By Kip Tabb | Outer Banks Voice on September 5, 2021
Past Shadows is not a big-budget Hollywood production. Filmed entirely in the Hampton Roads area, the movie was written and produced by Hampton resident Jeff Sanzo and longtime resident of Yorktown, Bob Shepherd, Shepherd also plays the role of Charles Bando, the professor with a dark secret.
Described as a faith-based supernatural thriller, the movie will have an Outer Banks premier Friday, Saturday and Sunday September 10, 11, and 12 at the R/C Kill Devil Hills Theatre complex. Shepherd is expected to be in attendance on Friday.
A synopsis posted on the RC Theatres site describes the film as a story about “an ancient Middle Eastern relic, with the ability to see into the past, [that] gets unearthed, crossing paths with a University Professor and his students, changing their lives forever.”
The most easily recognized actor in the film is Corbin Bernsen, probably best known for his TV role in LA Law and the baseball movie comedy Major League. The movie does have other familiar actors as well, including Shepherd who plays the father constantly forced to ask, “What?” when his son tells him he loves him in the Aventa hearing aid ad.
Growing up on a farm in the Ozarks, Shepherd’s dream was always to be an actor. He was out of college and teaching elementary school in Missouri, but he still knew Hollywood was calling.
He also knew about an ABC game show called the Dating Game, although he had never seen it “… because back in the Ozarks, we got NBC on our long pole [antenna] TV,” he said. After a few rounds of questions and auditions, he became Bachelor #2 and was chosen by Jill as her date for a getaway in New Orleans.
“New Orleans in August is probably not the best time of year to go, but it was all free,” Shepherd recalled. “We were introduced as the Dating Game couple, and we’d stand up and wave. We were comfortable with each other, but some people want to know if there were any romantic sparks, and there were not. We were both on TV for the same reason — trying to figure out how to get our foot in the door.”
Although the desire was there to be an actor, looking back, Shepherd knows he needed to mature before he would be successful. “I just wasn’t ready,” he said. “I had to do something to break this hold that would force me to actually make the move…toward some way to get to where I wanted to go.”
It was 1972, the Vietnam War was raging, and Shepherd felt he should contribute. He already had two years of ROTC from his undergraduate years, so he enrolled in graduate school and finished two more years of ROTC, becoming a commissioned officer in 1973.
There were twists and turns along the way, but what followed was a 20-year career in the US Army, eventually bringing him to Fort Monroe, VA. That’s where he began to apply himself to developing an acting career.
Some of that was taking anything and everything that came along, especially when he was starting out.
“I really felt that [acting] was what I was meant to do. Consequently, even when doors were closed and things didn’t work out I never lost that. I continued to seek opportunities and work at everything I could. Industrial films, training films, tons of extra work, probably worked as an extra in 50 major motion pictures, anything to keep working. And finally I can say for about thirty years, I’ve been a full-time actor,” he said.
He has also met people and made connections, and those connections have a lot to do with how Past Shadows got made.
He met writer and co-producer James Sanzo when they found themselves working on a project together
“We met on the set of one of those reenactment shows called the FBI Files that was made over in Suffolk. They recreate all these crimes,” he said.
Sanzo and Shepherd worked together to produce the 2020 film Push Came to Shove, now available on Amazon. Those connections also enabled Shepherd to get Bernsen to appear in the movie.
In 2018 Shepherd was in Mary for Mayor, a movie that Bernsen was producing and starring in that came out in 2020.
The producers of Past Shadows knew a big name would help especially with distribution. Shepherd went to work. He got Bernsen’s email address, and sent a note, reminded him of his character in the film and wrote, “We have this low-budget film, and we would love to have you come in.”
Bernsen said if they could do it all in a day within his schedule, he would be there. It wasn’t easy getting to the set from New York where he lives. The day before he was scheduled on set, Shepherd got a phone call, with Bensen telling him that “all flights are canceled out of Manhattan because of summer storms. But I will be there if I have to rent a car.”
As it turns out, Shepherd said, the trains were running and Bernsen was able to make it to Hampton Roads that night and be ready to work the next day. “He was such a pro,” Shepherd added. “Basically he does way more than we helped him. I am totally indebted to him.”
Past Shadows Outer Banks premier on Friday, Saturday and Sunday September 10, 11, and 12 at the R/C Kill Devil Hills Theatre complex.