Bo Keister stars in "The Deed" which debuts as the opener for The Blue Ridge Film Festival in Buchanan, Va. It plays at 11:00am Friday, Oct. 12th.
As I parked at the corner of Franklin and Main Street in Christiansburg, VA, I certainly didn’t feel like I was in Hollywood. From my vehicle I could see a Papa Johns, an antique store, and not much else. I had been told there was an acting studio in the area. Sure enough, a few feet down from the antique store a sign read “Actor’s Anonymous”. I made my way to the second floor where another sign pointed me to a door. I knocked and entered cautiously as if it were a restroom whose occupancy status I was unsure of. I was greeted by a friendly voice saying “C’mon in”. The door opened wider to reveal a familiar face. There he was. The man I had seen in films and online; Bo Keister in the flesh.
Everyone knows that actors are shorter than they appear on screen. They are tiny, baby faced people who always wear a tie when not in costume for their job. Keister doesn’t adhere to those guidelines. I can’t tell you how big he is, but I’m 6’2 and had to look up to meet his eyes. He certainly isn’t lanky either. Wearing jeans and T-shirt with a backwards baseball cap, it was apparent he wasn’t hiding his Dublin, VA roots.
I visited during class hours and it wasn’t long before a student entered. It was the slowest day of the week so this was the only student that night; a handsome young man just about to enter his teens. This was a new student so I got a chance to see how an acting education begins. Pupil and teacher chose a monologue from a book about a kid whose parents treat him as a grown up or toddler depending on their own selfish requirements. As soon as it was chosen Keister ordered the boy on stage for a cold reading. He was a bit shy in front of his three-person audience, but he was bolstered by the feedback and encouragement from Mr. Keister.
After some more detailed instructions the student was given some homework and went on his way. Keister and I went back to his office and kicked off a conversation that would last three hours. He told me about the monologues his new students perform. After they become comfortable with the material he films the performance. It’s high definition footage that has been professionally lighted. This gives them a chance to critique their own performances, but it’s also used in audition packages they can send to agents and casting directors. Keister is proud when he mentions the positive feedback he gets on these. It’s an area of teaching where he soundly beats his competitors.
Our conversation then turned to Keister’s background. I knew he had a role in “Remember The Titans” and that he’s been working a lot recently. What happened in between? I was confronted with a one-word answer: “training”. After he caught the acting bug, Keister moved out to L.A. where he competed with a seemingly infinite number of like-minded individuals. Instead of working as a bartender and praying for a miracle, he used every penny of his disposable income to learn the art of acting. When he circled back to southwest Virginia he had the experience and credentials to make a name for himself.
You might think the Appalachian Mountains are a strange place to build your acting profile. Keister has used the Internet to keep himself nationally relevant. He told me he’s had two auditions via Skype and landed both gigs. The local scene has been heating up as well. Keister can be seen in the Craig County-based “Blue Ridge” and will be appearing in a horror film called “The House of Good and Evil” in Floyd County alongside TippiHedren, the famed star of Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds”. Two “Actor’s Anonymous” students have landed a role in “Finding Faith” which takes place in and around Lynchburg’s Liberty University. When one of his students lands a role, Keister considers it a personal success.
Outside of the region, Keister plays a key role in the soon-to-be-released drama “Where I Begin”. While that film is playing the festival circuit he’s gearing up for a starring role in the horror/suspense/comedy “The Cabining”. Having read the script I can tell you it follows two novice screenwriters who spend all their rent money in hopes of finding inspiration at an artists’ retreat. Things take a turn for the worse when the patrons start dying in gruesome and mysterious ways. Keister is excited to have a lead role in a film with such credible actors as PatrickGallagher (Glee, True Blood) and Virginia Williams (Fairly Legal, How I Met Your Mother).
Keister speaks of his upcoming projects with an air of confidence. Many of them haven’t been formally announced so I’m sworn to secrecy. Suffice it to say that his filmography is growing in both quantity and quality. I truly believe that he’s here to stay as both a performer and a teacher. All of southwest Virginia should take notice.