Interview: UVA alum Josh Rachford discusses his role in a new HBO series

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Josh Rachford (Courtesy subject)

On Sunday, June 24, HBO debuts “The Newsroom,” created by Aaron Sorkin, the man behind “The West Wing” and the Oscar-winning screenwriter of The Social Network. The show, which follows the behind-the-scenes drama of a 24-hour cable news network, stars Jeff Daniels, Emily Mortimer, and Sam Waterston. But if you tune in to the season finale later this summer, you might spy a face familiar to Charlottesville: UVA alum Josh Rachford, who nabbed a small speaking part on the series.

Although he majored in cognitive science while at UVA, Rachford is now pursuing a career in entertainment. Since graduating in 2008, he’s worked with improv icons Upright Citizens Brigade and the Story Pirates (a group that stages original productions written by children), appeared in videos for websites Funny Or Die and College Humor, and been cast in national commercials for McDonald’s and First Bank.

C-VILLE recently talked with Rachford about his impending T.V.-show debut and the formerly local boy’s budding Hollywood career.

C-VILLE Weekly: What can you tell us about your role on “The Newsroom?”
Josh Rachford: “I play a mailroom intern that works at the T.V. network in the show. I come in and deliver a piece of news to Sam Waterston’s character. I have three lines.”

How did you land the role?
“The casting director called my commercial agent and asked me to audition for a series regular part, which I didn’t get. Then he called me a few months later to come in for this part. I didn’t think anything of it, since I struck out the first time. But I got a call the next day, saying I was going to do it.”

What was the shoot like?
“A little bit nerve-wracking. I was thrilled because I had a room in a trailer. We had rehearsal, and Aaron Sorkin was there, and that was very exciting. I got to meet him, and the director—who did the movie Superbad—and got to work with big-name and established actors who were in the scene. And they were all really nice to me.”

What were your impressions of Sorkin?
“He seemed very confident, relaxed. He was in a good mood, joking with everybody—but very professional. He was there for rehearsal, and then he left and we shot it like 30 times.”

What are your overall impressions of “The Newsroom”?
“It’s going to be amazing. I read the whole script of the episode I’m in. It’s really, really funny—I laughed out loud several times. But it’s moving at times, too. I had a range of responses to it. And it’s so smart. The level of political knowledge, and the understanding of how politics and news are intertwined—it’s just really smart. I grew up outside of D.C., and worked in media, and have had friends who worked in literal newsrooms. It seems to be very accurate to their experiences.”

How did you get involved in acting?
“I got involved in college. I was part of The Whethermen, and was an original member of Amuse-Bouche when that started at UVA. After graduation, I moved to New York City to study improv with the Upright Citizens Brigade. I was also working at Tumblr, and kind of discovered that I was more motivated to pursue a career in entertainment than in the Internet industry.”

How did you find the improv scene in Charlottesville?
“When you’re in college and in a college group, you understand you’re small and isolated from the mainstream improv groups in New York, Chicago, or L.A. But I find that college improvisers tend to have a lot more dedication to the art of improv than in some other places. The people doing improv in college really love it; it’s not about doing it for a career.”

What’s next for you?
“I’d like to continue to pursue more and bigger T.V. roles, and I’m always working on writing projects. I’d like to be producing more content for the Web. I’m considering pursuing stand-up more seriously and trying to book more gigs. I’m going on auditions, hoping to have a good year, move up the ladder for bigger parts. But it’s a marathon, not a sprint.”
UVA grad and former C-VILLE intern, Josh Rachford, appears in the season finale of HBO’s cable news network drama “The Newsroom.”

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