From Gridiron to Hollywood
Bucknell football was great prep for Mark Tallman ’02’s latest role
by Alexander Diegel
Blamah Sarnor ’06
Photo: Virginia Sherwood/NBC
Mark Tallman (left) in Rise with his TV son Robbie, played by Damon J. Gillespie.
When you’ve been an athlete all your life, doing something entirely different can be scary. It’s a challenge Mark Tallman ’02 has risen to since his days as captain of the Bucknell football team — and a challenge his television son grapples with on the NBC series Rise, which premiered March 13.

Tallman plays Detrell Thorne, father of the lead character, Robbie, who is the star quarterback at his high school. “It’s based on a true story in a small town in Pennsylvania — a football town,” Tallman says.

Conflict arises between father and son when a new teacher reinvigorates the school’s arts program. Robbie, like Tallman, has interests that extend beyond the gridiron and gets involved in the drama program.

“My character is one of those dads who is gung ho about what we have been traditionally engrained to do in that town,” says Tallman. “If you have this gift to play football, you’re going to hone that craft and do anything and everything you can to get a scholarship.”

It’s been a busy season for Tallman, who has upcoming roles in AMC’s Dietland and CBS’ The Good Fight. He’s also appeared in movies such as Rough Night and was a voice actor in the video game Grand Theft Auto V. But Rise has already proven to be a special role.

Robbie and Detrell Thorne’s dynamic strongly resemble the former Bison linebacker’s real-life journey with his own dad: “For most roles you either have to stretch one way or the other to somehow place yourself in a character’s shoes, but the first time I read [the script] I was like, ‘Oh my goodness; this is the one that I can finally, directly relate to.’ ”

Tallman credits a few Bucknellians with instilling the confidence to make the leap to LA, including his position coach Joe Tillman, the late, great head coach Tom Gadd, and history professor Leslie Patrick.

Patrick “was someone who was so inspirational to me — this black woman who so many people on campus looked up to. To this day I feel like I get a lot of my confidence from her confidence.”