If success is, as someone once said, one percent inspiration and 99% perspiration, hard-working Kimberley Crossman has got it made. It’s no wonder that less than two years after leaving Shortland Street she’s ended up rubbing shoulders with big Hollywood names such as LL Cool J and Chris O’Donnell after landing a role in the hit US crime show NCIS: Los Angeles.
Interviewing the former soap star is a bit like sitting down for a chat with a hurricane. She isn’t just bubbly, she’s positively volcanic as she erupts with a barrage of ideas, plans, philosophies and stories.
Since leaving Shortland Street in 2010 and setting her sights on US success, she has scored parts in Mighty Morphin Power Rangers and Talent: The Casting Call – a drama about trying to make it in LA – as well as NCIS.
Kimberley divides her time between Auckland and Los Angeles, which can be confusing. It was in the US, for instance, that she won the part in Power Rangers: Samurai – “I was the first female Red Ranger” – which is shot back here in New Zealand.
“At the moment I’m still auditioning for things in LA, so life is slightly nomadic,” Kimberley says. “But no matter where I am, I aim to be progressing. If I’m in New Zealand I’m still in drama class. The other day I got up at 3.15am to do Skype coaching with my coach in LA for an audition. I feel I’m getting better at my double life.”
Somehow she’s managed to find time to write a book for young women, Love YOU: Be your best and live your dreams – due out this month. It’s the kind of self-help book Kimberley says she wishes she had when she was younger. “It was an idea I had for a long time – there was not really any book like that out, especially in New Zealand.”
Kimberley has been as passionate about the book as she is about everything else in her life. “It’s so exciting. When I got the first copy, I started crying. Little milestones can be overwhelming.”
Many actors have tried and failed to transfer New Zealand success to the US big time, but Kimberley has avoided some of the common pitfalls. “When you’re auditioning for American projects, 99% of the time they cast Americans and a huge hurdle to me was getting the accent. I made sure I had that before I went. I sought out the best American dialect coach I had heard of in New Zealand, who worked on Power Rangers.”
She’s also said to have “the look” – an all-American wholesome beauty that is a big advantage, although Kimberley’s not entirely happy with the description. “There’s a stereotype of what you think will work – a certain weight and hair length – but I think it’s so much more than that. I look after myself but not at the detriment of my happiness. I won’t get cast if I walk into an audition room miserable, starving and full of self-doubt. I need to be confident and that comes from looking after myself and my soul – which means eating cupcakes.”
Even failed auditions are turned to her advantage. “I see every audition as a good investment of my time. You probably won’t get the role, but you can make a good impression and they will remember you.”
Her part as a “ditzy barista” in NCIS: Los Angeles has had many people sitting up and taking notice. And even for the super-confident star, this was a big deal. “I was so nervous I thought I was going to vomit,” she says of her first day on the show. “But you get there and it’s the same as every other set. There’s just a few more people and a higher profile cast and more food. After a few takes I realised, ‘Of course I can do this.’”
Kimberley’s personality – and talent – soon broke the ice. “It was probably about an hour before I had a conversation with Chris or LL Cool J. I wasn’t there to get to know them. But we were doing some takes and the director hadn’t called cut, so we kept improvising. They did a few lines and I added a few and they were laughing.
After I had proved myself in the work they took time out to chat to me and show interest in what I was doing and offer advice. We developed a friendship. “The great thing about being a Kiwi overseas is that everybody loves New Zealand.”
Kimberley doesn’t draw a line between work and play. “I enjoy what I do, so it doesn’t feel like work. But my new philosophy is to do something every day that my inner child would high five me for. I’m well aware of finding a balance.”
At least there are plenty of other Kiwis around in LA, in the unlikely event she ever has time to feel lonely. “I’m lucky to have the likes of [fellow actors] Peter Mochrie and Lee Donoghue around. Since we started together on Shortland Street we’ve been like a family. They’ve been such good mentors and teachers.
“But I don’t do a lot of socialising or go partying. I have too many other things to do. I know I have to work hard now. I’d rather learn lines and drink tea than be out and about.”
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