Author, Actor, Film Maker
The path that I have taken has led me here. In 2015 I wrote a book or maybe it would be better called a stream of consciousness as 96 thousand words flew out of me in less than 30 days. You see I was at a breaking point emotionally and I was furious at God. I was furious about my situation and I was trying to work it through in my head, so I started writing. I was going through a divorce. My family was splitting apart and emotionally I was a complete mess. I ended up getting a DUI which only made matters worse. I was furious with God because I found myself in Maximum Security doing a 90 day stint. A DUI is a misdemeanor so being escorted to Max was a shock and being sentenced 90 days had everything to do with my past. A past that I thought was twenty years behind me. Even though it had been twenty years, when the judicial system looks at my record they only see a criminal. They just see numbers and charges, but they never see the story.
I didn’t understand God’s path for me. I couldn’t see as I was blind and I just wanted to know what to do. How to survive my mind again. A physical altercation broke out in my cellblock and being involved I got locked down in my cell. I didn’t start it, I was attacked but that didn’t matter. I was pacing my cell like an animal and I just wanted the pain to end. How could I be right back in the Lion’s Den after all these years? I glanced at a notepad and I knew in my soul that it was time to write my story.
I was told to write it 25 years ago from a counselor, and here I was, finally starting the journey. I wrote it by hand with a pencil that was 2 inches long. Standing by my top bunk with a note pad on my top bunk. The lights were out so it was dimly lit and I would just stand there and write all night long. Below slept a man with Swastikas tattooed on his chest. It flew out of me but when my time was served and I got home, I stashed everything that I had written. I didn’t want to look at it anymore as I was getting nightmares again. A couple years went by, spending my days coaching tennis and taking care of my daughters at night, but the story was like an itch that wouldn’t go away. Even knowing that you need to walk down a path doesn’t mean you will choose to do so because the pain seems too great.
I have always loved movies. I guess you could say I was a movie addict. I knew what I saw in my head and I saw it on a screen. I saw it visually in my head. I just didn’t know how to get it there. About 2 ½ years ago my girlfriend at the time called me one day to ask me what my jacket size I was. She had done some BG work and was buying me a tuxedo at Goodwill so she could take my picture and submit it for a Black Tie Gala scene on Ozark. I told her nobody wanted to see my picture but she insisted. We got booked and the day had arrived. Massive lines, holding, hair, makeup, and a lot of funny looks. I said I would do it so there was no backing out now. Someone came up to me and asked me to go back to hair and makeup. I immediately felt like I was being asked to go to the principal’s office. I asked my girlfriend “Do I look that bad? I arrived at hair and makeup and sat down in the chair, 30 seconds later I was off. I had no clue, no idea what was going on. She told me someone wanted to meet me and she brought me to Jason Bateman. He asked me if I was an actor and if I had done any improv, and I said yes. I had no clue and next thing I know I am being shown my marks, how the scene is going to work, where I need to go and to keep my improvisational responses short. I acted more on that day than they will ever realize! Well, I was hooked and I decided to quit my job as a Tennis Professional at the local County Club in Woodstock, GA. I decided to focus my time and efforts into being a full-time background actor. I needed to learn a craft that I knew nothing about, so I went to school. I did so because I had always seen the book that I had written “Apocalyptic Life” on a screen, seeing the story in my mind. I wanted to see how the process worked. If you pay attention and you have the opportunity to spend 1000s of hours on set, it is amazing what you can learn. And the journey has been amazing. So many awesome sets. I became a chore actor on The Walking Dead, Holidate (Netflix) and Respect, with Jennifer Hudson. My scene with Clint Eastwood in The Mule, Jumanji The Next Level, Christmas on the Square with Dolly Parton, these memories make me smile along with the other 500 days that I have spent on set. It has been a great education to say the least, and most importantly the people that I have met along the way!
One day on set, playing the lead bodyguard for the Head of the Russian mob for a feature film, I was in the chow line getting lunch. I was talking to a cast member. I had spent the morning filming with him, side by side, and I was telling him a story. That I had just spoken to my biological mother for the first time in my life. That my children wanted me to take a DNA test to see what nationality I was. That’s how I got to telling the story as he asked me the same question, a question that I had heard a thousand times in my life, “what nationality are you?” Never having an answer because I was adopted and never knew my biological parents. The results showed that I was 40% Russian and 40% Greek…who knew, but a few hours after receiving my results, I received an email from a woman who claimed to be my sister. We spoke and I eventually spoke to my mother for the first time. Little did I know that the Creative Director of the production was behind me in the lunch line and heard every word. He looked at me and said “Do you know who I am? He loved the story and wanted to shoot a documentary about it. I looked at him and said, “If you think that’s a story, I got a much better one for ya!”
Welcome to the movie business. We started conversations. Once they heard my story, doing a documentary soon turned into a plan to do 2 full feature movies, or a series and a documentary. Alright here we go, but when my lawyer saw the business agreement, he told me to walk, and I did.
Someone suggested that I make a trailer for marketing purposes for the book. I really didn’t care about a trailer and I figured why not try to make a short film. So I put the production together with the help from all of my awesome acting friends. Writing, directing, being in charge of production was difficult but I got it produced and I paid a price. Filming a scene from a traumatic event that you survived is difficult, but post production was brutal! Post production consumes your thought process because that is what happens when you make a film, and mine takes me to a very dark place. The PTSD nightmares came back and that old feeling of wanting to jump out of my skin was back, but it didn’t matter. I was on a mission, and I am still on it today. I thought the film did well in festivals and the accomplishment of completing it felt fantastic!
In the film, I tried to bring in some kind of artistic value to something that was so horrible. I was looking into the mind of a serial rapist, a predator and the thought process that a predator must go through looking, and setting up their next victim. In 1986 I was 26 years old playing Professional tennis. I went to Newport RI to play in the Professional Tennis Tournament which was played on grass right after Wimbledon at The Tennis Hall of Fame. I could play the game as I was Ivan Lendl’s practice partner. He was Number 1 in the world for almost a decade. Beautiful places, the nicest clubs around the world were my home. This was the life that I lived, training, traveling, competing, 17 years worth. I came from Weston CT, the 3rd richest town in the US so I always lived an amazing life. I was lucky! During the 70’s I was hitting tennis balls as a teenager with Robert Redford or having a beer with Paul Newman at the Hopkins residence for a get together.
Then the world that I knew would be turned upside down. I met a gentleman that owned a Mansion on Bellview Avenue He approached me as a possible sponsor on the Pro tour. He was Claus von Bulow’s neighbor. Claus had rocked the world at this point in time and Newport was reeling in international news, and the news didn’t shine a positive light on the rich and privileged. Claus had allegedly stuck his wife with an insulin needle trying to kill her. What would the world think if they knew his neighbor was drugging young men in his mansion, rapping them and cutting them with his big knife that he would terrorize them with? Seeing, smelling, taking in the essence of evil will take its toll. The mind is not equipped to deal with such stark realities. I decided on the name “Apocalyptic Life” because of the profound effect that this night had on my life. What followed was an Apocalypse. When you watch a horror movie and we see the hero escape and we all cheer. What we don’t see is the fallout from the experience. They never truly escape, and they never will, because the subconscious always remembers.
My life would eventually lead me to the streets. A homeless man sleeping in the bushes. The projects became my home. The arrests, the time in Jails, prison and other institutions, and the violence of the projects became my life. But God would not let me destroy myself.
One day I found myself standing in front of a Judge in Florida in the mid 90’s looking at 7 years in State prison. I had been interviewed by the State to see if I was eligible for a downward departure. Drug treatment instead of prison. The Judge looked at me and asked me “what happened to my life?”, as I was standing there being judged with my record there in front of him. A former professional tennis player, educated, from a good family. No record until his early 30’s and my jacket was filling up quickly. I told him nothing happened. He didn’t believe me and he sent me to rehab for a year followed by 2 years of house arrest. God once again showed me a path to walk. There I met a counselor that changed my life and he helped me see a possibility of hope. I was lost and broken. I was lost to my family, to my friends, to my career, to the world, to society. All they saw was a homeless drug addict criminal, but Nick saw me and he gained my trust and I told him how I got to sitting in front of him.
Taking my life back took everything I had. The PTSD dreams, the guilt and shame were difficult enemies to overcome. It was like climbing a mountain that was impossible to climb. I would plead with God to just give me a moment of peace, just a moment because 24/7 I was so uncomfortable in my body that I just wanted to jump out of it. It seemed like it would never happen but one day I noticed that I was truly happy for a moment in time. I felt human again. Moments became days and days became weeks. God gave me the strength to persevere. I believe it was to get me through to the other side, to tell about my journey with God. That my honesty could help another human being. That a problem shared is a problem cut in half. That God is there to love you no matter what if you let him in.
I was in the process of working as much as I could and Covid came out of nowhere. At the same time my first film “Apocalyptic Life” was accepted on a streaming platform. I sent William a video joke, just a minute long and he told me he liked the time capsule feel of it and wanted to know if I could write and act out a short film. I told him I would have it done by the next day! I wrote Covid-19 The Apocalypse in about 5 hours, memorized it and turned on the camera. It took about 10 hours for me to complete the film from writing it to post. Little did I know what was to follow. It has won many awards from best original story, best Sci-Fi and a bunch of best actor awards.
Still being on lockdown I started to form an idea in my head. Thinking about my mortality, my children and my love and faith I started thinking about what I would say to God, how would I wrap that around in my head. I also wanted to touch on PTSD, the price that I was paying to create my films, to tell a story and to end with something subtle and beautiful. I started filming the b roll and I had the beginning and end done…I just needed to film the monologue. That worried me! I thought I had written something that I could be proud of, I just didn’t have the guts to turn on the camera. Doing a 20 min mono is unheard of but I thought it could work. If I couldn’t bring what I needed with the mono I knew that it would suck and that I was wasting my time. At this time, I started winning a lot of actor awards for Covid and that gave me the confidence to try and complete The Confession. I thought about it for 2 months, thinking about what to say, how to say it and I still procrastinated until the pain and anxiety of not filming it was greater than actually turning the camera on.
I am a very happy guy, always joking and I like my sense of humor but I haven’t shown that side yet in any of my films but I am collaborating on The Chessman which is an action comedy. I will be playing a retired secret agent.
I will be filming my fourth film, “Homeless” showing the duality of life…pro tennis/streets… that homeless people are human beings. I will be telling the story of me and Doc, a homeless alcoholic that was once a Dentist with a practice, wife, home, kids and then… the streets. He liked the streets, he felt free, he didn’t want to leave but he told me I didn’t belong there, that I needed to fight to get back to humanity. He was a good man and he was a sick man.
I have it written and the actors ready to go and filming will be in December. I will not be acting in this one, just like my first short.