Kelsey Tucker is an Actress, producer, writer, and attorney who is preparing to launch her first feature film, a romantic comedy titled “The Competition.” Having been interested in writing since the third grade, Kelsey started acting at age twelve and played both male and female roles as a child in school plays. At sixteen, she signed with her first agent and started booking commercials and continued acting all the way up to law school. After starting a family, she re-entered the entertainment community and blossomed from there.

In a recent and exclusive interview, Kelsey discussed her journey and her hopes for the future.

Return to acting and embracing writing

Meagan Meehan (MM): How did you get back into acting after taking time off from your legal practice and to start a family?

Kelsey Tucker (KT): I took time off from acting from 26 through 39 because I was working full time as a lawyer. It wasn’t until my son, Dash, was around six that I quit private practice and started acting again at the urging of my husband. I nearly cried in my first class with all these wonderful actors. I hadn’t even realized how much I had missed it and how much the creative process is a part of me. After working on a few independent feature films, I realized that Movies were now being done at incredibly low budgets (because of the digital camera).

I had written and developed a screenplay several years before, and I pulled it out of my drawer and thought, “Let’s make this into a movie.”

I became a producer by necessity. If you truly want to make a project happen, you are the only person standing in your way. One of my favorite mantras is “Why not me?” I learned as I went along, and I’m grateful to all the people who helped me, knowing it was my first production: our attorney Kevin Koloff, our casting director Ricki Maslar, our director Harvey Lowry, our lead Thora Birch – none of these people had any reason to take me seriously other than I flew down there several times to meet in person, believed in my project, and sold them on the story idea.

From there the trust built as they saw how hard I was willing to work to make this happen.

MM: What role and/or job in the industry do you enjoy most and why?

KT: I get asked this a lot, and it’s a hard one for me because I love acting at my core, but I have been writing for just as long, and I love that too. There is a tremendous amount of satisfaction in writing something well and watching other people enjoy it and help bring it to life.

Particularly watching extremely talented actors deliver the lines that you have written is mind blowing the first few times you see it and hear it. You have to pinch yourself to believe it’s happening. If pushed, I’d probably say writing wins. But it’s close. Producing, again, is something I only do by necessity. It helped being a lawyer, but there is no love in my heart for that type of work.

MM: Is “The Competition” your first written/produced film, and what was the process of bringing it to life like?

KT: “The Competition” is my first finished screenplay. I have a second, “A Favor for Addie,” which is also a romantic comedy, and I’m working on developing a drama that I hope to produce again with Thora Birch.

Bringing “The Competition” to life was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, bar none. I gave it all of my time, intellect, heart and passion for the last four years. This does not include the time I spent writing the script, which took a few years. A really well-developed script should be reviewed by many talented people, torn apart and rewritten many, many times. This one was, so it was ready. In addition to being the hardest thing, I’ve ever done this experience has been the most gratifying. It’s still unbelievable to me how many people it takes coming together and working their butts off to get a movie made. It’s crazy…and we did it! I’m grateful, and just a little stunned we pulled it off.

MM: Where did you get the idea for “The Competition” story?

KT: When I was young, I had a string of serious long-term relationships that ended with infidelity. These were “real love” relationships that lasted several years, and both parties were devastated when they ended. It confounded me that people who love each other can still be tempted and sometimes act on the impulse to cheat. It’s a human instinct to be attracted to other people, but love is such a strong emotion too. Both can make you crazy. I truly believe that people in their hearts want to do good and make the right choices. I wanted to examine the lines between good and bad behavior. At heart, I’m a good-natured person who finds humor in almost anything, so of course, I wrote a comedy. I took what could be a dark subject and made it funny because we can all recognize ourselves in these characters.

We can all relate to these moments and wonder, “Hmm, what would I do?” The truth is funny.

Movie characters, career, and upcoming projects

MM: Can you tell us a bit more about the movie and the characters, especially the role you play?

KT: “The Competition” is a romantic comedy about a girl who thinks that all men are pigs and a guy who challenges her to a competition to prove that she’s wrong. Thora Birch plays Lauren Mauldin, and she has a very popular blog promoting her “PIG Theory” which is a formula that can help you determine if your mate is about to cheat. As a failsafe, she says you have to break up after six months because statistically speaking it’s not safe to date for longer than that.

She encounters Calvin Chesney, played by Chris Klein, who is intrigued by this strong-willed but misguided woman. He challenges her to competition. He’ll pick five of his good friends who have been involved in relationships for longer than six months, and she’ll set up a scenario to challenge them with temptation. Then, the best three out of five wins. If she wins, Calvin, a famous woman’s advocate attorney, has to write a forward to her new book touting her theory and attesting to its effectiveness. If he wins, she has to shut down the blog and date him “like a normal person.” Of course, there are unexpected twists that throw everything off course. The ending of this movie is a true surprise and a real treat.

It’s going to be one of those endings that people leave the theater talking about.

I play Sharon Gottlieb, one of Calvin’s friends who he sets up to be challenged with temptation. Sharon is modeled after many women I know. She’s a full-time attorney, but she’s also a soccer mom to a nine-year-old and a breastfeeding mom to a new baby. She pumps at the office and is constantly on her cell phone with her husband barking orders. She’s trying to do everything perfectly, but she’s failing miserably.

MM: Career-wise, where do you hope to go from this point?

KT: I’m going to write more scripts. I’m going to develop and produce more films. I’m going to continue acting, and I’m going to write a book. I’m hoping that “The Competition” opens doors for me so that when I’m ready to develop my next project, it’s easier to set up those meetings, find my creative team, and get the project off the ground.

So much time is spent organizing the funding and all the legal paperwork, it can be a downer. But you have to keep your eyes focused on the art you are trying to create and the story you are trying to tell. That’s what keeps you going.

MM: Do you have any upcoming projects and/or events—or advice for budding performers—that you would like to mention?

KT: I just finished a thirty-minute featurette called “Judith,” written and directed by David Wagstaff. I play Judith. It’s about a woman who is given 24-hours to find out what men truly want. It was the widest ranging role I’ve ever played - this woman takes a crazy journey - and I had to use every emotion in my toolbox to bring her to life. I loved the challenge.

I hope to be given the opportunity to take on more roles like that and I’d love to work with David again.

My advice for budding performers is “do what you love, and the money will follow.” That’s a hard one to commit to because as artists we are usually making very little money. But I believe the art is worth it, and if you work hard enough, there is money to be made. Most people aren’t willing to work hard enough, and I don’t blame them. If I had known how much work this was going to take from the get-go, I probably would have paused before diving in. But I still would have done it, and I’m glad I did. The other mantra I love is “you can do anything you set your mind to.” Trite? Not at all. It’s absolutely true.