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Marshall alum, actor finds ‘Stranger Things’ to explore

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The world of entertainment was rocked when “Stranger Things” was released on Netflix July 15 last summer. West Virginia native Joe Chrest plays Ted Wheeler, the father of characters Mike and Nancy Wheeler. Chrest originates from St. Albans, where he attended Saint Albans High School.

Chrest and the rest of the “Stranger Things” cast won a Screen Actors Guild award in January for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series.

“It was such a thrill,” Chrest said. “All of us were so happy to be nominated. We were happy to be there; no one was expecting an award. If you look, when they announced the winner, we’re all dropping our jaws.”

Chrest is an alumnus of the Marshall University theatre department. Chrest said the theatre program at Marshall was intimate like a family.

“I keep in contact with so many people,” Chrest said. “It was 1986 that I graduated. We still have little theatre reunions almost yearly. It really is a family. When you get knocked down, they are there to pick you up. I’m really thankful for my time at Marshall. To this day, some of the best times in my life, some of the best moments performance-wise and strongest memories come from right there.”

Chrest said the beauty of the Marshall community comes from the close-knit relationships that West Virginians and Marshall students develop.

“That’s the beauty of it,” Chrest said. “West Virginia in general. I worked with Jennifer Garner, and you know she’s from Charleston, and my parents live in Charleston. We had an immediate kinship. It’s such a small place, and Marshall too.”

“Stranger Things” was released with all eight episodes available on the same day.

“You didn’t even have to wait a week for the next episode,” Chrest said. “That’s kind of odd to me. But, I have to say, it was hard for us as a family, too. We wanted to watch multiple episodes in a day, but we actually said, ‘We’re going to watch one episode per day.’ It was really fun.”

Chrest said it was completely surreal to win the SAG award.

“As you’re walking down the aisle, and getting fist bumps from Denzel Washington and see Meryl Streep giving you a standing ovation,” Chrest said. “It still doesn’t seem like it happened.”

Chrest said he has learned valuable skills over the years to succeed in the acting industry.

“I had the patience and the fortitude to stick with it,” Chrest said. “There were times along the way that I could’ve easily bowed out. It was really hard not to do that, but here I am 25 years later still doing it. I wouldn’t change anything. It’s been a really great ride, and continues to be.”

Chrest said his favorite aspect of his work is the ability to enrich people’s lives.

“When I see a really great play, the joy it brings me, sometimes it changes my life,” Chrest said. “It elevates me and makes me feel differently about the world. Every year I see at least one movie, and usually more than that, that just uplifts my soul and brings me true joy and utter catharsis. To be able to be in position to be able to be a part of that same thing for someone else, is such a blessing.”

Chrest said inspiring others and being able to bring joy to their day is a great feeling.

“Right now I’m getting huge inspiration from fellow herdsman, Greg White, of the Marshall basketball hall of fame,” Chrest said. “He was there when I was there, and now he is one of the top sports motivational speakers in the country.”

Alexia Lilly can be contacted at [email protected]

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