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Mountaineers in TV

WRITTEN BY JAKE STUMP 
We’ve got plot twists for you. 

Some of your favorite TV shows may have Mountaineer connections. Sure, we’re all aware of the obvious ones (i.e. Don Knotts, David Selby). But we’re certain there are some folks on this list who you didn’t know were WVU alumni. 

As the Emmys hosts its annual awards shindig on Sunday (Sept. 17) to honor the ultimate in television, we thought we'd celebrate our gold-and-blue on the small screen. 

This is not a definitive list, so feel free to tell us about others in the comments below. You can find more entertainers in our February installment of The List about Mountaineers in the Movies

Kim Webster 

Kim Webster

You’ll remember her as Ginger, the communications aide for Sam Seaborn and Toby Ziegler in “The West Wing.” Although a minor character, Ginger was portrayed by Kim Webster (“Webby” to fellow Mountaineers) in all seven seasons of the political drama that nabbed three Golden Globes and 26 Emmys. 

Nowadays the New Jersey native who studied acting and theater at WVU has found success as associate producer for “Born This Way,” an A&E reality series about adults with Down syndrome. 

“Born This Way” won two Emmys, for casting and cinematography for a reality program, this year (The Creative Arts Emmys were held Sept. 9-10 separate from the Primetime Emmys.). This brings Webster’s show up to three Emmy wins out of nine nominations over the last two years. 

“While at WVU, I learned what ‘passion’ was,” Webster said. “There, I discovered I had a passion for acting and storytelling and, obviously, a passion for all things Mountaineers. These passions have fueled my life, both personally and professionally ever since my time in Morgantown. And it doesn't get any better than making a living off your passions.”

William Davis 

William Davis at Emmys

Davis and his wife Jodi on the red carpet of the 2017 Creative Arts Emmys.

Another victor at the 2017 Creative Arts Emmys was “Stranger Things,” racking up five wins. 

William Davis, BFA ’85, serves as art director on the Netflix thriller and ode to 1980s pop culture. Davis has also worked on “One Tree Hill,” “Dawson’s Creek” and “Under the Dome.” 

Oh, and there’s a West Virginia-flavored tidbit on his resume: set designer for the 1999 Homer Hickam bio-film “October Sky.” 

Jimmy Gary Jr.  

Jimmy Gary Jr.

Gary Jr. (left) as Felix Rikerson in "Orange is the New Black." Photo by JoJo Wilden

Someone get this man his inhaler or insulin injector. 

As Felix Rikerson, a corrections officer at Litchfield Penitentiary on “Orange is the New Black,” Jimmy Gary Jr. portrays one of the more sympathetic guards of the cruel bunch. 

And he usually appears to be short of breath or in some sort of pain in his segments. 

But the former WVU football player is likely a healthy specimen in reality. Gary Jr., BFA ’95, played briefly for the Seattle Seahawks before rushing from the gridiron to the TV screen. 

He's made one-off appearances over the years on “The Blacklist,” “House of Cards,” “White Collar” and “Nurse Jackie” before settling into his recurring role on OITNB. 

Matthew Van Dyne   

Matt Van Dyne

The work of Matthew Van Dyne, BFA ’79, Acting, MA ’81, Theatrical Design, transcends genres. 

Just look at the variation of the shows he’s worked as a costume supervisor or designer: “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Entertainment Tonight,” “Cheers,” “The Shield,” “Murphy Brown,” “Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade” and CBS Sports programming, just to name quite a few. 

Impressive for a guy from Pine Grove, W.Va., who went straight to the Hollywood area after college with his portfolio in hand looking for work. 

For a more in-depth profile of Van Dyne, look out for the upcoming fall issue of WVU Magazine

Scott Simons 


Not a picture of Scott Simons

Whenever you're in need of a children’s show theme song singer and are in trouble, Scott Simons will be there on the double! 

Simons, BA ’98, Music Theory and Composition, is the lead singer of the “Paw Patrol” theme, which may or may not drive parents of youngsters bonkers. He’s also credited as a singer for the themes of “Veggie Tales,” “Duck Tales (2017)” and “The Thundermans.”

Simons, a former member of the Mountaineer Marching Band, jazz band and concert band (talk about overachieving), also currently serves as an assistant music producer on “America's Got Talent.” We’d say he has a ton of it himself. 

Josh Stewart 

Josh Stewart

You don’t need to study acting to make it big. 

Josh Stewart got his bachelor’s degree in marketing before going on to establish himself as Holt McLaren in “Dirt,” Detective William LaMontagne Jr. in “Criminal Minds” and now as Solotov in “Shooter.”

The Diana, W.Va., native has stayed true to his Mountain State roots and is currently directing a film on the opioid crisis called “Back Fork.”

Dan Fisher 

Another unsung behind-the-scenes TV hero you probably never heard of is Dan Fisher, BFA ’86, Theatre.

You may not even be aware that his occupation exists – property (or prop) master. 

A property master acquires and oversees the use of props for a production. 

Fisher, who returned to the School of Theatre and Dance for a guest lecture in 2015, grew up in Middlebourne, W.Va.

His credits are quite extensive, spanning the last few decades: “The Americans,” “Mozart in the Jungle,” “Girls,” “Law and Order” and “The Adventures of Pete & Pete” (there’s a throwback for us millennials).

Cathy O'Dell 

Cathy O'Dell

Cathy O’Dell instructs students as a teaching associate professor in the College of Creative Arts. 

At night, she was on TV playing the recurring role of Helen Vicks on the Cinemax show “Banshee,” which ended a four-season run in 2016. 

O’Dell, MFA ’95, Theatre, also recently appeared on an episode of “Outsiders.”

Kim Parrish  

Kim Parrish

Former Miss West Virginia Kim Parrish, BFA ’94, Acting, has worked on national TV for more than two decades, mostly as a “shopping goddess” and familiar face to those who've watched QVC or HSN. 

Dawn Denoon  

A graduate of the College of Creative Arts, Dawn Denoon was co-executive producer of “The Blacklist,” a consulting producer for “Blue Bloods” and a producer for “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” of which she also wrote several episodes. 

Adam Stotsky  

Adam Stotsky

As president of E! Entertainment, Adam Stotsky, BA '91, Communication Studies, is quite a goliath among corporate executives in NBCUniversal. He oversees E!, from the programming to the production to the social media. 

He joined E! in 2014 as general manager and was promoted to president in 2016. 

This means you can hold him responsible for “Keeping Up with the Kardashians.” 

(Special thanks to Octavia Spriggs and Bernadette Dombrowski of the College of Creative Arts for their assistance.)
We’re listening. You are our greatest voice. So use it. Use this form to send us story ideas, letters to the editor, questions for a future guest on Ask an Expert, memories for the Flashback section or tales for the Alumni Diary.

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