How did you start this journey to improv and acting?
I was in college studying biology at Georgia State University, and I was a terrible biology student. I changed my major to psychology, which is an easier science, but by 19 I was bored with science and needed an outlet. A friend of mine told me he’d seen this thing called improv at Whole World and that I’d like it. We went to see a show and I immediately signed up for improv classes. I took like two levels of classes at Whole World while I was working at Dave and Buster’s as a cocktail waitress. There was a man there named Tommy Futch, and his improv company Laughing Matters was doing murder mysteries at Dave and Buster’s. Tommy, being the person who he was, flirted with me because I was the youngest waitress he could find.
We started talking and I said that I was taking improv classes. He said that he was having auditions soon for his improv company and that I should come. I didn’t know shit. I’d only taken like two improv classes and I had no right to audition for an improv troupe. I showed up to the audition and there were over 70 people auditioning, and two of us got in. It was me and another woman who is still an actress in town, Katie Kneeland. And that is how I started. Tommy didn’t put me on stage for a while because he knew I needed some “cooking.” I would go to workshops and Tommy would hand out checks to people who got paid to do shows. And I thought “One day that will be me getting paid.”
The first improv show I did with Laughing Matters I didn’t say a word the whole show! My parents came to see me and I didn’t say anything! I was terrified.
How did you go from Laughing Matters to Dad’s Garage?
Through Laughing Matters I met Keith Hooker and Leslie Sharp. They were doing a show called Free Parking at Dad’s Garage. They asked me to help them write, and that’s how I ended up at Dad’s Garage.
After that show finished, SCANDAL (a weekly improv soap opera at Dad’s Garage) started, and I came every week to see that show. I tried to get into the cast without taking classes. I told them “Look guys, I know what I’m doing. I’ve been improvising for six months.” I thought I was hot shit, but they made me take classes.
Back then there were only two levels, and Chris Blair was my teacher for both levels. I hung around Dad’s Garage forever. I bartended, I cleaned toilets, and I was just around all the time until they put me on stage. It took five years to become an ensemble member. I learned a lot about acting and performance because so many people from Dad’s came from drama school.
During that five years, I finished school, waitressed, and then finally got a job using my degree with the State of Georgia. It was an outdoor thereapeutic program for troubled teens. They would get sent there by a judge, so these were pretty bad kids. They had to live outdoors at this camp. I would go to work for them for four days, living outside with them, and then come back home for four days. It was awesome. I worked there for about three years.
We went caving, backpacking, and canoeing. I learned so much working with those kids. I would use group building exercises from improv with the kids. One year I put on a Christmas pageant with my group. I worked with the oldest group of girls, and I wasn’t much older than them at the time. I think humor and improv totally helped me.
After three years there I decided I wanted to do this improv thing. So I quit my job, even though I had no prospects whatsoever. I had no business quitting my job. I moved back in with my sister. I decided to become a full-time improviser, and I had no way at all to make money. Luckily, the Dad’s Garage artistic director created a position called education director… that I was completely unqualified for. I was very lucky to get that job. I revamped the education system and I grew it. I changed it from two levels to four. I restarted high school outreach. I got to work in every part of the theatre, and I absolutely loved it. I did that for six years.
When did you become an ensemble member at Dad’s Garage?
I was an ensemble member right before I got that job. There were no women on the ensemble then. It was another three years before another woman (Megan Leahy) joined. It took a lot for the guys to figure out how to improvise with me. Women just tell stories in a different way than men. I had to learn how to play with the boys for them to respect me. I had to be more rough and tumble. It was like having 13 shitty older brothers who were always picking on you. It’s gotten so much better now and we have so many amazing women on cast.
How did you end up working on Archer?
In 2009 I got a job on Archer. I’d already done voice work for the same guys on a show called Frisky Dingo. I thought I was going to go in, get paid under the table a little bit, and go home. But the first season aired and it was a big deal. Then the second season happened and I thought “Shit, I think this is going to be big.”
Eventually I quit my job as education director not because of Archer, but because of a 1-month job I got working with Second City on a cruise ship. Luckily, Archer became a success, so I was okay without having a job.
Pam Poovey from Archer is the sturdy bisexual director of HR. In the beginning she was the character everyone shat on. Everyone was mean to here. In seasons two and three she blossomed into a real badass. She has become a favorite character for a lot of fans. She is a drift car racer, she’s in an underground fight club, she’s a graffiti artist. There isn’t anything she can’t do. Coming from Dad’s, where I had 13 shitty older brothers, I know how to hang with the dudes like Pam does. When I need strength I often ask myself “What would Pam do?”
What’s next? What advice do you have for other young actors?
As for the future, I’ve done more writing and developing lately. I’d love to have my own show one day. Just like every actor, I audition 2-3 times a week always looking for the next job. I think the most important thing is to always be a student. Never feel like you’ve got it and you never need to take classes. What has served me well in my career is that I’m always willing to learn from others. And don’t be afraid to work for free. Especially in the beginning. Don’t give up if this is something you want to do. Get out there and do it. Keep doing it. That is how you get better.