Tom Amandes (Photo provided)
Tom Amandes (Photo provided)

Growing up as one of 11 siblings in Richmond and Crystal Lake, Tom Amandes was surrounded by creativity. 

Among the bunch are actors, musicians, designers, writers and filmmakers.

“We were always putting on plays at the house, and doing circuses and carnivals and just anything that my mom could think of to keep us busy,” said Amandes, who recently starred as Abraham Lincoln in the independent film, “Saving Lincoln.”

It is the latest in a string of film and television roles he’s played since the late 1980s.

Available on iTunes, the Salvador Litvak film, “Saving Lincoln,” tells the true story of Ward Hill Lamon, Lincoln’s bodyguard. 

It features sets created from actual Civil War photographs, using a new process invented by Litvak called CineCollage.

“It gives the film a very unique look,” Amandes said. “It gave them the ability to produce a big movie about Illinois on a small budget.”

Shot in about a month, the actors and actresses portrayed their parts with green screens behind them. The photos were added through computer editing. Acting for the most part with imaginary sets, all involved came from theatrical backgrounds, Amandes said.

“In the theater you kind of do that anyway. You’re always pretending the audience isn’t there,” he said. “You have to do that in film as well, but I think all of us having theater experience helped. . .

“It is a film that has sort of a theatrical side to it, different than more naturalistic movies.”

Amandes, who now lives in Los Angeles with his wife, actress Nancy Everhard, and their 14-year-old son, Ben, next will appear March 28 in an episode of the NBC series, “1600 Penn,” in which he’ll play a French President.

He’s definitely put his creative roots to use.

“Growing up in Crystal Lake, you kind of dream that stuff like that will happen,” Amandes said. “I have to say it’s been pretty amazing.” 

Along with his childhood home, his acting and musical experiences can be traced back to school plays at Crystal Lake Central High School (then Crystal Lake Community High School) and on numerous Chicago stages. He’s a graduate of The Goodman School of Drama, which became the Theatre School at DePaul University.

Amandes’ grown daughters, Meg and Nia O’Reilly, remain deeply embedded in the Chicago music and theater scene. The two, along with Sarah Chang, make up the doo-wop rock trio Midnight Moxie (www.midnightmoxie.com).

Meg is engaged to Alex Riepl of Crystal Lake, where Amandes attended the couple’s engagement party this past summer.

He remains tied to the area in numerous ways, crediting many of his former teachers for their influence and keeping in touch with his former history teacher, Craig Pfannkuche.

Pfannkuche, who since has retired from Crystal Lake South High School, attended a screening of “Saving Lincoln” in Chicago.

“Even when I was broke and doing theater in Chicago, he’d come and see the play and take the cast out for pizza,” Amandes remembered.

“He was an amazing teacher. He was extremely theatrical as a teacher,” Amandes said. “He really instilled in me that love of history.”

That influence has made historical roles, such as Abraham Lincoln and Eliot Ness in the television series, “The Untouchables,” from 1993 to 1994, even more meaningful to Amandes. To take on the role of Abraham Lincoln, he visited Springfield and its museums.

He also starred as astronaut Jack Schmitt in the television mini-series, “From the Earth to the Moon,” in 1998.

“As a kid growing up during the space age, doing ‘From Earth to the Moon’ was an absolute dream come true for me to be able to play an astronaut and go to the moon and put on a spacesuit,” he said. 

Another of his most memorable experiences is the four years he spent playing Dr. Abbott in the television series “Everwood,” from 2002 to 2006. The cast became family, with younger stars actually growing up on set.

“That was such a great group. Frankly, to have a chance to do a character over a period of years, four seasons, there’s really nothing else like that in our business,” he said. 

Amandes also had a recurring role in the series “The Pursuit of Happiness” in 1997, and over the years has had roles in “Spin City,” “Eli Stone,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Big Love,” “Parenthood,” “Scandal,” and numerous other television series. 

Among his films are “Brokedown Palace,” “The Long Kiss Goodnight,” “Lucky,” and “Bonneville.”

By JAMI KUNZER – jkunzer@shawmedia.com

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