It was the father of modern acting Konstantin Stanislavski who famously stated, “There are no small parts, only small actors.” Simply stated, this means that professional actors treat every role as if it’s their most important one to date. Regardless of what’s going on, such performers following Stanislavski’s advice put all hesitation aside to give every bit of themselves to their current role.
Treating every project as a career-defining moment can be emotionally draining. For Rebecca Lines, operating at such an intensity has been key to her success. A seasoned performer and acting teacher living in Nashville, Rebecca is a recurring figure in major film and television projects. Her career success has inspired many in the local production community, and her success story is one that’s just getting started.
As one of nine children, Rebecca and her family lived in Northwest Indiana. “We liked to consider ourselves part of Chicagoland,” Rebecca tells FilmNashville Foundation. “We were Bears fans, Cubs fans… that’s who we were.”
Chicago had a lot to offer Rebecca’s family, which caused her father to instill a strong sense of culture in his children.. Wanting to capitalize on their proximity to Second City’s artistic energy, he encouraged each of them to explore their creativity. Rebecca recalls, “I became involved in a Croatian orchestra in the late seventies. I was there from when I was a little girl until I was a teenager. We would play instruments, sing, and dance in Croatian. We toured around a little, too, and entertained some huge crowds. It was exhilarating.”
Participating in the Croatian orchestra was Rebecca’s first time in the limelight. Because she enjoyed it so much, Rebecca joined high school musicals and community theater productions.
“I just knew performing was for me,” she says. “I loved it! I loved the work, I loved being backstage, and I loved the very idea of entertaining others.”
Acting was her passion. But Rebecca wasn’t sure that she could live a full life following this dream. Looking for a stable career choice, she decided in high school that she would get a job in marketing. After high school, she attended Indiana University Bloomington, where she found love. While she was still in college, the two got married and relocated to Columbus, Ohio so that her husband could start his career as an attorney. In Columbus, Rebecca continued her education at Ohio State University where Rebecca earned her bachelor’s degree.
“After I got my business degree, I chose to stay active in community theater,” she says. “Being near acting was fulfilling to a certain extent.”
Once in Columbus, Rebecca gave birth to her son, Jack. Later, she started working for clothing retailer Victoria’s Secret as a merchandise buyer. In this role, Rebecca helped determine the sales strategies that would be used, the quantities of merchandise that needed to be bought, and what designs might be best suited for retail customers.
Rebecca says, “I was in the buying offices when the brand was still up-and-coming. When I started with Victoria’s Secret stores’ division… I think we were dealing with about 150 stores. By the time I left, we had grown that number close to 500.”
This was a very busy time in Rebecca’s life, demanding constant domestic and international travel to places like Hong Kong.
After giving birth to her daughter, Anna, Rebecca left Victoria’s Secret to become a stay-at-home mother. The family relocated to South Carolina for her husband’s career, where she briefly worked as a model for a regional agency. Later, Rebecca’s family wound up moving to several places to follow her husband’s work projects, including California and Colorado.
“We moved a lot,” she says. “It felt like we were in this cycle of picking up and going, and trying to recreate the life we had gotten used to in the last state.”
With the family periodically moving, Rebecca found that she would have to stay with her children more. “I was involved in just about every facet of their lives. There was a lot of volunteering at their schools. I even sat on several boards related to community education, and always made myself part of those communities wherever we lived.”
There was pride and fulfillment in being a stay-at-home mother of two children. But Rebecca wanted more. “I didn’t know that a piece of me had fallen dormant until my children were old enough to not need me as much,” she says. “And there’s more to me than just being a mom or being someone’s significant other.”
Stepping Outside of Lines
Eager for her own career, Rebecca obtained a real estate broker’s license during the family’s time in Colorado and Indiana. The family would move again in 2007, this time relocating to Nashville. Rebecca had been excited about this move due to Nashville’s growing real estate market. By the time her family made the move to Nashville, however, the market had already soured. “I just took a step back and asked myself, ‘What do I want to do?’”
With both of her children in high school at this point, Rebecca was mulling over her career options. She had considered going back to school to become a therapist but didn’t like the idea of being in college at the same time as her kids. “That would have been weird for the family,” she says.
While thinking things over, Rebecca says a little voice in her head told her to check out Nashville’s acting scene. A mix of doubtful and curious, Rebecca did some online research.
“This school in Franklin popped up,” she recalls. “The Actor’s School. I saw where it was, and that it was owned by Alan Dysert. Looking at the website, I thought ‘Okay, I’m just going to go and check it out.’”
Rebecca attended a beginner’s class at The Actor’s School. There, she was paired with a scene partner, and the two were assigned to cold-read lines from a selected scene. “I remember this assignment was pretty emotional, and we only had like fifteen minutes to prep for it,” she says. “When it came time for us to do our scene, it felt like something just came over me and took over my body.”
Though Rebecca now recognizes this sensation as the feeling she gets when she’s fully immersed in a character, this was a foreign experience for her. This scene was well-received by her classmates, and she felt great while doing it. Dysert asked that she chat with him privately after class.
“He chatted with me and said, ‘I don’t think that you belong here.’ And I was like, ‘That’s what I thought,’ because I had this sinking feeling that he was going to tell me that I didn’t have what it takes to become an actor. And he said, ‘I think that you belong in my advanced class.’ And I was so overjoyed to hear that that I almost started crying right in front of him.”
Elated, Rebecca signed up both for Dysert’s advanced class and his one-on-one acting coaching. The two spent seven months working together, sharpening Rebecca’s acting skills. When he felt that she was ready, Dysert also introduced Rebecca to Sharon Smith Talent (now The McCray Agency).
“That was my first agent in the business!” Rebecca says. Finally repped by a talent agency, Rebecca took on acting gigs. She started humbly, taking a student film project for Watkins College of Art (now part of Belmont University) in 2008. “It was the craziest film. It was called, ‘Play Date,’ and it was about a bunch of adult babies who were speed dating!” Rebecca says. “I was playing one of the non-baby characters. It was definitely one of the more-odd things that I’ve done. But it was so much fun!”
On the set of “Play Date,” Rebecca met a young actor who was studying with Caroline Locorriere of Nashville Acting Studio (NAS). Chatting with this actor, Rebecca concluded that she might benefit from taking one of Locorriere’s classes herself. Towards the end of 2008, Rebecca signed up to audit one of Locorriere’s classes. “Sitting in the class, I was like ‘Oh my god! This is where I need to be!! This is the next challenge I need!’”
Shortly thereafter, Rebecca signed up for Locorriere’s class at NAS in March 2009. Her time at NAS didn’t stop with the class, but instead blossomed into professional coaching sessions that lasted seven years!
“Between Dysert and Locorriere, I feel like I got my undergrad and my master’s degrees in acting,” Rebecca says.
Stepping Back Into the Spotlight
After the spring of 2009, Rebecca was repped by two agencies: Sharon Smith Talent—which at the time covered Tennessee and a growing production market in the Southeast—and Heyman Talent Artists Agency (Heyman Talent) which covered Kentucky and projects further north. Taking on as many short film projects as she could, Rebecca endured a marathon of auditions and rehearsals.
One of those projects was the short “Nothing Without You” (released in 2012). Directed by Xackery Irving, the short tells the story of a potentially delusional psychiatric patient accused of a violent murder who is trying to help her psychiatrist prove her innocence.
“I was fortunate that having two agents wasn’t a conflict at the time. Eventually, I moved to Talent Trek Agency, while keeping Heyman on as well,” Rebecca says.
In 2012, Rebecca’s marriage was getting rocky, which prompted her divorce in 2013.
“It was a crazy time in my life,” she says. “But that emotional turmoil made me want to commit to acting. And I have the Nashville acting and production communities to thank for helping me get through all of that. Without being able to immerse myself in work, I don’t know what I would have done!”
In the chaos of her divorce, all of the work she was doing as an actor gave her hope. Rebecca was immensely grateful that such dark times were broken up with bright moments, and promised herself that she would help nurture the growing film community when she was steady.
“I can’t begin to express the amount of love I have for NAS or the local film community at large. That’s why I try to give back by joining various local industry groups. I’m also a teacher at NAS now, and I teach three classes a week and consider it a real honor to share the knowledge I’ve acquired while in classes and on sets with my students. I try my best to challenge them to give them an understanding of what it’s like to be a working actor.”
Her rocky emotional landscape also gave her the necessary life experiences to go after certain roles. And being a mature woman who’d endured life’s roughness, Rebecca could try out for more interesting roles.
“All of this is a matter of trust, and knowing that we live in a world of abundant potential. As I’ve gotten deeper into my acting career, I’ve seen that there is always a need for women of different backgrounds,” she says. “Once you get enough skill and experience behind you, that’s when opportunities to play a series regular or lead will come your way… some roles would be a good fit for every actor,” she says.
Rebecca found roles that fit her well, including several roles in feature films. She landed a role in the 2013 locally-produced indie drama “Chasing Ghosts,” which was her first feature film. Directed by Joshua Shreve, the film stars Tim Meadows, W. Earl Brown, Frances Conroy, and Robyn Lively, and tells the story of a little boy who becomes obsessed with capturing ghosts on camera.
“This film was my first time working with a cast of higher caliber actors. Reaching a point where you can not only act alongside bigger cast members but hold your own against their performance is a benchmark for actors,” Rebecca says.
Later, she would take a part in the 2014 feature film “Where Hope Grows,” another feature film that was shot in Louisville, Kentucky. This was a SAG-AFTRA production and Rebecca’s first union gig. After getting this role, she became eligible for SAG-AFTRA membership, which took her career to new heights.
Hitting It Big
Rebecca’s next big project was a small role in the Netflix series “House of Cards,” which put her in front of streaming audiences worldwide.
“At the time, that show was hot… ” Rebecca says. “Netflix was rising, and a major part of it was ‘House of Cards.’ To be associated with that show is a big deal.”
Being on such a popular show was a shot in the arm for her career, bringing with it greater opportunities. On the local side, the organization Nashville Women in Film & Television (WIFT) invited Rebecca to join their board. Already serving WIFT as a volunteer, Rebecca accepted this invitation. Rebecca grew in this role, becoming vice president of WIFT. She was encouraged to step up as WIFT president, but work had to pull her away from any such leadership duties in 2018.
“I thought I was going to have to move to Atlanta!” she says. “I was ready to go and ready to put my house on the market, as I had gone down to Atlanta on a couple of trips to look for a home.”
Atlanta seemed promising, but Rebecca decided against it after a casting director told her to stay in Music City. “I was worried that maybe I was missing out on work, but this director pointed out that the Nashville community had considered me one of their own, and that more work would follow as the community grew,” Rebecca says.
It’s rare now that Rebecca works in Nashville on gigs. But Music City had been good to her, “and it’s a luxury to work in the city you live when you can go home to your bed at night after filming all day!”
Reminded that she had an obligation to herself to let go of desperation and trust that everything would work out in her favor, Rebecca stayed in Music City. Her decision would pay off.
“That’s why I joined Deborah Gordon and Lynda Evjen in creating Actor Com!” Rebecca says.
Launched in 2016 at Skyway Studios as part of Film-Com, Actor Com was put together to educate Nashville actors so that the market could be taken seriously.
The first Actor Com event attracted over one hundred actors, many of whom were members of the local community to discuss the future of acting in Nashville. Bringing in casting directors from New York, LA, Atlanta, and Nashville, Actor Com was a two-day event scheduled with informative panels and, later, auditions.
“It was amazing!” Rebecca says.
Her career was gaining speed while doing Actor Com. In 2017, Rebecca booked a role in “Mr. Mercedes,” a television series adapting Stephen King’s horror novel of the same name.
This was yet another career high for Rebecca. Knowing she had to step things up for her career, Rebecca joined Stewart Talent (working with the Atlanta office) at the end of 2018 to book bigger roles.
Needing more of her time to work, Rebecca left Actor Com in 2019. Diving fully into her work, Rebecca also earned her first writing credit for the web series “Locke and Holmes: Unexpected Detectives.” This comedy focused on two gal pals who bar hop, sing karaoke, and play detective.
“This was my first attempt at screenwriting. I co-wrote the project with my friend Katherine Morgan, who played Shirley Locke. I played Vera Holmes in it. We came up with this idea of these two crazy ladies who like to solve life’s little mysteries. Ridiculous mysteries. And most of the time, they’re drinking. So it’s kind of like an Ab Fab meets Sherlock Holmes. Natalie Ruffino Wilson was our director, and we used all local people—including David Ditmore, who’s fantastic—to make this. I had gotten a $5,000 grant from Metro Arts, which we put towards the production of this web series.”
“What’s My Motivation?”
“When I got the audition requests for both of those shows, I told myself, ‘These are longshots!’” Rebecca says. “I audition quite a bit… and I always take all of these auditions seriously. But some of them make you go, ‘There’s no way you’re going to land this part! So you might as well just have fun with this and let go.’”
For the audition for “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier,” Rebecca had to simulate that she was in a vehicle and being tossed around. This was tough, but Rebecca somehow gave a convincing performance. It was a performance so convincing that it made the show’s casting personnel believe that Rebecca was a great fit for the role. She shares that for projects as big as Marvel TV shows, details are largely withheld from actors trying out for the role.
“Looking back, I’m so glad that I just went along with that audition instead of doubting myself or getting discouraged by the lack of detail. That role was a cool thing to get… it was pretty special working with Sebastian Stan,” Rebecca says.
Capable of working off of very little info, Rebecca explains that the audition experience for “Cobra Kai” was completely different. She was given details of the character by the show’s casting team, which informed her of exactly how she was going to play the part.
“When I read the script for the audition of Aunt Kandace, I knew who this lady was instantly,” she says. “I gave my audition tape as if I had just rolled out of bed, without doing any of my hair or makeup. I knew that the character Kandace wouldn’t care about such things. Then I threw on this ridiculous, oversized Daytona tank top, and knocked the audition recording out in one take. They skipped the callback audition, and went straight to booking me for the show!”
Rebecca’s creative decisions for this role were how they envisioned the character. When hair and makeup personnel tried to make changes to the character, the director and show producers got upset, demanding Rebecca appear as she had in her audition.
Having Strong Character
The agency would also find roles in interesting indie projects that gave Rebecca full creative freedom. One of those projects was “Double Down South,” which comes to select theaters on January 19. Directed by the award-winning screenwriter Tom Schulman (“Dead Poets Society”), this thriller centers around a young pool hustler (Lili Simmons). Entering the realm of illegal keno pool gambling, Diana takes on veteran pool player Nick (Kim Coates ) as a mentor. Joining forces in this cut-throat game, the two find themselves immersed in danger after attempting to take on the world champion of this criminal sport.
In the film, Rebecca plays the supporting character “Shelia,” a character that Schulman allowed Rebecca to flesh out.
“For strong enough characters like this, I start looking at the story of her life and adding as much detail as I can,” Rebecca says.
Using her experience on “Double Down South,” Rebecca provides readers with a detailed process of creating a character. She says “In creating Sheila, I got the script and started with a basic readthrough, just enjoying the story’s ride and taking minimal notes. Before making any major decisions, I try to look at everything so that I can make an informed decision. It’s important to look at the whole arc of a story so that you can determine how the character—and in turn, the little decisions I get to make for that character—will impact the whole story. After my first read, I go back and read it again, this time taking notes and paying special attention to both scenes that I’m in and any scenes that reference my character.”
Once Rebecca feels that she has enough information about her character, she will then read through the script a third time, using every scene her character is present in as a prompt to help create her character. This third readthrough pours over specifics, informing details like the physicality required to play the character or how certain lines might get delivered. If she determines that she’s struggling with this role, Rebecca will reach out to an acting coach to get help.
Once she’s done with all of her prep work, Rebecca shows up to set confident enough to let go and let her instincts take over.
“By the time I get to set, I’m confident that I can fully embody the character. And now, let’s play,” she says. “The goal is not just to pretend, but to feel the feelings called for in the script. “When an actor feels the emotions of a character, the audience will too. Instinct will tell us when something works and when it doesn’t.”
Outside of the release of “Double Down South,” 2024 is scheduled to be another busy year for Rebecca. With valuable production time lost in 2023 due to the SAG-AFTRA and WGA strikes.
“In a typical year, I’m doing about one hundred auditions,” Rebecca says. “I want to continue at that level while still teaching the three four-hour classes a week at NAS and bring what I’ve learned on set to my students. I also have other ideas for screenplays that I am writing. The goal here is to create rough outlines for new stories with compelling characters that would be great for other actors to play, and then oversee a creative team that would write the scripts with my input.”