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Big screen extra stars in Whidbey Playhouse's '1776'
Fernando Duran started living a dream in 2013.
And he hopes it’s only the start of bigger things to come.
Duran, a 31-year-old actor from Oak Harbor, got small parts in four feature films shot in the Puget Sound area last year.
It was his goal to make the leap on to the big screen after spending 10 years working on character development in community theater on Whidbey Island.
He got his chance in 2013 when a flood of films were shot in Everett and Seattle and he was cast as an extra in four. In two, he was a “featured extra,” meaning he appeared on the screen with principal characters but didn’t have a speaking part.
The four films, all coming out in 2014, are: “Laggies,” “Lucky Them,” “7 Minutes” and “The Architect.”
“I was literally working side by side with people like Keira Knightley and Thomas Haden Church and Oliver Platt,” Duran said. “It was just the greatest time I can think of. It was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m actually here now doing this.’”
It was a long time coming.
Duran started out with stars in his eyes, earning a scholarship while attending high school in Ventura, Calif., at an acting academy in Beverly Hills.
“I spent four years there learning to work in front of a camera,” Duran said.
Being bilingual, he was cast in shows on Telemundo, an American Spanish-language broadcast television network, and did some infomercials for the Public Broadcasting Service.
While pursuing his degree in theatre arts at the University of California at Santa Barbara, Duran learned that he enjoyed playing characters but wanted to learn the finer points.
He followed his parents to Whidbey and dove right into the theater and still hasn’t surfaced.
“I really wanted to focus on character development and continue to broaden my craft so I did about 10 years in theater pretty much consecutively,” said Duran, who’s lived in Oak Harbor since 2003 and performed in theaters in Mount Vernon, Oak Harbor and Langley. “I think I did 16 consecutive shows at one time. For three years, every night I was either in rehearsals or in a show.”
This week, Duran is playing the lead role of John Adams in “1776,” the Whidbey Playhouse musical that opens Friday night.
He gets so caught up in his character he catches himself sounding like John Adams offstage sometimes when he’s working at Island Drug in Oak Harbor. He is the provider relations manager there.
“I’ll say to myself, ‘Gee, I’ve got to pull it back,’” he said.
Duran is hoping the next step in his acting career will be landing some speaking roles on screen. If it means traveling to Los Angeles for auditions, he’ll do it, like he’s done many times before.
He enjoyed his brief brush with fame and close proximity to some of Hollywood’s notable stars.
He remembers shooting a scene in, “Lucky Them,” when he sat on a pillow cross-legged next to Church. It went on for 45 minutes and afterward Duran struggled a little to get to his feet.
“I was all achy and stiff,” Duran said. “He looks at me and says, ‘I know, right.’ I’ll never forget that.”
He plays a wedding guest and brunch guest in “Laggies,” which stars Knightley.
In “7 Minutes,” which features Kris Kristofferson, he plays a bartender.
Duran has set his sights high but also stays grounded.
The busy shooting season in Seattle is about to begin, he said.
“It’s always been a big dream to go big so to speak,” Duran said, “but also keeping in mind that realistically it is an extremely competitive field. I’m constantly going to auditions in Seattle and even Portland. You learn how to deal with rejection. I’m just pressing forth.”