Jessy Schram's life has been a classic Cinderella story.
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Recent rolesJessy Schram's Cinderella is a recurring character on ABC's "Once Upon a Time." The show stars Jennifer Morrison, a native of Arlington Heights, and airs at 7 p.m. on Sundays. Schram is a regular on TNT's science-fiction series "Falling Skies." (It's on hiatus until summer, but you can see past episodes at tnt.tv.)
Schram actually plays Cinderella on the ABC-TV smash hit series "Once Upon a Time." It's a recurring role, which means she'll pop in from time to time as the plot needs her.
"This morning, someone dropped off a copy of Variety with a picture of me as Cinderella on the cover," the 25-year-old actress said. "To be on the cover of something is obviously very flattering, and it's so cool. But then you see yourself as Cinderella! Never could I have imagined that. I would always be the mouse, not the Cinderella."
Normally in a dream-come-true story like this one, we'd be waxing poetic about a local Buffalo Grove girl pinching herself silly because of her good luck. But Schram's success is more about hard work, talent, perseverance, planning and having her own smart, wicked stepmother -- minus the "wicked" and "step" parts.
"When I graduated Buffalo Grove High School, moving to L.A. and doing what I'm now doing was the next step," Schram said. "I didn't even apply to any colleges. After high school, I came out to L.A. right away. I moved a day earlier because I got a job."
Right now, parents might be wondering how any mom or dad would react to the no-college, I'm-going-to-Hollywood announcement.
Well, Mom, what about that?
"This was a struggle for me," Kristie Schram, Jessy's mother, said. "I didn't know much about the entertainment business. She was missing a lot of school because of her work, and that wasn't good. But she was doing something really exceptional.
"As a parent, I struggled with it. But I recognized that in life, chances like this don't come along every day, and sometimes you have to go with it to see where it takes you."
So where has it taken her?
Jessy has appeared in numerous TV commercials and print ads, performed voice-overs and acted in TV shows (she plays Karen the alien-ated human in TNT's invasion drama "Falling Skies") and movies (she played Chris Pine's estranged wife in the thriller "Unstoppable").
Her infectiously engaging voice and striking screen presence -- a mixture of salubrious girl-next-door and serious sultry vixen -- are her most obvious attributes.
Mom reported Jessy regularly "took the stage" whenever she appeared in productions at summer camp and school.
"She always had this bright light about her," Kristie burbled with parental pride. "She wasn't shy at all. A very loving, outgoing, a giving little girl. A big heart. A big giver. People always told me she had it."
Chicago's Stewart Talent Agency recognized it when Jessy was 10 years old and promoted her as both a child actress and model. Then came commercials and print ads.
"I was really into music, too," Jessy said. "In high school, I thought I would be the next Jewel. Acting has kind of chosen me, but I'm still interested in music."
Jessy has written songs and collaborated with such Northwest suburban talents as Jim Peterik of The Ides of March (and Survivor) plus Suave of Hip Hop Connxion.
"The people I meet are life-changing," she said.
One of them is Arlington Heights native Jennifer Morrison, star of "Once Upon a Time."
Both she and Jessy were represented by the Stewart Talent Agency while growing up. They both appeared on an episode of the TV series "House" titled "Needle in a Haystack."
"She's a sweetheart!" Jessy said of Morrison. "She's great. We've gone to dinner. You know a Chicago person when you see one."
So what does growing up in the Northwest suburbs give an actress?
"I think Buffalo Grove gave me a certain work ethic and a sense of humor and a foundation of good music," she said.
But how does a kid from Buffalo Grove High remain so positive in a show biz world riddled with rejection?
"I prepared her for this," Kristie Schram said. "When someone doesn't cast you, it's not a rejection of you. It's because you weren't a good fit, like how a couch might not match the wallpaper in a room.
"I wanted her to step into the world with this mindset, that it's a business and not personal. That way, it's never about 'Wasn't I pretty enough?' or 'Wasn't I talented enough?' when she didn't get something."
Jessy, still a single woman, cited her family as the source of her security: Kristie, sister Nicole, 29, brother Jonathan, 27, and dad John.
It also helps, Jessy said, when the people she works with are wonderful, like those on "Once Upon a Time."
"I've never worked with a more enjoyable cast and crew," Jessy said.
Playing a princess like Cinderella is always a bonus, too.
"As an actress, you always dream of playing those roles," she said. "I finally got to go and bring the fantasy to reality."
-- Dann Gire
• Dann Gire and Jamie Sotonoff are always looking for suburban people now working in showbiz. If you know of someone who would be good to feature, send a note to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.