Contest hopeful captures votes

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UT alumna Sam Wiley aims to win walk-on role in hit drama ‘Mad Men’

With a half-empty glass to her red lips, Sam Wiley stares seductively with her piercing green eyes. Her sweet, pale face contrasts her come-hither pose and sassy ’60s demure appearance.

Wiley, a recent UT Theatre and Dance alumna, is one of nearly 4,500 participants in a photo contest hosted by the popular AMC drama series “Mad Men” and Banana Republic. The competition is a call for “mad fans” to submit a photo of themselves in their best “Mad Men” look, and the winner will receive a walk-on role in season five and a $1,000 gift card to Banana Republic.

“Mad Men” takes place in the 1960s but still comments on contemporary issues. Set in the world of advertising, the show follows the fictitious firm Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce and their main man, the mysterious Don Draper, played by Jon Hamm. With detailed costumes, sets and storylines with dramatic crescendos, “Mad Men” is AMC’s most popular show. It is currently the most award-winning drama on TV‚ having earned a Golden Globe Award for Best Television Series Drama three times in a row and an Emmy for Outstanding Drama Series twice. This Sunday, “Man Men” will compete for the Outstanding Drama Series Emmy award again.

Though Wiley is a working actress and is featured in an upcoming web series titled “Beasts of Burden,” she said “Mad Men” could be her big breakthrough if she won the competition.

Wiley found out about the Mad Men competition after her friend Derek Dahmann, an economics senior at UT, posted the casting call link to her Facebook wall.

“He likes to pretend he’s my agent,” she said. “So sometimes he shares these things ... it’s a running joke with us that I’m going to fire him if he doesn’t get me auditions. This is the closest thing to an audition he has gotten me.”

The competition was more than two weeks in when Wiley saw the link. By then, the top contestants were already ahead with tens of thousands of votes.

“I hate that I got such a late start,” Wiley said. “It is discouraging because I can only wonder how many votes I could have had had I entered the contest when it started.”

Wiley said she still tried because she wants to take advantage of every opportunity she has to succeed as an actress.

Participants in the contest were required to pick up a “Mad Men” style guide from Banana Republic. While some purchased the clothes in the guide for their entry, others used the catalog to inspire their own costume ideas. Wiley decided to take the creative and thrifty route by creating her own ’60s style by tucking in the suspender straps on a jean jumper to create high-waisted shorts and borrowing a blue blouse from her sister’s closet.

Since Wiley’s sister, Anna, a nursing sophomore, is a big fan of the show, Wiley asked her for advice on how she should look.

“I just told her to look at Betty Draper,” Anna Wiley said. “I can see her in Betty Draper because they both have blonde hair ... and that kind of sweet, pure-faced look.”

Anna Wiley said she would be jealous if her sister won. “I want to meet [the cast] but I would be very excited for her.”

Wishing to look sexy without revealing too much, Sam pulled her hair back into a classic low bun, applied some eye shadow, eyeliner and mascara to bring out her aquamarine eyes and red lipstick for a dramatic touch. Because there is constantly a cigarette and drink in the hand of at least one character in every scene of Mad Men, Wiley decided to add a lipstick-stained glass to her ensemble.

The first outlet Wiley used to promote her profile was Facebook. She created an event, a group, continuously posted the link to her voting page on her status and sent out reminder messages to her friends.

“I think there is some research that proves people have to see or hear something seven times before it actually sticks with them,” she said. “I plan on promoting this more than seven times. I need all the help I can get.”

Wiley said she doesn’t think she can win with just the people she knows voting for her, but will also depend on the support of strangers. She even posted her voting link and picture on Craigslist asking the community for a helping hand.

As of Wednesday, Wiley has more than 2,000 votes.

Wiley said winning the contest and getting a walk-on role might not fully showcase her acting skills, but it would at least get her into a room of powerful people and her name and face out to casting directors.

“In this business, it really is all about who you know, and the “Mad Men” gang seem like the right people to know,” she said. “If they like me, maybe they will even write me into the show as an actual character.”

Wiley said she doesn’t want just 15 minutes of fame.

“If I’m only in the show for one episode, I want to leave my mark,” she said. “This is what I went to school for and this is what I have been dreaming of since I was a little girl.”