After finishing her shift at Walmart last Sunday, Monica Rose Betz gathered with family to watch herself star in a television movie. And despite a bit of self-critiquing she was pleased with the results.
The 2019 Wauseon High School graduate is experiencing the first tastes of a blossoming career as an actress. Her first full-length feature, a Lifetime network movie entitled “Birthmother’s Betrayal,” premiered over the weekend and led to a second Lifetime movie scheduled to air later this year.
It’s a heady time for Betz, who has dreamed of a Hollywood career since she was small. With several film projects already under her belt, she plans to move to Los Angeles this August and take the audition circuit by storm.
“I’m pretty proud of myself for how far I’ve come,” she said.
The 18-year-old veteran of high school stage productions had previously traveled to Los Angeles with her mother, Heidi, to try out for parts during the television industry’s annual pilot season, between January and March. She garnered roles in two short films, “College Town” and “Love Lost, Life Lost.”
Late last year Betz scored an audition for “Birthmother’s Betrayal,” the story of a 16-year-old girl who sidesteps her adoptive mother to seek out her birth mother, with chilling results. She sent the producers a video of her cold read from the script, and was contacted about a week later to send another video interpreting the scene differently.
Betz was given the part, and flew to California the next day for a table read with other cast members and for a costume fitting. The movie began filming in December.
“I was a little bit nervous, considering it was my very first movie and I didn’t know what the producers would think of me, if I met their expectations,” she said. “But everyone was so welcoming and so kind. They knew it was my first film, so they tried to be as welcoming as possible And I really appreciated that.”
Filming took about two and a half weeks in locations in and around Los Angeles. Betz said the 12-hour days during shooting could be a bit tiring, “but I don’t consider it exhausting because it’s something that I love to do.”
What she did find difficult was the subsequent transition back to normal life at her family’s home in Sand Creek, Mich., and resuming her housekeeping job at Fulton County Health Center in Wauseon.
“You go to set and you’re treated like a movie star,” Betz said. “It was hard coming back. It took a couple weeks to adjust to it.”
In February, she received a request to audition for a second Lifetime movie, “Nightmare Neighbor.” She sent a tape, then boarded a plane with her mother to once again attend casting calls during pilot season. While on the plane Betz got a call from her manager, who said the part was hers.
“I was obviously super-excited,” she said. “I was not expecting it that quickly. It was a bit of a shock, actually. I didn’t expect to get something that soon.”
“Nightmare Neighbor” was filmed over a couple weeks in February. It tells the story of a young girl and her widowed mother, who move to a new neighborhood and befriend another girl and her mother. However, the new relationships take a dark turn when the widowed mother develops a strange interest in her daughter’s friend.
“It kind of has a lot of twists and turns to it,” Betz said.
And while some actors find it difficult to memorize lines, Betz doesn’t have trouble. “I did a lot of theater in high school, a lot of memorization. I got a lot of practice,” she said. “When you memorize the lines yourself…it’s almost like second nature when they come out of your mouth.”
The emergence of the coronavirus in March slowed the entertainment industry considerably, so Betz is biding her time for her next film project. She continues working at Walmart to save money for her anticipated move this summer to Los Angeles with another aspiring actress. Given the expense of living there, she’ll temporarily move in with extended family outside the city.
For now, she remains grounded in her normal activities and appreciates the support family and friends give while reaching for the career she dreamed about.
“It’s exactly what I hoped it would be,” Betz said. “It comes naturally for me, and I love it so much it doesn’t even feel like work. I’m on Cloud Nine, that’s for sure.”
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.