By ADAM SCHRADER
Published in The Dallas Morning News on Jan. 14, 2016
Anne Winters, 21, uses her youthful looks to her advantage, usually playing 15- to 17-year-olds on shows like The Fosters, Wicked City and Tyrant.
After Winters begged her mother to help her land commercials in high school, her career quickly evolved.
“I thought it would be fun and I could make some extra money,” she said. “It would either grow into something more or it wouldn’t.”
It grew into enough to derail Winters from her plans of a traditional college track. By 19, she left her Lewisville home for Hollywood and hasn’t been without a job for more than six weeks since.
“She was always willing to perform in front of people,” said her mother, Karen Winters.
At 15, Anne won a Los Angeles talent competition, scoring a contract with a manager. She would return to Los Angeles for pilot season and callbacks.
“My sophomore year, I missed like 75 days of school, and that was tough,” she said. “I missed homecoming and all the fun things a high-schooler gets to do.”
That year, she booked commercials across Dallas and a Nickelodeon pilot. Ultimately, it didn’t run.
“To get anything so soon in the game was the biggest shock ever, particularly to my dad,” she said. “He’s still skeptical of my career.”
Her junior year, Winters took a break from Hollywood to focus on acting in North Texas and her goal to be accepted into the acting program at Southern Methodist University.
Staying close to home, she worked a movie called Cooper and the Castle Hills Gang that was filmed in her Castle Hills neighborhood.
Winters auditioned for SMU during her senior year at Prestonwood Christian Academy. But she already had a growing resume. Faculty asked her why she wished to attend school instead of following her Hollywood path.
“That’s when I chose to move and pursue acting for real,” Winters said. “If things didn’t work out after a year, I could always come back.”
Winters said she had backup a lot of starting actors don’t have. Her parents could afford to provide time and financial support.
Winters graduated in 2012, moved to California and enrolled at the College of the Canyons.
“I went to college for a minute and booked the role of Lauren in Sand Castles, which filmed in Indiana. Professors told me I had to choose,” she said. “I never went back to school.”
Sand Castles follows a family wrestling with the mysterious return of Lauren, a mute who had disappeared from a beach parking lot.
Winters said she landed the role because of her acting coach, Saxon Trainor.
“I was working with her a lot when I moved out there. She got the role of this drunken mom, and told producers I’d be great to play her daughter,” Winters said. “They loved how she was my coach and said it would be a good dynamic on set.”
In California, she rooms with Devyn Smith, an actress from Rockwall. In their free time, Winters and Smith visit different churches around Los Angeles most days of the week. Church provides Winters a social outlet with people her own age in a town where it can be hard to make friends. She also enjoys singing during services.
“It’s great to have a fellow Texan to room with so far away from home,” Smith said. “We have a similar foundation and understanding of our upbringing that creates a mutual respect and bond.”
During pilot season in 2012, Winters tested for a role seven times and didn’t get the part.
“It was devastating. It was the first time I had my hopes up so much,” she said. “I mean who tests seven times and doesn’t get the role? That’s crazy. But no, it’s not crazy. That’s normal, apparently.”
She went on to land her breakout role — “mean girl” Kelsey in a recurring, two-season spot on ABC Family’s The Fosters.
“I loved being on The Fosters because it was a bunch of kids and I got to make friends,” she said.
After The Fosters, Winters was in the Showtime movie Fatal Instinct. She also starred inAll is Vanity, a post-apocalyptic movie set for release this year.
“I carried a rifle around and had a country accent the whole time,” she said.
In a Lifetime movie, The Bride He Bought Online, she is the main character, one of three girls who prank a man. He discovers their identities and takes revenge.
Growing fame helped her book Tyrant, an FX drama about an unassuming American family drawn into a turbulent Middle Eastern nation. Winters lived in Israel for six months while filming season one. She said she could see missiles from her apartment.
She also went to Budapest for season two of Tyrant. Acting now pays all her bills.
Actress Jennifer Finnegan said she feels lucky to be Winters’ on-screen mother on the show.
“I’ve had the pleasure of watching Anne grow into a beautiful woman and extremely talented actress,” she said. “She’s a natural performer and always wants to listen and learn which makes her a force to be reckoned with. I adore her.”
Southern Denton County/Northwest Dallas County editor Adam Schrader can be reached at 214-773-8188. Twitter: @schrader_adam.
FILMOGRAPHY: Anne Winters
2009 — Gloria (short)
2010 — Summer Camp (Nickelodeon), A Christmas Snow (direct-to-DVD release)
2011 — Cooper and the Castle Hills Gang (Released online at castlehillsmovie.com), In My Pocket (DVD release)
2013 — Liv and Maddie (Disney Channel)
2013-14 — The Fosters (ABC Family)
2014 — Fatal Instinct (Showtime)
2014-15 — Tyrant (FX)
2015 — Pass the Light (Released in select theaters), The Bride He Bought Online (Lifetime),Wicked City (Hulu)
2016 (set for release) — Sand Castles (filmed in 2012 and shown at film fesitvals in 2014), All is Vanity