Gladwyne's Josh Cooke talks showbiz and youth summer acting workshop

Josh Cooke, second from right, poses for photos with other members of the cast of Dexter - from left, Billy Brown, C.S. Lee and James Remar - at the 18th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards on Jan. 29, 2012 in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Vince Bucci)
Josh Cooke, second from right, poses for photos with other members of the cast of Dexter - from left, Billy Brown, C.S. Lee and James Remar - at the 18th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards on Jan. 29, 2012 in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Vince Bucci)

After marrying singer-songwriter Eleisha Eagle in April 2011, joining the cast of Showtime’s "Dexter," wrapping up production as lead actor in the independent film "Finding Joy" and moving from Los Angeles to New York City, Josh Cooke is ready to take his acting to new heights in theater.

“My wife, aside from being amazing in general, was really the catalyst in this and I really owe a lot of the move to New York to her," Cooke, 32, said in a phone interview. "She reminded me I’ve always wanted to do move to New York for theater and said, ‘let’s stop talking about it and do it.'"

While he waits to get his foot in the door, the Gladwyne native is focusing his energies on creative writing and preparing for The Performing Arts Project, a workshop in July, co-founded by his wife, Eagle.

The workshop, where Cooke will teach, is a three-week intensive musical theater, film and television training for kids ages 16-25. The project's participants will take classes from 9 a.m. until almost 11 at night. 

“It’s grueling, but it’s the best kind of training you can get," Cooke said.

Cooke's dramatic training began in his childhood. While growing up, Cooke's parents Greg and Heidi refused to let him play video games, encouraging their son to play outdoors after he complained.

“Their answer was always, ‘go play in the woods,’ since our house sat on the edge of a 100-acre woods going from Gladwyne to the Schuylkill,” Cooke said.

Darting through the woods, part of which is now Rolling Hill Park, allowed Cooke to develop his imagination.

“When you’re running around and playing, it’s amazing ground for imagination, and that’s really the biggest muscle you need for anything in the arts,” he added. “I think it’s probably the biggest training I’ve had.”

The actor further cultivated his art and imagination watching Robert Redford films like "Barefoot in the Park" with his family, participating in a summer program at the Walnut Street Theater Company when he was in sixth grade, and acting in plays and musicals from middle school through his years at Harriton High School, where he acted in the Harriton Theater Company’s production of "Cabaret" and served as one of the company’s directors his senior year.

In 1996, Cooke attended the Broadway Theater Project, founded and taught by actress, dancer and choreographer Ann Reinking, in Tampa, Fla., where he also met Eagle for the first time.

At the theater project, Reinking told Cooke and his peers "Frasier" actress Bebe Newirth's journey in the performing arts world. Reinking said Newirth always wanted to do musical theater, but could never get a job in New York because of the difficulty getting passed the theaters' preference for trained and experienced musical and stage actors.

“She said Bebe went to L.A. and ended up on 'Cheers' and had other gigs before she returned to New York and started getting theater roles," Cook recalled. “That seemed like it made sense to me because everyone always said work in theater is a tough living, so I thought I’d go to L.A. to try and break into the film/TV industry."

Cooke moved there in 1998, attending and graduating from University of California, Los Angeles with a bachelor’s in theater. In 2001, Cooke received his first professional acting credit in a national commercial for KODAK.

Cooke’s acting itch was in full swing following the commercial, as he held small roles as co-star in multiple dramas until he climbed the career ladder to a huge breakthrough.

In 2004, Cooke auditioned for the pilot of NBC’s multi-camera sitcom, "Committed," and landed the lead role of Nate Solomon, a genius who falls in love with an occupational therapist played by actress Jennifer Finnigan.

“It was one of those honest to God ‘right place, right time,’ moments that I had the skill necessary, luckily for me,” Cooke said. “I remember thinking that if it happens once, it can happen again…I also remember thinking this would make my parents feel a lot better about my [career] choice, too.”

"Committed" aired in 2005 and had a 12-episode run before cancellation, but that wasn't the end of Cooke's work in TV.

Cooke played roles in shows such as "Four Kings," "Curb Your Enthusiasm" and, most notably, "Dexter," as well as TV and indie films like "Finding Joy" and the horror flick, "Quarantine 2."

Dexter's sixth season finished its run in December, but Cooke’s role as Louis Greene, an intern in Miami Metro Police Department’s forensic’s lab who works with the title character, left a lasting impression with viewers, especially ones Cooke bumps into on the streets and subways of New York.

"'You're character is so creepy...great job!'" a girl told Cooke on a subway in Manhattan.

By the end of the season, viewers are suspicious of Greene, who’s not only created a murder-mystery video game where participants play as the serial killer, but also has a prop belonging to the season 1 villian on display in his apartment.

“When I saw that episode I had to call the producers and ask what was going on for this role,” Cooke said. “The writer’s don’t tell you much.”

Cooke, who was offered the role by the show's producers, was nominated along with the rest of the show's cast for “Best Dramatic Ensemble" at the 2012 Screen Actor’s Guild Awards.

As of now,  Cooke knows he'll be on several episodes of the show’s seventh season, which could start filming as early as May. The actor does not yet know if his role as Greene has been expanded.

For now, Cooke looks forward to theater and teaching at The Performing Arts Project, where he and his wife will reunite with alumni and staff from the Broadway Theater Project.

The workshop, taught at Wake Forrest University in North Carolina, had it’s final audition for the nearly 100 open spots in theater, film and television performing arts training, but Cooke said interested youth can still contact the project’s office for waitlisted auditioning.

“I love to teach, especially high school-aged students, because I like introducing them to the absolute basics of everything they’re ever going to learn, the things I wish I had learned at that age,” Cooke said. “It’s the stuff you can always go back to in terms of absolute fundamentals.”