Dublin Villager

Catch Otterbein grads on small screen this fall

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Despite graduating from a theater program, a pair of Otterbein alumni find themselves starring not on the stage, but in television shows during the fall season.

Jeremy Bobb (2003) and Cory Michael Smith (2009) both got degrees from Otterbein, graduated from central Ohio high schools and are featured in big-name television shows this year.

Bobb, a Dublin Coffman graduate, is a central character in Steven Soderbergh's Cinemax drama The Knick, which premiered Aug. 8. He portrays Herman Barrow, the hospital's crooked manager.

The veteran actor has experience on the stage, in voice acting and has recently moved toward television, where he says he and Smith are fortunate to be riding a new TV wave.

"We're both kind of coming into our own in the TV world at a time when TV is turning into something it's never been," Bobb said.

"They're starting to figure out that it's kind of flip-flopped. The movie business is starting to be more mainstream, and TV is where you can really write and explore characters."

Since the switch, Bobb has had small roles in House of Cards, Boardwalk Empire and even The Wolf of Wall Street, and has worked with fellow theater man Kevin Spacey. But his large role in The Knick is the highlight of his career.

"It blew my mind," he said. "I couldn't even believe I got that role."

For Bobb, the transition from stage to screen was a necessity. But he said his time at Otterbein and in various professions prepared him well.

"The basic tenets and principles of how to create a role all come from the same kind of place," he said. "But (at Otterbein)I didn't think, 'I need to focus on this or that.' I just tried to learn the process the best I could.

"It doesn't take very much time in the real world to realize that if you want to make any money in this, you've got to be in front of a camera."

Hilliard Darby graduate Smith had a different path. He moved to New York after he left Otterbein, and did a combination of theater and odd jobs -- like nannying and organizing closets -- to pay the bills.

But when he got a break in the HBO miniseries Olive Kitteridge, he started focusing on screen work, and was in two films shortly after. He said his experience in smaller theaters prepared him well.

"Most of the shows I did at Otterbein were plays in smaller theaters," he said. "Professionally, most of my work has been in smaller, off-Broadway theater. ... When it's a small space, you're able to portray a human being more naturally. It can be an experience."

Smith said his role as Edward Nygma -- who eventually will become The Riddler -- in Fox's Gotham, a Batman prequel debuting this weekend, is a dream job.

"I'm not evil or doing anything bad yet," he laughed. "I'm just a young guy in his job. He's mathematically minded, loves wordplay, loves solving things. He's brilliant at his job, and he knows it.

"You just see him get mistreated and misunderstood. ... I get to start pretty far away from doing bad things, which is nice."

Gotham's 16-episode season premiers soon, and could be extended to a longer run with success. Meanwhile, Bobb's The Knick was already picked up for a second season before premiering in August.

For both men, it's an exciting time to be an actor. And while both have high aspirations, neither of them is sure what the future holds.

"I don't know what will happen next, I really have no idea," Bobb said. "There have been moments where that's a scary thing to say. But that's not really the situation any more. It's an unknown that I have sort of a smiley face under."

aking@thisweeknews.com

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