September 10, 2008

SIUC connection shows up in new NBC drama

by Andrea Hahn

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Henry Spivey is a Southern Illinois University Carbondale alumnus and he has a glass-framed diploma on the wall to prove it.

You know about Henry Spivey if you’ve seen the television commercials for “My Own Worst Enemy.” Spivey -- and his alter ego Edward Albright -- are the main characters of a new NBC drama launching this fall. The series stars Christian Slater as a suburban nice guy who is also, unbeknownst to himself, a super-deadly, super-spy.

On the show, Spivey is a strategic management consultant for a multi-billion dollar Los Angeles-based firm. He keeps his college diploma on his office wall. The audience might not be able to see it in detail, but the diploma is from SIUC. Spivey holds a bachelor’s degree in economics with an art history minor.

How did this fictional character become an alumnus of SIUC? With a little help from a real-life SIUC graduate, naturally.

2005 graduate Whit Vogel, a radio television major and former co-executive producer of the multiple-award-winning, student produced 26:46, is an art department coordinator at NBC Studios, Inc. Part of her job is to manage scene background details. Sometimes that means product placement. Sometimes that means using her graphic design talent to fill in or cover things in the background. In this case, her job included finding an authentic diploma from a real university. She turned to her alma mater and just like that, Spivey is a Saluki.

Vogel said her experience with 26:46 proved invaluable as she settled into her job at NBC.

“Everything in the background (of a TV show or movie) has to be cleared,” she said. She noted that background details for sets with military or medical scenes can be especially challenging. “(There is a lot of) random knowledge stuffed into my brain now,” she mused.

The series debuts on Oct. 13 at 9 p.m. Central Standard Time. Slater is known for his roles in such movies as “Windtalkers,” “Very Bad Things,” “Interview with the Vampire,” “True Romance” and “Heathers,” among others. His television appearances include guest spots on “My Name is Earl,” “The West Wing” and “Alias.”