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From Marlow to New York City, Paul Sparks has followed path to acting success

Oklahoma native Paul Sparks has turned advice, acting experiences into successful drama career.
BY MELISSA HAYER mhayer@opubco.com Published: September 27, 2013
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Growing up in a family full of coaches and sports-oriented small Oklahoma towns, “Boardwalk Empire” star Paul Sparks thought he was headed toward a career as an athlete.

But, after some advice from his father, Mike, also Marlow High School's football coach at the time, Sparks took a speech class his freshman year and found himself having fun acting in plays.

“My father never made me take a class ... except when I started high school at Marlow. He said, ‘You know what? I think you ought to have to take a speech class because I took a speech class when I was in college.' And he felt like that was such a great thing to be able to want to speak in front of people,” Sparks said during a phone interview.

Sparks' speech teacher, Paula McConnell, who was also the drama teacher, later suggested he try out for a theater scholarship to accompany his academic scholarship at Oklahoma State University, where he planned to study chemistry.

“So, I auditioned for it and got that scholarship at Oklahoma State. I just thought I was going to take some acting classes, and it turned out you had to audition for plays if you had that scholarship. So, I did and was fortunate enough to get cast in some plays when I was there. And then slowly my life started to revolve around the people that were involved in the theater, and I enjoyed that.”

Sparks was then encouraged to make a go at a career in acting.

“So, eventually I would meet some people that were from the East Coast, and they would say, ‘You should come out here and really try and be an actor.' I was sort of young and naive and had no idea what I was getting into, so I just decided, ‘OK, I'll go to New York.' And my father sort of talked me into trying to go to school there to finish up my undergraduate degree, and luckily I got into NYU. So, I finished up there, and I studied acting and philosophy.”

All of this advice, along with the good decisions he made after receiving it, have definitely paid off for the actor.

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