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Natalie Sharp gets her shot in The Miracle Season

STA grad plays dream role in drama about volleyball team

The Miracle Season. Director: Sean McNamara. Starring Helen Hunt, Erin Moriarty and William Hurt.

Tom Cruise hangs from airplanes. Angelina Jolie leaps onto moving trucks. Natalie Sharp is no slouch, either: she spikes those volleyballs for real in the true feel-good drama The Miracle Season.

The North Vancouver actor plays Mack, member of a winning high-school volleyball team whose star player is killed in an accident. The remaining members of the team and their coach (Helen Hunt) struggle to find their feet and their passion for the game as they compete towards another state championship.

Sharp played high school volleyball for St. Thomas Aquinas as well as on a club team and was her own stunt double for the volleyball scenes. “I twisted my ankle during filming, and our director Sean would get so scared every time I would dive for the ball!” she says. Now attending university in the Los Angeles area, Sharp got the opportunity to go back to high school for the Vancouver shoot. “I’m one of those people who loves school – I loved high school, I love college – so it was cool to be back.”

There’s plenty of on-court action in the movie, which also stars Erin Moriarty as the team’s new captain, Danika Yarosh (Jack Reacher: Never Go Back) as heart of the team Caroline “Line” Found, and William Hurt as the deceased girl’s father. Avid athlete Sharp says she geeked-out because she always played as a middle hitter, but plays a power hitter in the film. “It’s a position I always wanted to play, so I finally got to live out that dream on film,” she laughs.

In preparation for the role Sharp also met her real-life counterpart Shelly Stumpff, who shared stories about her friend Caroline. She concedes that it must be tough for the Iowa City natives to see their precious story adopted by Hollywood, but says she’s proud of the result. “I think we really did honour them.” And Sharp is quick to point out that the freshman who scores the winning point in the movie was actually Stumpff in real life: “she’s a total bad-ass!”

Starring alongside two Oscar winners in your first feature film is a pretty nice way to start. “I feel so lucky,” Sharp acknowledges Hurt “has these insane stories that he would tell us sometimes …  he’s such a wise individual” while Hunt was a mentor to Sharp and several of the young actors on set. “She wants to continue to watch us grow. I’m so happy to have her as a friend now.”

Shooting a film with so many of her peers often didn’t feel much like work, Sharp says. She shared a trailer with fellow actor Tiera Skovbye (CW’s Riverdale) and the two became such good friends that Sharp is a bridesmaid in Skovbye’s upcoming wedding. “It’s the true story of a team, and we stepped into their shoes and became a team ourselves and it stuck,” she says of the camaraderie on director Sean McNamara’s (Soul Surfer) set. “This movie gave me lifelong friends, I think, and I don’t know if any other project is going to give me that.”

Sharp started voice lessons at age six and picked up the guitar a few years later, writing her own songs. She got to put those passions to work in another recent project, the TV series Hit the Road, starring Jason Alexander as the patriarch of a family band that specializes in family values onstage and potty mouth on the road.  “A screwed-up Partridge Family is what we were going for,” she laughs. Seinfeld’s Alexander “is like a dad to me now …  We got so close. That was my first series-regular role, so he really took me and the other cast members under his wing.” 

Sharp credits her high school’s “incredible” arts program for giving her the tools to grow as an actor. But arts were already in the family: brother Alexander, a director, started making films with Lego block sets but soon enlisted his sister as an actress. Her parents, too, were supportive but practical, insisting that she and her brother have a fallback major just in case fickle show-biz didn’t work out. (Sharp will graduate with a Bachelor of Arts degree and a business degree in June.)

After graduation Sharp plans to spend the summer hiking Quarry Rock and eating Honey’s Doughnuts before heading back into pilot season. The ultimate? To work with Christopher Nolan (“I’m really into sci-fi and thrillers so that would be amazing”) or star alongside Jake Gyllenhaal: “I heard every take he does something different to throw off other actors, that would be incredible,” she says, before adding, “plus he’s my celebrity crush.”

Come on, Hollywood: she even does her own stunts.