Theatre Major Meets Major Motion Picture

NWU’s James Hamrick will costar with Reese Witherspoon and Colin Firth in “Devil’s Knot”.James Hamrick’s story sounds like a movie plot. The Houston, Texas, native travels far from home to pursue his dream to be on stage. He winds up at Nebraska Wesleyan University, where big and unexpected things quickly start happening.

Hamrick lands the lead role in NWU’s production of “Spring Awakening”. There, he meets a talented actress (Cue the beautiful young blonde.) who starred in the same show on Broadway.

That would be Emily Kinney (’06) of AMC’s hit show, “The Walking Dead”. She has returned to campus to choreograph Nebraska Wesleyan’s production.

Hamrick soaks up all he can from Kinney, his classmates and his professors, quickly building experience and growing as an actor.

Then, after just two semesters, the musical theatre major finds his big break.istockphoto

A friend learns that Worldview Entertainment is producing a film about Damien Echols and the West Memphis Three—a trio of teenagers convicted of murder in 1994. Turns out Hamrick holds an uncanny resemblance to Echols. The resemblance is striking enough that Worldview wants an immediate audition. Hamrick promptly nails that audition and lands a lead role.

Weeks later, he’s in Atlanta, Ga., shooting the film alongside A-list costars Reese Witherspoon and Colin Firth.

“I’m really excited and very lucky,” Hamrick said before heading to Atlanta in June. “Blessed is really the only way to describe it.”istockphoto

Hamrick realized he was entering uncharted territory and leaned on his professors for advice. “They’ve told me to look at it as another job,” he said. “There is a lot this opportunity could bring, but I just need to do the work and keep grounded.”

There is a lot this opportunity could bring, but I just need to do the work and keep grounded.

“He is of course very talented,” said Professor of Theatre Arts Jack Parkhurst (’69). “He is also driven, which makes him seek out opportunities.”

With only a year of college under his belt, Hamrick is nonetheless grateful for his Nebraska Wesleyan experience. “Without last year, there’s no way I would’ve made that audition,” Hamrick said. “I learned to center my energy, be specific in my movements, and take the character into my entire body.”

You’ll be able to see the fruits of that education sometime next year. “Devil’s Knot” hits theaters in 2013.