For Cary High School graduate Anthony Reynolds, following his dreams didn’t always come easy. At a young age, he was called a “dreamer” and wasn’t encouraged to go into acting.
But a performance in the movie “Fantastic Four,” which arrived in theaters this month, marks one of his most notable roles to date, earning him nearly 20 minutes of screen time in the anticipated summer blockbuster.
It’s a testament to the hard work and dedication he has put into honing his craft over 22 years in film and television. In those two decades, he’s appeared in more than 50 projects. He’s doubled for Edward Norton and Billy Bob Thornton, filmed all over the country, from California to the Florida Keys, and has worked alongside actors such as Jennifer Lawrence and Jake Gyllenhaal.
In “Fantastic Four,” Reynolds, 47, portrays a military officer in scenes with actor Tim Blake Nelson. The latest Marvel reboot of “Fantastic Four” is about four people who must use their abilities from another universe to save Earth.
For Reynolds, the role is similar to the other cops, military officers and detectives that he often portrays – and which inspire the name for his website.
“That’s my niche,” he said. “I have law enforcement and military experience, and directors like that stuff. They want to know that you know protocol. They want to get it right.”
But no matter the role, Reynolds said nothing compares to the education he receives on set from working alongside Oscar-worthy and top-notch actors.
“My goal is to learn something new on every show,” said Reynolds, who has had professional training in New York and California. “I think you can never stop learning. You can never stop improving your skill set, your craft.”
Although Reynolds always wanted to be an actor, he wasn’t always encouraged to follow his dreams, particularly during his childhood. He said his late father, M.E. “Gene” Reynolds, who was a state trooper, didn’t support his plans to become an actor.
“It just wasn’t something that I was encouraged to do,” Reynolds said. “I just kind of went rogue, as it were, and went and tried it out to see if I could do it, and 22 years later, I’m still in the game.”
He grew up in Cary, graduating from high school in 1986. He graduated from East Carolina University in 1992 and was hired for his first production – a 1994 television movie called “Dead Man’s Revenge” – where he played a town person opposite Bruce Dern.
Flash forward to the summer of 2014, when he spent 12 weeks on the set of “Fantastic Four” in Baton Rouge, La. While Reynolds always says that his favorite film is his next one, he said “Fantastic Four” has been one of the highlights.
In the film, Reynolds is on screen for about 15 to 20 minutes and has some lines.
“Tim Blake is kind of overseeing the program for the government for the Fantastic Four” Reynolds said. “Me and three others kind of fly in and assess what’s going on, and we see the heroes in action.”
Being on set with stars Miles Teller and Michael B. Jordan was more than a learning experience, he said. The set was a fun one, too.
“On “Fantastic Four,” just standing around with (stars) Miles Teller and Michael B. Jordan, those guys are just crack-ups,” he said. “There’s a lot of joking and tomfoolery going on behind the scenes up until they time they yell, ‘Action.’”
Inspiring a new generation
While continuing to audition for new roles, Reynolds is also an acting coach in Wilmington, where he now lives with his wife and children. His father passed away in 2000, and his mother, Ethel L. Reynolds, moved to Wilmington in 2007 to spend more time with family. She still returns to Cary often to visit friends and the First United Methodist Church on South Academy Street.
One of his students and fellow actor, Kristi Ray, said the second time she met Reynolds on set, she didn’t recognize him because of how convincingly he was portraying his character – a stalker.
“When the man showed up to set, I just was actually afraid of the guy and didn’t realize that it was Tony, who I had met previously,” Ray said. “He was in character the moment he got there.”
And on that day, Ray said, Reynolds became one of her mentors.
“To all of us in his class, he’s like Uncle Tony,” she said. “He’s down to earth and grounded and genuine, but he’s a real hard worker and a family man, so it’s really nice seeing someone like that be successful.”
Kathryn Trogdon; 919-460-2608; @KTrogdon