From Modesto to Hollywood – Lindsay Pearce
By Alex Cantatore
WAY BACK IN 2010, almost on a whim, Modestoan Lindsay Pearce decided to enter a talent show — the first ever Valley’s Got Talent.
Now, Pearce is an up-and-coming Hollywood actress on the verge of breaking out. She’s been on “Glee,” in films with Kevin Hart, and just landed a role in the new ABC Family drama “Recovery Road.”
And it’s all because she won that little, local, talent show.
“I was talking to my mom about this the other day,” Pearce said, “and I never thought that getting into that little talent show would change my life.”
At first, entering Valley’s Got Talent was an excuse to perform on stage at the then-new Gallo Center for the Arts. As a theater kid who dreamed of majoring in musical theater, it was an experience she couldn’t pass up.
And who knew? Maybe she’d get spotted, and earn that dream role in New York City.
“I was hoping for the big time stage,” Pearce said. “I was hoping for Broadway or something. And it kinda all changed. It took a hard right, and I went with it.”
In the grand finals of that Valley’s Got Talent show, Pearce took the stage and belted out “Gimme Gimme,” from the musical “Thoroughly Modern Millie.” From the moment her lips parted, there was no doubt about it — Pearce was going to win.
She took home $1,000 for her performance, but more importantly she won the attention of one of the judges: Robert Ulrich, the casting director for TV shows like “Glee.”
Ulrich was casting for a new show, “The Glee Project,” a reality TV show on Oxygen that served as an extended audition for a recurring role on “Glee.” And Pearce was the perfect contestant.
In a whirlwind, Pearce moved to Los Angeles and turned her sights from the stage to the small screen. She was an early favorite to win the reality show, but she ended up falling just short. As runner-up, Pearce earned a two-episode arc on “Glee.”
“It was amazing, and also devastating,” Pearce said.
“The Glee Project” experience was life changing, Pearce says. It made her better as a performer and a person.
But it also gave Pearce her first glimpse into the bad side of celebrity. She was made out to be a bit of a villain on the show, and in the social media age she quickly became a target for cyberbullies.
“I’ve never experienced people going out of their way to be hurtful before. Not since elementary school,” Pearce said.
It took time to learn how to deal with people constantly wishing her dead. And it wasn’t much easier to understand the complete strangers who would rush to her support, acting as if they were old friends.
“Some people feel that they know you because they saw you on TV,” Pearce said. “It’s not your life, it’s mine.”
Pearce ducked out of the limelight a bit after “Glee.” She played a small role in Kevin Hart comedy “The Wedding Ringer,” a major Sony-backed film. She talks about how it’s “impossible” to have a serious conversation with Hart or Josh Gadd, and how Kailey Cuoco is “the kindest person.”
“It was fun to be in a movie with a bunch of big names,” Pearce said.
One of the highlights was attending the big Hollywood premiere, Pearce says. Pearce took her little brother as her guest; her family is astoundingly successful, with one brother a professional soccer player in Europe, another a winemaker, and another a professional musician.
And Pearce found a home in LA’s often-underrated theater scene.
“Stage is my first love,” Pearce said. “I will never not be doing theater, that’s just not an option for me.”
As we talk, it’s opening night for her latest production — “American Idiot,” a musical featuring the songs from the eponymous Green Day album. “It’s about a bunch of 20-somethings trying to get into the city and away from small-town life,” Pearce summarizes.
Pearce plays a character named Whatsername, a main character who falls in love, but has her relationship broken apart by her boyfriend’s addiction to heroin.
But Pearce’s new, big role is still largely under wraps. Starting in early 2016, audiences will be able to watch Pearce on weekly TV, playing a recurring role in ABC Family’s new drama “Recovery Road.”
The show’s main character is a teenager caught with a water bottle full of vodka and sentenced to 90 days in a sober living facility. It’s there that she meets Pearce’s character, an old friend dealing with addiction herself.
“They’re definitely not friends anymore,” Pearce laughs.
She describe her character as bitter with a good heart, someone who has faced a lot of challenges and is trying to pick the pieces back up. The show deals with addictions in a real, honest way, she says.
Despite success, Pearce hasn’t forgotten where she came from. She talks about the support she still receives from the area, and the friends she’s maintained.
“It’s nice to know that Modesto is always there,” Pearce said.
Pearce came back to town recently to perform in the Modesto Junior College Winter Concert. She got to dress up as Elsa, from Disney’s “Frozen,” sing a few songs, and be mobbed by hordes of Frozen-obsessed little girls.
“I thought, ‘This must be what The Rolling Stones feel like,’” Pearce said with a laugh. “The fact that that’s the highlight of my life might be a little sad.”
Life in LA is busy for Pearce, now. Between “American Idiot” rehearsals and late-night “Recovery Road” shoots, she’s sometimes filming until 4 a.m. Sometimes, she admits she has no idea what day it is.
“It’s all worth it,” Pearce said. “I don’t think I’ve frowned once in the last four weeks.”
The secret to Pearce’s recent success? It’s all about a positive state of mind, she says. It’s about putting the unhealthy ego aside, and learning that you have to put in hard work and passion to achieve anything.
Life won’t hand you things that you can’t handle, Pearce says. But now, she’s ready for it all — and loving it.
“I’m doing absolutely everything I want to do right now,” Pearce said.
“It’s hard living in LA and trying to make it as an actor and be true to yourself. There have been some bumps, but I’ve finally gotten to the place where it’s all good.
Photos by Marilyn Days Photography/ www.marilyndays.com