Katherine Norland

Former St. Peter resident stars
in national commercial

By Kurt Hildebrandt khildebrandt@stpeterherald.com
Posted: Wednesday, May 9, 2012 8:15 am

Katherine Norland St. Peter area residents tuned into cable TV channels recently may recognize a familiar face in a commercial for MassMutual seen on networks such as MSNBC, CNBC, The Weather Channel and Fox News.

The commercial features St. Peter native Katherine Norland along with her young son, Timothy, who was 3 at the time the commercial was shot. Katherine, who lives in the Los Angeles area now with her family, is the daughter of current St. Peter residents Don and Arlene Foster. (See the Norlands’ commercial video here or by going to http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=MzIg0vw8gNY.)

Being featured in a national commercial is a just reward for someone like Katherine has spent the last decade or so years out in Los Angeles area pursing and fine-tuning her passion for the craft of acting. She has had both starring roles and smaller parts in several independent films and also has done TV work as well including a small role in an episode of the popular TV series “Malcolm in the Middle”.

What was a bit surprising was that Norland’s son also got into the “act” by starring with his mother in the one-minute spot.

“In October (2011), my manager called me to tell me to go audition for this commercial because they were looking for mothers of special needs children,” Norland said. “My son Timothy (age 4) was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at the age of two when I asked his pediatrician why he still wasn’t walking. However, when I looked at the casting breakdown it said they were looking for boys (with special needs) between the ages of 7 to 10, but I said to my manager (Meredith Kelley) that Timothy was only 3. She said ‘well, he’s tall, I thought he was nearly 5 so that’s what I told them”. I laughed and took him to the audition, thinking this is really a long shot.”

Long (shot) story short, despite several obstacles and setbacks along the way during the audition process, which is to be expected when you’re dealing with a young boy with a lot of energy and curiosity, Norland and her son got the parts.

“Timothy does not like to wait, so waiting rooms are usually a problem, and he would get away from me and just walk into anybody’s office,” she said. “(At one point) I was horrified when he walked into the head casting director’s office and shut the door. Next thing I knew the head casting director came out with Timothy holding his hand.

“Later on we did our on-camera interview, during which he would not stay put or remain in my arms, so I basically just talked about him and what he liked to do for fun, all the while he was messing with the DVD player in the room, and causing a ruckus.

Needless to say I was shocked when I found out we had a ‘call back’, which is when they have narrowed down their choices and want to see you again, usually this time with the producers, directors and in the case of commercials, clients.

“We went back again and he was having such a hard time that I had a tough time keeping my composure in the room where there was 7 or 8 people watching us. He would not stand where they wanted him to or obey anything they asked. He was messing with the camera equipment and going up to the producer and grabbing her and everything else except what they were asking him to do. I was so frustrated when I left the event, I called my manager and told her not to send Timothy on another audition again because he was not an actor. I basically gave her an earful thinking things didn’t go very well.”

To her surprise, Katherine’s agent called her to tell her she was on ‘avail’.

“That is when they think you’re good, but they also think a couple of other people are good and they can’t make up their mind just yet, but they want to make sure you don’t book yourself for anything else, so they put you on ‘avail’ to make sure you keep those dates available just for them,” she said. “So, I really thought that we were the second or third choice, that they just wanted us to keep our dates available if their first choice fell through.”

It wasn’t long after that when Katherine got the call that she and Timothy got the parts, much to her surprise, but the drama wasn’t quite finished.

“The director (Peter Lang) and producer (Kristy Kessler) were so great to work with and understanding,” Katherine said. “Even when I went to their production office for the fitting and Timothy ran straight towards the coy pond and proceeded to fall in, and I had to yank him out soaking wet smelling like fish, they didn’t fire us.”

The commercial shoot took place on Katherine’s birthday and she said the production crew treated Katherine and Timothy like royalty.

“I didn’t even know that anyone there knew it was my birthday and they got me a cake and everything,” she said. “The commercial was just supposed to be for the Internet, but next thing I knew they were calling to ask my permission to put it on TV. So I’ve been getting calls and emails that it is showing on MSNBC, CNBC, The Weather Channel and Fox News.

“One the eve of Christmas Eve we got our first check for the 13 week run and now as of April 21st it has been slated for another 13 week run. And my little Timothy, now age four, is eligible to have his SAG-AFTRA card (SAG-AFTRA is the acronym for Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists).

Kurt Hildebrandt is the News Editor for the St. Peter Herald. He can be reached at (507) 934-3655 or khildebrandt@stpeterherald.com.



Katherine Norland


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