written and directed by T.C. Christensen
On May 9, 1986, a small ranching community in Wyoming experiences a divine intervention when a couple detonates a bomb inside a crowded classroom. You can look up the film on IMDB and watch it on Amazon Prime.
This film holds a special place in my heart for multiple reasons.
The first story is that I completely bombed this audition, no pun intended. I had a cutting of the script and didn’t know the title of the film or what true story it was based on. I googled everything I could out of the sides that I had, but I never landed on what the true story was. I came into the audition as prepared as I could be and I made all the wrong choices. The audition happened in front of a large panel of people. I later came to know those people as backers of the film and survivors of the real story. I was mortified by how badly I had done in the audition room–badly enough that everyone in the room couldn’t deny it. I think T.C. even said something like, “Well, I know you’re a good actress,” with the subtext of “usually. Yeesh, that was bad.” I made it to my car in the parking lot before I started to cry.
Other actors in the community got invitations to callbacks. I didn’t. I wasn’t surprised. Then I got the casting call. I was offered a role. I was floored. I think about that experience often as a performer and as a theatre director. The audition is important, but it isn’t everything. Sometimes talented performers blow it. Sometimes it still works out.
More meaningful to me than that career lesson were the numerous experiences on set where adult members of the cast were able to speak with the survivors of the Cokeville bombing in small, private, open conversations. The stories I heard I were powerful, poignant, personal and beyond the scope of what the movie could cover. I’ve portrayed lots of historical figures in films, but this was the first time I portrayed someone who was still alive. It was an incredible honor to be trusted with such a representation and a true privilege to hear their experiences and feelings from their own lips and hearts.
To fill in as the extras in the classroom, cast members were invited to bring a child family member to the set. My own kids were too young to be school-aged, so I brought my niece. This is the only feature film I have worked on with a member of my own family. The production even used a photo of her in one of their media materials. I loved sharing this experience with her.