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Alex Draper to Play a Professor in NBC Drama ‘Taken’

January 17, 2018


A scene from the NBC drama Taken shows Associate Professor of Theatre Alex Draper ’88 (left) playing an anthropology professor in an episode from the second season. With him is the show's lead character, played by Clive Standen.

Last summer, while Associate Professor of Theatre Alex Draper ’88 was playing an English professor in Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia with PTP/NYC, an off-Broadway theater company affiliated with Middlebury College, he auditioned to play an anthropology professor in an episode of the NBC show Taken, starring Jennifer Beals and Clive Standen. He ended up getting the part and, after closing Arcadia, flew to Toronto for two weeks to shoot Taken

The show’s premiere of its second season was January 12. Draper appears in the second episode, which airs January 19. In the Q&A below he discusses what it was like to balance the various academic archetypes that each show cashed in on with the real-life version. 

How did it come about that you got the role of an anthropology professor in the second episode of Taken this season?
While I was in New York with PTP/NYC (playing an English professor in Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia), my agents were looking for projects I could audition for that would shoot after our season closed but before classes resumed in September. It was a pretty tight window, but this came up, I auditioned, and I booked it.

What was it like to play a professor when you actually are one?
It’s very fun. With both characters (Paul Graham in Taken and Bernard Nightingale in Arcadia) there are clichés woven into the portrayal of “the academic,” but they are based on things I can absolutely relate to, and certainly that world is familiar to me. Beyond that, it’s all about the story, and in Taken, my character gets thrown into a situation completely beyond his control, so in that sense, everything is new.

How does this experience compare to other TV shows you’ve been in?
It’s the biggest part I’ve ever played on TV. Making a one-hour drama is like shooting a movie in two weeks, so the timeline is compressed and intense. We shot in and around Toronto, and I was on set working long hours every day. I am usually hired to do a lot of talking, but because of the nature of the show, there was a lot of action. There were entire days where I’d hardly talk at all. It’s also the first time I’ve had a stunt 

Alex Draper as English professor Bernard Nightingale is pictured above with actor Stephanie Janssen in PTP/NYC's Arcadia last summer. Photo by Stan Barouh. 

How is it different than the serious theatrical roles you play more often?
The differences mostly have to do with scale. Acting on camera is smaller and more intimate while the scope of production and the potential audience are much larger. With Taken I was struck more by the similarities: the script (by Erik Mountain) was fantastic, and there was a three-act story that I was helping to drive. Also, because I was there for the entire shoot, the crew began to feel very much like a theater company where long hours working together gives you a sense of shared purpose.
What are your next roles in theater, TV, or film?
Later this month a horror movie written and directed by Andy Mitton ’01 that we shot in 2016 here in Middlebury with a crew made up of professionals and students from the Theatre and Film and Media Culture Departments is going to be submitted to festivals. Hopefully it will be released later in the spring. And then this summer PTP/NYC returns to New York for its 32nd season.

How do you balance your responsibilities as a faculty member with your acting?

It’s one of the joys and necessities of my job. We are fortunate that our teaching and our creative lives meld into and enrich each other. Work in my classes impacts the work in our productions here at Middlebury, which in turn influence the work we do with PTP/NYC and beyond. The connections we make and the impact we have in one area reinforce and feed into the others, and my working relationships with my students and colleagues are constantly evolving and morphing. This spring Stephen Kay, who directed the episode of Taken, is coming to campus to work with my Acting 3 class and David Miranda-Hardy’s directing class, and the cycle keeps revolving.