Tyner Rushing grew up on a dirt road in Alabama, where she worked on her family’s plant nursery, rode four-wheelers, and even had a pet hog. “Well, I thought the hog was my pet until my dad roasted her one day,” she says with a laugh. Her first public performance was as Little Red Riding Hood in kindergarten, and she did dance, choir, and acting in school— although if she hadn’t taken the drama path, she thinks her childhood obsession with Reba McEntire would have led to a career in country music. “I was in the Reba McEntire fan club,” she says. “I met her as a kid, and she patted my knee and said, ‘Well howdy, darlin’.’ I told my mom I was never washing my knee again!”
How did she get her start in acting?
Rushing majored in vocal performance at Birmingham-Southern College and then headed to California to pursue theater. Bit parts on TV followed, and this year she scored roles on two notable shows: Stranger Things and the Andrew Garfield–led true crime miniseries Under the Banner of Heaven, in which she plays Emma Smith, the wife of Mormon leader Joseph Smith. Coincidentally, her characters on both shows appear in flashbacks, which gave her the experience of telling stories within their own contained pockets. “Emma Smith was such a huge role, so squeezing her into these tiny moments that flash throughout the show was difficult,” Rushing says. “I wanted to make a whole movie about her to do her justice.”
How did her background inform her role on The Terminal List?
This month, Rushing stars alongside Chris Pratt in Amazon’s The Terminal List, a series about a Navy SEAL who returns home after a mission gone wrong. Playing the Roll Tide–loving confidant of Pratt’s character, the actress got to tap into her country roots. “This show was such a cool opportunity to explore this side of myself that I tried to hide growing up,” she says. “At school, I got made fun of for being a redneck—by Alabamians, which is hilarious.” Her character is a former military helicopter pilot, so Rushing’s preparation included a flying lesson. “I thought I’d sit in a classroom, but they were like, ‘Oh, you’re gonna fly a plane.’ I’m an adventurous person, so I agreed immediately, but I did almost have a panic attack.”
Next up, Rushing can be seen in the Netflix mystery-thriller miniseries Echoes, about identical twins (played by Michelle Monaghan) who swap lives. Additionally, she just started production on a Reese Witherspoon– produced adaptation of the New York Times best-selling novel The Last Thing He Told Me, which also stars Jennifer Garner, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, and Aisha Tyler. As for a project that’s still on her bucket list? “I wanna do a movie musical so bad,” she says. “And to play a country singer would just be a dream come true.” So if any of y’all readers happen to be working on a Reba biopic, you know who to call.
Next Up: Quinta Brunson: From Meme Fame to a Thriving Comedy Career