Sean Cullen's acting credits include work with Hollywood luminaries like Al Pacino, George Clooney and Alec Baldwin. He also appeared in 1,000 shows of the production of SOUTH PACIFIC at Lincoln Center, yet the actor still feels very much at home in Buffalo. Named Road Less Traveled Productions 2020 American Theatre Master, Cullen will be on stage in his hometown frequently in the coming weeks.
A 1978 graduate of Bishop Timon High School, Cullen attended Saint Bonaventure University before he embarked on the path to an acting career in theater, television and films. While it's been years since he called Buffalo home, Cullen still holds warm memories of his younger days. He shared those recollections and some insights into his profession during a recent tour of South Buffalo.
When told that I'd graduated from Saint Mary's of the Lake School in Hamburg, the graduate of Saint Martin's in South Buffalo recalled in detail how the schools had met for the 1973 Diocesan Baseball Championship.
"A guy named Bruce Sage was the pitcher," said Cullen of the player who carried Saint Mary's to victory on that day at Delaware Park. It was the first of many impressive recollections he would share during a two-hour tour.
Rather than being weighed down by the past, Cullen seemed energized as he rattled off stories and facts about dozens of locations throughout his former neighborhood. He spoke of his grandmother, his father, friends, ball fields, and former businesses. It seemed every corner prompted another image of his youth.
He also shared many professional stories.
Of being on the set of the Oscar-nominated film "Michael Clayton," Cullen said, "You're about to meet George Clooney and you know you are because all of a sudden the house goes quiet."
During an unexpected break in production due to a lighting issue, Cullen enjoyed a memorable session with Clooney.
"And we just ran lines for like 20 minutes."
They also discussed Clooney's father, Nick Clooney, who spent some years in Buffalo as a television news anchor.
An exceptional effort also earned Cullen a part in the movie "Simone" starring Al Pacino.
"I worked really hard to get my picture resume' and video to people and casting directors," Cullen laughed.
"I drove from Manhattan Beach all the way to the Valley and dropped off 40 pictures and resumes and 40 videos of me being a serial killer in '(Law & Order) SVU.'"
The two actors would reconnect during "Paterno." Pacino instantly recognized Cullen when he appeared on the set.
"He was so nice to me."
For the last month, Cullen has spent much of his time in Buffalo and away from his wife and daughter in their home in the Catskills. He's been preparing to co-star in THE ANTIPODES, written by Annie Baker, at Road Less Traveled.
"One of the most exciting things about having Sean here is that he brings a different energy and a different perspective to the (rehearsal) room, which is filled with a lot of people I've worked with previously," said Scott Behrend, Artistic Director for Road Less Traveled. He also served as the driver during the tour of South Buffalo.
"It elevates everybody's game a little bit by having that new presence in the room."
This Sunday, Cullen will expand on his life and career when he joins Peter Palmisano for an on-stage conversation at Road Less Traveled. The event is free and open to the public, though reservations are encouraged.