12:03 AM, Dec 6, 2012
Walt Willey, star of the ABC soap “All My Children,” is back in Jackson this weekend to meet with local students and lead an acting workshop. Other events he planned to lead — including his one-man show “Walt Willey's Wild Bill! An Evening with James Butler Hickok” — have been postponed due to the recent flu outbreak.
William Fain, executive producer at Jackson Filmhouse, said the school workshop event and Willey’s show have been postponed until Jan. 18-19. Ticket holders for this weekend’s events will be able to redeem them that weekend, he said.
“A lot of parents called and said that with schools closing and sick kids at home, they can’t come,” he said. “So on January 18-19, Walt’s coming back to town. Walt knew that coming in and he’s still coming and making appearances. We will still go to North Side High School to tour if they don’t shut down by Friday for the flu.”
On Saturday morning, Willey will lead an acting workshop for local actors at the Carnegie Center. After his workshop, members of the Screen Actors Guild will have a workshop in Jackson for the first time. Willey’s workshop is from 10 a.m. to noon. A free lunch will be served before the SAG event, which starts at 1 p.m., Fain said.
“SAG hosting a workshop has never happened in Jackson,” he said. “That usually happens in Nashville. The announcement about this workshop went out to all actors and producers in the country. This is really a big deal.”
Willey spoke with The Jackson Sun about his career post-daytime soap, his new anti-bullying campaign and the many ways he and Wild Bill Hickok are alike.
Q: What brought you back to Jackson?
A: I was talking with William Fain and I said, “I’ve been looking for a place — I have a one-man show about Wild Bill.” I was talking to William about this and that. I’m a big believer in people giving back. I believe I have a unique opportunity, having been in show business for 30 years. … It’s almost impossible to tour the show. Being semi-retired now, I don’t want to spend a whole year on the road. I thought :Why not stream this show through the Internet?”
Q: What things will you talk about during your acting workshop?
A: I have a variety of things I can speak on. I give seminars in acting from the standpoint of preparing for a scene or preparing for a monologue. I like to leave it up to the students and faculty at the high school about what I do.
At one I just did, I held acting classes after school for probably 15 to 20 students. Everyone had a chance to work and to be critiqued. One young man — and this is why I do this — he was a little heavy set, a little self-conscious. He used his hands a lot while talking and it was distracting. I think he was protecting himself — you know, “Look at my hands, not at my being overweight.” I told him to sit on his hands and he looked at me like I was crazy. But he gave the most emotional performance — I got chills. He was spot on. He felt it and everyone saw it; the kid had a breakthrough. I got off the phone with his instructor there and he gave a great audition for the spring play. To give one kid like that a breakthrough; it’s about more than just for acting. This is for confidence and self-esteem. That’s a pretty good deal.
Q: How are you using your Wild Bill Hickok performance for an anti-bullying campaign?
A: Wild Bill hated bullies. He was raised by good Christian parents who didn’t believe in watching the stronger taking over the weaker. His gun fights were about sticking up for the people who couldn’t stick up for themselves. His family was part of the Underground Railroad. His dad was an abolitionist. There’s a section of this show where he talks about how he can’t stand bullies.
A teacher asked me to consider developing that part into a separate program. I stuttered when I was kid. And I was a big kid; I couldn’t hide. I remember what it was like to be made fun of for that.
I presented this program for the very first time last week to 300 kids. The in-school program is a very important part of the show wherever I take it.
Q: Why did you choose to write and star in a one-man show about Wild Bill Hickok?
A: My son Chase and I we were doing “Arsenic and Old Lace” at our hometown theater in Ottawa, Ill. We were driving to another small town to pick up my wife and daughter at a train station. I saw a sign at the station that said “Troy Grove, Ill.: Birthplace of James Butler Wild Bill Hickok.” I never knew we were born in the same county.