In a “past” life I was the Director of the Emmy Awards. That was before the recession and before the ratings went sour for award shows. Subsequently, and because of both, I was laid off and returned my focus to my homestate of New Jersey and my hometown of Red Bank, working on various personal projects and enjoying reporting for Patch.
I don’t make it to the city much anymore or to Los Angeles at all and I don’t see familiar faces from my years of meeting and working with television producers and actors, until this week when I reported to the Count Basie to report on a couple of workshops being offered through their Performing Arts Academy.
Actor Brian Gaskill would be appearing at the Basie to share stories of his life in television and film and to instruct teens in an exercise of self-discovery to further their evolution as young performers.
Brian Gaskill…I remembered Brian Gaskill. He was, is a daytime drama actor and, unbeknownst to me, when we revolved in the same circles and attended the same Emmy ceremonies, he was from Jersey, from Monmouth County and attended Red Bank Regional. The hometown connection we shared was never discussed before because I only knew of Gaskill through my work with the Television Academy and his on All My Children and Port Charles. The irony is that today we share similar storylines. He is back home, now living in Ocean Grove haunting the streets of Red Bank again and giving back what he can from all that he has experienced. And it is under that purpose that I finally did meet Gaskill.
And for all the characters he has played, for the assumed egos of television actors, Gaskill is as down-to-earth and honest as it gets. In jeans, a black hoody and motorcycle boots, a shadow of a beard, Gaskill looks like Jersey, like a character in a Springsteen song on the sidewalk in front of the Basie.
For the record, Gaskill broke into television on Models Inc. almost directly out of college and subsequently landed the role of Bobby Warner on ABC’s All My Children. He was named Best Younger Actor by Daytime TV Magazine in 1997, and received a nomination for Outstanding Younger Lead Actor at the 1997 Soap Opera Awards. In 2001, he returned to daytime television in the role of Rafe, a vampire slaying angel, on the ABC series Port Charles. Currently he is auditioning and lining up directing work, including a potential indie film that he has been offered, but Gaskill is squarely centered in local life, appreciating where he came from in order to understand where he’s headed.
He is, besides the workshops at the Basie, also offering his knowledge to the kids at RBR, working parttime in Asbury Park and immersing himself in the fertile Jersey music scene, both because of a love of the music and the makers, as well as his interest in helping them express their work through video. Gaskill has experience as a music video director.
“For me,” he said, “it’s always about story and storytelling first.” This is Gaskill’s refrain, his obsession perhaps, his most acute side-effect of growing up in Jersey. No state yields talkers and storyteller philosophers like the Garden State. But Gaskill emphasizes and reemphasizes his need for, his appreciation of, and simply by living, his participation in (his own) story. He quickly runs through his own, regretting and rejecting how Google tells his tale and sums up the first two acts of his life by suggesting there are rewrites in the works. Essentially, Gaskill isn’t looking back. He is looking to evolve.
And while he smartly discusses his own ideas for projects and tells the stories of films and videos he has or might work on, it is his own story that might be most compelling. He claims it is a tired old chestnut though, that the tale of the local boy who climbed to the mountain top and then came back down to the valley to reconnect himself with himself has been done before.
“The other night I was out with some friends from the old days,” he said. “Ya know, since I’ve been back I’ve been reconnecting with old friends and even people I knew, but barely, back then and we were exchanging stories and it was like I was in a movie. I was waiting for Sweet Caroline to come on the jukebox and for the whole bar to start singing along. It was that kind of vibe.”
Gaskill might reject the or his life story as a film idea because he does not yet have an ending for his story or maybe even a realization, apart from it goes on. The local boy turned TV star turned local guy is as yet unfinished, the way Gaskill likes it, you can tell…but it is one to be enjoyed and able to be heard and conversated over at the bar, or better yet, at the Basie.
On the Set: Conversations with TV/Film Actor Brian Gaskill is promised to be a "candid and spirited discussion on the life of an actor." The April 9th (11-1PM for ages teen to adult) program offers a first hand account of the realities of working in the television and film industry.
Know Yourself and Evolve as an Actor, held on April 30th from 11 to 2 for ages 13-17 is designed to assist the young performer with what Gaskill believes is essential for an actor and an artist, self-discovery. Gaskill will guide teens through a variety of exercises and simple techniques designed to help them develop their new craft by tapping into themselves. “While everyone has a dream or vision they are here to fulfill,” Gaskill writes “not everyone realizes it. By learning to know yourself, you may realize your unique potential and purpose.”
To register for Gaskill’s seminars or for more information about these and other P.A.A.workshops go to: http://www.countbasietheatre.org/ and check out the education opportunities.
For more information about Gaskill or to view some of his music video work go to: http://www.briangaskill.net