NWU Theatre Student Cast in Major Motion Picture
Just a few weeks ago, Nebraska Wesleyan University student James Hamrick was rehearsing lines for the rock musical “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson.”
The summer theatre opportunity in his native city of Houston, Texas, would add another experience to his already impressive resume.
But an interesting change of events has Hamrick changing his summer plans.
Now the NWU sophomore musical theatre major is in Atlanta for the next several weeks shooting a major motion picture. Hamrick recently landed the role of Damien Echols in the movie “Devil’s Knot.”
“I’m really excited and very lucky,” Hamrick said. “Blessed is really the only way to describe it.”
“Devil’s Knot” tells the story of three teenagers falsely convicted of killing three 8-year-old boys as part of a satanic ritual. Later dubbed the West Memphis 3, the defendants were finally freed in August 2011 after spending 18 years behind bars.
The movie will also star Reese Witherspoon and Colin Firth, and will be directed by Atom Egoyan (Chloe, Exotica). Worldview Entertainment is financing and producing the picture. It will be released in theaters in 2013.
Hamrick first learned about the role from a friend who noticed Hamrick’s stark resemblance to the movie character. Hamrick immediately sent an audition tape and the next day he was on his way to Atlanta to audition for the movie’s director.
Hamrick admits he has little film making experience— he’s made a few films with friends. Since he’s entering unchartered territory, Hamrick has turned to his NWU theatre professors for advice.
“They’ve told me to look at it as another job,” said Hamrick. “There is a lot this opportunity could bring but I just need to do the work and keep grounded.”
“I was excited and happy for him,” theatre professor Jack Parkhurst said upon learning of Hamrick’s role. “He is of course very talented. He is also driven which makes him seek out opportunities.”
At Nebraska Wesleyan, Hamrick has performed in nearly all of the theatre cabarets, was cast as the Duke of Bedford in “Henry V” and a brother in “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.” His biggest role at Nebraska Wesleyan came in February when he starred in the Tony Award-winning rock musical “Spring Awakening.” That production was choreographed by another successful theatre alum and Broadway actress Emily Kinney. Kinney now stars in AMC’s “The Walking Dead.”
“Without last year there’s no way I would’ve made that audition,” Hamrick said of his NWU theatre classes. “I learned to center my energy, be specific in my movements, and take the character into my entire body.”
Once the movie wraps up, Hamrick will return to campus and prepare for his next role — big or small.
“I always thought I would focus on stage theatre but with this turn of events, I can’t say I’m going to just focus on one specific area,” he said. “I’ll take whatever opportunity comes to me. As long as I’m playing a character and telling a story, then I’m happy.”