By Rick Bird
Post staff report

It's only one small scene, just a couple of lines, a minute on the screen.

But it could be the start of an exciting film and TV acting career for 16-year-old Rachael Marie Wagenlander, a junior at Newport Central Catholic High School, who makes her TV acting debut tonight.

Rachael has a small role in tonight's episode of "Monk" (9 p.m., USA), one of cable's most popular series, starring Emmy-winning Tony Shalhoub as the obsessive-compulsive detective.

Rachael has been in Hollywood since January attending acting classes at Anthony Meindl Actors workshop in Hollywood. She is the daughter of Rhonda and Clay Wagenlander of Fort Thomas, Ky. Clay was a 20-year videographer at WKRC-TV (Channel 12) and now operates his own audio/ video production company.

"She always wanted to do this since she was a little girl," said Rhonda, noting that her daughter had been in high school musical theater productions.

Rachael and her mom went to casting calls during pilot season in January after the teen obtained representation through Elements Entertainment in Los Angeles and Wings Model Management locally.

"We have learned rejection is definitely part of it," Rhonda said.

After a casting call this spring, Rachael landed the "Monk" role and filmed it in June. Rachael said she had not seen the series before but said, "I'm going to watch it every week now."

She said meeting Shalhoub was a thrill. "I was in makeup and he came up to me and said, 'Hi, I'm Tony.' I was like, 'Oh, my gosh.' He said, 'Thanks for being on the show' and I said, 'Thanks for having me.' He was so nice. I was taken back by what a nice man he is."

Rachael plays a girl in a teenage love triangle whose boyfriend is entangled in the week's murder plot and is cheating on her with the daughter of Monk's assistant, Natalie (Traylor Howard). In an episode called "Mr. Monk and the Birds and the Bees," Monk tries to help out with some teenage relationship counseling as part of a subplot.

Rachael, who will return to Newport Catholic this fall, plays on the school's girls' varsity soccer team.

"It's going to be really weird," she said. "I've been out of school for so long in Hollywood. It's going to be weird just going back to the cafeteria."

She plans to return to the acting classes in Hollywood next January.

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