War of the Worlds

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A veteran stage and screen presence, James DuMont has been in the business since he was a child. In the mid-1960s, his cherubic face earned him a gig as the Gerber baby. It was the first of many to come, as DuMont travelled from Chicago to Boston to New York to Los Angeles and now to Louisiana. His storied career includes roles in Seabiscuit, SWAT, War of the Worlds and Ocean’s Thirteen.

Since coming to Louisiana, DuMont’s career has continued to climb with roles in Treme and American Horror Story, reaching a high point with 2013’s Dallas Buyers Club. DuMont portrayed the father of Rayon, a role that would earn Jared Leto an Oscar. Since then, he’s appeared in Lee Daniels’ The Butler, the James Brown biopic Get On Up, When the Game Stands Tall and Ryan Phillipe’s directorial debut Catch Hell. He’s also recently wrapped a movie millions of years in the making: Jurassic World.

Over the course of a few hours, we discussed his long career, his family, his investment in Louisiana and how he still just likes to play on set.

When did you decide you wanted to be an actor?

I was born and raised in Chicago and New York. My dad was in New York and my mom was in Chicago and we switched around back and forth. When I grew up, those were my hometowns. At a certain point, my mom was a fashion model, so I got photographs as a baby. I was the Gerber baby in 1966. So that started off a whole bunch of print stuff, like Sears catalogs and things like that. And then I started doing some commercials. Later, the Chicago film scene started to kick up a bit.

By the time I was in high school, there was this dance audition for Blues Brothers. I was a huge fan of the Blues Brothers from Saturday Night Live, so I did this dance audition. My friends gave me a little bit of a hard time about it because we were baseball players. And I got the gig! I was one of the kids dancing in the streets. I got my SAG card from that movie, and then did a bunch of commercials and stuff and I was able to use that money later on in college.

I got a scholarship to go to Boston University, which is where Michael Chiklis and I connected. I only went for a couple of years, and then the summer between my sophomore year and my junior year, I just decided I didn’t want to go back to college. And they didn’t invite me back! So it worked out pretty good. I was like, “Wait, so I can just go right to working in New York theatre?”

325-DuMont-webI was subletting an apartment from Francis Conroy, who is now in American Horror Story, and I decided to stay. I moved to New York when I was nineteen or twenty. She recommended a theatre company, Ensemble Studio Theatre, which is a forty-five year old theatre company with John Patrick Shandley, David Mamet…all these incredible playwrights, along with younger up and coming playwrights like Alan Ball. There were these writers there, and we could really build experience. I cleaned toilets and I stage-managed and I read every reading I possibly could. A couple of readings led to performances in productions! And a few people in those productions had agents. All of a sudden, my friend David Eigenberg (who was on Sex and the City) was like, “Dude, I’m about to go do a movie! You could be my understudy!” I was literally doing some student film down in Brooklyn.

I worked my way all the way up from deep, deep Brooklyn, with track fires and police action. One time, I ran literally from 57th Street all the way to 65th Street, ran in the door for a role, and it turns out this character is The Hustler. He’s totally naked in the show. The only costume is socks. I had an undressing room rather than a dressing room. And I booked the gig. It was two weeks off-Broadway, making more money than I ever did DJing or catering! And I’m in this off-Broadway play with Swoosie Kurtz and Courtney B. Vance called Six Degrees of Separation. We did that for about two years.

There’s more!

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BEFORE THE SCENE with Travis Aaron Wade

by Arthur Vandelay on November 14, 2014

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Travis Aaron Wade is an actor from Los Angeles. A veteran of the United States Marine Corps, Wade’s career as an actor was taking off when he was cast in Steven Spielberg’s War of the Worlds, but he broke his nose on the set of The Fix with Robert Patrick the same year. Now after rebuilding his career from the ground up, Wade can next be seen in the CW’s long-running hit show Supernatural, The Forger with John Travolta and Christopher Plummer, and in Criminal Activities with John Travolta, Dan Stevens and Jackie Earle Haley.

What made you want to become an actor?

I was twenty-two and I had gotten out of the Marine Corps. I didn’t really know how to get back into the civilian world. I have the utmost respect for the Marine Corps, but what they have you training to do is inhumane and you have to react a certain way. They have to strip you of all of your emotions. When I got into the military, I didn’t expect those things to happen to me, and when they did, I kinda came out lost. I was in college studying and I was working. I was going through the motions. I was doing everything I was supposed to do, but I just felt null and void. My sister passed away giving birth to her second child. The funeral was very hard on a lot of us, but I was very cold and I didn’t have any emotion. I remember going to my mom and I said “I don’t feel, I don’t know what’s wrong with me.” And she said, ‘What is it that makes you feel?” And the only time I can remember feeling was watching movies. She said, “Why don’t you work in the movie business?”

A friend who was an actress said, “Take an acting class and network. Meet some people in the business and maybe you can do some grip work.” Walking into acting class, the first people I saw were Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Jessica Biel, Claire Danes, Danny and Chris Masterson. These kids were not famous: they were just TV stars at the time. They were putting up this work on stage that was mind blowing. I was just in awe of what they did. At some point, the teacher said, “Stop auditing and get up there and do it.”

I finally tried to put up a scene with people watching. The minute I tried to perform, I had a nervous breakdown. I started crying. I just went blank. The next thing I know, I got a phone call from the teacher. She said, “You just left! You need to come back to class.” I said, “I don’t know what happened. I wasn’t suppose to cry in the scene. I just lost it and I had a nervous breakdown.” It was the first time I had cried and let all these emotions out that were suppressed for many years. She said, “The class was being audited by Judy Savage. She’s an agent. She wants to sign you.”

What was your biggest fear?

Being thirty-nine years old, not married, no children and wondering how I’m paying rent. The fear was where I’m at today. I’m kinda living it! With the success I had early on doing films like War of the Worlds and being closely connected to Jarhead, I didn’t think that I’d be where I’m at today: hoping that my next job comes. When acting does take over, you are in Vancouver shooting a television series, and it’s very difficult to do anything else. Then, that job is over. The fear is not living it. It’s where I’m at today. It’s not so scary now, because there is light at the end of the tunnel. That was the unknown. But, I’m here at this age and it’s not that bad. If you get into acting thinking it’s a five year or ten year gig, you’re gonna be sorely disappointed. It’s a lifelong journey.

There’s more!

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