Tommy Mann Jr.
The Orange Leader
One break is all actor Bret Shuford is looking for. And he may have just found it.
Shuford, a graduate of West Orange-Stark High School in 1997, has landed a role in the new Martin Scorsese film, “The Wolf of Wall Street,” which features Leonardo DiCaprio, Matthew McConaughey, Rob Reiner and Jonah Hill. The film, according to IMDB.com, is based on the true story of Jordan Belfort, portrayed by DiCaprio, from his rise to a wealthy stockbroker living the high life to his fall involving crime, corruption and the federal government. It is set for a late 2013 release.
Shuford’s role may only be a minor character in the movie, but the results of this project could be the launching pad for a star-studded career.
“I’ve had some major roles in some independent films, but this is my first role in a major box office production,” Shuford said in a telephone interview from his residence in New York City. “Being able to sit next to Matthew McConaughey, a fellow Texan, and just talk about Texas and getting to pick his brain about acting was really cool.”
Show business has always been part of Shuford’s life. He started his acting career as a child by participating in productions with the Port Arthur Little Theater, the Beaumont Community Players and many productions with the Orange Community Players.
“My whole family was involved for a while, but things changed as we all got older, but I still stuck around,” he added. “I had so much fun at OCP. I loved that place. Jeff Hattman and Susan Tiger were big influences on me. I always knew I wanted to be an actor and my original goal was to get to Broadway.”
Shuford continued his acting career all through high school, which included instruction at the Lorna Badon School of Fine Arts and even served as the drama club president in school.
Shuford graduated from Wagner College in New York City right before 9/11 and said it either “turned people away or made them feel closer to New York City.” It became Shuford’s home.
After countless auditions and years of hard work, Shuford made his Broadway debut in 2004 when he landed a role in “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.” He did a few more Broadway shows in the next few years, including roles in “The Little Mermaid” and “Beauty and the Beast.”
After achieving his goal of performing on Broadway, Shuford realized it was time to broaden his horizons and set a new goal.
“I decided I wanted to do real acting,” he explained. “So I started taking acting classes and honing my skills. Being an actor in a movie or television series is totally different than being a Broadway performer. They don’t overlap much. It’s almost like two separate businesses.”
In the past year, Shuford has worked with some of the most successful actors in show business. In October 2012, Shuford got to sing with Anne Hathaway, Harvey Fierstein, Linda Lavin, Audra McDonald, Raul Esparza, and others at the Joe’s Pub Fundraiser “Perfectly Mahvelous.”
In early 2013, he shared the stage with John Waters, Mickey Dolenz, Beth Leavel, and others as Corny Collins in the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra premiere of “Hairspray in Concert.”
Now that Shuford has finished his part in “The Wolf of Wall Street” and is now looking for his next role, he remains busy through a variety of projects which are close to his heart.
In September, Shuford began hosting a weekly musical variety show called “Nerdgasm,” held at KTCHN restaurant in the Out Hotel on 42nd Street. Information about the show can be found at Nerdgasmshow.com. He also has a successful YouTube Channel and a blog, and, in November, he will be premiering his solo show, “Charming: A Tale of an American Prince,” at the Duplex Cabaret.
“Being creative is something I have always done and its something I will continue to do,” Shuford stated. “I’m moving into playing lead roles and moving into TV and films, but I still want to be creative and do my own things. I like the idea of telling stories to a big audience and showing people the world in a different perspective.”
Shuford has also become a teacher and coach in an effort to help pass on the knowledge and experience he has gained to up-and-coming actors.
“I started a career in coaching to help others go after their goals and dreams,” he said. “I have a lot of experience and I feel like I have a lot to offer people. Hopefully, it will make a difference for someone.”
Shuford said not getting to act or perform “all of the time” is the hardest part of being an actor for himself. He had plenty of advice to offer local actors who want to make it big one day too.
“Do it every possible chance that you can,” Shuford added. “Try everything there is to do, whether that is running lights, running sound, doing the choreography, or performing. Knowing how everything works and relates can make a big difference and you have to have compassion for all the others involved in a production too. You never know where you will get your chance to shine.”
Visit www.Bretshuford.com for more information on this homegrown actor.