Westerville local Johanna McGinley was convinced her acting career had hit a dead end when she moved back to Ohio from New York City. She was wrong. Last spring, McGinley landed her biggest role to date on WGN America's Pittsburgh-based dramatic series "Outsiders."
Westerville local Johanna McGinley was convinced her acting career had hit a dead end when she moved back to Ohio from New York City. She was wrong.
Last spring, McGinley landed her biggest role to date on WGN America's Pittsburgh-based dramatic series "Outsiders" as Annalivia Farrell, a woman who maintains a vow of silence to honor the family matriarch. The Jan. 26 premiere reached nearly 2 million viewers, breaking network records. For McGinley, the numbers speak volumes, even if her character doesn't.
"When you take [theater] classes in New York or Los Angeles, everyone tells you those are the only places you can pursue an acting career," McGinley said over coffee at an east side café. "They don't tell you they make movies in the Midwest, too. Actually, a lot of movies are made here, and there are opportunities to work on both sides of the camera."
After high school, McGinley studied film and TV acting at the New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts. After her apartment in New York was burglarized, she returned home to Ohio and worked a string of retail jobs to cover her bills.
"I was pretty depressed for a while," she said. "I just felt like there weren't many acting opportunities, and I've never imagined myself doing anything else besides acting."
That changed in 2013 when McGinley was cast as an extra in "Captain America: The Winter Soldier," which filmed in Cleveland.
"After being cast for 'Captain America,' I decided to give acting another try," she said. "I haven't had a 'real' job in three years."
McGinley has worked both on and off screen for several major films and television shows, including: "Transformers: Age of Extinction," "I Am Wrath," "478," "The Bachelor," "Dance Moms" and "Undercover Boss."
"I worked my network really hard to get work in the beginning, but once you know people it's easier to find jobs," she said. "I don't know how lesser-known actors found out about jobs before Facebook."
McGinley considers "Outsiders" her break, and she's appeared in nearly every episode alongside Ryan Hurst ("Remember the Titans," "Sons of Anarchy") and David Morse ("The Hurt Locker," "True Detective").
The series centers on the Farrells, a clannish family that lives in isolation on a Kentucky mountain and follows a brutal code. Tensions increase as a corporate mining company threatens to evict the flock from its land.
"Outsiders" has been likened to "Justified" and "Sons of Anarchy," and so far the show has received fairly positive reviews, mostly championing the ability of the strong cast to anchor a storyline that could have easily fallen victim to the clichés that plague similar TV dramas. Even without any lines, McGinley believes her role in "Outsiders" will lead to more work.
"I've always wanted to be a character actor; I've never really been interested in being the leading lady type. I'm happy being the girl that's sort of in everything, but you don't necessarily know her name," McGinley said. "Lucille Ball has always been my idol, and she was very expressive. If you can engage the audience without any lines - that says loads."
"Outsiders" is already slated for a second season, which McGinley hopes will include her character's backstory. Beyond the series, she hopes more films and TV shows will consider shooting in the Midwest, and using more regional talent.
"It's hard to pay your bills with just acting jobs in the Midwest, so I'm excited to see more opportunities for film and TV here," McGinley said. "You can work in the film industry full time in the Midwest. The key is to meet as many people as you can and tell them what your goals are. You never know who will help you achieve them."
Currently listening to:Parkway Drive: "Wreckage"
See me: "Outsiders," Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on WGN America
Favorite movie:"One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest"
Favorite TV show:Besides "Outsiders," "American Horror Story"
Favorite restaurant in Columbus:Lemongrass
Favorite bar in Columbus:Union, great brunch on Sundays.
I can't live without:My notebook. I'm constantly making lists.