“Sitting in organic chemistry it was like a bolt of lightning hit my head,” says the 1996 graduate. “I realized that I didn’t want to be a doctor and sit through this stuff. I didn’t have a passion for it.”
So he traded in his medical major for one in communications. A better fit to be sure for Herzog, who prefers interacting with people to poking and prodding them. But there was still something missing. “I hadn’t found a home yet,” he says. “Then I found it in theater.”
A shy boy growing up, Herzog first came out of his shell in high school when he did a stand-up comedy routine for a talent show. “That was how I got started,” he says. “It was great. I loved being in front of an audience and connecting with them. When you reach people on an emotional level, that’s special.”
He got his chance to rediscover that love and sense of belonging when he was cast as George, the lead in Xavier’s production of “Our Town.” He was hooked. After graduation he attended Chase College of Law. In between studying legal cases, though, he made time to squeeze in gigs such as commercials for Nike basketball and Papa John’s pizza, playing Lancelot in “Camelot” and King Arthur in “The Sword and the Stone,” and giving traffic updates as a reporter for a local television station’s morning news show.
During his final year at Chase, Herzog received his first big break. Another local television station, WB64, hired him to host the Saturday matinee movie lineup from noon to 6:00 p.m. “I come on during the commercial breaks and try to be funny and informative. It’s pretty neat to get to talk about the shows that are going to be on the WB that week.”
Meanwhile he’s waiting to hear the results of the bar exam he took this summer. But all that law education isn’t going to waste. In fact, it can be looked upon as research for his latest role as Horace Gilmer, the prosecuting attorney in “To Kill a Mockingbird,” a joint production between the Xavier Players and the Cincinnati Children’s Theatre. Even though he plays a character that prosecutes an innocent man just because of his skin color, Herzog is savoring the role.
“Usually when I’m in a show I’m cast as the guy next door,” he says. “I was really excited to get the role of the prosecutor. Everyone thinks the same thing—the bad guy. But he’s just a guy of his time. The first couple of reads I wasn’t racist enough, and then I was too racist. Now it’s more of a natural part of the character.”
Herzog might take his entertainment experience to work in the industry as an agent. On the flip side, he says, he didn’t totally hate his real estate law courses. But as long as he keeps getting work as an actor, he’ll let his legal career wait in the wings. “I really want to pursue full-time television. My window for TV is a lot smaller than that to be a lawyer,” Herzog says. “But if nothing opens up for me then I’ll pursue a legal career.”