The guy in this picture has to look familiar, right? That’s Richard Jenkins, an actor that was born in DeKalb, Illinois and graduated from Illinois Wesleyan University, which is also my alma mater. If you’re a Will Ferrell fan you might have seen him in “Step Brothers” this past summer. He played Ferrell’s dad in the so-so comedy. He was also the lead in “The Visitor,” which, if you haven’t seen it yet, you should. In case you’re trying to figure out where else you’ve seen the guy, check out his IMDB.com page here.
Anyhoo, I met Mr. Jenkins about a month ago at IWU’s homecoming weekend, where he had returned to town to show “The Visitor” and do a little Q&A afterwards. I missed the show for some reason—I forget why—but when I was rolling around with pals on campus the next day I bumped into him at the book store. So I just rolled up and introduced myself.
I said I was a big fan, even though I’ve only seen about four of his films, but he seemed genuinely flattered and engaged himself in a fantastic conversation with me, which I neither expected nor deserved. Mostly just a bunch of mundane chatter about his feelings on IWU, a few anecdotes from his time there, and a couple of cool stories about John C. Reilly, who he actually knew when Reilly was a kid. Jenkins used to work for the kid’s grandfather and remembers the “Step Brothers” co-star as a four-year-old saying someday he was going to be a bigger actor than Unkie Richard. Jenkins sort of laughed and said the kid was right (Reilly got an Oscar nod for “Chicago,” if’n you recall).
All in all, he was a fantastic guy. One of those pure, deep voices that subtly rattle your insides like the bassline from a good rock song. Firm handshake, authentic smile. I just enjoyed talking with the dude. I’d do it again if presented the opportunity.