This year's NCAA men's basketball tournament has been filled with feel-good stories, like Gonzaga attempting to put the finishing touches on college basketball's first undefeated season since 1976, and UCLA completing an improbable run to the Final Four as an 11 seed.
But the real surprise of March Madness has been the onscreen appearance of Katy Wilson, a veteran of the early days of TurfNet TV, who has appeared during the tournament in a run of commercials promoting Experian. Now 28, Katy is the real-life niece of Randy Wilson, and is a lifelong performer who appeared in several early Rockbottum Country Club videos as Tiffany, her uncle's on-screen daughter.
"She's been acting and doing theater since she was like 3," Randy said. "She's just so good, she made all of us better."
Even with a natural stage presence, Katy's crackerjack performances on TurfNet TV might not have been enough to salvage the onscreen persona of Buddy, Randy and Momma, but at least one person on that set graduated beyond the gratuitous violence, chicanery and otherwise sophomoric hijinks that is inspired by Monty Python and Carol Burnett.
"Those were so much fun," Katy said. "I haven't watched those in years.
"That was the first time I'd been on a set. I didn't have a sense that it was any different than acting on stage. It was just doing it without an audience."
A polished theater performer and vocalist since childhood, Katy is an up-and-coming entertainer who has appeared in stage productions from coast to coast. Given Katy's recent success on the small screen during March Madness, we thought it might be fun to catch up with her and see what she has been up to since her debut on TurfNet TV a decade ago.
After graduating from Furman University with a bachelor's in vocal performance in 2015, Katy moved to New York to pursue a career in theater.
"I thought I would be working in opera and musical theater. I thought I was going to go to New York and be the next Kristin Chenoweth," she said.
"I had focused so much on singing that I had forgotten about acting. It has been a joy to refocus on that."
She worked in traveling productions along the East Coast and was cast in the role of Shelby in an on-stage production of Steel Magnolias in Oregon when the pandemic shut down theaters everywhere. That led her to move in with her parents in North Carolina before eventually relocating to her native Atlanta to take advantage of a thriving television and film industry. Among the television series and big screen movies filmed in the Atlanta area, which has developed the reputation of somewhat of a hot, humid southern version of Hollywood, include The Walking Dead and several editions of The Hunger Games series of movies.
I'm going to go out on a ledge and say I played a large role in her acting career. She took what I gave her and ran with it.
"We had shows that weekend, and more and more people gradually stopped coming to the theater," she said. "That Monday, they came in to tell us that evening was going to be our last show.
"With theater on hold, I decided to pursue more TV and film work. I had heard great things about Atlanta, and so many things are filmed there. Plus, my tiny apartment in New York City with so many roommates was not the best place to be during a lockdown. Since October, I've had 65 auditions. It's definitely booming here, it's such an exciting thing."
The product of a golf family, Katy never developed a love for the game. Her father, Mike, who now is in the sod business in North Carolina, was a superintendent, her grandfather was a superintendent and noted golf instructor, and then there is Randy, a former superintendent who also dabbled in golf course design.
"I did some golf camps when I was younger," she said. "But, I was very focused on acting, theater and performing."
She remembers performing in a stage production of The Little Princess, how seriously she took the role and how upset she became when the rest of the 6-year-old girls in the show did not share her zeal for professionalism.
"The director asked the girls to pretend to be prim and proper and not wave to our audience or to our parents," she said. "As soon as we went out, all the girls waved. 'What are you doing? We're no longer pretending. We're supposed to be prim and proper British girls!' "
Katy's best friend, cousin Dave Wilson, Randy's son, said she has had that same sense of professionalism as long as he can remember.
"When I'm in videos with my dad, I always pictured myself as the 'real' actor," said Dave, who plays Bodell, as well as many other characters on TurfNet TV. "When Katy shows up, it's intimidating. Buddy is all over the place, and you might have to feed him his lines 30 times, but Katy is a pro.
"I'm going to go out on a ledge and say I played a large role in her acting career," he added laughing. "She took what I gave her and ran with it."
Although acting is a form of pretending, it is not a world of make-believe for Katy. Instead, she sees it as a way to tell a story. When she made a return appearance to Rockbottum a little more than a year ago, she brought the same professionalism that has served her in New York and Atlanta to the set for TurfNet TV.
"In 'Katy Returns to Rockbottum' she is so slick," Randy said. "She knew everybody's jobs and everybody's lines. When I'm on camera, it's hard to direct. She just took over and started directing when I was on camera."
Said Katy: "We know what we do is not perceived as work, but me and my actor friends are very aware that this is work. We want it to look natural for the viewer. For our work to be successful, the viewer has to be moved by the story in some way.
"I like telling stories, and there are infinite possibilities for stories. That is when I have the most fun and joy in life is when I am working with other actors and telling stories."
Moviegoers and patrons of the theater might believe that acting comes naturally to performers, but it is instead the result of fine-tuned choreography designed to make scenes as realistic as possible while also ensuring the safety of cast, crew and audience.
She points to a scene in Steel Magnolias where Shelby suffers a diabetic episode while seated in the chair in a hair salon.
"The diabetic episode with the juice is choreographed like a dance move," she said. "You have to be in control of your movements so you don't hurt the other actors. And in that scene, when I would fling the juice, I had to make sure I didn't get it on anyone in the audience. You count moments and beats to make sure you are in control. We used a fight coordinator to choreograph that scene and we rehearsed it slowly.
"It's easy to go 100 percent into it emotionally. If you do that eight times a week, you're probably not going to survive it. It's all about an economical way of giving the audience a realistic portrayal of what is happening, while keeping actors safe on the other end."
In 'Katy Returns to Rockbottum, she is so slick. She knew everybody's jobs and everybody's lines.
Her most recent work, the Experian commercial, was shot last summer with each of the actors recorded remotely because of the pandemic.
While pursuing her goals in entertainment, she also works as the director of marketing for Cinema Life, an Atlanta-based producer of film festivals. She is in charge of all marketing and social media promotion. That job not only allows her to pay the bills, it also gives her an avenue to network within her chosen career field.
"That is a huge challenge, the freelance lifestyle of acting. You always have to have additional jobs," she said. "You try to work day jobs while also auditioning and pursuing acting, so it is a real time constraint. Some days, you work all day then go home and have to work on a script.
"In New York City, I was a nanny, a babysitter, dog-walker, historical tour guide on Wall Street, an usher for shows, did social media, was a personal assistant, anything you can think, of. The good thing with Cinema Life is it is remote. I can take it with me on the set. I do their marketing, social media, program their film festivals and help judge and pick films that make it into the festival. It is in my world and lets me network in my industry, and I'm very thankful for that."
Her long-term goal is to play dramatic roles that portray strong women and tell the stories of their accomplishments and contributions to society.
"We are in this golden age of television with streaming services. There is so much opportunity and possibility. And there are so many services filming in Atlanta," she said. "I like historical drama and period pieces; anything that serves the world by telling a story of people we don't usually get to see.
"I am naturally interested in story-telling. I'm always looking for opportunities and love being involved in something that I feel is important and special, and when I have the opportunity to get paid to do what I love doing, it is a great day."