Metro-East Living

See Adam Wainwright’s movie debut Saturday in Belleville

Actors Jackie Manker, left, Cody Heuer, and Adam Wainwright film a scene for the movie “Proximity.” Adam is a St. Louis Cardinals pitcher who tried acting for the first time last summer.
Actors Jackie Manker, left, Cody Heuer, and Adam Wainwright film a scene for the movie “Proximity.” Adam is a St. Louis Cardinals pitcher who tried acting for the first time last summer. Provided

An independent movie filmed in Centralia and Belleville will hit the big screen Saturday with dozens of St. Louis and metro-east actors, including Adam Wainwright.

The 34-year-old Cardinals pitcher is making his acting debut in “Proximity,” although he isn’t expected to attend the Lincoln Theatre showing. He’s at his off-season home in Georgia, said writer-director Dan Steadman, who was pleasantly surprised by Adam’s performance.

“To be honest, I didn’t expect much,” said Dan, 42, of De Soto, Mo. “We’ve all seen sports figures hosting ‘Saturday Night Live,’ and it’s a little bit of torture because they can’t read cue cards, and they can’t memorize lines. They have other talents. But (Adam) did a really good job.”

Associate producer Kathy Kaiser, a friend of Adam’s family, invited him to join the cast. He was out most of last season with the Cardinals due to injury. Filming took place over one week in July.

The romantic comedy is set in Centralia. Adam plays Roger, an old boyfriend of the 39-year-old main character, Ella. He bumps into her and her new boyfriend at a park, creating an uncomfortable situation because she’s trying to pass for 30.

Adam’s scene was filmed at a golf course in Chesterfield, Mo., on a day with misting rain. He wore black socks with shorts to show Roger’s geekiness. At one point, Ella tries to get rid of Roger by pretending to see his teenage daughter talking to a man wearing a Chicago Cubs jersey, an inside joke sure to amuse Cardinals fans.

He was like a pro. You would never know this was his first role. And he was cracking us up off-camera. He was so funny. He just had these really witty one-liners that no one expected. He was down-to-earth, easy to talk to and accessible.

Jackie Manker on meeting Adam Wainwright

“(Adam) was like a pro,” said actor Jackie Manker, 33, of Fairview Heights, who plays Ella. “You would never know this was his first role. And he was cracking us up off-camera. He was so funny. He just had these really witty one-liners that no one expected. He was down-to-earth, easy to talk to and accessible.”

“Proximity” also stars Sandy Sparks, of Fenton, Mo., as Ella’s mother, Naomi; Cody Heuer, of Cape Girardeau, Mo., as Ella’s boyfriend, Tyler; Bill Finkbiner, of St. Louis as Dr. Gordon; and Meg Davis, of St. Louis, as Ella’s friend, Cocoa. KSDK-TV news anchor Kelly Jackson has a small part.

The 80-minute movie premiered Dec. 18-19 at Centralia Cultural Society’s Community Arts Center. It will be shown at noon Saturday at the Lincoln with red-carpet hoopla beginning at 11. Admission is $8. Tickets are available at www.circa87.com.

“I’m passionate about telling Midwestern stories and portraying ordinary people in my movies,” said Dan, a Michigan native who also wrote and directed the 2014 movie “Belleville.” “They come in all shapes and sizes, all races and backgrounds. They’re not Botoxed into being unrecognizable.”

Dan adapted “Proximity” from a stage play he wrote in 2007 with Rajeev Sigaoney. He shot most scenes in Centralia. Belleville filming took place at St. Paul United Church of Christ, including trivia-night flashbacks and stories by couples explaining how they met, reminiscent of “When Harry Met Sally ...”

Ella is a Chicago decorator who returns to Centralia after her father’s death to comfort her grieving mother. Naomi wants to fix her up with Dr. Gordon, a 46-year-old surgeon, but Ella falls for Tyler, a 26-year-old musician.

“The general message is that sometimes we can find people in our proximity — in the same place at the same time — even though society would put them world’s apart,” Jackie said.

In real life, Jackie is a real-estate agent, Spanish interpreter and mother of two daughters. She has been acting about 10 years in commercials, industrial videos and independent St. Louis films. Ella is by far her biggest role.

“I’m in every single scene that’s not a cutaway,” she said. “I couldn’t even begin to count the number of lines. It’s tough memorizing, but when a script is well-written, it just flows naturally, and Dan is a very good writer.”

Dan lived in Los Angeles until last year, working as a writer, producer and casting director for TV shows, pilots and webisodes. He moved to Missouri after making “Belleville.” He saw the potential of growing his production company, Circa87, by finding untapped talent and providing opportunities for Midwestern actors.

St. Louis actor Cooper Shaw, who starred in “Belleville,” won an American Movie Award for Best Supporting Actress.

After the success of ‘Belleville,’ which was shown in 15 theaters in four states, I decided it was more exciting than anything I was doing in L.A. I thought maybe this was the path I needed to take.

Dan Steadman on moving to the Midwest

“After the success of ‘Belleville,’ which was shown in 15 theaters in four states, I decided it was more exciting than anything I was doing in L.A.,” Dan said. “I thought maybe this was the path I needed to take.”

In the past year, Dan has filmed three other movies in Missouri and Illinois, including “Love Chronicles (of the Cape),” “Somewhere Between Arnold and Festus” and “Expect Delays.” Actors have volunteered their time in exchange for experience, allowing him to put proceeds from ticket sales back into the company.

Sandy, 68, is a retired social-studies teacher who had never acted until Dan cast her in “Somewhere.” She played a woman in a cafe being interviewed for a documentary about relationships.

“I was pleased with the way it came off on screen,” she said. “I didn’t know what to expect. I just knew I had three pages of dialogue. I didn’t know what came before it. I didn’t know what came after it. ... It’s neat watching yourself on the big screen, playing someone who isn’t you. It’s an experience. It’s like, ‘Wow.’”

Sandy was thrilled to find out that Adam would be part of the “Proximity” cast. She felt like she already knew him from her 10-year job as a Busch Stadium usher.

“Adam was so sweet,” said Sandy, who wore her Cardinals World Series pendant on the day he was on the set. “When he found out I was an usher, he gave me a big hug. He is such a nice guy. It was such a privilege meeting him.”

At a glance

  • What: Showing of the movie “Proximity”
  • Where: Lincoln Theatre, 103 E. Main St. in Belleville
  • When: Noon Saturday (red carpet with actors begins at 11)
  • Admission: $8
  • Tickets: Visit www.circa87.com
  • Information: Email ethan@circa87.com
Related stories from Belleville News-Democrat

  Comments