Katie Henoch '13 makes her way onto the big screen
By Anna-Maria Goossens | Tuesday, May 22, 2018
By Anna-Maria Goossens
Tuesday, May 22, 2018
Go figure: You spend your life on the East Coast, study at UMass Amherst, work in Boston for a while post-graduation, and then make the jump to Los Angeles to get your film and television career underway — only to get back on a plane because the first movie you get cast for is being filmed in Massachusetts.
That’s what happened to Katie Henoch ’13, who made her debut this spring in Chappaquiddick, which tells the murky saga of the Ted Kennedy car accident that cost Mary Jo Kopechne her life in 1969. Henoch plays Suzy Tannenbaum, who, along with Kopechne, was one of the Boiler Room Girls who worked on Bobby Kennedy’s campaign prior to his assassination.
Now back in LA, Henoch has used the movie as a way to get an agent. She’s been cast in several TV shows and is working with her sister and fellow actor Leah on producing her own series, hoping to tap into a hunger for new voices.
A Boiler Room Girl
After graduating from UMass Amherst, Henoch worked on the East Coast for a while, and she thinks it’s her inclusion on an old Boston casting list that got her the Chappaquiddick gig.
Henoch was called for an audition and though she told the casting agent she wasn’t in Boston, they wanted to see her anyway. She auditioned via Skype, not thinking it would go anywhere. She was called back and eventually brought to Boston for the final callback, where she got the job and a 1960s-style haircut. Henoch noted she and Tannenbaum do look somewhat similar, remarking it’s interesting to play “a real live person who exists in the world today.”
Henoch had moved to LA in 2015, and took on a temporary gig assisting casting director Felicia Fasano, doing table reads for House of Lies and assisting on casting for Pamela Adlon’s show, Better Things. That job had wound down just as she was cast in Chappaquiddick, but she did approach Fasano when she returned to LA after filming it to ask for her help signing with an agent. Fasano did help; Henoch's got an agent and has since acted on Wrecked, a TBS show.
She’s also collaborated with her sister on a series of shorts (fellow UMass Amherst alumna Julia Piker’s doing their music, she said). Hollywood is looking for stories and work driven by women — she noted that producer Paul Feig (Freaks and Geeks, Bridesmaids), for example, has launched Powderkeg, a digital content company aiming to showcase women and other underserved voices.
Henoch and her sister are writing and producing partners and their shorts “are based on our sister relationship. We’re somewhat co-dependent,” she laughed.
All in the family
With a father who is a director of photography and a mother who is a dancer and dance teacher, Henoch knew early on the performing arts would be her world.
“I grew up going on set with him,” she said of her father, thanks to whom she and her sister actually appeared in an episode of Sesame Street. Henoch also visited him on National Geographic shoots and on features in New York and Boston. “This is where I want to go to work!” Henoch recalled thinking. She said that her parents were on board and described herself as “feeling lucky and supported in that way.”
At UMass Amherst, Henoch found a community and artistic growth doing improv and working in the Department of Theater. She appreciated the broad-strokes approach of the undergrad major despite her ever-present goal of being a performer.
“I feel like the best job is this one, where I show up and pretend to be someone else,” she said, but she’s glad she learned about other aspects of theater as well because “you have an understanding and a respect for these other departments, and the artistry of these other departments.”
Henoch found a mentor in Professor of Acting Julie Nelson and particularly enjoyed her voice class. “She was a big mentor while I was there,” Henoch said, “who made me feel like I was doing the right things and deserved to be there.”
She has fond memories of being part of the cast of Scarcity, a mainstage production in the Curtain Theater. “It was such a joy to get to act with them,” she said.
She and fellow Scarcity cast member Erin Wholley also worked together on Matt and Ben, an independent student work staged in the Curtain for Henoch’s senior thesis. Henoch offered a shout-out to Production Manager Julie Fife for “letting me pull off Matt and Ben in the Curtain!”
“It was my first foray into producing my own work,” she said, and imparted upon her the importance of a good work ethic and a sense of professionalism that she still draws on.
Asked what words of advice she might have for others looking to make the most of UMass and beyond, Henoch advised against “waiting around for a phone call,” and waiting for someone else to decide to hand you a career. “You can’t think like that.”
“You have to be strategic, you have to be smart,” she said. For example, if you’re working for a casting director, as she did, use that to learn what makes for a successful audition, to get your name in front of people, and to build a network.
Henoch also offered that it’s important to “be open. When you have a good connection, pay attention to that. Most people want to work with their friends.”