Smithton resident Dean Schardan will make his TV debut Wednesday night as a private investigator on an episode of “Swamp Murders.”
The Investigative Discovery show re-enacts true-crime investigations. Schardan, 44, traveled to Atlanta for four days of filming in July.
“I don’t know how much they cut, but I had 15 pages of dialogue that I was involved in,” he said. “So it was a pretty substantial part.”
The episode, called “Murder of the Medic,” will air locally at 8 p.m. Wednesday and be rebroadcast at 11 a.m. Thursday and 5 p.m. Saturday on the ID channel.
I just kind of watched what everyone else did (on the set) and tried not to screw up.
Dean Schardan on acting in TV show
Schardan plays David Marshburn, a North Carolina private investigator who helped catch the killer of Pfc. Kelli Bordeaux, a 23-year-old Army combat medic murdered in 2012.
Schardan has worked as stand-up comedian for years, but he had never acted for TV or film or studied acting.
“I just kind of watched what everyone else did (on the set) and tried not to screw up,” he said.
Schardan grew up in Caseyville. As a young man, he got involved with a “bad crowd,” robbed four banks in Michigan and spent seven years in prison. He returned to the metro-east, began working as a union laborer, married and eventually returned to comedy, thanks to encouragement from his old friend, Art Vieluf.
In 2013, Schardan filmed a pilot for a reality show. The idea was to hit the road with other comedians, raise money and do good deeds. His pitch was, “A stand-up comic goes to prison for bank robbery, does his time, comes out a different man and realizes the world doesn't owe him. He owes the world.”
So far, no network has picked up the reality show, called “The Long Way Home.”
Schardan heard about auditions for “Swamp Murders” through the Actors Access website. The first step was sending a video.
“They just gave me a bunch of lines and told me to read them into the camera,” he said. “It was hard, whatever I did, they must have liked it.”
Schardan got a call-back in June. He drove nine hours to Atlanta one day and back home the next for a 15-minute audition. He didn’t think he would get the job, but two days later, producers called with an offer.
“It was a dream come true,” he said. “If you look at how far down I was in life, and then for me to be able to perform in a national TV show, it’s just an amazing feeling.”
Schardan’s wife, Earlene, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2014. She’s in remission, but he sticks close to home, mainly doing concrete work.
Schardan will open Nov. 14 at Hey Guys Comedy Club in Fairview Heights for Fortune Feimster, a comedian best known as a writer and performer on “Chelsea Lately.”
“I’m still doing stand-up,” Schardan said. “But I’m selective on which shows I take.”