Name: Megan Duquette
Hometown: Moline, Illinois
Current Location: Los Angeles, CA
TrunkSpace: When did you know that you wanted to act for a living?
Duquette: There’s definitely a big difference between when I knew I wanted to act (as soon as I first started being aware of my own thoughts!) and when I knew I wanted to go after acting for a living. I have been doing school plays and community theater since I was a kid. I would also force my friends and/or siblings into putting on productions together in our backyards and then have our parents video tape it. (On a camcorder that would then become a VHS, thank you very much!)
I knew I wanted to act for a living in 2015 when I was doing a musical. It was my first time onstage in 4 years. I had set my dream aside and pursued a corporate career, which was completely draining for me, and being back onstage was when I realized it was something I needed to give my all to.
TrunkSpace: Was there a particular performance or actor/actress from your childhood that you remember being drawn to and inspired by?
Duquette: I wish I could cite some critically-acclaimed and profoundly inspiring piece of cinema, but truthfully, romantic comedies first piqued my love of acting. It was Meg Ryan, Julia Roberts and especially Robin Wright in “The Princess Bride” whom I idolized. “The Princess Bride” is a film that I revere as one of the greatest films ever made, and I can recite it front title to credits. (“Anybody want a peanut?” EPIC!) And, of course, I grew up during the Golden Age of Disney animated films, so I was also inspired by Ariel, Belle, Jasmine, Mulan, Pocahontas and Megara. (Megara is vastly underrated but she had a kick-ass solo, and her name was the closest to mine.) It’s a dream of mine to voice a Disney princess some day!
TrunkSpace: How did you decide to approach your career as an actor? Did you formulate a plan of how you wanted to attack what is known for being a hard industry to crack?
Duquette: As I was starting my career as an actor while ending my career in Human Resources, I did what any good corporate person would do: I made a PowerPoint presentation where I outlined my goals and timelines. I did as much research as I could—online forums and in-person informational interviews with every friend-of-a-friend actor on how they got started, where they took classes, how they got an agent, etc. I based my plan on that information. After six months, I reviewed and revised the plan. After three iterations of the PowerPoint, I have almost entirely abandoned it, and I’m just winging it now! This is definitely a career where you have to constantly reassess your strategy and your goals. I started out thinking that I was going to be a comedic actress and that I wanted to book a lot of commercials. Now I want to do small indie dramas. You grow and change as an actor and as a person through all that you learn and experience in classes, in life, etc. It has been incredibly interesting to see how things have shifted for me over time, and I have no idea where my ambitions and interests will wander next.
TrunkSpace: When did you decide to move away from your home and pursue acting as a career? How old were you at the time?
Duquette: I decided to move away from home when my car did a nice 360-degree spin on a layer of ice and snow in Iowa. I had this epiphany that snow is optional and that I could choose to live somewhere without it. At the time, I was working as an editor at the local news station in my hometown with a shift from 2 a.m. – 8:30 a.m. I realized that I was not in the epicenter of the entertainment industry and that I should relocate to somewhere with more opportunities—and less snow. I was 22 years old when I loaded up my car and drove across the country in the tiny Ford Focus I still drive today (and sincerely hope will continue functioning for a few more years). When I arrived in LA, however, I sort of chickened out of the actual acting pursuit, and was here for a solid three years before I even started auditioning for community theater! But I stayed! That is the most important thing—I never left LA once I got here. I just needed some time before I was ready to start my acting career.
TrunkSpace: Was that move an easy transition for you initially? How long did it take you to feel at home and find a good support group of friends and peers?
Duquette: I am so proud of and impressed by the young actors who move here at 18, 20, 23, etc. and just jump right in. I have seen it many times in classes I have taken, and I am always shocked at how bold and brave that is—to not only be going after such an incredibly scary and volatile career, but also to be taking on such a crazy city all while going through the madness that is your early twenties! Me? I got here and took my sweet time. I mentioned that I did not start auditioning for three years; well, I did not leave my corporate job for five years! I ended up in an entry-level position at a world-leading entertainment company—in HR—and then sort of just kept getting promoted around the company. It was incredible, and I have zero regrets about the time I spent getting to know myself, paying off my student loans, learning the city and getting settled. I met my soon-to-be husband and found a really solid group of friends. I honestly think there is no way I would have been brave enough or prepared enough to take the risk of launching an acting career without having so much stability in my personal life. Your early 20s are tumultuous enough without throwing in an acting career—but I guess those in their early 20s also have more energy than those of us in the next decade—so there are advantages and disadvantages to both!
TrunkSpace: What has been your biggest break in terms of a particular role or project thus far?
Duquette: I was a small spec in the corner for about three seconds in “Kong: Skull Island.” Does that count?! I would have to say my biggest break and one of my early victories was getting to be featured in a scene with Rosie O’Donnell in NBC’s production of “Hairspray Live!” My Midwestern family was so wonderful, and they all watched it and acted like I was so famous for being on TV. It was also really exciting because practically every online publication that recapped the broadcast used a photo of Rosie that included me standing next to her. Sure, no one in the UK knew who that random girl was, but people in the UK saw my picture! I was pretty tickled by that one. Another exciting break was booking an MLB commercial. Granted, I did not make the final edit, but hey—you celebrate the wins you get in this business. (Laughter) I tell people I am in the “Garage Phase” of my acting career—I have been happy to take on roles in student films and in unpaid theater productions. I have loved being in shows at the Hollywood Fringe Festival for the past two years. What I love the most about acting is the connections you make with the other actors, and there is not much more of a rush than doing that onstage in front of a live audience.
TrunkSpace: Is there a specific type of role you’d like to take on or a specific genre that you feel more at home in?
Duquette: I primarily get cast in comedies. I think it’s my face. I just look funny. In my heart, I am this Carey Mulligan-type: a soulful, dramatic indie actress, but the industry does not see that yet. So I definitely have a ways to go. I have done some Meisner training, and it has brought out such a different side of me. I have always been told that I am going to be a character actress and comedy will be my wheelhouse, so it is a pleasure when I get to take on dramatic scenes. I dream of someday doing small indie family dramas. I am really interested in stories about mental health and the complexities of our inner emotional lives, especially as it affects families. I have a degree in anthropology with a focus on socio-cultural anthropology—the study of people and behavior in cultures. That is what my favorite kind of storytelling these days explores: Why do we behave the way we behave? What past pain has carried into today and prevents us from living as a happy, peaceful society at the macro level or even as a couple or family unit on the micro level? And how can we be better?
TrunkSpace: What would you say is the greatest strength an actor/actress can have outside of acting ability itself?
Duquette: The importance of financial savvy cannot be ignored: managing your money well and knowing how to make money outside of acting are huge strengths for an actor. Another area I am working on is my ability to not take it so personally when I face rejection, because my disappointment tends to carry over into my home life—and that is not fair to my partner. It is crucial to have the ability to separate your work life from your personal life. You need to have a happy, full life that does not depend on your acting career, because it will frequently not make you happy. I was literally wallowing in self-pity for a dramatic theater role I did not get when my phone dinged with the request to do this interview profile. Your mood could change on a second-to-second basis if you choose to let your acting career highs and lows dictate your mood. Resist that urge! Also, on a practical note: To my fellow glasses-wearers, please punch out your lenses and wear contacts under the frames. You might be asked to take off your glasses for an entire audition, and if you are blind without them (like me) and they were your real glasses on which you depended for vision (like me,) you may end up doing an audition blind (like me). Needless to say, I bombed.
TrunkSpace: What is your ultimate dream when it comes to your acting career? Where would you like your path to lead?
Duquette: I have a dog. He is amazing. He is this fluffy ball of love and joy that we rescued at the end of last year, and he wakes up every day so full of optimism that today will be a day of nothing but chasing after his tennis ball. My ultimate dream when it comes to my acting career is to work consistently enough that I can support my dog. My goal is to get him a house with a yard, so that there can be epic-ball-throwing and running around to his pure heart’s content. I am also not far from the stage in life where I may have human children, as well. My ultimate dream would be doing what I love and still supporting my family. Oh, and an Oscar would be nice, too.
TrunkSpace: What advice would you give another young aspiring actor/actress who is considering moving away from home to pursue their dream?
Duquette: Oh man. I have 10,000 clichés on the tip of my tongue trying to respond to this, but, the truth is, none of it will resonate or make sense until the person has been through the experience themselves and has the hindsight to understand how good the advice was. That is 100 percent what happened to me. People gave me great advice that I proceeded to ignore, and then months or years later, I realized what they were talking about. I guess the advice I would give them is to breathe. Sometimes I feel like everything around me is racing at 1,000 miles per hour, and then you go weeks without an audition. Breathe and pace yourself and know that you are running a marathon, not a sprint. Also, know that sometimes (frequently, in fact) you will be the only person who believes that you can do this. Keep believing, and keep focused on your goals. Celebrate the small wins, because for a long time, the wins will be small. But progress is progress, even if it is just an inch. And that is something to be proud of.
TrunkSpace: Where can people (and casting directors) learn more about you?
Duquette: My website is www.meganduquette.com. I am on IMDB, Megan Duquette (II) IMDB, as well. If you want to see pictures of the dog for whom I dream of a yard, you can follow me (him, really) on Instagram: I am simply “meganduquette.” I do not really use the Snappy Chatty thing that the kids are on these days, and I think I tweeted twice before promptly forgetting my password. If anyone else knows it, kindly inform me and I will happily add dog photos to Twitter as well.