BY JEFF FALK
ANNVILLE – For Jared Odrick, football, acting and performing have always been linked and intertwined. An extroverted people person by nature, Odrick moves gracefully in the spotlight, is at home among crowds of strangers, and is comfortable in front of the camera.
While nothing more than a coincidence, it is just a bit ironic that the unsigned NFL free agent plays a man struggling to find work in ‘Filling In’.
Do you know how they say life imitates art? Or is it the other way around?
In his first lead role, the 6-5, 298-pound Odrick stars as Kevin Rockwell in ‘Filling In’, a short film directed by one of his former teachers at Lebanon High School, Bradley Hawkins. The script was written by Hawkins, Austin Haitos and Peter Fenton, and Odrick also serves as an executive producer for the film.
Odrick, a defensive lineman who was released by the Jacksonville Jaguars in February, was on hand recently when ‘Filing In’ made its Lebanon County premiere at the Allen Theatre in Annville. Two weeks earlier, ‘Filing In’, which has already garnered nine awards within the film festival community, made its Lancaster County debut.
Odrick’s character Kevin Rockwell is down on his luck when presented with an opportunity to land a job as a tooth fairy trainee. It takes some adjusting on Kevin’s part, but ultimately he gets the hang of it.
Verbal and physical comedy ensues.
“I’ve B.S-ed my way through interviews since I was 13,” said Odrick. “When you’re in a position of coming across different people you’ve just got to be yourself. Sometimes you end up having to improvise in front of people.
“I appreciate people being proactive of my fragile situation,” continued Odrick. “People treat it like it’s a big deal. But no, I’m in a real good spot. A lot of people tie their work into their work. I’m looking forward to new positives and challenges.”
“I saw Jared as a bit of a class clown, early on,” said Hawkins, who taught Odrick in Humanities and Film as an Art classes in the mid 2000s. “It wasn’t surprising to me he was willing to come aboard. I’m an actor at heart, and I love working with new talent. I love bringing performances out of actors.”
As Kevin Rockwell, Odrick is funny, believable and personable. The audience at the Allen seemed to take well to Odrick’s character, as he embraced the role and ultimately made it his own.
Employing engaging facial expressions and comedic voice inflections, he delivered a better-than-expected performance.
“For the role I was provided, I was decent,” said Odrick, who admitted to some pre-screening jitters. “I tried to interact in a way I could present the subtleties I wanted. I was in agreement with the director about doing something opposite of what is perpetuated about football players and defensive linemen.
“It was pretty cool,” added Odrick. “I wanted to work with him (Hawkins) because he was the first one to introduce film to me as an art. For the role, I wanted to be on the edge, so I drank a lot of coffee before the shooting. I get a little edgy when I’m on caffeine.”
“This is a dream come true for me to have a film screened here at the Allen Theatre,” said Hawkins, who made his directorial debut with another short, Rollercoaster, a few years back. “We wanted to create a special project for Jared and Karl (co-star, Holtz). I came up with this and approached them about it and they came aboard.”
In 2015, when then a member of the Miami Dolphins, Odrick appeared as himself in four episodes of the HBO series ‘Ballers’. Odrick is nearing the end of a seven-year NFL career and when his playing days are through, he could pursue his interest in film.
“I’m glad I came,” said Odrick. “I’m glad I saw it. I was getting nervous. I almost didn’t come.
“Probably the most difficult part of it was the schedule,” Odrick added. “Keeping the schedule. Time management. There are a lot of similarities between football and film, just taking coaching on the fly. Whether you see it the same way or not, it’s listening.”
Family-oriented and kid friendly, ‘Filling In’ was shot over four days in April of 2016 in Rochester, New York, and in July of 2016 in various parts of Lancaster County. The film features a total of 13 of Hawkins’ former students, and a quick cameo by former Lebanon High girls’ basketball coach Ben Brewer.
Hawkins and the film’s producers are hoping that ‘Filing In’ will one day be made into a television series.