We know Tampa Bay is home to many talented performers – from actors and musicians to comedians and wrestlers. We host local talent on our stages regularly, giving them a platform to share their art with our beloved community. But did you know these famous performers have ties to Tampa Bay?
Tony®, Golden Globe® and Emmy® nominated Patrick Wilson was born in Norfolk, Virginia but grew up in St. Petersburg and went to Shorecrest Preparatory School. While Patrick is a globally known actor and singer, the whole Wilson family is well-known in the Tampa Bay area. Patrick’s father is John Wilson, a now retired veteran anchor for FOX 13; his mother Mary Kay Wilson is a voice teacher and professional singer who has performed around the world; his brother Mark Wilson is a weeknight newscaster for FOX13 and his brother Paul is an advertising executive in St. Petersburg.
Patrick has starred in Broadway musicals, most notably The Full Monty and Oklahoma!, films and television shows, including the acclaimed HBO miniseries Angels in America. He also has starred in films, especially horror flicks, including Insidious and The Conjuring 1 and 2, earning himself the title “scream king.” And let’s not forget he starred as Raoul in the 2004 big-screen version of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera. The whole Wilson family is musical with Patrick and his brothers forming The Wilson Van, a family band that only plays to raise money for charities, especially those that benefit the Tampa Bay community. In 2013, the band played a benefit concert for the Gold Shield Foundation at the then newly opened Club Detroit in St. Petersburg, where he explained to Creative Loafing that he spent a lot of time, as well as Jannus Landing, when it first opened:
“I spent much of my high school and later years going to concerts there. In college, I’d come home and see bands there. For me, that was a way into the music world, because this was the 1980s, pre-Internet, so the only music you knew was the music on the radio. The only way to see live music was to go to these shows and certainly the ones at Jannus and right around the corner at Club Detroit were awesome. When I turned 18, I was very happy that I could go in there.”
Channing Tatum may not have spent his full childhood in Tampa, but he spent most of his teenage years here, first attending Gaither High School and later graduating from Tampa Catholic where he was voted most athletic by his class. Magic Mike, the 2012 film starring Channing and also co-produced by him, is loosely based on his life as a young man in Tampa when he was a stripper. Say what you will about the film and the story, but Channing was adamant about having scenes filmed here, showing his love for his home. In an interview with the Tampa Bay Times in 2012, he shared what he remembered and loved the most about living here:
“Probably the beach. It was such a diverse culture: high class, low class, middle class, all ethnicities, races, snowbirds … Now that I got lucky enough to travel all around the world, there’s nothing I wasn’t really exposed to.”
Yale graduate, Golden Globe winner and powerhouse of a woman Angela Bassett was born in New York City but raised in St. Petersburg. She has starred in several films and television shows and is known for her biographical film roles, including Tina Turner in What’s Love Got to Do with It, Betty Shabazz in Malcom X, Katherine Jackson in The Jacksons: An American Dream, Voletta Wallace in Notorious, Coretta Scott King in Betty & Coretta and Rosa Parks in The Rosa Parks Story. More recently she’s starred in American Horror Story, as well as in Black Panther and Avengers: End Game. She attended Boca Ciega High School where she was active in drama club, choir, student government and the debate team, and was a member of the Upward Bound college prep program at Eckerd College. Also an activist, she’s a supporter of the Boys and Girls Club in St. Petersburg, and in both 2012 and 2016, she came back to the city to inspire locals to get out and vote in the presidential election.
Pitch Perfect and Hairspray star Brittany Snow grew up in Tampa and went to Gaither High School. She started her career as a child on the CBS soap Guiding Light, where she played Susan “Daisy” Lemay. She continued acting through school, eventually moving to the West Coast after graduating to further pursue her career. In 2002-05, she starred in American Dreams, a NBC TV series, about a teen who danced on American Bandstand in the 1960s that featured contemporary singers performing as popular musicians, such as Usher as Marvin Gaye and Kelly Clarkson as Brenda Lee. Other notable films she’s starred in include John Tucker Must Die, Prom Night, Would You Rather, Bushwick, and Someone Great. In a 2011 interview with Patch, she explained some of her favorite memories of growing up in Tampa:
“I try to come back about three or four times a year, especially during Christmas, summers, and my dad’s birthday. My dad lives in Tampa all year round, and my mom commutes back and forth between Tampa and Los Angeles. I have great memories of being with my friends and doing “normal” things, like any teenager! I have to confess that here in L.A., everything is so fancy schmancy, but some of my favorite restaurants are Chili’s, Applebee’s and The Olive Garden. I loved going to Macaroni Grill on Sunday nights with my parents!”
Tony and Grammy® nominated actor and singer Ephraim Sykes was born and raised in St. Petersburg and graduated from the Pinellas County Center for the Arts at Gibbs High School, where he was a dancer, musician, basketball and football player. He was accepted to the Ailey/Fordham BFA program at The Ailey School, where he eventually toured with Alvin Ailey’s Second Company. When he didn’t transition into the First Company, he started auditioning for musical theater. He went on to be an original cast member of the Broadway musical Hamilton and more recently starred as David Ruffin in Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations, among others. Ephraim also starred as Seaweed in NBC’s Hairspray Live! and the 2017 drama Detroit. His newest venture will be playing Michael Jackson in the Broadway musical MJ, which was set to open July 2020 but has been pushed back to March 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. An athlete and an artist, Emphraim explained in a 2016 interview with Playbill that he got in trouble a few times for trying to do it all:
“We have to stay behind and take some finals that we didn’t get to take yet … so we have to be late to rehearsal,” he says. “I was literally coming to the sidelines off the field and taking off my helmet, and up walks – through the center of the field – my dance teacher in her jazz shoes. [She] grabs me by my shoulder pads and just drags me off the field in front of the whole school.”
A proud Florida man born and raised in Tampa, comedian Bert Kreischer attended Jesuit High School and continued his education at Florida State University. When FSU was named the No. 1 party school in America in 1997, Bert became the subject of an interview with Rolling Stone Magazine that named him the top partyer at the school, serendipitously starting his career. The article later became the inspiration for National Lampoon’s Van Wilder. Bert is known for performing stand-up without his shirt on, as well his relatable and hilarious storytelling. In an interview with Flamingo in 2019, he shared some of his favorite things about Florida:
“I love those Publix sandwiches they have that are just massive. In Clearwater Beach, there’s a Clearwater paddleboard company. I buy something new every single day. I’m like, oh, you can’t get flip-flops like this in LA. The hats here are better than in LA. I love cigars. Growing up in Tampa, everyone had cafe con leche and a cigar in the morning. And so I feel I earned the right to smoke cigars. At sunset, go for a jog, come home, glass of wine, cigar, eat grouper. You know the place you can find real grouper because they just caught it that day, none of that store-bought shit, right on the docks. I’m telling you, man, they may say it as a slur, but I will always be a Florida man.”
Be sure to catch Bert Kreischer when he comes to The Straz February 21, 2021.