NORTHERN EXPOSURE STAR JANINE TURNER WOWS CLASS

Janine Turner

Emmy and Golden Globe nominated actress Janine Turner today shared several sides of her multifaceted career with Prof. Tom Neff’s 2410 class, “Broadcast Networks: Then and Now,” connecting via Google Hangout to the entire class. It was a lively, interactive session lasting just over an hour (special thanks to Mike Forbes for tech!).

Best known for her turn as Maggie O’Connell, the feisty bush pilot from the hit TV series Northern Exposure as well as many other stellar roles, Janine is a co-founder with Cathy Gillespie of Constituting America (http://www.constitutingamerica.org/), an organization dedicated to using media to engage today’s youth on the importance of the U.S. Constitution.

Janine and her group speak to students of all ages, and they have stepped up their efforts in the past year to speak directly to college and high school students, as well as other age groups. Each student in the class was given a brochure packed with information, publications on the Constitution and government, a copy of the Constitution, even a small quiz to test one’s familiarity with these critical documents.

Constituting America each year sponsors contests, where students create media (a song, a PSA, a short film, a marketing plan, etc) to engage today’s audience with the Constitution.  Prizes are significant, with up to $2000 cash prizes.  But most important, winners are flown to New York or LA to be “mentored” by top industry talents.  Last year’s winners were mentored by famed actor Gary Senise, among others.  Prof Neff’s class will for their final media assignments submit projects, and Prof Neff encourages other students in the College of Media and Entertainment to submit (see http://www.constitutingamerica.org/downloads.php).

Janine also coached the class on what it took to “make it” in the media industry. Far from an overnight success, she regaled the class on her seven year struggle to land a single part, her refusal to give up, her willingness to take all kinds of roles and directions without knowing exactly to where they might lead, etc.

Starting as a young model, she moved with her family to New York City at age 15, was signed with Wilhelmina Models (perhaps the top modeling agency in the world at the time, and still at the pinnacle), and began her journey. Janine was told to lose weight, give up, pull her top up for a tryout, and trudged to fifty (count ‘em, 50!) auditions before landing a single job. She went through personal trials, was rejected from “As the World Turns” and another show, devastated by the rejection, but it was those rejections that gave her the opportunity to try out – and land – the role of Maggie that changed her life.

Her advice was twofold. First, “Don’t let anyone extinguish your flame.” She said “keep your passion, remember your thoughts now so that you can recall them when discouraged.” Her inspirational message of “follow your dream at any costs” hit home to many. She stressed how important it was to be flexible, to be willing to go down a path the exact purpose of which you may not now see. She talked about her directing work, and how she too has fought discrimination against being a woman in a man’s industry, but that with work and integrity one can accomplish anything.

In her directing, Janine detailed how important it was to respect each person’s work, and that media is a team sport, where everyone’s role is crucial to the team’s success, and that directing was often dealing with personalities, not “calling the shots.” Persistence was perhaps the most important virtue in this business, and she was engagingly human in relating the ups and downs of her own career and life.

Interestingly and tellingly, she said finally, “be sure and finish what you begin. I know so many who start a screenplay, a music video, a book… but don’t finish. Finish it. You don’t know how it will end up, but just completing something – seeing it all the way through – is its own accomplishment and success.”

And success isn’t necessarily measured with a dollar sign.