Dover’s Bubniak on a Hollywood roll

John Bubniak, who grew up in Dover and graduated from Caesar Rodney High School in 2011, is living in Los Angeles, pursuing an acting career. He’s had roles in ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy,” HBO’s “Girls,” many national commercials and is currently working on a movie, which he describes as his most favorite thing he’s done thus far. (Submitted photo)

John Bubniak, who grew up in Dover and graduated from Caesar Rodney High School in 2011, is living in Los Angeles, pursuing an acting career. He’s had roles in ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy,” HBO’s “Girls,” many national commercials and is currently working on a movie, which he describes as his most favorite thing he’s done thus far. (Submitted photo)

DOVER — Ever since he can remember, John Bubniak had one goal in mind — move to New York City and become an actor.

Growing up, he would tell his parents that as soon as he graduated high school, he was leaving Dover and headed to the bright lights and the big city.

“I think as early as 4 years old, I was saying I was going to New York. My parents would say, ‘Yeah, yeah. Sure, sure,” Mr. Bubniak recalled.

“They didn’t really believe me.”

So it came as quite as shock, when he stuck to his word just a week after graduating from Caesar Rodney High School in 2011 when the U-Haul rolled up to the house.

He and his friend Ryan Norfleet climbed in and away they went.

“I had two bags and my best friend and we drove to New York. It was quite a scene. The whole neighborhood was out looking at us and my parents were crying. It was pretty dramatic,” he said.

“We had no other friends up there and didn’t really have any idea what we were getting into but I knew this is what I had to do.”

Two years later, after graduating from The New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts, he set off for Los Angeles, again with Mr. Norfleet, where he lives today, trying to make it in the tough world of Hollywood.

Small roles in HBO’s “Girls” and the current season of ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy” have come along, as well as a host of modeling gigs and national commercials, most notably for McDonald’s and McCain’s French fries.

The 22-year-old Mr. Bubniak is also prominently featured in a music video released this year by the folk rock band The Lumineers for their song “Cleopatra.”

He has two other projects that he’s working on that he can’t divulge, including a movie that he says is the biggest thing he’s done thus far.

Early start

Always into the arts, Mr. Bubniak said he was more into watching movies than reading plays. But his middle school years saw him performing with Dover’s Children’s Theatre Inc. and then in plays at Caesar Rodney.

While in high school, his grandmother gave him his first camera, where he made his own movies.

Frequent trips to New York City where he would go see plays also got him interested in the theater.

“John was super introverted in high school, but he started to come out of his shell his last year,” recalled Caesar Rodney High drama teacher John Muller, who also directed him in a Kent County Theatre Guild production of “On Golden Pond”.

John Bubniak is featured in The Lumineers' video for the song "Cleopatra." (Submitted photo)

John Bubniak is featured in The Lumineers’ video for the song “Cleopatra.” (Submitted photo)

“I think moving to New York and becoming a part of the performing arts scene really helped him. He was part of the first few classes I taught when I moved into the theater position at Caesar Rodney, so I think he and his classmates taught me as much as I taught them.”

While in New York and attending school, he performed in Off-Broadway productions and a few independent films.

“I got a manager, an agent and a commercial agent while I was there. I was super nervous when I got up there but started doing modeling and then the rest followed,” he said last week from his home in Los Angeles.

His first speaking role on television came on “Girls” in an uncredited part.

“I auditioned for it and forgot about it two months later when a casting director said they were interested in me,” he said.

“That was a lot of fun. I love watching the show and to be on it was cool. I worked for three days on that, playing one of (lead actress) Lena Dunham’s college dates. It was a one-line part but it was huge for me.”

Off to L.A.

On an agent’s suggestion, Mr. Bubniak left New York for Los Angeles in the summer of 2013.

Things clicked fast for him there as well as he was cast in a couple of independent films and 13 commercials.

“That number of commercials is not normal, especially in your first year,” he said.

“My manager kept saying ‘What’s going on?’ I didn’t even know what I was doing at first. But you have to take what you can get.”

His small role as a bartender on “Grey’s Anatomy” was filmed over the summer.

Much like his part in “Girls,” weeks followed from his audition to when he got the part.

“I got a callback and then two weeks after that, I was told I had the part,” he said.

“I had a fitting the next day, the day after that I picked up the script and then we shot Monday and that whole week. That’s the crazy thing about this business. You can wait for months for a part and then it all happens so fast that you hardly have time to think about it.”

He has yet to see his episode but that’s normal for him. Despite the success he’s had so far, he said he doesn’t like watching himself on the screen.

“Even back in school, I hated watching myself. I don’t even like hearing the sound of my own voice,” he said.

Filming on the movie, which he calls “the most favorite thing I’ve done” should wrap in December when he’s more free to discuss it.

Patience

He says he has the luxury now of not doing as many commercials as he was doing to focus more on the film and TV auditions — a part of Hollywood that can still be frustrating.

John Bubniak has amassed a large modeling portfolio during his years in both New York City and Los Angeles. (Submitted photo/Luke Fontana)

John Bubniak has amassed a large modeling portfolio during his years in both New York City and Los Angeles. (Submitted photo/Luke Fontana)

“When you walk out of them, you have to put them aside and you can’t think about them anymore,” he said.

“You can’t worry about why you didn’t get a part. Sometimes you just aren’t their type. You’ll go crazy if you think too much about it. It was strange at first, but then you start to understand how things work.”

He said he recently had an audition to play a serial killer and rapist who was older than him and “as far as way from me as possible.”

But he took the audition for the experience and the chance to get known by as many people as possible.

“If I get in front of the casting director, maybe she’ll remember me for a part later on,” Mr. Bubniak said.

Such is the world in which he plies his craft, every day striving to proverbially “make it big.”

“I’m going to do this until I can’t do it anymore. You just have to keep going and keep auditioning and stay positive until it happens for you,” he said.

“And you can only do the best you can until it does.”

Like many back home, Mr. Muller said he’s happy for Mr. Bubniak’s success.

“John was a pleasure to work with, and I am very happy that he is finding success in a field that is extremely competitive and difficult to break into. It’s an exciting time for him. I hope he is taking the time to enjoy it,” he said.

And what about Mr. Bubniak’s parents who were left crying in his Dover driveway?

“They are super happy for me now,” he said.

“Mom and Dad are both very supportive. It’s a whole new world for them but they are happy for me.”

Reach features editor Craig Horleman at chorl@newszap.com

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