Bevin Prince: Determined to show up, with strength, in her new role (’1on1 with Jon Evans’ podcast)
WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Millions of fans may remember Bevin Prince from her role as Bevin Mirskey on One Tree Hill, the hit television show which shot in and around Wilmington from 2003 – 2012. Prince took on another role in 2020, as an entrepreneur, in opening Recess By Bevin Prince, a high-intensity cycling center she hopes to expand into cities like Raleigh and Charlotte.
But the role Prince never auditioned for, never wanted to land, found her instead. On July 3, 2022, her husband, Will Friend, died after being struck by lightning while celebrating the holiday with family and friends on Masonboro Island. Attempts by witnesses and first responders to resuscitate him were unsuccessful, and Bevin Prince was forced to begin life as a widow.
“It’s an absolute living nightmare,” Prince said, speaking publicly about the incident for the first time. “It was like any other day that we’d done a million times. The storm was far away, we’re on the boat, everything’s fine. And then in an instant, everything has changed. There’s no normal, and there’s no playbook for it. Instantly the people that were on the boat next to us, a nurse, an ex-military and a bounty hunter, responded so fast. Then, the police boat happened to be driving by right at that moment, just happened to be there. So, they were able to move him to the police boat. In my mind, there was absolutely nothing that could have been done. And I have to accept that this is larger than me and my understanding at this time.”
Prince and Friend married in 2016, and they lived in New York City before moving to her “favorite place in the world,” Wrightsville Beach, during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Prince’s family had spent years making trips to the coast while she grew up in Cary, outside of Raleigh. Her parents moved to Wrightsville Beach around the time Prince transferred from North Carolina State University to UNC Wilmington, to enroll in the university’s then-new Film Studies program.
“I knew I wanted to give acting a go,” Prince says about the decision to change schools. “I didn’t know what that meant. I wasn’t classically trained in acting. But we heard towards the end of the school year that UNCW was opening a film studies program, and there’s really not much in the southeast. I knew I didn’t want to be too far from home yet. My mom called me and said, ‘UNCW is opening a film program, you’ve got to get in!’ We immediately submitted my application and transferred over as soon as I could.”
That decision indirectly led to Prince landing her role on One Tree Hill. She happened to be interning with the Fincannon and Associates Casting at the EUE Screen Gems Studio in Wilmington, where the production was based, when OTH needed extras as cheerleaders. Prince’s experience fit the bill.
“They said, ‘We know you cheered forever, you were on dance team, can we submit you?’,” Prince remembers. “I was like, ‘Please!’ I had never been on set. So, I thought this would be a good opportunity for me to learn. I was still full-time in college, doing these 12-14 hour days, making $75 for the entire day. They eventually gave me an opportunity to say a line, it kept going, and then they started to write for me.”
Prince appeared in the show’s first five seasons and returned for the series finale in 2012. Being around the same age as many of the show’s top stars, including Hilarie Burton, Sophia Bush, Bethany Joy Lenz, Chad Michael Murray, James Lafferty, Antwon Tanner and Lee Norris, Prince says they developed close friendships that last to this day. The actors have reunited often for One Tree Hill conventions and fan fests in Wilmington, which exemplify the show’s lasting popularity. Prince remembers the group spending a lot of time together, on and off the set, not realizing its importance at the time.
“I had no idea what was happening, and I have a lot of gratitude for that,” Prince says about One Tree Hill’s impact. “I think if we had been in Los Angeles, I may have been more aware of how big the reach was. But we were removed from Hollywood. We were in this amazing small town. It was just us, and I had no idea it was happening. I remember my mom saying to me once, ‘This is amazing. Look at this show you’re on!’ And I don’t remember thinking it was a very big deal. I remember being like, ‘It’s just cool. It’s fun!’”
After leaving OTH, Prince worked to continue her acting career, auditioning for roles in Los Angeles and New York City. It was while living and working in the Big Apple that Prince first stepped into a cycling class. The experience changed her life.
“When I first started riding, I was auditioning a lot, I had moved to New York City, I felt really claustrophobic,” Prince says. “I’m an outdoor girl. I grew up in North Carolina, I want to be outside all the time. I stepped into the room and there was a sense of freedom that I hadn’t expressed in a long time. The lights were low. Nobody was watching me. You’re just riding to the beat of the music and having fun. That was something I realized when I was auditioning so much. I was trying to be something for someone else all the time. I was trying to get someone else’s approval. I was trying to make sure I got the job, and that was the version of success that I knew. And when I started to ride more and more, I really found that it’s not about anyone else’s approval. It’s about how I feel about myself.”
Prince worked to become a Master Instructor at Soul Cycle in New York City, at one point teaching 16 or 17 classes a week. She remembers the day when her career priorities changed.
“I have a very specific moment of when I was teaching, I got called for another audition, and I made the choice not to go,” Prince said. “I made the choice not to go, so I could show up for my class. I knew at that moment that I was doing something that was making an impact in a way that felt really satisfying to me. It’s instant, it’s communication, it’s present. It’s all these things. I was like ‘I don’t want to go into a room, and ask someone else to see me, and hopefully get their validation and attention. I want to stay here and do what I’m doing!’.”
Prince and Friend had settled in Manhattan and like many people, they thought COVID would be a two-week schedule change. The longer it went, with isolations and shutdowns becoming the norm, the North Carolina native began to yearn for a break. The couple’s planned two-week trip to Wrightsville Beach for some “fresh air,” lasted several months, and their decision to move south soon followed.
What also followed in November 2020 was the opening of Recess by Bevin Prince. While many businesses had to close their doors during the pandemic, Prince pedaled against the headwind of difficult economic times. With her husband’s urging, she secured a small business loan, bought the equipment, and made her dream a reality. They set up the bikes six feet apart under a big tent in a parking lot at Mayfaire Town Centre, turning it into a high-intensity cycling center as an outdoor experience, that also conformed to pandemic restrictions.
“I wanted to bring this sort of community to the community that I love so much,” she says. “I was like, ‘I’m going to make it work!’ We’ve lost one tent in a tropical storm. We put it back together. We had to close for lightning, for storms. We’d have to take it up and down when things got really tough. But we refuse to give up, and people keep showing up, and I will not let this community down.”
Prince relaunched Recess at its’ new Eastwood Road location four months after losing her soulmate. She credits her family, specifically her sister Michelle, and close friends with helping her through the toughest hours after Will’s death. Hilarie Burton Morgan drove through the night to Prince’s house after learning what happened. Lee Norris, she says, was here ‘in a minute.’ Prince also shared about feeling her husband’s presence at a time when she needed the strength to show up.
“Will was the most fiercely loyal person I’ve ever met in my life, and I learned so much from him by watching how he treats people, and how he shows up for them,” Prince said. “Every single person was there to show up for him and me, and so you’ve just got to get up. At that point, his birthday was that Sunday, and that’s when we were going to have his celebration of life, and I felt in my bones Will holding me up. I knew I had to speak, and it wasn’t an option not to, because I know that man would have done it for anyone in his life, and I felt him hold my shoulders up and stand up with me.”
After needing help to take those first steps that followed the tragedy, Prince slowly began to find her own footing again. Having to secure and set up a new location for the early November grand re-opening of Recess provided a challenge, and she credits the assistance of Brian Eckel of Cape Fear Commercial at Autumn Hall for helping her meet it. Prince now leads a team of strong, determined women by example, whether it be lugging equipment when needed, or being a cheerleader for the students in her several weekly cycling classes. Bevin Prince is moving forward, motivating herself and others to keep showing up.
“You know, it’s still so day to day,” Prince says about the journey forward in this new role. “Some days, it doesn’t feel okay, and I think the thing I remind myself is, I have two options. I can stay here on this planet, or I cannot, and that’s not an option for me. So, I really only have one option. I knew when Will passed, I said, ‘Okay, I was fortunate enough to experience the kind of love and support and partnership that I know so many people will never feel, so my life now a service. My life now is service. That’s it.’ I’m going to do everything I can to serve the people in my community and the people that work with me and my friends and my family and I will continue to show up and do that. That’s all I know. That’s all I can do. That’s the only option.”
I want to thank Bevin Prince for sharing her story with me for this episode of my podcast. She is an inspiration in how she has handled her husband’s death, and dedicated her life now to serving others, whether it be through Recess by Bevin Prince, delivering motivational speeches or other means. I hope you enjoy this conversation as much as I did.
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