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From the Electric City to the Crescent City, Opportunity Knocks for the Boy from Equinox

By Kay Willis Burns

Wednesday, March 6, 2019 10:36AM

A picture of David Shiflette from Lakeside Junior High School in 1965.

David Shiflette grew up in the Equinox Mill area of Anderson in the 1950s and ‘60s.

"Me and my friends rode our bikes all day long and never had to worry about strange people or crime. And we were always home before dark,” said David. “It was just a really simple life back then. Everybody knew everyone else. We always had a local mill to play basketball or swim. Every mill community had its own ball field ... and there were events all summer long. The people were the best part of growing up in Anderson. It really felt like Mayberry ... My brother still lives on the same family property I was raised on."

David attended Glenn Street Elementary School followed by Lakeside Junior High, and then T.L. Hanna High. Later on, David moved to Pensacola, Florida, where he owned a siding supply house business. But many years later, when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005, David felt the call to help, so he packed up and moved to the Crescent City.

After living in New Orleans for five years, David went into a coffee shop one day and met a guy named Steve Zahn. Zahn was lming the HBO series "Treme" and started talking about movies and TV. He told David that he should do some background acting work in films.

"I totally had no interest in it," said David. "But then he told me that it was something I could leave to my family and friends ... because ' films would be around for a long time, long after we were all gone.' "

So, David thought about it and decided that he would take the actor up on his offer. David started doing small parts on "Treme." A while later, he started work on ‘ True Detectives.’ Not long after that, David met Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson — and he was hooked.

A collage of pictures of David's acting roles.

"I'm not exactly sure of the total, but as a background actor I believe I’ve now been in about 40 movies, and 18 TV series ... It’s not always a fun job. Sometimes you may have to wear layers of heavy clothes in 90 degree heat. And sometimes, there are 12 to 16 hour days, early morning calls, and freezing temperatures in winter. And the A-List actors do this too.”

But David says the rewards of meeting so many extremely talented actors makes it worth the challenge. “Probably the best gig I've done was ‘American Horror Story’, Season 4, titled ‘Freak Show.’ I was in 12 of the 13 episodes and worked 3 to 4 days a week for 5 months. I was alongside the greats, like Jessica Lange and Kathy Bates, plus many others.

Being there every day and being close to the real talent, I learned that the ‘stars’ are just everyday people. All of their conversations are just like everyone else’s. It's just a job to them. They all live somewhat normal lives. I must say that Jessica (Lange) and I became instant friends. We were actually neighbors a few blocks apart and I had met her before we ever worked together, so I was a friendly face to her."

David’s next motion picture role is the one in the upcoming movie, "Voices," which will be released later in 2019.

"I didn't have to audition for the part I played because they liked my character look,” said David. "...It started out as a one- word part and ended up with 7 lines, and I became one of the main actors in this small scene of the movie."

Another of David’s favorite roles is the one in "The Purge" TV series. He says that it was his first taste of how a ‘real’ actor gets treated in a Screen Actors Guild role. “I had my own private trailer and my own personal assistant. LOL — life was good! And the list goes on."

David has had some not-so-good times as well.

"We were filming ‘American Horror Story’ one night," he said, “and we were in a wooded area supposedly looking for a missing person, and right before the cameras started rolling, I tripped in a hole and sprained my ankle. Being a person who didn't want to get replaced for the season, I played my part for 7 takes and finally made it through the shoot. Fortunately, we were off for the weekend and all was saved.

"Then another time, on WGN'S "Salem" series, I played a dead, naked body, and we were in a ditch in the woods. It was about 40 degrees and about 2-3 a.m. Well, it’s very cold when you’re naked and lying on dirt ... And here comes the special effects team who starts spraying water on you to make you shine in the dark. And then there are the fire ants..."

But David adds, "To put all this in perspective, I’ve done some amazing things and met some amazing people in my twilight years ... things I never even dreamed possible."

And what would David like to do if he could go back in time to Anderson? "Anderson is still my hometown, and always will be my hometown," said David. "But if I could go back in time to Anderson, I would probably get a banana split at Woolworths, or a hot dog from Skins, or go see a movie at the State Theatre."

David concluded, "Often, people recognize me and want a photo with me ... I'm still not used to that. I’m a retired guy and got a second chance at doing something I never thought was possible. I'm not the most famous person in my profession, but I'm a ‘star’ to my family, and in the end, they'll see me forever."


Jurassic World, Roots, Jack Reacher, Terminator Genesis, Hot Pursuit, The Purge TV Series, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, NCIS New

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