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Department: Operations Research and Financial Engineering

Sanchez Operations Research and Financial Engineering

Suzanna Sanchez ’04

Actor

A worthy choice

My freshman year I enrolled in the engineering program at Princeton. I started out with the typical engineering course load of math, chemistry, physics, and computer science. When I graduated from high school, my highest grades were in math and science, so engineering felt like the right fit for me. Describing engineering at Princeton can best be explained by my freshman physics teacher. He said, “It is like drinking water out of a fire engine hose.” That was my approach to the course work. I studied hard and worked to understand the material, but I sometimes accepted only completely getting 50 percent of the material. Engineering is a great way to learn problem-solving skills. Courses like “Differential Equations” and “Game Theory” teach excellent problem-solving skills that I am so grateful that I developed. One thing I knew when I graduated Princeton was that I wanted to find my passion (acting, entertainment) and fuse my skill set (problem solving). Wall Street was not calling my name.

Developing a portfolio

At Princeton I was an active member of the Princeton University Players. With a rigorous course load, it was difficult to find a lot of time to act, but I was able to squeeze in one show a year. My sophomore year I performed in Chicago; my junior year, I was Anita in West Side Story; and my senior year I was Sally Bowles in Cabaret. At Princeton there is a lot of talent, and in order to get a leading role, you have to work your way up a bit. My sophomore year I was in a supporting role, and once the directors learned that I could handle a leading role, especially a singing leading role, I was offered better parts. Before Princeton I had performed in over 22 plays and musicals and I won a state award my senior year at Thespian Conference for “Best Dramatic Monologue.”

Learning through trial and error

Acting in Hollywood has been a challenge. There simply are too many actors. It is hard to get your name in the mix. When I first got out here, I was fortunate enough to secure an agent with ABA. On my first audition, I won the role of Elizabeth Wainio in Discovery Channel’s The Flight That Fought Back. What an incredible experience. The made-for-TV movie was nominated for an Emmy and had Keifer Sutherland narrating the story. I played one of the passengers on the 9/11 flight and spent two weeks of my life researching and reliving the horrible events. Part of my research included talking to Elizabeth’s family about the phone call they received when Elizabeth knew that she was going to die. It ripped my heart out. For the last 15 years, I had been making people laugh in musicals. Switching to a dramatic role about 9/11 was quite a life changing experience. Since that time, I received a co-star role in My Name Is Earl and appeared several times on Days of Our Lives. Although snagging small parts here or there was exciting, I found the audition process and actual acting was not my true passion. My goal now is to be more involved with movie development or financing for major motion pictures. It is funny; you don’t know that until you find yourself in the environment, but you find your niche. You just have to jump in and try sometimes. Right now, I am working on getting a job in film finance or as an assistant to a producer. These jobs are low entry jobs, but they are essential if you want to learn the business. You never know where they will lead you.

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