Monica Smothers, a Laurel native who caught the theater bug while a student at Laurel High, has one of three lead roles in a film that is opening Jan. 16 at the Avalon Theatre in Washington. (January 16, 2014)

Monica Smothers, a Laurel native who caught the theater bug while a student at Laurel High, has one of three lead roles in a film that is opening Jan. 16 at the Avalon Theatre in Washington.

The film, "25 Years," is directed by Derek Gray, of Baltimore, and follows the emerging relationship between two boys, of diffferent races, who find themselves in the same family as brothers after their parents marry. Smothers plays the wife of one of the grown brothers, and in the film, her husband is battling cancer.

"The title is showing time, going from 25 years back," Smothers said.

A Columbia resident, Smothers, 35, said the movie "really hit home" because she has lost family members and friends to cancer.

"When you see this film, every emotion, a smile or tear, is real," Smothers said.

Initially drawn to dance, Smothers said she participated in both dance and theater at Laurel High before earning a degree in performing arts at University of Maryland in 2000. A dance injury during her senior year at college led her in the direction of drama and theater.

"It was frustrating," Smothers said of her dance injury. "I didn't want to stop" dancing.

Smothers studied with John Palotta, actress Meryl Streep's former coach, and would take the bus to New York City from Maryland to attend his classes.

She has worked on several other independent films but in supporting roles, and said her role in "25 Years" is her "most promising role."

A self-described sports junky, Smothers has worked in broadcast for 14 years and is now at Comcast Sportsnet. Her parents, Philip and Judy Smothers, are Laurel residents and Smothers said they have supported her as she worked toward a performing arts career.

The film will also be shown at the Patterson Theater in Baltimore on Jan. 23.