The Power of Persistence: Alumna Erin Kommor’s Path to the Cast of NBC’s 'Rise'

March 12, 2018 Emily DiPietro

Landing a dream role on a major television series, after countless auditions and inevitable rejections, can be nothing short of surreal. Just ask alumna Erin Kommor (B.F.A. '13, musical theater), who plays Sasha Foley, a high school student, in the new NBC series Rise. Inspired by a true story, Rise explores the journey of a teacher who takes over and invigorates a struggling theater department in a working-class high school in rural Pennsylvania, and stars Josh Radnor and Rosie Perez.

“It still does not feel real,” Kommor says. Despite the difficulty of landing an audition for television, making it in the industry has always been her goal. After performing at her senior showcase and graduating from the Conservatory, Kommor immediately signed with an agent and was cast in a musical. From there, however, she didn’t book anything for about eight months, and then worked on smaller projects for a few years. Knowing she wanted to work in television, she began to take on-camera film and television classes, which she credits for landing the role on Rise.

After hearing no over and over again, Kommor suddenly experienced multiple successes in the span of a couple of months. She was cast in Andrew Lippa’s musical The Man in the Ceiling, directed by noted Broadway producer Jeffrey Seller. Then, she was called in to audition for Rise, produced by Seller. “That audition was very quick, going in one day and putting it on tape, finding out I got the part the next week, and starting rehearsals the very next day.” On top of that, she closed her first off-Broadway show the day she found out she landed the role on Rise. “It took four or five years to get there, but when something happens, it just starts to spiral in a good way,” she explains.

Kommor recalls how the Conservatory prepared her for this experience. “On set, they’ll tell you to completely change the way you’re doing it, and you just do it. You have one or two tries and you move on. At the Conservatory, we worked on taking notes, making adjustments, being versatile, being able to do all of the changes, and then changing on a dime.”
Kommor’s advice for aspiring actors in this fiercely competitive and unpredictable landscape? “It’s literally persistence,” she explains. “It’s doing it a billion times until someone sees you. It’s showing up every day and being there and doing it.”

She adds that it’s key to find things outside of the industry to stay grounded. “This industry is absolutely insane, and you have to hold on to the things that make you feel like you have your feet on the floor.”

Rise premieres Tuesday, March 13, 2018 on NBC.