How actress and USC alumna Briga Heelan found her ‘light’

Ms. Heelan was nominated by fellow Trojan and former classmate Anna Koroliak. When asked about why she nominated Briga Heelan to be a part of, Ms. Koroliak wrote:

“I turned down Cornell and Georgetown and Tufts to go to USC and work towards my life-long goal of pursuing acting. But I didn’t really believe it was possible for someone like me. Not really. No one I knew in Missouri could imagine success. Even among many USC classmates, even among USC cinema students, many didn’t believe it was possible. And because of all those naysayers, I made many choices to hesitate and felt a lot of self-doubt for a long time. But Briga Heelan was in my USC acting classes — and seeing her success now makes me proud and thrilled. She was already brilliant and exceptional even in college. I would have loved to see that success is possible as an actor, and that Trojans like Briga Heelan are doing it and excelling at it.”

‘Great News’ star Briga Heelan finds her ‘light’ in comedy

Tina Fey and Briga Heelan
Tina Fey and Briga Heelan on “Great News.” (NBC/Colleen Hayes)

NBC sitcom star learned to express herself through acting.

When actress Briga Heelan was growing up, she was too shy to express herself.

The star of NBC’s “Great News” said she thinks acting helped her overcome that reticence. “I’ve always had a hard time just being angry or just being really sad — the bigger emotions,” she said.

“I’ve had a harder time expressing them in real life until my adulthood, surely — so I think the thing that attracted me [to acting] as a kid was that not only was I allowed to do that, it was necessary,” said Heelan, who appeared in the sitcoms “Ground Floor,” “Cougar Town” and “Undateable.”

She grew up in Andover, Mass., where her mother was an actress and her father a writer. She said she didn’t consider becoming an actress, she just assumed it.

“It was never ‘I like doing this.’ It felt like I needed to do it. Watching my mom in musicals and singing with her in musicals, and reading my dad’s stuff, and I’d go watch stuff that my dad directed. It was all kind of in the mix from when I was born.”

Although she transferred in her junior year to a performing arts high school, it still wasn’t easy for her to make the transition to professional acting after college.

“I was in New York and was pursuing musical theater, and it didn’t feel right. I felt I was forcing myself to do things and be things that I wasn’t, all the time. I wasn’t listening to what I wanted to do. I was listening to what I thought I should do. So the switch was about putting that stuff down and stop trying to reach for identity and just ask myself, ‘What do you really want? What feels good to you when you’re doing it? And what feels bad to you when you’re doing it? And go where the light is.’ ”

Excerpted from “‘Great News’ star Briga Heelan finds her ‘light’ in comedy” by Luaine Lee.

> Read the original story on Star Tribune.