Now the story can be told: If you want to place blame for Patrick Wilson's unorthodox career trajectory across TV movies and the Broadway stage — from parts in action films like The A-Team and Watchmen to an Oklahoma! revival and a new series on CBS — blame St. Petersburg.
More specifically, blame Shorecrest Preparatory School, where Wilson first learned the power of acting across many different platforms, joining a cadre of young thespians who pushed the school to expand its acting activities and compete with other institutions.
"One of the great benefits I had was not only being exposed to a musical every year, but being exposed to Shakespeare every year," said Wilson, 38, hoisting a beer in the lounge of the Beverly Hills Hilton.
Raised in St. Petersburg, Wilson is the most famous son of a local family steeped in media; dad John Wilson is Tampa Fox station WTVT-Ch. 13's top anchor, while his brother Mark Wilson also anchors there and another sibling, Paul Wilson, runs a local media and marketing firm based downtown.
Known for putting his angular good looks to work in varied and interesting roles, Wilson is now tasking another leap; starring as a selfish surgeon visited by the spirit of his dead wife, in CBS' new fall drama A Gifted Man.
The show's pilot, directed by Jonathan Demme (Silence of the Lambs, Philadelphia), leans heavily on Wilson's on-screen charm to keep the attention on Dr. Michael Holt, a self-centered neurosurgeon who doesn't even realize his ex-wife was working a few miles from his office until her ghost shows up and begins speaking with him.
In speaking with TV critics assembled in Los Angeles on Wednesday, Wilson pulled off the same two-step, engaging journalists with his offhand manner. When an Emmy-nominated co-star joked about having to put on lipstick to walk her dog, he retorted "(lipstick) on your dog? That's why people are staring!"
"I can tell you, he is a dreamy as he seems," said co-star Margo Martindale. "It feels like we come from the same place. Being Southern; that's a big plus in my book."
Wilson will need to leverage everything he's learned from Shorecrest to a new role in the highly anticipated Alien prequel Prometheus (directed by original Alien auteur Ridley Scott) for his latest challenge — creating a rare TV drama success on Fridays.
"I try to push myself to the limits in every aspect of the character," Wilson said. "I remember meeting this surgeon I was based on, and he met his anesthesiologist heli-skiing; I thought: perfect. Total disregard for your safety and pushing limits. Live hard, play hard. Those are the things I'm trying to explore."