For Disney star from Wilmette, business comes first in showbiz

 
 
Updated 1/19/2016 12:51 AM
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  • Disney Channel's "Bunk'd" star Kevin Quinn got his show biz start at the Winnetka Community House theater program.

    Disney Channel's "Bunk'd" star Kevin Quinn got his show biz start at the Winnetka Community House theater program.

"It's amazing how quickly you can go from not knowing what you want to do ... to instantly falling in love with something and knowing exactly what you want to do!" Kevin Quinn said. "That's what happened to me."

What happened to the Wilmette teenager wound up making him a star on the Disney Channel's comedy series "Bunk'd" and a cast member in the Disney Channel's upcoming remake of the 1987 comedy "Adventures in Babysitting."

It began when a friend at Wilmette Junior High School suggested he audition for a community theater group.

"He told me it was something I would really be good at," Quinn said. "I knew nothing about it. So, I thought I would give it a try."

At 13, Quinn not only auditioned for a theater group at the Winnetka Community House (not far from the home used in the classic comedy "Home Alone"), but he landed a lead role, despite never having been on a theater stage before.

"I fell in love with it," Quinn said. "I knew right then that theater was what I was meant to do."

He proved it -- starting with Fox TV's "American Idol." When he was 15, he auditioned and lasted a few rounds in the season eventually won by Candice Glover.

This led to the teen being signed by a Chicago talent agency.

That led Quinn to play Johnny in Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre production of "The Lord of the Flies."

That led to a role in the Chicago Shakespeare Theater adaptation of "Henry V."

That led to roles in Chicago TV productions of "Shameless" and "Chicago P.D." and the independent movie "Kids and Ghosts."

Wilmette native Kevin Quinn, center, stars with Karan Brar, left, and Nathan Arenas in the Disney Channel's "Bunk'd" TV series.
Wilmette native Kevin Quinn, center, stars with Karan Brar, left, and Nathan Arenas in the Disney Channel's "Bunk'd" TV series. -

And that finally led Quinn to his current role as Xander in the Disney Channel's comedy series "Bunk'd," a spinoff from the network's popular show "Jessie."

And Quinn is just 18.

"All that happened over the course of two years, so it didn't come easy," Quinn said. "It's been a lot of fun."

Fun? Yes. But Quinn has a radically different approach to showbiz than most actors. He emphasizes the "biz" more than the "show."

"Even today, I'm thinking about my next move," he said. "It truly is a business. Show business. And you really need to know how to work it. That's what I've been doing, or at least trying to do."

Quinn comes to the world of performance art with the full support of his parents, dad Brian Quinn, an advertising executive, and mom Tamara Quinn, who runs a holistic fertility service called Pulling Down the Moon in Buffalo Grove, Highland Park and other locations.

"Because of them, I see the importance of business in show business," Quinn said.

"I have a business mentality. I think about publicity, management and how the different aspects of show business actually work. When I think of myself as an actor, I first think of myself as an entrepreneur. I am in a business."

Even though Quinn hasn't been in the business for long, he has developed a sense of perspective about his career.

"'American Idol' was a great career propeller, but being 15, you don't even realize what you're doing," he said. "I was so young. I was so inexperienced. I think things would be a lot different if I went back there now that I'm older."

Quinn, in retrospect, views his work at Steppenwolf as critical to his quick success.

"The training I received there was unparalleled," he said. "The training I got there really prepared me so well for everything in Hollywood, especially for a 16-year-old. The stage manager was always helping me out. The director was always helping me out."

In Hollywood, the acting business is so massive, so impersonal, it's like a machine, he said.

"In the Midwest," Quinn says, "it's very much a community, a close-knit community."

• Know a suburbanite in showbiz who would make a good column? Contact Jamie Sotonoff and Dann Gire at jsotonoff@dailyherald.com and dgire@dailyherald.com.

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