So it turns out Ryan Seacrest isn’t the only Dunwoody High School alum to go on to a successful entertainment career.
Actress Vivian Bang, who appeared with Jim Carrey in the 2008 comedy “Yes Man,” now stars in the TBS series “Sullivan & Son.”
Born in South Korea, Bang, 29, first moved with her family to San Francisco, then metro Atlanta. At Dunwoody High, she knew of the ambitious fellow Wildcat who used to welcome students each day over the school intercom, even though they didn’t overlap.
“Ryan Seacrest used to make our morning announcements,” she said. But it was her drama teacher, Pam Barnette, who took an interest in her and encouraged her to pursue drama.
“I’m an Asian-American. I grew up in the South during a time when you didn’t think you could have a career in media,” Bang said. “Coming as a transfer student, I didn’t have a lot of friends. I don’t know what made her see me in this light but she really encouraged me. She basically changed my life.”
Barnett retired years ago but is still beloved at Dunwoody High.
“She really had tremendous influence on my life and in everything creative and because she believed in us, which in turn made us believe in ourselves enough to pursue nontraditional avenues,” said Tammy Wichman, now the school’s drama teacher.
Wichman graduated with Bang and is thrilled at her classmate’s achievements.
“It comes as no surprise, probably to anyone in our graduating class, that Vivian is successfully acting,” she said. “She always had a huge presence and confidence about her. She was very bright and determined. She was that unique and different person that you always wished you could be.”
Bang headed for New York after high school and graduated from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. But she still has family in metro Atlanta and strong professional ties. “Sullivan’s” executive producer is Vince Vaughn, who has filmed a number of movies in Atlanta, including “The Watch,” “The Internship” and “Anchorman 2.”
Bang valued Vaughn’s coaching, especially key in one early scene.
“There was a scene where I had to handle a gun,” she recalled. “I remember the director was having trouble with the gun scene. Everyone had their opinion. Vince Vaughn took me aside and said, ‘You’re doing a really good job.’”
The show is filmed before an audience and the actors feed off the instant feedback.
“It’s like staging a mini-play,” Bang said. “You really develop a tight relationship. I feel like we’re a family of performing troupers.
“It’s been a blast,” she said. “It’s been so fun to work on. We’ve got such an eclectic cast.”
The comedy, airing at 10 p.m. on Thursdays, features Steve Byrne as New York attorney Steve Sullivan, Dan Lauria as his Irish-American dad Jack Sullivan and Jodi Long as his Korean mom Ok Cha. The parents initially intend to sell the family’s bar, Sullivan & Son, but of course Steve can’t let that happen. So, Cheers! (Oh wait. Wrong show.)
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