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Alumnus Profile: Warren Sweeney, ’72

From the stage at BSC to a three-decade career in Hollywood
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Over the course of more than 30 years Warren Sweeney, ’72, has built a successful acting career, appearing on hit shows like, NYPD Blue, The X-Files, Modern Family and The Office.

He may not be a household name, but the Bridgewater State alumnus is without a doubt known in Hollywood circles, finding steady work as an actor in commercials, television and movies.

Sweeney’s resume boasts 92 credits having worked on approximately 40 different shows.

The reason for his success?

“Always say yes, never say no if you’re an actor,” he joked.

It all began on the stage at what was then Bridgewater State College where he earned his degree in theater.

“I started out as a history-political science major, but started hanging out with the people from the theater department and doing plays,” Sweeney said.

Soon, the acting bug bit. As an undergraduate, he spent a semester at the esteemed National Theater Institute at the Eugene O’Neill Center in Connecticut where he connected with, among others, Ted Chapin, who currently runs the Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization.

Shortly after graduating from Bridgewater, Sweeney’s father became ill, so he returned to his hometown of Lynn to take care of him. After his father died, Sweeney found himself wondering what to do with his life.

“Strangely enough, one day at home I was watching the Mike Douglas Show and director Alan Arkin was on,” Sweeney said.

Arkin mentioned Chapin during the interview.  Sweeney took it as a sign and reached out to his friend. The two reconnected and at Chapin’s advice, he moved to New York City.  Shortly thereafter he got married and stayed in the Big Apple for 15 years, enjoying the life of a working actor. 

“I auditioned for plays, commercials and theatre, and took every kind of crummy job around,” he joked.

It was working one of those “crummy” jobs when Sweeney had an epiphany.

“I was standing there in Battery Park in the middle of February, it was freezing, and I was helping two guys move furniture…that’s when I thought, that’s it! I’m out of here,” he said.

Sweeney told his wife they were moving to California and that June the couple made the trek west.

Once they settled in, he hired a manager. The work followed and for three decades, it has remained steady.

Over the years he’s collected colorful memories, like kicking back drinks with Quentin Tarantino, sharing tales with Frank Sinatra’s plumber and sitting in an ambulance between takes with Walter Matthau.

“He was hysterical,” Sweeney said of the late legendary actor.

Now in his 60’s, Sweeney has no intention of slowing down.

“Why do I stick with it? I often ask myself that. In truth, I’m not qualified for anything else,” he laughs. “But there is a thing when you’re doing it…there is this high, a certain electricity you experience when you’re working with other people.”

He’s also the first to admit it’s not the career path for everyone, but advises those looking to pursue acting, to be flexible. It’s advice that really applies to any goal.

“Everything works differently for everybody,” he said. “Show up, do your thing and be ready for changes.”

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