Life often hits us with unexpected challenges. On Sunday, we received a call we knew would change the course of the life of Wonder Russell, our lead for Impasse.
As the words flowed from her mouth, the tears poured. Wonder was bowing out of the role of Alice due to a family emergency. We prefer not to refer to it as a “tragedy” because Wonder will mold this heartbreaking turn of events into some sort of a blessing, of that we’re sure. It’s who she is – one of the strongest women we know.
She is our hero… which is why we call her “Brave One.”
We’ll let Wonder share her decision in her own words.
At Christmas, we found out my dad had stage IV lung cancer. By the New Year, I made my resolution to “live with greater emotional openness and vulnerability.”
It was also that month my boyfriend Paul and I had a very excruciating conversation about the future of our relationship. We have been together almost three years, but the last year has been long distance, with Paul based in Denver and me in Seattle. In short, I realized I was acting like a quitter, avoiding a situation that created ripples in the gentle pond of my world, causing me to suffer. With that epiphany came a sense of relief that my relationship to Paul wasn’t in jeopardy, but my relationship to suffering needed to be examined. A colleague told me to, “live into  with courage.”
It was also in January that Jeanne and Bekemeyer approached me with an incredible offer, to work with them on the creation of a new short called Impasse.
These three seemingly unrelated events converged this week.
Living with courage in a state of emotional openness has since become my crucible. With my Dad’s cancer, the train tracks of my future switched far in the distance. Every day I walk them out, I recognize the changes that were laid before.
As actors, we are escapists into the lives of others. We bring to those lives all we have experienced and felt. The deeper our life experiences, the more we have to draw on as artists.
It is often wonderful and exhilarating to do both at the same time, to channel life’s maelstrom into character.
About a week ago, my real life called me to action, and called me to give 100% of my focus and time. My dad took a severe turn for the worse.
Walking into our living room last Thursday, I was overwhelmed with the realization that trying to channel the stress and fears of my Dad’s situation into my character as Alice wouldn’t be possible. There wouldn’t be enough of me left to go around. I felt like an empty well, coping day to day, a violin string tuned too tight and sharply.
While these thoughts built, my boyfriend Paul flew in from Denver to be a support for me in Spokane, where I am with my family. Suddenly, events became even more dire.
Arriving in Spokane, Paul found a lump. Two days later we were in the ER, and they confirmed he had a tumor, which they believe to be cancer.
Like Sarah laughing in disbelief, I couldn’t stop laughing at what God had dealt us. I knew then beyond any doubt I was being asked to choose my real life, with openness and courage, over Alice.
Within hours, laughter turned to sobbing. I got on the phone with Jeanne and poured out the turn of events. We both agreed the best thing for me was to be single-minded as a caregiver for my family, and the best thing for Impasse was to have a lead actress who could similarly be single-minded in her pursuit of Alice.
Right now, I’m in Seattle for less than 24 hours to be with Paul while he goes through a CT scan, ultrasound, more blood tests, and meets with his oncologist. Then I fly to my parents’ home in Spokane to resume around-the-clock care of my Dad. I hope to be able to be back in Seattle with Paul either during his surgery on Thursday, or for part of his recuperation, depending on my Dad’s condition.
More than anything, I’m incredibly grateful for people like Jeanne and Bekemeyer who are not only talented but also immensely compassionate. I’m grateful for my job, which values the bonds of family, and I’m grateful for a life opportunity to be of service in a meaningful way that I will never regret.
I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to be attached to Impasse, and I have every confidence we made the right decision. Jen Fontaine is absolutely perfect for the role, and when I watched her reel the other night, the thought came unbidden to my mind that she would have always made a better Alice. I’m so happy she is taking it on. The film as a whole will be stronger for her participation.
Thank you to our friends and supporters who have been with us every step of the way. Forgive me for my departure. I can assure you Impasse is continuing full speed ahead and will be a high-quality short that will resonate for years to come.
Please join us in sending prayers to Wonder and in welcoming the talented Jennifer Fontaine into our Impasse family. We have been blessed to have two incredible Alices who are beautiful souls.
When at an impasse, needing to choose life over work, always choose life.
Stay tuned for a proper introduction of Jennifer in the coming days…
Jeanne and Mike