Success Stories

Graduate featured in NatGeo show

Jessica Smith is pictured on the set of a
Natural Geographic show.

In Hollywood fashion, but set in Colombia, Jessica Smith went from a cold audition to running through jungles and handling snakes for an episode of a National Geographic series.

Smith, who graduated from Grand Valley in 2011 with a degree in international relations and a minor in Latin American studies, was teaching English in Colombia when friends were asked to audition for the “Locked Up Abroad,” a survival show outlining the stories of people who have been in dangerous situations abroad. Her friends referred her for an audition and Smith was selected with one of her friends to act in the show.

“Each episode is about 45 minutes long and it’s drama documentary,” said Smith. “My acting role was the wife in a couple who traveled the world hunting reptiles and selling them on the black market.”

Although this episode (see trailer by clicking here) was shot in Colombia, the episode takes place Thailand, the Bahamas, Belize and Miami. Each episode features a different story, cast and crew. Most of the actors in the episode were Colombian who spoke English, but Smith worked with a professional actor from Los Angeles. Smith did not do many stunts, but the L.A. actor is a stuntman who helped with a lot of the action sequences.

“The closest I got to stunts was sprinting through mud and handling more reptiles in the special features,” said Smith. “We filmed a lot of the special features together because the cameraman was always amused by our goofiness. I think I’m more excited for the special features than the show.”

Smith is now back in the U.S. and currently lives outside of Chicago, where she manages a comedy club and performs stand-up and improv comedy.

“I’m happy to be here and be able to spend time with family,” said Smith. “I have a new job and I’m also volunteering with refugees. I always end up making travel plans eventually.”

Smith transferred to Grand Valley in her sophomore year after spending her freshman year studying in Mexico. During her time at Grand Valley, Smith had studied abroad in Hungary and Poland and was a multicultural adviser and peer advisor for the Padnos International Center, where she spoke with students who were interested in studying abroad.

by DeLain Bomer III

This story was filed with the tags: International, Undergraduate Alumni