Tackling Opportunities : OHS Football Alum Making Waves in TV Industry


By Wil Crews

From his early days of dominating the football field at Opelika High School, Jock McKissic’s talent was apparent.

It wasn’t apparent, however, that after playing four years of football at Clemson University — and captaining the team in 2008 — McKissic would trade in his pads for Hollywood’s lights and cameras.

 McKissic said he had an interest in acting from a young age, starring in school and church plays since the age of 7. He also attributes much of his inspiration to Oprah, who he said was “a driving force in young jock,” as he watched her show and longed to be one of the people she interviewed.


However, despite participating in show choir and theater at Opelika High School, the 6-foot-7, 300-pounder’s natural athletic ability led to him to pursue football at the next level.

After graduating high school, McKissic played defensive line and double majored in sociology and mass communications at Clemson.

The foundation that he built there — on and off the field — set him up for success in the acting field, he said.

In his first public speaking course, McKissic said he was faced with a reality check.

“My first communications teacher failed me on my first two speeches,” he said. “I didn’t really understand why because they were informative speeches, where you just talk about something you know. I was baffled as to why she failed me. She explained to me that my diction was not where it needed to be and that if I was going to have a career in communications then I was going to have to articulate myself to where the masses could understand.”

 McKissic said his teacher referred him to a speech pathologist who helped him with his dialect and diction.

“It was kind of a blessing in disguise,” he said. “Once I got ready to start acting in 2011, the training I have had since has helped me as an actor, but those lessons I learned in college, I don’t think I would have learned as an adult.”

Looking back, McKissic realizes the foundation he built up at Clemson had been nurtured since his time at Opelika.

“The different programs that Opelika offered and I’m sure still offer to this day regarding the arts in general, that allowed me to experience different performances as far as like singing and dancing,” he said. “I did theater. [The theater teacher] definitely gave me the freedom to be myself and explore the theatrical world. He was one of the people that kind of inspired me to give it a shot and to never limit myself outside of sports. So, I’m definitely always thankful for that opportunity.”

Today, McKissic lives in Los Angeles, California, working as an actor, writer and director.

It has been a long journey since he started professionally training in 2011.


“I didn’t book my first role until 2015,” he said. “It took me three or four years to book my first role where I said literally just two words.”

Along the way, McKissic has taken what he learned on the football field and applied it to his acting career.

“I tell everyone the hard work that football required kind of put things into perspective to me when thinking about my acting journey,” he said. “The hard work and the repetition, because acting is a thing you do over and over to sharpen your skills. If I can physically deal with football for all those years and obtain success in such a grueling sport, then I can do this with my eyes closed. It makes me look at this industry as If I can tackle it — no pun intended.”

 McKissic’s acumen on the gridiron has directly led to some of his earliest acting opportunities.

“It has come full circle a few times,” he said.

 McKissic cites one of the first directors he worked with, Mark Ellis, who is the brother of the play-by-play announcer at South Carolina, Todd Ellis.

“Mark remembered me from college so I got an opportunity with him because he remembered me from Clemson,” he said.

Another time, McKissic got the chance to work with a casting director who was a huge Clemson fan.

“So, my reputation kind of preceded me there,” he said. “Football and academically, my time at Clemson definitely gave me a boost in this industry.”

Throughout his acting career, McKissic has had the pleasure to work on a number of special projects.

From being a body double for his childhood idol Shaquille O’Neal and working with Adam Sandler on the movie “Blended”, to actualizing his younger self’s dream and working with Oprah on the set of her TV show “Green Leaf” and movie “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.”

He has also had the pleasure of working on the TV show “The Quad,” in which he played a football player at an HBCU and fondly remembers because of his ability to refer roles to his friends and see them successfully book parts, he said.

 McKissic noted working with one his “favorite actors” Al Pacino on the movie “Paterno”, his role in “Blind Spot”, which at the time was America’s No. 1 show and his part in the TV show “Queen of the South”, which was one of his favorite shows at the time.

“Getting a chance to be on one of your favorite shows is kind of surreal,” he said.

More recently, McKissic has worked in two roles that he proclaimed as milestones.

“Your Honor” is a show starring Bryan Cranston, famous for his starring role in the hit AMC drama “Breaking Bad”, and McKissic featured in seven episodes as Cranston’s bailiff.

“That was huge milestone because Breaking Bad is my favorite show of all time,” he said. “So, getting a chance to not only work with Bryan Cranston, but to work alongside him on a daily basis, getting a chance to do that much work with him was life changing.”

 McKissic also has had the privilege to diversify his acting portfolio and dipped his feet into comedic acting in the new show “Breaking News in Yuba County”.

The shows boast a number of household names like Mila Kunis, Wanda Sykes and Awkwafina, and McKissic plays a small town news station owner who “is a nerdy guy who is a pushover.”

“Mila Kunis tells me what to do in every single scene,” he said. “So it’s a change of speed for me and a coming out party that I can be taken seriously as a comedic actor.”

Just last week, McKissic graced the television sets of America in episode 508 of Shondaland Production’s “Station 19” — a fire medical drama set in Seattle, Washington, and a sister show to “Grey’s Anatomy”.

 McKissic called the part his favorite role of all time because of the depth of the character and the amount of work he had serving as a guest star in the episode. 

“It was six scenes of hard hitting, emotional, funny … every emotion that you can kind of go through you got a chance to go through with this character,” he said. “Without giving too much away, I was in some trouble and they were trying to save me.”

The episode was the show’s winter finale and is titled “All I Want For Christmas is You”.

As for what comes next? McKissic will continue to defy the stereotypical constraints of the acting field that a man of his build doesn’t always fit in to — taking the lessons he’s learned from small town Opelika, Clemson and the years since to the TV screen.

“We will just say that there is opportunity to work with Shondaland Productions again,” he said.


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