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posted: 1/7/2014 5:30 AM

No more risky business for suburban star of 'Stand Your Ground'

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  • Actress/model Francine Locke was born in Park Ridge, but also lived in Barrington, Niles, Arlington Heights and Highland Park.

      Actress/model Francine Locke was born in Park Ridge, but also lived in Barrington, Niles, Arlington Heights and Highland Park.

  • Longtime suburbanite Francine Locke chats with actors Kelsi Chandler and Drew Matthews, who respectively play her daughter-in-law and son in the new movie "Stand Your Ground."

      Longtime suburbanite Francine Locke chats with actors Kelsi Chandler and Drew Matthews, who respectively play her daughter-in-law and son in the new movie "Stand Your Ground."

  • Actress/model Francine Locke was born in Park Ridge, but also lived in Barrington, Niles, Arlington Heights and Highland Park.

      Actress/model Francine Locke was born in Park Ridge, but also lived in Barrington, Niles, Arlington Heights and Highland Park.

  • Video: "Stand Your Ground" trailer

 

You've probably seen more of actress/model Francine Locke than you realize.

Remember the 1983 Chicago-set movie "Risky Business"? When high school student Tom Cruise dreams about finding a mysterious woman in his shower?

That was Locke.

"I was so embarrassed by that," the Park Ridge native told us. "For years, I never told anyone I had appeared in that movie. I never put it on my resume. I didn't look good, and I was kind of naked."

Locke was in her 20s. It was her first movie role.

"I was naive," she said. "They told me that only my face would be seen and the rest of me would be covered by mist and steam. When I finally saw the movie, I couldn't believe it."

A lot has happened to Locke since "Risky Business."

She has been married twice. Raised a son as a single mother. Earned a criminal justice degree from the University of Illinois. Flipped Northwest suburban houses for income. Even worked as a business administrator at the First Presbyterian Church in Arlington Heights.

She has had a handful of small parts in TV shows and shorts, but for years her focus was on other pursuits.

"I never was trained enough in theater to become good at it," she said. "When it comes to film, it's smaller, more intimate and I can communicate better with that. When I'm performing, I just have to be me, and that's easier for me."

Recently, Locke underwent what she calls a "spiritual awakening" at Fort Wilderness, a Christian camp in northern Wisconsin. That more or less led her to star in the upcoming movie "Stand Your Ground" (aka "A Cry for Justice"), a Christian values drama based on the true story of Jackie Carpenter, a single Georgia mother defending her son, unjustly accused of murder. It's scheduled to open Jan. 17.

"It's really well-done," Locke said. "It's mostly about the emotional journey Jackie's on. When I would show up on the set, the first question I would ask myself was 'How bad does Jackie have to look today?'

"Is she angry today? Is she upset today? Is she heartbroken? The film carries you through all that. It's her faith journey. I think it will polarize people. But it will also bring people together."

Locke was born in Park Ridge where she lived for 11 years, but she's more of a general suburbanite, having lived in so many communities, including Arlington Heights and Barrington.

Locke graduated from Maine North High School before attending Oakton Community College, Northeastern Illinois University and the U of I, where she completed her degree in criminal justice.

We had to ask: Criminal justice? "In college, I had about the same number of hours in five areas," she explained. "I chose criminal justice because that's the one area you could actually make a living at."

A car accident put a temporary hold on Locke's higher education. (She would finish her degree some years later.)

In the meanwhile, a friend persuaded her to go to a modeling show. She became intrigued by the job prospects, and eventually got a talent agent who sent her to modeling jobs in Chicago, Toronto and Montreal. In addition to the "Risky Business" role, she did bit parts on TV shows, among them "Chicago Story" and "Early Edition."

In Toronto, she met an Englishman who would be her first husband. "We moved to Barrington to settle down," she said. "I settled down more than he did. He left."

In 1991, Locke moved to Arlington Heights. She recently relocated to Atlanta with her second husband, Jim Royal, formerly of San Diego.

"You know a man really loves you if he's willing to move to Chicago from San Diego," she said.

Locke said she will miss the Midwest.

"I really think there is a consideration. An openness. A sincerity when it comes to being from the Midwest," she said. "Families are important. There's some integrity involved. The people are generally positive. And I like to be around positive people. That's why I originally moved into Arlington Heights. I lived in a neighborhood right out of the 1950s."

-- Dann Gire

• Dann Gire and Jamie Sotonoff are looking for suburbanites now working in showbiz. If you know of someone who would make an interesting profile, email them at dgire@dailyherald.com and jsotonoff@dailyherald.com.

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