Sean Patrick Flanery stars in his directorial debut feature film that he also wrote, “Frank & Penelope,” which was released on June 3. We caught up with him to ask about the film and his unique life’s journey
Tell us a little about yourself and how your interest in acting began.
My least favorite days of fourth grade English class were always when we’d show up and find the chairs in a big circle…and I knew we’d all be assigned characters from the greatest playwrights’ minds to read and try to bring to life. Truth is, that stuff put me to sleep. That is, until a nine-year-old girl named Donna transferred into the Houston ISD from Waco just after Christmas break. And, while all the other kids read their parts with the understanding of a lower primate, Donna felt every word…just like I did. From then on, I made it my mission to sit near her or across from her and pour myself into every word or line given to me.
Talk about your dog named Donut.
I met that mutt some time ago. She was at the pound when I saw a picture of her on the internet. I guess I was feeling charitable, so I got in my car and drove there. There was something about her eyes in that picture that felt familiar…like home. I knew I couldn’t leave that place without her. After we left, I bought her a meal of sausage kolaches and myself a couple of glazed donuts. But, she didn’t want hers. She wanted mine. So I gave her mine. And it became her name…Donut.
You wrote, directed and appear in your most recent film, Frank and Penelope, which is produced by Allen Gilmer. What’s the story behind the film?
The real answer is nothing more complex than because producers Allen Gilmer and Scott Dolezal asked me to. I respect both of them and they had an amazing story by a great writer named John Thaddeus. That phone call was one of the most wonderful and creative opportunities to have ever befallen me. And after I hung up the phone, I set out on a blisteringly-paced mission to write what was inside their heads.
Tell us about your interest in the martial arts.
I was just a kid the first time I saw a girl named Glenda walk home from the Piggly Wiggly. I didn’t care that she was being teased by the big kids for her funny white pants, or the fact that she pushed her bike with a flat tire just so she could carry things in it’s basket, or the fact that she sang the “if you like pina coladas” song the whole way home.
One day, I followed her all the way past the Piggly Wiggly to what appeared to be a Chinese restaurant right next door with the words “Tae Kwon Do” on the wall. I didn’t have any idea what they served in there, but if it made Glenda grin, I wanted some too. My mom signed me up for lessons the next day. I didn’t really care who the sensei was, I just wanted to meet Glenda. About two months in, I still hadn’t managed to squeak out so much as a “hi”, when someone ran in from the back door of the dojo and screamed, “There’s someone breaking into a car!” Well, the whole class emptied out into the parking lot where we saw some guy running away from a car with an in-dash stereo in his hands.
Sensei yells, “Come out here buddy, we’ve got you surrounded,” or some other type of wanna-be John Wayne crap. Silence. Then, I feel a tug on the back of my kimono. I freeze, knowing that my ever-present Glenda positioning system placed her directly behind me. Thank God for Clint Eastwood movies, because I didn’t even look behind me. I just reached around and grabbed her hand. Her gesture smoothed my fears and gave me the confidence I needed that if anything threatened her, my protective drive would kick in.
Since that day I’ve been strongly against any self defense system consisting solely of “Hope.” I’ve been a life-long martial artist ever since and now have a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu academy right here in The Great State of Texas.
What would you say to someone who has a gift to act? What advice would you give to encourage or inspire them?
Be good. Have someone other than your mom and dad tell you you’re good. Cut an amazing demo reel. Get an agent. Go on auditions until you get jobs. Be grateful and professional at all times. Finally, never forget that you are being paid handsomely for something that you would willingly do for free…and don’t mess it up.
Any future projects/plans you can talk about?
Currently, I’m converting my first book, Jane Two, into a screenplay. It’s something I’m equally as passionate about as Born a Champion. And I hope to direct it in the not too distant future.
Cover Photo from Sean Patrick Flanery
Bob Valleau is a freelance writer living in McKinney, Texas.