A former Clemson lineman tackles Hollywood

CLEMSON, SC - NOVEMBER 25: Jock McKissic
CLEMSON, SC - NOVEMBER 25: Jock McKissic /

A former Clemson football defensive player is running to movie auditions lines instead of goal lines these days. 

In 2005, Jock McKissic left Opelika, AL to play defensive tackle for Clemson and in 2006, he lived a defensive lineman’s dream when he intercepted South Carolina quarterback Blake Mitchell’s pass and rumbled 82 yards for a score. That pass was deflected right into his waiting hands by his late friend, Gaines Adams. (Watch the play starting at 56:58)

His touchdown gave the Tigers a 21-14 halftime lead. On that day, a gassed McKissic held on to score his only career touchdown, but the Tigers couldn’t hold off their charging rivals and fell 31-28. He didn’t get that win, but today, he is running to make his Hollywood dreams come true.

McKissic, 31, lives in Los Angeles.

Do you recall that moment when you were bit by the acting bug?

Jock McKissic: At age six, watching “The Oprah show.” I saw an interview that she did with an actor.

As you started and got your feet wet in the acting profession, was there a moment or instance where you sat back and decided a new approach was needed to land roles? 

McKissic: Absolutely! After being in the industry, I realized I should be myself more. Approaching the audition process this way, that’s helped a great deal.

Any specific adjustment or adjustments that an inspiring actor or actress could use? 

McKissic: I approach the audition as natural as possible. Especially during in-person auditions. Many actors make the mistake of “trying” to portray a character the way they think producers want. Bringing your own personality to roles, helps you stand out.

I remember seeing a few of your personal directorial short movies on YouTube, that’s how I knew that you were pursuing acting. But now, you have an acting biography. Is there a mentor or someone who has made a difference in your career? –

McKissic: Yeah definitely. I started creating my own films after studying the industry and realizing the affect, it would have on my career. I’ve been blessed to have a great deal of mentors in my young career. The list includes: Mark Ellis, Greg Alan Williams, Clifton Powell, Mehcad Brooks, Ashley Thomas, & Joe Sabatino. These are people that I talk to on a regular basis and, or have had a crucial impact on my career. I’ve also had life changing conversations with, Oprah Winfrey, Shaquille O’Neal, Adam Sandler, & Rob Hardy

You have been in “CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story,” “24:Legacy,” “Saints and Sinners,” “Nashville,” “The Quad” among others and you are in the upcoming HBO movie, “Paterno.” I saw the trailer for “Paterno.” Tell me about your role in the movie. –

McKissic: My character is “Tyler”. Many names were changed for obvious reasons within the film. My character was a defensive captain from the South. He was highly recruited, and Joe Pa’s influence and legacy was a huge reason he chose Penn State. Therefore, Tyler took the outcome of Joe Pa very hard. The film is going to be phenomenal, so you guys are in for a treat. A major blessing for me to be around an acting legend and learn from him.

In the trailer, I saw those tears on your face. They look like “crying at my mom or grandmother’s funeral” type tears. Where did you pull that emotion from? And how hard is it to do a scene that requires tears?

McKissic: Yeahhhhhh!! Definitely, my favorite scene of the film. Honestly, I just lived in the moment. I was true to the character, and I felt Tyler would be hurt, angry, and disappointed in the situation. I took the thoughts and emotions, and voilà!!! It’s not very difficult for me to do an emotional scene. Once I study and get acquainted with the character, it comes natural to me. A lot of artist use the substitute method, where they think about their true life events during the scene.

“The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” is another HBO movie that you are in. Oprah stars in the movie. How was it working with her and do you have any unique Oprah stories to share?

McKissic: It was liberating. This was actually my second time working with her. I worked with her in “Greenleaf,” a television show she produces. My scene was with her in “Greenleaf” and being how my interest was sparked for acting, it was a full circle experience. When I booked “Henrietta Lacks,” and went to the table read, she noticed me instantly and called out, “Hey Kenny! How’ve you been!?” Kenny was my name on “Greenleaf.” We went on to talk and take a couple of selfies. After having a convo with her, she told me that I was a star and to make sure that I continue on, so that’s super inspiring.

You were one of the captains on Dabo Swinney’s first team. What did you see from him at that time that makes him a good coach today? –

McKissic: I knew he had the makings of a great head coach from Day 1 of my recruitment. He recruited me, therefore I have a close relationship with him. Teams take on the personality of the head coach a lot of times, so the day he got the position, vibes started to morph instantly. The best is yet to come for CLEMSON and Coach Swinney.

What happens when a former Clemson football player visits his family and friends in Alabama? I know it’s home, but is the reception there different now that the two schools have battled three years in a row? –

McKissic: Its always been love, because I was a trailblazer that left the state to create my legacy. Nowadays, it’s more respect because of the success we’ve had in the past four-six seasons. They joke when they win, but in good spirits mostly.

What are you working on now and what else can we look forward from you in 2018? 

McKissic: I’m currently working on “Quantico,” an ABC show & another huge project that I can’t speak on yet. In 2018, you can also see me producing my first feature film this year in April.