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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