No matter what you got for your 22nd birthday, it probably does not compare to the gift of a four-episode arc that "Grimm" producers bestowed on Jacqueline Toboni, a senior acting major at University of Michigan with no previous professional experience.
NBC series executive producer Jim Kouf, whose daughter attends the same college, was on campus last month to speak to a screenwriting class and wound up scouting talent after he was impressed by a few actresses, including Toboni, during a table read. Kouf then invited a select few to read for a new, young character to see how the audition process works. In a statement issued to Entertainment Weekly earlier this week, Kouf explained, "This was one of those serendipitous moments where we walked into a classroom to talk about television and walked out with a star. It definitely fits with 'Grimm' ⎯ it's a fairy tale within a fairy tale."
Next thing she knew, Toboni was in L.A. testing for other NBC executives and "Grimm" producers, including Emmy winner Sean Hayes ("Will & Grace"), whose company Hazy Mills produces the show. Then she was shipped to Portland, Oregon, where the series is shot, to read with the Grimm himself, David Giuntoli. She got her happy-ending phone call just one day after her aforementioned birthday.
Yahoo TV caught up with Toboni via email. The actress just finished shooting her second episode in Stumptown, and stopped to check in with us about her fairytale-worthy big break and mystery character.
Tell us the timeline of your casting.
I walked into class one Friday morning, and there were two new faces, Jim and Lynn Kouf. I learned Jim had written some of my favorite films, "Rush Hour," "Con Air," and "National Treasure." He came to give feedback on student-written screenplays in the class. The Koufs asked if some of the actresses wanted to read for a role. I jumped at the chance and immediately ran home to binge-watch "Grimm." The next morning I read for Theresa Rubel. Jim and Lynn were in the room when we filmed and were very supportive and informative about the character. I stepped up to the plate, did my work, and went home not thinking much of it. When I got the call later that night, I was in shock. They said, "You're flying to L.A." I said, "OK."
Did it get scarier when you realized you were being sent to test in L.A. and then with the show's star?
For my L.A. audition, I wasn't very nervous, mainly because I still didn't believe anything would come of this adventure, and there was nothing to lose. I walked in, and Sean Hayes was there. I am a tad embarrassed about how hard I geeked out. I made sure to tell him we were doing "Will & Grace" scenes just a week before in my acting class.
It was not until reading with David Giuntoli in Portland that I realized what was happening, that I might actually have a shot at this. The nerves set in right then and there. However, I could not be in better hands. David took on the big brother role right off the bat. Before I flew to Portland, he even called me to settle my nerves. Little did he know, I was pacing manically around the room for the entire conversation. This was the guy I had been watching every day for the past week!
Were you a "Grimm" fan before booking the job? What's your favorite Wesen, character, or episode?
Being a full-time student, I had never seen the show. I had run into countless advertisements and posters. When I binge-watched like crazy, I was instantly hooked. My favorite Wesen, and scariest in my opinion, is the Lebensauger [Leech Wesen].
What can you tell us about the character?
I have fallen in love with this character. Theresa Rubel [nicknamed Trubel for short and pronounced like "trouble"] is Portland's new, mysterious visitor. She comes from a tumultuous past. She tries to fly under the radar but also wants more than anything to find her place in the world.
I flew to Portland less than two weeks after I sent in that first tape. It's all happening so quickly. I'm currently on for four episodes this season.
[NBC confirmed that her fourth episode is this season's finale on May 16, but lips are sealed on whether her arc is open-ended with a possibility for return.]
What kind of training, research, practice are you doing before shooting?
I cannot tell you everything I have been doing in preparation, but [my character] keeps a journal. So I have been journaling a lot from her perspective and have come to realize we have a lot in common. We are each about to embark on a new, exciting adventure. I'm certified in stage combat, so I hope I can show off my fight skills. It's a very physical show, so it's right up my alley.
How were you received when you arrived on set?
When I showed up in Portland, I didn't know what to expect. But this cast is as down-to-earth as they come. I'm so honored they've welcomed me into the family. They even signed and framed my first call sheet. A bunch of class acts!
With press interest, a publicist, and a primetime gig for your résumé, what is your next step?
After I finish shooting, I will move to Los Angeles and hit the ground running. As a graduating senior, I was considering moving to Los Angeles or New York. Now I think L.A. is the right move to pursue a career in TV and film.
We imagine it will be hard to leave the Rose City especially given the massive "Grimm" love its residents have.
I could not have asked for a better setup. I get to shoot in a new city, and [it's] Portland nonetheless. I have enjoyed getting to live here. On my off days, I bike around the city checking out different neighborhoods and coffee shops. I'm proud to say I've made it to every quadrant. The fanbase in PDX is unbelievable. They even named a doughnut after Reggie's character Sgt. Wu. Me, I'm hoping for a sandwich, but I'd take a doughnut or maybe a milkshake. Hell, I'm so happy to be here, I'd take anything.
"Grimm" airs Fridays at 9 p.m. on NBC.
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