Saturday, October 31, 2009

Tom Pickett featured in Peace Arch News

Tom's a PT favourite - Master Harold & The Boys, Hospitality Suite, Playland, Shadowlands, Tent Meeting, Driving Miss Daisy. In 2008 he moved into the teaching / mentoring biz - a good fit, I think! - as well as continuing his acting, and expanding his singing work. Got to get that guy back on our stage again!

Multi-talented mentor
Alex Browne, Peace Arch News
September 23, 2009

Tom Pickett can’t believe it’s been a year since he and his wife Jackie took over the Chameleon Studio in South Surrey, including the Kids Only Acting School.

In that time, he says, he has been “blown away” by the talent in the community.

When they took over the school last year it was strictly a film acting school, but since then they’ve added singing, a musical theatre program (with local performer Wendy Bollard) and a recreational drama program for kids, as well as retaining classes with voice-talent expert Robin Douglas (who is branching into English pronunciation classes) and Kids Only founder Michelle Sand Partridge.

But Pickett, who has been a professional actor and singer for years, continues to add to his credits (which include performing in London’s West End with the Hal Prince production of Showboat, winning the Jessie Richardson Award for the Pacific Theatre production of Master Harold and The Boys, and acting Shakespeare with Bard On The Beach) with Vancouver-lensed film and television roles.

But he isn’t neglecting his musical side. Lately he enjoyed guesting with Bollard at her sold-out concert at Coast Capital Playhouse, and he derives great joy from performances with the all-star group The Gospel Experience.

Recently, he worked on two kid-oriented movies, for director Chris Columbus in Percy Jackson: The Lightning Thief, and in the film version of Ramona and Beezus, in which he shared a scene with Sandra Oh, as well as TV roles in Fringe and Psyche, in which he appeared with Gospel Experience.

“That’s what I call one of the blue birds – something that comes along that you weren’t expecting”

He chuckled, recalling the experience of reading for Percy Jackson, in which he got to play one of five janitors who morph into a five-headed creature.

“We’re the principal villains,” he said. “I’m trying out with one group of five actors, and there’s another guy named Keith Dallas in the other group of five, and I hear from an assistant director that he was saying ‘I’m worried about the other black guy.’ Then we wound up cast together, and we couldn’t believe it. It never happens – with two black actors, it’s either one or the other.”

But one of the biggest blue birds for Pickett has been the opportunity to work with young performers and pass on his experience to them – something he never planned when he was growing up in Berkeley, Calif., son of a professional musician who sang with the Four Aces group in the ’40s and ’50s.

“I didn’t have any of this, growing up,” he said. “My parents thought of music and drama as a distraction. My father had experience of a lot of bad record companies and a lot of bad contracts. My mother used to say to me ‘don’t do this to your wife, son.’”

Fortunately, times have changed, and Pickett counts himself privileged to be able to guide young talents such as Heather Leavoy, who he first encountered in the Bard on the Beach Young Shakespeareans program and now studies voice and acting.

And five-year-old Jakob Davies, already a veteran of two Toyota commercials, who Pickett coached in finding his ‘sad’.

“He’s amazing,” he said. “And he’s totally unfazed by his success.”

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