Empris Durden: You may have seen her in Denny’s commercials
Though she originally expected to focus on academics as a freshman at Wash. U., Durden soon became involved in the acting and directing scene. She recently co-wrote and directed “The Girl Next Door: A United States Sex Trafficking Awareness Production” as part of the Freshman International Leadership Program’s “Human Trafficking is Modern Slavery” Awareness Week.
Durden’s acting career began in her home state of Texas where she modeled children’s products, working with toy stores and JCPenney. Durden also pursued an opportunity to perform as an extra on “Barney & Friends,” which was shot in Dallas.
As Durden turned six and grew even more serious about acting, her family moved to Los Angeles, a city ripe with entertainment opportunities. Homeschooled from kindergarten through eighth grade, Durden had the flexibility to pursue acting throughout her childhood. In California, her family hired her an agent through the prestigious Osbrink Agency, best known for representing Dakota Fanning.
Durden’s parents took her to about five auditions per week when she was six to eight, though in some slow weeks she wouldn’t have any and in other weeks she would have more.
“You go to a lot of auditions, but it’s like scholarships—you apply to a lot but then you only get a few in return. I’ve gone to say 20 auditions and get one part,” Durden said.
Durden had roles as an extra on “The Jay Leno Show,” “Baywatch,” and an educational video that teaches kids about pronouns. She also shot commercials for Bounty and Denny’s.
“In the Denny’s commercial, you just have to pretend to eat and you’re having fun with the family. Even though you don’t know these people, you sometimes make up conversation. ‘Ha ha, these eggs are so bad,’ because you’re fake, you know,” Durden said.
She also appeared in a Halloween episode of “General Hospital” in which she played a member of a Girl Scout troop that tied up Luke Spencer (Anthony Geary) and stuffed marshmallows in his mouth.
In addition to advertising and television work, Durden landed major parts in two movies, “Zero Option” and “Climbing Changes.” The movies were never released, however, due to a lack of funding.
After two years in California, Durden moved back to Texas.
“I wanted to get back to friends, family in Texas. I really was trying to keep [acting] in Texas, but then you run out of auditions and work,” she said.
Durden stopped acting professionally and considered performing more of a hobby. When she started high school, she focused mostly on academics.
“I think sometimes about how it could have been, like say if I was the next Hannah Montana or whatever, but it’s not a present thought in my mind. It’s just kind of like that was in the past,” Durden said.
However, Durden’s recent involvement with “The Girl Next Door” and acting on campus has rekindled her passion for acting.
“I find now in being involved in public speaking and directing and production, [acting] is still a part of me,” she said. “And I’m always going to keep that. I used to think acting was a hobby, but now I see how it’s powerful.”