Former Elizabethton resident finds success in motion pictures, on stage

Published 10:25 am Monday, March 21, 2016

Gary Bullock

Gary Bullock

A former Elizabethton man, Gary Bullock, has made it to the big screen with parts in Racing Stripes, Species, Terminal Velocity, and Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, just to name a few of the motion pictures he has played in.
In addition to the film parts, Bullock played Abe Lincoln in the Sabrina, the Teenage Witch TV series. He also played in both the Star Trek and X-Files TV series.
Although Bullock describes his film career as “bits and pieces,” it is the fulfillment of a life-long dream, which began early. The son of Robert L. and Susan Bullock, Gary grew up in Elizabethton and was a member of the 1959 graduating class of Elizabethton High School.
“My father was a great movie fan, and I got bit by the acting bug early. I got to see a lot of movies when I was young because my dad liked to go to the movies,” Bullock said. “My father was also a practical man, who impressed on me to work hard, to enjoy what I was doing, and to find a way to save.”
Although he was bit early by the acting bug, Bullock when he became an adult found the acting business “scary, very risky.”
Bullock early on used acting and screen writing as a means of subsidizing his real job, that of computer programmer. “It was very hard to make a living acting, so I worked at something that assured me a paycheck,” he said.
Among his first jobs were working at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, and the Millstone Radar Site in New England. On the side he worked in dinner theaters.
As time moved on, Bullock decided he wanted to do something more substantive, more professional. He wrote a one-man show in which he portrayed Abraham Lincoln, which ultimately provided him with his big break — a commercial in which he played Lincoln. “It was a union shoot and that commercial proved to be the start of my professional career as an actor,” he shared.
Bullock has been a member of the Screen Actors Guild since 1983.
After the commercial, Bullock begin looking for more substantial and better-paying roles. He and his wife, Mil Nicholson, whom he met during a stage production of The Crucible, began doing some dinner theater together.
They then decided to move from New England and away from the cold weather. “At that time the movie, Wonder People was being shot at Banner Elk, N.C. I drove to North Carolina, met someone, who pointed me to the right person. It was a marvelous break as I got to work about six weeks. However, I didn’t work again for a year as an actor, but that’s the breaks,” Bullock said.
Eventually, Bullock and his wife moved to Los Angeles. “You have to go where the work is, and there I was able to get several jobs. I never played the lead in anything…mostly small parts, but I’ve enjoyed small parts and they have been very gratifying. My acting career has provided me with the opportunity to work with some very good and talented people, among them Sophia Loren,” he shared.
He met Loren through her son, Eduardo, “I found her to be a very basic, down-to-earth person,” Bullock said.
Bullock and his wife, who now live south of Asheville on the Blue Ridge Parkway, record audio books, with Mil performing all the characters of Charles Dickens’ novels. Gary is in the process of narrating a documentary of the 325th Fighter Group of World War II, “The Checkertails.”
Bullock has also authored two screenplays, “Elsewhen,” a sci-fi romance, and “Ridge Runner,” a true Civil War story, with others in the works. He is also writing a novelization of the screenplay “Elsewhen.”
In his spare time, he builds and flies model aircraft, numbering about 35 and growing.
“I’ve lived my dream. I’ve worked on the side. You have to have a survival job. I have been very lucky to have played the roles I have. I did some commercials, which really paid well. I’m married to the love of my life. We have found that we can rely on each other,” Bullock said.
But, Bullock would be the first to say that his love for the movies and acting was birthed while growing up in Elizabethton on Parkway Boulevard and attending the movies with his father. And, he took his father’s advice and worked hard, part of the recipe for his acting success.
“I’ve enjoyed it and I fell very fortunate to have had been a small part of the big screen,” he said.

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