NIU has a proud history of producing accomplished actors and actresses. Though Matt Walsh lost out to Alec Baldwin in the Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy at last night’s Emmy Awards, his nomination is further confirmation of the quality of actors and actresses who have studied here.
Walsh has played Mike McClintock, the press secretary for former Vice President Selina Meyer (played by ten-time Emmy winner Julia Louis-Dreyfus) for the entire six-season run of the show Veep.
Walsh’s route to acting is a little different than most. His degree from NIU isn’t from the School of Theatre and Dance, but rather in psychology. After graduation, he began doing improv comedy in Chicago and eventually helped found the Upright Citizens Brigade with Amy Poehler, Matt Besser and Ian Roberts. He has appeared in more than 60 movies, including The Hangover, Ted, Semi-Pro, Office Christmas Party and Get Hard.
Other notable NIU alums who have enjoyed success in theater and Hollywood include:
Joan Allen (’80) – The Rochelle native graduated with a BFA in Theater. She has received several Academy Award nominations, along with winning a Tony Award for her Broadway debut performance in Burn This. In 2001, she earned Primetime Emmy Award nomination for her role in The Mists of Avalon.
Dan Castellaneta (’79) – Born in Oak Park, Dan studied art education with the goal of becoming a teacher. He was a regular participant in The Ron Petke and His Dead Uncle Show, a radio show at NIU. He is commonly known as the voice of Homer Simpson along with many other characters on The Simpsons, earning three Emmys for Outstanding Voice-Over Performance.
Steve Harris (’89) – Born in Chicago, Steve is most known for his portrayal of Eugene Young on the legal drama The Practice where was nominated for several Emmys and Screen Actors Guild Awards. While Steve was at NIU he played running back for the football team, while studying drama.
Wood Harris – The younger brother of Steve Harris, Wood studied Theater Arts. While enrolled at NIU, Wood starred in his first role in the basketball drama Above the Rim, opposite Tupac Shakur. He is best known for his portrayal of Avon Barksdale in the HBO series The Wire.
Joe Minoso – Joe is known for his roles in Boss and currently Chicago Fire. He has his Master of Fine Arts from NIU, and worked at Chicago’s Teatro Vista, the largest Latino theater company in the Midwest.
Justin Mentell (’05) – Best known for his role as Garett Wells on Boston Legal. He majored in acting at NIU and appeared in several plays as a student, including Balm in Gilead, The Play’s the Thing and Never the Sinner. During his sophomore year, he trained at the Moscow Art Theater, as part of a summer exchange program sponsored by the School of Theatre and Dance.
Kurt Sutter – Kurt Is known for his role as the creator of Sons of Anarchy where he wrote, produced, and directed the series, as well as played the role of an incarcerated club member. He spent time with members of an outlaw motorcycle club in northern California as research for Sons of Anarchy. He holds his Master of Fine Arts.
Charlotte Kate Fox – She began acting at the age of 16 as an extra in the Starz television Crash Charlotte applied to NIU after a two-year string of odd jobs including being the personal assistant to John Walsh of the TV show America’s Most Wanted. She found success in the Japanese market, despite not having any knowledge in Japanese or having been to Japan. She was cast in the show NHK Asadora, where she appeared in all 150 episodes.