With Leading Role, Faculty Cast As Action Star

Wednesday, December 11, 2019
Theater professor acting in a TV show

As the rest of us spend holiday break catching up with friends or family, curled up with a book or binging TV shows, Matt Schmidli, MFA, assistant professor of theater, will be roaming an apocalyptic wasteland.

Filming began last weekend on the pilot episode of Black Zone, a TV show filmed in Kansas City in which Schmidli plays the lead role. Schmidli has years of experience as a working actor and said everything about this project — its SAG-AFTRA designation, the commitment of the writer/director to film in Kansas City, and the scale of the production — make it a rare one locally. But Schmidli said he thinks KC’s performing arts community is ready for their close-up.

“It’s kind of crazy, because these kinds of things just never happen out here,” he said. “I’m really proud to be a working actor in this area and I do think we have something to prove.”

The plot goes like this: some event occurs within the “Black Zone,” affecting everyone within it. Schmidli’s character is given extraordinary abilities as a result, which makes him the target of a secret government agency. Schmidli said the rich characters and dialogue were what initially stood out to him, but being at the center of an action-oriented production definitely has its own appeal, even with the strict diet and fitness regimen that comes with it.

“It’s going to take hours outside of filming to prepare for the fight scenes,” he said. “But I’m living out this childhood dream of being an action star.”

Heading toward the end of the semester, Schmidli said he’s trying to keep everything in balance. But he’s looking forward to what the future of Black Zone might bring, including the opportunities that it could provide his students.

“My students are flipping out,” he said. “I’ve never shot anything of this magnitude and I’m learning a lot myself, which is great. But I’m also trying to get students involved to the best of my ability.”