ECU alumna Beth Grant discusses acting career
Hollywood actress Beth Grant, an ECU distinguished alumna, spoke at Greenville?s Sheppard Memorial Library March 31. Photo by Cliff Hollis.
(Apr. 1, 2009)
A strong work ethic, positive outlook and some old fashioned Southern manners helped propel actress Beth Grant, a 1972 graduate of East Carolina University, to a successful career in film, television and theater, she told students and fans at a March 31 appearance sponsored by the College of Fine Arts and Communication.
“Once you get working in New York or L.A., it’s a very small world, so you better be nice. That’s where Southern manners come in handy,” she said.
A native of the South, Grant got her start behind the scenes at ECU's School of Theatre and Dance, learning directing, writing, lighting and costuming. She landed her only collegiate leading role as a senior in Romulus Linney’s "Holy Ghost," then lit out for New York City. Her acting career skyrocketed after her appearance in the 1988 Oscar-winning film "Rain Man."
“Once you’ve been in a movie that wins four Oscars and makes $500 million, they tend to call you (for auditions),” she said.
A hard-working character actress, Grant has appeared on stage, on television, and in more than 70 feature films, including "Little Miss Sunshine" and "No Country for Old Men," as well as the cult films "Donnie Darko" and "Sordid Lives."
Clips from her career were shown at the event. Grant reacted with commentary and laughter to scenes that featured her alongside leading actors Dennis Quaid, Billy Crystal, Tom Cruise, Kevin Spacey, Sandra Bullock and more.
She described her close relationship with Bullock, who also studied theater at ECU. The two first met, she said, when doing a reading for “Speed.” “We didn’t know who was going to be the lead, and all of sudden, Sandra walked in the door, and I said, ‘Oh my God, that’s the girl from ECU,” Grant said. “We were sisters under the skin right then.”
Grant continues to feel a close connection to ECU as well. While visiting Greenville, she took her 16-year-old daughter, Mary, a prospective student, for a tour of campus, showing her the theater department. “I really do think (ECU’s program) is as good as any in the country,’ Grant said.
She also mentioned a longtime goal to return to Greenville and teach at ECU when she retires from acting “It is still very much a fantasy, but I love East Carolina. I love this town,” she said.