This morning I got a little teary when I heard that Richard Jenkins was nominated for a best actor Oscar for "The Visitor." I met Jenkins in the early 1970's when I was a photography student at the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence. I had the good fortune to live in a loft one block from the Trinity Square Repertory Company, one of the finest regional theater companies in the United States. Coming from Los Angeles, one would think I'd been around actors before, but being involved with Trinity was my first exposure to actors up close and personal. My boyfriend and I photographed rehearsals and productions, and on occasion actors would come over to get their head shots done.
Jenkins was one of those actors. He was then, as he seems to be now (judging from interviews I've seen) a straightforward, down-to-earth guy. I remember a lot of intensity in his eyes that made him fun to photograph. His wife Sharon was a dancer and I recall photographing her for a news story on her company. Jenkins doesn't seem to look all that different now (ok, maybe a little less hair.)
Over the years, I've spotted several of the actors from Trinity in films and television, but no one as much as Jenkins. The guy seems to be in everything (not really, but sometimes it seems that way.) Until "The Visitor" he was known for supporting character roles. A lot more people got to know him from the HBO series "Six Feet Under."
I love the fact that he never joined the hordes of show-biz types in Los Angeles and New York and continued to live with his family in Providence. It's a city that suits him; never flashy, but always interesting. I also love that Jenkins is the antithesis of the attention-seeking Hollywood celebrity. He has quietly and consistently done great work in theater, television, and film for over thirty years. His public image is more of an "everyman" who just happens to be incredibly talented.
Whenever I see his face I'm reminded I was lucky to hang out at that theater in Providence. I will be rooting for him on Oscar night and feeling glad that I knew him way back when.