DeKALB – When actor and DeKalb native Richard Jenkins learned he had received his second Academy Award nomination, his first thought was of his parents.
Listening to the nominations on his phone that morning, in between the mixed feelings of being humbled and shocked at the revelation, he thought of his mom and dad.
“You ask yourself, ‘Did they make a mistake? Wait a minute,’" he said. “It’s humbling, and I think of my mom and dad. And I think how they’d react. That’s the first thing that comes to mind, both times I was nominated. I just think of them, and how they supported me. My father was terrified of me becoming an actor, but I never knew it, I never knew it. He always supported me, and my mom was always there for me. That’s the first thing that comes to my mind.”
An only child raised in DeKalb, Jenkins’ father, Dale, was a dentist and his mother, Mary "Libby" Elizabeth, was a housewife. Through the years, Jenkins often returned to DeKalb to visit his parents. His father passed away in 1997, his mother in 2003.
Although he admittedly doesn’t return to DeKalb as often as he would like because of his busy schedule, the 70-year-old Jenkins was last in town in 2015 for his 50th high school reunion.
After graduating DeKalb High School in 1965, Jenkins attended and graduated from Illinois Wesleyan University. After college, Jenkins worked with the Trinity Repertory Company in Providence, Rhode Island. He lives in Rhode Island with his wife of 48 years, Sharon. Jenkins and his wife have two children, Andrew and Sarah.
Jenkins has appeared in 80 films, including "The Visitor,” for which he received an Oscar nomination in 2007 for Best Actor, "Bone Tomahawk,” "Cabin in the Woods," "Step Brothers," "Eat Pray Love," "Killing Me Softly," "Jack Reacher," "Burn After Reading,” and "There’s Something About Mary." Notable TV show credits include “Olive Kitteridge,” for which he received an Emmy Award in 2014 for Outstanding Actor in a Limited Series, and “Six Feet Under.”
For his most recent performance in the 2017 film “The Shape of Water,” Jenkins received nominations for an Academy Award, Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild and Critics Choice Award for Best Supporting Actor.
“The Shape of Water,” is nominated for 13 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay and Best Original Music Score.
Jenkins and his wife will attend the 90th Academy Award Ceremony on Sunday at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, California. The Oscars, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, will be broadcast at 7 p.m. on ABC.
Although he has been in movies with famous Hollywood stars such as Julia Roberts, Jim Carrey, Steve Martin, Jack Nicholson, Chris Hemsworth and Samuel L. Jackson, Jenkins had his start in drama productions on the DeKalb High School stage.
In addition to being in the drama club, Jenkins was involved with many clubs and organizations, including individual speech, intramurals, sports, water ballet and membership in the “D” Club – an all-boys service club.
Throughout high school, Jenkins worked at Pizza Villa and made pizzas. Whenever he returns to DeKalb, he makes sure to stop at Pizza Villa for his favorite pizza: sausage and onion.
Describing his high school pizza-making job, Jenkins said, “It was a great job – and great pizza.” During his spare time in between high school, work and extracurricular activities, Jenkins enjoyed watching movies at local theaters in DeKalb and Sycamore, including at the Egyptian Theatre.
“It was part of my growing up,” he said. “I grew up going to the DeKalb theater and the Egyptian. I had friends that worked at the Egyptian Theatre. It was part of my childhood, how I got into acting was watching films at the Egyptian Theatre and the DeKalb theater – and the State Theatre in Sycamore, when I was old enough and had a car.”
Jenkins said he hopes to visit DeKalb again soon, despite not having lived in the Midwest since 1970.
“I love going back; I just have to find a reason,” Jenkins said. “To tell you the truth, I would love to work on a film in the area. I would love to. It’s a great reason to go back. I’ve shot in Chicago a few days for one movie, but that was the only one in Illinois.”
Before rushing off to the next interview and Academy Award preparations, Jenkins had one last thing to say: