Having played a quirky special agent on NCIS, a humorously dangerous ex-girlfriend on How I Met Your Mother, and even a sinister Sicilian serial killer on Castle, actress Jackie Geary knows a thing or two about the value of a supporting role. Migrating in and out of these shows, as well as others like Bones, Weeds, Suburgatory and Criminal Minds, Geary may not get top billing about the title each week, but she does have a distinct way of making her mark.

Harnessing a rather resplendent fervor for making the most out of each of her roles, Geary’s positivity and excitement for acting is so infectious, it’s hard not to catch. And this summer, Geary is taking her big personality to the big screen in Roland Emmerich’s high-octane, presidential thrill ride White House Down.

GALO sat down with Geary to get an insight into the ups and downs of being an actor in Hollywood today, her experiences working on a massive film that features the takeover of the White House, and what it was like to live out every woman’s fantasy and work alongside the Sexiest Man Alive himself, Channing Tatum.

GALO: How long have you been pursuing a career in acting?

Jackie Geary: Oh gosh, forever [laughs] — since I was a kid, though not professionally at that time, just running and doing community theatre. I actually went to college in New York — Barnard College — for women’s history and tried to go a more normal route with my life. I wound up interning at a magazine and tried to get a career started in that world, but I just missed acting so much. So I decided to move out to LA in 2002, and drove Corolla across the country with only, like, $200. I really had nothing — no SAG card, knew no one and just started from there. So, in terms of professional acting, it’s been 10 or 11 years.

GALO: So what became your first professional role?

JG: When I was still living in New York, I was so sure that working as an extra on One Life to Live in New York was my big breakthrough. I remember getting the call that they wanted me to be an extra and I did a dance on the sidewalk outside NYU. I twirled in the air and I called my dad — he even took my extra paycheck and framed it. I think it was like $33 and he still has it. That was, technically, my first paid acting job. Then, on a slightly larger scale, I got tapped for an Allstate commercial.

GALO: Since then, you have definitely moved beyond extra work and commercials to play a wide range of supporting roles on a variety of TV shows such as How I Met Your Mother, NCIS, Bones and Weeds. Now, from an acting standpoint, what is it like to step into a role on a show that is already established? Is it difficult to craft a character in these situations?

JG: It’s tricky. I’ve been really lucky and gotten to step onto some amazing sets with actors who are welcoming and play with you and let you have fun and really create with you. But you never really know going in, so you just do as much work as you can on your own to find who you think this character is. Then, you just show up and give yourself over to the dynamic of the show. It’s always exciting, and I’m really lucky to say that I can’t think of a bad experience I’ve had. I’ve had friends tell me their own bad experiences of crazy sets or people who weren’t super friendly to guest cast, but I’ve been very fortunate.

GALO: When you transition from show to show, do you still get nervous before you encounter a new show and cast?

JG: Of course! I’m always nervous; that never goes away. I used to beat myself up about that, like, “Come on, grow up,” but it’s part of what makes the job so fun. It’s that electric and alive excitement/nervousness that, when you let it kind of take you over, it can really add to what you are doing. The more I talk to people that I admire, the more they talk about how nerves are a factor for them as well. I think for a lot of creative people, it’s hard to be perfect and sustain that creativity and be normal, so maybe to be creative you have to be a little bit of a mess inside.

GALO: You said you haven’t had any bad experiences with the shows you have guest starred on, but do any come to mind that stand out as special or significant in your career?

JG: I was not an NCIS watcher before I joined the show for a few episodes, but I knew what a big show it was. Even though I didn’t know what to expect going onto that set, I loved those people so much. Mark Harmon (who plays the lead role of NCIS Agent Jethro Gibbs) is this amazing human who is so giving and so kind, and being who he is, doesn’t have to give the time of day to anyone. He is so generous, as is that whole cast for being such a huge show. That was such a blast, and I loved this weird little character I played (Special Agent Susan Grady, who specializes in polygraphs). I just couldn’t have enjoyed that experience more, and I didn’t expect that going in. But working with TV, there have been so many great experiences. I got to be on How I Met Your Mother before it even started airing. I had no concept of the show — I think I filmed two weeks before it even premiered; same way with my role on Castle. But joining a show at that point is always so interesting, especially to see how the cast and crew themselves are feeling. They, as a cast, are so vulnerable [then] and don’t know what is going to happen, and are excited and nervous. That is so unique to be a part of, and then to get to watch what happens afterward once it begins to air.

GALO: Switching gears from TV, you most recently starred in White House Down, an action movie about an attack on Washington D.C., starring Channing Tatum, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Jamie Foxx. Tell me about your experience of working on such a high-profile movie. Who will you be playing?

JG: My character, her name is Jenna, is the Vice President’s assistant. The movie starts out where Channing Tatum’s character is a Capitol police officer and he is guarding the Speaker of the House, played by Richard Jenkins. He comes to the White House where he meets Jenna, who clearly has a huge crush on him or they have some sort of fling. There isn’t a ton of backstory that is gone into, only because the entire movie takes place in the course of a day. Basically, I use my connections to get him an interview with the Secret Service. He gets denied that job, but then a paramilitary group attacks the White House and he has to step up and protect the President, who is played by Jamie Foxx. I come into the action a little bit as the story unfolds and try to connect them with other people who can help out. It’s a really fun supporting character where I get to play the Vice President’s assistant and what that entails, but also a girl who has a big crush on a boy and gets caught up in some crazy action. There was so much that I got to do with a little supporting role.

GALO: So you got to act out many women’s fantasies of being flirtatious with Channing Tatum, who has gained a lot of popularity lately. Did you enjoy working alongside him?

JG: Oh my, yes [laughs]. He is so genuinely nice and down to earth, and he seems very much like a normal guy who is truly grateful for all that is happening to him. He is a really great actor to play off of and work with. In one scene we had together, which we did about a million times on set, he was so in the moment and so playful, and extremely gracious to me as a supporting actor coming into this ginormous movie. He made it feel very personal, even though there was a ton of extras and crew around; like it was just a scene between two people. He was so present that it takes you, as an actor, out of your own head and allows you to be present and playful. He is so talented, and I’ve worked with a lot of actors who weren’t nearly that talented. That was a nice, unexpected aspect of working with him.

(Interview continued on next page)