The King of Queens paid a visit to lower Manhattan this past Friday, as the New York Film Academy welcomed comedian and actor Kevin James. James began his career in stand up and eventually moved over to television where he rose to stardom playing the role of Doug Heffernan in the CBS comedy The King of Queens. James’ career moved over to film when he teamed up with Will Smith in Hitch, and then teamed up with friend Adam Sandler in I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry. James would go on to star in several other comedic films, including Paul Blart: Mall Cop, Grown Ups, Zookeeper, and others.
As an additional surprise, James brought with him writer and former NYFA student, Michael Soccio, as well as writer and producer Leo Severino. Soccio has written for The Fresh Prince of Bel Air and The King of Queens. He’s also done numerous re-writes and script doctoring for major motion pictures such as Hitch, The Karate Kid, and Men in Black 2 & 3. Severino produced Bella, which won the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto Film Festival in 2006, and is developing the film Mary, based on the biblical character.
The panel was moderated by Acting for Film Chair, Glynis Rigsby.
James opened by discussing how he broke into the business, which came about from stand up and performing. “It’s about getting out there and really getting comfortable in that space,” said James. He stressed the importance of humility, adding, “You are going to fail without a doubt.” The key is to continue to hone your craft until you are comfortable and confident enough to own it.
As James looked around the full classroom of acting and filmmaking students, he said, “I wish I had this experience. If I could go back to school, I would learn every aspect of filmmaking.”
Soccio added in the fact that his experience in the NYFA Filmmaking Program in 1997 is what truly elevated his craft as writer. “You can never learn too much,” Soccio said. “I went [to NYFA] for directing. That quite honestly is what made me a much better writer.”
A key element that James kept coming back to was the idea of surrounding yourself with a great team. He admitted to his own faults of sometimes not seeing the full picture in a film or project and seeking the advice of his directors and writers, who “can see the whole landscape.”
Another important piece of advice given by each guest was the notion that you can never stop learning. A student concluded the day by asking James, “When did you know you mastered your craft?” To this, James replied, “I’ll let you know when I get there.”
NYFA thanks Kevin James, Michael Soccio, and Leo Severino for taking the time out to speak to our students in such a down-to-earth manner, and looks forward to their upcoming projects, including the new CBS series, Kevin Can Wait.