Award-winning Actress & Producer
An award-winning actress, producer, singer-songwriter, motivational speaker and philanthropist, Karen Abercrombie is no stranger to the big screen. In addition to her many guest appearances in television shows, she recently starred as Miss Clara in the box office hit, War Room. Karen gives credit to her beloved Aunt Vine, who planted the seeds of love and the power of faith, for making her the strong woman she is today.
Your childhood was difficult; can you tell me about your parents?
Both my parents were alcoholics, and mother was also a drug user/abuser. My siblings and I were very close. Because my mother was drunk a lot, I had to step into her shoes: cooking, cleaning and caring for the younger siblings.
When did you realize that you had a gift, and what was that gift?
I don’t know when I realized it, but I always had a vivid imagination. I even had an invisible friend when I was growing up. I had actually forgotten about it, but I heard my grandmother and mother telling me about my friend. I don’t know. Was it an angel? You know how the mind can save you from your surroundings? The human mind is absolutely amazing and has the ability to help you protect yourself in a difficult situation.
Did your other siblings fare as well as you have?
In some respect, because we always had each other. We are still very, very tight and very, very close.
You have a home in North Carolina and in Los Angeles. Where do you spend most of your time?
It depends on what’s going on. Sometimes I am in Los Angeles for three, four, five months, and sometimes I just need to come home to North Carolina and chill out. That is where I plant my garden and where I rarely wear shoes.
Were you a good student or a bad student?
I was an okay student. It’s very interesting. When the teachers showed me that little extra that I didn’t get at home, I excelled, in particular, my seventh grade English teacher, Ms. Dukovich. I always loved English. I loved the language, but I wasn’t very good at it. In her class, I went from making Ds to off the charts. There were students that were brilliant across the board, but they couldn’t keep up with me in that class.
You mirrored your teacher’s enthusiasm much like pleasing an audience. Is that why you excelled in acting?
It’s what I’m gifted to do. It is just what it is. I always intended to go to college. I was majoring in psychology, but I spent most of my free time doing plays. Finally, I said, “Okay, I can’t do this anymore. I can’t pretend that college is really what I want to do. I want to act.” I started doing some research and found a couple schools to audition for and was accepted to a few. My choice was to move to New York not knowing anybody.
How old were you?
I was 20.
What acting method do you use?
I learn my lines by walking through the blocking. That’s what works for me. I studied at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City. They use the Stanislavski method, but I use a little Stanislavski, a little Meisner. You know, when it comes down to it, whatever works for you. I think you should use whatever allows you to give a true and authentic performance.
Was there one person in particular that molded you in your youth?
My Aunt Vine. Even though my mother was an alcoholic, she saw the connection I had with Aunt Vine. My parents are dead, but God allowed my aunt to be alive, so she could see the result of the seed she planted. She is now 91. It was under her that I gave my life to Christ. So, yes. If you meet her, you’ll say, “Hmm, I see a little Miss Claranacker (phonetic).” She is a little tiny woman, but she is a powerhouse and on fire for the Lord.
She obviously inspired you in some of the movies that you’ve played. What was your first job?
My first professional job was in theater. I was in New York, so, twenty. During high school, my drama teacher “opened a door” that gave me the opportunity to act in a very prestigious community theater.
Do you feel that you were chosen by God to bring a message to the world?
And what is that message?
Turn to God. God has everything that we’re all searching for. We try to fill it with money, or whatever, but that relationship with him is the only thing that will fill you up.
You were 39 years old when your son was born, and you hiked until the eighth month. Tell me about that.
I was living full-time out in L.A. where there are all these canyons. We had a dog at the time, a Springer Spaniel named Jessie. Jessie and I would hike with a stick until I got really, really big, and then, I’d take a .22 pistol because I wasn’t as flexible and couldn’t move as fast. There were wildcats, packs of coyotes and a large population of homeless people. I was a little slower but was always protected.
With a thirty-year marriage, successful acting career, and motherhood, how do you balance?
I was married briefly in New York to a musician. It was my first serious relationship. We were married for seven years and just grew apart. I met my husband, my love, and he’s very different. This gentleman, my husband, is from Jersey, the Isle of Jersey, a little island between London and France. He’s an amazing craftsman. He worked and trained as an apprentice. The work he does with his hands is incredible, and he works for designers all over the country, but he’s always been very supportive. He didn’t know anything about the art world or the theater world. The first time he saw theater was when he came to see me in a play before we started dating. It’s great in that he’s fascinated by it, by watching me morph into different characters. He has been a source of support above and beyond. So, there’s never any stress and strain that way. Because he does what he does and is basically his own boss, he can say, “Well, I’m not coming in.” He can meet me in L.A., or he can meet me in New York or wherever I’m working.
Does he understand the toll on you when you take on characters as an actor?
Oh, he does. He does. Well, for me, whenever I step on stage or in front of a camera, it’s worship. I go in completely open to the process. It is simply worshiping the giver of the gift. I’m just using the words and the situation that somebody else has set up for a character. So, no matter what the character is or the situation the character is in, I find it energizing because I’m worshiping God. I know other actors who have to go on a vacation after something, but it’s different for me.
Tell me about the character you played in War Room.
When I read her dialogue, her voice popped up out of me. Often, we have to build a believable three-dimensional character, but it just wasn’t that way with Miss Clara. I heard her voice immediately. When I went in to do the audition, it was an answer to a prayer. It was something divine that God put in motion, and everything fit properly.
Did she remind you of your aunt?
There were parts, yes, because she’s a spiritual powerhouse. But, yes, absolutely.
Your aunt was instrumental in your faith?
Yes, she had a children’s ministry called The Sunshine Band. She would take her little flannel board, Mary, Joseph, Jesus and the animals into different neighborhoods to teach children about the love of Christ. I was one of those children.
In God’s Compass, you played Suzanne Waters. Was that also Godly inspired?
It was, in many respects. Suzanne Waters was a widow. She lost her husband, and she was retiring as a high school principal. She was excited but not exactly sure what life would look like after spending so much of her time as a wife and a principal. Her life journey shown in the movie was quite amazing. It’s a beautiful story. She ends up taking in children that have lost their parents, and they become family. She also finds that God is in every move. He’s got you. He’s around every corner you’re about to walk. It is a powerful story, and I did it at a point in my life where it was impactful. At that time, my son was in college. Everything God does is divine. He was helping to prep for this character.
You have been an actress in many movies. What is your favorite role to date?
It would definitely be Miss Clara because I was able to share my faith and spread the message of prayer.
Do you believe God predetermines life, or do you think you have life choices?
We all have a purpose here, but God gave us free will. We get in that car, and we drive it, many times in the totally opposite direction of where we should be going. But, he’s always with us wherever we go, and he’s always waiting for us to make the choice.
How do you know when you are driving the wrong road, metaphorically speaking?
Many times, I don’t drive there because he’s gifted me with many things. I write music, so I gravitate to Christian-based music. I remember several times saying to myself, “Oh, God, you’ve given me this talent! What am I going to do with it?” Do you know what’s happened? Everything that I’ve done, even if it’s been years before, has a place. I’m able to pick up some of the old children’s music that I wrote, and there’s a place for it now. I have found that the energy I spent was never “for nothing.” Everything has value, but sometimes the time is just not right.
You describe purpose and timing. Is that orchestrated by God?
I believe it is. I believe it is.
Why do you reside in Mooresville, North Carolina?
We just wanted to slow things down. My husband was really busy doing his beautiful work. I was busy acting. I knew that the more my son would need me, the more I needed to be available. Because it took me so long to conceive, my son is everything. I was on my knees for many years praying for him. When I was in L.A. right before I got pregnant, things were just picking up, picking up. And then, I found out that I was pregnant. I did not have to think twice. When my baby was born, he would be my priority. I was living in Burbank. I had an audition right over the hill in Hollywood, just ten minutes away. I knew a very nice lady across the street that had a daycare. I said to her, “Can I drop him here for a few minutes while I run over the hill?” I had a certain time to audition and planned on returning immediately afterward. When I came back to get my baby, he was still at the door. He didn’t take his backpack off. His face was red, nose running. He had been crying. I said, “Okay, no one will ever again keep this gift that I’ve been given.” From then on, everybody that wanted to hire me knew my baby would be coming. He was well-behaved. Everywhere I went, he had his little bag; he had his toys. While we rehearsed, whatever we were doing, he was right there with me, in the room or at the theater. He’d have his little car or be playing with something else, but he was always right there. God gave me that gift, and I honored that gift. That’s how I ended up doing a children’s theater company. I could be home every time my son was home, and there would be food cooked for dinner. My husband made a studio for me on the top floor of our house. When my son would come home, all these other kids would come with him. They would come upstairs and take classes. He’d do his homework and then come up and play with us for a while when I taught drama.
Where is your son today?
He’s a robotics engineer in Massachusetts.
I want to talk now about your life today. What lies ahead?
I want to use my gifts to pour beauty and love into this world. I want to direct my energy to our youth because it is so hard to grow these days. They are being bombarded with garbage. The sheer volume of trash found on the Internet combined with the films that are being made is breathtaking. I have formed a production company, and we started making movies. They are exciting, slightly sci-fi type movies. Everything we do has a spiritual backdrop. We produce movies that are intriguing and engaging with good messages for our kids. I want to continue to do that. When I die, when it’s time for Him to call me home, I don’t want to have a drop of what he put in me left.
What do you want to be remembered for?
What would you consider your greatest accomplishment to date? Only one.
Greatest accomplishment. Being here. Just being able to use my God-given creativity to make a difference.
What life goal remains?
Just to continue to weave people together. I feel that if we don’t come together, we’re missing parts of God. I believe Mark Twain said, “Travel is the cure to prejudice.” When you travel and you taste spices in food that somebody else has cooked, you take in some of the other cultures. It’s just God’s handiwork. He’s so awesome, and he’s wide. He’s wider than the pages. Man might think we can put him on the pages, but it’s impossible. He’s deeper than we can begin to fathom. But when we travel, we glimpse into the canyon of all God’s people.
What’s your favorite book?
It would be the Bible. If I can’t say the Bible, there was a book my English teacher had me read that changed everything for me. The book was called The White House. It was a story of a young Mexican girl who moved into a different neighborhood. She was very, very poor, and she was very popular. When people would take her home after extracurricular activities, she would have them drop her off way down the hill, and she’d walk all the way up the hill because she didn’t want people to see how she lived; the house with chickens in the yard. It was the first book she had us read that school year. I was a young teen. That story sunk deep and changed me. You are you, and you are amazing. Never be ashamed.
If you had a conversation with any person, who would that be?
Mother Teresa, because of her love for people. Her heart was open and wide. She was amazing to me. She loved out loud. She loved and by her example, taught all of us how to treat each other.
Which philanthropic causes are your focus?
Outside of children, clean drinking water in countries where there is none, donating money for wells and digging wells in Mexico and some of the African countries. Imagine being so thirsty, and the only water you can drink is contaminated with parasites. The mothers in these countries give their kids the water, and then they wait a few weeks until the pustules have grown on the bodies. Then, they start to dig so that the parasites can crawl out.
If you could ask God one question, what would that be?
Pretend for a moment that I am your son. What do you need him to know?
Just know that you are more than enough. You’re more than enough.