Career takes Wheeling native from 'Geeks' to 'Bones'
John Francis Daley earned straight A's on his second-grade report card, along with a note from his teacher.
"Lacks self-control," the message read.
"I was hyperactive and constantly trying to get a rise out of people and get a laugh," Daley admitted.
Even back then, the Wheeling native had started down the road to a performance career, one that would lead him to be cast on the short-lived cult TV sitcom "Freaks and Geeks" and to become FBI psychologist Dr. Lance Sweets on the current Fox crime series "Bones."
"I was always open to pursuing another profession, such as a doctor," the 26-year-old actor said. "But then I decided it would be much more fun to portray one on TV."
Wait! What happened to being hyperactive and lacking self-control?
"A doctor recommended my parents put me on Ritalin, but instead, they put me into kung fu," Daley said.
Kung fu? As in the song "Kung Fu Fighting"? As in David Carradine's old TV series "Kung Fu"?
"Yes. It was kind of like walking a dog," Daley said. "A dog stops being hyperactive after a long walk. I was able to focus and concentrate more because I was exhausted all the time from the kung fu training."
"It really helped. And it helped in my acting because it allowed me not to get bogged down by hyperactivity."
In addition to being hyperactive, Daley apparently suffers from a bad case of over-achiever-itis.
Not only did he earn a black belt in kung fu, but he's amassed an impressive list of TV credits ("The Geena Davis Show," "The Ellen Show," "Spin City," "Judging Amy," "Stacked" and others).
He and his writing partner, Jonathan Goldstein, also wrote this year's hit movie comedy "Horrible Bosses."
They can thank the makers of "The Hangover" for that.
"After 'The Hangover' showed that people were hungry for R-rated comedies, New Line fast-tracked Mike Markowitz's comedy script that was sitting on the shelf for a long time," Daley explained.
"We rewrote a lot of it, maintaining the key plot about three guys wanting to kill their horrible bosses. It all happened so quickly. It was crazy! We had sold five scripts by then, and the last movie we wrote was the first one made."
(For the record, Daley and Goldstein added the Donald Sutherland character to the story, plus transformed Jamie Foxx's character from a serious hit man into a riotous con artist who advises the heroes on how to assassinate their bosses, even though he's never killed anyone himself.)
Next up for the writing duo will be "Burt Wonderstone," a Las Vegas magician comedy starring Steve Carell, Jim Carrey, Olivia Wilde, Steve Buscemi, James Gandolfini and Alan Arkin. It starts shooting in January.
"I'm keeping my fingers crossed it all doesn't just crumble," Daley said.
The future actor/writer had just turned 2 when his performer father R.F. Daley nailed a job on Broadway. He and his music teacher wife, Nancy, took their only child from Wheeling to New York.
"I remember when I was 8 years old, I had a taste for what it might be like to be an actor, and I asked my parents to get me an agent," the younger Daley said.
And at a ripe old age of 9, Daley landed his first gig as the young Tommy in the national tour of The Who's rock musical "Tommy."
"It was a huge production and not your typical Broadway musical fare," Daley said. "I immediately realized that this is something that I wanted to pursue."
Pursue he did.
But he still returns to the suburbs for family events and the holidays.
"My grandparents live in Skokie, and I visit them every year," he said. "I can't quite say that I miss the weather. But I do miss the people, and most importantly the food. I consider Chicagoland a big part of home."
That's good to know, especially since his father and mother met at the Marriott Lincolnshire. He was in a show. She was singing and playing piano in the lobby.
"They've been incredibly supportive all along the way," Daley said. "I don't know how much I could have done without their constant support. I know a great many people in the arts who come from unsupportive families, and that's just another hurdle they have to deal with. I'm so glad I was able to grow up in such a helpful and supportive family."
They came in handy when Daley struggled through a succession of unseen pilot shows and seldom-seen failed sitcoms. At least he received a formal education on the set. ("The only high school I attended was the fictional one on 'Freaks and Geeks,'" he joked.)
"I would look at all the people around me struggling just to get anything, trying to make a living off what they love to do," Daley said. "I never took it for granted. I always felt lucky to at least be working and doing what I like to do. I've had no interest in anything else but the arts."
"I don't know what drives me to do it," he said. "Except that it makes me happy."
Oh, oh. We almost forgot the mandatory celebrity marital status question:
Hitched or single?
"I'm not married," Daley volunteered. "I had a girlfriend for a long time, but I'm now single."
Any chance you'll get together with Kim Kardashian?
"You never know."
• Dann Gire and Jamie Sotonoff are always looking for suburban people now working in showbiz. If you know of someone who would be good to feature, send a note to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
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