Three OU students took a chance in performance.
One quit school, one moved to Los Angeles and the other just walked into an audition for a random movie, all in pursuit of a career most fight tooth and nail to get into.
After trials, rejection and a lot of patience, each student is either moving forward with life, moving on from the career or embracing the life and moving up the chain.
Caleb Brown auditioned for American Idol three times — twice in the same season — and failed to make the cut.
The health and exercise science senior grew up playing the cello and listening exclusively to classical music outside Lansing, Michigan. As he got older, he listened to lyrical music — mostly Adam Lambert, Chris Daughtry and other American Idol celebrities.
At his senior graduation, he performed Josh Groban’s “You Raise Me Up” with choir accompaniment.
“I graduated and it looked like music may be done for me,” Brown said. “Then…things happened in my life and I found out that that’s what I was passionate about.”
Brown left home for Michigan State University and put music behind him. Then, he saw a general call for auditions in Detroit. He dropped out of school for the show, auditioned for producers and immediately got cut.
“I just went and I sang, I had no idea what I was doing,” Brown said.
He went home, upset, and thought “how could I not get cut?” But he wasn’t going to give up.
He looked up the audition schedule and saw the show was having another cattle call in Omaha, Nebraska. He had to try again.
Brown looked around his room and wondered what could make him stand out, what could separate him from the thousands of people who audition in the first round — that’s when he spotted his cello.
Brown auditioned again, his instrument in hand, and made it all the way to the fourth round: the celebrity judges.
“I got three nos from the judges — I got absolutely murdered in the audition,” Brown said. “It was one of the best things to ever happen to me. … I was way in over my head that year, and I had a lot of soul searching to do.”
Done with the competition, Brown transferred to the University of Oklahoma. Instead of going out, he taught himself how to play the guitar and piano.
“I would go into Walker (Center)…on weekends and I would just sit and play,” Brown said. “I would try to sing a little bit. It was really awkward, but it was the only street performing I could do.”
But he grew over the year, despite the awkwardness. Brown decided he wasn’t going to audition any time soon.
Until he got a call from a friend telling him to audition one more time.
In 2014, he auditioned for Idol again in Minneapolis. He made it through round one. A few months later, he auditioned for the celebrity judges.
They gave him three yeses.
He was going to Hollywood.
“I grew a lot because I realized I didn’t have to emulate people, I could be my own artist,” Brown said.
And then he got cut in the lines of 10 round.
Brown said adjusting to life back at school was difficult and getting cut was a shock wave. After he got back to Norman, he got a big box of Oreos, went up to his room and didn’t leave until the box was empty.
Looking back, Brown realized the show isn’t the end-all be-all — it’s about the music and the song.
“The destination is every time you pick up the instrument and every time you perform,” Brown said. “It’s because you’re at this destination, but you’re dragging everybody else along this journey with you through the songs that you sing, whether it’s a cover or a song that you’ve written.”
Brown performs music when he can, singing at weddings, bars and street corners. But he also performs as OU’s mascots Boomer and Sooner, preferably known as being a “friend of” the mascots, Brown said.
After he graduates in fall 2018, he plans to travel the country and perform his own music.
Megan Sherrill can scroll through the contacts on her phone and see Winona Ryder’s name — yes, that Winona Ryder; the woman who starred as Veronica in the 1980s classic film “Heathers” and shoplifted designer goods and later became one of the faces of designer label Marc Jacobs.
The public relations sophomore played Ryder’s daughter in “The Iceman” (2012) during her freshman year in high school. While there, producers made sure she had the opportunity to get a proper education by having tutors on set — but school didn’t distract from Sherrill being awestruck, especially when she met David Schwimmer.
“I fangirled like crazy when I met him, I started quoting ‘Friends,’” Sherrill said. “I told him that him and Rachel were not on a break — this was all within the first two minutes of meeting him.”
Sherrill’s career began with the show “Barney and Friends” after auditioning in Dallas. As she got older, she attended Cathryn Sullivan’s Acting for Film school, and got her agent Kim Dawson. After graduating from high school a semester early in December 2015, Sherrill moved to Los Angeles to pursue her career.
Sherrill lived with her dog in a one-bedroom apartment 10 minutes outside of Hollywood and paid $2,500 a month.
She would go on audition after audition, waiting to hear about callbacks or offers. She modeled for Lifetime Fitness, Razor Scooters — anything she could find.
“It paid me money, I didn’t care,” Sherrill said. “It got me 600 bucks for the day.”
As she got rejected for parts and waited for callbacks, Sherrill realized living alone in Los Angeles was more expensive and more difficult than she imagined.
“I thought I was going to move there and get famous in five minutes, and that’s just not how it works,” Sherrill said.
After speaking with another actress working three jobs just to sustain her living in Los Angeles, Sherrill realized she didn’t want to go broke trying to make it in the business and couldn’t fathom being older, working three jobs at once and not having a degree just to pay rent.
“In her mind, that’s normal because she kind of grew up in that atmosphere,” Sherrill said. “For me, I couldn’t do that..risking all that (to make it in the business).”
In July 2016, she left Los Angeles and enrolled in a community college in Dallas. This Fall, Sherrill transferred to OU and rushed as a Kappa Kappa Gamma. She said she is much happier now in school than she was outside of Hollywood where the lifestyle was more “glitz and glam” and felt like constant competition.
“I’m not constantly feeling like I have to impress everybody,” Sherrill said. “Here it feels more like, I have steps that I can do to get (somewhere).”
But she doesn’t regret it.
“I’m glad that I did it — otherwise I would’ve always wondered, ‘oh, what if I hadn’t done it,’” Sherrill said. “If you’re just one of those people who lives, breathes, ‘I would die without doing this,’ then that might be worth it, but I can go to school (and) be happy, doing that, too.”
Michael Breath walked into a studio in Atlanta, looking to audition for “Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 2.” Instead, he received a role in “Spider-Man: Homecoming.”
When the acting junior arrived at the studio, he learned the “Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 2” auditions had closed. That’s when he saw open auditions for a movie called “Summer of George.”
“I didn’t hear anything for a month,” Breath said. “In the acting world, you don’t hear anything in two weeks, you didn’t get it — don’t try.”
After that month, though, Breath got a callback. He went, did a callback, and two weeks later, he was asked to meet with the director.
Breath walked in, sat down, and in came John Watts, the director of “Spider-Man: Homecoming.”
“I knew who John Watts was the second he walked in that room,” Breath said.
And that’s when Breath found out he had made it into a Marvel movie as a featured extra.
“I was so freaking out because at this point I was thinking I was being pranked,” Breath said. “‘There’s no way I landed this, this is such a lie, I’m getting pranked.’”
Watts wrote down an address and told Breath to be there at 5 a.m. the next day. Breath expected a movie set but arrived at a bus station.
“Further making me believe I was getting pranked,” Breath said.
A bus pulled up, Breath got on, was taken to the set and immediately put into hair and makeup — but it didn’t hit him until Tom Holland walked across the room.
“I said, ‘Is that Tom Holland?’ And the lady (doing hair and makeup) said, ‘Yes, this is Spider-Man,’” Breath said. “And I lost it.”
Breath’s acting career began with his love of Disney’s “Mulan” and his opportunity to play Mulan’s father in his sixth grade show.
He discovered a love and a passion for acting, entertaining people and becoming a character. But he wasn’t the type to be considered the class clown, he said.
“I was the shy and timid kid, so people were really shocked when they found out I was doing theater — I wanted to play sports, I wanted to play basketball,” Breath said. “When I was in seventh or eighth grade, kids in athletics, they would bully me. … They would beat me up, they would make fun me.
“When I went to theater that day, I had a black eye, my nose was bleeding, and everyone there was just worried about me, they took care of me,” he said.
And that’s when theater felt like home.
Since his sixth grade musical, Breath has played roles in “Okay, OK,” “Mime Cop” and just finished filming “Sleeping in Plastic.” With each piece, Breath learned more and more that what directors care about most is being yourself.
“I was having this conversation with some extras on the last movie I did,” Breath said. “They were asking me how did I get it, what did I do, and I said, ‘Honestly, you’re saying you’re just an extra, you’re just in the background — they could’ve picked other people to be in the background, but they picked you. You have a unique something about you, roll with that.’”