Emily Bergl ’97 may be Hollywood’s most famous Grinnellian actor of her generation. Perhaps best known as Annie O’Donnell in the television show Men in Trees, Beth Young in Desperate Housewives, and Tammy Bryant in the drama series Southland, she’s also acted in movies and on stage and made guest appearances on many popular TV series.
Last fall she made a guest appearance on campus to perform her one-woman cabaret, Kidding on the Square, and talk to Grinnell students about being a liberal artist in Hollywood. Look for Summer 2011 issue of The Grinnell Magazine and its article on Bergl in your mailbox soon, or download the issue as a .pdf file.
Meanwhile, here are a few of her thoughts on acting, life, and Grinnell to hold you over:
On image and integrity
Sometimes it’s odd for me to spend so much time on how I look. I was very rebellious about that at the beginning, and it probably cost me some jobs. But as you get older, you realize that you have the integrity that you have and that putting on a nice dress doesn’t compromise you.
If I’m evaluating a project, I’m not looking first at how much it pays. But one must get by in the world, and it’s so much easier if you can get paid for your work and you don’t have wolves at the door. If you want to be an actor, have your eyes on the prize of making a living with your work, because you’ll have more opportunities to thrive.
On Grinnell students
Students are more open than when I was here. People say “Oh, the Internet, no one talks to one another anymore.” But you’re all very gracious.
On leaving and returning
I had a very touching moment with Ellen [professor of theater Ellen Mease] when I graduated and left for New York. She said “Emily, I wish you well. I’ve always found New York to be a Dickensian, Juvenalian megalopolis.” I had to look up Juvenalian. The other two I knew.
Coming back here has been like some teenage fantasy. I couldn’t have imagined it any better. I think you’re so wonderful. I wish all audiences were like this. I don’t want to say goodbye.