearn for Saturdays to carpool down to Portland to bask in the presence of powerful actors. It has been an honor to watch these people grow - blossom, in a way that affects my very soul. What a blessing to find some like-minded misfits and outcasts in the Pacific Northwest.

I am ecstatic whenever I get the opportunity to celebrate my classmates’ victories with acting and modeling gigs because that means that others have seen in them what I have already seen - unbridled greatness. I cannot wait to see what this next year has in store for them.

And to my class: We were chosen to be the next generation of storytellers. In a world that is quickly changing around us, we had the opportunity to bring our diverse perspectives and stories to class, and one day, we will to the big screen. And as with life, when those moments arrive, I hope you “DRIVE IT.”

P.S.: If anyone is interested in adopting Shiite terriers, talk to Christy.