Published on March 26, 2021 by Ashley Smith  
Kat Sterling

Recent Samford alumna Kat Conner Sterling has seen success since her graduation at Samford.  Her first big break was appearing in Marvel’s The Gifted while she was still at Samford.  Now she is part of the cast of Netflix’s new release A Week Away about a teenage Christian camp and redemption. 

She plays Presley. “She’s quirky, awkward, and has some spunk to her like I do. I love that she’s not seen as the classic ‘loser/nerd’ troupe character that everyone is trying to change to be seen as ‘good enough’,” said Sterling. 

Sterling won the role by submitting a self-tape.  “The producers liked my tape so much that they booked me straight from that without a callback.  I found out I booked the role on a cruise ship in the middle of the ocean just three months after graduating from Samford!”

Luckily Covid did not impact the filming as they finished right before everything was locked down due to the Pandemic, however post production and marketing were greatly affected. “Promo and press have been very different. It’s all over Zoom, so I’m talking to all these big media outlets from my bedroom which is crazy! We also had to have a virtual premiere instead of a red carpet. We were sad but Netflix made it so much fun. They gave us Uber Eats credits to choose our ‘premiere dinner’ to have while watching, which I loved,” said Sterling.

Her favorite aspects of the experience included the role along with “The director and producers were so encouraging to let me have fun with this. They let me improv some things which I loved doing. We also filmed at a real camp, so we got to actually zip line, 3 legged race, have a pie eating contest, and so many other fun camp stuff,” Sterling said.

She really liked her character and could relate to her. “Her friends and love interest are so accepting and loving for exactly who she is. She’s out there, but that’s cool. I think kids, tweens, teens, and even adults need a character they can relate to and see that if even they’re not the classic ‘cool girl’ character, they are still so enough and deserving of a loving and supportive circle of friends.”

A Week Away is a musical and Sterling is excited about how the audience will respond to the music. “I hope they love the music as much as I do. I really think our soundtrack is gonna be stuck in people’s heads,” said Sterling.

Professionally and personally, she learned a lot from the experience.  “Acting wise, I’ve learned a lot about how to stand out as an actor and give a unique performance for the camera. However, I’ve really had to step up to the plate professionally. Once the film is finished, your job keeps going. I’ve had to learn how to handle press junkets, navigating a social media presence, and promoting myself and the movie in a way that will push my career further. Personally, I’ve learned that you really have to walk on to set with both confidence and humility. You’ve got to feel comfortable in your own skin to do your job, but nobody wants to work with someone who has a big head,” said Sterling.

“I still think of Samford so fondly. So many amazing memories of mine are tied to that campus,” said Sterling. She gives Samford credit for setting her up for success. “Samford always let me be 100% authentically Kat. My friends, my professors, the Samford community-they’ve always made me feel loved, quirks and all. My professors and classes allowed me to experiment with different characters and really hone in my acting skills so that I felt prepared to take a part each script I’m given and give it layers. With every audition I get, I’m always using the techniques I learned at Samford and applying them.”

“The whole Samford theatre department really helped me grow. Mark Castle, Dr. Don Sandley, David Glenn, Mary Gurney. They were always so supportive, understanding, and willing to listen," said Sterling.

"Kat Sterling is one of those rare individuals that comes into an arts teacher orbit and you just know that this one is special. The rest of us look at an orange and see a piece of fruit. Kat sees a scale model of the planet Jupiter inhabited by giant robot spiders. She just sees the world in a beautifully unique way, and I was blessed to be her mentor and now her friend," said theatre professor Don Sandley. 

"Mary Gurney was so accommodating and compassionate when I was experiencing health issues during my time there. David Glenn claims he’s president of the Kat Sterling fan club and always keeps up with me on Facebook. Dr. Sandley and Mark Castle were my acting professors and allowed me freedom to explore my journey as an actor,” said Sterling.

“I’m delighted that others will see what we have all seen in Kat for so long, that she is a unique and talented actress with a long professional career ahead of her!” said Mark Castle, chair of Samford’s Department of Theatre and Dance.

When asked what is next? “This movie is bringing about some exciting opportunities. I can’t say much, but when I can, I’ll be sure to keep my Samford family in the loop,” said Sterling. 

Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.