SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

August 1, 2013

A different kind of action

Firefighting past sparks career in TV, film industry

By Alan Burke
Staff writer

---- — PEABODY — Some prepare for an acting career with classes in college. Some find a mentor to teach them the method. Kevin Pasdon’s preparation consisted of working as a Peabody firefighter. That might not seem the best way to go at it, but so far it’s gotten results.

At the moment, he’s getting emails from astonished friends asking, “Did I just see you in a commercial?”

The son of fire Chief Steve Pasdon, Kevin Pasdon is, indeed, starring in a new commercial from Duracell, the battery maker, portraying — what else? — a firefighter. His rugged face is prominently displayed in a campaign meant to advertise Duracell’s donation of $1 million in batteries to first responders.

And it’s not the first time his stint as a Peabody firefighter has led to work in the film and entertainment industry. Earlier, Pasdon, 28, won jobs portraying “a firefighter named Jim” on TV’s “90210” and, in the soap opera “As the World Turns,” an EMT. He noted that he’s called for parts that require him “to do and say and act the way you act as a real firefighter.”

When he’s not in front of the cameras, his firefighting experience has seen him landing jobs on film sets as a production medic.

“You’re the safety liaison,” he said.

A production medic provides first aid in case of illness or injury and ensures that everyone obeys safety regulations. Recently, he filled that job on the set of “The Equalizer,” a film version of the long-ago TV series. The film was produced on the North Shore and features Denzel Washington.

Pasdon laughed when someone suggested that he can order the star to be more careful.

“I wish I could talk to Denzel Washington like that, he said.

Acting in front of the cameras is what he loves, and it’s why in February 2012, he formally resigned from the Peabody Fire Department to pursue it.

“I kind of just said, ‘In order to be happy, I at least need to try it.’ I don’t want to be in my 50s asking myself, ‘What if?’”

Pasdon conceded that his parents were uneasy about the decision, “because I had stability on the fire department.” But now, he said, they support him 100 percent.

For that matter, he had his own doubts, given a firefighting tradition on both sides of his family. Gazing at Peabody’s historic main firehouse, he mused, “I can’t forget my great-grandfather used to go out back there to feed the horses. ... It’s in my blood. There’s times I miss it.” A passing fire truck, siren blaring, will still catch his eye.

But he has seen something he likes even better.

While still in the department, he signed up for a workshop with the casting director of “All My Children,” which led to several soap opera roles.

“I carried (’All My Children’ star) Susan Lucci’s bag,” he said, smiling.

He won a job as an extra in Kevin James’ “Paul Blart Mall Cop,” which filmed at the Burlington Mall. In 2012, he was given a six-month leave of absence from the fire department by Mayor Ted Bettencourt and was grateful for a chance to devote all his time to the entertainment business. But that just fed his desire to be an actor, and his resignation followed.

Heading for Los Angeles, Pasdon found an agent and a manager. Favorable tax treatment has drawn many Hollywood productions to Massachusetts, which brings him home from time to time. But when it comes to finding work as an actor, “It’s tough in Los Angeles. But it’s even tougher here,” he said.

In Los Angeles, “There’s more of a social life. I’ve met amazing people.”

It’s a company town, and no one is particularly awed by the hype connected to it. When a good part comes along, “They just say, ‘Oh, you’ve got work,’” he said. He’s relies closely on his manager, Johnny Webster of New Wave Entertainment.

Pasdon cited actor Steve Buscemi as a career model. A New York City firefighter, Buscemi went on to become one of Hollywood’s busiest character actors, often portraying lowlifes and villains.

“I do not need to be the next Brad Pitt,” Pasdon said. “I just want to be a working actor.”

Staff writer Alan Burke can be reached at aburke@salemnews.com.