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Originally published in The California Aggie

Sophomore history and classics double major Lindsey Black, like most college students, has a back-up plan. If earning a Ph.D., traveling to Europe to study and possibly becoming a professor doesn’t work out, Black may end up working as an actress in Hollywood.

If that seems a little bit backward to you, you’re probably not alone. But it’s the truth for Black, who transferred to UC Davis this past fall after spending her high school years starring in the Disney Channel television show “As the Bell Rings” and in the soon-to-be-released feature film 16-Love.

Now, though, completing her degrees and living the most “normal” life she’s had since being discovered at a Disney casting call in Dallas is Black’s number one priority.

“Here [in Davis] it’s like, ‘Oh, its neat that you act, that’s cool that you did that,’ but back in L.A. when I’m talking about school people are like, ‘It’s good to have a fall back plan,’” Black said. “So it’s different perspectives, and not that one’s right or wrong, but I think school has definitely become my focus.”

After spending years participating in local theater and acting classes in her hometown of Fort Worth, Texas, the then-14-year-old Black begged her parents to take her to a casting call with Disney representatives. She eventually beat out thousands of other girls for a part on “As the Bell Rings”, a series of five-minute-long episodes about a group of high school friends.

“It was one of those crazy out of the blue amazing experiences. I had worked hard and I knew how to take a script and be prepared to perform it quickly, but as far as booking a job like that, no, it was completely random,” Black said.

With her mom in tow, Black moved to Los Angeles, hired an agent and manager, and began working on “As the Bell Rings” playing Lexi, the new girl in school.

In between learning her lines, getting her hair, makeup and costume ready, and filming scenes with the other cast members, Black worked with an on-set tutor to keep up with schoolwork.

Black’s best friend, Belmont University English literature major Lindy Law, said she always knew Black was a talented actress and wasn’t surprised when she landed the role.

“The first time I saw her [on “As the Bell Rings”] the TV was on at a friend’s house, and I was like, ‘Oh, my God, that’s my friend!’” Law said. “I was just proud of her.”

The series ended in 2009, and at 16 years old, Black finished her high school requirements. Not satisfied with only a high school diploma, she enrolled at Santa Monica City College while simultaneously going to auditions.

Black estimates that she went on about 160 auditions, booking commercials for products such as tampons. The process, she said, was a huge lesson in confidence.

“Your parents always tell you, ‘You’re so unique, you’re such an individual, we love you,’ and if you make it into a callback for a bigger film or show, suddenly everyone looks like you and talks like you and you feel like you’re surrounded by 20 of your sisters. It’s very bizarre,” Black said. “You just realize there’s so many different factors, and you have to do as well as you can and feel good about that instead of if you booked this role or that role.”

In 2010, Black did book a role, playing the main character’s best friend in the high school comedy 16-Love. The film was recently picked up by Warner Brothers and will begin showing in select theaters and online next month.

The film was shot in locations around San Diego, so Black lived in various hotels throughout the three-month shoot, finishing schoolwork between scenes.

“With a series you slip into this routine of knowing what to expect. With the film, the hours aren’t consistent the entire time. Or maybe the director will have this crazy burst of, ‘Let’s shoot through the night!’ So things are a lot more unpredictable,” Black said.

Ben Wiggins, an assistant director for 16-Love, was impressed with Black’s work ethic and professionalism.

“As an assistant director, you don’t interact closely with the talent,” Wiggins said. “But in Lindsey’s case, we had several deep conversations. She’s several years younger than me, but she can hold her own in many situations. She’s very precocious.”

After filming wrapped this past fall, Black moved into the Cuarto dorms, where she enjoys the “normal” life she missed out on after moving to Los Angeles. She currently works as a research assistant for a professor writing for National Public Radio, dabbles in singing and songwriting and only occasionally gets asked for an autograph.

“I get to be a 19-year-old, as opposed to someone who’s in a 19-year-old body but one, treated like a product — my business card is a picture of my face — and two, constantly being around people who are not your age, and looking at what they can gain from casting you,” Black said. “No one’s looking at how I look when I walk into class, it’s what I contribute with my papers and discussions. It’s such a wonderful breather to be in Davis.”

Black will be holding a discussion with students in the Department of Theater and Dance Performance Lab A on Friday from 4 to 5 p.m.

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