April 19, 2007
By JOHN FLOWERS
MIDDLEBURY — Less than seven short years ago, Quincy Dunn-Baker left Middlebury with little more than a diploma from the Addison Repertory Theater (A.R.T.) program and a dream to someday make it big as an actor.
It now appears that “someday” is fast approaching.
Dunn-Baker, 24, is celebrating a very successful April during which he earned guest starring roles in the television crime dramas CSI: New York and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. The icing on the cake came last week when he learned he will hit the stage this summer in a production of Romeo and Juliet as part of the prestigious “Shakespeare in the Park” performance series in New York’s Central Park.
“I’m having a really good 2007,” Dunn-Baker said in a phone interview from his Queens, N.Y. apartment. “I think I’m about three years ahead of the curve. I’m fortunate that I’ve been able to book some really good jobs this year.”
Dunn-Baker’s success at this point is more than he could have envisioned when he decided, during his senior year in 2000 at Middlebury Union High School, to pursue acting as a career. At that time, he immersed himself fully into the Hannaford Career Center’s A.R.T. program, which he believes laid a solid foundation for his current success.
“A.R.T. opened the door for me to realize that I had the talent for this,” Dunn-Baker said. “It was the first step in the rest of my life.”
It was A.R.T. Director Steve Small that advised Dunn-Baker to attend the North Carolina School for the Arts in Livingston-Salem, N.C. He emerged four years later with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theater, then headed back north — to New York City — to try to break into the very competitive field of acting.
He estimates he’s one of more than 50,000 people in the Big Apple competing for a very limited number of stage, television and film roles.
But thanks to a lot of talent and a resourceful agent, Dunn-Baker soon got his foot in the door.
He snagged some small roles on some well-known television soap operas, including “Guiding Light,” “As the World Turns” and “One Life to Live.”
In 2005, he appeared in a production of the play “Mr. Marmalade” at the Roundabout Theatre on Broadway.
His biggest break, however, came earlier this month when he won a part on an episode of CBS’s CSI: New York that aired this past Wednesday, April 11. Dunn-Baker played the role of a horse-drawn carriage driver in New York’s Central Park. CSI officials interview Dunn-Baker — who plays a former criminal named “JJ” in the episode — after he rents his horse and carriage to a man who ends up being murdered.
The experience was Dunn-Baker’s first real taste of the “big time.”
“I showed up on the set and I had a personal assistant, a trailer and person holding an umbrella over my head when it was raining,” Dunn-Baker said. “It was pretty surreal.”
The Middlebury native’s three-page scene was shot on a recent Friday afternoon. He estimates he had a total of two minutes on camera.
His “face time” is expected to top 10 minutes on an upcoming episode of NBC’s Law & Order SVU, when he plays a New York City firefighter whose wife is accused of raping one of her students. He found out he got the role on the same day (April 11) that his episode of CSI: New York aired.
“It’s a pretty big deal,” he said, of the impact the show could have in advancing his career.
The Law & Order episode was scheduled to begin shooting early this week in New York, with scenes at a hospital and an apartment, among other locations. Dunn-Baker is not yet sure when his episode will air, though he thinks it could be within a month. The show airs on Tuesdays at 10 p.m.
Once he wraps on the Law & Order episode, Dunn-Baker will get a quick breather before beginning rehearsals on May 8 for Shakespeare in the Park. As the Addison Independent went to press, he was not yet sure of the role he had landed in the play.
While he’s been buoyed by his early success, he’s not yet banking on a meteoric rise up the movie marquee.
“Seven months ago, I was working at a restaurant,” Dunn-Baker said, knowing he could be back waiting tables if the roles suddenly dry up.
But for now, he’s accomplishing what he sought out to do — make a living as an actor, without having to moonlight. Not that he’s living lavishly; quite the contrary. Dunn-Baker splits apartment rent with a roommate, and until recently had been subsisting on value meals at McDonalds.
Like most aspiring actors, Dunn-Baker is always looking ahead for the next gig. He attends anywhere from two to five auditions each week, hoping that he has the right talent, looks or resume that producers are looking for.
“You have to go into every audition and be ready,” Dunn-Baker said. “Most of the time you’ll go in, do OK, and be told you’re not quite right for the role.”
That’s when you need to not take it personally and turn the page to the next audition, where you might get your big break, according to Dunn-Baker.
Dunn-Baker has a lot of fans rooting for him in the Middlebury area, including his parents, Bruce Baker and Nancie Dunn.
“Quincy has chosen a path that most students who graduate from high school don’t choose,” Dunn said. “But for Quincy, it was his passion; he is happiest when he is on stage. We are really thrilled he is having some success.”