UI alum reflects on life in entertainment industry, stars in ‘Raymond and Ray’


Photo courtesy of Chris Silcox

Chris Silcox (right), University graduate and former NCAA gymnast with the cast of the movie “Raymond and Ray.” Silcox stars as the character Leon from the film.

By Kylie Corral, buzz Editor

There are many paths to take when attending the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and sometimes, more than one collide. For Chris Silcox, his athletic career in gymnastics, as well as his studies in acting, helped shape his career in the entertainment and filmmaking industry.

Silcox, a graduate of, and a former NCAA gymnast at the University, stars as the character Leon in the newly released movie “Raymond and Ray.” Silcox, who was born in San Antonio, said he moved to the University to get his BFA in acting.

“I think I wanted to be an actor from when I was young,” Silcox said.  “I did theater at the same time that I was a competitive gymnast there. The teaching at University of Illinois was very different (than) the teaching I was given in Texas.”

He added that learning from various directors, as well as being immersed in the diversity that the University has, helped him become a better actor for his future career.

“I think that was a really great introduction into the world of theater because that’s what the writing and the artistic integrity is all about the openness to people from other cultures and different backgrounds and understanding art in a very complex way,” he said.

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Being a gymnast at the University also helped his acting career due to the competitive nature of both artistic pursuits.

“Gymnastics is a very individual sport, just like acting can be a very individual profession (and) art form, and it taught me how to work together with a team, how to build up another person and how to take generosity from other people,” he said. “So, being a better athlete made me a better actor, and I’ve used that competitive spirit in an everyday sense.”

After college, Silcox said that he went on to do shows for Cirque du Soleil in Montreal, a show that had to be done 470 times a year, and he was also the stunt double for Tom Holland in “Spider-man: Homecoming.”

After about 75 professional films and TV shows, Silcox said he is now journeying into filmmaking and building on experience from his career in the film industry.

“Going every day to sets and learning how things are made, learning how to edit and how to put a story together is very fun,” Silcox said. “It’s like being an engineer, and I have a need to do that.”

Silcox said he has already completed two short films an adaption of David Lindsay-Abaire’s “A Devil Inside,” as well as an adaption of Eugene Ionesco’s “Rhinoceros,” both of which are featured on his Youtube channel.

He added that his experience doing stunts has helped him learn through the knowledge it has given him creatively. Putting something together without words has been his education into editing and filmmaking, he said.

“It’s a fun little surreal fever dream, and I’m really proud of it,” he said. “So I can’t wait to do something with a little bit more weight and a bit more length.”

Silcox added that his most recent project was the best experience of his life.

“Raymond and Ray,” a dark comedy directed by Rodrigo Garcia, is about two brothers, Raymond, played by Ewan McGregor, and Ray, played by Ethan Hawke, who reunite to dig their father’s grave. The movie was released on Apple TV+ on Oct. 21.

Silcox, acting opposite McGregor and Hawke, said the process of filming the movie gave him a lot of professional experience and advice from the actors themselves.

“They were so generous and available with their praise and with their laughter on set,” he said. “The director, Rodrigo Garcia, he was like a maestro putting together this strange puzzle, and he had things in his mind that he knew he was going to do, and he led us really to take care of our characters.”

Silcox said now that this project is done, he is looking forward to future TV show and movie roles to pursue.

“I’m excited to make a feature film, make a TV show of my own, to learn more and more about the entire process of storytelling and also to get back to theater and do some more plays, because I think I’ve been pretty focused on film and television stuff for so long,” Silcox said.

He added that he hopes he will find himself at the University again as a teacher or an alumnus.

“I have a very soft place in my heart (for the University) and the things I learned there and the people I learned from.”

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