Lexington actress's move to L.A. pays off with role in 'Under the Dome'

rcopley@herald-leader.comJune 26, 2014 

Grace Victoria Cox plays Melanie, a mysterious new character in the second season of the CBS summer series Under the Dome.

BROWNIE HARRIS — CBS

Grace Victoria Cox thought she had just been through another dead-end audition.

It was right after the new year, following a year that left her wondering whether she had made a big mistake in moving to Los Angeles from Lexington to break into film acting.

"It was the first callback I had ever had. It was the first project of this magnitude I had an opportunity to be a part of," Cox says. "I was super-nervous, and I honestly don't know how I didn't pee on myself, I was so nervous."

She had three auditions in quick succession, and then the telephone didn't ring.

"It happened so quickly, I thought if I had gotten the part, I would have heard faster than I did," Cox says. "But three weeks went by, and so I had just written it off and assumed I didn't get the part at all."

But by her 19th birthday, March 10, Cox was plunged into a cold North Carolina lake to film her first scene as one of the new characters on Under the Dome, CBS's summer hit that starts its second season Monday night.

Cox plays a mysterious newcomer to Chester's Mill, the small Maine town that found itself sealed under an impenetrable dome

If the town is trapped, how does a new character show up?

"Some of the new characters have been there in Season 1; they just weren't noticed," Cox says. "But Melanie is a total mystery. No one knows who she is or where she came from, and she doesn't know. She's a mystery to herself.

"She's a character that could hold clues to the origin of the dome and everything that's going on," Cox says.

She is careful in what she says about Melanie or the second season's story, admitting that she is reading from a list of things CBS allows her to say about the character and the show.

In the first season, the audience learned that the dome was extraterrestrial in origin. The series started with strong ratings and positive notices, but it slid over 13 episodes. The second season premiere was written by iconic author Stephen King, whose 2009 novel of the same name was the inspiration for the series. Filmmaker Steven Spielberg is an executive producer.

Cox hasn't met either King or Spielberg, but she has relished the opportunity to work on the show, filmed in Wilmington, N.C., and perform alongside actor Dean Norris, whose work she admired on Breaking Bad as Walter White's brother-in-law, DEA agent Hank.

It was her admiration of her grandmother, Lexington actress Jenny Cox, that got Cox interested in acting.

"From the time I was little, I was kind of fascinated by her as a person because she was so interesting and funny, and I kind of just wanted to be like her, so I got into acting to mimic her," Cox says of her grandmother. The elder Cox, who died last year, worked in dozens of productions with groups including Studio Players, where played roles part of the duo in Moon Over Buffalo and a woman facing ovarian cancer treatment in Wit.

That desire, nurtured by her grandmother, led Cox to the School for Creative and Performing Arts, where she started as a creative writing major but eventually switched to theater.

At age 13 or 14, Cox says, she realized that acting was what she wanted to with her life, and her junior year, she enrolled at Interlochen Academy in Michigan, where she said a number of fellow SCAPA classmates who got serious about theater went. But she found that it wasn't for her, and she briefly entertained the idea of coming home, going back to SCAPA and graduating in 2013.

But that felt like a step back, she says. So she eventually persuaded her mother to let her move to California in 2012 and finish high school in Los Angeles while pursuing film work.

It was unusual, she says, because most aspiring actors either come out before they start high school or wait until after college.

She says she is aware that many aspiring actors have come from Lexington and every other town in America and never made it anywhere close to a network TV show.

Cox says she hopes Under the Dome is a good start.

"They are all not only really good actors but really good people," Cox says from Wilmington of her colleagues. "I know I am lucky to get anything at all. It feels like it hasn't been any time since March, when I first got here, and now the show's about to come out. It's so crazy."

Rich Copley: (859) 231-3217. Blog: Copiousnotes.bloginky.com. Twitter: @copiousnotes.

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