John Posey, Acting and Writing From The Heart.

by Kees Boer

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A couple of years ago, while watching DOC, I was particularly impressed with one actor’s performance. It was John Posey as Donny, the autistic man, that Clint Cassidy befriended. I have met many autistic people and people with mental problems and the reason, that I was immediately impressed with John’s performance was because it was so believable and so difficult to imagine that he was actually acting.

It was later that I found out that the actor was not only a good actor, but also the father of Tyler Posey, the young actor, who plays Raul on DOC and played Danny, the son of a terrorist, who wanted to lead the FBI team into a trap, so they could be blown up. What really topped it for me is that John Posey used to live right my neighborhood and was a disc-jockey for a local radio station in Gainesville.

John Posey has an impressive career as an actor and scriptwriter. His list of roles are too long to mention in this article, but suffice to say, he’s acted in films like Robocob to Television shows like Seinfeld, but to us DOC and Sue Thomas FBEye fans, John is known as Donny and one of the scriptwriters of DOC.

We started out talking about how John got into the acting business. “I needed a job so that I could go to the University of Florida. I was at the University of South Florida and left for a year and I was pursuing radio on my own as an intern. I had interest in it. I moved to Atlanta, where I was able to secure a job at a couple of talk radio shows and it gave me enough education, where I could go back to Gainesville and the first place that I applied was WDVH ( a local country radio station). So, while I was at school studying journalism and advertising, I was actually working at a first rate radio station, where I learned quite a bit. I won a couple of Abby awards as a writer for radio copy and ended up actually lecturing some of the students in my class about the concept of copyrighting. So, it helped me a lot as a student, because I was working every day in the business in which I was studying. I got a lot done. I produced and did the voice for many commercials, which is probably how I became an actor. WDVH has a website that they put together about 4 years ago, that helps everybody stay in touch. www.wdvh.org. WDVH has spun some pretty well known broadcasters, not the least of which is Forest Sawyer and Jamie McIntire, the CNN White House Correspondent, and Mark Fowler, the one time head of the FCC. Even though I’ve been an actor for 20 years, I’m primarily now focused on screenwriting. I’ve got a film which I wrote that is ready to go into production in the next few months. I owe a lot of that to early writing for radio and later for TV in the advertising world. Even though I got my degree in advertising, somewhere along the line I found a stronger desire to be on the other side of the camera.

So my background was mostly in the writing side. I left Gainesville and went to Atlanta, where out of the blue on a whim, I formed a comedy group with some other really talented people, many of whom were FSU drama students and Georgia people and we put together a really successful comedy review, much like Saturday Night Live people, from that I had some talent people from ABC invite me to Los Angeles and put me in TV series and that’s how I got out here. I do mostly TV movies of the week, and some have been truly rewarding, when you’re on the set with folks like James Woods or Tom Hanks, people like that, doing great work and just sort of get yourself lost in a character and being able to create a certain emotion, that makes the story work and is part of a success of a collaboration of a lot of people. It’s a real high for me.”

Besides working on television shows and movies, John and his two sons have appeared in many commercials. “I do a lot of commercial work. I’ve been the voice of Pennzoil, of Dockers, of the US Air Force, beers, Yamaha, Suzuki car work, you name it across the board. I’ve never been fortunate enough to get into animation. That’s a very tight knit community of a very small select group of people that the studios like to go back to time and time again. I know them all. I haven’t gotten into it. Tyler has done a little bit of animation as well as commercial work as has my other little guy.”

John’s time in the South influenced him a lot in how he approached roles. “Country music introduced me to a whole lifestyle, certain kind of personalities and I later as a writer, I incorporated a lot of what I discovered in Gainesville, and later in Atlanta, in Athens, Georgia, a true part of the Rich Deep South in my writing. I did a one man show that I sold to the studios as a film. It’s been critically acclaimed and is called: ‘Father, Son, and Holy Coach.’ It was very much about people that I met in Gainesville and in Atlanta, Athens and places like that. There is a Country Southern story telling flair to it, the kind you sit around on a back porch and listen to stories that might be hard to believe. I got a lot of that from people that I met working in country radio. It added a lot to the story. And it is something that I traveled with in 1990 as a one man show. Sony Pictures bought the rights to it and didn’t make the film for a number of reasons, but it has come back to me again and we’re out to sell it again as a film or a TV series.”
I asked John if having worked on the country radio station had any influence on him getting a role on DOC with Billy Ray Cyrus. “I knew of Billy Ray Cyrus, and am very familiar with him, prior to the show, but actually, what happened was is that the Johnson Brothers are acquaintances of mine. We had played Softball together, Dave had hired me as an actor, for another show he did called ‘Against the Grain,’ which was not unlike the one man show that I did. What brought me to this show was Tyler. They were looking to cast a young Raul, when I said: ‘Tyler is just getting started as an actor.’ He was 8 at the time. The comment was that they needed to hire a kid from Canada, so I dropped the conversation, only to get a call a couple of months later from a casting person, telling me that they wanted to see Tyler. And I said: ‘Well, I already had this conversation a couple of months ago with the producers, but I understand he needs to be Canadian.’ Then they told me they just couldn’t find a boy out there or in New York. So, Tyler went in and read and the producers, the director George Bloomfield, they all loved Tyler and the next thing I know, we’re going to Canada to shoot the pilot. Dave had asked me also, if I wanted to write a couple of episodes, which I thought I would, because I was making the transfer from a career as an actor to a scriptwriter. If you pull my way up under the IMDB website, you’ll see I have a pretty long track record of TV and some films as an actor. I was beginning to get more offers as a writer, thanks to the play: ‘Father, Son, and Holy Coach,’ I had just written a film for Disney and Dave said: ‘Would you like to write a couple of episodes?’ So, I wrote the episode called: ‘Face in the Mirror,’ which is about the doctor, who lost his son and the model, who is consumed with losing weight. Then Dave and Gary approached me about doing the character of Donny, which is based upon a character I met in Gainesville, which I do in my one man show and that’s how Donny came along.”

I asked John how he approached the character of Donny. “When you get behind a character like Donny, you almost need to improvise, because you don’t know what is going to come out of his mouth, because I’m playing someone, who clearly lives in his own world. I can slip into Donny and can get into some real comedy, because he has an amusing sense of humor, but I told Gary. ‘You can’t really write for him. You can, but chances are, he’ll be all over the page and whatever comes out, we can keep.’ That’s an interesting character to do. I’d like to do more of that. There’s not a whole lot of call for that unfortunately, but when you get behind something that is so different, obviously, you have to create something within you. There is sort of a mask, you’re putting on, because he’s so out there. But whatever it is, get into it and words come out that aren’t really scripted, whatever it is that whatever you are going to say, just say it. It becomes interesting. What we decided on was that the guy was somewhat autistic. You have to play that. He was in his own world. He really didn’t have close relationships with anybody. He had difficulty making eye contact with people, but was brilliant in some things. He couldn’t put two and two together in other things. He was fun to play.

John’s big love though is screen writing. “I’m 50. I’m beginning to enjoy this process as a writer. I’m about to have a film that’s about to go into production by the people that made “Million Dollar Baby,” so this will be my first big studio level film that I wrote and produced. I think for me, it is the most fun thing I do. I write from the heart. I write stories that deal with human triumph over adversity and where there is hope. Now, that I’m 50, I realize that I probably chose the wrong end of this career. Acting was so much fun. As I began writing, I find much more gratitude. It would be nice to know that I wrote something that inspired people in a positive way as well as being a good guy.”

What is most important to John though is his family. “I have great relationships with both of my boys and that’s important. I know that my dad and I weren’t that close, most of my friends aren’t that close with their parents, so I make it a point with my brother and my brother’s kids and my kids, that we have a good time all the time.”

John Posey resides with his wife, Cyndi (see picture above) and his three sons, Derek, Tyler and Jesse in the Los Angeles, California area.

You can see some classic photos of John Posey on the website:
www.wdvh.org, including some photographs of him performing: “Father, Son, and Holy Coach.”

(Not only can John be seen in DOC and some of his writing for the show, recently he has made an appearance during DOC and Sue Thomas FBEye on one of the most unlikely places you'd ever think of. He can be seen doing one of the commercials for Pacificare. Click on the link to watch the commercial. (The file is almost 5.3 MB, thus it might take a while to download it, if you are on a dial-up connection.)

John Posey's Commercial )