Actor Landon Tavernier was always drawn to the arts, even as a kid. But even though he went to Perrysburg High School, home of one of northwest Ohio’s most celebrated arts programs, he didn’t participate in the theater department during his time there.
“I always wanted to kind of be involved in it, but I never pushed myself to do it,” Tavernier said.
Even after graduating in 2011, Tavernier didn’t consider pursuing a career in performance. He went to Owens Community College hoping to earn a degree in criminal justice, but he just didn’t have a passion for it. His heart was elsewhere— a fact that became clear after he began taking acting courses and got the lead in a play.
“Once I performed it, man, I was in. I said, this is what I want to do, the missing passion that I was lacking in criminal justice, and anything else that I tried. This was filling it.”
An unusual path
Tavernier’s passion has now led him to a career as a film actor, with a major role in Michael Leoni’s experimental stage/movie hybrid “Famous” now available to view on demand. Set in 1994, “Famous” examines the impact of sexual abuse in the entertainment industry, years before the flood of allegations came to light.
“It’s a film and it’s a story about waking up and taking action. Understanding what some people are going through, because some people might not speak up about it,” Tavernier said.
“Famous” had an unusual path to the big screen— almost as unusual as Tavernier’s career has had. After finishing at Owens, Tavernier began taking roles with area theater companies like the Village Players and the Toledo Rep, as well as a summer in New York to study. Three and a half years ago, he decided to head to Los Angeles.
“I took what I had gained from all of those experiences— community theater, Owens Community College theater, Purple Rose, Neighborhood Playhouse in New York— and I had all those things in my toolbox, in my hands. And I said, ‘Where do I want to take this?’”
Go big or go home
Tavernier began by aiming big, auditioning for the largest theater company in L.A. He didn’t get a part, but the casting director remembered him and began campaigning for Tavernier to get chances in other shows. In 2019, the director put his name in the hat to audition for a new play being put up by Michael Leoni— “Famous.”
“Before we even sealed the deal, [Leoni] told me to read the play before I accepted a part, because of the heavy material. I read it, and I called him right away and I said, ‘Man, I have to be a part of this. … This is what I want to do, I want to tell stories like this, that are important and will make people think and wake people up,’” Tavernier said.
Tavernier worked on the show from the ground up, helping build his character and being part of the process of discovering what this show would be. “If I had an idea, and I came to the director and I gave him this idea, he’d be like, ‘Let’s try it.’ It didn’t really feel like there was certain levels, or authority or anything like that. It really felt like everybody was on the same ballfield, playing the same game.”
After a four month run, production began on a movie version of the material— essentially a filmed version of the live performance Tavernier and his fellow actors had worked on.
“Going from running the show for a full four months, and then being able to have that much prep work— you don’t really get that as an actor, before film,” Tavernier said. “Film you can have maybe a week, if you’re lucky, of rehearsals before you film. And sometimes, you show up on set and you don’t even know the person you’re going to be acting with.”
The result is a unique and powerful story, one with lessons that Tavernier said could apply equally outside the world of Hollywood.
“I definitely think it’s telling people to wake up and ask questions,” he said. “I think that’s kind of the most important thing with art and subjects like this is, it’s teaching us to not just be yes men, or yes women. It’s asking questions, so we know what’s going on behind the scenes.”
Tavernier is not slowing down with the release of “Famous,” either. Another feature he starred in, named “Turbo Cola,” will be released this coming April. And he has plans of coming home very soon with another project.
“I wrote a feature film that I’m in the process of being in pre production and getting that off the ground sometime [in 2022] and filming it in Ohio.”
“Famous” is available for rental or purchase on Amazon Prime video.