Logan Marshall-Green (’99) has been around the stage his whole life but has come into his own on the big screen with high-profile roles in Upgrade (2018) and Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017).
Marshall-Green, whose father, Russell Green, helped lay the foundation for UT’s current theater program in the 1950s and ‘60s, started UT with a communication major in mind.
However, he quickly changed majors in hopes of becoming a lighting designer. Then his interest changed to acting while he was operating spotlights for the Clarence Brown Theatre productions of Three Tall Women and A Christmas Carol.
After spending his junior year at the National Theatre Conservatory, he returned to UT and finished his theater degree. He became friends with world-renowned director Liviu Ciulei, who was directing a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Clarence Brown Theatre.
He also credits Professor Terry Weber for teaching him how to work and understand behavior. “In many ways I owe him for my work ethic now and blue-collar attitude on acting. He was the first teacher who opened my eyes on deepening, over broadening, the roles I play.”
Marshall-Green’s most recent projects are the TV series Shadowplay and the live action video game Telling Lies created by Sam Barlow, who is also the creator of the hit game Her Story.
(Image courtesy of Blumhouse Productions)
Before he even graduated from UT with his MFA in acting, Conrad Ricamora (’12) had landed a role in the David Byrne/Fat Boy Slim musical Here Lies Love. He followed that with the Broadway revival of The King and I—including a Grammy nomination for the cast recording—and landed the role of Oliver Hampton on ABC’s hit drama How to Get Away with Murder. Though the role was meant to last only one season, Ricamora has been part of the regular cast since the second season in 2015. The show is now in its fifth season.
Ricamora says he chose UT’s MFA program over schools in the Ivy League and California. “I grew up so much here at UT through the training,” he says. “It’s like an artistic home to me.”
He says his time in the MFA program taught him to bring an open mind and an open heart to the set. “Instead of having a preplanned idea, which comes off as stale, be completely open to what’s happening in the moment. That’s when things come alive.”
Ricamora, who was honored with a UT Alumni Promise Award in 2018, has also released several singles on iTunes including covers of Rodgers and Hart’s “My Funny Valentine,” the Billy Joel songs “And So It Goes” and “She’s Got a Way,” and John Legend’s “All of Me.”
Rusty Mowery was a first-time associate choreographer when he won a Tony Award for the Broadway show Kinky Boots in 2013. He started on stage as a dancer, getting his big break in the long-running musical Cats.
“Having been brought up a good Southern Baptist, as a teenager I prayed every night, ‘Dear Lord, just give me one night on a Broadway stage, and you can hit me with an M4 bus and I’ll be happy in heaven,’” Mowery says.
It was acting in the Clarence Brown Theatre Company as an undergraduate that helped Mowery make his dream a reality. During a production of Macbeth, a professional actor offered him career advice and a place to stay in New York City.
After the success of Kinky Boots on Broadway, Mowery helped set up productions of the show in Germany, London, Toronto, Japan, South Korea, and Australia.
Mowery returned to Knoxville in May 2018 to be honored by the Clarence Brown Theatre. And in August, he helped open Pretty Woman: The Musical, based on the beloved 1990 movie of the same name, as associate choreographer.
Theater major Ashlee Latimer (’16) paid her dues in the Knoxville theater community for eight years, including working as an actor and director with the Knoxville Children’s Theatre and the Clarence Brown Theatre. She moved to New York City in fall 2016—and less than two years later, she earned a Tony Award for her work as a co-producer of the Broadway revival Once on This Island.
She says earning a theater degree at UT, and specifically working in the Clarence Brown Theatre, helped her transition more easily to New York’s theater community.
“I work with people in New York who went to conservatories, who’ve had great training, but haven’t worked with professionals,” she says. “It was a much smaller learning curve for me jumping in to professional rooms, because I have a general understanding of how a full day of rehearsals works in a professional theater.”
In spring 2017, she produced her first concert—of Broadway belters covering the songs of Ed Sheeran. Her other projects have included producing shows in London’s West End and off-Broadway.
Among Latimer’s long-term goals, she wants to work with artists from underrepresented and marginalized backgrounds, showing the importance of art as, she says, “the flashlight on our cultural and political climate.”
Screen: Dietland (Steven)
Bitten by the acting bug as a boy, Tramell Tillman (’14) says UT gave him the skills to take his career to the next level. You may have seen him in the AMC show Dietland as Steven, the best friend of the main character, Plum. He also appeared in a 2015 episode of Difficult People with comedian Billy Eichner.
After studying at Xavier University and Jackson State University, Tillman traveled to a U/RTA (University/Resident Theatre Association) audition in Chicago, where he caught the eye of UT’s Jed Diamond, associate professor of acting. Tillman says completing his MFA at UT gave him skills he uses every day.
“Whether it’s working on a new dialect (I had to swiftly adopt a Haitian accent in 24 hours for a major TV show audition), crafting an elaborate stage fight (I played Laertes in a production of Hamlet at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and learned an intense sword fighting combo), or preparing for an off-Broadway musical, I gained tools to use in creating meaningful art.”
After Dietland, Tillman was cast in the TV series Godfather of Harlem, and he’d like to expand his reach to film and ultimately Broadway.
“Don’t be surprised if you catch me behind the camera directing, writing, or producing. I plan to ride life until the wheels fall off!”
(Image by Peter Hurley Photography)
Screen: Southern Comfort (Avery)
Malorie Cunningham’s series Southern Comfort, created for her comedy duo Dolly Partners, was nominated for best web series at the Chain Film Festival in 2018.
Cunningham (‘14) had earlier co-founded the improvisation group Full Disclosure Comedy in Knoxville and studied at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in New York City.
At UT, Cunningham, a journalism and electronic media major, remembers “teaching myself to edit, running to campus events to shoot a story, and rushing back to the writing studio to finish the newscast for that day. I was firing on all cylinders!
But my professor at the time, Dr. Swan, encouraged us to just grab a camera, go out, and do the work,” she adds. “Little did I know, I would use all that info to create some comedy. Isn’t life a gag?”
Cunningham has launched “Head Cow Productions” to host her new Southern-themed comedy sketches and co-stars in a monthly stage series called Sketchy History: A History Sketch Show.
She also wrote and starred in a short comedy film in 2019 called Sex and the Country.
(Image by Serenity Ewing)