It was the snowpocalypse of 2014 that caused gridlock on Atlanta’s roads and highways. People were trapped in their cars, at work or at school for hours on end all because of about two inches of snow.
That’s what Clark Sarullo ’06 remembers about how the shoot for the biggest movie of her acting career began. The same January week a dusting of snow shut down the ATL also marked the start of production for the movie adaptation of Stephen King’s 2006 best-selling thriller Cell, which filmed entirely in Georgia’s capital city.
“All of that happened during the first couple days of shooting,” Sarullo recalls. Luckily, she wasn’t scheduled on set for another week and avoided the snowy chaos entirely.
More than two years later the CofC alumna is celebrating the release of the film, which debuted in theaters on July 8, 2016. Cell, which stars John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson, is already available to view on demand.
Cusack stars as the film’s central character, Clay Riddell, with Sarullo playing opposite the Hollywood star as his wife, Sharon. The story centers on Clay’s broken relationship with his wife and young son, whom he left to pursue a career in art. At the start of the movie, Clay has some good news to share with his estranged family and is making his way home to mend his relationships with them. But that reunion becomes an odyssey of terror when a mysterious cell phone signal turns a majority of mankind into zombie-esque creatures. And all the while the question remains: Has Clay’s family fallen victim to the apocalyptic cell phone pulse?
Getting the role of Sharon Riddell is a major break for Sarullo, who calls it “the biggest opportunity I have had thus far.” On top of that, most of her scenes were with Cusack (she had one with Jackson), an experience she didn’t take for granted.
“When you have the opportunity to be around actors who are that seasoned and that experienced and that professional, it really is special,” she says. “I always try to be a sponge. I just try to keep my mouth shut and my eyes and ears open.”
Sarullo grew up appearing in the occasional local commercial or working as a catalog model. However, acting wasn’t really on her radar.
As a psychology major at the College, Sarullo found herself drawn to quality-of-life issues for senior citizens – something she made her platform when she competed in a pageant and was named Miss Charleston 2005. But one thing she didn’t do at the College (or in Charleston for that matter) was pursue acting. In fact, her only experience on a Charleston stage, Sarullo jokes, was when she competed for the title of Miss Charleston at the Sottile Theatre.
It wasn’t until after graduation that the acting seed was quietly planted in Sarullo’s mind when she found herself doing commercials and radio spots as part of her initial post-college life working in Charleston’s healthcare industry.
Surprisingly, it was that type of communications work promoting nursing homes and assisted living facilities that eventually led Sarullo to acting. “It really kind of clicked,” she recalls. “It just kind of started pulling at me a little bit.”
But she still wasn’t thinking about a career on the silver screen. Instead, the level-headed, blond beauty was thinking she could create a career as a commercial actor (as in television and radio advertisements).
Those aspirations began changing, though, after Sarullo moved to Atlanta in 2008 and signed with Houghton Talent. As the agency began sending her on auditions for television and film roles, her goals unexpectedly shifted.
“I really found a home,” she says of acting. “I was more comfortable there than I really thought I would be. It was a nice surprise and a nice twist!”
Since then, the Georgia native has immersed herself in the acting world. Her ascension to working alongside the likes of Cusack has been a slow one, which speaks to her dedication and pragmatic approach to life in the competitive entertainment industry.
And with the premiere of Cell, Sarullo says she feels like she’s “gained momentum” in her career. The trick, she says, has been to just keep at it and not get discouraged.
“Some years they don’t need blondes in my age range,” she says, bluntly. “When your work experience speaks for itself, you have to trust that even in your slow times you’re going to work again.”
In recent years, Sarullo has had small parts in television and film including the NBC series Revolution and 2013’s Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues where she appeared as a Whammy Chicken girl.
In the fall, Sarullo can be seen as a recurring guest on the CBS show The Inspectors, part of the network’s Saturday morning family programming. That show, which shoots in Charleston, brought Sarullo back to the Holy City in the spring of 2016, giving her a full circle moment as her career heats up.
“Hopefully ‘Cell’ will give me some traction to be trusted to do some bigger roles,” she says.