Lessons From A Pro

Actress Elisabeth Rohm visits young film students

Special Correspondent


PURCHASE, N.Y. - It wasn't all "Law & Order" for the 50 students enrolled in SUNY Purchase College's Young Filmmakers Program this week when a star of the NBC hit drama series gave them some lessons from the acting world.
Elisabeth Rohm, who plays the smart and ambitious Assistant District Attorney Serena Southerlyn on series "Law & Order," conducted a special class for the aspiring thespians and filmmakers to discuss filmmaking, script writing, producing, directing, editing and special effects. During the five-week program, students will create about 10 films which will be showcased during a film festival slated for Aug. 2.
Rohm met with the eager, inquisitive students, ages 11 to 16, in the college's choral hall to discuss her life as an actress, as well as film production and directing.
A few of the students are acting veterans already, having appeared in television series, soap operas and commercials. Even though those students have talent agents they remain eager to hear what happens next.
Two of the students may have an advantage over their peers, they are Rohm's younger siblings. Her younger brother, Lucas, 14, and her sister Olivia, 12, attend Greenwich Country Day school and were the ones who got their big sister involved in the lecture.
Rohm says she was happy to talk to the students, knowing that "it is important to be inspired, and to see what possibilities are out there."
Born in Dčsseldorf, Germany, Rohm's parents returned to New York City before Elisabeth turned one. She later studied writing and European history at Sarah Lawrence College, in Bronxville, N.Y. The 29-year-old actress still lives in New York City where "Law & Order" is filmed. Before joining the Emmy Award-winning series last year, Rohm appeared concurrently in the TNT cable drama series "Bull" (alongside Purchase alum Stanley Tucci) and in the WB's "Angel." She also had a supporting role in the NBC mini-series "The '60s" and a starring role in the BBC mini-series "Eureka Street."

This week's one-hour session allowed students to ask questions and to gain new insights into the acting realm. They were curious about the "Law & Order" and "Angel" series. Rohm says that despite starting off on the corporate side of the acting world, she was bitten by the acting bug. So she took matters into her own hands, writing "letters to every director and producer in films. Kevin Costner, Paul Wagner and Jim Sheraton were the only ones who responded, but nothing came of it," says Rohm. She emphasized the idea that acting is all about contacts and that you just "got to knock, knock, and knock."
One of the students asked Rohm about her break into the soap opera "One Life to Live." Rohm says that working on a soap opera was "Insane, but really the best training, as long as you don't get stuck with it."
Rohm describes her character Serena Southerlyn being "more serious and buttoned up" when compared to the role as a detective on the vampire series "Angel".
She advises the students to "be bold. It's the only way you'll stand out. Remember, in this business you are a performer, an entertainer."
Rohm also encourages the students to attend college and develop a skill before entering the entertainment business. "You really have to have an alternative. Me--I had a college education. I knew if I didn't make it within the first few years, then that was fine. You can't be desperate."
Says Rohm. She adds, "Just because you don't make it right away, doesn't mean you won't make it. ... Keep dreaming, keep believing." Afterwards, Rohm signed autographs. But not before entertaining an offer to appear in a student's movie. One eager film making student asked if she would join the cast of the kung-fu movie he was making. As the class exploded in laughter, Rohm jokingly told the student to call her agent. Thirteen-year-old Max Fram-Schwartz of Greenwich says he watches "Law & Order" and thinks Rohm is "a very good actress." He adds, "her speech was very interesting."
And he isn't alone. Emily Hickey, 15, from Pleasantville, N.Y., says "I thought she gave a lot of good advice."