Profile: Pepper Sweeny
Bachelor of Arts in communications and theater, 1988
Los Angeles | Cincinnati
A Familiar Face | You could label Pepper Sweeney “the man who came to TV dinner.” During the past two decades, the affable actor has popped up in dozens of episodic television adventures: “The Mentalist,” “NCIS,” “Cold Case,” “CSI,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Evening Shade,” “JAG,” “Monk,” “7th Heaven,” “Beverly Hills 90210,” “The Round Table,” “Numb3rs” and “Dr. Quinn–Medicine Woman,” to name a few.
Early Breaks | His college avocations—performing with the Xavier Players and on-air gigs at WVXU radio—paid off almost immediately. “When I graduated from Xavier, I auditioned for an apprentice theater in Florida that Burt Reynolds ran.” Twelve hopefuls were up for a spot, but Sweeney got it. That yearlong internship earned him his Screen Actors Guild and Equity union cards.
Moment in the Shade | Then came the hit CBS series “Evening Shade,” a Burt Reynolds comedy vehicle. Reynolds employed him for three years as a stagehand, extra and even a semi-regular role in the recurring character of Neal “Thor” Heck. “I actually played six to eight different roles on the show, plus playing the roles of other actors in off-camera rehearsals. It was just incredible, working every day with Hal Holbrook, Ossie Davis, Charles Durning, Michael Jeter.”
Often Typecast | With his imposing good looks and athletic physique, Sweeney can be depended on to play macho roles such as a heroic military duty officer, a U.S. marshal or a commando. Sweeney doesn’t seem to mind his supporting cast status, though. “Show business is like that. A lot of ups and downs. It’s been like that for the 20 years I have been in it.”
Nearly Famous | Sweeney has been thisclose to stardom. “I was up for a role in ‘Friends.’ After seven auditions, it was down to David Schwimmer and me.” He shrugs. “The rest is history. Or not. There are things that can change your life.”
About His Moniker | Jerome Patrick Sweeney was born with the “Pepper” nickname, and it just stuck with him.
Practical Stagecraft | The actor is married, has three young children and recently moved back to Cincinnati. He divides his time between TV appearances and juggling a variety of thespian endeavors: Right now, he’s director of drama for the 24-city Women of Faith motivational tour as well as a related Revolve tour for Directional Entertainment. “I get to work with young actors. I have a real passion for that.”
Labor of Love | As his TV and directing careers quietly percolate, Sweeney also finds time to segue into movies. He’s the star of “Short Track,” a 2008 drama set in the world of stockcar racing in the Carolinas. “‘Short Track’ was this little independent film, a labor of love. It’s an inspirational story.”