Notable ETHS alums pursue acting careers

People often give little thought to the backgrounds and hometowns of actors or models in their favorite TV shows, movies, or magazines.  However, many of the faces we recognize happen to have a history within ETHS. any of these performers  participated in well known ETHS theater programs such as YAMO; Evanston has been a stepping stone in their path to success, far beyond the academic world, and into the world of entertainment. 

One notable alum is Laura Harrier.  Many recognize her as Liz, Parker’s former love interest, from Spiderman: Homecoming.  Harrier graduated ETHS in 2004, and moved to New York after to attend NYU. After signing with agencies including IMG models, she decided to defer her enrollment in order to pursue modeling and acting. She then enrolled in William Ester Studio Acting, where she began the career which she is known most for. Harrier has been in other distinguished shows including BlacKkKlansman, Finch, and Hollywood. Harrier has modeled for prestigious magazines such as Vogue, Elle, Cosmopolitan, and Glamour as well as appeared in campaigns for Urban Outfitters, Steve Madden, and L’Oreal. 

Zach Gilford is another Evanston native and ETHS alum who participated in ETHS theater productions such as YAMO. Gilford stayed in Evanston post high school and attended Northwestern University, continuing his acting career and majoring in theater.  One of his most recognized roles was that of Matt Saracen in the 2006 series, Friday Night Lights.  His latest feature is in the Netflix series, Midnight Mass.  

John Cusack may be a familiar face to many ETHS parents, as he graduated in 1984.  From a young age, he already had outlets to the industry, as his father was a filmmaker and actor.  Cusack was involved in Piven Theater (explained later), as well as other smaller productions.  In the 80s classic Sixteen Candles, Cusack played a stereotypical “geek”, which set him on track for more teen films such as Better Off Dead and One Crazy Summer. Some of his most famous films include Say Anything, High Fidelity, Grosse Pointe Blank, and Love & Mercy. 

Alongside John, his sister, Joan Cusack, also graduated from ETHS in 1980.  Cusack is yet another widely accomplished ETHS alum. Many may recognize her from her roles in Addams Family Values, SchoolHouse Rock, Toy Story, as well as her portrayal of Sheila Jackson from Shameless (many of these films/shows she also participated in with her brother, John).  Cusack’s most notable performances include Emily Montgomery in the romantic comedy In and Out and Cyn in Working Girl. Joan was Academy Award nominated for best supporting actress for each of these roles.

Chicagoans may be familiar with the name Jeremy Piven because of the theater company sharing his last name, Piven Theater (a Chicago area theater company that puts on plays as well as hosts acting classes), that was created by his parents.  Piven graduated ETHS in 1983, and was also friends with John Cusack.  Piven acted alongside Cusack in many films including Say Anything and Gross Pointe Blank. Piven is also known for television series Entourage and Mr. Siegfried.  However, Piven now has taken to stand-up comedy and is currently touring the country.

Comedian and Actress Lauren Lapkus graduated alongside Laura Harrier in the ETHS class of 2004. Lapkus began acting at an early age, creating and filming sketches with her older brother and later participating in our very own YAMO. Since 2011, Lapkus has appeared primarily in comedic films. She is best known for starring in Jurassic World and in the Hit Netflix series, Orange is the New Black, as Susan Fischer.