By Randy Fisher
Nov. 9, 2012 11:07 a.m.
Arriane Alexander at the Los Angeles Area Emmy Awards where she was a presenter.
Some kids dream of being an actor and searching for the spotlight. Not so for Andover native Arriane Alexander.
“Little girls in Kansas don’t grow up dreaming of being actors in LA,” Alexander said in a telephone interview. “It’s not in our world; it’s not in our reality.”
Despite that, Alexander is right where many people would love to be – an actor working in Los Angeles.
“I always say the entertainment business found me; I did not go looking for this,” she said. “I kept saying ‘yes’ and the doors kept opening, and I kept saying ‘yes’ and OK, here I am.”
Her claim to fame thus far is a small role in the season-opening episode of “Grey’s Anatomy” that aired Sept. 27.
“It was just really exciting, because it’s such an honor to be on a national series television show,” she said. “For me it’s a huge honor to watch it with my friends. It was such a great feeling.”
Born Arriane Gump, she spent the first 10 years of her life in Andover. Thirty years later, Arriane’s voice warms when she talks fondly of those early days, as if they were just yesterday.
“When I look back now, it was amazing growing up in Andover. With a neighborhood full of kids, we played outside together all the time,” she said. “We kind of did anything we wanted to. I don’t feel like kids really get to experience that level of freedom now, so I was super grateful I got to experience that in Andover growing up.”
A graduate of Wichita Southeast High School and Kansas State University, Alexander (now her legal last name) went to work for Brighton Collectibles, a fashion accessory company. Her career took her to Chicago, where she dabbled in modeling, and 11 years ago to Los Angeles.
Arriane recounts her life’s journey with a youthful exuberance that belies her 41 years.
In Los Angeles, she took the first of many steps down a new path: earning a master’s degree in spiritual psychology from the University of Santa Monica that changed her life.
“So much of their program is about really finding out what calls to my heart,” Alexander said. “Like what fulfills me from within, instead of what somebody tells me I should be doing and what I should feel.”
She also realized that working at something she did not enjoy was not for her.
“In 2007, I left my career and I literally did not know what I was going to do next,” she said. “I just knew I needed some time off to figure out what was next.”
Her time off included a trip to Cancun, where she unwound by singing karaoke. That gave her the inspiration for the next step: a one-woman show. By the end of the year, Alexander was starring in “Big, Blonde and Beautiful,” which she describes as the “journeys of my life told through song and comedy.”
“That’s literally how I landed in the entertainment business,” she said with a laugh.
From there, Alexander’s career expanded, but her big break was still a few years down the road.
For any given episode, a television show generally will have 10-15 roles to fill, with possibly 2,000 submissions for each role. A casting office will narrow this down to about 15-20 actors for an initial audition for each role, with a handful called back for a second audition.
“From just a sheer numbers standpoint, it’s a miracle anyone ever gets a job in this town,” Arriane said.
With the success of her one-woman show, Alexander didn’t worry much about acting until 2009. She says the industry is about building relationships such that casting people know you and trust you, and know that you can do a good job.
When she auditioned for “Grey’s Anatomy,” it was the culmination of more than two years’ work building a relationship with the casting office. She nailed her auditions and got the part.
Landing a role is a combination of who you know and what you know.
“I can know everyone in town but I still have to be a good actor,” Arriane said. “I still have to know how to audition really well, because auditioning is a whole technique into itself. And I still have to know how to show up on time, know my lines, know exactly what’s going on.”
Where she’s at now
Although she hasn’t landed any other roles, Alexander doesn’t think of herself as the stereotypical “starving” actress.
“My job is to work as an actor every day, no matter what that looks like … I’m working and the pay comes in from different sources. It doesn’t necessarily come in from the job right now, but it will,” she said. “Now I coach actors in the business of acting and I host a TV show called ‘What’s Happening L.A.,’ so I do lots of other things as well that are in alignment with acting.”
A professed Type A personality, Alexander was well suited for the goal-oriented fashion business. Now she is in an industry with no goal and no end, just a journey. Taking that leap of faith was difficult.
“It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever, ever done,” Alexander said. “And I would do it all again, 10 times over, because the rewards for my inner self of who I’ve had to become to be an actor in Los Angeles — and to be in the entertainment business and to be creatively fulfilled — is so amazing.”
Alexander exudes a tremendous passion for her work and the industry.
“I love what I do, I love my work, I love meeting people, I love building relationships, I love helping other actors – that is such a joy for me, to help other people succeed,” she said. “There are no regrets. There’s only, like, I am so excited for what’s next. That’s all there is.”