By Grace Johnson, March 2, 2021
Reaching a new level of success amid her acting career, Cal Poly Pomona theater professor and actress, Linda Bisesti, landed a role in the newest season of ABC’s sitcom “The Conners” expected to air mid-March.
Bisesti featured in two episodes as a guest star for the sitcom, a spinoff of the Roseanne Barr sitcom, “Roseanne,” from the 1990s. According to Bisesti, “The Conners” is not a typical sitcom but a darker one. The Chicago-based show includes a mixture of serious and comical moments but does not come across as a slapstick comedy.
“The show is very timely,” explained Bisesti. “It deals with diversity and there are many different ethnicities in the family which is very important for the world today. The family on the show is challenged financially, but they’re consistently trying to make ends meet in the most compassionate and humorous ways.”
Although the sitcom has a moderate balance between somber moments and humor, it does not downplay or ignore the challenges of the middle class or the sustainment of livelihood. The show’s challenges are enlightened by humor, which makes for a more encouraging and realistic sitcom for viewers.
A sitcom, especially one where humor is so abundant, is typically filmed in front of an audience to record their natural reactions and laughter. However, due to the pandemic, “The Conners” contained no live audience and was shot in a multi-camera format to grasp different angles. Bisesti expressed that it was a new experience for her to perform in a multi-camera set-up, but it made for a faster filming process.
“While filming the show, I never felt rushed or uncomfortable even though things are so different now in regard to COVID precautions,” explained Bisesti. “Hollywood really has it together with COVID. We rehearsed for two days per episode with masks and face shields on and only took off the masks to film on the third day. It was jarring to not be able to see my co-star’s facial expressions while rehearsing, but it was well worth it. I felt more safe than ever.”
The filming process included extra precautions such as online auditions, regular COVID testing for crew members and tracking devices to ensure everyone was staying 6 feet apart at all times.
“No matter how different the experience was, I really love being on set for a TV show or movie,” said Bisesti. “I played the next-door neighbor of the Conners. My kids played with their kids and, in the show, I supposedly had lived next to them for years. Being on set gives me a feeling like no other and these were two of the best scenes I’ve ever had the pleasure of taking part in.”
Her love for theater and acting bloomed during her undergraduate years at Russell Sage College in New York as a history student minoring in theater. Bisesti was passionate about reading plays based on real people from different time periods. Scripts involving Queen Elizabeth or William Shakespeare especially fascinated her due to the profound and inspiring marriage between history and theatre.
“I would walk past The Little Theater at Russell Sage and admire its beauty,” explained Bisesti. “I began auditioning for plays and that is where it all began. I fell in love with theater.”
After graduating from Russell Sage, Bisesti moved on to Boston University College of Fine Arts where she received a Master of Fine Arts degree in acting. Boston only offered her commercial work, but she yearned for more and decided to move to Los Angeles to work in film and television.
Bisesti’s move to LA sparked success in her career as she landed roles in well-known films and shows, including “Monk,” “Criminal Minds,” “Teachers,” “Ratched” and her newest role in “The Conners.”
“Out of all the acting opportunities I’ve come across, filming ‘The Conners’ takes the cake,” stated Bisesti. “Being shot by female directors was a wonderful experience. In the business, it is important to celebrate female directors, female writers and female camera operators. It was great to see that things are changing. What helped even more was that my co-star, Sarah Gilbert, was one of the finest to work with. All the actors were on their mark; it makes your work as a guest actor that much easier.”
Originally, Bisesti taught as a guest artist at Pomona College before seeing an advertisement for a teaching opportunity at CPP, where she has now taught for 20 years and is expected to retire in 2022. Her dreams of teaching theater were fulfilled at CPP where she has the opportunity to witness students fall in love with theater.
“I have loved teaching at Cal Poly, it is the loveliest school with such wonderful students,” said Bisesti. “My career has flourished in many ways. From teaching to landing this role, it has been nothing but a dream come true.”
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