2012-03-30 / Front Page

Persistence pays in pursuit of dream

Scarborough native finds screen success
By Michael Kelley
Staff Writer

Former Scarborough resident Greg Finley will appear on “House M.D.” in April. (Courtesy photo) Former Scarborough resident Greg Finley will appear on “House M.D.” in April. (Courtesy photo) Greg Finley is no longer a teenager, but he is more than happy to play one on television. For the past four years, Finley, 27, originally from Scarborough, has been starring as Jack Pappas on the ABC Family Channel’s “The Secret Life of the American Teenager.”

Brenda Hampton, who also created, wrote and served as executive producer for “7th Heaven,” created the show, which focuses on the ups and downs of high school and teenage sexuality.

“He was originally hired for six episodes. He just finished filming his 100th episode,” said Greg’s father, Jim Finley, who lives in Scarborough with Greg’s mother, Rhonda and his younger sisters Courtney and Kayla, who are students at Scarborough High School. His older brother, Zack, is a police officer in Portland.

Greg Finley said he never imagined such a successful run with the show.

“It’s funny. I feel like I have been in high school my whole life,” said Finley, who moved to Hollywood in 2005, shortly after his graduation from Scarborough High School.

Although he was billed as one of the show’s stars, Finley never knew how long his role would last, especially since his character, a high school quarterback and devoted Christian, was never caught up in the main storyline. The series centers around the trials and tribulations of teenage pregnancy and young motherhood for Amy Juergens, played by Shailene Woodley.

“The show has been great,” Finley said via cellphone while stuck in traffic in Los Angeles this week. “It’s been a complete blessing to be a part of it.”

The fifth season of “The Secret Life of the American Teenager” started on Monday and transitions Finley’s character from high school to college.

While Finley is itching to broaden the scope of his acting with other roles, he said he is more than happy to continue with “The Secret Life of the American Teenager.”

“Brenda Hampton has been great giving me a chance,” Finley said. “However long they want me, I’ll shoot the show.”

Despite the show’s successful run, Finley said he finds himself in an awkward place for landing additional roles because he is too young to play a high school kid any more, but too young for many other roles.

Nevertheless that didn’t stop Finley from guest starring on an upcoming episode of “House M.D.,” the hit medical drama on Fox that is ending in May after eight seasons. The episode, “Gut Check,” will air on April 9 at 8 p.m. In it, Finley plays “the patient of the week”, a hockey player who gets diagnosed with a rare blood disease.

“It was honestly the best experience I have had in acting,” he said, adding that working with Hugh Laurie, the show’s star, was a memorable experience.

Finley said he would like to dedicate that performance to Tim Hagerman, a former Scarborough High School teammate and friend who lost his battle with cancer and passed away on Dec. 26.

“He was the best kid. He didn’t have an enemy in the world,” Finley said of Hagerman, who had his number retired by the Southern Maine Community College basketball team earlier this year.

While the “House M.D.” role was a highlight of his acting career, Finley said he is determined to break out of the stereotype of playing a jock on television.

“It sounds cliché, but I want to do every kind of role. As an actor you don’t want to be stuck in one type of role. I have been playing the jock. I want to play a bad guy. I want to play a good guy. If the story is good and the role is right, I’ll play the role,” he said.

Finley is also starting to experiment outside the acting world as well. He is currently working on “Danny Boy,” a screenplay he wrote with a friend.

“It’s been something I have wanted to do for a long time. It’s been one of my goals the whole time I have been on the show,” he said.

The movie tells the story of Danny, a Golden Gloves boxer. One day on the way to see Danny box, his mother and brother die while traveling along a snowy and icy road. Feeling their deaths were his fault, Danny quits boxing for good. Since his father died when Danny was young, he goes to live with his uncle, a drug dealer who gets caught up with the mob. Danny is forced to get back in the boxing ring to help his uncle get out of trouble with the mob.

Finley said he would like to shoot the movie in downtown Portland.

“I want the movie done my way. The tax incentives aren’t great (in Maine) so it’s going to be a challenge, but I think it’s something we can get done for sure,” Finley said.

While writing the script, Finley said he pictured each scene taking place in Portland locations such as Commercial Street or Wharf Street.

“The Old Port in Portland is a director’s dream. It’s beautiful with all the architecture and the waterfront. That city was meant to have something shot in it. It is about time that happens,” Finley said.

Finding the time to focus on that, he said, has been difficult due to the shooting schedule of “The Secret Life of the American Teenager.”

While not shooting new episodes or auditioning for new roles, Finley, a former Red Storm basketball player, keeps busy on the basketball court. He is a member of the Hollywood Knights, a celebrity basketball team that tours the country playing charity basketball games. Finley also plays weekly in the NBA’s Entertainment League, a celebrity basketball league. In 2011 Finley was named Rookie of the Year and made the All-Star team, which played AND1 Mixtape, a streetball team that Finley grew up idolizing.

Although he doesn’t get to see his son often, at least in person, Jim Finley said he is proud of what Greg has accomplished both on screen and off.

“I am so proud of him. He went out there with no connections. He’s done everything on his own. He does have an agent and a manager, but he’s really taking care of business himself. It is very competitive though,” Jim Finley said.

Jim Finley said his son never acted at Scarborough High School or in local community theater performances. It was his interest in movies, and the team of directors and producers behind them, that attracted Finley to Hollywood.

By no means was it easy, Finley said. For a long time he was living out of hostels or his car and working a side job, just to make ends meet.

“As I look back on it, I was roughing it for a good two to three years,” Finley said, adding that he only made it because of his support system back home and people who encouraged him not to give up.

He said his advice to someone looking to break into Hollywood would be to have some sort of connection, whether it be a friend, family member or a role or project already lined up, before making the move to California.

The key, he said, is perseverance.

“In the acting business, you’ll get 1,000 nos before you get a yes, but that yes will cancel out all those nos. You need to have a thick skin to succeed here,” Finley said.

Staff Writer Michael Kelley can be reached at 282-4337, ext. 237.

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