Hollywood Comes to Chesapeake

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Chesapeake Native Michael Copon Opens Film Studio

By BELINDA ELLIOTT

Could Chesapeake become the next hot spot for filmmaking? That’s the dream of celebrity Michael Copon. The Filipino-American actor has opened a film studio in Chesapeake and is raising money to produce “I Am Me,” a film that aims to prevent bullying and suicide in adolescents.

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Copon is best known for his starring role as Felix on the popular TV show, “One Tree Hill.” A Chesapeake native, he graduated from Deep Creek High School in 2000. His excellent grades and athletic skills on the football field led to scholarship offers for college, but he turned them down to pursue a modeling career in Los Angeles.

He says he never really considered acting until representatives from the modeling agency encouraged him to try it. It was a move that surprised his friends and family back home. “Everyone said I was really shy in school because I stayed to myself,” Copon explains.

Not yet schooled in the ways of Hollywood, his first audition was a learning experience. When his agent wished him well by saying, “Have a good read,” the young actor took the advice literally. He read the script word-for-word without acting at all until the casting director asked what he was doing. By his second audition, however, he had become a pro. He landed the role of Lucas, the Blue Power Ranger, on the Fox Kids Network series “Power Rangers Time Force.”

Copon playing Lucas the Blue Power Ranger on the Fox Kid’s Network series “Power Rangers Time Force”

Copon playing Lucas the Blue Power Ranger on the Fox Kid’s Network series “Power Rangers Time Force”

He went on to star in “Bring It On: In It to Win It” and performed the lead role in “The Scorpion King II: Rise of a Warrior.” He has also appeared in popular programs such as “CSI Miami,” “Scrubs,” “Reno 911,” “That’s So Raven” and “Even Stevens.” In addition, he co-starred in the original series “Beyond the Break” and landed a role on the CBS re-made series “Hawaii 5-0.” A talented musician, Copon also won the VH1 television series, “But Can They Sing.”

Now he has returned to Chesapeake with the hope of mentoring new actors and musicians and putting Hampton Roads on the map as an ideal location to make movies. He recently opened a film studio in the Greenbrier area and plans to use local talent to produce the film “I Am Me.”

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“I Am Me” began as a music video that turned into a short film which was recently selected as one of the top ten films at Film Fest VA. He created the short film as a teaser for the full-length feature film he envisions. He is currently raising money for the project on the fundraising site Indiegogo.com where contributors can receive rewards for their contributions.

He describes his vision for the film as a cross between “Crash” and “Across the Universe” that will follow the lives of six people and touch on every type of bullying. It is a subject that is very personal for him because he was bullied when he was young. “I was bullied a lot because I was chubby,” he explains. “It could have really stopped me, but my mom taught me how to stop them. Bullies live off of your pain and your fear.”

Bullying is an epidemic that is sweeping the nation, and social media sites like Facebook and Twitter are the new playground for school yard bullies. In some cases, the teasing and harassment has led students to commit suicide.

Copon, whose stepfather committed suicide when the actor was 12, says the film will show how devastating suicide is to those left behind as well as raise awareness about bullying and encourage youth to accept themselves for who they are rather than accept the labels others give them. “ ‘I Am Me’ is helping people understand who ‘me’ is and connect with that on a daily basis,” he explains. “The concept is ‘You say I am fat. You say I am ugly. You say I am stupid, but I am me.’ Embrace who you are.”

Copon in “That’s So Raven,”  L to R:  Ryan Hansen, Michael Copon, Raven Symone, Columbus

Copon in “That’s So Raven,” L to R: Ryan Hansen, Michael Copon, Raven Symone, Columbus

His anti-bullying message isn’t popular with everyone. The actor says when he tweets about trivial matters – his favorite foods or daily activities – he receives a lot of responses. When he tweets about bullying, people are more hesitant to respond. The mentality of previous generations has been to sweep the problem under the rug or instruct youth to “get tougher skin,” Copon says. “My calling is to do this,” he explains. “Someone has to take a stand. I think the community needs this, and the world needs to hear this message.”

For the young celebrity, his life goals have always been about more than making movies. He wants to use his talents to make a difference in the world. “I don’t want to die and be known as just another actor,” Copon says. “I don’t want people to say he was just in movies and that’s it.”

In addition to filmmaking, Copon is excited to spend more time with his extended family who all still live in the area. After years of only being able to visit on holidays, he says he realized he missed playing a larger role in their lives. He also wants to help local actors and musicians hone their skills and use his Hollywood experience to help launch their careers.

“I want to give kids an outlet to express themselves artistically,” Copon explains. “Artistry helps them identify their self-worth.”

Learn more about “I Am Me” at https://www.facebook.com/IAmMeMovie.

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One Response to Hollywood Comes to Chesapeake

  1. Christine Reply

    July 3, 2013 at 2:06 pm

    I think it’s truly inspiring what Michael is doing with the I Am Me campaign surrounding bullying and prevention of suicide. Abuse of any form is intolerable, but the more awareness is raised about bullying, the more I feel people will begin to pay closer attention and actually become proactive about it! It’s a project – a vision – that I fully support and believe in, and hope others will join this movement to bring about CHANGE!!

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