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PROFILE 2010: Amanda Howerton

She was in elementary school the first time she took the stage. At the time, she was most worried about trying to remember the lines for her small part. What she did not and could not have known at the time was that her experience there would foster a dream that would later become a vocation that led her all the way across the country and in the hotbed for aspiring entertainers.

“The first play I did was when I was 10 and it was Alice in Wonderland,” Amanda Howerton says of her first part in front of a Canebrake Theater crowd. “I only had like two lines, but it was a really great play to be in.”

She admits that she more or less floundered through school. It was not altogether interesting to her. But playing a role, getting into a character’s head, that felt natural.

“It was the one thing that felt right when I did it,” she explains. “When I got in eighth or ninth grade, it really started to hit me that it was what I wanted to do.”

But realizing that acting was a legitimate career goal for her was only the first part of the battle. She knew that achieving the dream would require more learning on her part. But that education would not come if she continued her academic floundering.

“You’ve got to try hard and you’ve got to really work at it if you want to make it,” she says, recalling the words of encouragement given her by Demopolis High School counselor Debbie Nichols. “I was really grateful to her for that.”

After graduating from DHS in 2008, she was faced with a choice between two of the most prominent film acting programs in the country in UCLA and Florida. After some deliberation Amanda — who was born in Los Angeles — realized her best opportunity for making connections would be at UCLA. So she opted to head west.

But the UCLA portion of the dream was still two years away at the time. She enrolled at Santa Monica Community College in the interim, a school where she will remain until the fall when she transfers to UCLA.

However, while her educational goals took a slight detour, her career goals did not. While studying at SMCC, Amanda has taken several opportunities to get her name out, accepting a handful of bit parts in well-known television shows.

“the first thing I did was Chuck. Then I did CSI: New York and CSI: Miami,” she explains. “I’ve done Eastwick and Melrose Place a couple times. My favorite that I’ve done is House.”

Her acting resume still is not padded with a lot of speaking parts, but she has been able to get her face on screen, whether in the background or through inaudible interactions with leading men and women.

“Everything I’ve done is really a background role. Last time I did Melrose Place, they said ‘You’re going to be standing here to talk to Heather.’ I was like, OK,” she says. “Then Heather Locklear walked up. She was really nice and down to earth.”

Her bit part experience has also afforded her the opportunity to work with established stars such as CSI: Miami’s David Caruso.

“I’ve been crossing my fingers that I can get on some show and it will have Johnny Depp as a guest star,” she jokes.

While she has been working to further her opportunities, Amanda has not sacrificed the things that she holds dear. Despite being vocal about her faith in a Hollywood subculture that frowns upon such, she has continued to find chances and parts. Her faith led her to turn down a part on the hit show Dexter, a role that mandated she appear nude.

“I totally believe in Jesus and salvation and that there is a life after this,” she says. “It is just very important to me to have integrity and morals in the roles I choose. If I change that, I think my acting career would take a totally different turn. (God is) the whole reason I’m out there. I wouldn’t have an acting career without Him. There’s people who challenge that out there. But it doesn’t have any effect.”

For Amanda, her vocational success is tied closely with her spiritual focus.

“I’m a Christian. I’m really close to God and I feel like He’s told me that’s my destiny,” she explains of her belief that she will find success in Hollywood. “I don’t know how long it will take. I’ve heard of people who have been out there a long, long time. I’m scared that I may start second-guessing myself and I don’t want to start doing that.”

Still, focusing on her education and her career have only been small parts of her task. In moving from Demopolis, Ala. to Los Angeles, Calif., Amanda has had to adjust to considerable cultural differences.

“I’m still trying to get on my feet and learn everything I’m supposed to do,” she says. “It gets a little overwhelming. People are still nice out there, but they’re not as courteous. People aren’t accustomed to ‘yes ma’am’ and ‘no ma’am.’ Some people think of it as condescending. The whole Southern hospitality thing catches people off guard. I like being from (Demopolis). I like having morals and manners. I like that I like sweet tea. I embrace it.”

For Amanda, preserving that part of herself is just important as growing other aspects of her personality. That dichotomy is evident in her vocal work.

“There’s times when I get twangy on certain words,” she explains. “I don’t necessarily want to lose it because it’s a part of me.”

Her cross-continental struggles have also involved trying to maintain close relationships with her friends and family and her fiance back home in Alabama.

“It feels like every day is a lot longer because we’re apart. But we both have the same faith and values. If we can make it through this distance, then we can make it through anything,” she says of her engagement before turning her attention to her family. “They’ve always been just super supportive. They’ve totally backed me up with (my career goals), which I appreciate so much.”

In Amanda Howerton’s view, success in Hollywood will require the same priorities as success in Demopolis. Faith. Family. Friends.