HANCEVILLE, ALA. – After three and half years and more than 100 commercials as Wendy’s spokesperson, Morgan Smith Goodwin is recognized frequently in airports, restaurants and stores.
“That fire-engine red hair is kind of like a beacon. People recognize me from those Wendy’s spots, but on the flip side people see me and can’t figure out where they know me from. Some people think we went to high school together or I might have dated their brother,” Smith said Wednesday as she visited Wallace State Community College for its monthly Learning Communities event.
Smith, who is best known for playing “Red the Wendy’s Girl” in television and radio commercials for the national fast food chain, graduated from Cullman High in 2002 after also completing dual enrollment classes through Wallace State. She was a Birmingham-Southern classmate of Lauren Cantrell-Salerno, Wallace State’s Theatre Department Head.
Cantrell-Salerno invited Smith to Wallace State for the Learning Communities event.
“People ask how I landed a job like the one with Wendy’s. The reality is this, accomplishment or success in life is never due to one single experience, one single audition or one single interview. This was something that was accomplished over a series of events. My education and growth as an artist prepared me, so when I went into the room (for the Wendy’s audition) I was absolutely ready for the job,” Smith said. “I think that’s universal. It doesn’t just apply to the entertainment industry. All you can do is be your best self, be completely prepared at all times and go in and do your best.”
While living in Birmingham, Smith performed in various community productions, including being cast as Roxie in “Chicago,” which was choreographed by Stephanie Lane, a New York-based dancer and actor.
Lane eventually invited Smith to New York to audition for an off-Broadway play and Smith never looked back. She moved to the Big Apple and began to carve out a versatile career.
Before earning the Wendy’s gig, one of Smith’s biggest roles in New York was being selected as an original cast member of the off-Broadway show “Freckleface Strawberry,” based off the book written by Academy Award winner Julianne Moore.
After “Freckleface Strawberry,” Smith began to dabble into writing efforts with a friend and colleague, creating a series of Web shorts called “Just Us Girls.”
Smith was cast as the new Wendy’s spokesperson in 2012 as the company started its rebranding efforts, including utilizing the new slogan, “Now That’s Better.”
“The commercial world was foreign to me, but I knew I was bringing something unique to the table. Maybe that’s exactly what they were looking for. It feels so much better when you leave a room and you know you were your best self as opposed to being someone else or trying to read someone else’s mind, trying to be what you think they are looking for,” Smith said.
Smith added her fame through the Wendy’s campaign resulted from hard work over a six or seven-year span and not because of one successful audition.
“Embrace your uniqueness. There’s only one you. I would rather be a first-rate version of myself than a second-rate version of anybody else. It’s important to strive to be a cut above. I can’t speak enough about being prepared and appreciating every opportunity in the moment because it’s when we get lazy and take things for granted that we make zero or no impression. When you show up and do your best ever single time, it speaks volumes,” said Smith, who also made a guest appearance on HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire” during its run.
Even though she continues to work for Wendy’s, Smith has trimmed her flowing red hair and returned to her natural blond roots. Smith’s revised contract will allow her the opportunity to dip back into other entertainment avenues such as theater. She’s also working on writing a screenplay and pitching ideas to an online website interested in improving its content.
“I love theater and I love singing and that’s something I haven’t really showcased in about three years. I’m freed up now to do some stage work. I never want to limit or pigeonhole myself into one thing. Each industry offers something different and a different approach,” said Smith, who now wears a red wig in the ads and admits her favorite Wendy’s meal is a junior cheeseburger deluxe, fries and a diet Coke.
Smith encouraged Wallace State’s students to get involved as much as possible on campus.
“Take advantage of the opportunity you have here. When you are in an educational setting, there are so many things you can explore and have at your fingertips. It’s so much easier to get involved. It’s so much easier to explore new hobbies. Those things become more difficult when you are in the real world and working,” Smith said. “Education is a priority. When I talk to some theater students they don’t think it’s important to finish college. You have to. Don’t skip that. An education should be first and foremost.”
Smith spent additional time on campus interacting with Wallace State’s theatre students after her Learning Communities presentation. She reemphasized the importance of obtaining a degree and forming an educational background, discussed the business side of the industry and advised the group to treat each audition in the future as a performance of its own.
“It’s important to market yourself. Build your brand and your resume. You are your own brand,” Smith said. “You need to know what you want and what kind of work you want to do.”
Cantrell-Salerno was excited Smith had an opportunity to stop by Wallace State and share her experiences.
“I’ve known Morgan for a long time, and it’s been fun to watch her career path. It’s neat for her to come full circle and be able to come back to Cullman and the area and meet with students. It was a special day. Our students enjoyed seeing someone local who has succeeded in the way she has,” Cantrell-Salerno said. “Morgan made an impact with the theatre students. She made them see how important it is to have a good educational foundation.”
A Wallace State Learning Community or “LC” is a group of students who participate in an organized, group-learning outside of the classroom. Students in a Learning Community share common experiences centered on their academics and community, achieving a deeper understanding of their course’s subject matter and also building relationships with one another. Learning Community opportunities throughout the academic year may also include viewing a film or listening to a guest speaker.
For more information about Wallace State, visit wallacestate.edu.
Wallace State Community College
P.O. Box 2000, Hanceville, AL 35077
1-866-350-9722 256-352-8443 direct
Visit us online at www.wallacestate.edu
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Wallace State Community College
801 Main Street NW | Hanceville, AL 35077
Office: 256.352.8118 | Cell: 256.339.2519 | Toll Free: 866.350.9722
Be One of Us. Visit us online at www.wallacestate.edu.