Note: This interview was completed before the actors strike began July 13. Actors in the union are not supposed to promote TV and film projects created for producers like Disney while on strike.
Disney film “Haunted Mansion,” which was shot largely in metro Atlanta and came out in July, features a big ensemble cast with a raft of big-name actors including Rosario Dawson, Owen Wilson, Tiffany Haddish, Danny DeVito, Jamie Lee Curtis and Jared Leto.
For an up-and-coming actor like Atlanta’s J.R. Adduci, being the ninth most important actor on the daily schedule dubbed the “call sheet,” was a dream come true. He plays the original owner of the haunted mansion.
“Every single one of them from top to bottom was welcoming and generous and accessible,” Adduci said in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in June. “I was able to get the jitters out of the way pretty quickly. It was a collaborative experience. It wasn’t that I was working with heavyweights and titans. I was working with fellow thespians.”
The adaptation of the vaunted Disney ride, with a reported $150 million budget, only generated $100 million worldwide in theaters, swallowed up by the power combo of “Oppenheimer” and “Barbie.” Despite a mostly positive reception from those who did see the movie, it was hamstrung to a degree by the inability of its cast to promote the film after the strike began. It will arrive on Disney+ on Oct. 4.
Adduci, who is married with a 7-year-old daughter, came to Atlanta in 2018 from Charlotte, North Carolina. “I was at an impasse,” he said. “We were going to go to Los Angeles but decided to try out Atlanta for size. So far, it’s been extremely fortuitous.”
Since arriving in town, his credits out of Atlanta have included OWN drama “Greenleaf,” the CW’s “Dynasty,” Netflix’s “Stranger Things” and AMC’s “The Walking Dead.” He now lives in East Point and bartends at Chairs Upstairs Bar and Restaurant between acting gigs
“I feel pretty blessed,” he said. “I was mainly a theater actor prior to moving to Atlanta. I did some commercials, indie films. I figure I’d throw my hand in the ring in Atlanta. It’s like an extension of the training I received.”
LaKeith Stanfield, who broke it big in FX’s “Atlanta,” plays the protagonist in the movie, a tour guide who uncovers the secrets of the rural spirit-occupied house. Adduci got to spend quality time with Stanfield.
“The guy’s a consummate professional, one of the coolest cats to work with,” he said. “He was tremendously generous with business advice. He puts his all into every scene. Laser focused.”
And Haddish, he said, “was levity on and off camera. Kept everything light fun.”
Adduci is also in a new Disney+ film “The Slumber Party,” that came out in July where he plays the dad of one of the daughters. “It’s a teenager version of ‘The Hangover’,” he noted, “a fun family comedy. He’s got a cool book-end story line and character arc.”
And he is in an upcoming big-budget Amazon Prime holiday film “Red One” that was shot in Atlanta earlier this year and stars Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Lucy Liu and Chris Evans.
“I love to work at the highest level,” Adduci said. “I feel like very year I get a little further down that line.”
While some Atlanta-based actors still feel a geographic stigma from West Coast decision makers, Adduci feels “the tide is shifting. I know enough local actors working pretty steadily at a higher level. COVID helped with that. You can now tape auditions from anywhere. And when an agency like UTA opens an office in Atlanta, I think this city will be a big player for years to come.”
IF YOU WATCH
“Haunted Mansion,” available on Disney+ Oct. 5. “The Slumber Party” is already streaming on Disney+.
Rodney Ho writes about entertainment for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution including TV, radio, film, comedy and all things in between. A native New Yorker, he has covered education at The Virginian-Pilot, small business for The Wall Street Journal and a host of beats at the AJC over 20-plus years. He loves tennis, pop culture & seeing live events.