Cornell returns her admiration. To this day, he remembers having Coleman in his classes and how talented she was back then.
“Being a good actor really means having a sense of self and a willingness to share that sense of self, and Kelen really has that,” Cornell said. “When you’re with her, you feel that she is totally present so you begin to relate to her. She’s always being honest and available, and that is really the biggest trick in acting.”
Outside of the classroom, Coleman also participated in LAB! Theatre, a student-run theater company on campus.
Reid Scothorn, the group's current executive producer, said members love seeing graduates succeed.
“If she would like to come and do workshops with the students, we would love to have her," Scothorn said.
After graduation, Coleman landed roles in hit shows — including “The Office,” “The Mindy Project,” "The Newsroom," “The McCarthys” and the Emmy Award-winning “Big Little Lies."
When asked for her favorite role, the actress had difficulty deciding.
“I really liked my character, Lisa, from 'The Newsroom,'" Coleman said. “Aaron Sorkin’s writing is so different, so rhythmic and almost modern day Shakespearian. It was very cool to work with that language.”
In her new show, “Me, Myself, and I,” Coleman plays Abby, the adult daughter of the main character, Alex. The character of Abby actually exists at two different ages, and her character is living as an adult in 2042.
“There are many cute, heartfelt moments,” Coleman said. “The show has a smart humor that also pulls at your heart strings.”
Her co-star, Sharon Lawrence, is also a UNC alum and the two bonded over their shared alma mater.
Coleman said in the future, she hopes to do theater on Broadway and to expand into roles that are more outside of herself, to have more of a challenge as an actress. No matter what, she will have a fan in the man that played such a large role in starting her professional journey.
“I’m incredibly proud and happy for her,” Cornell said. “When good things happen to good people, it’s great.”