PISCATAWAY, NJ — While Piscataway High School is sometimes dubbed ‘NFL High’ for the numbers of lucky Chiefs who have landed on NFL professional teams, it has also turned out pros in other fields, such as STEM, legal, and education professionals to name a few.
One such up and coming pro in the arts is actor, Malcolm Farrell, a 2011 PHS alum who has appeared in commercials and print ads for such brands as Target, Adidas, Ford, Apple, Chase Bank, and Crate and Barrell along with various films and TV shows.
“I always loved acting since I was young,” said Farrell, a long-time movie buff who attended Eisenhower, Arbor, and Quibbletown Schools growing up. “Really, I feel like it chose me.”
He most recently appeared as a news reporter in the new Romany Malco comedy film, ‘Tijuana Jackson: Purpose Over Prison’, a movie about a former prisoner who turns to motivational speaking as a way to turn his life around.
In the movie, which won Best Editing at the Brooklyn Film Festival and is available on streaming services, Farrell interviews two of the characters, Rachel and Tyler, a role he said he was prepared to do since he majored in Broadcast Journalism at the University of Houston.
“When I accepted the role, I was like this is great because I don’t have to over perform,” he recalled. “I can play it naturally and comfortably.”
Now settled in Houston, Texas, Farrell said he caught the acting bug long before he entered the hallowed halls of the Patton and Anthony buildings.
“I have a great core of family and friends who truly believe in me and saw it (acting) in me since I was young,” he said. “Whenever I went to their houses, I always wanted to watch a movie.”
Farrell said although he played soccer and baseball growing up and was a Chief on the PHS football team, “acting was something that was always on my mind.”
“I took film studies in high school which showed me the background of film techniques and why directors do certain things,” he said during a video interview from his home in the Lone Star State.
But what really sparked his interest in pursuing acting as a career was when he was part of the winning 2011 Lip Dub team at Piscataway High School.
“Ironically, that was the first thing I ever did was the Lip Dub,” he proudly recalled. “We set the world record at the time for having the most amount of people involved with lip dubbing. It was Aretha Franklin’s ‘Respect’ song. We practiced the whole week with Mr. Fairfield who was the digital video editing teacher.”
“Once I graduated (PHS) and came here to Houston, that’s when the whole process started,” Farrell said, now an alum of both San Jacinto Community College and the University of Houston. “I was like if this is really what I love to do, then I need to start taking classes. That’s when I started to learn and understand the fundamentals (of acting); understanding scenes and breaking down scripts.”
However, Farrell said that after auditioning, he wasn’t able to land a spot in the theater department at the University of Houston, so he switched his major to Broadcast Journalism and minored in business management.
At that point “acting was on the back burner since I didn’t have free time to do auditions,” the naturally shy actor recalled of the various college TV shows and production internships he was involved with as part of his coursework.
“But being in Broadcast Journalism actually helped me become more comfortable being in front of the camera which was a major plus for me,” he said.
Overlooked to Booked
“I’m going at it for 10 years now,” said Farrell about his journey. “Even though I had this instilled in me since I was young, with me being shy, it wasn’t until I got older when I was like, ‘if you really want to do this, you’ve got to get over this speed bump’.”
With the ups and downs that come with trying to land the next booking, Farrell said taking classes to improve his craft keeps him going.
“I’m always learning,” he said. “I take at least two acting classes every quarter just to stay sharp, especially during a time like this. I stay in touch with people in the industry, as well. I think that is important just to keep on track with where I’m going.”
“This whole pandemic I have been working on bettering myself and the areas I need to improve,” he continued. “It’s pivotal in your career to understand the business side of it, too, because if you don’t know what to do, it could deter your career, so I’m becoming very knowledgeable.”
“A lot of people felt it was bad for me to leave such a Mecca as New York City and the East Coast for movies and TV. But I have learned so much in Houston,” said Farrell. “An opportunity with Houston Rockets’ James Harden and Adidas, or Target would have been ten times harder to get in LA or New York because of the competition. Now I’m coming with a great resume and a great reel so I can be pitched and marketed very differently than just coming out there with nothing behind me.”
Although Farrell doesn’t appear until the final minutes of the Tijuana Jackson film, he said the exposure is starting to help his career. “Now people are seeing me and are saying ‘we knew he was a good actor and now he’s in that new project’.”
What’s next for the actor?
“I love commercials,” Farrell said with excitement. “Commercials are very good because they give you the knowledge of the game in a smaller setting. It’s the same cameras, but smaller sets and smaller crews, but they give you experience. So, as I progress, I’m getting more into the television and the film (opportunities). That’s where I’m headed.”
“I do have a couple of projects that have been stopped because of coronavirus,” he said. “I’m part of a project called ATW which is being shot in Houston along with another called ‘All Screwed Up’ about DJ Screw, a Texas hiphop DJ.
He’s also in an upcoming movie, ‘The People’ which started filming this month. He plays the part of Toby.
“It was created by my acting coach, Ricky Catter and is about different people experiencing different things during coronavirus, the pandemic,” said Farrell. “What’s great about this film is that it’s all monologues with people speaking on what they are going through right now.”
Stay tuned for more from Malcolm Farrell.
TAPintoPiscataway.net is an online newspaper serving the Township of Piscataway.