In an unconventional edition of eBay Watch last month, I exposed the bogus claims a a couple of sellers on the auction site. One auction offered a pair of cleats alleged to have been worn by former Michigan fullback Jarrod Bunch.
|Bunch’s cleats? Bunch of lies||A brief search for Bunch’s whereabouts yielded much fruit. I eventually got an email from the 1991 team captain ending any speculation over the authenticity of the Nikes, “Those are not my cleats, I didn’t wear high tops,” wrote Bunch.
In tracking down Bunch I learned quite a bit more. Knee trouble ended his NFL playing career in 1995 and he decided to take a run at an acting career. Nearly a decade and a half later the 40-year-old has accumulated an impressive list of credits and has worked with some of the most famous actors and directors in the business. He and his wife, photographer and makeup artist Robin Emtage, live in LA where it all happens.
We recently spoke while Bunch was in a clinic getting treated, coincidentally, for the knee that forced him to end one career and launch another. In Part I of this interview, we focus on his career in the business, about a run-in with Mr. Samuel L. Jackson on the set of the movie Shaft, and about life in Hollywood.
What are you currently working on?
Bunch: I just did some work on a movie called Dozers. I completed my part but the film is still being finished. I recently launched a company called Generator, a production company that specializes in producing sports content. The commercial that you saw with Boomer Esiason for Samsung last year during the football season–my company shot all of the football scenes. [Ed. There’s many more scenes on Generator’s website.]
Are you focusing solely on your production company now?
Bunch: I’m still working as an actor, but the production company provides more control of where I’m going. I don’t have to wait around for acting jobs to come up now, I can create those specific projects, go after different things and create more work. That’s really working out right now.
The NY Times did a nice story on you in 2006. Do you still have 2 agents, one for commercials, one for TV and films?
Bunch: I still have the same agents. Commercials are working out really well. Theatrically I don’t have the level of agent that I would like, but I do have agents and I’m blessed to have that. A lot of people have trouble just finding an agent.
I started acting in 1995 and since then I’ve gone through seven, maybe eight agents [laughs]. I’ve been with my commercial agent for the past three or four years. I have two commercials running right now, one for Emerald Nuts and one for McDonald’s.
How often are you auditioning for a parts?
Bunch: It’s a good question; I’m sure a lot of people wonder about that. There’s no set schedule, like two this week or two that week. Things come up as the projects come up. You wait for the breakdown, which is when the casting director gets with the producer and says, for example, ‘We’re looking for seven characters, and we already have this star attached to it,’ or, ‘We’re looking for someone with this size description’.
Sometimes it says former athlete, or a big guy, guy that’s in shape, that type of thing. That’s what it depends on. You just have to wait. That’s why I got into producing. When the description fits my profile; my size, or some specifically ask for a certain ethnicity..that’s what I look for.
Given that many of your roles are driven by your size and physique, is that an advantage or a barrier in this business?
Bunch: It’s both. It helps because when they are looking for a person of a particular type, I will be a person they consider right off the bat. It hurts because it does sometimes exclude me from even the opportunity to even be seen by a producer or director.
I’m a guy that’s in shape that’s around 6’3”, 260, but I don’t look like I’m 260. Sometimes when they say ‘we need a big guy,’ there’s guys out here that are 6’7”, 300 pounds, or 6’8”, 240 and they’re ripped. These are big guys. So when I go in and stand next to some of these guys that are huge, I don’t look like a big guy. On the other hand, when I’m standing next to someone who’s 5’6”, I look huge on camera. So it helps and it hurts. You’ve got play the hand that you’ve been dealt.
I found a New York Post article were you noted that Samuel L. Jackson seemed to have a problem with former athletes who have become actors. Have you experienced that from other established actors over the years?
Bunch: In all of the years I’ve done this, I’ve never come up against that except for with one person, and that was Samuel L. Jackson. I’ve been with a lot of different people, a lot of different stars and had scenes with them. Everyone of them has been helpful, whether it was when I started out or after years of experience as an actor. Everybody has been gracious and helpful except Samuel L. Jackson.
I have no idea why he acts that way. I don’t know if he’s changed. But I read something not too long ago where he said the same thing about 50 Cent, when 50 Cent was starting to get into acting [laughs].
Did Jackson say something specific to you, or was it they way he acted around you?
Bunch: We had a scene in Shaft, which later got cut out. In the scene my character actually takes Shaft out. He’s chasing after somebody and I tackle him and slam him down. It was physical scene and usually in those cases two actors talk so nobody gets hurt, and so the scene looks good and it looks real. I’m standing there and we are going through the scene. Instead of him talking to me—and I’m standing right next to him—he turns and talks to the stunt coordinator and the stunt coordinator has to talk to me.
Oh, that burns.
Bunch: [laughs]. Yeah. And so we went ahead and did the scene, and I guess I was too heavy on him or something. Instead of him saying to me, “Hey, could you move over to the side,” or “Don’t be so heavy on me,” or whatever, he says this to the stunt coordinator and the coordinator comes and tells me. So I said, “We’re doing this together, you can say it to me.”
He did not even say one word. He would not have any conversations with me. Now, this was close to eight or nine years ago. Maybe he’s changed.
Have you applied any of the lessons learned in football to acting??
Bunch: For sure. There’s a lot of preparation for acting. It’s just like practice when there’s a lot of preparation during the week to get ready for game day. It works the same way.
Scenes aren’t always done in chronological order. You might do with fifth scene in the in the first week of shooting. You might do the first scene on the last week of shooting. You’ve got to be prepared in the character that you are playing, to know what the character went through over the course of the script. So when you do the scene, it’s really about what has gone on with that character in the script. Having gone through the preparation for football has definitely improved my ability to prepare for scenes.
What are some things that folks outside the industry really don’t understand or get about surviving as an actor in Hollywood?
Bunch: It’s a lot of work. You have to put your time in. A lot of people you see who are so-called overnight stars, but they’ve been in the business a long, long time–ten, twelve, thirteen years before they get their first show. I’m still trying to get my first television show where I’m a regular cast member. I’m still waiting to get [a premium agency]. But I’m not just waiting, I’m working on that.
A lot of time you see people that come out here and they get right with William Morris, Endeavor or another agency right away and they do well. But there’s many people that come out here and nothing happens, and the next year that agency drops them and they have to start over and find another agent. But they can’t go to a big agency because they haven’t been working! So they have to start over with a smaller agency and try to get some work. There are a lot of us out here, we just work.
It’s not about if I’m going to make it. It’s about how long it’s going to take to stay in to make it. A lot of people come out here for a short period of time. I’m determined to stay out here until I make it. Period.
But I’m blessed that I had football and had some money and did the right things, and I’m able to do all the things that makes me money and keeps me going. I’ve always been told by certain stars, that when they first started, that they always had some other income.
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