Student Spotlight – Sundra Oakley

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.Sundra Oakley

“Imagine living in a cave all your life, then someone walks you out of the cave and you realize there’s sunlight, wide open space, and options galore around you…that’s how I feel about coming to The Acting Center!.”

-Sundra Oakley, Actress, TNT’s Legends

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From Sex and the City, Lost, Parenthood and Touch, to House of Lies and Suburgatory, actress Sundra Oakley’s TV credits read like a list of your favorite shows. With her most recent guest-starring role on TNT’s Legends, Sundra is continuing on her path of success.

We talked with Sundra about confidence and how important it is for an actress. She told us that The Acting Center has really changed her confidence level and allowed her to be more certain in auditions, so much so that she looks forward to them now.

“The Acting Center has done everything for me in terms of confidence! I’ve learned to trust myself, believe in myself, and my choices. Prior to beginning my studies at The Acting Center, I gave away so much of my power in my auditions by wasting precious time and energy wondering if I was doing what they want, if they liked me, if I was good enough… all that stuff that has no business being in your head. Before The Acting Center, I’d get my sides and my stomach would do a mini flip as those fears immediately seeped into my brain. Now? I get my audition material and my attitude is, ‘Bring it! Let’s do this, kid!’ I look forward to playing. I’ve said it many times–because of what I learned at The Acting Center, I finally tapped into the heart of why I first loved acting. I knew the love was there but after years of that love being polluted by bad advice, excessively unnecessary criticism, and the like, I just didn’t know how to access it. Now I do.”

She told us more about the audition process and how The Acting Center technique has become invaluable in her auditions, as well as on set after she books the job.

“Being taught to just be the character has got to be the one thing that has revolutionized my audition and on-set life. Hands down! Those three words alone have given me a sense of joy, play, and control of my work that makes auditioning fun! And when I’m on set, I haven’t had to worry whether or not I can deliver what the scene calls for. Once I’m truly being that character and not relying on tricks or tools that essentially have me disengaged from my scene partner, and the ‘here and now,’ I’m honestly tuned in each and every time. That freeing feeling is priceless.”

Sundra is an experienced industry veteran, so we were curious what made her training at The Acting Center such a different experience and why she felt that it rejuvenated her and her love of her craft.

“I always felt like a complete novice, and not in a healthy way. What stood out to me at The Acting Center, is the balance of empowerment and support that is given to the actor, along with guidance. At other acting schools, I’d see the students’ inner flame (including my own) extinguish to a mere oxygen-deprived flicker under the heavy and constant gust of criticism (by teachers and fellow students). This led to extreme insecurities and to doing work that would become ‘safe,’ just to be accepted and given approval. At most other schools, they seem to pride themselves on proclaiming that they are not there to hold your hand and give you a pat on the back, that this business is hard and we better toughen up now. I used to think, “But if we’re not given an arena to just learn, that attitude is cutting us off at the knees before we even have learned to walk!” Now imagine having been born and living in a cave all your life, then someone walks you out of the cave and you realize there’s sunlight, wide open space, and options galore around you—that’s how I feel about coming to The Acting Center! They give you your acting life so you can then go on to build your acting career confidently, without that constant nagging feeling that your every choice is going to be ridiculed to the ground. You are emboldened to throw all the paint on the wall and create and, if your own internal gauge tells you to, even ‘recreate’ your own masterpiece.”

With everything Sundra has had to say about how the technique has improved her acting and confidence, we asked about her overall career in Hollywood and if that has changed.

“Absolutely my career has changed! If nothing else because I finally feel that I regained my personal power that I (unknowingly) gave away at the beginning of my career. Honestly, I don’t think I ever realized I actually had that power. And by power I mean a sense of confidence in my work. The confidence factor is a huge game changer for me. Before I think I held on to this belief that I was just the lowly actor hoping and praying they’d like me, whereas now, I walk into the room with an attitude that I am a collaborator who has a unique gift to provide. And I can have that attitude with humility, gratitude, and grace.”

“I am truly grateful for being able to be a student of The Acting Center. Once I saw a quote that said something along the lines of, “Imagine what you could do if you knew you couldn’t fail.” With that feeling, the world is your oyster, and The Acting Center not only embodies that, it graciously gives that energy to its students.”

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