Burrton graduate to guest star on television’s ‘The Blacklist’

PHOTO PROVIDED Greg Yoder, a Burrton High School graduate, will guest-star on “The Blacklist” this Sunday evening.

by Bill Bush

LOS ANGELES—Greg Yoder, a 1996 Burrton High School graduate, will guest-star this weekend on the 200th episode of the television hit show, “The Blacklist.” Yoder plays “The Hyena,” the latest blacklist villain in the show’s final season. His episode will air this Sunday, March 19, at 9 p.m.

PHOTO PROVIDED A Burrton native will guest star on this week’s episode of the Blacklist.

Before being on “The Blacklist,” Yoder was ready to give up and almost missed the opportunity.

He had verbally accepted a full-time job and was set to sign the deal. And while a full-time job doesn’t eliminate one from acting, Yoder said it makes it extremely difficult to go on auditions. Before he signed the agreement, he got a call to book him on “The Blacklist.”

Yoder, who’s lived in L.A. with his family for over a decade and has made single appearances on many shows, including “Parks and Recreation,” “The Mentalist,” and “Criminal Minds,” said his role on Blacklist elevates him into a new circle within the acting community.

He said the normal path in television is to get supporting roles on shows and in indie films and then move up to co-star roles, which is when you have a few lines. He noted that procedurals were a good place for newer actors to find work because they constantly needed more actors each week.

Guest star roles are where you’re more integral to the story and have more responsibility, and even among guest star roles, there are different levels. Yoder said he was a top-of-show guest star, which is typically only for named actors on television.

“It was a blessing, after everything that it’s taken to get to get to this point, to land something like that finally. I mean, it’s just a breath of fresh air,” Yoder said.

The long road behind

Yoder (yes, his family owns Yoder’s Ornamental Concrete in Burrton) was born in Anaheim but moved to Kansas when he was 2 years old. He started in grade school, acting in school plays and the children’s theater and was involved with the Hutchinson Theater Guild.

He said television and movies were a portal to another world during his teenage years, but he had no idea how to get there. After studying music at Hutchinson Community College, he stayed in Hutchinson, got a job, and started a family.

A writer from El Dorado named Matthew Krause was in Los Angeles developing a career and invited Yoder to star in an independent film he was making called “Baby’s Breath,” which came out in 2003. That’s when Yoder decided he wanted to try acting as a career, so he went back to school and graduated from the Wichita State University School of Performing Arts.

During his jury, the final one-person senior show, his act included a 9-1-1 related bit and Hamlet’s “To Be or Not To Be.” After his dress rehearsal, the school director, whom Yoder never felt was impressed by him, asked what Yoder planned to do after college.

Yoder told him he thought he would go to graduate school, then explains what happened next.

“He put a hand on my shoulder and he said, ‘You are ready right now. You need to get out to L.A. or New York and get started.’”

PHOTO PROVIDED Greg Yoder moved from Kansas to L.A. to make a career in acting. He is a 1996 graduate of Burrton High School.

But the recession hit in 2009, and Yoder had kids to feed, but he saved up enough money to visit L.A. for a week. He sent out around 150 emails and submissions to agencies and managers in hopes of landing an interview but only received two replies—one from Yuliya Rodriguez at JVC Talent who has been his agent ever since.

When he returned home, Yoder posted about his trip and dream on Facebook. The next day, Krause, whom Yoder hadn’t heard from in a couple of years, called and told Yoder that he and his wife believed in him and wanted to pay for his expenses in L.A. for six months.

When his six months were up, he returned to Kansas and saved for a year, and then he moved to L.A. with his family.

The long road ahead

His dream is to act full-time without having to hold down multiple gigs.

He’s worked numerous part-time jobs (he currently sells mattresses and furniture at Bob’s Discount Funiture in Burbank) and focused his acting on television because it was a faster turnaround than movies. While a lot of his colleagues want to be famous, Yoder said he’s a private person and likes living in anonymity, but actors have to put themselves out there and promote themselves, especially early on.

PHOTO PROVIDED Being an actor means lots of part-time jobs to pay the bills. Greg Yoder currently sells furniture while picking up acting roles.

He continues because, just as the world needs doctors and scientists, it needs storytellers.

“Let’s face it, the world is kind of boring, really, the day-to-day grind and whatnot, so that ability to totally take someone to another place and inspire them or excite them, I think it’s something that the human soul needs,” Yoder said. “I always tell actors that we’re the arbiters of emotion. It’s our responsibility to put a mirror in front of people to be able to either see themselves or to see what they could be.”

Yoder said he’s been through bankruptcy, spent years on food stamps, and negotiated to be an on-site property manager to get a reduction in rent. Still, he said it’s been worth the journey.

“There’s certainly something to be said about the human soul to really sacrifice,” Yoder said. “Some people like to live this way, others don’t enjoy the fact they don’t know what’s coming next. That scares some people, but I certainly embrace it because we’re only on this planet once, and I try to make calculated risks with taking care of a family and everything. But, yeah, you can’t get where you’re going unless you take some uncomfortable risks.”

Yoder said he remembers reading the Harvey County Independent and used to work at the Hutchinson newspaper for a few years selling ads. He still has family in Burrton and visits occasionally. He said he likes to go to The Barn in Burrton or Old Chicago in Wichita, because he used to work there.

He called his decision to live in L.A. a lifelong commitment to his career. He’s thankful for his opportunity to be on “The Blacklist” but is realistic about the hard work that remains.

“We’ll see where it goes, because now, it is one guest star and it’s great,” Yoder said. “I am excited and happy but still got a long road ahead. At least I’m in the circle now.”

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