From blockbusters directed by James Cameron to some of Disney’s biggest hits, chances are that you’ve seen Theatre UCF alumni on the big screen before — and you may not have even known it! Our alumni spend years perfecting their craft, performing at the university and with local productions during their time as students. Over the years, many have gone on to careers in television and film.
Meet a few of the Theatre UCF alumni that you may have seen performing in some of your favorite shows and films:
Keston John ‘06 began his acting career at 17 years old and later earned his BFA in acting from UCF. Making a name for himself in the series 24, NCIS, Bones and Lincoln Heights, John went on to build a robust career in the 2010s.
Some of John’s major credits include In the Dark and The Good Place, as well as voice acting roles in Marvel Avengers Assemble and She-Ra and the Princesses of Power. Although voice acting and acting onscreen have much in common, there are some significant differences between the two mediums:
“I was doing She-Ra at the same time as I was doing Avengers Assemble,” he explains. “My Killmonger had a more Wakandan accent, so I would go from that from 9:00 to 1:00, and then I would take a quick break, and then go to Burbank [for She-Ra] and do a completely different session from 2:00 to 6:00. That’s what’s so fun about voiceover.”
John also has an upcoming role in James Cameron’s Avatar film series. This role required training with a dialect coach to learn the fictional Na’vi language — an area where John’s training at UCF came in handy.
“UCF was my training ground,” he shares. “It was my place to work on Shakespeare, to work on voice and speech. I don’t think I could be where I am now without that training.”
Amanda Tavarez ‘16, a Miami native, began studying theatre in middle school. As her passion grew throughout the years, she set her eyes on Theatre UCF, where she earned her BFA in acting. Her major credits include Dynasty, Brutal Bridesmaids, Black Lightning and Delilah, the latter of which proved to be a favorite role.
“It was my first recurring role and my first opportunity to grow with a character throughout a season,” she explains. “It was exciting and scary, but the beginning to many more character arcs that I look forward to being a part of.”
Looking back, Tavarez credits her TV/Film Auditioning and Theatre Careers classes for helping jumpstart her career. Her upcoming roles include the short film The Obscure Charm of Love, but she has her sights set on one day joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a superhero.
“What this industry and career have taught me is that there are many highs and many more lows, but at the end of the day, if you remember why you are doing this and why you chose this path, it will help you get through many of the lows this industry can bring,” she shares. “Enjoy the journey and relish in every moment.”
Born and raised in South Africa, Inga Eiss ‘14 has made a name for herself in major films, including the recent live-action remake of Lady and the Tramp. Eiss discovered her love for acting during her junior year of high school, leading her to pursue a BFA in acting at UCF, where she was one of only six female acting majors in her cohort year.
Eiss made her network debut on MacGyver, leveraging a Dutch accent; her first language, Afrikaans, is a dialect of Dutch, so the accent was a natural fit. Following MacGyver, she worked on Oscar Pistorius: Blade Runner Killer, a Lifetime original set in her native South Africa. Eiss will next appear alongside Jennifer Hudson in the Aretha Franklin biopic MGM’s Respect, releasing nationwide on August 13.
“I’ve really been inspired by actors in our field who have brought to life the stories of real people,” she shares. “To me, acting is about someone else’s story being heard, their experiences being seen, and playing a real person just adds to the craft mastery. You must take your own vocal quality and merge it with the other person’s, sounding like them, moving like them, etc. I think for an actor, that’s such a challenge.”
In addition, Eiss is the recipient of several awards, including Best Acting/Female Winner for the 48 Hour Film Project Orlando, and is a four-time winner of Ocala Civic Theatre’s Bright Young Artist college scholarship.
“The next phase in my journey is to get into a larger market, such as New York or Los Angeles, and start auditioning for some of the larger roles,” she shares. “That all started at UCF — just getting trained really well, building connections, making friends and getting support from great professors.”
David Blue ‘01 is a lifelong actor, singer and dancer. Performing since his youth, he graduated from UCF with a BFA in acting and musical theatre performance. After, he earned an acting apprenticeship at the world-renowned Actor’s Theatre of Louisville. He then moved to Los Angeles where he went on to earn praise for his portrayal of Cliff St. Paul on Ugly Betty and Eli Wallace on Stargate Universe. He’s since starred in TV shows, movies, cartoons and video games including Moonlight, Castle, Henry Danger, World of Warcraft and Sunset Overdrive.
“UCF has a special place in my heart — but what I wasn’t expecting when I was going there is the number of fellow students and professors and memories that shaped my life,” he shares. “For me, if it wasn’t for the performance training that I got at UCF, I would not have a career today.”
A seasoned vocalist, Blue has performed alongside Dick Van Dyke, Tracie Thoms, Fred Willard and Victor Garber and has originated roles in multiple premiere musicals, in addition to writing and producing various projects.
“There are movies and TV shows that legitimately changed who I am as a person, and to me, the most rewarding experiences — and the things that I’m grateful for — are when I find out that I was able to provide that to someone else,” he shares. “It’s what makes it worth it and rewarding.”
Click here to learn more about studying acting and musical theatre at UCF.