Catching up with...Jenn Byrd

Publication Date
Jenn Byrd in Victoria era costume

Jenn Byrd shows off her Victorian era regalia.

Jenn Byrd jumped at the opportunity to step out of the present century and into the tail end of the 19th.

An extra on the hit HBO series “The Gilded Age,” she can be seen sauntering past the Collar City’s iconic architecture in season two, episodes one and seven. With a silk dress sweeping over her shoes and a plumed bonnet, she looks every bit the part of a lady to the brownstone born.

Her appearance was so convincing in fact, that none other than Aunt Agnes, the van Rhijn family matriarch, or more accurately, the actress portraying her, singled Byrd out.

“Christine Baranski acknowledged me and a couple other background actors and complimented our attire between takes. I was blown away,” she said.

The College web developer was thrilled to get a behind-the-scenes look of a major studio production. She has been interested in the entertainment industry since first visiting Disney World and MGM Studios at the age of five.

“Movie magic fascinated me. I dreamt of being involved, especially behind the scenes. If I were working in Hollywood today, I would be an animator, a film editor or a production designer.”

Byrd conjures her own brand of magic stewarding Schaffer Library websites. It is exacting work. One overlooked piece of code – be it as small as a period, dash or bracket – and a web page will implode quicker than the van Rhijn family fortune (season two, episode seven).

Creative expression is an important part of Byrd’s life. From an early age, she loved to sing, and under her mother’s tutelage, she learned to play the piano and guitar. Her spouse also plays guitar; the two of them even provided the musical accompaniment for their wedding and have performed together at local venues.

Byrd majored in illustration at RIT. Her resume includes working on stop-motion models for independent films, producing animations for commercials and designing digital displays for local businesses. And though the demands of parenthood have curtailed her appearances at open mic nights, she picks up her guitar whenever she gets the chance.

“I always feel like I need to feed both sides of my brain to stay happy and fulfilled. Being a web developer definitely satisfies the left half, while my artistic pursuits feed the right.”

Catching up with...

Each week a faculty or staff member is profiled. Answering a series of short questions, the profiles are intended to be light, informative and conversational.

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FIRST APP YOU LOOK AT IN THE MORNING: Google Calendar. My whole life is on there.

GO-TO BREAKFAST: When I have time and want to be healthy, I make a breakfast shake that consists of frozen mango, banana, coconut milk, whole almonds, cinnamon, ginger and turmeric. But these days, it’s usually an iced hazelnut coffee, and an egg and cheese wrap from Dunkin’ Donuts.

WHAT’S THE LAST GREAT BOOK YOU READ? It's been quite some time since I managed to finish an entire book, especially since becoming a parent. One that stands out is “The Devil in the White City” by Erik Larson. Set during the 1893 Chicago Columbian Exposition, it is about America’s first acknowledged serial killer, H.H. Holmes. Larson meticulously details this historical period as the backdrop of a gripping crime story. The book mentions notable architects who designed some of the exposition’s structures, including Sophia Hayden, the first woman to graduate in architecture from MIT. She designed the women's building at the fair, which housed a record number of inventions by women at the time.

BEST ADVICE YOU EVER RECEIVED: Never say never! Simple, but true.

FAVORITE PLACE TO VISIT (AND WHY?): I'll opt for a local favorite: Saratoga Spa State Park. Some of its buildings have arcades with excellent acoustics. I visit the park to sing and play the guitar, take walks and reflect. I leave feeling rejuvenated.

WHAT ARE YOU WATCHING RIGHT NOW?: Nothing consistently at the moment. I finished “The Gilded Age” last fall and I have caught some of “Boardwalk Empire.” I tend to prefer period dramas.

ONE SKILL YOU WISH YOU HAD: Public speaking. I feel like I’m in the middle of a firing squad anytime I stand up in to speak in front of a group of people. Singing is a different story, though.

THREE DINNER PARTY GUESTS (living or deceased) and WHY: I'll go with something weird like Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn and Jane Seymour. I’d just sit back and watch the awkwardness unfold.

FIRST CONCERT YOU ATTENDED: My mom took me to see Chicago at SPAC in the 1990s.

LITTLE KNOWN FACT ABOUT YOU: Years ago, I took first place at a country karaoke competition hosted by radio station WGNY. I dressed up as Patsy Cline and sang, “She's Got You.”