UConn alumni says 'there’s always another level to get to'

Austin Stowell attends a premiere for "Battle of the Sexes" on day 4 of the Toronto International Film Festival at the Ryerson Theatre on Sunday, Sept. 10, 2017, in Toronto. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

Austin Stowell attends a premiere for "Battle of the Sexes" on day 4 of the Toronto International Film Festival at the Ryerson Theatre on Sunday, Sept. 10, 2017, in Toronto. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

Students have left the University of Connecticut to become politicians, journalists, astronauts or Pulitzer Prize-winning authors. Among the ranks of all the UConn alumni is Austin Stowell, an actor who has performed in movies such as “Whiplash,” “Bridge of Spies” and “Dolphin Tale” since his graduation in 2007. Stowell’s most recent movie, “Battle of the Sexes,” will be released on Sept. 22. Starring Steve Carrell and Emma Stone, the movie tells the story of the 1973 tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs, illustrating themes beyond sports, such as sexuality, reputation and equality. Stowell will be portraying Larry King, Billie Jean’s husband.

The path Stowell took from his life as a UConn student, hanging around the quad and playing frisbee and whiffle ball, to acting in mainstream films with actors like Stone and Carell, wasn’t always an easy one. Stowell emphasized, above all else, that he had to work to get where he is now.

“I didn’t know I wanted to make a profession out of being an actor, but as a kid I was always a performer,” Stowell said.

He cited examples of putting on shows for family members and performing impressions and athletic acts as a child, searching for the spotlight. When he chose to come to UConn, he saw it as a “testing ground” to explore whether performing arts was really what he wanted to do. After a number of theater performances, Stowell went out into the real world.

“We were very geared to know how to perform but we weren’t exactly aware of how to get a job,” Stowell said. “It was really about taking as many opportunities as I could and saying yes to everything.”

Knowing this transition can be difficult for young actors, Stowell makes an effort to help others new to acting in Los Angeles get on a track. Above all else, for actors in Los Angeles or students at UConn, Stowell believes devoting yourself to the work as much as you can is the way to be successful.

“There’s somebody working just as hard, if not harder,” Stowell said. “There’s always another level to get to.”

Days away from a movie release, Stowell adheres to his own philosophy and is not slowing down. He’s already looking forward to new projects, including a film with producer Jerry Bruckheimer about the special forces team deployed directly after 9/11.

Of all the movies he’s worked on, “Battle of the Sexes” has been Stowell’s favorite so far.

“Our directors created such a relaxed and just easy-going atmosphere on set,” Stowell said. “They’re the ones that set the tone.”

Stowell also cited a number of fellow cast members who made his experience a positive one.

As for what audiences can anticipate, Stowell said that “Battle of the Sexes” has all the traditional elements audiences look for, such as comedy, romance and drama, while still selling an important message.

“Even our heroes have flaws,” Stowell said. “We’re all struggling with our personal demons. Even those that we hold up on pedestals are imperfect.”

Stowell’s hard work got him to the place he is now. He never slowed down and never took a break, which is why today, 10 years after his time in UConn, he’s able to work with other prestigious members of his field to deliver messages such as those in “Battle of the Sexes.”


Alex Houdeshell is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at alexandra.houdeshell@uconn.edu.