We’ve all been there: juggling your degree, social life and employment in between the hours spent attempting to catch up on that much needed REM. At first it seems like an impossibility, but when you love your vocation as much as your major, it soon becomes second nature.
This is the reality for Madison Thompson who stars as Erin in the upcoming season of Ozark. Now living the dream as she re-enacts the role of Helen Pierce’s teenage daughter in the hit series, juggling life in the library alongside rubbing shoulders with the likes of Jason Bateman has become a breeze. We caught up with the talented actress to find out what it’s like to juggle life on set with life on Turnitin.
From home economics to home theatres
For those battling the same predicament, Thompson has nothing but words of admiration. “I applaud any person who wants to pursue an education and a professional career at the same time,” she tells us. “I have two pieces of advice that have certainly helped me make the juggling more manageable. First, make sure you’re attending an educational program or University that’s supportive of you as a student both inside and outside of the classroom.”
Expressing gratitude to the University of Southern California where she is studying for a joint business degree in Cinematic Arts, the actress praises her college for their support as her journey into stardom takes flight. “I disclosed my intent to continue working with them before I committed to the University because it was important to me that I had a strong support system. In exchange for their cooperation, I always make my academics a top priority and ensure I’m engaging in constant and straightforward communication with all of my professors. You are in charge of your career, which means you have to do the heavy lifting. Get ahead on your assignments, show up for office hours, go above and beyond to participate, and engage in your classes to make up for any absences.”
But above all, Thompson stresses the importance of staying on top of your self-care. “Dedicate evenings to spend time with your friends or have a restful night even if it means saying no sometimes,” she advises. “You owe it to yourself to participate in the experiences of college life. Acting will always be there, making lifelong relationships from college will not.”
Ozark and beyond
Class and extra-curricular activities aside, Thompson makes time to be grateful and proud of her achievements. “Joining the cast of Ozark was a dream come true,” she tells Student Pages. “You can spend years in class and time honing your craft, but the acting education you learn from on-set experiences is unparalleled. Having individuals such as Jason Bateman, Laura Linney and Janet McTeer as your scene partners requires you to bring your A-game to work every day.”
As unavoidable as those jitters may be when rubbing shoulders with some of the biggest names in TV, they’re ones Thompson needn’t give the time of day to.
Landing the role of Erin after just one audition, the Ozark character was one that was made for her. “I was destined to get the part,” Madison explains. “I’m not sure why, but something just told me inside. I was really lucky that the stars aligned to make it possible for me to work on this show.”
A talent of many faces
Destined for the screen from a young age, Thompson’s ability to elicit strong emotions from viewers extends far beyond her role in Netflix’s Ozark. “From being cast as a Russian Spy or a Free-gan who eats other people’s food, I’ve really never played a role that’s remotely similar to my actual personality – and that’s why I love my job.”
And with the TV industry’s role diversity set to grow even larger thanks to movements like MeToo, the freshman rising star has ample opportunity to show off her character versatility in the years to come. “I approach acting with the mindset that you can always be learning, adapting and changing the resources in your ‘actor toolbelt’ of sorts,” she expands. “Each experience you have… each acting technique you learn… every set you work on will provide you with a buffet of acting skills and styles.”
That said, Thompson’s rise to the top was as diverse as the characters she chooses to enact today: “I’ve had a lot of different areas of training in the acting field,” says Thompson. But to truly give yourself the edge above the rest – she recommends one thing: to ignite that fighting spirit. “I highly recommend taking classes in the areas of dance, movement, martial arts and vocal performance to expand your skills as an actor and performer. It will only make you more well-rounded and competitive for jobs.”
For those wanting to follow in her footsteps, the Ozark actress has simple but clear words of advice: “If you truly love acting and are committed to the process, you will find success. Stay in class, do the work, and your time will come.”
And while we all have to hit pause on some of our favourite shows due to the tragic coronavirus epidemic, you won’t have to wait too long to see Madison and the Ozark gang grace your screen. Season 3 has now dropped on Netflix – and we can’t wait to see what this series has in store for her.