Theatre Alumna Thrives in Film and TV Industry


Alumna Sarah Habel has been performing professionally since earning her Bachelor of Arts degree in Theatre from Michigan State University in 2004. She has spent time in London, Detroit, and now Los Angeles as a theatre, film, and television actress, and most recently had a role in the popular TV drama, Riverdale.

She credits her MSU roots to her humble success in Hollywood and beyond.

“I loved the comprehensiveness of MSU’s theatre program,” Habel said. “You really get all sides [of theatre] and I think it’s really important as a student and aspiring professional to have respect for all aspects of the process."

Some of Habel’s most memorable MSU experiences happened within the theatre program, from the many different shows to her study abroad in London. After graduating, she went back to London to explore theatre there a little more and then came back to Michigan just in time to take advantage of the state’s film incentives.

“Michigan is really where I got any real start in terms of film or television,” Habel said. “When the film incentives came to Michigan, I was doing commercials, I did a pilot, and I did some studio movies. It all just kind of happened in one summer.”

For the Riverdale television series, which is loosely based on the characters from Archie Comics, Habel played the scandalous Ms. Grundy for five episodes. While reminiscing on filming the pilot, Habel remembers the process being an especially wonderful experience.

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Sarah Habel as Ms. Grundy in Riverdale


“I can never tell if people are going to like what we’re working on; there’s so much time that goes by between filming and having people see it,” Habel said. “I’m really glad that it got the attention it deserved.”

Habel also was a series regular, playing the role of Daphne Glover, on the MTV show, Underemployed.

“We had so much collaboration going on in that show,” she said. “When we got scripts, we were able to give our own ideas and points of views.”

Before moving to Los Angeles in 2009, Habel was lucky enough to come into the industry already having an agent that she got while working in Detroit.

“Coming to LA, I was so afraid because I’d heard not wonderful things about it, but it’s such a wonderful place,” Habel said. “It’s really diverse, it’s ginormous, and there’s so many different pockets and neighborhood.”

Habel learned “you don’t have to be afraid of LA” and that it pays to be humble.

Whatever it is that makes you feel alive and enriched, that’s what you can control and that’s who people want to work with.

Sarah Habel, MSU THEATRE ALUMNA

“Going into the industry, especially one that’s so competitive, it’s good to be humble and to understand it’s not just about you, you’re a part of a bigger whole,” she said.

In 2009, soon after she moved to Los Angeles, Habel made her movie debut, playing the role of Corbi in Drew Barrymore’s Whip It.

As much as Habel loves acting for film and television, her main ambition right now is to get back into theatre.

“I really love acting and it’s been so long since I’ve done a play, so connecting back to those roots is my biggest goal right now,” she said.

Habel’s best advice to those wishing to follow in her footsteps is to approach life from a place of excitement and face your fears head on. She recommends doing whatever you can to stay inspired and to continue learning.

“The only thing you can really control is your own experience,” she said. “Whatever it is that makes you feel alive and enriched, that’s what you can control and that’s who people want to work with.”