Dayton native Quentin McCuiston tries to break through in acting career

Dayton native Quentin McCuiston tries to break through in acting career

October 23rd, 2012 by Clint Cooper in Life Entertainment

Bryan College graduate Quentin McCuiston portrays Yasha in the recently released video "Under Jacob's Ladder." (Photo Courtesy of CubeCity Entertainment, Inc.)

Photo by Contributed Photo/Times Free Press.

ABOUT HIM

• Age: 31.

• Hometown: Cleveland, Tenn.

• Education: Bryan College, New York Conservatory of Dramatic Arts: School for Film and TV.

• Family: Wife, Jessica.

FUN ON THE SET: During downtime when he was filming the recently released "Under Jakob's Ladder," McCuiston said, actors would go outside and hang around until they were needed again. "During the downtime between scenes," he said, "some of the other inmates and I got pretty creative. We started to play what we called Yasha-ball. [Yasha was his character in the movie.] It was basically trying to toss a rock through a 1-inch by 6-inch hole in a dilapidated wall while standing at a certain distance. We had a lot of fun."

The road to success on Broadway or in Hollywood is paved with the lives of those who longed for it but never made it.

Quentin McCuiston, a Dayton, Tenn., native and Bryan College graduate, is trying to break out of that mold.

He has some nonacting jobs in his New York City home that help pay the bills, but several film and stage roles have recently come his way and given him hope there are more around the corner.

Most recently, McCuiston completed a stint in the title role of the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey's production of Charles Dickens' "Oliver Twist," wrapped filming on a spoof of a 1960s rock 'n' roll band and saw a film he made several years ago released on DVD and become available at LifeWay Christian Stores.

His Oliver role drew this rave from reviewer Gregory G. Allen: "The title role is played by the adult Quentin McCuiston with a wide-eyed wonder, fear of the unknown and gentleness that is palpable. Dickens refers to Oliver as angelic many times in his writing, and McCuiston carries that beautifully."

McCuiston said his first projects in film came with friends shortly after college, but he also trained at the New York Conservatory of Dramatic Arts: School for Film and TV.

Among his feature film credits are "Overheard in NYC," "Check-mate" and "The Visitor." He also received Best Actor awards for two short films at several film festivals.

In addition, McCuiston has continued a local collaboration with Dayton-based Chapter 2 Studios and longtime collaborative partner Dan Evans on the Web series "Learning With Lawrence," which launched in September on learningwithlawrence.com.

Q: Talk a little bit about the recently released film "Under Jakob's Ladder" and your role.

A: [It] is an independent film by the Moon Brothers that I had the privilege to work on a couple of years ago. It was a really great group of people to work with. I loved having the opportunity to work on a period film. It was also my first feature-length film that I got a paycheck for -- that's always nice. We mostly filmed in ... an old barn because all of my scenes take place in a Soviet prison. I was very dirty all the time. I cleaned dirt out of my nose and ears for about a month.

Q: What's the name of and the status of the independent film you did that is a kind of spoof about a '60s rock 'n' roll band, and what is your role in it?

A: We just recently finished filming "Ripped," a fun, campy Beatles/Monkees throwback film, [in Pennsylvania]. Basically, a '60s band (whose members also work part-time at a space center) get shot through space/time, ending up on a planet of all women. It's definitely silly but was super fun to shoot. Lots of random '60s music breaks!

Q: Were you cast as the young boy title role in the New Jersey Shakespeare Theater production of "Oliver Twist," or is this a different treatment than the classic musical "Oliver"?

A: The "Oliver Twist" ... is definitely not "Oliver!" the musical. Neil Bartlett's adaptation of the book uses mostly Dickens' words and, like the book, is much darker and disturbing. I [did] play the 10-year-old Oliver, which age-wise is a stretch, but the whole show [was] comprised of 13 actors playing all different parts -- young and old. It makes sense in this production because the suffering and pain that the story moves through would not be something you'd want to place an actual 10-year-old into.

Q: What is your favorite role and why?

A: Probably my favorite role to date is actually comprised of 37 different characters in the show "Fully Committed." It's a one-man show where you get to play all these different parts. [It's] probably the most challenging role I've ever done and the most rewarding. Shows like that are a whirlwind as soon as the curtain goes up -- [you're] not sure if you'll live through it to the curtain or [the] lights going down until you actually do. It's a great feeling being covered in sweat and exhausted at the end of a story.

Q: How do you keep a positive outlook in such a tough field?

A: Some days you don't. It's like any kind of work or art, though, in the fact that you mostly just gotta keep moving forward. Some seasons you just don't move very far and [you move] at a slower pace. It's easy to say, but I have to be reminded to just put my hand to whatever God has given me to do. And I love what I do.

Q: What do you want to be doing in five years?

A: I'd love to be holding my wife [Jessica] and a few kids that I'm able to support exclusively [by] telling stories on stage or film.

Q: What do you do when you're not in shows?

A: I mostly work at whatever other job will help pay the bills. Right now I do some catering, some event cocktail service and work at Trader Joe's. However, lately I've been trying to produce some original work with some friends. I'm currently in the writing process of a feature film script with a friend in [Los Angeles], and I've developed a two-man show with a writing partner here in [New York City]. We are actually hoping to get the two-man show down to the Tennessee area and some in California [for] previews within the next year, depending on funding.

Contact Clint Cooper at ccooper@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6497. Subscribe to my posts online at Facebook.com/ClintCooperCTFP.