The nature of Greg Grunberg’s career has resulted in many a pop culture convention or event to come knocking. However, it’s only more recently that he really started answering.
“I was turning down 90 percent of the time requests that came in,” the actor says. “It used to not be that much of a priority to me.”
The reason Grunberg has been a sought-after guest for events such as Lexington Comic-Con is for the roles he’s played and for the special personal and professional relationship that helped propel his acting career.
Grunberg’s self-described “closest friend in the world” happens to be renowned director, writer and producer J.J. Abrams. The two have been friends since childhood, and Abrams cast Grunberg in his most popular TV ventures. He played Sean Blumberg in Felicity, CIA agent Eric Weiss in the action drama Alias and had a small part on the iconic TV show Lost.
“I’ve been doing this for a long time and, luckily, J.J. has put me on his most successful series and they were genre series,” he says.
Grunberg’s most recognizable TV role put him outside of Abrams’ creative realm and smack in the middle of a superhero universe. He possessed the power of telepathy as Matt Parkman on the NBC series Heroes from 2006-10 and reprised that role in the NBC mini-series Heroes Reborn last year. He said all of his prior supporting roles helped prepare him to be more front-and-center.
“I love being number seven on a call sheet in a TV show. There’s nothing better,” Grunberg says. “Heroes really put me into a new category. It was an ensemble show, but we all had our moments.”
Grunberg, 49, has a varied and successful career in TV and movies, but he has happily taken opportunities to work under Abrams’ direction in minor roles for movies such as 2006’s Mission: Impossible III, 2009’s Star Trek and 2011’s Super 8. He has always said a lot of his success was a result of luck and timing, but both of those worked in his favor to help live a childhood dream in a galaxy far, far away.
When it was confirmed that there would be a new Star Wars movie, and that Abrams would direct it, you can bet Grunberg, a die-hard Star Wars fan, wanted in on the action.
“I don’t want to be selfish. I don’t want to immediately go to, ‘What’s in it for me?’ But this is a life-long dream. A life-changing opportunity,” Grunberg says. “He rolls his eyes and said, ‘OK, I knew this was coming.’”
If you were one of the gazillion people who went to see Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens, you probably briefly caught Grunberg as X-Wing pilot Snap Wexley in the epic aerial battle on the Starkiller Base. To this day, he can’t believe he is a small part of the Star Wars universe (complete with his own action figure) and is helping fulfill the dreams of some of the franchise’s most devoted fans at comic conventions.
“They have to get everybody’s signature on (their merchandise), so you become part of someone else’s collection, and it’s amazing,” Grunberg says. “I’ve joined a part of something they are so fond of.”
Thanks to recent shifts and developments in Grunberg’s career, he has found even more reasons to go to comic conventions. He soon will co-host a 30-minute, late-night talk show with director Kevin Smith on AMC tentatively titled Geeking Out that will focus on fanboy reverence for all things pop culture. He recently partnered with Scholastic and award-winning illustrator Lucas Turnbloom on a graphic novel titled Dream Jumper that will be released in June. The story, inspired by his middle son, Ben, is about a boy who can enter other people’s dreams and nightmares.
Grunberg is also a producer through his company, Bandwagon Media, and recently wrote a pilot for a TV comedy with Scott Foley, his former Felicity co-star and a star of ABC’s Scandal. The show, called Toast, is being produced by Shonda Rhimes, the brains behind Scandal and other successful ABC shows. Grunberg is enjoying the risks and rewards of trying something new.
“I like to think of myself as a good actor, but you get to a point where you’re like, ‘OK, I want to be a maker,’” he says. “I’m more vulnerable than I have been, creatively, but I’m loving it.”
While Grunberg is relishing his new roles in acting and as a writer and is excited to share his new projects with fans, he’s looking forward to interacting with the fans while he’s in Lexington.
“My line is a little bit longer than others because I spend time with people,” Grunberg says. “I love it. They are fascinating. I really have fun at these things.”
Blake Hannon: email@example.com
If you go
Greg Grunberg will meet fans and sign autographs Friday-Sunday at the Lexington Comic and Toy Convention. According to the convention website, Grunberg autographs are $40 and table photos are $30.