By Tim Farley, News Editor – Erin Elizabeth Cook is happy to play almost any role in any film anywhere.
Acting, whether on screen or stage, is her love and passion. She’s content to sit in a makeup chair for five hours and be transformed into a blue-faced alien with fangs in
“Starship Valiant: The Ties that Bind,” or appear bloody-faced in the thriller/horror film
“The Watcher,” which is currently in post-production.
“It’s exciting to be in any film,” the 38-year-old actress said. “For me, I love the process of it all and I love surrounding myself with people as passionate as I am. I don’t need to be a superstar, but just a working actor. There is so much going on here in Oklahoma.”
Staying busy with auditions and working as the chief operating officer for the upcoming Red Dirt Film Festival in Stillwater isn’t a problem. In February, Cook auditioned for six Screen Actors Guild movies that will be filmed in the Sooner state.
“This is a great place to hone my craft,” said Cook, a 1998 Yukon High School graduate who lives in Oklahoma City . “Out in LA, you’re a little fish in a huge ocean. Here in Oklahoma, you can be a big fish in a small one and I think staying here will work best for me.”
So far, so good.
In the last two years, Cook has landed several film roles including the leading role in the feature film “The Watcher,” which was filmed in Oklahoma. The film follows a woman and her son who moves into a new home and finds themselves being terrorized to leave.
“Some strange things start to happen,” Cook said of the movie.
Cook acknowledged she performs her own stunts in the film.
“It brings a sense of realism to the film,” she said.
But preparing for stunt work doesn’t come without sacrifice. Cook has endured MMA training so she could learn different maneuvers, but that caused a back injury.
Cook’s film credits also include “Lord Finn.” In this film, Cook plays the role of a prison inmate who is bipolar with an occasional good heart and a desire to do something good.
Ben Richardson, of Oklahoma City, is the producer and leading actor in “Lord Finn.”
During 2017 and so far in 2018, Cook also had roles in the short film “Repercussion,” and
“Facades,” both of which are still on the film festival circuit. Cook received a nomination for best female actor in a leading role for her portrayal as “Sarah” in the short film “Facades,: which was an entry at the Bare Bones Film Festival in Muskogee during 2016.
Cook’s credits also include the Lifetime TV movie “If Looks Could Kill,” “Murder Made Me Famous,” and her villain role as Nes-Ka in “Starship Valiant: The Ties That Bind.”
“That was a whole different experience with heavy makeup,” Cook said of portraying an alien. “I spent five and a half hours in the makeup chair. There were layers upon layers of makeup and fake teeth formed to fit my mouth.”
Cook stepped into the world of acting at age 12 when her parents were going through a divorce.
“I had some self-esteem issues, so my mom put me in sports,” she recalled.
That didn’t work.
“So, she decided to enroll me in an acting class. It was therapeutic for me to delve into those different characters,” Cook said.
Later, Cook, her mother and two siblings returned to Yukon and the budding actress became involved in the YHS drama department. In her first audition, she was given the lead role of an Amazonian queen by drama teacher Rhonda Hartwig, who Cook credits for giving her opportunities on-stage and behind the scenes.
Cook earned a full scholarship in broadcasting to the University of Central Oklahoma, but that wasn’t for her. Acting was her passion so off she went.
She was one of 20 students chosen from more than 300 applicants to attend the master’s acting program at the Las Colinas Movie Studios in Texas. The program was under the direction of Will Boroski and Bill Erwin (Planes, Trains & Automobiles, Huckleberry Finn, Home Alone). Later, she went to Los Angeles in hopes of finding work in the film industry.
She landed some background and extra work on “JAG,”, “The Practice,” “Las Vegas,” and “NCIS.” She also learned behind-the-scenes production and casting work from mentors Mike Irwin and Sam Baldoni.
However, home called and Cook returned to Oklahoma. As she puts it, it was time to get a “big girl job.” As a result, Cook began serving tables at an Oklahoma City restaurant and eventually was promoted to general manager.
“I ran the restaurant for 3 ½ years and put my dreams on the back burner,” she said. “I realized something was missing in my life and my heart kept telling me to get back into acting and go back to my real love. So, I left the big girl job and went on my first audition in eight years.”
Cook earned the lead role portraying Ruth in “Blithe Spirit” at Jewel Box Theatre in Oklahoma City.
“It was quite a re-entry,” she said, of her move back to acting. “I had seven costume changes.”
However, she learned the hard-knock lesson that theatre in Oklahoma doesn’t pay well.
That’s when future auditions led to bit and speaking parts beginning with the short film “Repercussion,” which was nominated for 22 awards and has won six.
However, Cook isn’t totally about speaking the words of other writers. She recently wrote, produced and performed her own one-woman show “Lizzie Borden: Pigeonholed.”
Cook is a passionate fan of film-making in Oklahoma, but she’s not the only one. Movie Maker Magazine lists Oklahoma City as the 12th best city in the nation to live and be a filmmaker. Cook also touts two acting academies – ACTS in Oklahoma City and the Actor Factory in Norman.
Through all the peaks and valleys of an acting career, Cook’s family has been rock-solid.
“A lot of actors don’t have the family support I do. Mom is supporting me in this and when I had a real job. That kind of support is invaluable,” she said. “It’s not necessarily about money. She’s there at the different openings and she’s helping with the film festival.”
Cook’s talents also prompt her to give back to the community. She launched a theatre and film department at her church. She started the program by teaching acting classes on a donation-only basis.
“I want to help members of our church learn about the art of acting,” she said. “But I also want to help those in our community who may not be able to afford a commercialized class.”