Some alumni are happy to be part of the entertainment industry without becoming an actor, but others have a different calling. These include Eric Pierpoint ’73 (stepson of another prominent Bulldog, the late CBS White House correspondent Robert Pierpoint ’47).
The younger Pierpoint, however, wouldn’t argue with the statement that acting can be a particularly difficult path.
At an early stage of his career—despite a master’s degree in performance from Catholic University (where he performed in 30 to 40 productions) and a track record filming commercials in Washington, D.C.—he went to 80 auditions in New York City before his first break there. “There were some despairing moments,” he recalls.
Nevertheless, hope—and going out of town to act in the occasional play—kept him going. Before long, he found that one break could be parlayed into the next.
He first discovered his passion for acting while a philosophy major at Redlands, but—despite encouragement from a theatre mentor, Professor Paul Little—Pierpoint didn’t launch himself into professional acting (“the path I should have been on”) until the ripe old age of 25.
Pierpoint now has credits to his name that include the role of George Francisco on Fox Network’s Alien Nation; roles in all the Star Trek television spin-offs; and parts in films such as Liar Liar and Holes and TV series including Fame, Hill Street Blues and Parks and Recreation. He has
also starred in numerous plays throughout his career, most recently The Lion in Winter for the Ensemble Theatre Company of Santa Barbara.
After decades acting in both New York and L.A., Pierpoint still works (he will appear in the upcoming TV series Six) and can look back at many peak moments. These include acting in the episode of Alien Nation in which his character gives birth (from a marsupial pouch). “People showed up who weren’t working that day,” he chuckles. “To this day, I am constantly asked—mostly by women—what it was like to have a baby.”
Pierpoint takes the opportunity to give back, regularly teaching a class on acting for the camera at the University of Redlands. “There’s a quiet inner strength that transfers to film, as opposed to making sure the person in the back row can hear you in the theatre,” he says. “You have to come from a place of truth, not show.”
In addition to teaching film techniques to Redlands students, Pierpoint shares his work ethic and perspective: “I ask [students]to be professional,” he says. “Acting is not just a romantic dream, it’s a craft.” He also helps interested students put together a four-minute reel, the screen actor’s calling card, and notes that for those entering the field today technology has created new opportunities to create independent material.
Ever open to new opportunities himself, Pierpoint recently drew on his acting experience to transform one of his screenplays, which had been optioned but never produced, into a young adult novel, The Last Ride of Caleb O’Toole (Sourcebooks Jabberwocky). The book won a Reading the West Award from the Mountains & Plains Independent Booksellers Association. His next venture into historical fiction, The Secret Mission of William Tuck, was picked up and published by Scholastic.
“I am not waiting for the phone to ring because I am busy,” he says. “I am drafting my next book.”
—Mika Elizabeth Ono