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Rising Star Brittany Samson: “Why we should make public speaking courses a larger part of the school curriculum”

My own movement would be towards making public speaking courses a larger part of the school curriculum. I’ve worked as a high school speech and debate coach for six years now. I’ve been involved in the public speaking community for 14 years. The benefit of learning public speaking as a skill is being lost to […]


My own movement would be towards making public speaking courses a larger part of the school curriculum. I’ve worked as a high school speech and debate coach for six years now. I’ve been involved in the public speaking community for 14 years. The benefit of learning public speaking as a skill is being lost to schools eliminating it as a requirement in favor of more writing based English curriculums. To me, public speaking is not just an elective, but an avenue for success in life. I love seeing my students expand their confidence and zero in on their own values. The self- knowledge involved in choosing a speech topic and the skill of execution make public speaking necessary. Imagine a world where young adults could pinpoint their values and begin to advocate for positive worldly change based on those values — what a wonderful world that would be.


As a part of my series about the rising stars in popular culture, I had the pleasure of interviewing Brittany Samson. Originally from Chicago, Brittany is a multi-faceted actress and comedian who currently resides in Los Angeles. She is a graduate of The Second City and is often called “interesting” as a performer and person. Brittany advocates for children, dreams, and the teaching of public speaking in schools.


Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

As far back as I can remember I’ve had an excessively active imagination and unique introverted behaviors that allowed me to create worlds by myself. I was raised watching The Simpsons and stated from a young age that I wanted to be the voice of a cartoon character. By high school, I decided I really wanted to be a news broadcaster. But I accidentally signed up for the wrong major in college (Communication Media vs. Journalism) and fell into behind the scenes film production. Flash forward to now and I consider this time learning the production aspect most helpful! Two big instigators for me as an actress were UAC Theater in Chicago and NIU Forensics. With UAC I got to be a part of shows like Miss Saigon, 42nd Street, and High School Musical. With Northern Illinois University forensics I went to AFA Nationals in competitive public speaking three years in a row and joined the All American Public Speaking Team in 2008. Clearly, part of my journey has been following the next logical (or sometimes illogical) step. My career and thoughts about what I want to do with my life have morphed along the way. Thus, more so then just acting, creativity has been a huge part of my life. I’ve also had the pleasure of working on two photography projects, numerous poems, and two documentaries.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?

Funny that you ask. I have actually compiled so many interesting stories while pursuing acting that I wrote a comedic novel about it. It is called Becoming Famous — Everything I Did in Hollywood Besides Become Famous, and offers a satirical view of my own journey and the journey in general. I couldn’t miss the opportunity to pitch my book, but you asked for a story, so here is a story.

On the set of one of my first feature films, the cast and I were held at gunpoint. That’s interesting, right? I was wearing a bright pink dress and a bunch of fake hair. The film was being shot Guerilla style, which I found normal because everything I shot in college film school was Guerilla style. In the middle of a take of my pretend boyfriend (who was wearing a fake moustache and a Hawaiian shirt) and I running across a parking lot, I noticed a figure beside a truck was pointing something at us. That’s a gun, I remember thinking. But I was so cloaked in the assumed safety of a film set that I didn’t think I could be right. As it turns out, I was right. The figure, now clearly a teen male with a leg cast, approached us with his gun and I stood frozen. Or maybe my character stood frozen? He had seen us staring at him and muttering in his direction. We tried to explain the situation — we were incognito filming a movie. At some point my mind reasoned that being further from the man with the gun was in my best interest. I remember softly saying, “I’m sorry” to no one in particular before taking off down the alley. I actually went back to set the next day. My love of acting had my priorities seriously skewed at the time, but it was worth it in the end. That film was the first time my acting work was seen internationally and it is now streaming on Amazon.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

The very first week I was in LA I saw a sign outside a random building that read “Audition Today” and I walked in having no idea what it was for and told the people with complete confidence that I was there to audition. It ended up being a place that did casting director workshops. I passed the audition and did my first workshop that week with only a picture of myself stapled to a three line resume. Not a mistake necessarily, but just the notice that so much more fun happens when there is less fear and more delusional self-belief. I definitely had a lack of fear and a surplus of delusional self-belief when I first started out. Sometimes I wish I could get that back. I think being ignorant to the “rules” of Hollywood and life in general is sometimes a freedom.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

As stated, I am currently pitching my comedic novel, Becoming Famous — Everything I Did in Hollywood Besides Become Famous. I am proud of this creation because it is my personal story of growth and expansion while simultaneously being a story of witnessing biscuit fights, getting mooned, and being stalked by an eighty one year old man.

My film Daughters of Virtue finished its 16 festival run. This was exciting for me because it was my first venture into the horror genre. Horror is an interesting place to go emotionally.

I will be traveling to Oregon soon to film my fourth feature with Blvd Du Cinema. My favorite part about this film will be its largely improvised nature. It is fun to learn what I will say as a character. I usually have no idea until I am in the moment. As my time at The Second City and Groundlings have taught me, you just have to be present and say yes. As is life.

I am writing a pilot called Three Like Me about four siblings who grew up in a unique family situation and are now dealing with the repercussions separately and together. There is so much space for content that I decided to write something for myself as an actress. I think it will be an exciting journey. Honestly, I’ve had about four pilot ideas come at me all at once, so I may disappear for a while to try and make sense of them. Literally nothing sounds better to me right now then retreating to the trees to write for a month.

Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?

As an actor, interacting with infants is really interesting for me. I filmed a newborn scene for TV where they handed me a brand new baby. They actually cover the baby in cream cheese and jelly to make it look like it was just born. I’ve never been more careful than this moment, or more physically and emotionally present. Babies are unpredictable and the main focus needs to be keeping them safe, so you really have to be on the top of your game to get the scene right. Plus they are absolutely adorable.

This next example is not a person, but a place. I got to film in the Greystone Mansion, recreating the murders that happened there in 1929. It was an art film in which the actor dialogue was limited to words from films that had previously shot in the mansion. The energy of that place was unmatchable and some of the haunted rumors of the mansion were terrifying especially while dissecting the actual murders that happened there. At one point I found myself alone in a large room and I panicked and ran to hang out with hair and makeup because I didn’t want to be alone.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Basically, you have to be a champion for yourself and if you feel that slipping, you have to find a way to regain it quickly. I like to hide motivation for myself everywhere. I’m a fan of inspirational post-its and quotes hidden inside cabinets. I have secret Pinterest boards about my dream career and life. Before it became obviously frowned upon I used to sing “I Believe I Can Fly” every time I ran into a karaoke opportunity. I’d think about the words, essentially singing them for myself and they would motivate me for another month or so. Yes — I can do this — I can become greater — I can fly. I like to throw coins in wishing wells and take myself out for dinner. I talk to strangers and the shared humanity or silly encounters motivate and inspire me. I reward career triumphs with mall kiosk massages (which are some of the best). And every year at midnight on my birthday I go to the top of Mullholland drive and write my wishes for the year while overlooking the lights of the valley. You must believe in magic! In a way I just keep tricking myself into believing for one more day. So I guess my secret is to have secrets that are just for you that keep you going when you feel burn out setting in.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I love helping people believe in themselves and seeing people happy. I actually get more delight in other people’s happiness than my own. I have always believed in dreams and kids because all kids are innocent and deserve to know happiness. An existing cause I naturally connect with is the Make a Wish Foundation. So definitely a shout out to them and the work they do.

My own movement would be towards making public speaking courses a larger part of the school curriculum. I’ve worked as a high school speech and debate coach for six years now. I’ve been involved in the public speaking community for 14 years. The benefit of learning public speaking as a skill is being lost to schools eliminating it as a requirement in favor of more writing based English curriculums. To me, public speaking is not just an elective, but an avenue for success in life. I love seeing my students expand their confidence and zero in on their own values. The self- knowledge involved in choosing a speech topic and the skill of execution make public speaking necessary. Imagine a world where young adults could pinpoint their values and begin to advocate for positive worldly change based on those values — what a wonderful world that would be.

The second movement I would influence is one that bans filming in certain public places. I think that people don’t necessarily stand a chance in this world today. Before people could make mistakes and recover from the humility of such in private. Now anything you do can be used against you. Does this not paralyze anyone else? I’m not saying it is okay to go off on a worker at a coffee shop, but it is sort of frightening to know that you could end up on the internet just for venturing out in public. I would be interested in increasing privacy in schools, gyms, and restaurants. That being said — in today’s culture this seems impossible. I just wish there was something we could do to protect privacy and discourage this constant filming of society.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Just keep showing up. I had the worst audition ever but still got the role because I looked like a fatter version of Lucy Hale. I have had incredible auditions and I didn’t even get a callback. But if you stop showing up, you can’t even be considered. Acting and people’s personal preferences are at times bizarre and questionable, but you can only control whether or not you include yourself in the race. As is life, right?
  2. Have a life outside of the business. Some of my best memories are saying yes to life experiences even though they might hinder my availability for work. One October I decided at 2am to get in an RV the next morning with friends who were moving back to New York. I spent the next few days traveling across the United States beholding brand new experiences and beautiful nature.
  3. You can work hard or you can work smart. Answering emails and simply checking things off a list makes you seem busy, but busy is not always productive. Looking back, I wasted so much time being busy. There is also a certain allure and sexiness to appearing busy, so it is an easy trap to fall into. It is more important to prioritize what tasks are the smartest to work on with the highest value for you and your journey.
  4. Careful not to spend too much time following other people’s journeys. There are so many creative people that are so fascinating. It is easy to spend all your time supporting their endeavors, becoming their followers. I think this speaks a lot to the Instagram generation. We love following others. But soon you realize your own story has yet to start. Your story is important too — trust that.
  5. See everyone in concert before they die. I got to see Tom Petty’s second to last concert ever and I’m so glad I did. Good music is diminishing. See it live. There is nothing quite like the communal happiness present at a show. I’ve seen Billy Joel, Elton John, The Rolling Stones, The Eagles, Fleetwood Mac(the full band!), Aerosmith, Tom Petty(thrice), Andrea Bocelli, Cheap Trick, etc.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us…”

This is the truncated version of a quotation by author and activist Marianne Williamson — a quote I have gone back to through the years. I have the extended version taped to my refrigerator. It can be scary to embrace your light. I for sure have found myself not committing fully to choices because I’ve been scared of the repercussions of being seen. And sometimes as I’ve grown personally I’ve lost people who used to be there. This is terrifying and sad. But it is my mission to teach myself and others that shining is possible and necessary in this sometimes dark world. Creativity is an experimental path, but this quote reminds me to live bold, make strong choices and believe that my natural essence is to shine not dim.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I will always be grateful for my Junior High choir teacher Ms. Wilkins. Her passion for the arts and setting kids up to succeed was amazing. Any time she was absent she would have an eighth grader teach the class instead of the substitute. I was rewarded this responsibility when I was in eighth grade and it was so meaningful to me. I felt in charge and like I really mattered. She gave me my first solos in front of the whole school and a spot in the swing choir. I got to go to choir festivals with my best friends and she really helped to create these great memories I hold today.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂

Adam Sandler had a strange impact on my life. The movie The Wedding Singer really connected my siblings and me. I’d like to thank him for that. Mariah Carey’s song “Hero” got me through some dark times. I’d like to thank her for that. And I’ve always had a love of football — something about the comradery. It is still on my bucket list to attend a Superbowl, so anyone who can help get me to a Superbowl, let’s do lunch.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

@bsamson17 on Instagram and @BrittanySamson_ on Twitter.

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational!

Headshot photos in article by Bella Saville Photography.

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