Chattanooga businessman-turned-actor Gary Lee Miller adds playwright and author to resume

February 26—Gary Lee Miller is humble beyond measure, but he’s also the kind of person who gets very focused when he wants something or sees an opportunity that interests him. Once he’s locked into something, he tends to chase it through, even if he doesn’t know what the end will be.

“I’ve always been like that,” he says.

So it should come as no surprise to anyone who knows him that a simple desire to, at best, sit in the crowd during the partial filming of Jackie Robinson’s biopic “42” at Engel Stadium 10 years ago led to a mini second career that includes nearly two dozen roles as an extra in film and television projects. He is also now the author of a screenplay and a book and aims to see these made into a film.

Miller actually ended up as a paid extra in “42” as a referee on the project, and that experience opened the door to other opportunities. Over the years, he’s taken time off his job as a franchise consultant to act, and he’s worked on projects like CBS’s “MacGyver,” HBO’s “Watchmen,” and the feature films “Sully” and “Avengers. :Endgame”.

“Whenever they need someone who’s tall, thin, old, and ugly, they call me,” Miller laughs.

He laughs that those words might actually be on Hollywood casting directors’ Rolodexes under his name, but adds: “It might be, but underneath it probably says: ‘ He shows up on time and does what he is told.

His two most recent projects include small roles on two Fox series: a hospital board member in “The Resident” and as an aging country music star in “Monarch,” the first of which is scheduled for the fall and featuring Susan Sarandon and Trace Adkins. .

Almost all of his small roles are filmed on projects shot within driving distance of Chattanooga, and he typically spends a day — two at most — on set. He shot scenes for both Fox series in Georgia: “The Resident” in Conyers and “Monarch” in Macon.

While these small roles are fun for Miller, he says he doesn’t expect his film career to continue. “I always assume the last is my last,” he says.

However, these aren’t his only foray into the world of entertainment. Typically, he keeps finding other side hustles. They started as a way to come to terms with the loss of his wife, Sharee, who died in 2019.

During the pandemic, Miller wrote several songs dedicated to his late wife, and then a few more. At the suggestion of “42” director Brian Helgeland, with whom Miller continues to communicate, Miller has now turned those songs into a script.

Another friend’s wife who works in book publishing read the play and suggested that Miller write a book based on it. The book, which is available digitally now online at garyleemillerbooks.com, and elsewhere, comes out in March. It won a Firebird Book Award for Southern Fiction (winner) and New Fiction (runner-up), among other accolades.

Titled “Finding Grace”, it is the story of a young woman, Judith, who is urged by her dying grandmother, Grace, to visit her. Judith has to travel by bus from California to Nashville. Along the way, she discovers so much about herself and life in general.

“One of the things in addition to a way of working on my grief in writing ‘Finding Grace’ was to use it as a vehicle to introduce a wide variety of themes that we, as a society and many individuals, face every day,” says Miller.

“My characters each have different challenges, such as poverty, bullying, physical and mental abuse, alcohol and drug abuse, racial issues, serious illnesses, end-of-life care, grief and loss, and others.”

Miller marvels at the doors that have opened for him over the years, but attributes this to his determination and the fact, he says, “there’s an angel on my shoulder.” Writing song lyrics helped him grieve.

He insists he had “not the first clue” of how to write a screenplay or a book, but he found examples of each and did his best to figure them out. The “Shawshank Redemption” storyline, for example, gave him clues on how to start. “And when I sat down to write, the words came so fast that I couldn’t follow some days.”

He says he didn’t write every day, or even every week, but when he did, the angel seemed to be there whispering in his ear.

He also thanks Adele Booysen, Managing Editor at Morgan James Publishing, for helping him develop and properly format the book. Miller says that while he couldn’t make the trip by bus, he was able to do it virtually thanks to the internet and it helped him describe the stops along the way, which are all characters in the book. than people.

This is just one more example of the “help” he received along the way.

“So many things have happened to me that I just can’t explain it,” he says. “I thank God every day for the blessings he has given me that I don’t understand.”

Contact Barry Courter at [email protected] or 423-757-6354.

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