Monday, October 26, 2009

FastForward to Zach Making It Big

Posted by Bruce Miller
The Richmond Times-Dispatch lists Star Birthdays every morning. It appears to be a column they purchase from some news service. Today Zach Knighton is listed as one of the “celebrities” born on Oct 25.

Zach stars in the new hit TV series FlashForward. I don’t think anyone at the T-D knew or noticed that Zach is a native of Virginia Beach, and a favorite son of VCU and the Richmond theatre community. At Theatre IV, he starred as the younger of the two Hardy Boys in the play by that name at the historic Empire Theatre, about 10 to 12 years ago.

At the time, he was definitely one of those actors who come through town and you just know, just by the vibe he brings into a room, that he’s going to find success in places a lot more upscale than the Empire.

Zach has plenty of talent, of course. And good looks. But it’s something more than that. Blair Underwood and Emily Skinner both had it too. It’s some sort of energy, but I don’t know how to explain it anymore than that.

Then, when these actors make it, it’s hard to describe the vicarious thrill you get as you watch their careers take off. All at once that talented kid who used to show such promise as a rising star in your theatre is vying for the attentions of the world. It’s a mix of pride and embarrassment, an odd combination of wanting to shout out “Hey, I knew him when,” and not wanting to seem like you’re desperately clinging to coattails.

When you build your career in a city like Richmond, you soon realize that your role is not to be a star, or make someone a star. Please. In national terms, your role is to build and sustain one tiny but vital stepping stone, so that those fortunate few who are destined for greater renown have a secure place to build their craft, even if just for a moment, on their way up.

And if you’re blessed, they still remember you after they’ve begun to hit their marks in New York or L. A.

Over the holidays last year, I wrote to Zach to tell him I was keeping up with his success. He had made a really strong impression starring in The Hitcher, a film I didn’t see. (I can’t do horror and suspense films anymore or else I’ll never go to sleep.) But I had TiVo’ed and faithfully watched every episode of a fairly mindless TV series Zach had starred in called Life on a Stick. I wrote to tell him I was proud of his success.

And he wrote back: “Hey there Bruce.....good to hear from you. Thanks for watching my silly tv show....I've got a new one coming soon on abc called 'flashforward.' It’s written by the same guy who wrote 'The Dark Knight'.....anyway, I'm pretty excited about it so spread the word. I hope all is well with Theatre IV. I'm always passing through town (being that my family is still in VA). I would love to come talk to the kids sometime! Keep in touch.....zaCh…"

Well. As all the world now knows, Zach had good reason to be excited about FlashForward. On Oct 12, it was announced by the Hollywood people who keep track of these things that FlashForward is the #1 dramatic series of the new season, and the cast was notified that a full season has been ordered by the network. As Zach wrote on his facebook status, “This one’s gonna stick, folks.”

If you haven’t seen FlashForward yet, I hardily recommend it. I’m hooked. I can’t wait for each Thursday to roll around so I can see what’s going to happen next. Best of all, Zach is GREAT in the series. It plays to all of his strengths.

Even if Zach hadn’t written me about the show, I still would have had to watch. Zach’s aunt, Spring Kirby, has been a friend of mine since college, when I cast her in her first and only role as a Munchkin in The Wizard of Oz. Spring would have made sure I tuned in, or I never would have heard the end of it.

So Happy Birthday, Zachary. It’s not yet midnight in L. A. All of us in Richmond theatre are really proud of your success. We wish you the best, and know that you will continue to stay the genuinely nice guy we remember.

And when you come back to VA, please let me know. I’m gonna take you up on that offer to have a talk back with some of Richmond’s kids.

All the best, man.

--Bruce Miller


Anonymous said...

Thanks for this, Bruce. I will make sure Zack knows it is there as well as the rest of the family. We are soooo proud of Zack!


The West Family said...

What an awesome post, Bruce. As the daughter of Spring, I can tell you that, yes, you never would have heard the end of it had you not watched! As a family, we are very proud of Zach and know he is bound for great things. Thanks for being so supportive of him and his dream and for taking your time to write this post!

Lee Kirby West

Anonymous said...

I acted with Zach in the Barksdale's production of "The Young Man from Atlanta". He had that something special then and he still has it. I am so proud to see him making it!!!! You go Zach!!!