John Billingsley has been a ‘professional actor’ (one uses the term loosely) for thirty years: on the l7th of November at 12:30PM, he plans to bloviate (or pontificate, if you prefer) about an actor’s values, victories and vicissitudes. Values shift and change as we grow older: how do we continue to move forward in a tough profession when what we wanted yesterday isn’t at all what we want today? How do we build on our professional victories when we’re sometimes at a loss to even understand they’ve occurred? What the hell’s a vicissitude, anyway? Oh, maybe getting a review in which the reviewer says “7 actors taking turns couldn’t have given a more incoherent performance than John Billingsley”. Try swallowing that one down. Mostly Mr. Billingsley will take questions! Discover how you, too, can find yourself, in 30 years (Jesus, Mr. Billingsley got old!) positioned to conduct a similar seminar. (NB: The tip jar will be located just to the right of the door as you come in).
John Billingsley was born in Media, PA, and lived for a time in Huntsville, Alabama and Slidell, Louisiana. His family finally settled down in Weston, CT, where John had his southern drawl beaten out of him by vicious Yankee children, and where he began to act in school plays, initially “A Christmas Carol,” playing a ferocious (albeit gap-toothed and lisping) Ebenezer Scrooge.
He graduated Bennington College, in Bennington, VT, where he studied theatre with Nicholas Martin and literature with Bernard Malamud. John moved to Seattle, WA, upon graduation, where, over a fifteen year period, he appeared on regional stages both well and ill regarded. He toured Europe and portions of the US for a bit with a Milwaukee based experimental theatre company (Theatre X), whose production of “A History of Sexuality” featured him in such disparate roles as Sigmund Freud and the Marquis De Sade’s valet.
His theater credits include “Mauritius”,“Candide,” David Mamet’s “Bobby Gould in Hell,” “The Seagull,” “The Birthday Party,” “Great Expectations,” “12th Night” and “Bitter Bierce,” a one man show he produced himself (“Never Again”, he says) about the life and times of Ambrose Bierce. He also played a Berber taxi-cab driver in “Ugly’s First World” at The Actor’s Gang some years back, appearing opposite his lovely wife Bonita Friedericy, who played Lady Jane Greystoke, a.k.a. Mrs. Tarzan.
In l990, John founded a Seattle based theatre company called Bookit, which was devoted to adapting fiction for the stage and which still flourishes in the Pacific Northwest. He also co-founded an acting studio in Seattle called Freehold, also still flourishing, where he taught for seven years. Always active in a limited way in Seattle-based film and TV in the ’80′s, he decided to move to Los Angeles in 1995 to pursue those mediums more aggressively because (l) he was broke and (2) refer back to (1). After a brief and disastrous stint as a cotton candy spinner (tufts of cotton candy refused to adhere to the paper cones and instead plastered themselves on the faces and garments of frightened children), John caught a break and was cast in “NYPD Blue” as a pathetic and addled child molester.
Other guest star roles followed: “The Practice,” “Profiler,” “Pretender,” “Marshall Law,” “Nash Bridges,” “The X-Files,” “Time of Your Life,” “Judging Amy” and “Arli$$,” among others. In l999, Stephen Spielberg cast him as Prof. Miles Ballard in “The Others.” Fun, but it didn’t last long. Apres the demise of “The Others”, more guest starring: “The West Wing,” “Six Feet Under,” “Gideon’s Crossing,” “Stargate,” “The Huntress” and “Angel.” In 2000, Billingsley was cast as Dr. Phlox in “Star Trek: Enterprise.” Dr. Phlox was an eccentric alien with a whimsical sense of humor, and John wore the requisite rubber head for four seasons. Billingsley also has appeared on “Nip/Tuck,” “Cold Case,” “The Closer”, “The Ghost Whisperer”, a whole bunch of CSI’s (how many of ‘em are there now?), and a bunch of shows he can guarantee that you have never heard of. (Notice how he ends sentences with prepositions, willy-nilly!) In a recurring role, he played the evil Vice-President’s hapless (and toothless) brother on “Prison Break.”, and he molested more children on “Without a Trace” and “Criminal Minds”. (He finally said, to his agents, “Hey, enough with the molesting, already, I walk around and folks give me the stinkeye”.) His most recent TV credits include “NCIS”, “The Mentalist”, “Outlaw”, “Scrubs”, “Leverage”, “Eli Stone”, and Alan Ball’s “True Blood”, where his recurring role as Coroner Mike Spenser required him to parade around buck nekkid for the better part of 9 episodes. Oh, yeah, he was also blown to kingdom come on “24″. Recent failed pilots in which Mr. Billingsley appeared: “Me and Lee” (A crazed Lee Majors kidnaps and ‘bionicizes’ a schlub – no, not John, he was the schlub’s chiropractor – and sends him forth in the world to go fight crime – OY!), “Atlanta”, “The World According to Barnes”, and “Suspect”. Do not attribute failure of aforesaid pilots to Mr. Billingsley.
In 2006, John was cast as a series regular on the ABC show “The Nine,” where he played Egan Foote, a depressed underachiever who gained a new lease on life after helping (sorta) to foil a bank robbery. He co-starred with Tim Daly, Kim Raver, Scott Wolf, Owen Yeoman and Chi McBride (all of whom have gone on to greater success in other projects, the Rat bastards!) Re: “The Nine” – critical plaudits did not lead to commercial success. R.I.P. Recently he completed 6 episodes of a new show called “26 Miles”, playing a pugnacious divorce attorney: this show is still looking for a home, in syndication-ville. Call if you have one.
Films along the way include “Out of Time” opposite Denzell Washington, “American Summer,” “High Crimes,” “The Glass House,” “White Oleander,” “Born to be Wild,” “I Love You To Death,” “A Cinderella Story,” “12 Dogs of Christmas,” “The Least of These”, “Sironia”, “Losing Control”, and “2012″. Fans (and his best friend, Phil) continue to remind him of other films that he did that he is too embarrassed to reference here.
A comprehensive list of every gig he auditioned for but didn’t get would be spectacularly long, and kind of a bummer, so he won’t go there.
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