Wentcher Spotlight (6)

Alumni Spotlight: Kira Cook

A Wrigleyville native and now professional actress, Kira Cook has always been a star. At the start of our interview, she recalls being a young girl around the age of seven selling advice to Cubs’ fans in the neighborhood on game day. Charging only a dollar for her opinions on career changes, love relationships, and anything else, she found herself always making more than expected. Most people didn’t have change so they gave her larger bills. They were always so amped up from the game that it didn’t really seem to matter to them. 


Kira attended Lincoln Park HS’ IB program, and later enrolled in the Honors College at Arizona State University as a Wentcher Scholar. A member of the first class of Wentcher Scholars, Kira graduated from Arizona State in 2006 with an English Literature major and a French minor. During her time at Arizona State Kira founded the school’s on campus literary magazine, worked for the college newspaper, and she also studied abroad for a year. Kira spent half a year in Rome, and the other half in Grenoble, which is in the south of France. 


Kira began her acting career early, starting out as a child actor in first grade. She starred in plays, tv shows, and commercials. In sixth grade, she landed her first big role in the movie Matilda, where she played Hortensia. In the description of the movie inspired by the book from Roald Dahl, Hortensia is described as the student who teaches Matilda and her friend Lavender all about the mean teacher Ms. Trunchbull. Before meeting Matilda and Lavender, Hortensia had played extensive pranks on Ms. Trunchbull such as pouring Golden Syrup onto her chair, and putting itching powder in her gym knickers. Kira admits that by the time she went to high school she was exhausted with doing the back and forth for auditions and shows, and so she didn’t act at all in high school. Kira kind of lost touch with acting until her interest was re-sparked by landing a role in ASU’s rendition of the famous play The Vagina Monologues.


After college Kira only applied to Master’s programs in Europe because she loved her study abroad so much. She enrolled in the University College of London where she received her Master’s degree in Modern Literature in 2008. Oddly enough, Kira landed her biggest professional role during this time through her mom. At the time she was getting her Master’s her mother was making a film on Mackinac Island where they had horses and carriages to get around. The producer of her mother’s film pitched that the idea should be a series about islands around the world without cars. The show got picked up by PBS, and Kira was asked to be the host. During her time as host of Islands Without Cars, Kira visited 20 islands. One pilot episode was hosted on an island of England called Sark. The other pilot episode was hosted on an island of Greece called Hydra. After that, Kira profiled islands off of Scotland, Croatia, France, Ireland, Sweden, and more. Kira filmed two seasons as host of the show, and this year, she won an Emmy!


Currently, Kira is starting her first podcast “You Do What Now?” The podcast is a collection of her interviews with people that have interesting jobs. Kira said it’s ironic because as an actress, she auditions so her job is applying for jobs. Outside of auditioning, Kira is also in the process of writing her second screenplay which is a dark comedy about a dysfunctional family. The first screenplay she wrote was based on her experience studying abroad. Lastly, Kira  is a mom to a three-year old and a four-year old and is in the process of writing her first kids chapter book series. She says that being a mom has given her more ambition and shown her storytelling in a new light. Kira describes being a mother as “putting on a play every single day,” which helps her restore a sense of wonder and delight into her view of the world. 


We asked Kira what her favorite part of being an actress was and she said having the ability to tell a different story every day. For example, during her time as the host of Islands Without Cars, Kira “finds it fascinating that people pick one career and do it forever,” because she loves variety and having her hand in so many different pots. She says that “Going between worlds is her thing.” We also asked her what she thought the most challenging part of being an actress was and she said the constant rejection is the hardest part. 


Kira did have some advice for scholars wanting to work in the entertainment industry. She said be passionate because people want to hire people that are genuinely passionate about the work. This applies to everyone, not just entertainers because when people are passionate about the work that they do, they usually work hard and are knowledgeable about their craft. Kira also notes that the most successful people she knows have spent a lot of time studying their craft. From her own experience, she notes that “There’s a scholarly approach to any type of work including entertainment and that includes advocating for yourself and creating your own world.” 


In the future Kira plans to have the children’s book series published and made into a tv series. She also said that she would love for her study abroad film to be made. Ideally, Kira would love to be on set and play a small role in the film. Ultimately, she is auditioning and looking forward to getting roles in tv and film again. One of her dreams is to be a voice on an animated series.


Outside of being an actress, mother, and wife, Kira has a lot of other hobbies. Her newest hobby baking is inspired by Great British Bake Off. She also enjoys playing tennis and skiing. Kira and her husband are looking into buying an investment property and flipping it into an AirBnb as a new challenge for next year. Lastly, Kira is an avid reader. Her favorite authors include Rachel Cusk or Helen Garner.


To wrap up our interview, we asked Kira what her experience was being part of Wentcher’s First class, and she had a lot to say. “It’s extraordinarily special!” Kira says that the Wentcher scholarship saved her life because her parents lost her whole college savings in a stock market crash, and even with a full ride from ASU there were still many other expenses that needed to be covered. She recalls enjoying a luncheon with the founder of the Wentcher Foundation, Ernie  and other awardees to welcome her to the Wentcher community. Kira volunteered during the new scholar selection process for the first time this year. She says that she thoroughly enjoyed herself and was extremely impressed with the students she met.


We appreciate Kira for taking the time to interview with us, and we can’t wait to see her on screen soon!

Picture of Author: Nia Harris

Author: Nia Harris

Currently living in NYC, Nia Harris is a NYU graduate and Fulbright Scholar working for the Wentcher Foundation as the Program Associate. She writes for her own blog, Nashari which you can find here.

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