From Hanover to Hollywood
By Lindsay Keare
Published on Friday, January 18, 2013
For a school about as far away from Hollywood as you can get in the United States, Dartmouth has a huge number of alumni who shined in the arts while they were undergraduates. These talented men and women have gone on to become amazing actors, writers and other varieties of big names in Hollywood.
Connie Britton ’89, star of the current hit show “Nashville,” rose to fame playing coach’s wife Tami Taylor on” Friday Night Lights “(watch it, if you haven’t already!). But for Britton, who went by the last name Womack while at Dartmouth, college is where her career truly started to take off. Although she majored in Asian studies while at Dartmouth, Britton performed in numerous plays while in Hanover. In an interview with The Dartmouth last fall, Britton revealed that she also interned as a production assistant for an off-Broadway play during an off-term. A 1987 issue of The Dartmouth reviewed Britton’s leading role in “Arms and the Man,” crediting her with portraying “the maturation of her character superbly.”
While Britton’s career has mostly focused on dramas, the majority of celebrity Dartmouth grads make people laugh for a living. One of the most lauded female comedians these days is Mindy Kaling ’01. Kaling gained notoriety playing ditzy Kelly Kapoor on “The Office,” while simultaneously snagging an under-the-radar writing credit on the show. Kaling now has her own hit show “The Mindy Project,” which premiered in September 2012. While at Dartmouth, Kaling was a member of The Dog Day Players improv comedy group, as well as the Rockapellas. And if Twitter had been around while Kaling was on campus, you can be sure she would’ve created some great Dartmouth-related hashtags as well.
In 2003, Kaling and friend Brenda Withers ’00, both drama majors at Dartmouth, wrote and starred in a play called “Matt and Ben” about — you guessed it — Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. The play was a comedy focusing on the two men’s attempts to write a screenplay based on “The Catcher in the Rye,” when a manuscript for “Good Will Hunting” falls out of the sky and they have to decide what to do with it. The show became a hit and led to numerous opportunities for Kaling. In a 2003 interview with The Dartmouth, several years before she hit it big, Kaling’s humor shines through.
When asked what advice she had for other Dartmouth students looking to get into the arts and entertainment field, Kaling had these wise words to share: “Don’t burn bridges unless you like, get punched in the face. Wait, forget that.”
“Saturday Night Live” alum Rachel Dratch ’88 recently returned to Dartmouth to promote her book “Girl Walks into a Bar... Comedy Calamities, Dating Disasters, and a Midlife Miracle,” in which the comedian and recurring “30 Rock” actress hilariously recounts, among other things, her time at Dartmouth, including anecdotes about Trips, rush and a capella. Dratch fell in love with improv during her time on campus and joined the now-defunct group Said and Done, which helped her cultivate her sense of humor and go on to become one of SNL’s most beloved actresses.
Many of Dartmouth’s most famous alumni in the entertainment industry actually work behind the camera. Shonda Rhimes ’91 is the creator of and a writer for the long-running series “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Private Practice.” Rhimes majored in English at Dartmouth and directed the Black Underground Theater and Arts Association. And for those distressed about living in the River, take comfort in the fact that Rhimes lived there too. In a 2012 interview with The Dartmouth, she said hanging out with friends in the distant cluster “were some of the best times [she] ever had.”
Phil Lord ’97 and Chris Miller ’97 recently collaborated as co-directors on the movie “21 Jump Street,” but have been working together since their years on campus when they were both successful cartoonists and animated-film makers. In fact, Miller, putting his artistic skills to good use, designed the 1997 poster for the prehistoric-themed Winter Carnival. Shortly after graduation, they both received jobs at Disney and went on to write and direct movies such as the critically acclaimed “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.”
Another Chris Miller ’63 helped transform comedy as we knew it back in the ’70s when his stories about Dartmouth Greek life provided the basis for National Lampoon’s “Animal House.” In a 1997 interview with The Dartmouth, Miller talked about things in the movie that actually happened to him when he was in Alpha Delta fraternity, including an instance where he poured a huge bottle of mustard onto himself, which is paralleled in the antics of John Belushi’s character in the film. Miller’s experiences are a prime example of how, if you do something stupid, at the very least it becomes a good story. And in his case this story became one of the most famous comedies of all time.
Lastly, although she cannot really count as a Dartmouth student having graduated from Vassar in 1971, Meryl Streep spent one term on campus in the early ’70s. Her time came before the school went co-ed, so there were only a few dozen women on campus. Unsurprisingly, the A-lister was involved in theater while on campus. Too bad we can’t claim her in full!
The Hop isn’t just home to the best egg wraps on campus, it’s also the former home of some of the most famous people in showbiz today. So next time you see a play, stick around for autographs because you never know which student actors of today might become tomorrow’s marquee names.