“Its harder to play a dead body than you think,” Chad Michael Collins told Canajoharie High Schoolers in the Arkell Auditorium on Dec. 21.
“It is pretty cold on a Hollywood set and then they lay you on a cold slab of metal with just a towel,” the 1997 Canajoharie alum said to current students, faculty, and staff as part of the high school’s Student-Teacher Action Rally (STAR) program.
“You can’t breathe, you can’t shiver…the money is pretty good though.”
Collins, who has been in over 25 films and TV shows including “NCIS,” “Once Upon a Time,” and “Blue Bloods,” came back to his alma mater to answer questions from and give advice to current Canajoharie students while he also said hi to many of his former teachers.
“I was right in your seats about 20 years ago and I never thought I would be an actor. I always loved learning. I loved reading and writing and playing World of Warcraft and Magic the Gathering. Now I get to play pretend professionally. I am so thankful that I was able to grow up in a place like Canajoharie that allowed me to follow those kinds of things,” he said.
Collins played football, basketball and baseball and graduated in the Top-10 of his Canajoharie class. He went to Sage College of Albany before majoring in communications at Ithaca College. He worked for a public relations company in Los Angeles and kind of fell into acting.
“My first movie I was in I was getting paid $20 a day to travel 30 miles back and forth, get covered in corn syrup and scream at zombies that weren’t there,” Collins said about his role in “Legion of the Dead” in 2005. “Then I went to Bulgaria to film a part in Lake Placid 2. I couldn’t point it out on a map and I had to get a passport for the first time in my life. It was wild.”
One role led to another and eventually Collins landed his most famous role thus far playing franchise lead Master Sergeant Brandon Beckett across four “Sniper” films for Sony Pictures. In the films Collins has played alongside Tom Berenger, Billy Zane and Dennis Haysbert. He recently wrapped principal photography on “Sniper: Homeland Security” in Bogota, Colombia with Berenger and Zane.
Beyond the marquee role, Collins his credits including appearances on ABC’s “Once Upon a Time” and “Castle;” CBS’s “NCIS,” “NCIS: New Orleans,” “Blue Bloods,” “2 Broke Girls,” and “Bones” on FOX.
On Thursday though he came back with some advice for Canajoharie students.
“I know if there were some things that I could go back and tell myself when I was here they would start with, ‘be your weird, authentic self,’ I know there are probably a lot of people here that grapple with that. I did too,” Collins said.
“Be kind to each other, be nice, it isn’t that hard and it makes a huge difference everyday,” he continued. “Follow your bliss; Ask yourself – do I want to be happy or do I want to right?”
“Believe in yourself and cultivate positivity around yourself,” he said. “And, finally, practice gratitude and giving thanks. Canajoharie is a great place to be, to grow up, to explore, embrace what you have here. I have been all over the world, but it is a breath of fresh air to come home and be here.”
At the start of the school year all Canajoharie high school students picked a single word to represent themselves as part of the STAR program’s character education.
Inevitably, the question was posed to Collins.
“What is my word?” he thought out loud. “Well, there is a lot of rejection in Hollywood. There are a lot of ‘No’s.’ You have to learn to live with kind of rejection and the first word that comes to my mind for me is, ‘Possibility.’ There is always a possibility that the next thing can break my way.”
Sometimes that break means being a dead body, but it is still a break.