How Autumn Reeser Turned Her Big Break on the O.C. Into a Lifelong Acting Career
The O.C. was four seasons of perfectly-quotable, still painfully relevant dialogue, but the best line of the show goes to Taylor Townsend, the lovably neurotic brown-noser. “We were never going to work anyway. He doesn’t even like cheese.”
In real life, actress Autumn Reeser is just as clever and candid. Since the iconic teen series, she’s starred in countless TV shows, acted in indie movies, and even wrote a book. In her words, here’s how she did it all (and how she came of age on camera).
What were you like as a teen? I went through two phases. In my early teens, I was shy because I was smaller and matured much later than my peers (to give you an idea, I didn’t lose my last baby tooth until I was 17 years old). So I decided to make a big effort to get involved in activities where the kids seemed to be confident and lively. I joined the show choir. I joined the cheerleading squad. I joined French club and chorus. Before the auditions, I would get terribly nervous. Eventually, I learned to persevere and work really hard to improve. By the end of high school I was head cheerleader, a singer, a dancer ,and on the homecoming court, so my confidence and physical skills improved greatly through my willingness to be brave and try again.
As an adult, what do you wish you could tell your teenage self now?
Don’t be afraid to experiment with your look and don’t worry so much about what other people may or may not be thinking about you—chances are high that they’re mainly thinking about themselves. Make space in your busy life to listen to the beat of your own heart and to hear your true desires.
How exactly did you get to where you are now, professionally?
I wish I had taken better care of my soul in my twenties. It is so very easy (even more so now with social media) to get wrapped up in external accomplishments. Yes, you want to work hard, but in a balanced way. Work hard at your inner growth, too. Create space to reflect, to put your social media away, at least one day a month. If you can add in daily meditation, even better. I cannot stress enough how many metaphorical dead-end roads I would have saved myself from walking down, had I just created a bit more space in my life to listen to my body and my heart.
What work advice do you have for teens or for young people just starting out?
This is the time to be brave and the time to make mistakes. Take any and every opportunity afforded to you and don’t think too much about where it may lead, because sometimes careers are built out of happy accidents. Listen to your gut, not the endless chatter that our brain gives us about "what ifs." All that stuff is just noise. Your body and your heart know the right path for you; be brave enough to hear their call.
You really came of age on TV. What was that experience like, especially since you were a real-life teen starring as a teen?
Honestly, I was such a little professional, I didn’t feel like a teenager! By the time I was 24, I was living in a four-bedroom house with a career and a long-term boyfriend and a dog. I kept house and cooked every dinner from scratch. In a way, I feel like I’m actually living my "coming-of-age" now. I feel like the artist I was put here to be. I don’t know what’s coming next, and I finally have the freedom to get to know myself and discover who I really am and what contribution I’m meant to give to the world.
What's next for you? What are you excited about right now?
I have two projects I’m writing, and I recently worked with my friends to sell a script to Hallmark that I’ll be producing and starring in next year. Long-term, I would love to direct some projects and return to my theater performance roots, as well as living up to the kind of mother I want to be to my young sons.