Within the first five minutes of Netflix’s new series Partner Track, Arlington native and Yorktown High School graduate Alexandra Turshen already has her “boss” moment by telling the new paralegal to get his feet off the desk.
“I would be lying if I said that I didn’t always want to play a fierce Manhattan lawyer,” Turshen told ARLnow, laughing. “The role of Rachel is so aligned with who I am. She’s a boss.”
But before 36-year-old Turshen was starring as “Rachel,” the best friend in a romantic comedy about lawyers climbing the ladder, she was a boss in the Yorktown marching band.
“Your girl was playing cymbals with the best of them,” Turshen said. “We were absolutely the coolest kids in town. I can say with absolute certainty that the best time I had in high school was being part of the symphonic band and marching band.”
From slamming cymbals at Yorktown to being a fictional high-powered attorney on a Netflix show, it’s been a bit of a journey for the hometown actor.
Turshen grew up in the Rock Spring neighborhood of North Arlington, within walking distance of Yorktown High.
Performing arts has always been, quite literally, in her blood. Her mom, who still lives in Arlington, was a music teacher for nearly 50 years working mostly in D.C. and Fairfax County. Her dad was an Arlington attorney. The two met doing community theater at the Hexagon, a long-running political satire musical theater in D.C.
“My family has always this real appreciation and foundation in music and performance,” Turshen said.
And Turshen followed in her family’s musical footsteps, playing the string bass in Yorktown’s symphonic band and cymbals in the marching band.
“The whole band would walk uniformly out to the field to the beat of the drums with the cymbals right in front. It was such a great feeling,” she said.
But Turshen dreamed of dancing. So, she joined a program while at YHS where she left school early for lessons at the Washington Ballet Company. She would wear “leotards and tights” under her clothes at school all day and leave right after band class to make her way downtown. While she loved dancing, her body didn’t.
“As it turns out, my body just kinda gave out. I got injured… the tendons and ligaments started tearing in my feet and they just really couldn’t take the 9 to 5 job as a ballerina,” Turshen said.
So, she went to college in Massachusetts and studied international human rights. But she missed performing, so shortly after graduating she moved to New York to become an actor.
It wasn’t easy, though. There were times when she wanted to give up, but early on she got advice that “perseverance, persistence, and patience” is how one makes in the industry.
For Turshen, that’s held true. She has had plenty of roles over the years, but it’s taken time to build her career.
“It’s so heartbreaking. It’s so brutal. You get so close sometimes and then it just doesn’t go your way and then it can really get you down. After five years, after ten years, or 12 years, it wears on you,” she lamented. “You really have to have a strong sense of purpose, and you have to believe in yourself when others don’t. And that takes practice, especially as the years turn into decades.”
The last few years were particularly hard for many actors, with productions, theaters, and filming all shut down or very limited. Turshen moved back to Arlington for a better part of a year during the pandemic, to be with her mom, think, and reconnect with her hometown.
“It was so beautiful to be able to come home and to spend time with my mom. To have a safe place to go during such an unknown, scary time.“
She took walks, biked, gardened, got reacquainted with neighbors, listened to the cicadas, and breathed that (mostly) fresh Arlington air.
“I would go on walks around my neighborhood and say ‘Oh, my gosh, it smells like Arlington.’ Coming from New York and LA, the smells are really different… like fresh cut grass.”
“It smells like suburbia heaven! I love it,” she said with a laugh.
Then, one day sitting at home in Rock Spring with her mom, Turshen got the call that she had been cast in Partner Track.
“I screamed and I dropped the phone. My mom looked at me knowing something just had happened. It’s a moment I’ll never forget and so wonderful to share it with my mom, who’s just been the world’s greatest supporter all of these years.”
With season 1 of the show now streaming on Netflix, Turshen is thinking about what’s next. She’s definitely hoping for a season 2, has a few projects potentially in the works that she can’t quite talk about it yet, and is doing her own writing.
While Turshen isn’t the first Arlingtonian to hit it in Hollywood, it’s clear she holds a real connection and love to where she spent her childhood.
Be it memories of watching her parents perform, playing the cymbals in the marching band, or just taking a whiff of her verdant Rock Spring neighborhood, it’s fair to say that a bit of home has seeped into Turshen’s latest role.
“Arlington is a really special place for me,” she said.
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