If you haven’t heard the name Stephen Louis Grush, you will soon. The guy doesn’t stop working. He’s been tearing it up with a slew of recent performances in movies and television.
The tattooed New Orleans native, who’s lived in Chicago since he was 19, is all for a multidisciplinary approach. He also writes plays and produces new theatrical works with XIII Pocket, the storefront company Grush founded in 2009. And oh, yeah, he also puts out a seasonal literary magazine.
REEL: I hear you’ve had a hectic month.
GRUSH: At one point I hit three different sets in three different days. I was filming the indie feature “Nightlights” here in Chicago. I left that and traveled overnight to Iowa where I filmed some speedway stuff for director Ramin Bahrani’s “Untitled Farm Film,” with Dennis Quaid and Zac Effron. I left that set to work on the television pilot “Powers.” And then back to “Nightlights.” So it’s been a pretty crazy month.
REEL: Your “Nightlights” role is very challenging.
GRUSH: I play a severely autistic adult. I knew that it was going to take a lot of work and once I decided to commit to the project, it was constant studying. I worked with autistic people to develop a physical and vocal vocabulary.
REEL: Tell me about your television adventures.
GRUSH: I performed in the “Powers” and “Cooper and Stone” pilots, “Detroit 187” and “The Chicago Code.”
REEL: But Chicago theatre is what you really do.
GRUSH: That’s my life’s drive. It’s nice to know that you are built to do something. As young as I am, I don’t question it. I’ve been working on stage so much since I graduated (Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University). But about a year and half ago, I decided to take time to concentrate on film and TV. Since then, it’s gone really well.
REEL: You’ve got this great dichotomy; you’ve done a lot of classic theatrical work and yet you obviously enjoy writing about the darker side of life. (He wrote and directed “Adore,” for Steppenwolf’s Garage Rep.) Do you think everyone has two sides or do you just especially revel in yours?
GRUSH: It’s something that I’ve always been attracted to, just sort of darker stories, macabre kind of tastes. If you were to come over to my house, I don’t have a TV; I just listen to death metal and read strange old books. My library would probably freak you out.
REEL: You’re only 28 and you’ve been cast in lead roles at some of Chicago’s most reputable theatres. Why start the multi-media XIII Pocket production company?
GRUSH: A lot of it came from wanting to do something with a group of people that you like working with and seeing what you can come up with. XIII Pocket is definitely performance based, but we have an annual publication that we bring out. We like to challenge ourselves.
We’re putting together the new season now and there will probably be two plays; I am going to direct one and another piece which we’re still working on.
REEL: Things are happening incredibly fast for you. How do you keep yourself centered?
GRUSH: I get a lot of joy from work. So to me, downtime is when I actually feel like I have the most trouble being normal. I feel best when I’m working and pushing myself. It’s during the quiet moments that I have trouble maintaining.
REEL: You’ve been described as one of Chicago’s theatres most intriguing young talents and were voted one of the 50 Most Beautiful Chicagoans by Chicago Magazine last year. How would you describe yourself?
GRUSH: I think I have an interesting, very public job. You want people to notice the work you are creating. I am trying my best to create things of value and I work really hard.
The more work that you put out there, the more people notice. Luckily, people are noticing me pretty well.
Grush’s agent is Sam Samuelson at Stewart Talent, phone 312/943-3131.