Fulfilling a dream in Hollywood is pie-in-the-sky for most people, even those with the courage to drop everything and head west, trying to break through in one of the world’s most difficult industries.
Achieving success at such a level while also maintaining your moral standards can be close to impossible.
All of which makes Maura Corsini’s story that much more remarkable.
The 2014 Archmere Academy graduate hasn’t yet reached the pinnacle of professional acting, but she’s getting closer to significant recognition. She’s managed to avoid lowering her standards or falling victim to the sometimes-tawdry requests of the churn-it-out movie industry. In fact, she’s done one better.
Corsini, 22 and raised with her family in Delaware, has landed a role in a movie based on the book “Unplanned.” It’s the story of Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood administrator who converted to the pro-life movement after up-close interaction with abortion. Cary Solomon, writer of the movie “God’s not dead” is among the driving forces of Unplanned.
Corsini’s character is Johnson’s coworker and friend.
“I always had the idea that I just wanted to move to Los Angeles and start a career right away,” she said.
A challenging path
As many aspiring actors learn, the path is rarely easy and typically includes “survival jobs” such as waiting tables at restaurants, keeping on top of a challenging profession while paying the bills.
She planted a seed with her parents, Joe and Jackie, her junior year in high school. Her dad is chief financial officer for Catholic Diocese of Wilmington. While her parents were supportive, she knew convincing them about a move to Los Angeles would be challenging.
“That’s so not conventional,” she said. She also worried about Archmere’s boast of 100 percent college matriculation rate for graduates.
Still, she didn’t let any of it derail the pursuit of her dream. After graduating Archmere, she went to a conservatory program in New York and spent several months at acting school there. In January 2015, she drove to Los Angeles. Her parents took a flight home and one of her brothers, Connor, stayed a few months with her in L.A.
“I had no job. I had no agent. I had nothing.”
She found random work, continued at acting school and was eventually asked to help coach there.
As for professional work, she’s done some short films, two TV pilots that didn’t get picked up and a play or two.
“This is first notable thing, which I’m thrilled about,” she said.
Keeping your values
Her Catholic upbringing and strong belief in preserving life don’t always jibe with the majority viewpoint in the movie industry.
“The hardest thing about being an actress before you’re established is you’re constantly auditioning for things that you might hate, and you still have to give 110 percent to that audition,” she said. “That’s what I kept running into. ‘You have to wear this. You have to look this way. You have to be this weight and this height. Or else you can’t come to this audition.’ It’s all this pressure of trying not to sacrifice your morals for a job. And at the end of the day, it’s just a job.”
Solomon, the movie veteran, reminded her of the social climate in California.
“Hollywood is very, very pro-choice, so it’s nerve-wracking. He said ‘You’ve got to be prepared for the backlash, especially in circles in Los Angeles and Hollywood. They’re very, very opposed to this.’”
The potential backlash is not concerning for Corsini, especially if she gets to pursue her dream while maintaining a level of morality.
“If I get to do an acting job, and then also have it sit well morally with me — and know that I’m trying to inspire and trying to make the world a better place — there’s nothing more that I could ask for.”
Getting a break
The opportunity to appear in “Unplanned” unfolded unconventionally. Corsini had been in touch with producers, then lost contact. Suddenly, in February, one of them was a customer in the restaurant where she worked. She got an audition and was on the “Unplanned” set in Stillwater, Okla., by May.
A book of the same name written by Johnson provides an unvarnished view of abortion. Corsini’s character is in the thick of the hypocrisy Johnson encounters from within Planned Parenthood.
“I play Megan,” Corsini said. “I work at Planned Parenthood with her. We’re very, very close friends and I go on this journey with her. It’s me, her and this other girl, Taylor. Do we stay at Planned Parenthood or leave? We’re really the three who are trying to get out.”
Corsini has been advised that she may be able to develop a niche for acting in roles that help deliver a message in society, and that really appeals to her.
“I want to be an actress because I want to inspire people by large numbers. I want people to leave the theater thinking, ‘Oh, my gosh, my life has been changed.’”
Details of the film’s rollout are still being developed, but it’s expected to open in select theaters. An article in The Hollywood Reporter says release can be expected next year.
It’s guaranteed to draw attention from people on both sides of the abortion debate, including extremists who can make the public discourse more difficult.
“It shows that side of the pro-life people, grim reaper outside an abortion clinic. We’re not condoning that and we’re showing how horrible that is. If the non-target audience, the pro-choice people, take the time to watch this, that’ll be a comfort to them, to know we’re trying to say everyone is on the same page, just be open-minded,” Corsini said. “We’re not condoning the extremist view on either side. We’re just trying to show you the truth. And that’s what this film does so beautifully. You can watch this film and find bits and pieces of truth.”
She likens the clash of social viewpoints to the current state of politics.
“It’s like both extremists don’t even acknowledge that there are extremists on each side,” she said. “People aren’t listening. They’re waiting to talk.
“It’s really important to look at life from all different perspectives, because if you don’t, you won’t really know what truth is.”
Corsini hopes this role springboards her into other projects. And she hasn’t ruled out maintaining Archmere’s sturdy college matriculation rate.
“I’d love to eventually get a degree,” she said. “My dream would be to be a stable actress and have time to get a degree. But I’m learning a lot of different lessons … and a lot of that comes with acting. I feel like I’m learning in different ways, but a lot.”