By Diccon Hyatt
Now that he’s 27 years into his career, he’s been a New York City beat cop, a Boston detective and a Los Angeles detective. He’s also been a murderer and a drug addict, but mostly, he’s been a cop, over and over.
“I’ve played a ton of cops on TV,” Wood recalled. “Which is a little bit safer.”
As an actor, Wood’s career has spanned film, the stage, television and even video games and radio commercials. In 2005, he moved from Hollywood to Hopewell and opened his own acting school. The JW Actors Studio, located in Forrestal Village in Princeton, trains actors ages 8 to 80 in a series of classes aimed at improving all aspects of acting.
Wood has classes for career performers like Lizzie DeClement, and for amateurs who just want to improve their speaking ability or build self-confidence.
Wood’s credits include movies L.A. Confidential and Halloween and TV shows Boston Public, NYPD Blue and CSI Miami. He’s also performed in the theater in Born Yesterday and Long Days Journey into Night. Video gamers who played Grand Theft Auto, Vice City, The Ballad of Gay Tony, might recognize his voice, as he played a character in the game.
For the past seven years, Wood has been devoted to passing on his skills to aspiring actors.
Now, Wood is teaming up with screenwriter Kevin Fox to create an intensive summer acting, directing and writing camp called EmPower Play.
At the two-week camp, middle and high-school students will improvise, write and act out their own scenes. Fox, who wrote the movie The Negotiator, among numerous other credits, will lead the writing portion of the camp, whereas Wood will instruct improvisation and acting.
The camp, which will take place August 6-17 in Princeton, will conclude with students performing the plays they created.
Wood teaches his own style of acting, which differs from the famous “method” acting.
Many of Wood’s classes use improvisation to teach people how to understand and then act like the characters they are portraying. To Wood, acting isn’t about deceiving the audience. Quite the opposite.
“It’s about truthful, honest behavior,” he said. “It’s not about acting, it’s about being and doing.”
Wood learned acting at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. One of his teachers was Janis Powell, who was in turn a student of Constantin Stanislavski’s system of acting.
“One thing that was always taught to me was to imagine a personality for the character you are playing,” Wood said. He said it’s more important to imagine what the character is going through than to draw on emotions from your own life.
“It’s about being real in an imaginary world,” he said.
It hasn’t always been an easy road for Wood, who spent 1993 through 1995 working at the Alchemist and Barrister by night and auditioning for roles by day. Wood said being a professional actor is only for people who couldn’t possibly imagine being anything else. But acting lessons can be beneficial even for people who have no intention of being professionals, he said. Learning to act can make people better speakers and more outgoing.
Joe and his wife Sally live in Hopewell and have two children, Joe and Lucy.
For more information about EmPower Play or JW Actors Studio, go online to jwactorstudio.com or call (609) 240-7080.