Interview with Under the Dome’s Jolene Purdy
  • by Karly Shimamoto
  • August 1, 2013

If I ever find myself trapped under a gigantic, indestructible force field I would want Dodee Weaver to be there with me. Dodee is the feisty and insanely intelligent audio engineer in the new hit television series Under the Dome. She makes it her mission to figure out what exactly the dome is and how to help get everyone out. Jolene Purdy, 29, is the actress that brings Dodee’s character to life. When asked if she and Dodee are similar, the half-Japanese, Torrance, CA native modestly explains, “Dodee’s way smarter than I am. She’s more methodical and calm and collected. As an actor you act on your emotions more than anything and she reacts with her intelligence. That’s a little opposite.” Despite her humble answer, it has definitely been a combination of Purdy’s smarts, tenacity, and openness to a wide range of roles that have landed her such memorable parts, such as Cherita Chen in the cult sci-fi hit Donnie Darko.

Purdy knew she wanted to pursue a career in entertainment at a young age. Her mother, who raised her and her two younger sisters as a single parent, enrolled her in musical theater as a kid and from then on there wasn’t much looking back. Purdy took on multiple roles in her high school’s theater productions. Besides acting, she also worked in props, costumes, and directing just to get an idea of the different aspects that go into putting on a performance.

After high school Purdy applied to a few college theater programs. When she didn’t hear positively from any of them she began thinking about studying at a junior college. However, an opportunity came along for her to perform at Disneyland in the Aladdin show. Purdy auditioned, was hired and worked there for two years. Looking back on that experience she says, “That was kind of like college, performing, doing multiple shows a day, five days a week and auditioning at the same time. I think it’s persistence and dedication more than anything that really keeps you going.” There’s no doubt that Purdy’s dedication is one of the factors that has allowed her to thrive in an increasingly competitive industry.

Purdy also attributes her success to having a strong foundation and support group in her family. Although Purdy no longer resides with her mom and sisters she’s still able to see them around twice a week. They also continue to help her read lines and even take on the role of babysitter to Purdy’s dog when she needs to go up to LA for work. Family is extremely important to Purdy who says, “The business is difficult. You have to have that solid foundation and support to make it.”

Ever since she auditioned for the part of Dodee, Purdy has been having a blast shooting Under the Dome and getting to know the rest of the cast and crew. In turn, audiences love the mix of suspense, mystery, and science fiction that the show is delivering. A highlight for Purdy is the warmth of the people and the natural beauty of Southport and Wilmington, North Carolina, which are the two locations where Under the Dome is being shot. But, her favorite part about being on the show is the incredible group of people she gets to work with. Purdy, Alexander Koch, and Nicholas Strong, who play the characters Junior Rennie and Phil Bushey, respectively, have become particularly close. Purdy recalls throwing dinner parties with them and having time to hang out off set with the cast, going to the beach, bowling, or just hanging out. “We got close really fast.”

At the end of the day, the art of story telling and the unique portrayal of a character, the two things that intrigued Purdy the most about acting from the very beginning, are the things she has displayed so expertly throughout her rising career. For those who are just trying to break into the business she has these words of wisdom, “I think a lot of younger actors and actress are really trying to fit the Hollywood mold. More importantly you need to stay true to who you are because that’s what really sets you apart from other people. That’s what’s going to add your own little spice to characters.”