EDMOND, Okla. — Rachel Cannon, an Oklahoma native and actress, moved to Edmond last year to be closer to family and to advance the state’s film industry. Her plans include elevating Oklahoma’s foundation for film and TV.
“I have been working for and I am very involved with legislation to try to make Oklahoma a more film-friendly place in order to help get more television series to come to the state to film,” Cannon said.
She is in partnership with Matt Payne, also from Edmond, who, like Cannon has been in Hollywood for two decades and has come home.
“Matt and I are doing whatever we can to bring more filming to Oklahoma,” Cannon said. “I have some things that I will be announcing soon that have to do with the film industry.”
Cannon believes Oklahoma has the potential in the near future to be a hub for the film industry.
She is currently starring in ABC’s “Fresh Off The Boat” and has been traveling for the past year and a half from Oklahoma to Los Angeles as she continues filming.
While living in Hollywood, Rachel had parts in “Two and a Half Men,” “Big Bang Theory,” and “Mad Men” among other roles.
“We bought a house a little over a year ago,” Cannon said. “It was a very spontaneous decision. We found two houses, sight unseen, and in 24 hours we had to make a decision.”
Her husband, Noah Engh, is from Minnesota and Cannon grew up in Yukon. The two met in Los Angeles.
Rachel and Noah have a 3 1/2-year-old son, August William, named after great-grandfathers on both sides. Their son was part of the decision to move to Edmond.
“He is the reason we decided to come back to Oklahoma,” Rachel said. “I started looking at things through a different lens. I knew the schools were great, so Edmond made the perfect place to move for a young family.”
Noah Engh is also a performer, but instead of acting he plays Ragtime Jazz and raises money online every week on Facebook with a free show called a “Garage with a Cause.” Before the quarantine he had been playing in places like Parlor, Bin 73, and Pony Boy.
Rachel said she also grew up loving performing. In high school she was a cheerleader, and in college at the University of Oklahoma, she was on the Pom Squad.
“When I was in high school I only did one play,” Cannon said, “but I grew up loving performing. In college I saw Matthew McConaughey on ‘Oprah’ and it was like a switch was flipped that day. Something gave me the permission to go into acting.”
She said for whatever reason she didn’t have any connections in California, except one friend, Todd Oney from Valliant, who she had taken a couple of classes with in college at OU. Oney had invited her to be roommates.
“I ended up going to California,” Cannon said. “I got up early one morning, threw my cat and a bunch of clothes in my car and my mom drove with me to California.”
Mom said after the trip she would never do that again.
Arriving in L.A. they found Todd’s studio apartment in what Cannon described as one of the roughest neighborhoods in California.
“When we got there I asked Todd, ‘Where is my room,’” Cannon said.
His reply was, “You are standing in it.”
Her mom stayed for a couple of days before flying home.
“I think she cried all the way,” Cannon added.
Cannon said she was pretty bent on the idea that this was what she wanted to do, and she needed to struggle.
“I told Mom I needed to do this on my own. Don’t send me any money,” Cannon said. “I didn’t want them to bail me out. I knew the struggle was part of it.”
Cannon said her memories of those first days in L.A. included $1 hamburgers on Tuesday at McDonald’s.
“Then I would have money for a cocktail if the bartender I knew was working,” Cannon said laughing.
“Being scrappy is an important life lesson,” she said. “I learned a lot and grew a lot.”
Cannon left OU before earning her diploma but she only had two courses remaining — one was an elective. She said shefound an acting class when she first moved to L.A.
“I studied with a wonderful coach named Warner Loughlin,” Cannon said. “I studied with her for 20 years. She taught me how to explore the deepest emotions in a safe way so I could truly be anyone I wanted to be on camera. She also had one of the rare groups in Hollywood where the students actually were friends and supported each other. We were family. Still are.”
Cannon said her first sitcom was “Cut” and her sidekick in the show was Meghan Markle.
“I definitely do TV, more specifically sitcoms,” Cannon said. “Really, l like TV, especially comedy, but I don’t do commercials.”
Cannon said Hollywood likes its actors in a tiny box.
“In a few years everybody knew me for my roles on TV,” Cannon said. “I love, love, love sitcoms.”
She said she has a few favorite roles she has played. One was when she was in “Mad Men.”
“It was an incredible experience from start to finish,” Cannon said. “Matthew Weiner has such an incredible mind.”
She said she also enjoyed the part of Melanie in “Two and a Half Men.”
“Chuck Lorrie asked me to come back a few weeks later, and I got to be Charlie’s girlfriend in a couple of episodes,” Cannon said. “I had such a great time working on that job. I was working with Enrique Iglesias. There is a rhythm to working sitcoms. It was such a great week. It was a live audience of women swooning over Iglesias.”
She said she also enjoyed “Pushing Daisies” with Oklahoman Kristen Chenoweth.
“My mom’s favorite was one with James Brolin, Mary Steenbergen, Melissa Milano, and Anna Camp on “Pitch Perfect.” It was a pilot for ABC and didn’t make it,” Cannon said. “I also did a pilot with Patty LaPon and Michael Keaton.”
Cannon said she likes the energy of television and the downside of films is they can consume many months of time.
“Although if I had any offers coming across I would look at the character and the story,” Cannon said.
In fact, she just finished a short film in Oklahoma.
“I co-wrote, produced and starred in the film ‘Send Me Wings.’ I just read the manuscript, it was not yet a script, and I liked it,” she said.
Lance McDaniel at DeadCenter was the director and Christian Faith Publishing was the producer.
“It was a fun experience, although I have never worked on anything that small,” Cannon said. “Everybody was doubling up on parts for the 12 characters.”
Cannon was nominated for Best Actress for her role in the film.
“The story is about a woman’s journey home to settle her mother’s estate and a sick boy is seeking refuge within the walls of the church,” Cannon said. “It is a celebration of community.”
It received a nomination at Branson International Film Festival and will be premiered online April 30-May 2.
To view it go through the website Branson International Film Festival to get access. For access to the trailer look at “Send Me Wings” on Facebook and also Instagram.
“We will be doing a lot of updates on social media,” Rachel said.
Rachel said her perspective has changed since returning to her home state. She used to look around Oklahoma and she saw nothing.
Now she says, “I have pretty big plans for Oklahoma. They are all about elevating the incredible foundation for film and TV in the state.”