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Article updated: 7/23/2013 6:26 AM

Hoffman Estates native goes from cop to action star

By Jamie Sotonoff Dann Gire

Andy McDermott works out twice a day.

He also cautiously watches what he eats.

"Ten years ago I could eat anything I wanted and it didn't matter," the Hoffman Estates native said. "Now, I'm doing this. I could literally get a phone call right now telling me that in three hours, a person wants to see me with my shirt off for the role of a soldier.

"I have to be ready. I don't have the time to get into shape. I have to be in shape."

"This" is acting. And McDermott, a 1994 graduate of Fremd High School in Palatine, has been at it for the past nine months.

The former high school athlete has landed what he hopes will be a recurring role in the upcoming Fox TV series "Enlisted."

His route to the screen was hardly direct.

"After I graduated from Northwestern (communications major/French minor), I played professional soccer for seven years," McDermott said. "Spent a lot of time in the minor leagues with a bunch of real good guys chasing the dream -- avoiding getting a real job was what we were doing."

When his son was born, McDermott figured it was time to move on.

"My best friend got me connected up with what I considered to be the next-most fun job ever: I was a police officer for the Phoenix P.D. for seven years. Attached to the Tactical Response Unit."

Then, the chance for a small part in a film made McDermott re-evaluate the whole "real job" thing.

"Two years ago in Scottsdale, they filmed the movie 'Everything Must Go' with Will Ferrell, Michael Pena, Rebecca Hall and Laura Dern," McDermott said.

"They needed someone to play a police officer, to do about five pages back and forth with Will Ferrell.

"I thought it was crazy, but I went to the audition in my police uniform. They were like, 'Wow! Where did you get that great costume?' I said it's my uniform. I have to go to work after this audition."

He got the job and decided to move to Los Angeles not long after, pursuing a dream he'd nurtured but never had the guts to follow.

"People probably thought we were nuts. We sold our house, gave up our careers and went off to L.A. with four little kids," he said. "We rented a house, sight unseen. That was about nine months ago."

Yes, four kids: two sons, 8 and 6, and two daughters, 3 and 8 months.

McDermott met his wife, Julie O'Donnell, in eighth grade at St. Theresa in Palatine.

"We went to Fremd High School together. I know. It's a cliché! We were high school sweethearts. She was the prom queen," he said. "I was lucky enough to be with her. While I was at Northwestern, she went to the U of I in Champaign, but we stayed together the whole time."

And she's backed up her husband's acting dreams.

"Look, I don't have delusions of grandeur, that I'm going to be an Oscar-winning actor or anything," McDermott said.

"There are a lot of action-adventure films being made. With my background in athletics, martial arts and a cop on a tactical unit, there are a lot of skills I have."

Among them: He's a third-degree black belt in tae kwon do.

"For the indie movie 'Always Faithful,' I did the stunt choreography, plus I played the bad guy. That was fun for me to stage a movie fight, then be in the fight."

How does the job market look right now?

"I've been rejected more in the last nine months than I have in the last 37 years," he said. "Hundreds of auditions. One for the pilot of 'Beverly Hills Cop.' I hope that gets picked up. I might have a recurring role.

"I did another pilot for a half-hour Fox comedy 'Enlisted.' I'm hoping they'll need me on the set to be in a few episodes."

McDermott's parents have left Hoffman Estates for Arizona, but his in-laws still live in Palatine. Some family members had trouble understanding why he'd give up a stable job to move to Hollywood.

"Everybody in my family thinks we're crazy! Nuts!" he said.=

McDermott's not sorry, though. "When they see something on TV I've done, or see me modeling for an ad in a national magazine, they can say, 'He's working hard. He's chasing the dream.'

"You only have one life. We didn't want to have regrets. We wanted no regrets."

-- Dann Gire

Ÿ Jamie Sotonoff and Dann Gire are always looking for people from the suburbs who are working in showbiz. If you know of someone, email them at jsotonoff@dailyherald.com and dgire@dailyherald.com.

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