Amesbury native Jeffrey Donovan, 44, recently announced his engagement to his longtime girlfriend, model Michelle Woods, 20.
The extremely active and athletic pair have been spotted at numerous events together, including everything from polo matches in Palm Beach to riding in a helicopter at the USPA Piaget Gold Cup, and attending the Blacks’ Annual Gala in Miami. The long and lean lovers have even competed together in various charity triathlon events throughout the southern Florida area. Both attended New York University.
The pair have been seeing each other for some time and are now reportedly planning a late summer wedding.
Woods, a model/actress, began her modeling career as a teen in New York City. After moving to California, she landed a bit part on the TV series “Frasier,” and went on to land small roles in movies like Wedding Crashers and Knocked Up.
Donovan, has still been busy professionally, continuing work as excommunicated spy Michael Westen on the hit USA Network show, “Burn Notice,” and portraying fellow Massachusetts native Robert Kennedy in the movie J. Edgar last year with Leonardo DiCaprio.
Donovan was born and raised in Amesbury, Massachusetts, where he attended Amesbury High School, where he helped start the school’s drama club. He went on to attend Bridgewater State University before transferring to the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where he graduated with a BA in theater. He later earned his MFA from New York University’s Graduate Acting Program at the Tisch School of the Arts.
Jeffrey Donovan, Amesbury, MA native and star of USA’s “Burn Notice” is back for the show’s fifth season, premiering June 23. Donovan stars as Michael Westen, “burned” spy, forced to start over in his hometown, Miami.
Donovan comes from humble beginnings in Amesbury, where he graduated from Amesbury High School as a member of the school’s drama program. Thanks to a private scholarship he was able to attend a summer theatre program that jump started his acting career. He began his college career at Bridgewater State University before transferring to University of Massachusetts Amherst, where he graduated with a BA in theatre.
Giving back to the community that spurred his career, Donovan donated to the Amesbury Education Foundation to create a $10,000 for ten students each year pursuing a fine arts education.
HEC: How did you get your first part in a movie?
I was living in Budapest, Hungary, teaching English and acting. In the summer of 1997, I was heading home for a few weeks to visit family and friends. Two days before I was scheduled to depart, I read an ad for an open audition for an HBO film called When Trumpets Fade. There had been a rumor that due to low-production costs (Hungary wasn’t EU back then), film companies would be making more and more movies locally, and using native-English speakers to fill bit parts. Typically, you had to network with the smaller, local production companies to arrange an interview. When Trumpets Fade was the first I saw advertised so publicly. So I went to the open audition and landed the highly-coveted role of “Flashback Controller.” I’m still bitter the Academy overlooked my four lines.
HEC: What kind of work have you done here in the US and Massachusetts?
When I came home at Christmas in 1998, I visited my then-girlfriend in NJ. We went to NYC for an afternoon to shop, etc. I saw in the acting tabloid, Backstage, an ad for a national tour of Don Quixote. I auditioned, and although half the play was in Spanish – and I spoke none – they were fascinated I lived in Budapest and had been in a play in Hungarian (without speaking that either). If I could recite Hungarian lines phonetically, I could recite lines in Spanish. I got the part and toured the country for the first five months of 1999. I moved a month after I got back.
Fast forward to now. I’ve done student films and small indies like Working Stiff, which filmed around Boston. The student films I found out about through Larry Stark’s Theatre Mirror online and were mostly through Emerson. I tried to write/direct/produce a trailer for a film called Treasuring, and actually got it filmed, but couldn’t get it edited. Now, whenever Maura Tighe calls, I audition, and look forward to continuing to work with them as I have since I moved home.
HEC: Has your schooling, degree, or any other background experience helped you at all when you’ve worked in the entertainment industry?
Well, my undergraduate degree was in Government, so maybe? Given current events, both industries seem to excel at make-believe.
HEC: What is your most memorable experience working on a film or commercial?
When I was cast in my second movie, When Trumpets Fade, the Budapest-based production company didn’t give the production team where we were filming (a little town in the country called Balatonfured) any background info on me. They assumed I’d been flown in from LA. I had one line – and it was cut – but if they thought I flew over with Timothy Olyphant, Ron Eldard, Bobby Canavale, and Zak Orth, who was I to correct them? I had my own trailer, a staff of two (wardrobe and someone to run errands), and a driver. I’ve attempted to adapt to not having staff ever since. I don’t think I’m succeeding.
HEC: Have you done anything lately related to film or television work?
The last thing I did was a commercial in November of 2008 (I think). I audition through Maura Tighe casting for non-union commercials every few months or so. I booked that commercial through them and the last three I’ve done – they’re fantastic.
HEC: What kind of commercials have you been in, and where were they filmed?
The local commercials I’ve been in have all been through Maura Tighe – I did a “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” spoof that aired during the Athens Olympics (filmed at the Jordan’s Furniture in Natick), an insurance commercial where I played a carpenter and kept hitting my thumb back in 2004, which was filmed in Plymouth, MA, and most recently, a spot for a hospital in Connecticut, that was filmed in Braintree. Before that, I was in a series of non-union ads for Carmax, none of which aired locally, unfortunately. I lived here but would commute down to NYC on the Fung Wah bus.
HEC: We heard you’re friends with a recent Emmy winner; how did that relationship begin?
My friend Mike Sucsy and I met at Deerfield Academy – I did a post-graduate year, for drama. He and I were actually in the “Merchant of Venice” together. He found his calling a few years after we graduated and about ten years ago went west to start his career as a director. While buidling his resume with commercials, he was working on a “project,” and every so often he’d email with updates, or he’d see me and the gang at our annual get-together on the Cape or here and there. That “project” turned out to be a script he wrote and directed called Grey Gardens, which won a slew of Emmys and a couple Golden Globes this past year. We still give him grief for thanking everyone but his friends and family during his acceptance speech! Seriously, I think he even thanked the key grip. Unreal. But remember that name – he will be huge! Then I can sell his Christmas cards to my wife and I on eBay.
Should someone in the New England area have an interest in getting a solid education in acting, directing, or other components of the industry, two of the first places to look would be the Boston and Amherst campuses of the University of Massachusetts (UMass). Both programs give you a systematic study of modern theater and its many aspects, while imparting lifelong learning skills in creative problem-solving, effective teamwork, and how to succeed in your area of expertise.
The Boston campus has a Performing Arts Department which focuses on music and dance as well as theater, all of which have different career paths to specialize in. There are internships, a fall festival of student plays, and the chance to compete in the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival, among numerous other opportunities.
The Amherst campus has both undergraduate and graduate programs in its Department of Theater. According to their website, the campus’s theater department offers a “broad-based training program that emphasizes collaboration and mentoring. Broad-based training teaches students a shared vocabulary and instills a mutual respect, better enabling them to collaborate and to create exciting theater.”
Famous guests go hand-in-hand with intensive connections between students and faculty. Former students of UMass Amherst include actors Bill Pullman, Jeffrey Donovan, Richard Gere, Marissa Matrone, and Rob Corddry. All auditions for the school’s major productions are open to the general public as well as students.
With such high quality programs offered, these two UMass campuses are first-rate destinations for anyone in New England seeking an education regarding the industry.
★ Amherst’s Eric Mabius, of “Ugly Betty” fame, talks to Boston Common magazine.
★ Conan O’Brien gets 2 covers for the price of one in the new Improper Bostonian.
★ Amesbury’s Jeffrey Donovan charged with a DUI.
★ Hugh Dancy and Rose Byrne stop by Boston to promote their new movie.
★ Brendan Fraser flaunts his bountiful belly around Boston.
★ Mark Wahlberg shirtless and showing it off in Lowell.
USA Network’s “Burn Notice” star Jeffrey Donovan knows the importance of giving back. As a former Amesbury High student, who received a scholarship that enabled him to participate in a summer program that helped pave the way for his acting career, Donovan wanted to pay it forward, quite literally, by helping to establish a $100,000 scholarship through The Amesbury Educational Foundation Inc. The generous donation will provide a $10,000 scholarship each year for 10 years to a deserving student entering the fine arts. In order to be considered, students provided applications that included a portfolio and audition tape, which will be judged by Donovan, who will then determine the recipient.
According to the guidelines established for the scholarship, consideration is based 70 percent on need and 30 percent on talent and desire. Though only seniors were eligible this year, it will be open to juniors as well, next year. There are no stipulations regarding what the money must be spent on, so long as it goes towards something that will further the student’s potential in a career in the arts. Donovan, a AHS class of 1986 graduate, and recent star in the movie Changeling, even showed up at his alma mater in order to make the surprise announcement, much to the delight of the students. The winners of the scholarship will be revealed on graduation day, June 5.
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