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Source: Ukiah Daily Journal
Date: December 2010

Rising Star comes home for Oliver!

“Kate’s directing brought me back to Ukiah,” says Shiloh Fernandez, referring to Kate Magruder, veteran director, actress and founder of the Ukiah Players Theatre.

“I was working in Canada,” explains the almost painfully self-effacing Ukiah High graduate, who at 25 may not quite be ready to acknowledge the monumental changes coming his way, as the man who was on the short list for the “Twilight” lead now gets his own shot at the spotlight.

Fernandez is currently on the big screen in the trailer for the spring release of Red Riding Hood, a dark adaptation directed by Catherine Hardwicke of “Twilight” fame. Fernandez plays a brooding woodcutter alongside Amanda Seyfried and luminaries Gary Oldman and Julie Christie.

But he is currently performing in the Ukiah Players Theatre production of Oliver!, where Magruder cast him as the abusive, diabolical Bill Sykes.

“I heard Kate was auditioning for Oliver. Oliver Twist was one of my favorite books. I emailed Kate,” he recalls. “Kate remembered me from SPACE, when I was 13.” (SPACE is Ukiah’s School for the Performing Arts and Cultural Education.)

Fernandez had completed the filming of Red Riding Hood and had some spare time. “I wanted to do something very different from a big movie, to reconnect with why I like doing this.” He returned home to Ukiah and was cast in the play.

For the last six years, Fernandez has lived in Los Angeles. What started as a modeling career with American Apparel has landed him in the enviable position of – dare he think it? – Movie Star.

“This is the longest time I’ve been home since I moved away. Being here in this play is reconnecting me with my family and emotions from my childhood. The crush, the Dams. I’m driving down the street, getting right back to feelings I had growing up here,” he notes.

“It’s a perfect time to be here, working across from the high school. It’s a beautiful campus, and when I lived here, I didn’t open my eyes enough to see that.”

Fernandez was a member of SPACE as a boy, but “was not a drama kid. That wasn’t for me. In fact the drama thing made me feel uncomfortable.” He landed a gig on the Cold Case television series. “I played a male hustler. It was pretty strange to play a possibly gay prostitute,” he laughs.

Dark roles, including his current assignment as Bill Sykes, seem to come naturally to Fernandez. “I like the edgy characters, but they’re not necessarily what I want to go for. I think of myself as a nice person. I’d like to play a romantic lead, but you want to make a living and take jobs the audience wants you to take.”

He is relishing his time as Bill Sykes. “Working on Oliver has been awesome. I’ve learned a great deal.” He credits Magruder with the success of the show. “I admire Kate so much. I want to work with her in the future in a smaller capacity, because she’s a genius.”

He is feeling the differences between films and stage. “I don’t watch the play. I’m not in every scene. That’s similar to film. The scary and amazing part of a play is that you can’t yell CUT! I can approach a scene differently during every performance and try completely new things. You take certain shortcuts in film that won’t work on a live stage.”

Fernandez has already given many interviews and has been asked about favorite actors and films. “It’s a hard question. Inspiration happens instantaneously. It’s not like I’ve held onto a feeling from a film for years. Now, I just like what I do, I love the creative process. There are so many brilliant actors. If I name three, I’ll forget someone very important. But I’m not a real fan of comedy,” he said, and smiles.

Shiloh’s advice for aspiring actors: “Don’t be an actor?” he kids. “You don’t need to be paid in television or film to be an actor. In this community there are outstanding individuals who perform for the love of acting.” He applauds his cast, including Grace Proven-Magruder and Rick Allen.

“These are people who are great actors,” he notes. “Jenny Peterman helped me with my accent. Karen Adair has been so helpful with the kids. It’s been perfect.”

Fernandez has enjoyed spending time with his family. “They don’t necessarily watch everything I do, so it’s fun for them to see me and for us to talk about it together.”

When asked directly about becoming a bona fide movie star, Fernandez smiles, certainly similar to the grin noticed by the director of “Twilight.”

“Maybe, maybe not,” he muses.

“I can’t explain my philosophy. I try to be as steady as I can, and be as humble, aware and compassionate as possible. I try to tread a middle path. What’s real is where I come from, who I am and what defined me as I was growing up,” he said.

His one request: “Please don’t judge me by my vocal cords,” he laughs.

Oliver! continues at the Ukiah Playhouse for two weekends, December 2 through 12, Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings, including a Sunday matinee. Tickets are available at the Mendocino Book Company or at the box office. For information phone 462-9226.

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