A! Magazine for the Arts

Jeremiah Caleb got hooked on acting at King College. (Photo by Tim Sayre)

Jeremiah Caleb got hooked on acting at King College. (Photo by Tim Sayre)

Where are they now? Jeremiah Caleb

June 27, 2017

Jeremiah Caleb's acting journey started in a church pageant with a role no one wanted. Now he is acting with Gary Sinese in "Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders."

That first role was playing Jesus in a church pageant. "I got the part only because no one else wanted to do it. I played out the crucifixion with great gusto. It was probably the first time anyone figured out that the quiet son of Rev. Caleb had more to him than meets the eye. There is also something deeply personal, sobering and humbling in acting that significant moment," he says.

His most recent project was in "Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders" playing opposite Gary Sinise. "It was a role that humbled me deeply, especially given the world in which we live in at this moment," he says.

His role was the Unsub in an episode entitled, "Made in ... ," about two American entrepreneurs who disappear while conducting business in Bangladesh.

He has several other projects coming up. "I just wrote, produced and starred in my first short, "Here For The Party,' which will be submitted for the festivals this summer. Later this year, I will be appearing in "Home Again,' a romantic comedy starring Reece Witherspoon. I am involved in a few web series and pilots. At the moment I am working on finishing my documentary "Coming Home.' It's an exciting time," he says.

As the son of missionaries, Caleb's faith is important to him and is part of the reason he became an actor. He was born in Singapore, spent his teenage years in South Wales and finished his high school education in our region. He says, "We moved to Gray, near Johnson City, in the fall of 1994 so that I could have some stability in education while my father continued to travel around Southeast Asia for extended periods of time. I finished high school in Kingsport and was accepted into King College in the spring of 1999."

"I got the acting bug at a very early age. As the only child of missionaries, you pretty much created characters to entertain yourself. In the "90s, it was not an ambition a teenager growing up in a conservative home in the Bible Belt boldly declared as a life goal. I was also rather timid in high school. Apart from my youth leaders who saw a spark in me, no one was rushing to cast me in a sizable role in the church/school pageants.

"It was not until I went off to college that I ventured to participate in my first musical, "Once Upon A Mattress.' I was in the chorus, and by opening night, I was hooked. I went on to do every play or musical I could at King College and in community theater (Theatre Bristol, Kingsport Theatre Guild, ETSU). I took it on as a major and for my final year, I wrote, directed and choreographed my own play, "Anybody Out There?'"

Caleb says he enjoyed his time at King College. "It was a very different place then. The student body was under 600. One could be anything he or she aspired to be. I had opportunities to do things I might not have had the chance to do at a larger university. It was a happy and safe time in my life."

When he left King, he went on to train at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York City. He says, "I moved there in the summer with only my guitar, one suitcase and a pocket full of dreams. I spent 16 months training intensively in musical theater and fell madly in love with Broadway and the city itself. It was a very rough and sometimes discouraging journey after that. But my passion for performing was too strong to turn away. I lived the life of a struggling artist in Manhattan and struggled through auditions and cattle calls."

In 2005, he auditioned for AMTC (Actors, Models & Talent for Christ) in Florida and received several callbacks from New York agents. Within a month, one agent booked him on the national commercial campaign for Kellogg's.

Living in New York opened his eyes to a larger world and to a career where the critics were hard to impress, and his craft demanded a greater discipline, sacrifice and dedication. He also learned about typecasting (Caleb is of Indian descent).

"I learned pretty early on in my professional career that if I wanted to work, I needed to embrace my typecasting. It works well for me, and I am constantly working because of it. I embrace my ethnicity, because I find that I don't face as much competition as my Caucasian actor friends. Hollywood has changed so much since I first began. It has become so diverse, and there seems to be much more work for actors like me.

"With that being said, I have always longed to do more faith-based projects. I would love to do a period piece or a Hallmark piece. Yet sadly, those mediums don't seem to be as open to ethnic casting," Caleb says.

His career has included live theater, television, film and commercials. He says he prefers "the magic of a live audience. On the other hand, I love the intensity and the immortality of film. There is also a lot less offstage drama in the film world."

Some of his credits include "Home Again," "Kick," "Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders," "Grey's Anatomy," "Rizzoli & Isles," "Neil, Patrick and Harris: The Chronicles of Conjoined Triplets," "Outsources," "The IT Chicks" and more. He has done commercials for Subway, Burger King, Kellogg's and Walmart.

He has a variety of inspirations that include Thomas Lenon for his comedic timing, his professionalism and his ease in acting; Robert Downey Jr. for his intensity; Leonardo DiCaprio for standing up for his convictions in advocating for environmental responsibility and caring for the planet; and President Obama for inspiring young men to step up and be leaders.

"My philosophy is to be open to anything and everything, to love without inhibition and to embrace failure. The more I am able to laugh at myself, the more effective I become in braving through regardless of what the critics say. It is in being completely open that I make new discoveries in my craft. I am also a big advocate of community. I have a tribe of actor friends who grow with me, succeed with me and push me past my comfort zone on a weekly basis. They are the secret to my success.

"I love telling stories. I have found that in entering the heads and bodies of my characters, I am able to empathize with humanity. For instance you are less quick to judge a villain when you take the time to reflect on what made him a villain to begin with. Having the freedom to step into any story and the power to influence an audience makes me feel close to God. My faith, which was instilled in me as a young boy growing up in Tennessee, has remained the foundation of my journey," he says.

Caleb has been married to Angel Caleb, an RN, for six years. They run the Caleb Hope Foundation together. (see sidebar)

Visit www.jeremiahcaleb.com for more information.