Daniel Roebuck Delights Audience
By Jennifer Sheehan | Photography by Erika Salus
On a big screen at Moravian College’s Foy Concert Hall, a scene played that fans of the hit ABC show “Lost” will always remember.
Dr. Leslie Arzt, played by Bethlehem’s Daniel Roebuck, was lecturing the other castaways who were trapped with him on a mysterious desert island about the dangers of nitroglycerin and how to properly handle dynamite.
“We aren’t going to take any more of this than we need,” said Arzt, who barely finished the sentence before the dynamite exploded, blowing his body to bits that flew all over the other castaways.
It’s scenes like this one that made Roebuck’s prolific acting career. His three-decade-long career in Hollywood was in the spotlight at Tuesday night’s “Inside the Moravian Studio: A Conversation with Daniel Roebuck” at Moravian. The event was hosted and moderated by Joel Nathan Rosen, director of Moravian’s communication and media studies program.
Roebuck grew up just a few blocks away from Moravian College, where he spoke to a crowd of about 300. It was nearly two hours of continuous laughter.
“Is this an intervention?” said Roebuck, who’s known for his jovial personality and self-effacing humor.
The event covered his long career as a character actor in Hollywood, which includes countless movies, such as 1993 classic “The Fugitive,” and a long list of TV shows including “Lost,” “Matlock,” “NCIS,” “Criminal Minds,” “The West Wing,” “Law & Order” and Amazon Prime’s “Man in the High Castle.”
Roebuck’s busy acting schedule had pushed back the event by a week. He worked on Fox’s 9-1-1, an action-packed drama centered around first-responders in Los Angeles. Apparently filming was action-packed for Roebuck as well. While he didn’t get into too many details about filming, he said there was a lot of running on a freeway.
“Do I look like a runner to you,” Roebuck said. (You can watch Roebuck’s episode at 9 p.m. Monday on Fox).
Roebuck also talked at length about his directorial debut “Getting Grace,” an independent faith-based film shot entirely in the Lehigh Valley. In fact, Bethlehem is a star in “Getting Grace,” which features places such as Bethlehem’s Main Street, The Moravian Book Shop, Burnside Plantation and Pete’s Hot Dog Shop. The movie was released earlier this year and will be available on DVD next month. More than a dozen members of the cast were on hand at the Moravian event.
The movie will be released on DVD on Nov. 6. You can buy a copy at Walmart. The movie will also be shown at 3 p.m. Sunday at the Historic State Theatre in Boyertown. Proceeds will help the State Theatre Preservation Society’s upkeep of the 106-year-old building. Roebuck will be in attendance along with members of the cast.
He’s planning to shoot a second faith-based film in the Valley next summer, “The Hail Mary.” The movie will center around an all-boys Catholic school led by a cantankerous sister of St. Joseph, a Catholic religious order of women that numbers 7,000 in the United States. In the film, the sister meets a man who needs one more shot at redemption, so she cons him into creating a football team at her school, which is for boys with behavioral issues.
Of course Roebuck’s career was built on character acting, those roles that provide the backbone to so many TV shows and films. Name an important TV show in history and it’s likely Roebuck appeared on it.
He talked to the crowd about how he approaches his craft, especially auditions.
“What I learned is that the audition is mine,” Roebuck said. “The job is theirs.”
When he auditioned for a role as Alexander Graham Bell in a recent Geico commercial, Roebuck showed up in full costume, complete with bushy beard. He got the role with no callback.
“The lesson is to show up and be ready to roll,” said Rosen, the event’s moderator.
Roebuck talked about some of the funny (and not so funny) things people say to him including “You look so much fatter on TV” and “I only see you in these little parts on TV.”
Through all the difficulties — the cross-country flights, the constant schedule juggling, the weird things people say to him — Roebuck maintains a positive outlook.
Positivity is important for Roebuck.
“Whatever I do, I like to do it with a positive view,” Roebuck said. “Art used to be a reflection of our culture. Now it’s politics and it’s dividing us.”
The Moravian event was one of several Roebuck will be taking part in over the next few days including:
* On Nov. 8 Roebuck will receive ArtsQuest Foundation’s Pinnacle of the Arts Award at the third annual Linny Awards ceremony at SteelStacks. The award is presented to someone from the Lehigh Valley who has achieved national or international distinction in the visual, literary or performing arts. The 2017 winner was Freedom graduate Daniel Dae Kim, star of TV’s “Lost” and “Hawaii 5-0” and executive producer of “The Good Doctor.”
* The Allentown Symphony Orchestra’s “Veterans Tribute: 100th Anniversary of Armistice Day,” at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 10 and 3 p.m. Nov. 11. Roebuck will narrate Aaron Copland’s “Lincoln Portrait” with excerpts from The Gettysburg Address. The event includes the premiere of “Rise,” a commissioned work by Zhou Tian inspired by the experiences of soldiers in World War I; and Daniel Rodriguez, the Singing Policeman, performing “America the Beautiful” and “God Bless America.”
Two chances to see Daniel Roebuck in action
* Screening of 'Getting Grace,' 3 p.m. Sunday, November 4, 2018, at the Historic State Theatre in Boyertown. Roebuck and some of the cast will be on hand. Proceeds will help the State Theatre Preservation Society’s ongoing upkeep of the 106-year-old building.
* Roebuck on Fox's 9-1-1 -- 9 p.m. Monday on Fox
This article was originally published in the October 31, 2018 issue of the Morning Call.