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Jessica Runck, Published January 30 2014

Homegrown Hollywood: TV appearance, finding success worth sharing

Two weeks ago, I was on TV.

The night my episode of “The Exes” aired on TV Land, I was in Las Vegas for work. My friends were concerned I would have to watch it alone, but I was secretly relieved. I didn’t want to make a big deal out of it just in case my scenes were cut.

That night, I put on a comfy hotel robe, poured myself a glass of wine, and turned on the TV for a relaxing, quiet, pressure-free evening.

But I couldn’t find the channel. A quick call to the front desk told me that this particular hotel didn’t have the channel.

In a slight panic, I called my parents. We decided to video chat, and when the episode came on, they would face the camera toward the TV so we could all watch it together. I was a little bummed my quiet evening plans weren’t working out, but if I wanted to see it, this was my only option.

The plan worked perfectly, and we sat through half the episode holding our breath as I silently prayed I would make the cut.

Finally, I came on camera. My dad let out an excited shout that slowly turned into a groan at how short and low-cut my dress was. My mom shushed him and we watched, glued to the TV.

Both my scenes made it into the episode, and the hives that had been forming on my body slowly receded.

When it was over, my parents came back in front of the camera and we all cheered together. The look on both their faces was even better than being on TV. The mix of pride, relief and joy made me so glad we had watched it together, and I realize this wasn’t just a win for me.

It was a win for them as well. They were the ones who had been there since I first fell in love with acting and writing.

My dad was the one who had patiently recorded every single movie I ever wrote for my friends.

My mom was the person who hadn’t been mad when she found I’d stolen her cassette tapes of musicals she’d deemed “inappropriate for 6-year-olds” and found me acting out the death scenes with my Barbies.

They had encouraged me when I wanted to be the lead in every musical and every play. And when, inevitably, I wasn’t, they were the ones who picked up the pieces of my broken little ego.

Before I went to college, my mom had begged me to get a business minor, but I had waved her away.

That was not what I wanted. I didn’t want a back-up plan because I didn’t want to back up.

When I decided to move to Los Angeles, they must have sighed to each other as they helped pack my car, knowing they were sending me off to try to achieve something very difficult. Something that would end up involving a lot of tearful phone calls.

And they were right. There were a lot of those calls. But they never stopped picking up the phone.

Sometimes I think pursuing this dream is harder on my parents than it is on me. It must be difficult to watch your kid struggle, rage, cry and feel helpless when they have no power to make it better.

To be forced to sit back and watch their child choose two of the most difficult careers at which to become successful isn’t easy for my parents. But they stuck by me.

And two weeks ago, high above the lights of Vegas, I was able to point to something tangible and make them feel, even for just a second, that all those hours of support they poured into my dreams has been worth it. I’d finally been able to say, “Thank you.”

In a very short dress on national television.

Jessica Runck, who grew up in Wimbledon, N.D., and graduated from Concordia College, is a writer and actor living in Los Angeles. Visit www.jessicarunck.com for more information.