'Parenthood' star Sam Jaeger returns to Perrysburg roots
Written by DAVID DUPONT Sentinel Arts & Entertainment Editor
Tuesday, 28 May 2013 10:03
Sam Jaeger, who wrote, produced, directed and starred in the road movie "Take Me Home," is stuck in Hollywood traffic.
|Sam Jaeger (Photo provided)
That's not at all a fitting metaphor for his career. The Perrysburg native, unlike his car during a telephone interview with the Sentinel-Tribune, is moving along quite nicely. He's a star on the hit TV comedy "Parenthood," and he's just finishing up a short film and getting ready to start working on a sequel to his feature film "Take Me Home."
And one of the places he calls home, Perrysburg, is where he headed this weekend. While in Perrysburg to visit his grandmother and an aunt and uncle, Jaeger will give a presentation at Way Pubic Library Wednesday at 7 p.m. The actor, director and writer will narrate selected clips from some of his work and participate in a question and answer session.
Jaeger said he doesn't get back to Perrysburg much since his parents moved away about 10 years ago. Still the roots of his career are here, and this visit offers him a good opportunity to meet with some of the people who helped him achieve the success he had.
That started with his parents "who had the utmost faith in me and even if they didn't they never told me otherwise."
And then "I had just a great group of teachers ... Robert Gentry, Deb Drew and Pam Williams. They were all the directors I had in high school. They made me feel like I could do anything and that's a pretty powerful thing for any young artist to have."
They helped Jaeger realize that "though it's not going to be easy, it can be achieved."
"Somehow I tried to hold onto that as best I could throughout my professional career. Confidence is a pretty fleeting thing. The best thing you can do for a young man or woman is to instill that, to let them know that they have worth and value regardless of how isolated or hopeless they may feel down the road."
Not that Jaeger didn't start with a burst of confidence. He decided on the dramatic life in junior high. He'd just viewed "Dead Poets Society" at Southwyck Mall, and told his friends he wanted to be an actor.
He and a friend Jerry Seibenick made their own movies shooting on VHS, and then they arranged to have them available at the local video store. "We took ourselves way more seriously than kids shooting on VHS tape should take themselves," he said.
Seibenick also went on to a career in Hollywood as an editor and has continued to work with Jaeger.
Jaeger went to Otterbein College where he met his wife, who also stars in "Take Me Home."
The quirky romantic comedy is about a woman who takes a rouge taxi from New York to California to see her dying father.
He said he has pursued making films because of the freedom it affords. He controls the project, and can work to make it live up to his exacting standards. That means every scene has to have a purpose.
The short film he's doing now is based on his brother's experience as a police officer, both the professional and personal strains a career in law enforcement entails. Jaeger said he's just finishing up the editing on the film.
An actor is subject to the whim of others. Sometimes early on he would be auditioning for a pilot, and he'd have four or five minutes to make an impression. The creators would be expecting him to make them laugh. "I felt like you guys spend all this time writing a pilot, and you want me to come in and make you laugh, and I just read your script for 45 minutes and I didn't laugh once."
Clearly he's made an impression scoring parts in the movies "Hart's War," "Traffic," "Behind Enemy Lines" as well as a number of top TV shows, both drama and comedy.
What makes for a successful acting career has more to do than raw talent, Jaeger said. It's matter of charisma and "being easy to work with."
"I've always tried to be an enjoyable person to be around," Jaeger said. "As many horror stories as you hear about Hollywood, there are very few people I have worked with who I can't enjoy my time with. Most everyone I worked with is a really hard worker, really dedicated and really wants to do a good job."
Certainly that's true on "Parenthood" where he plays Joel Graham, a dedicated husband and father navigating a somewhat non-traditional life within a very traditional family. "I worked 13 years in this career and only a handful of projects can I say unequivocally that I'm proud of. 'Parenthood' is one of those."
Heading into its fifth season "everyone has dialed into our characters and it's about navigating what the conflict is."
Jaeger said of the show: "We take what would normally be considered after school special subjects and deal with them with authenticity."
The creator Jason Katims is not afraid to deal with subjects that cut close to the bone for him. "The most heart-wrenching storylines come from his own personal struggles," Jaeger said.
Katims has drawn inspiration for episodes from his wife's struggle with breast cancer and his son's Asperger's syndrome.
No one on the cast is complacent, Jaeger said. "People are very passionate about 'Parenthood,' and the actors on this show remember that we're doing something that matters."