Actor Shea Whigham and his younger brother Jack, a Hollywood agent, have got each other’s back.
They’d grown up “so close they were almost like twins,” Beth Whigham says of her sons. Whatever Shea did, younger brother Jack was sure to at least give a try.
When Shea played tennis at Lake Mary High School, Jack took it up. And when Shea, 43, became an actor and took his shot at Hollywood, Jack, 35, fresh out of law school, wondered what sort of work there might be for him in show business. He settled on “agent” and followed Shea west seven years ago.
As Shea’s acting resume grew—indie films (Wristcutters: A Love Story) and TV roles (ER)—Jack learned the ropes at Hollywood’s legendary Creative Artists Agency, CAA.
Eventually, the brothers knew they’d have to have a talk.
“Wouldn’t it be weird to represent your brother?” says Jack, who counts among his clients the new Spider-Man (Andrew Garfield), Batman’s new nemesis (Tom Hardy) and Oscar winner Benicio del Toro. “That working relationship can get weird pretty quickly in this business. But we looked each other in the eye and said, ‘Look, no one’s going to care more about you than me and vice versa. If you don’t eat, I won’t eat. Let’s do this together.’”
Shea and Jack have become a formidable Hollywood one-two punch. Jack represents actors whom he met while Shea was a struggling New York stage actor, guys like Colin Farrell and Michael Shannon. Shea’s career has since taken off, with big, scene-stealing turns in The Lincoln Lawyer and Take Shelter, and a co-starring role on HBO’s critically acclaimed Boardwalk Empire, produced by Martin Scorsese.
|Shea credits his younger brother with helping him land a co-starring role on the Martin Scorsese-produced HBO series Boardwalk Empire. Photo: Macall B. Polay/HBO|
“Your agent can’t strong-arm Martin Scorsese or Oliver Stone into giving me a role, even if he’s your brother,” Shea says. “But maybe he can get you the meeting. And your actor brother can’t make his agency, CAA, give his brother a job. But I could get him that first interview.”
Shea adds that since Jack became his agent “the game changed for me. There’s no way I would have gotten Boardwalk Empire if it wasn’t for him.”
They learned this teamwork thing from their parents—Beth, a retired media specialist with Seminole County Schools, and Frank Whigham, a Lake Mary attorney and onetime quarterback at Florida State in the early ’70s. Dad’s experience with big-time athletics made him skeptical of his sons’ longshot career choices. When Shea was just starting to gain acting fame and Jack was a nationally ranked tennis star at the University of Florida about 15 years ago, Frank joked to a newspaper reporter that “those two have about as much chance of making it as me becoming president,” Jack recalls, laughing. “But he was right. We had a good blend of my mom’s encouragement with my dad’s reality-based skepticism.”
Both sons talk about their parents’ unwavering support, even when Shea was the “starving artist” and Jack was leaving a top law firm to take “a job in the mail room at CAA, which is where they make everybody start—$8.25 an hour,” Jack says.
“We’re breathing a little easier now,” Beth says of her sons’ success. But anything she and Frank can do to help out, they’re still on the team.