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Scarvey column: Catawba grad Jasika Nicole gets her big break

In my former life, I taught college English. Teaching obviously wasn’t a lifetime calling for me, but I don’t regret anything about those years. I especially don’t regret getting to know so many wonderful students.
One of those was Jasika Pruitt from Birmingham, Ala., who was in a short fiction class I taught at Catawba.
I was thrilled to find out that Jasika ó who now goes by Jasika Nicole ó is in the cast of a new Fox TV drama called “Fringe.” She plays Astrid Farnsworth, a junior special agent for the FBI.

Fringe Trailer

Her role in the pilot episode is small, Jasika says, but will grow as the episodes go on.
I knew Jasika was keeping busy ó I’d seen her in the Antonio Banderas movie, “Take the Lead,” and I’d occasionally spot her in a Carrabba’s commercial, which would prompt me to scream to anyone within earshot, “There’s Jasika!”
“Fringe” is big budget science fiction with an “X-Files minus the aliens” vibe, or so I hear. Created and produced by hitmaker J.J. Ammons (“Lost”) the two-hour premiere airs at 8 p.m. Tuesday night (check out the Web site, www.fox.com/fringe).
I plan to be in front of my set, looking for a young woman with huge brown eyes and what just might be the coolest hair on the planet.
Jasika was a theatre kid back in 2001 when I taught her. Even at Catawba, which attracts more than its share of talented young actors, she was a luminous presence on stage.
She was also a stellar student. She not only read the assigned short stories before class, she understood them every bit as well as I did. She wrote about them in insightful journal entries that I looked forward to reading, and she made brilliant contributions in class.
I mentioned once in passing that I wanted to read a book called “The House of Sand and Fog.” A few weeks later, Jasika had gotten her hands on a copy and was telling me about it.
Students like that don’t come around all that often.
Jasika seemed to have everything. Intelligence, talent, beauty, and a humility that can’t be faked.
I felt lucky to catch up with her recently on the phone. With “Fringe” shooting up to 16 hours a day, she’s a busy woman.
She’s pretty stoked that her first television series is not, as she expected it might be, a “crappy cable-access show.” It is, as she says, “huge.”
Before being cast in “Fringe,” Jasika did several television pilots, including one called “The Mastersons of Manhattan,” starring Molly Shannon and Natasha Richardson.
She thought it had great potential to take off because it was a great show ó plus it was directed by James Burrows, of “Cheers” and “Friends” fame. That the show wasn’t picked up by NBC was “incredibly disappointing,” she says.
The hardest part about being an actor, she says, is keeping motivated, since rejection is inevitably part of the business. After being cast in “The Mastersons” after so many near misses, Jasika says she realized that she really was capable, that she could do this.
Some of us knew it all along.
Contact Katie Scarvey at kscarvey@salisburypost.com.

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