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UNCG Sophomore is Right at Home on TV

[About Strong College student Liesl Ehardt]

By Beth McMurtrie, Greensboro News & Record

It’s not supposed to be this easy. She knows that. But for Liesl Ehardt, carving our a career as an actor has been, well, like something out of a movie. A made-for-TV movie to be exact.

While her classmates waited tables, the UNCG sophomore spent her summer filming a TV movie with John Ritter and appearing, briefly, in the angst-ridden TV series, “Dawson’s Creek.” She debuts in tonight’s episode as a cheerleader.

She’s also got herself an agent, a manager and her own Screen Actors Guild card. Not bad for a 19-year-old who used to get the cold shoulder from the high school drama clique.

So what does she make of her good fortune?

“What a flip from not getting much in high school to all of a sudden, ‘Why does he like me? Why does he like me?’” Ehardt says. “It’s like it’s too easy.”

It’s clear why a casting agent would like Ehardt. She’s got the shiny hair, perfect skin and bright smile of the twentysomethings who populate the extremely hip “Party of Five,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and, of course, “Dawson’s Creek.”

But she’s also paid a few dues. Ehardt, who counts Claire Danes and Tom Hanks among her favorite actors, knew she wanted to be an actor by her freshman year of high school.

“I think I’d always had an interest in the arts in some way, but I never had the opportunitiy until high school,” she says.

She had little luck getting major roles in high school productions—she describes her snobbish high school as a “90210 area”—so she decided to take acting lessons on her own. Every Sunday, her dad drove her from their home in New Jersey to New York City for classes.

Ehardt also spent a summer studying filmmaking at the N.C. School of the Arts. And this year, she was one of his 10 students accepted into UNCG’s bachelor of fine arts program.

But she says it was pure luck that got her the proverbial Hollywood break.

That’s when a casting agent pulled her out of a crowd of UNCG students last spring and asked her to read a part from “Dawsons’s Creek.” He told her she had the “Dawson’s” look, suggested she hire an agent and recommended that she spend her summer in Wilmington, where the show is filmed.

Ehardt took his advice. In less than a month, she secured a brief part as the girlfriend of John Ritter’s son in an upcoming TV movie, “Holy Joe.” Then she auditioned for the part of a new “Dawson’s” character, Andie, whom she described as “like a Meg Ryan.”

She didn’t win the role, but she was asked to play a cheerleader in a pivotal scene in tonight’s episode and to appear in a party scene during next week’s show. No lines, but that’s fine with Ehardt, who has seen every episode of “Dawson’s Creek” and who plans to move to California after graduation to embark on a full-fledged acting career.

Despite spending an entire day filming one scene for “Holy Joe” and dancing for hours to nonexistent music on the set of “Dawson’s,” Ehardt remains enthusiastic about TV acting.

“I didn’t mind waiting around,” she says brightly. “I learned a lot from the different actors.”

And, of course, there were the perks. Like getting her own trailer for “Holy Joe,” talking to John Ritter about scuba diving and being chauffeured around the set.

“They drove us around in air conditioned van so you don’t have to walk,” she recalls. “And I thought, ‘I can walk.’”

As for “Dawson’s,” Ehardt reveals that Joshua Jackson, who plays Pacey, was “the coolest of them all” because he hung out with the extras and bit players. The rest of the cast preferred to hang out with each other.

The only downside to all this good luck, Ehardt says, is jealousy. She’s heard that some upperclassmen at UNCG don’t look too kindly on her good fortune and think that she twisted her agent’s arm to get jobs.

“My dad says that if you know this is not the truth, that’s all that matters.”

And where will Ehardt be when her big moment arrives tonight? In rehearsal for an upcoming production of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” for UNCG’s N.C. Theatre for Young People.

Her friends have promised to tape the episode for her. “It’s going to be weird,” she says. “I’ve never seen myself on TV.”

© Robert J. O’Hara 2000–2021