Recently I had the rare opportunity to catch a glimpse of Pertrucio, Felix Unger, and Macbeth when I sat down with Duane Weekly, a Coronado actor who has played all of these roles. An established actor with an impressive resume, Weekly has starred in and been featured in commercials, movies, television shows, and plays, and he has worked as a director as well.
Weekly, who’s in his mid-60s, isn’t your stereotypical actor, someone who dreamed from an early age of finding fame on stage or on the big screen. Born in Lewiston, Idaho, Weekly was raised in Fresno, California, where his family didn’t have much. They moved often simply because they couldn’t afford the next month’s rent, leading young Weekly to attend six different elementary schools. From his humble beginnings in Fresno to where he is today, Weekly credits his early childhood experiences with giving him the “skills to meet people easily.”
In high school Weekly sustained a football injury, and was no longer able to play baseball or football. When it was time to sign up for an elective, he chose Stagecraft, where he learned to build sets, how to design, and how to do stage managing. “I fell in love with it,” he says of his role as a self-proclaimed “techie”. Content to be backstage, Weekly explains that when it came to acting, “I never wanted to do that.”
After high school, Weekly spent “two and a half weeks in college” before deciding to join the Coast Guard, where he spent four years as a damage controlman. During his Coast Guard stint, Weekly spent a year and a half in San Diego on an 82 foot search and rescue boat out of Point Loma, and knew Southern California was the place for him.
After the Coast Guard, Weekly initially moved back to Fresno, and then used his GI Bill to give higher education a second chance at Southwestern College, where he majored in Theater Arts. “They had a great theater department there,” he says. “My real goal was to direct and be a technical lighting guy, sound guy, all the techie stuff, but in order to be a Theater Arts major, you have to act at some point, and to be able to direct, you have to be able to act,” he says as he laughs.
How did he make the transition from being the behind-the-scenes guy to being the star of the stage? He explains how he got “hooked” on acting. “I was running sound for a show, and I was off in the wings, and I was making a comment about one of the actors, who’s going to be nameless. I said, ‘I thought that guy stunk.’ Another guy standing behind me named Tim Weske, who I’m still great friends with, heard me, and said, ‘If you’re that great, and you think you could do any better, why don’t you come audition for one of my one-act plays?”
Weekly took his friend up on the challenge, and was cast as the lead in the play Wurzel Flummery, where he got to speak with a British accent. Growing up, mimicry and speaking with accents was something he did for fun. “I was a clown as a kid,” he recalls, saying he liked to make people laugh, and his role in Wurzel Flummery proved that as an adult he still enjoyed evoking the same reaction from people. He remarks, “I was hooked!”
Less than a year later Weekly found himself playing the lead in Macbeth at Southwestern College.
After his time at Southwestern College, Weekly sold real estate for a few years, but says, “I always wanted to go back to theater.”
In 1978 Weekly was hired by a title company that moved him to San Diego, and “I’ve been here ever since,” he explains of his move to the area.
Acting remained a hobby for Weekly over the years, but it wasn’t until about three years ago that Weekly made the leap to making acting his profession. “I sort of turned a switch about three years ago, and decided it needed to be more than a hobby. I never considered it a business prior to that point,” he says.
So what changed his mind? “I did a feature film called Misdirection,” he explains, adding details about how the psychological thriller was shot from start to finish with no cuts in all kinds of locations. “Then about a year later a cameraman named Ron Kilby called me up, and said, ‘What do you think about doing a commercial?’ I said, ‘Sure!’ They wanted a blue collar, everyday guy, and I shot that commercial for Pacific Marine Credit Union. I made $1,000 in three hours, and I couldn’t make that in six months of acting in a theater. That’s when the light went on,” he says, noting that the commercial acting was “easy because I had the skills from theater, the chops as they call it, and it’s just a little different skill in front of a camera instead of in front of 500 people in the audience.”
Around that same time, Weekly was in the process of retiring from his job as a sales representative for a carpet manufacturer, where he had worked for twenty-five years, mostly in San Diego County. He decided that commercial acting needed “to become a business” and began in earnest sending out professional headshots as he began making frequent trips to Los Angeles about twice a week. He began appearing in commercials for pharmaceuticals as well as devices because “I’m at that age,” he acknowledges with self deprecating yet honest amusement.
He took a break from acting on stage for a few years to focus on acting in commercials, but something about the feel of performing on stage in front of a live crowd lured him back. Most recently he starred in a two-person play called The Duck Variations, which “fell in my lap,” he says. The time constraints of performing in a play are, according to Weekly, “always a challenge,” but he says, “The director actually got a hold of me, and wanted me to come and audition for it, and gave me the part. The rehearsal schedule was easy. It was great, and it was something that I needed to do,” he says of rekindling his love of acting on stage.
Weekly has found a balance between professional acting and acting for enjoyment, saying that the commercials and movies are the “business” side of his profession that pay his bills while the stage acting side of his profession “feeds the ego.” He says, “Once you’ve got a stage performance under your belt, it’s like being a mom. Once you’re a mom, you’re always a mom. Once you’ve got that taste of that [performing on stage], you want it. I go crazy if I go four or five years without doing it.”
When asked what some of his favorite roles he’s had the opportunity to play so far have been, Weekly gives a well-thought and heartfelt answer. “It depends on what you’re going through in your life. I always tell people that acting is the best therapy I’ve ever had; it’s the cheapest therapy I could get. There are favorite plays that no one else liked,” he says with great humor, ” and then there are turning points.”
What was one of Weekly’s turning points? “I actually played Felix in The Odd Couple. I was cast opposite the kind of guy that I am. I’m more of an Oscar. They cast me as Felix, and it changed the way I looked at acting, that I could stretch and do different roles.”
He lists playing Macbeth as another pivotal role, and then cites the play A View From the Bridge, an Arthur Miller play where he played Eddie Carbone as a “fantastic role” because his character had “depth and psychological problems” and there were “lots of sexual innuendos.” He continues, “The funniest play is a play we did at Scripps Ranch Theatre called Don’t Dress for Dinner, a hilarious farce.”
Weekly recounts quite an impressive list of favorite roles and turning points, but he becomes choked up as he talks about his role that was “at the top, top, top of the list” because that’s when he met his wife Susy. The couple met right here in Coronado in 1997 when he was performing in a play called Last of the Red Hot Lovers. “She was my stage manager. I immediately fell in love with her, and married her a year later,” he says as he wipes a tear from the corner of his eye. He may be an exceptional actor, but there is nothing contrived about the emotion he displays when talking about his real-life leading lady.
Even though Weekly doesn’t appear on stage very often anymore, it’s by choice rather than lack of roles being available. “I turn down a lot of stuff now, and I don’t mean that arrogantly,” he’s quick to explain. “I don’t pursue it. I’ve kind of disappeared in the theater world except for this last thing [The Duck Variations] I did, and that’s okay because I’d rather be a big frog in a little pond in terms of films and mostly commercials because commercials pay really well. It’s a different craft.”
While his stage performance of The Duck Variations is now complete, Weekly is hoping to extend his role. “There’s talk about making it a movie,” he says. “I have two film directors who are interested in doing this as a film. We just need to figure out if we can get the rights to it. That would be fun! That’s what I would like to get done,” he explains. “In the meanwhile, I’ll keep running to L.A.”
Weekly is hopeful that his trips to L.A., which, of course, include sitting in traffic for hours on end, may start to become less frequent because “film is getting a little more exposure in San Diego.” He goes on to talk about a new TV show about baseball called Pitch that is being filmed in San Diego. “There’s going to be some better exposure here for TV and film, which we need,” he says. “A lot of us actors are running to L.A. two or three times a week because that’s where the jobs are.”
Does Weekly think it will be much different to play his role from The Duck Variations in a film than it was to play his character on stage? “I love both crafts. With film I’m still learning a lot of craft, and using the eyes instead of the face. The camera doesn’t lie. That’s the tough part.” He explains how with film he doesn’t have as much to worry about in terms of where to look or where to stand. “It’s less to think about [film acting], but there’s nothing like a live audience,” he explains. “When you get that laugh or that applause,” he says as he pauses to articulate what it means to him, “it’s like nothing else.” Weekly loves the immediate gratification he gets from being on stage and the energy he feels from the audience, but he says that he also appreciates the “intimacy” that film gives, noting how interesting it is that film can tell the same story differently.
With at least two trips to Los Angeles each week and acting in commercials and plays, it would be easy to assume that Weekly would have little extra time for anything else in his life, but that simply isn’t the case. Weekly performs once or twice a week at the Murder Mystery Company, where he enjoys the opportunity to ad-lib. In his spare time he is also an in-home wine tasting consultant as well as an avid tennis player.
Weekly’s wife got him interested in playing tennis about three years ago, and now he is an active member of the Coronado Tennis Association. “For about two years I’ve been the captain of team tennis on Saturday mornings,” he shares. “We have a really great group of folks that play. It’s been challenging, but fun.” The Saturday morning tennis group, which plays from 8:00 am to noon, plays mixed doubles and men’s doubles, and consists of about fifteen players. Weekly is helping the Coronado Tennis Association plan an all-star extravaganza youth tennis benefit, which will be a one-day tournament that’s a scholarship fundraiser for youth tennis players. The event, which is still being planned, will be held sometime around Mother’s Day.
Weekly is interested in reaching out to the community both on and off the tennis courts as well as on and off the stage. Does Weekly have any words of wisdom for Coronado residents who are interested in becoming actors? “Don’t let the runway run out,” Weekly advises people of all ages. “Go do it even if it’s a stage reading. Get involved! There are two great theaters in Coronado, even if you want to get backstage. Don’t make excuses!”
As Weekly continues speaking, he becomes visibly choked up thinking about what acting has personally meant to him. Fighting back tears, he says, “If you follow your passion, good things happen. It’s true.” He thinks back to when he starred in The Last of the Red Hot Lovers. “I was in a very destructive period of my life. I was drinking too much. I was overweight. I was working in retail, which I hated. Somebody said, ‘Why don’t you go out for this play that I know the director of?’ I looked at the script, and it was a huge line load. I said, ‘I can’t handle this right now. Long story short, I don’t know why, but I decided to do the play because it was one of the things that drives my passion. Suddenly my life opened up. I was 44 years old and unmarried, and I met my soul mate, and my life changed completely by going after something that I truly was passionate about and wanted to do.”
“Just know that if there’s something in you telling you to do that [acting], then somebody’s speaking to you, telling you to do that, and it’s all going to end up good. It’s never going to end up bad. If you want to go to Toastmasters and become a speaker, then there’s something that the world needs to hear from you,” Weekly says.
Of course, acting doesn’t come without its challenges, especially the possibility of rejection. What does Weekly find is the most challenging part of acting? He answers, “I think my own limits that I put on myself.” He quotes his inner voice that sometimes fills his mind with doubt, “I don’t like the drive. I don’t like the director. I don’t like this. I don’t like that.” He explains, “It’s the inner-talk that goes on in your head. You can use those [inner-talk] as an actor, but you can’t allow them to get in your way.”
“At my age, I’ll be sixty-five in June, I think one of the challenges too is the energy and memory,” he says as he erupts into more hearty laughter, “especially quick memory, which you need in films and commercials. They want you to learn it like this,” he says as he snaps. He’s quick to point out, “That being said though, that’s the inner-talk again. ‘I can’t learn this in five minutes.’ That’s the challenge every time. No matter what comes in front of you, there’s that little self-talk.”
Overall Weekly says the most rewarding part about acting is self-realization. “I think, of course, we do theater for the audience. We like the applause, but I think more so than that, we like the progressive moving forward, figuring out characters, figuring out the lines.” Weekly explains that the process is a never ending one because just when he thinks he’s got it down, he realizes there are more ways to challenge himself as an actor, to always improve his craft. “Your performance can be phenomenal, but in your mind you think, ‘I could do a little better here, or this line could be said better.’ Telling stories is gratifying. Whether you’re a big part of that story or a little part of that story, you’re directing that story, or lighting that story, stories move people. I think that’s the rewarding part, to move an audience.”
He concludes that acting is also rewarding because it gives him a sense of “being a family.” Weekly says, “I had no family for years when I first moved here from Fresno. Theater was my family; all my friends in the theater, the dancers, singers, actors, construction people. There’s a sense of community.” We are certainly lucky to call Duane Weekly a member of our community here in Coronado. Break a leg, Duane!