“The waiting room before an audition will always be filled with women prettier than you, thinner than you and younger than you,” 1992 Drake alumna Bridget Flanery said.
Flanery has been in the acting business since her 1994 debut role on “Sweet Valley High.” But it’s never been easy.
“I still get nervous before auditions,” Flanery said. “You have to hope that the work you did on the material is enough for them to choose you. But so many times it’s completely out of your hands.”
To get to where she is now, Flanery saw her fair share of ups and downs and played many not-so-loved roles. But she only did what she had to.
“You’re really only as great as the last thing you did,” she said. “Until you become established, in order to receive notoriety, you have to work really hard and push yourself.”
Two years after graduating from Drake, Flanery landed the role of Lila Fowler in “Sweet Valley,” but according to Flanery, nothing more than high school itself could have prepared her for the cliquish drama in the high school-imitating show, making her education at Drake seem almost inapplicable.
The same goes for her succeeding roles in “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch,” “Boy Meets World” and “Teen Angel ”— the “teeny-bopper” shows, as Flanery calls them.
She was unsatisfied in these roles. She wanted to put the acting skills she had acquired after years of work to use.
“I was so unfulfilled playing those roles,” she said. “Unfortunately, I had such a Midwest apple pie face that I wasn’t able to get the more serious roles until I was older.”
There were a few roles in the ’90s that she did enjoy, however. In her role in a 1994 episode of “Babylon 5,” she was able to show a greater array of skill. In her role in a few “Will & Grace ” episodes in 1998, she was able to guest star alongside Alec Baldwin, one of her favorite actors.
At 27, she left behind her roles as a glamorous teenager to pursue something more. Flanery said it was not hard at all to leave it behind.
In fact, the day that she packed her bags for grad school at Yale University Drama School, where famous actresses such as Meryl Streep have graduated, she got a call offering her a role on a new Lifetime series. She didn’t even have to think twice — she turned it down.
“I was so ready to move onto something more challenging,” Flanery said. “By that point, my soul was so hungry for good material and fulfilling opportunities.”
At Yale she could show greater agility in her repertoire — more emotion. Besides, the theatre is always where she has felt most at ease, more satisfied with her work as an actress.
“With any theatrical experience, there’s absolutely nothing like it,” she said. “I prefer doing theatre for my soul, and I prefer doing television and film for my wallet.”
Some of her favorite theatrical productions are anything Shakespeare as well as “A Streetcar Named Desire,” in which she starred as southern belle Blanche DuBois.
But when she left Yale, she found herself in an entirely new market: reality TV.
“When I got out of grad school, something happened to the business that was called ‘reality TV,’” Flanery said. “By the time I finished the three-year program at Yale and moved to New York, reality TV had really taken over the networks and eliminated a lot of opportunities.”
Though it was rough to get used to, Flanery found herself in some of the more fulfilling roles that she had hoped for, such as her role in a 2002 episode of “Without a Trace.”
“I had a great role on ‘Without a Trace.’ I got to show a lot of range and emotion,” she said.
Flanery also guest starred in episodes on “Two and a Half Men” and “Desperate Housewives.” And when she wasn’t acting, she was writing.
“When things in the business are slow, to stay creatively stimulated, I write,” Flanery said. “It’s in your blood. You just have to constantly be working and keeping it alive and active.”
Her film, “Gossamer Folds,” about a boy who forms looked-down-upon friendships upon moving to Kansas City, recently was selected in the George Lindsey UNA Film Festival, and it was also a semi-finalist in the Nantucket Film Festival.
In her decorated acting career, her four years at Drake might seem like a blip on the radar. But it wasn’t until later in her career that Flanery realized the impact that her education at Drake had on her.
“Those years were a very formative time of my life,” said Flanery, “not only as an actress, but as a young woman, as a naïve little farm girl from small-town Iowa.”
With the invention of Facebook, she still manages to keep in touch with many of her friends from the drama school at Drake.
“The camaraderie is still there,” she said. “I get messages from people from Drake almost every day. (Drake) definitely made a big impact on my life.”
And sometimes, she’ll find herself thinking of her friends from Drake as she watches TV shows or movies. She’ll think to herself, “Such-and-such would’ve been great in that role.”
“Some of the actors I’ve met at Drake are some of the finest actors I’ve met,” said Flanery. “There was some really great work being done.”