Samantha Osman talks about her journey from being a stand-in for actress Julia Mayorga in scene preparations in Pittsburgh for the TV series “American Rust” to pursuing her lifelong dream of becoming an actress – by attending, at Julia’s urging, the Terry Knickerbocker Studio.
TKS: TKS: Did you always dream of becoming an actor?
Samantha: I always knew that I wanted to act, but I grew up in Cresson, PA, a small town near Altoona, and no one there had a background in acting, so it seemed like a wild dream. I moved to Pittsburgh for college and studied international relations, because acting still seemed an unrealistic ambition for me. It wasn’t until my dad died in 2021, two weeks before I graduated from college, that I began studying acting. I had told him of my desire to act, and he had urged me to follow my dream. Before he died, I promised him that I would.
TKS: What did you do next?
Samantha: I found an acting class in Pittsburgh through a community college. People I met there told me of other classes. I found an agency that was casting people for background work on TV shows produced in Pittsburgh. One of the shows was “American Rust,” starring Jeff Daniels, Maura Tierney, and Julia Mayorga, among others, which was taping its second season. A member of the production staff asked if I would be a stand-in for Julia Mayorga, taking her place as they set up scenes in which she would be performing. In the course of that, over a five-month period, Julia Mayorga and I would have opportunities to talk, and we became friends.
TKS: Did you talk about your dream of becoming an actor?
Samantha: At first, we talked about incidental things that arose on the set. As time went on, we talked more generally and then agreed to have dinner. Over dinner, I asked about her story. Julia told me how, prior to being cast in “American Rust,” she had been auditioning in Los Angeles but not getting any parts. A friend had referred her to the Terry Knickerbocker Studio in New York City, and she had enrolled in the Two-Year Conservatory. With training from the Terry Knickerbocker Studio, she soon booked her part in “American Rust” and then a role starring with Katie Holmes in the film “Rare Objects,” which Katie Holmes directed, produced, and co- wrote.
When I told Julia of my dream of becoming an actor, she urged me to enroll at the Terry Knickerbocker Studio. I applied for the Summer Intensive this past summer, and, when I was accepted, I moved to New York for six weeks. Fortunately, someone else whom I had met on the set of “American Rust” offered me a place to stay in New York for the six weeks.
TKS: What was that transition like for you?
Samantha: Training at the Terry Knickerbocker Studio was the first major step I took in training, so it was stressful at first, but it ended up being the best thing I had ever done. I had some symptoms of imposter syndrome at the start, but it was great to be surrounded by people who shared their own concerns.
The class became a family – a truly safe place. Most of the others in the class had more acting experience than I did, but I had worked on a production set and seen that first-hand. Everyone was very accepting of each other and of the variety of experiences, skills, and backgrounds that we brought to the class. It’s the most comfortable I’ve ever felt with a group of people in my life. There was never a moment when I felt there was judgment.
As the Summer Intensive progressed, I realized not only how much I wanted to do it, but how much I needed to do it. When the Summer Intensive ended, I wanted to study more and enroll in the Two-Year Conservatory. I couldn’t afford to start last September, so I worked two jobs throughout the Fall and have now enrolled, starting in January.
TKS: What was it like to be studying with Terry Knickerbocker and the other faculty members?
Samantha: It was at first a roller-coaster for me, since I was so new to everything. So many emotions come out. But I take criticism well and learn from it, and the criticism is so constructive and well-intended that you can’t help but be strengthened by it.
Terry Knickerbocker is wonderful at letting you know how you’re doing and saying what is necessary to facilitate growth without leaving you feeling defeated. I really like his approach, which motivates you to figure out how you can improve.
TKS: How did studying at the Terry Knickerbocker Studio change you?
Samantha: The Summer Intensive is so foundational that it helped me open up and feel comfortable with myself. I used to have a lot of confidence issues, and now I’ve gained confidence and am a different person than when I started.
I’m eager to experience the Two-Year Conservatory and build on the growth that I’ve gained as a person and as an actor during the Summer Intensive. I’m eager to move to a whole new level of skill and experience. Most of all, I know that I’m an actor. I’m not an imposter. It’s not a wild idea any more. I’m an actor – training in New York City. I’m living the dream!
Note: A “TKS Conversation with Julia Mayorga” is available here.
Ready to pursue your acting dreams, too? We see you here!
Now enrolling our Two Year Conservatory, Intensives, and Specialty Classes.
*Our application is simple and straightforward, and we never charge for it. All admissions decisions are based on a conversation between each individual applicant and our admissions team.*