Gem City History: Dayton’s Famous Actors

   You may be shocked to know that some pretty famous and important celebrities have come from the Dayton area. The Gem City is home to several well known actors, musicians, entertainment personalities, writers, athletes and military personnel.

   Over the next few columns we’ll take a look at some of these men and women that have gone on to make Dayton proud (and maybe a few that made us ashamed).

   First up is Nancy Cartwright, the voice of several beloved cartoon characters like Bart Simpson, Chuckie from “Rugrats” and Rufus from “Kim Possible,” among other roles, hails from the Gem City.

   She was born in Dayton in 1957 and grew up in Kettering. She recognized her vocal talents early, winning several local public speaking competitions and lending her voice to radio commercials for WING radio in Dayton.

   From there she moved to Los Angeles and started a near four decade acting career in film and TV. She has won accolades for her work, including an Emmy award in 1992 for her portrayal of Bart Simpson.

   Another notable Daytonian is Tom Aldredge, an actor born in Dayton in February 1928. He grew up in the city and originally planned to be a lawyer, taking classes at the University of Dayton in the late 40s.

   He then decided to pursue acting after seeing the original production of “A Streetcar Named Desire.”

   After this he started a theatre career that spanned five decades, with some of his notable roles being Ozzie in “Sticks and Stones,” a role he won a Drama Desk Award for, “Norman Thayer Jr. in “On Golden Pond” and the Narrator/Mysterious Man in “Into the Woods.” That role became his best known performance.

   He worked as a character actor for various TV shows and movies around that time, including roles in “Boardwalk Empire” and “The Sopranos.”

   Standup comic Katt Williams is another Dayton celebrity, though he was born in Cincinnati on Sept. 2, 1971 and was raised in the Gem City. He emancipated himself from his parents at the age of 13 and moved to Florida, becoming a street vendor.

   He spent the next years perfecting his standup routine, performing all across the U.S. at clubs such as the Improv, the Comedy Club, the Icehouse and the Hollywood Park Casino. By the end of the 90s he was an established comedian.

   He had several stand up specials on HBO and one on Netflix alongside film and TV roles in “Friday After Next,” “The Boondocks” and “Wild ‘N’ Out.” He had his own feature film “Katt Williams: American Hustle” which was a big success in 2007 and earned critical acclaim.  

   He has had several run ins with police and arrests throughout the 2010s, but is still actively working and touring through the U.S.

   Next up are two brothers that have made their mark on TV and film, Chad and Rob Lowe. Rob was born in Charlottesville, Va. while Chad was born in Dayton. The two of them lived in Ohio for most of their childhood and then moved to Malibu, Calif.

   The two attended Santa Monica High School, the same school that other famous actors such as Emilio Estevez, Charlie Sheen, Sean Penn, Chris Penn and Robert Downey, Jr. attended.

   Chad has acted in many TV shows and movies, including an Emmy winning performance as a recurring character in the sitcom “Life Goes On.” However, in recent years he’s made his mark mostly behind the camera, directing several episodes of “Bones,” “Life in Pieces” and “Pretty Little Liars.”

   Rob’s career started with an Emmy nominated performance in the TV movie “Thursday’s Child.” He also had a role in the film adaptation of “The Outsiders,” playing Sodapop Curtis.

   He was part of the group known as the Brat Pack, a collection of young actors famous for performing in 80s teen coming of age movies, like “St. Elmo’s Fire” and “The Breakfast Club.”

   Prominent members of the group include Emilio Estevez, Anthony Michael Hall, Rob Lowe, Andrew McCarthy, Demi Moore, Judd Nelson, Molly Ringwald and Ally Sheedy.

   He would later begin to have more of a role in TV shows as the 2000s started, with a starring role as Sam Seaborn in “The West Wing.” He also played significant roles on shows like “Brothers and Sisters” and “Parks and Recreation.”

   Allison Janney is an actress born in Boston, Mass., and raised in Dayton. She attended the Miami Valley School (and was later distinguished alumna in 2005) and started an acting career after attending Kenyon College.

   She worked roles in soap operas, failed pilots and appearances in crime shows such as “Law and Order.”

   Janney got her big break in 1999 when she was cast as press secretary C.J. Cregg on the show “The West Wing.” She earned six Emmy nominations and four wins for her performance.

   She has had consistent work in Hollywood ever since, with roles in films such as “American Beauty,” “10 Things I Hate About You,” “I, Tonya” and many more.

   The final Dayton actor we’ll look at is Martin Sheen (real name Ramón Gerard Antonio Estévez). He was born in Dayton in August of 1940 and grew up in the South Park area of the city. His father worked at the National Cash Register Company (NCR) and Sheen went to school at Chaminade Julienne High School.

   At the age of 20, he moved to New York to pursue an acting career and had several guest roles in the big shows of the mid 60s and early 70s. He had two critically acclaimed roles in the TV movies “That Certain Summer” and “The Execution of Private Slovik.”

   The latter inspired director Francis Ford Coppola to cast Sheen in “Apocalypse Now” in 1979 and Sheen embarked on over three decades of acting in film and television.

   One of his more memorable roles was as President Josiah Bartlet on “The West Wing.” He’s the third Dayton alum to be on the show.

   Sheen married Janet Templeton and the couple had four kids who all became actors: Emilio, Ramón, Carlos, and Renée. Carlos would later change his name to Charlie Sheen.

   The Gem City has had some very talented and recognizable actors and actresses venture past the Miami River and gain success in their fields. Check back next time, when we look at Dayton’s biggest musical exports.

Henry Wolski
Executive Editor

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