New Trier alum Beck Bennett hits television

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New Trier alum Beck Bennett hits television

Yearbook, NBC

Yearbook, NBC

Yearbook, NBC

Bennett’s senior yearbook picture from 2003 and today as a member of SNL

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All of us who own a TV have seen those AT&T commercials where that guy in the suit is sitting at a table with four or something kids. He asks them a question like “is it better to be faster or slower?” and the kids all respond with an adorable answer that just makes you smile from cheek to cheek. That guy’s name is Beck Bennett, who was recently has been featured on the popular television show, Saturday Night Live (SNL).

Bennett came to New Trier in August of 1999 as a freshman and graduated in the year 2003. He spent his mornings at Cereal Club and most of his days preparing for whatever play he was currently involved in.

While at New Trier Bennett participated in much more than the theater. According to his old advisor, Jeffery Markham, Bennett also participated in football and lacrosse his freshman and sophomore year.

Markham explained that when Bennett attended New Trier, Markham required his advisees to write a poem if they were late to school to avoid getting in trouble. “We would turn the overhead projector on the person and turn off the lights and they would have to deliver the poem. It was awesome and his poems were hysterical,” Markham explained. Markham describes Bennett as being a remarkable and funny student and still is today. Markham kept in contact with Bennett after he left New Trier and still emails him from time to time.

Bennet participated in Lagniappe all four year of his high school life. He was also seen in New Trier’s winter play his senior year and stared in Les Miserables as Jean Valjean. It is “a performance some teachers still here remember to this day,” stated Markham, “he’s a really deep person and phenomenal actor. What we see now on TV is just his comical side.” According to Markham, Bennett, along with other New Trier students were excellent and inspired writers, who made their first debut working and being on film in a short movie known as The Nelson.

The students at New Trier who participate in wrestling are the ones who mainly knew of The Nelson. Directed by past wrestler and New Trier alum, Adam Siegal, the film is about a rivalry between janitor Nelson Stubanowski (played by fromer New Trier student and wrestler Peter Pacelli) and wrestling coach Tony Glass (played by Bennett).

The rivalry starts with a wrestling match they had back in high school and ends with an epic battle when they are employees for a high school. The movie is mainly filmed after school hours in the wrestling room, offices, hallways, and teacher’s lounge at New Trier. However there are also scenes filmed at the state-wrestling tournament in Assembly Hall, Champaign Illinois, and in restaurant Aunt Sonya’s, also in Champaign. When asked about how The Nelson was created, Adam Siegel said, “Peter Pacelli and I wrestled together and would come up with funny/absurd wrestling movies we could make. So, I think The Nelson ended up being a combination of our favorite elements from all the ideas we had.” The title of the film, according to Siegel, was based on the idea that Nelson is a real name and a wrestling move, the “half-nelson.” Teacher Darrin Jeziorski, who also had a hand in creating the film, described the move; “It’s a pinning combination. So one guy would be face down on the mat and the other guy puts his hand under his arm and over his head and they would use that to leverage the person to turn him over on his back. In wrestling once your back is flat on the matt you loose the match.” The “half-nelson” is actually featured in the movie.

In the movie Bennett plays Tony Glass, the “bad guy” in this short film. Glass becomes the head coach of wrestling at the start and he is viewed as not a nice guy. Bennett’s character is described by Jeziorski as, “really over the top, exaggerated, and all or his movements and all of his actions is really loud, big, and he has this bigger than life sort of personality in the movie.” Bennett was chosen for this role by Siegel because he is an over the top funny guy. Siegel stated, “He was someone I was friends with, who I thought would work in it due to him being funny in person.” Over the years Siegel and Bennett have worked together in a number of films such as Appleseed Elementary where Bennett is featured as teacher, Mr. Bailey, who is also not a great guy.

Jeziorski, along with fellow New Trier teacher Mark Colegrove, were both wrestling coaches at the time the movie was being developed and both allowed the guys to come into the wrestling room during practice and after school hours to film the movie. Colelgrove describes the group as, “very creative, quirky, and funny.” During the process of making the film Siegel and the rest of the group had a great time making it. “We were all good friends and always cracking each other up when – so the movie was a perfect outlet,” Siegel stated.

The Nelson was never planned to be something that New Trier wrestling boys would watch, but over the years it has turned into a traditional bonding experience. “The guys in wrestling still watch it and the guys in my advisory have seen it, but back then kids just heard about it and asked if they could see the film. Since it was about wrestling we decided to show in during practice one day, and it has continued to be shown every year since,” Colegrove explained.

By the end of his senior year, Bennett had won the most likely to be on Saturday Night Live and win an Oscar. He has been working on the craft of acting for a long time, almost ten years, and we are just now looking at his work. Markham claimed he knew well before hand of Bennett’s big début on SNL, but kept it hush hush until the episode finally came around.

Bennett has come a long way since making his first film, but now you can find him not only all over television in the “It’s Not Complicated” AT&T commercials but also sporting sparkling gold spanks on SNL.

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