Television actor Seamus Dever says he is so happy to be playing adult good guys now, instead of some of the troubled male teenagers he portrayed earlier in his acting career.
To 16 current students in the NAU Theatre Department, as well as a number of drama-enthusiast observers, Dever is definitely a good guy after giving a two-day master class on campus.
The acting workshop, on Friday, April 26, and Saturday, April 27, included a question and answer session.
ACTING IN FRONT OF CAMERA
Dever, who graduated from NAU in 1998 with a B.A. in theater, has for five seasons played Kevin Ryan, an NYPD detective on ABC’s popular “Castle” crime show.
His appearance at NAU to share his acting knowledge was a great treat for participants.
“The master class was very good, and the Q-and-A helpful to our students immensely,” said Kathleen McGeever, chair of the Theatre Department at NAU. “The department is so thankful that Seamus was able to give back to our students — it was incredibly generous, and a great gift. He was incredibly accessible and giving to the students.”
The audition-only class for sophomores and seniors, “Acting for the Camera,” covered a subject rarely taught to drama students, Dever says.
“Nobody teaches that,” he says. “It’s a need that I feel I would have benefited from as a student. It’s my specialty, after hours and hours in front of a camera. I’m glad to share that. It’s a creative craft and not tied up with all the technical stuff that happens.”
Dever also came to NAU five years ago to give a brief workshop.
“This time, it’s more hands-on, more experiential,” he notes. “One actor is not the same as the other, but you have to be ready to get your hands dirty.”
KNACK FROM AN EARLY AGE
Dever, 36, is highly experienced as he has performed in more than 60 plays and musicals. He is widely recognized to audiences from his breakthrough performances as Dr. Getti on “Army Wives” and Dr. Ian Devlin on ABC’s “General Hospital.”
He pops up from time to time on repeats of his old guest-star roles on all three CSI shows, as well episodes in the “NCIS,” “Charmed,” “Cold Case” and “Without a Trace” TV series.
On the big screen, Dever has appeared in “Hollywoodland” and in the independent comedy, “Ready or Not.”
Acting has been a lifelong passion, beginning at age 6.
The actor was born in Flint, Mich., but moved in 1982 with family to Bullhead City on the banks of the Colorado River in Arizona, where his parents had found work teaching at Mohave High School.
First opportunities to act came to him by way of the high school.
“They needed kids for kid roles,” he explains. “I kind of found I had a knack for it. I wasn’t nervous.”
One of his early roles was as Buster, one of the children of Mae and Gooper in “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” the play by Tennessee Williams, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1955.
“I was one of the ‘no-neck monsters,’ and I got to have a cap gun — bang, bang, bang!” he says.
As an adult, Dever hasn’t yet had the chance to play Brick, the good-looking but tormented central character in the play, although Dever’s eyes are a striking blue, like those of Paul Newman, who starred in the famous 1958 film version.
KID IN CANDY STORE AT NAU
Acting in Bullhead City led to other chances to perform.
“It spawned other things, like in ‘Oliver,’ when I got to do a lead role,” Dever says. “In Laughlin they tried to bring theater there, like ‘Camelot.’ I got to realize what it’s like to be a professional actor.”
His dad, Jim, is retired now but was an English and drama teacher at the high school.
“He was my first drama teacher,” Dever says.
The Dever family, including his sister Larka, regularly would come over to Flagstaff.
“I’ve been coming here since I was 6 or 7,” he says. “NAU was where you went for everything, like choir competitions and speech competitions and ski trips.”
In fact, when his mother, Diana, was getting her teaching certificate in history at NAU, they lived in the Woody Mountain Campground for summers.
At the urging of a guidance counselor, Dever, then only 17, came to NAU to study drama. Once settled in, theater professor Mac Groves became his adviser and told him about all the classes available.
“I really learned that there was a lot I didn’t know,” he says. “I was sort of like a kid in a candy store; there was a lot of opportunity up here. I’m glad I made the choices I made.”
LEARNING AN ACTING SYSTEM
Another great opportunity came to Dever when at age 20 he was accepted into graduate school at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.
Part of the acting curriculum included studying in Moscow, especially the acting methods developed by Constantin Stanislavski (1863-1938), the Russian actor, director, and theater administrator at the Moscow Art Theatre.
“I got a fuller understanding of his principles,” Dever observes. “There are things I refer to every day of my life as an actor.”
Stanislavski devised a system that uses a progression of techniques to train actors to draw believable emotions to their performances. Early one, he emphasized the concept of emotional memory that an actor focuses on internally to portray the emotions of a character.
In the late 1930s, this earlier technique evolved to a method of physical actions where emotions are produced through the use of actions.
“I was studying from Stanislavski’s students,” Dever adds. “I was getting a direct line. It was very illuminating as a young actor. I had a unique experience I would not have had anywhere else.”
Dever, who is also a life-time member of the Actors Studio, went on to receive his master’s degree from Carnegie Mellon.
“I entered school at 20 and graduated at 22, taking 21 hours a semester,” he remembers. “I was in a hurry; I don’t know why. In my 30s now, I’m easing into things. It’s OK to take your time.’”
EMOTIONAL FINALE TOMORROW
After finishing up his workshop stint at NAU, Dever returned to wrap up filming for the end of the fifth season of “Castle,” which debuted in 2009 and has grown in popularity each season.
Created by Andrew W. Marlowe, the program primarily traces the lives of Richard Castle (Nathan Fillion), a best-selling mystery novelist, and NYPD Detective Kate Beckett (Stana Katic) as they solve various unusual crimes in New York City.
Detective Ryan (Dever), a former narcotic detective, works with his partner, Detective Javier Esposito (Jon Huertas) in the homicide division as part of Beckett’s team.
Ryan and Esposito are close friends and regularly tease Beckett and like to argue about obscure facts.
Dever says no one connected with the show seems worried about whether “Castle” will be renewed for a sixth season as the ratings for the fifth season have been very good.
In fact, the actor is so relaxed about the whole question, he is beginning his summer vacation with a visit to Amsterdam to meet up with his wife, Juliana, who is also an actor.
“I met her at a film and theater book store I was working at,” he explains.
The couple enjoy living in an historic 1926 Spanish-style home in West Hollywood.
Dever thinks the equation for success in acting is not complicated: “All you need is the ambition and energy, and you’ll be awarded with opportunities.”
The final episode in the fifth season of “Castle” is scheduled to air on ABC on Monday at 9 p.m.
Advance word from Marlowe promises the finale was be an emotional one.