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Conversations with Kristi McKamie

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kristi McKamie.

Hi Kristi, it’s an honor to have you on the platform. Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us – to start maybe you can share some of your backstory with our readers?
I didn’t catch the acting bug until much later in life. I had always planned on becoming an art teacher, as I was inspired by my own high school art teacher and had loved painting and drawing since I was a child. I was even accepted at East Carolina University in North Carolina to study art and had already picked out my dorm when I went on a spontaneous trip to Wilmington, NC to visit some friends. When arriving in Wilmington, I noticed there were lots of huge trucks and trailers around this particular area and my friend told me it was because they were filming the TV show Dawson’s Creek. I was floored! I told my friend that I wanted (or NEEDED) to be an extra!! So he pointed me in the direction of the local casting office, and off I went. The next night I was on set for an all-night shoot and I was so excited. I remember the moment I saw the lead actors of the show performing a scene and I just KNEW, in that moment, that THAT was what I wanted to do. I had never acted before. I had no idea how…or no inkling of an idea that I might even be talented at acting…but my gut told me to go for it. So, I changed course completely. I applied for admission to the University of North Carolina at Wilmington (where they filmed lots of TV and movies) two weeks before the deadline and I GOT IN! So, I moved to Wilmington and immediately declared myself as a Theatre major. And I took my first acting class and I quite literally blossomed like a flower.

Over the years in college, I acted in University productions, community theatre plays, voiceovers, indie films and local commercials. Shortly after graduating, I made the move to Los Angeles and began chasing this crazy, wild dream. And despite a few bumps along the way, I still feel just as starry-eyed as I did on that overnight shoot as an extra on Dawson’s Creek.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
Oh, there have been so many bumps along the way! So many! But I believe with my whole heart that everyone’s journey is different and each struggle and hurdle we survive beautifies us and forges us in fire. It all makes our acting that much more colorful and deep when we go through these challenges. And our pain then becomes a tool and useful to us. And our life experiences all add up to a diverse selection of delicious and precious moments we can use to relate to the characters written on the page.

Personally, when I moved to Los Angeles the first time, I had only about $500 to my name. I slept on my friend’s couch for a few months until I found a waitressing job and was able to save up some money to get my own apartment. I didn’t have a car when I moved to LA, so I had to either walk to all of my destinations, auditions and to work….or I had to take the bus, which is highly unreliable. I have memories of waiting for the bus to take me to work and it NEVER arriving. So I would have to call an expensive cab (this was life before LYFT and Uber) or else be late again for my job. I remember begging my boss to get off early for an audition and having to literally run down Santa Monica Blvd to get to the audition on time, as I arrived sweaty, my makeup running and hair matted to my head. Not a great look. Needless to say, I didn’t book that job.

Eventually, I got a car! But when you live in Hollywood with no designated parking space, you’re almost guaranteed to get a steady stream of parking tickets, which I did…an embarrassingly hefty amount. And the starving artist that I was, I didn’t have the money to pay them. And when you have to choose between paying your parking tickets or buying groceries and paying an ASTRONOMICAL amount in rent…the latter always won that battle. And eventually, it caught up with me and one day, I went home on my lunch break from work and when I walked outside to head back to work, I saw my car being lifted onto a city tow truck…never to be seen again. Life really sucks sometimes.

And all of these unfortunate moments and low income led me to take a break from Los Angeles for a while to regroup and try again later. Five years to be exact. While I was away, I lived in Kansas City for five years where I eventually got married and longed to be back in Los Angeles the entire time. Until my husband taught himself Visual Effects and ended up landing a job at a VFX house in LA. And we were finally able to move back! That was five years ago and we’re still here. Except this time around, I’m doing better than ever. Life is much different now. We are stable, secure and happy and we don’t worry where our next meal is coming from or if rent is going to get paid this month. And this leads me to believe…TIMING IS EVERYTHING.

Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
On Memorial Day weekend, you can catch me as the lead actress in the feature “Secrets on Sorority Row” premiering on Lifetime. Currently, I am on location in Arkansas acting in another feature film called “Hazardous Duty” based on a popular mystery series written by Christy Barritt. After this feature is wrapped, I’ll be heading directly back to LA to film a short named “Melons” starring opposite the always hilarious Brian Huskey. You may have also seen me in national ads for V-Tech Leapfrog Children’s Toys, Vizio Televisions, Blue Buffalo Dog Food and Merrill Lynch to name a few.

I absolutely love acting because it is the most challenging, invigorating, thrilling and humbling experiences I have ever had in life. Acting reminds me of what it felt like to be a child again when you would play pretend almost everyday with your friends or even by yourself. I would make up stories and act them out with my dolls or friends. As children, our imagination is fully engaged all the time. And it’s the same as an actor. It really is so fun. To me, it is also a way to heal from my own traumatic past experiences. Eerily, sometimes you’ll read a script for an audition and the experiences written on the page mirror your own life in such an uncanny way. It will bring up so many memories, but in using these memories to inform the character, I regain power back over the painful memory and some sort of healing happens. For me, it feels like a very unique therapeutic experience.

Pain can break us. Or we can bend with it and become resilient. This resiliency has really helped me to tap into my past experiences and help me empathize with a certain character on the page. Acting really is just a study of humanity. We all have so much more in common than we could ever imagine. Fear and love drive us…shifting gears between the two from moment to moment every single second of our lives. And to me, acting is studying how and what motivates someone to say or do a certain thing in all of those little moments.

I experienced a devastating loss at a very young age when my younger brother passed away in a tragic accident when I was 12 years old. He was 11. I believe that experiences this world-shattering transform us in such a major way that it changes the way we live and think about life and humanity. And for me, it broke my heart open and it stayed open. Open to fall in love, open to feel deeply and open to be broken so easily all over again. And while sometimes this feels like a character flaw, I have grown to understand that this extreme vulnerability is actually my superpower and what makes me a good actor.

I’m most proud that as hard as life can be sometimes, I never let it harden me. I learned very early on that I would rather bend and not break.

We’d love to hear about any fond memories you have from when you were growing up?
I had twelve years with my younger brother, but when I think back on all of the memories we had as children, I remember just how thoughtful and kind he was to me. As a child, I loved to read and we would always have book fairs at school. Our parents would each give us a small amount of money to buy books from the book fair and one of the memories that makes me smile the most is he when he would always use his money to buy a book or two for me. He knew how much reading made me happy and it really warms my heart to think of him picking out a book for me.

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Image Credits

James Depietro Photography

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