BEST BETS: Caesar Rodney High grad Bubniak featured on new HBO comedy ‘Barry’

Caesar Rodney High graduate and Dover native is featured as Bill Hader’s on in the upcoming HBO series “Barry.” The comedy premieres Sunday at 10:30 p.m. (Submitted photo)

John Bubniak remembers getting a school assignment to write about what he wanted to be when he grew up. He picked an actor.

“The teacher came back and said ‘You can’t write about that. It’s not reliable enough,’” remembered the Caesar Rodney High grad this week.

“Now I have my teachers writing me on Facebook, saying they saw me on a commercial or whatever. I feel like saying ‘I told you guys this is what I was going to do.’”

Since moving to New York City after his high school graduation in 2011 and then to Los Angeles in 2013, Mr. Bubniak has appeared in an episode of HBO’s “Girls,” a music video for The Lumineers and in commercials for McDonald’s, Dairy Queen and Walmart.

However, the next 12 months are the most high-profile for the Dover native as he will be seen on the small screen playing Bill Hader’s son in the HBO comedy “Barry”; has a small role in next year’s blockbuster film “Godzilla: King of the Monsters”; and will appear as Peter Parker in the highly anticipated video game “Marvel’s Spider-Man.”

“Things are going well for me right now. I’m excited,” he said by phone from his home in Los Angeles Monday afternoon.

“Barry,” which starts Sunday night at 10:30, stars “Saturday Night Live” veteran Mr. Hader as a hitman from the Midwest who comes to Los Angeles for a job and ends up becoming a part of the local theater scene.

Mr. Bubniak plays his son Barry Jr. and anticipates appearing on the show midway through the season.

Mr. Bubniak said he spent three weeks on the show, starting on April 12 of last year, filming in Los Angeles and Venice Beach. He filmed scenes exclusively with Mr. Hader and actress Bella Podras, who plays Mr. Bubniak’s sister.

He said it was a good experience.

“It was super fun. It was a younger production and it was cool to work with people my own age. It was a very collaborative set,” he said.

Mr. Bubniak had praise for Mr. Hader.

“He’s such a nice guy. He’ll be really quiet and in his head working on his character and then when it comes time to shoot a scene, he’ll flip a switch and go into a whole persona,” Mr. Bubniak said.

“He’s really flexible to work with as well. When he has an idea, he’ll just throw it out there and it will be really loose. They have a vision of what they want but they allow input also. They will try something else and just have fun with it. If they like it, they’ll use it. I haven’t seen any of the finished shows yet but it was nice to be able put your own input in and try something different.”

The show also stars Henry Winkler.

“My mom was especially excited about that but I had to break it to her that I didn’t have any scenes with him,” he joked.

Mr. Bubniak said the show’s first season was supposed to contain 10 episodes but it was cut down to eight. As a result, he’s not sure in how many episodes he will appear.

John Bubniak

“It was going to be four but it may be three. My first episode was the fourth one of the season but even that may be different now.”

Uncertainty and disappointment are part of the acting profession as he has found.

In 2016, Mr. Bubniak filmed a scene on ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy” in which he played a bartender at a wedding who conversed with a couple of the main characters.

“I think I had three lines and the director even had me just say whatever comes natural,” Mr. Bubniak said.

When the show aired later that year, that scene boiled down to a quick shot of his arm handing out a beer.

“You never know what will happen. It’s just how it works,” he said.

His 2018 didn’t get off to an auspicious start as he broke both of his wrists in a snowboarding accident. That put him out of work for six weeks. He lost a Walmart commercial because of it. It would have been his second spot for the company following a national Christmas ad in which he appeared.

“The day after I got back I was scared to call my manager. I was hoping the director could figure something out but I clearly had two casts on and so that made it pretty impossible,” he said.

Now fully healed, he is looking forward to the release of “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” in March of next year. He plays a pilot on a ship who is working to contain Godzilla.

“We filmed that in a warehouse in Atlanta. It was the biggest set I’ve ever worked on. It was about the size of a football field. It was all blue screen. We were supposed to be dealing with the weather outside the windows of the ship but nothing was real. It was all blue and green dots that we had to pay attention to,” he said.

That part paled in comparison to the technology he faced as he worked on the “Spider-Man” PlayStation 4 video game.

He said the audition process was so top secret that he himself didn’t even know what he was going for.

“I thought it was a print job for modeling,” he said. “Two months later I went to Sony where they had this camera shoot 32 different expressions,” he said.

“A month later, they said I had booked the job. I went in and they put all these dots over my face and body to do the motion capture and I still didn’t know what was going on.

“They said to me ‘If you don’t know, we can’t say anything to you. I just thought how weird it was that I was working on this job and they weren’t allowed to tell me what it was.”

Eventually he found out and that first day began what would become a process that would require two or three days every

John Bubniak gets set for another day of shooting for upcoming “Spider-Man” PlayStation 4 video game. (Submitted photo)

other week for the next year and a half.

“My voice isn’t used so it took a lot to get my voice matched up with his. We could do upwards of 12 different takes for one line. It was a very tedious process to get it flowing exactly. And I was always by myself in front of the camera.”

The game will be released next month and he has been surprised by the excitement surrounding it. The teaser trailer for the game has garnered 1.6 million hits on YouTube.

“I didn’t realize that people still played video games. But this one is very cinematic. I’ve seen people from all over the world — Brazil, Mexico — talk about how excited they are about it. It’s pretty cool,” he said.

Aside from these major projects, Mr. Bubniak has completed two short films, does some modeling work and has been in talks for other projects that he can’t divulge as of yet.

It’s all a part of the dream he’s had since writing that paper in a Delaware classroom 3,000 miles from Hollywood.

Kickin it Loose

There are two big music events in Smyrna this weekend.

Kickin it Loose is a day of music and entertainment to be held Saturday to benefit the Citizens Hose Co.

The event will be held at the station located at 103 W. Commerce St.

Doors open at 3:30 p.m. and kicks off with The Jones Boys. Following them will be the John Loring Band and headlining will be The Scooter Brown Band.

General admission tickets are available at Eventbrite.com for $40.

Information can also be found at citizenshosecompany.com.

Songwriters and Storytellers

Then on Sunday will be another edition of the popular Songwriters and Storytellers at the Smyrna Opera House starting at 3 p.m.

Spearheaded by Dover native and Smyrna resident Sol Knopf, Sunday’s concert will feature Nashville Music Hall of Fame songwriters Tony Arata and Thom Schuyler along with hit writer Craig Bickhardt.

Mr. Arata wrote the Garth Brooks megahit “The Dance” while Mr. Schuyler is most noted for the Kenny Rogers song “Love Will Turn You Around” and Mr. Bickhardt has written songs for The Judds and others.

The format allows for each to sing one of their songs and tell the stories behind them.

This same lineup, which also featured Cassidy Catanzaro, was part of a very well-received show in 2016 at the Schwartz Center for the Arts in Dover.

Mr. Knopf and Ms. Catanzaro were part of another equally well-received Songwriters and Storytellers show with Patty Blee at the Kent County Theatre Guild in Dover last month.

Tickets for Sunday afternoon’s show are $10-$20 and can be purchased at SmyrnaOperaHouse.org, by calling 653-4236 or the box office at 7 W. South St.

Chapel Street Junction

On Saturday, Delaware Friends of Folk will present their monthly coffee house concert in the Bennett Chapel at Wesley College, corner of Division and North Bradford streets in Dover, beginning at 7:30 p.m.

Admission is $5 for members of Delaware Friends of Folk, and $7 for non-members, while those 12 and under are admitted free. Fresh-brewed coffee, baked cookies and other snacks will be available.

This event features the Newark-based bluegrass band Chapel Street Junction, with local old-time duo Fried Okra opening the evening.

The five members of Chapel Street Junction describe themselves as Delmarva’s own “gonzo bluegrass” band. Although rooted in bluegrass, the band plays many traditional country and Irish songs, as well as ragtime and cover tunes.

Rick Hudson and Mike Quinn are Fried Okra, a vocal duo on guitar, mandolin, and harmonica that perform what they refer to as “Okra-fied” music.

Both musicians have been playing and collecting songs for decades from a variety of American styles of music. This includes old-time country, blues, bluegrass, singer-songwriter, folk, old-time gospel and even some originals.

Wesley Founders Ball

Wesley College presents the inaugural Founders Ball event Saturday at Wild Quail Golf & Country Club in Wyoming from 6:30 to 11 p.m. The formal event (black-tie encouraged) will feature a cocktail reception with hors d’oeuvres, full course dinner, silent auctions, paddle call as well as live music and dancing.

Sponsorship opportunities are available and the cost to attend is $100 per person. Event net proceeds to benefit student scholarships.

Wild Quail Golf & Country Club is at 1 Clubhouse Drive, Wyoming. For sponsorship opportunities or to purchase a ticket contact Laura Bigham Mayse at 302-736-2317.

Now Showing

New in theaters this weekend is the sci-fi fantasy film “Pacific Rim Uprising,” the romantic drama “Midnight Sun,” the religious drama “Paul, Apostle of Christ”, the animated “Sherlock Gnomes” and the suspense thriller “Unsane.”

On DVD and download starting Tuesday is “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.”

Reach features editor Craig Horleman at chorl@newszap.com

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