How luck, grit and a Texas highway launched Fremd grad Christina Moore's Hollywood career

 
 
Updated 7/5/2016 4:05 PM
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  • In "The Dog Lover," Christina Moore plays Cassie, a woman who heads up an animal rights organization.

    In "The Dog Lover," Christina Moore plays Cassie, a woman who heads up an animal rights organization. ESX Entertainment

  • Christina Moore plays Cassie Sumpter in "The Dog Lover," which opens Friday.

    Christina Moore plays Cassie Sumpter in "The Dog Lover," which opens Friday. ESX Entertainment

Oh, sure. It could happen that a struggling young actress from the Northwest suburbs moves to Hollywood and instantly gets offered all sorts of TV and movie jobs.

"But I think that's just a big fat lie," Christina Moore declared. "You have to hustle. You have to try new things. You have to put yourself out there. And you have to save every single dollar. It's expensive in California."

These Hollywood survival tips come from a Palatine native and 1991 graduate of Fremd High School who, as soon as she earned her bachelor's degree from Illinois Wesleyan University, packed her bags and bolted to the City of Angels.

And she never came back.

"That drive is so wretched," Moore said. "The west half of Texas will make you crazy. Once I got to L.A., I decided I was never going back because I might not survive another drive."

In a remarkably short time, Moore joined an improv comedy group and went on to amass an impressive list of credentials, mostly in TV shows such as "90210," "Hyperion Bay," "That '70s Show," "MADtv," "Hawthorne," "True Blood" and "Jessie," among many others.

Now Moore's not only acting, but she's also producing and writing for TV and movies. Her newest feature film, "The Dog Lover," opens Friday, July 8, at the AMC South Barrington 30.

She plays Cassie, a woman who heads an animal-rights organization that dispatches a young member (Alison Page) to investigate a large-scale puppy factory. She discovers ethical issues aren't quite as black-and-white as she imagines.

But her most anticipated project could well be the fall drama "Running Wild," starring Moore as Sharon Stone's bad little sister.

"She was always a hero of mine, or at least something I aspired to be," Moore said about her co-star. "And now I'm playing her totally super horribly evil sister!"

Moore coproduced the movie and cowrote the screenplay.

She recalled the day Stone telephoned her to discuss some script changes before she would agree to play the role of Stella Davis, a widow who works with convicts to tame some wild horses.

"I was standing in the parking lot of the production office next to a garbage can when I got the call she was going to do our film," Moore said. "I just sat next to the garbage can and cried. After 20 years. I'm actually hiring my own hero to be in my movie."

Then, Moore broke into an improv song with the lyrics "The world is super wild!"

"I think I keep coming back to showbiz because of the creativity," she confessed. "There's something magical about it. It's the same thing I first experienced when I worked on 'Leader of the Pack' at Cutting Hall in the summer of freshman year."

A friend had invited her to audition for a show at Palatine's Cutting Hall Performing Arts Center. The showbiz bug bit her right there.

"It was my first experience doing a musical, and I just fell head over heels in love," Moore said. For the next three years, the future Hollywood actress worked for the Don Leonard Family Theater on weekend and weeknights for whatever was needed.

She credits her education at Fremd for her success.

"Fremd was a great, great school," she said. "It made college pretty easy, I'm not going to lie."

Special mentors? She had several: Fremd AP history teacher Rich Bokor (who gave her the desire to travel), English teachers Dwight Aukee and Jim Wyman (who taught her the importance of vocabulary and writing), plus Cutting Hall choreographer Tony Calzaretta, an attorney who at last report still does community theater shows.

Moore met her future husband, actor/writer John Ducey, at the wedding of a friend, Nicole Sullivan, who switched the name cards at the reception tables so the two would have to sit together.

"So that was it," Moore said. The two are celebrating their eighth wedding anniversary today.

Although Moore earned an amazing resume quickly once she arrived in Los Angeles, her career still took a while to take flight -- three years.

She held an internship with Universal Studios while working as a night-shift waitress. By day, she worked retail at The Gap. She appeared in commercials and small parts on TV shows.

Then, she struck gold on the WB show "Hyperion Bay." She never worked another day job.

"I have been very, very fortunate," she admitted.

Her secret to survival?

"As much as it looks like I never stopped working, there were six months here and six months there where things dried up, or we had an actors strike or we had a writers strike," she said.

"I saved every dollar. I had money so when things went bad, I didn't have to panic. That allowed me not to get stuck going back to waiting tables or being a nanny."

-- Dann Gire

• If you know a suburbanite who'd make a terrific column, email Jamie and Dann at jsotonoff@dailyherald.com or dgire@dailyherald.com.

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