5 questions with… professional actor, theater faculty member David Vegh

Photo of David Vegh

Not sure what to stream this weekend? Consider watching Case Western Reserve University’s own David Vegh on Netflix or Hulu!

Vegh, an associate professor in the Department of Theater and a professional actor, recently co-starred in an episode of Netflix’s Manhunt: Deadly Games, a dramatized account of the 1996 Atlanta Olympics bombing. Appearing in an episode titled “Army of God,” Vegh portrays a Baptist minister. He also recently had a supporting film role in Hulu’s Acts of Violence, a movie about three brothers on a quest to save one of their fiancées from human trafficking. In this film, Vegh plays a veterans’ administration therapist. 

Diverse roles

To understand how Vegh landed his most recent roles on such prominent platforms, one need only look to his resume. Prior to launching his teaching career, Vegh spent nearly 20 years acting in Los Angeles, getting his start in the field on The Marshal where he played the late Brittany Murphy’s boyfriend. One of his most notable credits was in Saving Private Ryan in a role that allowed him to work with Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg. And another claim to fame? He played the first patient to die on Grey’s Anatomy. You may have also caught him in Dexter, House M.D., Mad About You, Chicago Hope, Picket Fence and more.

Though he has since relocated to Cleveland, Vegh was able to land auditions for his two most recent credits thanks to their filming locations—Manhunt was filmed in western Pennsylvania while Acts of Violence took place in Cleveland.

Though very different in nature, Vegh considered both roles “fun and challenging.” His Manhunt appearance was more of the latter, leaving him torn internally as he played a character whose values were vastly different from his own. 

“I had to swallow my own personal politics and belief systems and try to get into the mentality of someone who has a very specific view on the world that is not mine,” he said, reflecting on the character’s stance condoning the bombing of abortion clinics. 

In Acts of Violence, Vegh took it upon himself to try to uncover his character’s psychology. Playing a seemingly apathetic therapist, Vegh determined his character was faced with a large caseload and was overworked.

“It was a fun challenge to get under the psychology of a psychologist,” he said.

A career change

While Vegh found considerable success in Hollywood, he ultimately felt unfulfilled. So he went back to school to complete his Master of Fine Arts degree, which he had started at Arizona State University prior to deciding to pursue acting full-time. After wrapping up his degree at California State University, Long Beach, Vegh went on to teach at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College and California State University, Long Beach, eventually returning to Cleveland, where he had grown up.

“I found that once I started teaching, it gave me a greater sense of purpose,” he said.

At Case Western Reserve, Vegh is the only faculty member who teaches acting for film and television. 

“It’s been exciting to me to open that door for some students,” he said, explaining that acting for the camera and for theater involve different skill sets.

Being based in Cleveland also presents opportunities for Vegh to continue acting. Ohio and Pennsylvania offer tax credits for filming, attracting productions to the area like Manhunt and Acts of Violence.

Be sure to check out Vegh’s performances in Manhunt and Acts of Violence, but before you watch, get to know him with this week’s five questions.

1. What is something cool you’ve learned at CWRU this year?

I’ve learned about the incredible resilience of people, myself and others. And the efforts we will make to truly connect with each other, despite the recent impediments. I teach acting, which is all about connection. The most successful actors are able to truly affect the other performers they are working with, while simultaneously forming a connection with the audience. This was already becoming increasingly more difficult in the “smartphone age,” and then when the pandemic hit and we shifted to remote instruction, my friends were like, “How are you possibly going to teach acting on Zoom?” I’m pleased to say that I’ve seen some of the most moving and engaged performances from students over this medium and I think it says something about their ability to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles to connect with other human beings.

2. Do you prefer to get work done early in the morning or late at night?

Honestly, neither. I’m a middle-of-the-day person when it comes to work. Definitely more of a night owl than an early riser, but in either case, I tend to think of the bookends to a given day as “me time.”

3. What do you consider the greatest invention?

While I believe there are certainly more important inventions—printing press, automobile, personal computer, etc.—I think my favorite invention would probably have to be the movie camera because I’m fairly obsessed with cinema and filmmaking. Everything has pretty much moved over to digital in that world now, which is more economical and creates the opportunity for people to make films they may not have been able to afford in the past. But for me, I just love the look and feel of actual film in the same way that I would mostly rather listen to music on vinyl. I’m a luddite in that way.

4. Outside of school and work, what is your favorite way to spend time?

Prior to COVID, I would probably have said going to the movies, as I tended to frequent some of the local art house cinemas like the Cedar-Lee and the Capitol. Likewise, I would regularly see a lot of live music at places like Beachland Ballroom and the Grog Shop. One thing I have tried to keep up in the midst of the pandemic, though the scope has certainly changed, is travel. I love experiencing new places, and while it’s a challenge to fly right now, just hopping in the car and driving to another state or even just a neighborhood or part of town that I’m less familiar with can help to satisfy some of that wanderlust.

5. What’s your favorite thing about Case Western Reserve?

This is an easy one. I love the diverse interests and talents of the students. It’s easy to take for granted the fact that at CWRU, it’s not only possible for a student to double major in say, biochemistry and dance, but it’s actually encouraged! I think there are very few schools out there that are so unique in this way. I love that I can have a discussion about a play in a theater or a SAGES course and a student who is studying nursing or finance or poli-sci will bring that point of view into the conversation and I’ll end up thinking about the play and whatever issues it addresses in an entirely new way.