In 10 years of trying to break into the acting business in Los Angeles, 1997 Huntington St. Joseph High School graduate Jonathan Fredrick's never been able to use the "I'm from West Virginia" card -- until now.
Fredrick, the athlete who played baseball for two years at Georgetown College before being felled by the theater bug, has chalked up his first big break, cast as the whiskey-loving rounder Jefferson McCoy in the new History Channel miniseries, "Hatfields & McCoys."
The six-hour miniseries will debut at 9 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, May 28-30.
Fredrick, who was home last week visiting his folks (Dr. Michael and Jean Fredrick) with his wife and 18-month-old, said the audition and casting in the miniseries that stars Kevin Costner, Bill Paxton, Powers Boothe, Mare Winningham and Tom Berenger could not have come at a better time.
"I literally did this audition the week I turned 10 years in L.A.," said Fredrick, who has done some small movies and theater, as well as written, directed and starred in a series of original short films. "Hopefully it will open some doors. You have to have an undying love to do this or it spits you out real fast. You have a kid and a family and every morning you have to renew your faith in yourself like 'what am I doing.' Everyone says it takes 10 years to get anywhere, well, it can never happen or it can take two days if you are some lucky fool."
Fredrick, who moved to L.A. after getting his bachelor's in theater from Georgetown College, said it couldn't have been a better script than for his first big gig to be a movie about West Virginia, produced by a fellow Hollywood resident and Huntington native Darrell Fetty. It also co-stars some other area-native actors including Prestonsburg, Ky., native Boyd Holbrook.
Fredrick will be joining Holbrook, Fetty and veteran Oscar-nominated actor Tom Berenger in a premiere at Huntington's Keith-Albee Performing Arts Center later this week at a private screening hosted by the History Channel and Trifecta Productions, which shot the documentary.
"It's very serendipitous, and it couldn't have worked out better for my first big thing to be so connected to here," said Fredrick. "Even if I wasn't in it, just watching Costner and Paxton going at each other, being from here that just gives me chills. It's awesome... The Hatfields and McCoys story is a source of pride if you are from here because I think people take pride in the fact that we come from dirt tough people, and we take pride in being dirt tough ourselves. The outside world doesn't quite see it that way, so there are some misconceptions we hope to clear up. You were living by your wits back then."
Fredrick said a big shout out goes to Fetty. Fetty graduated from Marshall University in 1970 and knew Fredrick's mother. He has also been a friend and mentor in Hollywood.
"He kind of has taken me under his wing and become somewhat of a mentor especially with writing," Fredrick said. "Anything I am writing, he's my first reader. He's been like my doctorate degree in writing."
Fredrick, who has acted in eight independent films, said filming the miniseries in Romania was a priceless experience.
"The movie studio was about 130 minutes outside of Bucharest and then up in the mountains in Translyvania, and we'd stop in little towns here and there for locations and would be in a little village for about a week," he said. "What was great being on such a remote location was you were stuck with each other. Every night everyone gathered together and got to know each other. When Boyd showed up, him being from Kentucky, it was like 'yeah, I know where you're from' and so it was nice to work with someone that you feel so close to geographically."
Fredrick said he was soaking up everything he could from the award-winning actors surrounding him.
"You just picked up little things all the time," Fredrick said. "I had some scenes with Berenger and it was cool to watch him. When the camera was on him he was all stern and western and when it was on me, he was giving me all kinds of reactions for me to work with. Costner, too. You could tell as soon as he stepped onto the place that you knew he was going to do it the best that it possibly could be done. You learn from that. If I ever get into that kind of position, that is the way it has to be done."
For now, Fredrick is enjoying the warm glow of the project.
"I think everybody is really anxious for it to come out and just be out there, and it's so cool that all of my friends and family are into it. I think there's a sigh of relief, 'ah, Jon finally got into something,'" he said with a laugh.