A Conversation with Hinghamite and Actor, Kevin Chapman

April 20, 2022 By Gabrielle Martin

Photos credit: IMDB

Hingham-based actor Kevin Chapman has had an incredibly impressive career, playing a wide variety of characters in a range of iconic films and television shows, from Irish Mob boss Freddie Cork on Showtime’s Brotherhood to a first responder in 24 and a detective in Person of Interest.

If you haven’t seen him on the silver screen or on your TV, there’s a good chance you may know Chapman from around town: he and his wife, Meaghan, have settled in here Hingham with their two children, Claire (a sophomore at Ohio State) and Cooper (a junior at BC High).

Join The Anchor for an exclusive interview with “In Conversation with Kevin Chapman.”

OFD—Chapman was born and raised in Dorchester, Massachusetts, residing there until his freshman year of high school, at which point the his family temporarily relocated to Quincy: “My mom was a single parent who raised four of us by herself, so we didn’t have the financial means to attend a private school.”

As the youngest of his three siblings, Kevin would complete his studies at Quincy High School, going on to graduate in the class of 1981 before returning to Dorchester.

“My journey into acting is a rather unconventional one,” he admits good-naturedly. “I worked for the Mayor of Boston, Tom Menino, for nine years. I came in with his administration and worked on a logistical capacity on behalf of the city, ultimately serving as the Mayor’s liaison to Dorchester; during that time, I had to work with director Rob Spruill, who was making a movie called Squeeze (1997) that was shooting in the district. I helped with community outreach and I found the process to be fascinating.”

Not long after, a job that opened up in the film bureau for the City of Boston: it was while working at the Boston Office of Cultural Affairs that Chapman was discovered by the late director Ted Demme. “He kept looking at me kinda funny,” Chapman recalls. “And he [says to me], ‘Do you think you could act?’”

Demme then gave Chapman a script to read and they agreed to meet for lunch with the film’s leading actor Denis Leary the following day: “I sit down and they said, ‘Tell us who this character is,’ so I did, and then they asked, ‘Do you think you could take three weeks off of work for filming?’”

Upon agreeing, Chapman was cast as Mickey Pat in Monument Ave (1998), a neo-noir crime film set in Charlestown, Massachusetts, centering on Leary’s character Bobby O’Grady, a small-time criminal who becomes conflicted due to the town’s code of silence; the film also featured stars Billy Cruddup and Martin Sheen.

“I was petrified,” Chapman says about his first time on a film set. “I didn’t know where to put my eyeline, where to stand!”

After wrapping filming for Monument Ave, Chapman began to audition for other roles, securing the part of “Chappy” in The Boondock Saints (1999) before being cast in the Academy Award-winning Cider House Rules (1999).

“I realized, ‘I have to develop my craft,’ so I quit my job at City Hall and moved to Los Angeles, where I studied acting during the day and worked in a club at night,” Chapman explains.

He would relocate to the West Coast for 13 years before returning to his home state.

The Big Break—Chapman’s first big break came in 2003 with the release of Mystic River, which was co-produced, directed, and scored by Clint Eastwood, starring Laura Linney, Kevin Bacon, Lawrence Fishburne, Tim Robbins, and Sean Penn; Chapman portrayed Val Savage, one of Penn’s character’s brothers-in-law.

“From this film, I developed what I call a ‘movie friendship’ with Sean Penn, who later asked me to come down and play his college roommate in the film 21 Grams (2003). It was a very exciting time,” Chapman remembers. “And from that film, I went on to do Ladder 49 (2004) with John Travolta and Joaquin Phoenix.”

To prepare for the role of Frank McKinney, Engine Company 33, in the disaster thriller directed by Jay Russell, Chapman went to the Baltimore Fire Academy six weeks prior to principal photography.

“For that reason, this was probably one of my most challenging roles,” he says. “I’d work days and go on the road with the engine at night. It was challenging physically and mentally, trying to absorb all this information to give a genuine depiction of a job that these brave men and women do every day—and jamming it into six weeks!”

He goes on to explain, “The whole ‘thing’ is to try to embody that role, whatever the role is, and to find the truth in it. That’s the most important thing as an actor: to find truth. It’s not your job to judge the character, to figure out if he’s a good guy doing bad things or a bad guy doing good things—your job is to let the audience be the judge.”

Shortly after the film’s release, Chapman was watching an episode of the Oprah Winfrey show where Sting was a guest: “He said Mystic River was his favorite movie, and there was this moment of, ‘Oh, wow: Sting has seen me in a movie!’”

Back to Boston—“It’s kind of funny, actually: I did a series in Rhode Island for Showtime called Brotherhood (2006-2008), but I didn’t want to live [there], so I bought a house on Sunrise Beach in Marshfield and [commuted] back and forth.”

“After that wrapped, I got a pilot with Walter Hill, a monumental director—48 Hours, Alien, Last Man Standing—here in Boston to work on Spike TV’s first original programming, so I said to my wife Meaghan, ‘Here’s our opportunity!’

Unfortunately (and, in Chapman’s own words), “as showbusiness goes,” the series was never released; however, the couple and their children had already made the move back to the Boston area.

“I have a friend who lives in Hingham, who’s a musician, and he’s the one who told me about the community here. I was working out at the Hanover Y when I get a call from him, and he says, ‘Hey, there’s a house two doors down from me available,’ and I knew nothing about it, but I trusted him; from there, I went to meet the relator at the Starbucks down the street with a check-in hand.” Chapman shares with a laugh.

“We love it here. It’s a beautiful community, and it’s safe.”

Local Living—So, I have to ask: are there any places Chapman frequents around town?

“My wife and I like to go downtown to Square Café or Tosca’s. We walk Bare Cove. You can always find me playing golf at the South Shore Country Club, or walking in the woods—my property touches the Washington Forest, so I love to walk my dog there into Wompatuck. We’re very happy here,” Chapman conveys with a smile.

Then he adds, “Or Loring Hall. I love those old theaters: springs coming up through the seats, box of popcorn—that’s what the movies are all about. I love those old, as I call them, ‘bug houses.’ I actually took my wife and the Director of the Dorchester Boys and Girls’ Club to see CODA there.”

“You know, my wife and I, our son is getting ready to go off to college in a year, a year and a half, and my wife asks me, ‘What are we going to do?’” He recounts. “I said, ‘I don’t know, but I don’t want to leave here.’”

When asked what tips or tricks of the trade he has for up-and-coming actors in the Hingham High School Drama Club, Chapman smiles and replies, “Well, it’s a rollercoaster—and I tell kids all the time, ‘It’s a marathon, not a sprint.’ I also say, ‘success is where preparation meets opportunity.’ That’s where success lives.”

Person of Interest—Shortly after making the move to the South Shore, Chapman was quickly cast in the CBS sci-fi crime drama TV series Person of Interest, created by Jonathan Nolan with executive producers Bryan Burk, Chris Fisher, Denise Thé, Greg Plagemen, and J. J. Abrams.

Chapman played Detective Lionel Fusco, a reformed corrupt detective, being blackmailed by John Reece (Jim Caviezel) to be a source from inside the NYPD, alongside co-stars Michael Emerson and Taraji P. Henson.

According to CBS, Person of Interest received the highest test ratings of any drama pilot in 15 years with a whopping 13.2 million viewers, which promoted the network to move CSI, which had been broadcast on Thursday for over 10 years, to Wednesday, opening up a prime-time slot for Person of Interest.

During its run (from 2011-2016), the show was awarded the 2012 People’s Choice Award for Favorite New TV Drama and the 2016 People’s Choice Award for Favorite TV Crime Drama.

Meet and Greet—“Right around that time, I remember being in a Dunkin’ Donuts in Bridgewater, and a woman walks up to me and says, ‘I’m sure you get this a lot, but did you know you look exactly like Kevin Chapman?’” He remembers with a grin.

“When I told her, ‘Well, yeah, I am Kevin Chapman,’ she just laughed and walked away saying, ‘Yeah, right!’ My career has always been being ‘that guy’—a lot of people don’t know my name, but they know my face.”

A lot of people, including musician John Mayer: “I was at an Elton John concert in New York, and John Mayer came up to me. He was adamant that we knew each other—we don’t—but I was in this cult film that I knew would be in his wheelhouse. When I mentioned it, he realized that’s where he knew me from!”

Chatting All Things CODA—Most recently, Chapman appeared in CODA, a 2021 coming-of-age comedy-drama film written and directed by Sian Heder that centers around Ruby Rossi (Emilia Jones) as the titular child of deaf adults, or CODA, and the only hearing member of an all-deaf family, as she attempts to support her family’s struggling fishing business while pursuing her own dreams of attending Berklee School of Music; Daniel Durant, Marlee Matlin, and Tony Kostur are featured in supporting roles as Ruby’s brother, mother, and father, respectively.

In the film, Chapman portrays a local Gloucester fisherman named Brady who works alongside the Rossi family. When speaking about his character, Chapman says, “Well, the story is really about the family. It’s centered in the family. Your job, as an actor, is to go in and service that storyline.

Since the world premiere on January 28, CODA has won numerous accolades, including all three nominations at the 94th Academy Awards—Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (to Tony Kostur), and Best Adapted Screenplay—becoming the first film distributed by a streaming service (Apple TV+) to win Best Picture, as well as securing the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture.

“It’s great and fantastic to receive accolades,” Chapman says. “I’m so happy for everyone in it, and I’m so happy for Sian Heder—there were times that I didn’t know if it was going to work, but she showed me so much. Hats off to her! I do not understand how she wasn’t in the conversation for her directing—but that’s the thing, it’s a business of opinions.”

In terms of public reception and response, he shares, “It’s been great! People love the movie, and it’s always nice to be a part of a project that moves people.”

He reflects, “The trickiest part, as an actor, had to be in the scene on the dock where I have to go ask Leo, Ruby’s brother, to go have a beer. My line came after a bit of dialogue between Leo’s character and his father, done entirely in [American Sign Language], but I didn’t know where I was supposed to come in—I couldn’t just listenfor my cue, which was a challenge: I had to study the motions and learn when they were leading me in.”

Chapman continues by saying, “I actually have five cousins who are hearing impaired, so I could understand, in certain ways—and in other ways, I couldn’t. I think one of the smartest things director Sian Heder did was she dropped the sound.”

Those who have seen the film will no doubt know which scene Chapman is referring to: the silence is presented in striking to contrast the hustle and bustle of the concert hall. The claps and hushed whispers, the music and melodies, are muted for a moment, offering viewers insight into the experience of the film’s deaf characters.

(And for those who have not yet streamed CODA, what are you waiting for?)

Giving Back: City of Boston Credit Union and Charity Work—In addition to being an actor and father-of-two, Chapman has also served as the spokesperson for the City of Boston’s Credit Union for the past five years; he has been a member for almost three decades.

“When I was a young man, around 18 years old, I worked for the South Boston Savings Bank, which, at the time, was run by a man named Mr. Archibald. He was very involved in the community, and I saw people would line up outside his door to ask him for loans because their hot water heater went—you know, whatever it was, he was always giving back to the community,” Chapman says. “And I felt that banking instituting have gotten away from that: everything now is you call, and you’re in a queue. It’s a very automated transaction.”

While in conversation with some of the members of the Board of Directors, Chapman vocalized his thoughts: “I shared with them how I felt about the institution and said, ‘Why don’t you have someone who’s invested in the bank?,’ never thinking it would be me!” He laughs. “But when they asked, I said, ‘You know what? I’d be delighted.’”

Chapman is also involved with a few charities, which he says the South Boston Savings Bank has been very supportive of; among them are the National Aneurysm Foundation, as well as the Boys’ and Girls’ Club in Dorchester, which Chapman is on the Board of Directors of, as well as the Richard Family Foundation as they work to build a fieldhouse in Dorchester to give children in the area everything they need, from sports to social services, in honor of Martin Richards, the youngest person to die in the Boston marathon bombings.

“The Credit Union has been right there by my side. It’s a fantastic relationship. They’re invested in the community of Boston and the state of Massachusetts, in giving back and helping people. I wish more people would bank with institutions like that.”

What’s Next?—So, where will we be seeing Chapman next? If not out and about in town, or on the big screen at the Loring (screening CODA now through Thursday, April 21), keep an eye out for some of his upcoming projects!

“I just finished up some work on Billions, I did NCIS, and they want me back for next season. My movie, called Outlaw Johnny Black, is coming out soon, too,” he shares before segueing: “My son is a lacrosse player, so I love to be able to go to his games—we actually have one tonight at St. John’s that we’re going to, my wife and I. ‘Dad’ is the most important job in the world to me, and acting works in-between that. I always say, ‘Acting is something I do. It’s not who I am.’”

To keep up with Kevin Chapman, follow him on Instagram @TheKevinChapman.

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