ANTHONY STARKE - BIOGRAPHY
Anthony Starke was born on 6 June in Syracuse, New York State. It was his grandfather's birthday, and he was named after him. His Dutch parents had immigrated to the USA from Groningen Province in the north-eastern Netherlands. Anthony's father, Gerrit, was Personnel Manager with Kemper Insurance and his mother, Klaske, was a teacher who later established her own nursery schools. After spending Anthony's early years in Brewerton, the Starke family moved to Pleasant Hill, California, when he was five then moved again, when he was 10, to Illinois. Anthony's memories of his very earliest years are of the New York State winters - 'when you're a little kid, you love all that snow'4. As a child he learned to ride and, having taken up tae kwon-do at the age of 12, he studied it avidly for a decade, winning 'a few trophies here and there'6 and reaching black belt status. After giving up competition in high school, Anthony continued to study, adding other martial arts to his repertoire - 'everything from kickboxing to jujitsu'6.
Always fascinated by television and movies, Anthony's interest in acting grew when he went on a school trip to a Shakespeare Festival in Ontario at the age of 12. Another major influence he cites is the BBC's award winning series I, Claudius, produced in 1976 and based on the books I, Claudius and Claudius the God by Robert Graves. The series starred Derek Jacobi (now Sir Derek Jacobi) as the Emperor Claudius and, even now, is immensely popular and critically acclaimed. Derek Jacobi's performance (Jacobi says he had to 'charm . . . and persuade [the producers] that this "non-entity" could actually play the role of Claudius') was a pivotal factor for Anthony and he became very active in high school plays and also worked with The Fool's Players and the Palette, Masque and Lyre Theatre.
After Anthony graduated from Antioch High School he moved on to study Theatre and Spanish Literature at Marquette University, Milwaukee. Having tried out for it on a whim, he won a Liberace Foundation Scholarship for Performance, maintaining it throughout his four years at Marquette. During this time, he studied Spanish literature at the University of Guadalajara and took additional studies at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music. He also continued to act whilst at college - including work with the Pabst Theatre and the Wisconsin Shakespeare Company - appearing in a range of plays, both classic and modern, and musicals. During this time, Anthony won several acting awards including Best Actor in a Supporting Role for West Side Story and three Best Actor in a Leading Role Awards, one for playing Richard Miller in Eugene O'Neill's Ah, Wilderness at the Palette, Masque and Lyre Theatre. Although he was a well-rewarded academic high achiever, as a Junior about to take LSATs, Anthony realised the depression he was experiencing was because he was preparing for law school to please his parents rather than out of any great personal interest. His parents' concern about his new choice of career was so great that they sent him articles and clippings about how actors never work. Fortunately, their fears proved unfounded in his case.
Undeterred, and determined to convince his parents that he could succeed, Anthony found himself an agent who started sending him to meet casting directors, notably Jane Alderman in Chicago. He won his first screen role in the CBS Movie of the Week First Steps, playing quadriplegic teenager Dean Conroy. Anthony says 'then [my parents] got very excited and became very supportive after that'3. Anthony graduated cum laude from Marquette with degrees in Theatre Arts and Spanish. Initially, he based himself in Chicago, acting in public service announcements and other commericals. He also made his first foray into television, with a small guest role in the cop drama Lady Blue.
The following year Anthony was cast the part of Cameron in the feature film Nothing in Common, working alongside Jackie Gleason and Tom Hanks. The movie's director, Garry Marshall, put in 'a good word for me here and there'4 afterwards, Anthony says and, from then on, he worked consistently, following his first movie with another - 18 Again with George Burns. He also moved into television, cast as Don Hatton in One Big Family which ran for 22 episodes.
Anthony filmed Return of the Killer Tomatoes in San Diego, playing Chad Finletter and with George Clooney playing his roommate Matt. With a 'licence to play around with the stuff'3, they improvised lines and had fun resulting in a movie that is '. . . just looking to be a silly romp with a lot of laughs and succeeds . . .'3, an opinion Clooney shares, saying the script was 'hysterically funny'H and the movie itself 'fun to do'H. The same year, Anthony played Officer Pryor in an episode of 21 Jump Street, the first of many guest starring roles.
While also filming pilots for TV, Anthony was cast as William Truman-Lodge, the young financial wizard in the James Bond movie Licence to Kill. Bond fans are divided about the film, some feeling it is a return to classic Bond much closer to the Ian Fleming original, while others feel it does not have enough Bond pizzazz. But Truman-Lodge 'articulates the late 1980s zeitgeist in full'A. Anthony researched the role meticulously, even visiting Truman-Lodge's alma mater - Harvard Business School - and found his research 'very enlightening, I had not realized the intensely emotional nature of that kind of work . . . not cool and analytical at all'1. Of the part, Anthony said 'it's sort of a male fantasy to be in a Bond film and I think it's especially fun to be one of the bad guys'1. The pranks that abound on Bond sets are notorious and Anthony, one of the youngest members of the main cast, found himself a target, as others had before. One scene required him to give a long, detailed market analysis full of technical and financial data and the lines were particularly difficult to remember. Despite several takes, Anthony rarely faltered in his delivery. Knowing how stressful filming had been for Anthony in particular, the following day, when they arrived on set to shoot the scene from outside, Robert Davi (who played the movie's villain Sanchez) arrived with some subtle changes to his costume. He succeeded in making Anthony believe the entire scene would have to be redone from scratch.
In a move back to comedy, Anthony played Father Luke Brophy in Repossessed, a 'raucous parody of The Exorcist, crammed with jokes'B. Cast alongside Leslie Nielsen, who had transformed himself from a serious dramatic actor to the king of spoof comedy, Anthony 'more than holds up his end as the timid clergyman'C. He also guest starred as The Ghost in an episode of the TV series The Flash, playing a 1950s villain who travels forward to 1990 in a 'very comic bookish story' D
Anthony then returned to the stage to appear in Love's Labour's Lost at the Los Angeles Shakespeare Festival. By now, he was also writing poetry and had his first success with two poems published - I Fear My Own Forgetting in Chelsea and Between Maya and Bramha in Star*Line science-fiction magazine. He continued to work on stage, showing the breadth of his range when he played Skates in the Neon Factory's world premiere production of the musical Greetings from Venice Beach. It is not his only musical - one of Anthony's own favourites amongst the many roles he has played is that of Billy Crocker in Cole Porter's Anything Goes.
Anthony continued to pick up guest starring roles regularly in both comedy and drama TV series and had more poetry published. He added another movie to his résumé, playing Billy in the action movie Nowhere to Run. Another principal cast role followed - that of Jack Donahue, the intellectually challenged bartender of the Moylan Tavern in The George Carlin Show. The slow-witted bartender who could not make the drinks properly is another of Anthony's personal favourites.
Work continued apace - more guest starring roles including Seinfeld and Max, the movie Star Witness and the short series The Last Frontier, which was set in Alaska. Anthony, 'handsome and identifiable'E played yet another Billy - this one 'a good-natured architect and prototypical normal guy'E. He then won the recurring role of Kip in Suddenly Susan. Playing the fiancé Susan dumped in the first episode, he appeared in a further three episodes during the first season. Still combining comedic and dramatic roles, Anthony guest starred in The Pretender and extended his repertoire even further by playing the Airport Manager in De Kersenpluk (The Cherry Pick). Filming in The Netherlands, Anthony worked in Dutch alongside his late grandfather, Anton Starke, a long-time amateur actor appearing in his first movie at the age of 78.
Anthony then had a memorable year both professionally and privately. He became a father when his son, named after his own late father, was born. Workwise, he fought his way through a 'long and difficult process'3 to win the part of Ezra Standish in the TV series The Magnificent Seven. Eventually he had only two days' notice that he had succeeded and had to fly to Old Tucson to film the pilot when the baby was just six weeks old, a time he described rather understatedly as 'quite stressful' 3. Once the show was picked up, filming moved back to California. Ezra Standish is the role that brought Anthony to more prominence and increased his fan base. Building on the original idea for the character - 'a Southern gambling man dressed in a brocaded vest, lace shirt cuffs, cravat with a fake diamond stick pin, all a little worn'F - Anthony worked closely with the producers and writers to develop every aspect of Ezra - 'a co-creation between myself and the writers, and we see pretty much eye to eye on who he is and what he ought to be doing' 5. Joking that he had to go to 'scumbag training, weasel training'2, he actually studied with Steve Valentine, a magician and actor from The Magic Castle, mastering the sleight of hand and card manipulation and tricks that became Ezra's trademark. It is another role that became one of Tony's favourites, not least because of the complexity of the character - '. . . playing either good guys or bad guys can be a complete bore. Playing someone who is a bad guy trying to be good is interesting. And that's what Ezra is'4. Obviously feeling life was not busy enough, Anthony was also writing a novel and co-wrote and acted in Blood Chemistry, a short movie that he co-produced with his wife. With a full length script also completed - A Blind Eye (which was a quarterfinalist in the Texas Film Institute Screenwriting Contest) - he started trying to put together a production package for that.
Tony also published first novel - A Coal to His Lips - published online by 1st Books. And shortly thereafter, despite cancellation, The Magnificent Seven won a reprieve, helped by a fan based campaign, and a further 13 episodes were made. The series was well into its stride and the new episodes built on this, dealing with existential issues and expanding the characters. Anthony 'thought it was really some unflinching television' dealing with moral questions 'without being particularly moralistic about it'4. During the year, Anthony also appeared as teacher and National Guard reservist Will Dezmond in the disaster movie Inferno..
Although it retained its fan base, The Magnificent Seven - its ratings hindered by pre-emptive scheduling - was cancelled for a second time. The timing was awkward as many of the pilots for the new season were already cast and filmed, and Anthony admits that, following the role of Ezra Standish, he was 'being a little bit pickier, so . . . only read for a couple of things toward the tail end of the pilot season'4. With nothing in the pipeline as the new TV season started, Anthony was unexpectedly asked to step into the role of David Chandler in the American version of the hit British series Cold Feet. The original actor cast in the part, a Briton, was not working out and Executive Producer Kerry Ehrin said 'we wanted to take it in a more humorous direction and also to re-create [David Chandler] as an American character'. She felt that Anthony would add more fun to the part since the original representation made David a little obnoxious. Working in Vancouver, Anthony had to re-shoot several scenes for the pilot, replacing the original actor then moving on to further episodes. But, despite his own success in the role - he is described as 'clearly [having] a feel for his character' G - the series is cancelled after only six episodes.
Anthony has continued to combine acting with writing and direction. His had guest starring roles in several dramatic series, including Boston Public, the egotistical Matt Hudson in CSI : Crime Scene Investigation, a drug dealer in Angel , a warlock in Charmed and a totally unrepentant rapist and murderer in Crossing Jordan, this last role reuniting him with his card-sharp mentor, Steve Valentine, a series regular. Anthony has not completely abandoned comedy though, playing what could almost be a retired version of his Cheers character in the sitcom Abby.
Anthony temporarily relocated to Illinois when he was cast as Sebastian Balfour in the TV series Prison Break. The other attraction taking him back to his roots was the opportunity to return to the stage after a long break from live theatre when he took on two roles in Kabuki Lady Macbeth. This challenging production, conceived and directed by kabuki master Shozo Sato and scripted by Karen Sunde, enjoyed an eight week run at the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre. He followed it up with the lead role in Dollhouse, a reworking of Ibsen's classic play. Meanwhile, Prison Break's shooting schedule was brought forward and filming ran in tandem with play rehearsals.
On television, guest roles have continued. Anthony surprised long time fans of Nip/Tuck by playing the father of lead character Sean McNamara in a way that generated empathy for a previously unseen, but disliked, character. The following year, Jay Dratton in Cold Case drew on Anthony's ability to create empathy even further and his portrayal of the terminally ill businessman drew universal acclaim. This was rapidly followed by a guest roles in the new series Burn Notice and established favourite NCIS.
The diversity of roles that he has played and his ability to become whoever he is asked to be will surely help to fulfil Anthony's hope for 'many exciting projects in the future'.
Anthony successfully combines his private life with all the facets of his work - the broad spectrum of his acting, writing novels, poetry and scripts, directing - including a national commercial - and producing. He has taught a workshop on auditioning for aspiring actors, passing on what he has learned himself. He is close to his family in the Netherlands and visits often whenever possible. From his wide range of roles he cites his own favourites as including Ezra Standish (The Magnificent Seven), Jack Donahue (The George Carlin Show), Jimmy (Seinfeld) and Billy Crocker in the musical Anything Goes.
Anthony Starke, who is very bright and quick-witted, has a reputation for contributing far more than just walking on set and simply going through the motions when he is working. Asked about his career in 1999, Anthony said, 'The word "career" has this suggestion of forward momentum where one thing is touched off by the thing that preceded it. I just sort of finished one job, then started auditioning again until I found another job' 4.
All quotations are Anthony Starke unless otherwise credited or footnoted and are primarily taken from interviews with Sally Hibbin (1989)1, Home & Family (1998)2, People Online (1998)3, William LaRue (1999)4, TVGen (1999)5 and Talk City NBC Live (1999)6
My thanks to Anthony Starke for his help preparing this Biography.
A -- Alan Barnes/Marcus Hearn - Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang
B -- John Walker - Halliwell's Film and Video Companion
C -- Variety staff
D -- William Schoell - Comic Book Heroes of the Screen
E -- John P McCarthy - Variety
F -- Pen Densham and John Watson, story by Pen Densham - The Magnificent Seven
G -- TV Guide
H -- George Clooney
Also to everyone who has been gracious enough to allow me to quote directly and indirectly,
most especially those who granted me permission to draw widely from their work.
Your help is particularly appreciated.
© 2007 Nightwing for www.anthonystarke.com
This biography has been prepared exclusively for
The Official Anthony Starke Website at www.anthonystarke.com,
and must not be reproduced wholly or in part in any form without prior permission.