11/14/2012 10:23:00 PM Life After Graduation: Brooke Dillon
by Connie Bickman
Note: This new column will feature "hometown folks," specifically Cannon Falls and Randolph High School graduates - of any year - and their unique or interesting careers. If you know of anyone you feel would make an interesting feature, email email@example.com - their email address must also be included.
"While growing up in Cannon Falls, my grandma (Irene Carnel) always told me to dream big and shoot for the moon. . .and I did," said Brooke Dillon, 26, who now resides in New York City.
A 2004 graduate of Cannon Falls High School, Brooke took her grandmother's advice and now has a career as an actress, which she admits, "hits a 10 on the 'interesting meter.'"
Brooke set her goals high while still in high school and commended the staff at CFHS for helping her match her interests to future job careers.
"I fell in love with musical theater during high school and from that point on I made it a goal to keep acting and singing...as a career or a hobby. Some goals I've attained, some I'm still working on, and some," she admits, "I've discovered are not what I really wanted after all."
After graduating from the University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, with a B.A. in Journalism and Mass Communications, with an emphasis in Public Relations, Brooke set out to focus on her dreams.
"My family was great about letting me figure out what I wanted to do career-wise. I've bounced around a bit, but I feel lucky knowing I have a degree and work experience in a field unrelated to acting, just in case I decide this lifestyle isn't for me," Brooke said, adding, "My family and friends have been extremely supportive."
After high school, Brooke intended to become a broadcast journalist, but half-way through college she changed her major to public relations. The next four years, after college, she worked with the Minnesota State Fair's marketing department.
"During that period I realized there was one big, huge, scary dream I needed to attempt making a reality...so, I picked up and moved to New York."
The journey hasn't always been easy. Brooke admits, "Getting to where I am now in New York was difficult. I moved out here without knowing a single person in the entertainment industry, so I definitely had my work cut out for me. But, I worked as hard as I could, took classes and networked. Eventually I worked my way up to what I'm doing now."
And what Brooke does now is quite impressive. She describes her job as a stand-in/background actress for a variety of networks - ABC, HBO, USA, etc., working primarily as a stand-in on "666 Park Ave," "Blue Bloods" and "Royal Pains."
Brooke says there are many things she loves about her career as an actress.
"I'm in different locations, situations, and working with different people nearly every day. One week I'll be playing a guest at Leonardo DiCaprio's wedding in the new Martin Scorsese film, 'The Wolf of Wall Street,' and the next week I'm standing-in for a main character on '666 Park Avenue.' I once had to teach Jane Fonda how to make a call on her new iPhone when I played her assistant in an episode of 'The Newsroom'. During one episode of 'Boardwalk Empire' I filmed a scene with an elephant and a camel. You never know what scene, location or scenario you're walking into when you arrive on set in the morning. You're also surprised at who you end up working on set with - it could be anyone from Michael J. Fox to Russell Crowe or Vanessa Williams!"
Brooke relates that being on set with actors and actresses that she grew up admiring is one of the best parts of her job.
"I grew up wanting to be just like stage and screen actress Christine Baranski, and was lucky enough to work on a scene with her on 'The Good Wife.' I've learned more about acting by seeing these professionals do their jobs first-hand than I did in all of my classes combined."
Brooke's career also allows her to travel to different locations in New York City, as well as places in the surrounding area (Long Island, the Hamptons, upstate NY) that she may not otherwise visit.
She also loves working on shows or movies that have great costumes and admits that dressing up is half the fun. For instance, "Boardwalk Empire" dresses in vintage 1920s-era costumes; "The Wolf of Wall Street," currently in production, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill and Rob Reiner, outfits their actresses in 80s cocktail dresses, in which Brooke wore a classic polka dot/flowered party dress playing one of Leonardo DiCaprio's family members in a wedding scene.
Brooke said she's had many actress "heroes" throughout the years...Shirley MacLaine, Sally Fields, Geena Davis, to mention a few. And with all that star power surrounding her, Brooke hasn't forgotten her hometown roots.
"Cannons Falls instilled in me all of those cliché small town values that have served me very well living in NYC. It's amazing where 'Minnesota nice' can get you!" She added, "I have so many fond memories of growing up in Cannon, from annual festivities on the Fourth of July to the Friday night high school football games, and big family holidays at my grandma's house. I've always appreciated Cannon's small-town community atmosphere. Sometimes I really miss that when living in such a large city."
Brooke's parents, Tim and Linda Dillon live in Cannon Falls, and her brother Ryan (36), lives in Delray Beach, Florida. He is the tournament director of the Senior PGA Allianz Championship in Boca Raton.
As for future plans, Brooke says her main goal right now is to keep working toward getting her "big break" and land a speaking role on a TV show or commercial.
"If that happens, great! If not," she says, "I've had the absolute best time trying. I would absolutely encourage anyone else with showbiz aspirations to follow this path, as long as they know they're in for their fair share of struggles when climbing this kind of career ladder. It can be extremely challenging and overwhelming at times, but just like anything else in life, if it's something you love, you owe yourself the chance to try and achieve it."