From the Hilltop to Hollywood

Caroline Chambers '17 snaps a selfie with Neil Flynn '82 during a Q-and-A session on campus. (Photo by Duane Zehr)

Matt Hawkins
April 10, 2017

Actor Neil Flynn ’82 shared with students his career from the Hilltop to Hollywood during a Monday campus visit. Flynn, a former Bradley University Speech Team member, received the American Forensic Association National Individual Events Tournament’s Distinguished Alumni Award during his visit.

The actor, known for roles in The Middle, Scrubs, and Mean Girls, encouraged students to persevere in their silver screen dreams, even if it means a long journey. Flynn pieced a career together for two decades in Chicago and Los Angeles before he landed his first major role as a janitor in Scrubs. The first decades included Chicago theatre, voice acting, plus small parts in TV series and movies such as Home Alone 3, The Fugitive, Seinfeld and NYPD Blue.

“I touched every rung on the way up,” he said. “If there’s a kind of job, I probably did it, but I’m grateful for that.”

Flynn got his break at age 40 and is entering his 17th consecutive year on television.

“When you watch TV as a kid and wonder how it’s possible, it seems like the job might as well be on the moon,” he said. “The encouraging thing is that it’s possible. I had a little talent, persevered and it paid off.”

Bradley communication and theatre students took advantage of the opportunity to learn from the distinguished alumnus.

“It’s so inspiring to hear about someone whose tenacity and drive allowed him to be successful,” said Amanda Dacks ’17, a theatre and management and leadership double major from Lindenhurst, Illinois. “Getting advice from a working actor was indispensable and will help shape my future path.”

Flynn’s visit was a reunion of sorts for Caroline Chambers ’17, a public relations major from Cherry Valley, Illinois. Her father, Mark Chambers, and Flynn were friends from their years in neighboring fraternities. The family proudly owns a signed Flynn Scrubs headshot with a short message.

“It was a little surreal to speak with him on such a personal level,” said the younger Chambers. “It was really cool to know my dad was good friends with someone who became so well-known.”