June 28 2016 07:39 AM

Jeffrey Omura featured in 'The Interestings'

TUESDAY, June 28 —To many, springtime means flowers. For others, it means time to stop putting off working on the beach body they resolved to have by now. But in the life of a TV actor, spring is go time.

“The middle of pilot season, the busiest time of the year for me, is when all of the networks are casting their new pilots. You might go on a dozen of these auditions in a month,” said actor Jeffrey Omura. “It’s a really high-stakes time when all of these really big projects are being cast.”

A New York-based actor, Omura, 31, has appeared in shows like “Damages,” “White Collar” and “Blacklist,” as well as theater productions like Shakespeare in the Park’s “Romeo and Juliet.” A Michigan native, Omura was born in Lansing and graduated from Okemos High School. The actor recently landed a role on an Amazon Prime pilot for a project called “The Interestings.”

“It follows five friends who meet in summer camp in 1974 who stay in touch over the next several decades. You get to watch them grow up and move on with their lives,” Omura said. “My character is the boyfriend of one of the main characters.”

The show is based on Meg Wolitzer’s 2013 novel of the same name. Omura hopes the series is picked up for a full season — not just for the job security, but also so he can really explore the character.

“In the pilot, you just get to meet him briefly in 1995,” he explained. “But in the book, you meet my character, Robert Takahashi, in the mid-‘80s, in the middle of the AIDS crisis in New York.”

Even if the show is picked up, there’s no guarantee that the show will cover Robert’s past. But the backstory gives Omura plenty to work with.

“He’s a gay man who’s watching all of his friends die of AIDS, and that’s when you meet the character in the book,” he said. “Right now it’s all kind of up in the air, what material the show’s going to cover.”

Unlike network TV, where programming decisions are made by executives, Amazon Prime is giving viewers a chance to weigh in. The company’s pilot program allows users to watch pilots and give feedback. This year’s slate of pilots includes another drama, “The Last Tycoon,” starring Kelsey Grammer and Matt Bomer, and six children’s programs.

“They could definitely pick up both (“The Interestings” and “The Last Tycoon”) if they like them, as far as I know,” Omura said. “If they believe in both projects, I don’t know why they wouldn’t.”

While good feedback doesn’t ensure that the show will get produced, Omura is rallying friends and family to try to make the project a reality.

“It’s sort of a strange process. We have to encourage everyone we know to watch it and support the show,” Omura said. “But at the end of the day, the ultimate decision is up to Amazon.”

Omura started his acting career locally, landing his first acting role in middle school.

“My first acting job was at Riverwalk Theatre in seventh grade,” he said. “I played Pinocchio in a musical production of ‘Pinocchio’ written and directed by John Baldwin.”

Omura loved the idea of “transforming” into other people on the stage and soon found other ways to get involved in the local theater scene. He worked at Riverwalk Theatre and the now defunct BoarsHead Theater. Along the way, he started to consider acting as a viable career. During a show with Lansing’s Sunsets with Shakespeare company, he started to consider acting as a viable career.

“I worked with (City Pulse reporter) Todd Heywood in a production of ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ and he was really the first person to make it clear to me that this was an option,” Omura said. “I knew I wanted to be an actor before, but he was the first person outside of the family to tell me that. And I just never stopped.”

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