The Very Best Of

The best TV/movie actor to attend every men’s WCHA school

The best TV/movie actor to attend every men’s WCHA school
For his role as Richard Webber on Grey’s Anatomy, Bowling Green graduate James Pickens, Jr. has been a repeat nominee and 2012 winner at the NAACP Image Awards. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for NAACP Image Awards)

Editor’s note: This is the fifth installment of a six-part series in which a Pucks and Rec writer will select the top contemporary entertainment alum from each school in a Division I hockey conference. The 10 institutions that comprise the men’s WCHA make up this week’s edition. All filmography and award information is courtesy of the Internet Movie Database.

Alabama-Huntsville: John Hendricks
This pick and a few others here are a bit of a stretch due to a dearth of onscreen alumni from men’s WCHA institutions. With that said, Hendricks won the 2000 International Emmy Founders Award for his status as the founder of Discovery Communications. Preceding and subsequent recipients of the Founders Award include Jim Henson, Oprah Winfrey and Steven Spielberg.

Hendricks’ creation spawned the Discovery Channel, Animal Planet and OWN, and also purchased the rights to TLC in 1991.

Alaska: Ben Grossman
Though also not an actor, Grossman has done Fairbanks proud at the Oscars. He took home the top prize for visual effects in 2012 for his work on Hugo. Two years later, he was back on the ballot in the same category, having overseen the effects in Star Trek Into Darkness.

Elsewhere, Grossman’s trophy case includes an Emmy, which he claimed a share of in 2006 as a visual effects supervisor on The Triangle. His team’s triumph was the limited series’ only award.

Alaska-Anchorage: Steven Bruns
Bruns has made Anchorage one of his six stops on the road to completing his higher education. Keeping busy before the camera is his simple reason for such an erratic academic regimen.

The 37-year-old nabbed his first credit through a cameo in The Holiday, opposite Kate Winslet, Cameron Diaz and Jack Black. He later spent three years portraying Marco on Days of Our Lives and has two more credits pending next year.

Bemidji State: Cheyenne King
Another paltry pool yields a 2000 graduate who has completed eight credits on obscure projects, but is still getting looks, as evidenced by the short film, One for the Road, based on the Stephen King story and due for release in 2018.

Bowling Green: James Pickens, Jr.
With Tom Conway and Eve Marie Saint, BGSU has an impressive history of contributions to Hollywood. But Pickens, whose time on campus coincided with the Falcon pucksters’ rise to relevance under Ron Mason in the mid-’70s, is the freshest example.

The Grey’s Anatomy cast mainstay earned seven consecutive NAACP Image Award nominations as a supporting actor in a drama series, culminating in a 2012 victory. After his character, Richard Webber, gained a greater role, he was nominated for Outstanding Actor at the 2014 Images.

A former recurring guest star on The X-Files, Pickens has also seen action in such films as 42, and will be on an upcoming comedy program, Kick.

The best TV/movie actor to attend every men’s WCHA school

Nearly two decades after breaking into the industry, former MSU Maverick Cedric Yarbrough has his first network starring role on ABC’s Speechless. (Richard Cartwright/ABC via Getty Images)

Ferris State: Jeff Hephner
Hephner captained the Bulldogs basketball team as a senior in 1998-99, then turned to acting and started building up without delay. He broke out as Matt Ramsey in the third season of The O.C., then enjoyed other short-lived, but notable roles on Easy Money, Mercy, Hellcats, Boss and Agent X over the ensuing decade.

By the time he was appearing on Agent X, Hephner had also been in the film Interstellar and was a regular on Chicago Fire. His character, Jeff Clarke, has since crossed from the firehouse to the hospital, aggregating 36 episodes and counting on the original series and its spinoff, Chicago Med.

Lake Superior State: Eric Cairns
The closest LSSU has come to contributing to showbiz was through Cairns’ 2012 project, Signals, which he produced, directed and edited the year he graduated.

Michigan Tech: Jeffrey Swerdan
Granted, he is primarily a producer and writer, and his IMDB profile notes that Swerdan only took summer courses at MTU. But that counts, as do his three acting endeavors in Second Thoughts (2012), Becoming the Reaper (2015) and Rotten to Thee Core (2017).

Minnesota State: Cedric Yarbrough
Yarbrough’s regular role as Kenneth on the first-year ABC series, Speechless, is a reward for 16-plus years of starring parts on less mainstream networks and a slew of recurring, guest and supporting spots.

Besides Reno 9-1-1 and The Boondocks, his previous bread and butter, the versatile Yarbrough was previously seen in The 40-Year-Old Virgin and on Arrested Development, Bones, Brooklyn Nine-Nine and The Goldbergs, among many others.

Northern Michigan: Steven Wiig
NMU also produced Jackie Swanson, who figured crucially into the final season of Cheers, though she has not logged any new acting credits since 2011.

With generally limited options, that leaves Wiig, who to date has kept busy with limited glamour. His first credit for Into the Wild — a project he shared with the likes of Sean Penn, Emile Hirsch, Catherine Keener, Vince Vaughn, Kristen Stewart and Zach Galifianakis — may still be the most recognizable.

But 10 years later, people are still tapping into his talents, with parts in two films and guest spots on two TV shows already recorded in 2017.

Al Daniel

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