Kentucky native Wes Robinson moved to California at age 19. His mom, Leila Dean, helped him drive cross-country.
He promised to stay a year, and if he didn’t start getting roles, he’d come back to Kentucky and go to college.
“I pursued it, and crazily enough, it worked out,” Robinson said.
Robinson, now 33, is one of the stars in “Blair Witch,” a sequel to the 1999 movie “The Blair Witch Project,” which Fortune magazine says cost $60,000 to make and earned $248.5 million, a return on investment of 414,398.5 percent.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Lexington Herald-Leader
The new film, which follows the dramatic thread of the first movie, debuts nationwide Sept. 16 and is already drawing enthusiastic early reviews for its right-out-the-gate scares.
“This is like ‘Blair Witch’ turned up to an 11,” Robinson said. “When it starts, it’s relentless.”
For those who managed to miss the media madness of 1999’s “The Blair Witch Project,” the original movie featured three young documentary filmmakers trying to ferret out the mystery of Maryland’s Blair Witch. The crew finds itself spooked and disoriented, wandering in circles; ultimately a dropped camera signals their disappearance (and the start of the “found footage” genre in movies).
Robinson saw “The Blair Witch Project” as a teenager at Lexington’s Carmike 10 Cinemas.
“I was grinning from ear to ear. I loved this movie. It scared me; it made me laugh.”
Like many people that summer, Robinson initially thought the movie, with its shaky footage and purposely unedited look, was a real documentary.
Being in the Blair Witch sequel “is a dream come true for me,” Robinson said. “If you’re a fan of the original, you will more than likely love this one.”
The new “Blair Witch” movie starts with a character seeking his missing sister Heather, the leader of the original group.
Robinson plays Lane, a resident of the nearby town of Burkittsville, who with his girlfriend, Talia (Valorie Curry), is obsessed with Blair Witch mythology and seeks to reignite the town’s talk about it.
Robinson has appeared in “Mad Men,” “The Ghost Whisperer,” “Roadies” and “Malcolm in the Middle.” Regarding “Malcolm,” Robinson said star Bryan Cranston, his “Breaking Bad” Emmys and his 2016 Oscar nomination for “Trumbo” still ahead of him, is a nice guy off screen and on.
Robinson had a great experience in a small role on “Mad Men,” playing opposite January Jones, where show runner Matt Weiner was very specific about what he wanted from Robinson’s mildly menacing character.
“I remember thinking, if I can do this justice and feel good about it at the end of the day, I’ve succeeded.”
This is like ‘Blair Witch’ turned up to an 11. When it starts, it’s relentless.
As a child in Pike County, Robinson said, “I’d make people sit on the couch and watch me. For Christmas, 9 times out of 10, I would ask for something like a camcorder rather than toys.”
By the time he was in high school, the family had moved to Clark County, where Robinson was active in theater at George Rogers Clark High School in Winchester.
For his first few years as a professional actor, Robinson said, “I was completely naïve in how the business is. ... And I was having luck right away, and then you have slower periods.”
But he’s proud that he has continued to work, and he has been cast without having any connections, family or business, in the TV and movie industry.
Robinson loves movies, and although his favorite genre is horror, his favorite movies cross into several genres and provide a showcase for the actors he most admires.
Jeff Daniels, who starred in “Dumb and Dumber” and was most recently seen in “The Newsroom” on TV and in the movie “Allegiant,” “is, I think, one of the most talented people on the planet,” Robinson said.
“Dumb and Dumber,” also starring Jim Carrey, is among Robinson’s favorite movies, as is “Forrest Gump” with Tom Hanks.
“I’m the guy who can find something to appreciate in every film,” Robinson said.
Vanessa Rogers, Robinson’s drama teacher and director in school productions at George Rogers Clark, remembers Robinson well.
Now retired, she said, “He was gung-ho. He was always ready. He was very good at looking at the character, at the script, and making it come to life.”
Robinson said his religious faith helps sustain him: “I feel like I was given a talent and I want to use it. To be fair, God works it out for me every time.”
Could “Blair Witch” be a tipping point for Robinson’s career?
“I’ve already been recognized from this film, and I’m barely in the trailer,” Robinson said. “It’s kind of crazy to think about where this could lead.”