Lake Oswego grad excited about the direction of her career

NEITLINGWhen Lake Oswego native Marissa Neitling attended the University of Oregon from 2002 to 2007, she gave herself some career options.

One part of her studies involved math, with the intention of being an engineer.

The other part featured theater, which she had continued from her days at Lake Oswego High School.

“I try to stay in the here and now, and your life takes twists and turns,” the 30-year-old Neitling says. “What I learned is there are many journeys. ... (Theater) was something I couldn’t let go of.”

Her most significant turn, after graduating from UO, took her to grad school at Yale, after which she landed her first big role in TNT’s “The Last Ship.” The action drama debuted last weekend (it’s shown Sunday nights); it’s about a Navy crew assigned to stop a deadly virus — filmed aboard a real U.S. Navy ship — and Neitling plays an intelligence/weapons crew member who also has a love interest on the ship.

Neitling had gone all-in with her theater career, exiting college and performing in various productions in the metro area — for Lakewood Theatre Company, Broadway Rose Theatre Company and Artists Repertory Theatre included — as well as landing a small role on “Leverage.”

Seeing the economy tank, and not wanting to struggle as an actor in New York, she furthered her studies at Yale, which “I don’t know if you’d say is the normal route” to be a big-time actor.

“I applied to about 10 grad schools, and I thought it’d be worth three years out of the (show) business,” she adds. “At Yale, I had great mentorship from (acting professor) Ron Van Lieu and I was part of a group of 14 other actors, and they taught me as much as my professors. I was challenged in ways that I didn’t even know. It was the hardest and best thing I’d ever do.”

Studies included 14-hour days, six days a week, often with no lunch or dinner breaks. “You become an expert in food that you can bring with you (to school) that lasts,” she muses. “I became an expert at sack lunches.”

Shortly after concluding her Yale studies and living in New York City, her manager put an audition tape in the hands of “The Last Ship” producers. She heard the good news about being cast on the show on Halloween 2013, and had to move from New York City to Los Angeles by the next day.

Filming for “The Last Ship” has been done in San Diego aboard the destroyer USS Dewey and at Manhattan Beach Studios.

“It’s been very fast-paced and exciting,” Neitling says. “I play the role of Lt. Kara Foster, a fire control officer in the CIC (Combat Information Center), the intelligence and weapons part of the ship. Those scenes can be very tense.

“I also have a love interest on the ship with Lt. Danny Green that’ll come up and you’ll be interested to see how it plays out, because that’s a big no-no in the Navy. That’s part of the drama of the show. ... I found it exciting to be working on an actual Navy ship with active members. You’re shooting stuff alongside Navy personnel doing their job. It was an honor and a privilege to be aboard with men and women serving our country, a dream come true for an actor. You’re there and taking it all in.”

There’ll be 10 episodes in the first season of “The Last Ship,” and Neitling hopes the show develops a following to allow for a second season.

She also has signed to play a role, as a seismologist, in the earthquake thriller “San Andreas,” starring The Rock. She leaves July 5 for filming in


“It’s nice to have another project in the works,” says Neitling, who has clearly left her engineering aspirations behind.

“I never would have dreamed this big, being a series regular on a show this epic,” she says. “I feel blessed. I’m excited to see where the show goes.”

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