I started acting at the age of six years old. I had a severe lisp as a child and my speech therapist suggested performing as a way of improving it. I joined a local theater group and as soon as I stepped onstage for the first time, playing the role of Jane in Peter Pan, I was hooked- I knew it was something I’d be doing for the rest of my life. I acted in plays through high school, college, and beyond, working with Florida Studio Theatre in Sarasota, Florida and The Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania before settling in Boston where I continued to perform onstage with many wonderful theater groups including the Devanaughn Theater, Theater Cooperative, and Molasses Tank Productions. I also created the role of Deb in the world premiere of Gail Phaneuf’s Breakfast with Mary in Harrison, Maine.
In 2010 I decided to take my acting life in a different direction and explore opportunities in film and television. In preparation, I studied Meisner technique for a year with Lyralen Kaye of Another Country Productions, which was incredibly helpful in making the transition from theater acting to film acting. After so many years onstage it was quite a challenge to act for a camera instead of a theater full of audience members, but I soon became comfortable with being on a film set rather than onstage. I am still passionately in love with the theater and hope to do more of it, but I also really appreciate the intimacy of film acting. I also took a number of other film acting classes, including three at CP Casting with Bates Wilder, Peter Kelly and Carolyn Pickman.
Since embarking on my film acting journey I’ve been lucky enough to be cast in many incredible projects, including the multiple-award-winning short film WORLDS WE CREATED (Bullmoose Pictures), written and directed by Nicholas Santos, which was shown at over 25 film festivals including the 2013 Cannes Short Film Corner. Another high point was playing a speech therapist in Talin Avakian’s beautiful film DEMI POINTE, winner of the Indie Soul Best Picture Award at the Boston International Film Festival, the Audience Award for Drama at the 2013 Online New England Film Festival, and a “Shifty Uplifty” Award at the Filmshift Festival. Probably the most thrilling moment of my career to date has been attending the world premiere at the Capital District Film festival in Albany, New York of Mark Lund’s feature film JUSTICE IS MIND (Affidavit Productions/ Ashton Times/Zone 5 Pictures) in which I played the lead role of Margaret Miller. JUSTICE IS MIND has had, to date, nine theatrical screenings with more to come, three university screenings, and has been shown at four science fiction conventions. It has been so exciting to watch its success and I am so proud to have been a part of it.
In addition to film, I have also had the opportunity to perform in a number of industrials and assorted video projects. Recently I have been exploring voice over work as well. I recorded five audio books for Audible.com, which was a dream come true for me as I am a huge fan of them, and I hope to do more in the future.
It is such a fantastic time to be an actor in New England, with so many productions choosing to film here and with the New England Studios in Devens providing even more amazing possibilities! I am constantly awed and inspired by the talent, drive, and creativity of those who work in film in this area and I love the supportive and welcoming community. I look forward to continuing to develop my craft and I can’t wait to see what the future holds.
Growing up in the north Jersey suburbs meant regular bus trips into NYC for theater with my best friend. I loved it all: musicals, naturally, but also dark dramas, edgy comedies, elaborately costumed classics and even a few operas at the Met from top balcony seats. Theater tickets were the only gift I ever wanted. Friends and relatives complied.
A busy drama schedule in my teen years and subsequent college theater courses covered acting basics. I sang with several classical music groups, studied dance, and played leads in standard musicals like “My Fair Lady” and the Neil Simon/Alan Ayckbourn favorites. But any skills I have were really forged through many summer seasons of genuine rolling repertory at The Theater at Monmouth in central Maine. Switching daily between Shakespeare, Shaw, Sheridan and Moliere required flexibility, clear choices, accurate memory and incredible teamwork – and let me work opposite talented actors like Boston’s Jeremiah Kissel. On-camera work began when a theater patron hired me to represent a drugstore chain in TV commercials. Soon my credits included a national Chitisol infomercial that matched ratings with the Ginzo Knife and the George Foreman Grill. I continued to do theater, commercials, voiceovers and occasional film work while teaching theater programs for young people as well as London-based theater classes for Colby College. (Being paid to attend theater productions in London and discuss them with students may be the best job anyone ever invented.) I was particularly proud to play a homophobic, closeted camp director in simultaneous film (Fawn Yacker, director) and stage productions of Carolyn Gage’s “Ugly Ducklings,” as part of a national campaign to support LGBTQ youth.
Among favorite medical projects was modeling best practices in dealing with suspected spousal and elder abuse in a series of teaching videos produced by Cathy Plourde (AddVerb Productions.) The series has been presented at the College of Medicine at the University of New England, the Maine Public Health Association and The Global Alliance for Arts and Health and is now open-source available on YouTube.
A few years ago, roles in Mark Lewis’ warmly reviewed (48 so far) comedy WILD GIRL WALTZ and Bill Miller’s drama COWBOY SPIRIT coincided with a more flexible life schedule and convinced me to make stronger professional connections in Massachusetts. Lucky choices in student film projects introduced me to additional vibrant actors. I was Marshall Berenson’s annoying neighbor in GOOD TASTE a quirky BU short that’s become a festival favorite. In John Bickford’s ADVENT, an Emerson thesis film that will be shown at Cannes in the Creative Minds Program, I worked with Kate Jurdi, Wayne Shore, Harry Aspinwall, and charming young Charlie Tacker, who seems to be the busiest actor in the Boston area.
My favorite film role to date was the juicy starring role of feisty DA Constance Smith in Mark Lund’s feature JUSTICE IS MIND, which the IMDB named the 8th most highly rated indie film of 2013. The large cast featured Paul Lussier, Robin Rapaport, Mary Wexler and Carlyne Fournier. Boston actors know how things can build from a few connections. Carlyne offered me a small role in THEORY OF CONFLICT, starring Eddie Frateschi. I didn’t meet Eddie on the set, but he cast me in the trailer for his intriguing series focusing on cultural and religious theories about what happens after death, BEYOND THIS. When I arrived to work on Mark Battle’s film THE CONVICT, Wayne Shore was also in the scene and Robin had already filmed. Through the Emerson grapevine I was offered a central role in Emily Deering’s thesis film PINE.
My Boston transition was also aided by sound advice from Becki Dennis Buchman, who brought me work with Butler Hospital in Providence, addressing addictions treatment patients in two sets of videos funded by the NIH. At one of her Talent Tools workshops I met Andrew Wilson and was happy to gain representation by Model Club Inc. Talent Tools also keeps my reels updated and linked me to Dina K for headshots
It’s a challenge to live in central Maine and work in the New England market. A three-minute audition at an agency in Boston is a gamble that means hours of driving and outlay for gas and tolls. A shoot in Providence may require crashing overnight with friends in Norwood. Luckily, I share the car and life with an understanding actor/ director husband, Richard Sewell. A joint project is both fun and an economic bonus.
There’s always much to be excited about being offered at the Nantucket Film Festival scheduled for June 25th – 30th this year, their 19th Annual event on the inviting island of Nantucket. Even the Daily Beast has declared the Nantucket Film Festival one of the summer’s hottest festivals, alongside the likes of Telluride, Los Angeles and BAMcinemaFest!
But the enthusiasm I love the most is that of NFF’s Executive Director Mystelle Brabbbee. Here are the highlights she is excited about. Mystelle says, “Our closing night film, Richard Linlater’s BOYHOOD is an extraordinary and patient approach to screenwriting…” Rather than using different actors to portray the same character at various ages, Linklater filmed the same actors for more than a decade, crafting an unforgettable portrait of a family in flux.
“And we’re bringing back the Stage Reading with Donick Cary’s TV pilot Strange Calls. Great actors are coming to Nantucket to read,” added Ms. Brabbee. In the offseason on Nantucket things get weird. Really weird. Boston cop Toby Banks has been exiled to the island to answer the strange calls that come into the police station. It’s a job that no one wants—for very good reason….hmmm.
There will be a 35th anniversary screening of the original MUPPET MOVIE on the beach – “always so much fun,” Mystelle gleefully points out. And for funny, “the All-Star Comedy Roundtable has been turned on its head highlighting tomorrow’s big stars. Jenny Slate! Anyone out there love Marcel the Shell as much as me?” she asks.
The pinnacle of her anticipation will be achieved when Aaron Sorkin arrives! Mystelle is looking forward to hearing first hand about how he writes his dialogue. “And, of course, celebrating his signature style,” she added. To be sure the Screenwriter Tribute is the jewel in the Nantucket Crown. It is the coveted ticket for Saturday night hosted by Brian Williams, NBC Evening News esteemed anchor and funny man in his own right.
The Nantucket Film Festival honors the careers of noted screenwriters who have brought distinction to the craft of writing for film. This year that award goes to Aaron Sorkin, best known as the screenwriter behind THE SOCIAL NETWORK (Academy Award winner, Best Adapted Screenplay) and the creator of the Emmy Award-winning television shows The West Wing, The Newsroom, and Sports Night. His other movies include MALICE and CHARLIE WILSON’S WAR. The film adaptation of Sorkin’s Broadway playwriting debut, A Few Good Men, was nominated for four Academy Awards. Sorkin will next adapt Steve Jobs, the Walter Isaacson biography of the late Apple co-founder.
David O. Russell, Nancy Meyers, Paul Haggis, Judd Apatow, Steve Martin, Charlie Kaufman, and James Schamus are previous recipients of this prestigious award.
NFF will present a special Achievement in Documentary Storytelling Award to Steve James, best known for his work as director, producer, and editor of HOOP DREAMS, which late film critic Roger Ebert (the subject of James’ latest film, LIFE ITSELF) deemed “the great American Documentary.”
The festival’s New Voices in Screenwriting Award will be presented to Mike Cahill. “We’re thrilled to recognize Cahill’s originality and honor him at the start of what promises to be a long and fascinating career, said Mystelle Brabbee. Mike Cahill is fast becoming known for intelligent screenplays that combine science and compelling narrative. I ORIGINS, which Cahill also directed and produced, won the Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize at the Sundance Film Festival.
THE SKELETON TWINS will be the NFF Opening Night Film. Craig Johnson’s film stars Bill Hader and Kristin Wigg as estranged siblings who cheat death on the same day. The dark comedy took home the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award at Sundance making it a natural fit for a festival that has a writer’s bent. (See the Festival’s Film Schedule online).
Don’t miss this Festival favorite. Morning Coffee With…® offers a chance to hear captivating and inspiring working tales from the filmmakers’ perspective. This year’s Morning Coffee With…® is sure to entertain as it serves up both highly anticipated festival attendees and a delectable assortment of coffee and treats. It starts Thursday and runs through Sunday at 9 am in the Dreamland Theatre.
Always entertaining, In Their Shoes…® with Chris Matthews brings out his outspoken and impeccable interviewing skills to engage renowned Festival guests in in-depth conversation. Thursday, June 26th at 4 pm Chris will sit down with Emmy-award Bradley Whitford (The West Wing, Studio 60 and Sunset Strip) to discuss his celebrated acting career in television and film as well as his recent foray into political journalism. Then on Saturday, June 28th at 2 pm Chris will relish some time with the Festival’s Screenwriters Tributee to discuss his critically acclaimed body of work as a scribe for film, television and theater. Both conversations will be held at the Dreamland Main Theater.
Nantucket is gorgeous this time of year, but if you go be sure you have accommodations in advance as the island fills up to the brim. All events are ticketed or accessed by Festival Passes so be sure you have what you need. Tickets and passes are available online and at the festival ticket office on island.
Now be sure your read our Gene Mahon’s “Before, Between and After the Films” for everything you need to know to truly enjoy this island paradise. For more information, tickets and schedule visit www.nantucketfilmfestival.org.
A year and a half year ago I embarked on a wild ride by jumping on the New England acting wagon. My first foray into acting started as a background actor for Larry David’s CLEAR HISTORY. I submitted myself and was shocked to be chosen for two days of work. Not one word of film terminology was familiar to me, not “back to one, speed, or, background.” The only two words I kLnew were “action” and “cut.” When faced with any other unknown situation in my life, I asked questions when able, listened and followed everyone else. The PA’s gave us basic instruction more to do with what not to do, like never approach the main actors. That I knew!
What I learned in those two days is that the other actors are your friends and allies. So many stepped in to give me advice, explaining the terminology, and telling me which casting companies in Boston to sign up with for more background work. I have made it a point to pay it forward with any other newbie I meet on set and pass along all that was passed on to me.
That’s all it took. I had the bug. I threw myself into finding out everything I needed to do to work and be part of this exciting community, starting with student films, web series and indies, working my way to documentaries, music videos and my personal favorite, commercials. It is imperative for actors to take classes and as frightened as I was to take that first class, it was the best step I took. My classes in the past sixteen months include, dramatic acting with Kevin Lasit, Meisner level 1 technique with Rich Bailey at NEAW, Tom Todoroff, Steve Blackwood, Jenn Lederer, Angela Peri, and the wonderful workshops provided by Becki Dennis Buchman from Talent Tools. Volumes of information have been gleaned from these classes and it should be the number one thing new actors do while embarking on their acting journey.
Some shoots have been almost comical. While filming an infomercial in a private home with no AC on a hot and humid summer day; the sweat started to pour down the sides of my face. The script was handed to me just minutes prior and I had to open a pickle jar, which was not cooperating. The final cut was a testament to brilliant editing. Some student films were shot in apartments I was sure had been condemned. I would not change one bit of it, because I learned something valuable from each opportunity, or at least had a good laugh from the experience.
Not all of my experiences have been positive and being a newbie likely worked against me. In addition to acting, I desired to learn as much about behind the camera as possible and threw myself heart, soul and pocketbook into a production. Though many red flags began popping up months before filming was to commence I attempted to rationalize my misgivings by attributing them to the director’s stress. Had I had done my due diligence, research, and spoken to former actors involved in the project, the answers I sought would have been revealed and I could have saved myself much aggravation, discomfort and money. A hard lesson to learn for a newbie, but a mistake I will never make again.
This May I will be working behind the scenes with the talented Seth Chitwood of Angelwood Pictures and his cast and crew. As mentioned, commercials are one of my favorite types of industry work. In the past five months I completed seven commercials and had three running simultaneously on the local Boston channels. I wrapped on an indie film named MOMENTS FROM A SIDEWALK directed by Silvia Kovatchev, which will be entered in film festivals worldwide starting this spring. A student thesis film DREAMERS by BU graduate student Joe Dwyer, in which I played a scientist, has been nominated for a Student Academy Award by The Motion Pictures Academy for Arts and Sciences in Los Angeles. I had the good fortune of being a principal actor in two episodes of The “Folklorist,” a local TV show produced by the talented crew at NEWTV, which is up for five Emmy’s and a Telly this year.
With fifty film projects under my belt I consider myself lucky to have met so many inspirational, talented and dedicated industry professionals. In the past year and a half I have tried to become a consummate professional, choose specific roles and make wise choices that have allowed me to work my way from background to commercials. Most importantly, I give back by supporting actors, films, sharing casting notices, attending screenings of local films, and passing along what I have learned to others. What’s next for me? A short comedic screenplay to be written cast and directed with two of my actor friends. And I hope to continue to take classes, act, and become more involved on both sides of the camera.
As New England settles into another beautiful summer, there’s no better place to celebrate than the Provincetown International Film Festival. This year, in addition to a stellar line-up of films, PIFF honors director and provocateur David Cronenberg with the Filmmaker on the Edge award. Patricia Clarkson will be presented with the Excellence in Acting award, and Debra Winger will receive the Faith Hubley Memorial Achievement award. All will be in conversation at 5 PM, June 21st in Town Hall.
Notorious for high-brow body horror, David Cronenberg’s iconic, unsettling filmography includes VIDEODROME and THE FLY, which will screen in the festival as a double feature. Cronenberg also directed the William Boroughs adaptation NAKED LUNCH (also screening at PIFF), SCANNERS, COSMOPOLIS, and the forthcoming MAPS TO THE STARS, for which Julianne Moore won the Best Actress award at Cannes. As with last year’s honoree Harmony Korine, Cronenberg crafts darkly humorous, deeply unsettling films with formidable precision. Canadian in origin, Cronenberg has sustained a penchant for the bizarre throughout his forty year career. He excels in getting under his audience’s skin, DEAD RINGERS being the prime example–a film in which Jeremy Irons plays twin gynecologists. Cronenberg’s films leave a mark on the viewer. He is one of the greatest horror directors of all time, one of the most effectively provocative filmmakers, and a sterling example of a Filmmaker on the Edge.
Since her first major role as Catherine Ness in THE UNTOUCHABLES, Patricia Clarkson has maintained a diverse and distinguished career, appearing in films from JUMANJI, to DOGVILLE, THE GREEN MILE, THE STATION AGENT, ALL THE REAL GIRLS, FAR FROM HEAVEN, and GOOD NIGHT AND GOOD LUCK. Never typecast, she brings something new to every role throughout her career. Her talents can be seen in her latest film LAST WEEKEND, which will screen in Spotlight at the festival.
Debra Winger has been nominated for three Oscars. Perhaps best known for TERMS OF ENDEARMENT, she’s also starred in SHADOWLANDS, AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN, and URBAN COWBOY. Coming off a star-turning performance in TERMS OF ENDEARMENT, Winger elected for more challenging, independent roles and eventually retired from acting and moved to Upstate New York with her husband and children. She returned to the film scene BIG BAD LOVE in 2001 and proceeded to swiftly revive her career with roles in RADIO, RACHEL GETTING MARRIED, and a recurring role on the HBO original series In Treatment.
This year’s lineup of films offers a variety of talents, both established and newcomers. In Roman Polanski’s latest film: VENUS IN FUR, an actress attempts to convince a director how she’s perfect for a role in his upcoming production. HAPPY CHRISTMAS, Joe Swanberg’s latest directorial effort, traces an irresponsible twentysomething (Anna Kendrick) going to Chicago to live with her older brother Jeff (Joe Swanberg). Lena Dunham also stars. OBVIOUS CHILD, an abortion comedy starring Jenny Slate, will screen fresh off a successful run at Sundance, where it was picked up for distribution by A24. Jonathan Demme’s latest film A MASTER BUILDER, an adaptation of the Henrik Ibsen play, will show in Spotlight. John Waters Presents ABUSE OF WEAKNESS directed Catherine Breillat, the brilliant auteur behind FAT GIRL and SEX IS COMEDY, an autobiographical account of a stroke-afflicted filmmaker who is manipulated by a notorious con man.
The Documentary section includes WHITEY: USA VS. JAMES WHITEY BULGER, an exploration of last year’s trial of the infamous Boston gangster. THE INTERNET’S OWN BOY: THE STORY OF AARON SWARTZ follows the story of Aaron Swartz, programming prodigy and information activist. MALA MALA traces the struggle for LGBT advocates fighting for anti-discrimination legislation in Puerto Rico. Winner of the US Documentary Directing award at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, THE CASE AGAINST 8 follows the passing of Proposition 8, the measure passed in California which repealed the rights to same-sex marriage.
The themes of this year’s Shorts program include Gays Just Wanna Have Fun, Rewriting Conventions, Odds and Ends (which features SATELLITE BEACH, a short written and directed by Luke Wilson), Teenage Confidential, and Gallery Crawl. A HARD DAY’S NIGHT and JAWS will play as a double bill at the Drive-In Theater.
With a slew of great films playing throughout the festival, 2014 looks to be another great year for the Provincetown International Film Festival. Come enjoy a relaxing weekend with beautiful cinema, great food, fine wine and sunshine on the Cape at PIFF 2014 from June 18th-22nd.
This writer brings to this article a certain authenticity. He—I—was a Charter Trekkie.
For three years in my childhood, Thursday night meant STAR TREK. I was among those present, if not at the creation of one of the most amazing phenomena in the history of entertainment and popular culture, then certainly at its infancy. Back then—and I wouldn’t doubt that this was true of many other fans of the series, particularly very young ones like me—it was easier to imagine the future depicted in STAR TREK than it was the future of STAR TREK: its evolution into perhaps the greatest cult phenomenon/franchise in the history of modern entertainment.
But then, few others saw the future of STAR TREK, either. It lasted only three seasons, and never cracked the Nielsen Top Twenty. During its initial lifetime, there was nothing about its fan base, demographic or popularity to indicate that those first three seasons were just the opening act of something that would last half a century—and counting.
If the ongoing saga of STAR TREK’S popularity continues to amaze, however, there is no particular mystery as to what has attracted its beyond-loyal (some would say, beyond reason) following. It depicts a future humanity united in harmony, venturing far beyond the earthly realm into an exciting, fascinating (if, occasionally, dangerous) future. But perhaps, even more than that, what people came to love about STAR TREK were and are its characters—and one in particular.
Think of STAR TREK, and you think of Mr. Spock, usually first. The pointy-eared half Human, half Vulcan, devoid of emotion and chock full of logic and reason, quickly became and remains the most beloved character in the history of the franchise (unable though he may be to return that love, at least emotionally). And when you think of Mr. Spock, you have to think of the actor who played and defined him, Leonard Nimoy.
Leonard Nimoy comes, not from the Planet Vulcan, but from the city of Boston. He grew up in a long-vanished civilization: the beloved and fondly remembered West End neighborhood (his family’s address was 87 Chambers Street), a vibrant, safe, multi-ethnic urban success story—until, alas, it was destroyed, not by invaders from another planet, but from something that Mr. Spock would have found totally illogical, the oxymoronic concept known as “Urban Renewal.
Now 83 years old, Leonard left Boston many decades ago, but it never left him. He has returned to it many times, and soon will once more. On May 23rd and 24th, 2014, Leonard will narrate “Out of This World,” a presentation of music from classic film and television Science Fiction for the Boston Pops at Boston’s Symphony Hall. On Saturday, June 7th, 2014, Leonard will receive the Governors’ Award from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Boston/New England Chapter. And Leonard will return to Boston in another, familiar way, by appearing on television. On May 22nd, WGBH-TV will air a documentary directed by his son Adam, IT TAKES A SHTETL, about Leonard’s teenage years growing up in Boston. (It’s an historically appropriate time to celebrate Mr. Nimoy, as it was fifty years ago last month—April, 1964—that a television producer named Gene Roddenberry presented his idea for a TV series to NBC. He called it: STAR TREK.)
Yes, Boston is indeed celebrating Leonard Nimoy. But then, it’s really a matter of returning the favor, as Leonard has always celebrated Boston.
“I feel blessed to have had the background and childhood I did. Not only did I have a loving family, but the neighborhood was a very interesting place to grow up in. A lot of values were taught. It was always an immigrant neighborhood, at least when I was living there. Prior to that, it had been an African-American neighborhood. It became a neighborhood for European immigrants. When I was coming along, it was about 60% to 65% Italian, about 25 to 30% Jewish, and a sprinkling of others: Poles and others.
“It was a very interesting mix of cultures. There was a lot to be learned, a lot to be gained from mingling with other cultures. The city itself, Boston, was extremely interesting in academia and the arts. It was a very enriching neighborhood. You got along with everyone that lived on the street. It really was a village.
“We got along with each other in a very interesting way. It was Live-and-Let-Live, and ‘Help each other when possible.’ I feel very, very lucky to have grown up there.
Leonard Nimoy’s acting career began when he was eight years old. “There was a wonderful, wonderful settlement house building called the Elizabeth Peabody House, on Charles Street. I used to hang out there after school, and on weekends, because there were all kinds of wonderful activities. There was a sports program, there was a science program, and there was a wonderful little theater. And when I was eight years old, I was cast in a production of Hansel and Gretel.. I was cast as Hansel. I enjoyed doing it. I continued doing children’s theater at the Peabody playhouse until I was about seventeen. I was cast in a production of a play called Awake and Sing by Clifford Odetts. This was my first experience in a serious piece of adult drama. It captured my imagination totally, and I decided that this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.”
That epiphany led Leonard to Hollywood—or, thereabouts. In 1949, after graduating from Boston English High School (and saving up some money from selling vacuum cleaners), the 18-year-old Mr. Nimoy got on a train at South Station and headed west.
Why did he go to California and not—as so many others had done in search of acting careers—New York? “There was a theatrical school called the Pasadena Playhouse School of the Theatre. There was a theater arts magazine that I used to look at monthly, and they always had a full-page ad which looked very impressive. Some people that I asked about it said that it would be a good place to study acting. And, California seemed very attractive at the time. More so than simply going to New York, which just seemed like more of Boston. I wanted something of a change; I wanted something a little bit more romantic, I guess.
“When I got to California and got to the school, in a short time I became very disillusioned, because I discovered that the school really was struggling to stay alive. It would have been long gone, but it was being supported by the G.I. Bill. There were G.I.’s coming back out of the service who were getting free tuition, plus a monthly subsistence. I had not yet been in the Army; I went into the Army about four years later. So, I didn’t have that support. Struggling to support myself at a school which was not inspiring, I left after a short period of time.
“I moved to Hollywood, and started looking for work.”
A series of non-acting jobs followed, along with two years in the U.S. Army. So did marriage and parenthood. Eventually some acting jobs followed, including, in 1951, his first Science Fiction role. It was on television, in the then-popular Saturday afternoon 15-minute serial genre. (“It was called ZOMBIES FROM OUTER SPACE. I played a zombie.”) As the years passed, he found regular, if not necessarily steady, work, in film and television. (“All the weekly series with cops, cowboys and Indians. I played a lot of Bad Guys.”)
Then, in 1965, came the call from a TV producer named Gene Roddenberry.
“I was acting various TV shows, including an episode of a show called The Lieutenant, which was produced by Gene Roddenberry. After I had done that performance, he contacted my agent. (My agent) called me, and said that Gene Roddenberry was developing a Science Fiction pilot for a series, ‘and is interested in you for one of the roles.’ That’s how it began.”
And, in one form or another, STAR TREK has yet to end.
How did it all come to be? According to Leonard Nimoy, Gene Roddenberry sensed some socio-political changes in the wind that boded well for a science fiction TV series.
“I think that he sensed that the Westerns were on their way out, and that Science Fiction was taking their place. It was no longer politically correct to portray the Indians as terrible people. So, the Westerns had lost their ‘heavy,’ their villains. As a matter of fact, STAR TREK was sold to NBC as ‘Wagon Train” in space.’” (Wagon Train was a popular Western TV series at the time.)
Then, Leonard Nimoy had the role that he was chosen for—and for which he would forever after be associated with—explained to him. What happened when, in a sense, Leonard Nimoy met Mr. Spock?
“I thought two things. One was that it offered the potential for a steady job. Up until that time, I had never had a steady job as an actor. The longest jobs that I ever had had been two weeks on a movie or a TV show. This was potential for steady work, which was a very desirable experience. It was something that everyone was striving for. You could support yourself, and not be at the mercy of the next phone call.
“But, there was something else that was very intriguing. When Gene explained the character to me, he talked about the fact that the character was half-Human, half- Vulcan, and therefore would have an internal struggle dealing with his emotional design. He wanted to live as a Vulcan, functioning purely on logic, ruling out emotion.
“For me as an actor, it was fertile territory, because it told me that this was going to be a character that had an interesting inner life, which you didn’t often get with television characters. That was intriguing.
“I was somewhat concerned with what (Gene Roddenberry) described as the appearance of the character. His initial idea was that the character should have red skin. Really red. And, of course, pointed ears. The red went away because at the time when the show was due to go on the air, there were still a lot of black and white TV sets across the country. And the red makeup would have read simply as black. And that was not the intention. The intention was to be ‘different.’ And a black-looking character would not have been different in the right way.
“The pointed ears took some time to develop, but we finally got it right.”
Indeed they did, at least where the outside of Mr. Spock was concerned. But there was then the matter of his inner self. Leonard Nimoy had the challenge of portraying the first character in TV history—or, perhaps, in any other performance realm—who had, by deliberate and permanent design, no emotions (that being a Vulcan trait). As a professional actor well trained in the art of expressing emotions, how did Leonard Nimoy deal with the challenge of projecting a character devoid of emotions?
“I don’t think that’s quite accurate. The character (of Spock) was not unemotional. The character was in control of his emotions. He didn’t want to display his emotions. But, it was a given that he did have emotions. That was one of the most wonderful secrets of the character. Audiences were watching for a glimpse of the emotions leaking out occasionally when Spock had an off moment.
“To me, that was one of the major reason why audiences so identified with the character. So many humans go through their lives dealing with this very issue: how do you control, how do you deal with emotions? We all have emotions; if we don’t there’s something wrong with us. So, how do you deal with that? How do you control your emotions? Do you suppress your emotions, do you show your emotions, WHEN do you show your emotions? When is it appropriate or inappropriate to show your emotions? It’s all about emotional control. And Spock was an example of that. So, I think people identify with the character for that reason.”
While no one could see the fantastic and enduring popularity of the series, Leonard Nimoy—who, by that time in his career, was a veteran of television—had the sense that he was part of something special, and different.
“It was exciting. We were doing work that had promise. It felt as though we were breaking new ground in television, and in science fiction writing. That kept me going. I felt very strongly that we were doing something very fresh and, possibly, enduring.”
“The writers on STAR TREK were given (a chance) to deal with subject matter that they had been carrying in their heads and hearts for years, (but) had not been given an outlet for their ideas. In STAR TREK, they were able to express some of these social and political thoughts that were not welcome in other places.
“Among other things, (STAR TREK) was a hopeful show about the future, a hopeful show about problem solving in the future. I think it’s very important that kids, seven, eight, nine, ten, twelve, fourteen years old, see the show as an adventure show, with Good Guys vs. Bad Guys, or Good Guys solving problems. And then, at another age level, the next generation, the same people ten years later might look at it and say, ‘Oh, this is really a story about Communism,’ or, ‘It’s a story about hate,’ or a story about some social or political problem. And you rediscover the show, in perhaps a more layered, nuanced way.”
STAR TREK lifted off in September, 1965. So did Leonard Nimoy’s career, never to descend. According to Leonard, he never had trouble finding work after the series ended its initial three-year run. His career has since expanded beyond series television to the stage, to film directing (including the hit comedy THREE MEN AND A BABY) to radio and to photography. And, of course, to the very successful movie adaptations of STAR TREK, two of which he directed, two of which he wrote and produced.
As the Boston boy returns home, what does Leonard Nimoy think of his home town?
“I still have a very, very strong emotional connection to Boston. This morning I was reading in the New York and Los Angeles Times about the Boston Marathon being run successfully, being twice what it was last year. I cheered up reading about the resurgence of interest and support for the Boston Marathon. It meant a lot to me, to see that happening. I LOVE the city! I LOVE the city!”
Most people think you have to go to New York or LA to have an acting career, but Mike Giovanucci is proving that you can pursue your dream here at home in Boston. However he didn’t always think that way.
Initially Mike believed, like most people, that in order to pursue an acting career you have to go out to LA, so shortly after graduating high school he saved up money working as a bouncer at Cask n’ Flagon and followed his dream out West, to test the waters in LA.
His time in Los Angeles, however brief, was an eye-opening experience for him in several ways. On the good side he received positive feedback and encouragement from the casting directors and talent agents he auditioned for, building his confidence in himself as an actor. The downside, however, was the blunt feedback that he did not have the proper tools nor experience to be a contender in the industry.
Returning to Boston was a defining moment for Mike; rather than coming home with his tail between his legs he used the experience to learn and gain new clarity on what he had to do for his career. But not only that, he soon recognized that Boston has a growing film scene and a sense of camaraderie and solidarity amongst its actors and filmmakers that he did not find in Los Angeles. Mike then wasn’t just doing it at home for himself, but rather also to be a part of something, a vibrant and dynamic local scene. According to Mike, “everyone here is focused on making Boston a powerhouse location for great talent and productions in the movie industry.”
With a new resolve and motivation to make it happen in New England, Mike dove headfirst into the local acting community, seeking out resources online and in person. In his quest to become a contender he sought out professional headshots and started showing up to MPC meetings. He registered on local casting sites like Boston Casting and CP Casting and soon enough Mike was going to auditions for commercials, movies, student films and industrial projects all over the New England area, even landing some good parts.
One of his recent wins included being cast in a historical video with Northern Lights Productions that filmed on a military base on the Cape, commemorating the brave US soldiers who stood guard along the Berlin wall at the height of the Cold War. “We dressed in full gear and worked throughout the night climbing trucks, marching in formation, and jumping in tanks. It was a long day, but it was awesome doing something that honors those who defend our great nation,” he recalls of the experience.
Another job he got through an audition at Boston Casting was for a CVS training video, filmed locally and produced by (add)ventures, followed by a recent callback for a national Dunkin Donuts commercial. Needless to say things are moving. But the project Mike is most proud of is an independent short where he got to flex his Irish accent in a remake of a scene from THE BOONDOCK SAINTS for 41st Casanova Productions. His brogue was “on point.”
Overall Mike is happy to be here in Boston putting his hardy blue collar work ethic into practice pursuing his dream. More than ever he understands the enormous potential residing here at home in Boston, a city known for it’s strength, resiliency and team-mentality. According to Mike, “When you play for a team you make sacrifices, have your teammates’ backs and do whatever it takes to succeed. That team aspect defines the acting community I have found in Boston.”
With an optimistic eye towards the future Mike is resolved to succeed in his dream one way or another. Whether or not Mike decides to take his career back out west again, one thing is certain – no matter what he will always have the satisfaction of knowing he built the foundation of his acting career off the wealth of resources here at home in New England.
Erica Derrickson is an award winning actress, professional headshot photographer and founder of Hollywood East Actors Group. See her work at www.ericaseye.com and connect with Erica on Twitter at @ericaseye or via email at [email protected].
Connecticut is conveniently located between New York City and Boston, Massachusetts. It offers its diverse locations from all points within easy driving distances. The Connecticut Office of Film, Television and Digital Media is the point of contact for all production in the state. The COFTDM maintains a state wide network of film liaisons at the agency, regional and municipal levels.
Connecticut has several unique locations that have a long history of drawing location production work to the state as well as many new locations that are registered with the OFTDM’s location gallery. Yale is the “film friendly” Ivy League university. Yale has hosted feature film productions such as INDIANA JONES AND THE KINDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL, SISTERHOOD OF THE TRAVELING PANTS 2, MONA LISA SMILE, THE LIFE BEFORE HER EYES and EVERYBODY’S FINE as well as TV shows such as The Big C, and Jeopardy! College Championship and numerous commercial and still photography productions.
Mystic Seaport, The Museum of America and The Sea in Mystic, Connecticut continues to be one of Connecticut’s “anchor locations.” The 19 acre seaport features a period waterfront village, and a small fleet of tall and small ships that have played host to feature productions such as AMISTAD and CARRY ME HOME to commercials for Fed-X, Wells Fargo and New England Lottery.
For more information on Filming at Mystic Seaport Please contact: Sarah Spencer Location & Production Coordinator, Mystic Seaport Museum 860-572-5309, sarah.spencer@ mysticseaport.org, or visit http://www.mysticseaport.org
Owned and operated by the Valley Railroad Company, the Essex Steam Train is a unique historic attraction in the Connecticut River Valley. The Valley Railroad Company has been in existence since 1868 and has been in featured in films such as RAGTIME, AMISTAD, INDIANA JONE AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL. as well as countless commercials, documentaries and still photography shoots. www.essexsteamtrain.com
Currently in Connecticut, there is a moratorium on Motion Picture tax credits until July 1, 2015 however the tax credits for Television, Commercials and all types of digital media are in full effect.
Mark Dixon is Connecticut‘s Location Services Manager. You can reach him at [email protected].