This episode references sexual assault. Please refer to the end of the episode for on- and off-campus resources.
When Alexandra Templer (COL ’15), professor of theater and performance studies, takes the stage, lights glowing down, an audience waiting for what comes next, she feels like she’s flying.
Yet, when Templer arrived at Georgetown University for her first year as an undergraduate student, acting was far from her mind. She spent the next four years pursuing a degree in psychology and neuroscience, wondering what she would do after school. After graduating, though, Templer couldn’t resist finding her way to the stage.
Templer has since dedicated her career to acting, both playing roles on television and in theater, as well as launching her own theater company located in New York City. This week, The Hoya sat down with Templer to learn more about what it was like to be an actress during the COVID-19 pandemic and how she approaches her new role as a professor.
GB: Content Warning: This episode references sexual assault. Please refer to the end of the episode for on- and off-campus resources.
AT: Nothing has the capacity to change me the way seeing a really, seeing it live. It’s just live. It’s the kineticism of liveness. I’ve had moments when you are like balancing on the line and flying is the only thing that I can compare it to.
MR: Meet Alex Templer, a woman of many talents, but above all, a renowned actress. With a dual degree from Georgetown in psychology and neuroscience with a minor in theater studies, it was only after her graduation did she realize that pursuing acting was a possible path. Without further adieu, I’ll let Alex introduce herself.
AT: I’m Alexandra Templer, Alex Templer. I grew up in Atlanta.
MR: After spending some time off campus, Alex is back on the Hilltop, but this time as a professor. Just like most of us, the pandemic was an opportunity to reflect on different parts of our lives, during which Alex took some very important lessons from her experience during the last year. And it was through these that she found herself back at Georgetown.
AT: I think like many people, I absolutely had an existential crisis during COVID, and I love acting very much, and it’s been a part of my life for a very long time, and then to be without it for a year and a half and to have as active a mind as I have was, frankly, intolerable.
MR: Without acting, Alex tried to find a way to balance the energy and anxiety feeling with as many things as she could. From volunteering on political campaigns to living in a commune in Costa Rica, she tried it all.
AT: Then it was becoming apparent that I was filling in all of these ways that weren’t getting to the core of the itch that I needed to scratch. And I felt really distanced from the industry and from acting, and I have a theater company and we moved completely virtually, but it wasn’t enough. I’m someone who needs to be used and engaged in a way that feels important to me a lot of the time or I lose my mind.
MR: Then, Alex was given the opportunity to come back to Georgetown not as a student this time, but as an adjunct professor in the department of performing arts. She jumped at the chance.
AT: Sometimes I worry about being an actor, because I love acting, but I really love being in a room with people, and working and figuring it out. So sometimes I’m like, that’s more of why I’m an actor. And obviously, in a professional setting, that’s less of what it actually looks like.
MR: Let’s take a second to rewind and see what really brought Alex into the acting industry, in addition to what life at Georgetown was like for her. Her childhood played a huge role in realizing her interest before even attending college as she started off as a singer and became obsessed with the feeling and validation performers receive after being on stage, but never fully established her passion until later on in life. Once Alex reached Georgetown, she found herself in what I’m sure we’ve all felt before: a competitive and intense environment. But she didn’t fit into that box. And that’s where a big portion of her self discovery and growth happened.
AT: I was a pretty shy kid. And I think that it was kind of the first time I felt really seen. And I think the power of that experience, I think for everybody, is intoxicating.
MR: Alex went off to study acting at NYU, where shortly after her graduation in 2015, she was awarded her first main role in television, she played the role of Trisha Meili in the Netflix series “When They See Us.” This was released in 2019, and was based on the story of the Central Park Five, the story of five men who were wrongfully convicted and sent to prison in 1989 for allegedly gangraping and almost killing a jogger named Trisha Meili.
AT: It was my first TV job ever because I’d gone straight through school. And, you know, it was like an important part in the series. I played the jogger, but the story is about them. So it was a privilege to just be able to be on a set for a story that felt like it mattered.
MR: I was quick to ask whether she preferred doing television over plays or musicals, due to the fame that television series and films have acquired in today’s age. And her response was very interesting.
AT: I prefer doing theater over TV and film. I prefer watching theater over TV and film. And that’s because nothing has made me feel, nothing moves me, and I don’t even mean emotionally moving, but nothing has the capacity to change me the way seeing it live. It’s the kineticism of liveness. But I think that is possible with TV and film. It certainly is because many people have that experience. And I think it is possible to feel that way in TV and film. I think I just so much of my experience in life has been in theater. So I’ve had more of those moments in acting where I’m like this is a higher vibrational. It’s like being high. When you are balancing on the line and flying is the only thing that I can compare it to. I haven’t had that experience in TV and film quite the same. But that’s also because I’m so new to the medium.
MR: When telling me about her most favorite role that she’s ever played, she discusses her role in a Shakespeare play where she acted out Imogen in “Cymbeline,” a Shakespearean play about the king of Britain and his daughter Imogen, who, among other things, goes and secretly marries a man her father disapproves of in secret.
AT: Shakespeare is just so full to me and playing Shakespeare parts, I’m comparing playing Imogen, which is like three and a half hours of just being inside this absolutely chaotic story, and this incredible woman with you know. I shot a big part of a new Apple TV series a couple weeks ago where I’m playing Jarrod Leto’s assistant. Obviously Imogen was a much more whole experience. I think that surprised me that that was actually my favorite professional role that I’ve done.
MR: Today, Alex is working on a multitude of projects and is up to very exciting things. As she briefly mentioned a minute ago, she just finished filming a role for a new Apple TV series on WeWork.
AT: It is a show about the rise and fall of WeWork and the CEO of WeWork Adam Newman, who is no longer the CEO, who’s this incredibly chaotic, erratic character. Anyways, Apple TV is doing a series about it. It’s called “WeCrashed” and Jared Leto is playing Adam Newman and Anne Hathaway is playing his wife Rebecca.
MR: In addition to working on the show, Alex has her own theater company in New York, which is a huge part of her life and her career at the moment.
AT: I have a theater company in New York called Society Theatre Company. And we were set to do her play downtown in New York before COVID happened, and then we pivoted and had to do that virtually, but we’re now pivoting again to hopefully make that a live production that happens in the spring. It feels like such a gift to kind of be able to come full circle. Now I get to come back and sort of contextualize and understand that period of time for me, so it’s cool.
MR: This podcast was recorded, edited and produced by Mia Rasamny. Special thanks to Alex Templer for taking the time to speak with The Hoya. Also, thank you to Melanie Elliot for her help and editing this story. That’s all we have for you today, but I’ll see you next week.
GB: Resources: On-campus confidential resources include Health Education Services (202-687-8949) and Counseling and Psychiatric Services (202-687-6985); additional off-campus resources include the D.C. Rape Crisis Center (202-333-7273) and the D.C. Forensic Nurse Examiner Washington Hospital Center (1-844-443-5732). If you or anyone you know would like to receive a sexual assault forensic examination or other medical care — including emergency contraception — call the Network for Victim Recovery of D.C. (202-742-1727). To report sexual misconduct, you can contact Georgetown’s Title IX coordinator (202-687-9183) or file an online report here. Emergency contraception is available at the CVS located at 1403 Wisconsin Ave. NW and through H*yas for Choice. For more information, visit sexualassault.georgetown.edu.