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It may seem unlikely for a recent college graduate with a degree in dental hygiene to take up professional acting, but that’s what 25-year-old Northampton native Miranda Brooks has done; she made her TV debut last month, using the screen name Miranda Roldan.
Roldan is her mother’s maiden name. “It’s a nice way to embrace the Hispanic side of my family,” she said.
Brooks, or Roldan, starred on the Investigation Discovery series “Happily Never After,” which features re-enactments of true crime stories. Brooks graduated with a degree in dental hygiene from the University of New Haven in 2011, but decided to take up acting after moving to Washington, D.C., for a full-time dental hygienist job. Brooks is a 2007 graduate of Northampton High School.
“Surprisingly, D.C. is No. 2 in the theater district, with New York being No. 1,” Brooks said in a recent phone interview. “There are a lot of acting opportunities. It was always this kind of side interest I’ve had.”
Brooks said once she was in Washington, she began researching agencies and casting companies, and discovered that the area is also known for its large industrial film industry, which includes such things as public service announcements and company training videos.
Because Discovery Communications is based in Silver Spring, Maryland, just north of the nation’s capital, Brooks said, “There are a lot of those murder reenactment-type shows in the area.”
Brooks landed her role in the third season of “Happily Never After” through Hutson Talent Agency, based in Virginia. She submitted head shots (photos) and her resume to the agency, and heard back from owner Sylvia Hutson. “She contacted me and said she would love to have me aboard, and therefore I was in her database and joined the agency that way,” Brooks said.
In “Happily Never After,” Brooks stars as Anita Lopez in episode 10, “Ocean of Evil.” The real Lopez was murdered by her husband.
“With this particular story, it was about a girl who was young and she got married, and unfortunately her husband ended up being a sociopath and murdering her for her life insurance money,” Brooks said. “They wanted someone who looks very similar to the character, and I fit the role of the looks, the personality — everything that this woman embodied.” Brooks added, “I felt very honored to represent this woman and tell her story, because it is a true story.”
After the episode aired, Brooks said Lopez’s brother contacted her through Facebook to tell her how happy he and his family were with the production.
“It was very emotional for me,” Brooks said. “When they reached out to me, I was very, very moved.”
Acting bug not so surprising
Brooks’ affinity for the performing arts began at the Hackworth School of Performing Arts in Easthampton, where she took dance classes as a youth.
“She was always very pleasant, very friendly,” recalled Lisa Heath, Brooks’ tap teacher at the school. “She was dedicated to the studio, she was there quite often.”
Heath said she is not surprised by Brook’s decision to pursue an acting career. “I guess this would be the next step,” she said, adding, “Her personality will be a big asset to her acting. ... She always had a lot of friends.”
At the University of New Haven, Brooks joined the dance team and worked as a workshop model for a local photographer.
“Ever since then, there’s been a snowball effect. You build your network and build other opportunities by getting yourself involved,” Brooks said. “Really in the last year or so, I’ve been developing this acting portion.”
She has appeared in several commercials, including one for Coupon Bug, another for National Mortgage Help Center and a military PSA for gun control.
Recently, Brooks said she decided to stop working full-time as a dental hygienist to focus more on her developing career in show business.
“I had a hard time juggling this full-time job and the acting bit, so I figured this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” she said.
Brooks is currently working with acting coach Michael McDavitt in Washington and said she hopes to land a contract with an agent in Los Angeles or New York City by October. In order for that to happen, Brooks said, she must submit a head shot, resume and demo reel — a two-minute video of her acting clips — to agents.
“You have to have the right connections. You have to do your research and find out what area in the acting business you want to be in. There are different agents that represent different areas,” she said, adding that she hopes to get into the TV and film businesses.
Brooks added that she is also in the midst of being cast for a reality show about individuals who are fed up with their current jobs and looking for a life-changing experience, although she couldn’t disclose further details.
Even though it might be a risky move to leaving the security of the dental field, Brooks said, “It’s just kind of listening to that intuition and going with it and doing what makes you happy.”