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East Lansing Film Festival closes Thursday with documentary about Hollywood actor with Lansing roots

Jim Hoffmaster with mug.jpeg
Courtesy photo
Actor Jim Hoffmaster, the subject of the documentary 'Acting Like Nothing Is Wrong'

The East Lansing Film Festival is in its final week at Studio C Theaters in Okemos. The closing night on Thursday features a documentary called Acting Like Nothing Is Wrong.

Both the filmmaker and the subject of the film have local ties, and the pair will attend the two screenings of the movie.

Editor's Note: parts of this story deal with abuse.

Simply put, Los Angeles-based actor Jim Hoffmaster has one of those faces that has you thinking ‘where have I seen that guy before?’. His credits on a wide array of TV shows include roles like pawn shop guy, loner guy, cart pusher, exterminator, and creep. Maybe you saw him play a judge in an episode of Better Call Saul. His most notable role, by far, was the recurring character Kermit on the TV series Shameless. For 11 seasons, he was one of the guys hanging out at The Alibi Room, a bar frequented by William H. Macy’s lead character, Frank Gallagher.

Before seeking fame and fortune in L.A., Hoffmaster acted in Lansing community theatre productions and worked at an Okemos book store. A customer he was acquainted with was Jane Rosemont, who has also since moved out west.

Now based in New Mexico, Rosemont is a photographer and documentarian. Her first, an award-winning short called The Pie Lady of Pie Town, is about a New Mexico woman’s passion for her pies and the simple pleasures they can bring.

Hoffmaster attended a screening of Rosemont’s film, and their reconnection led to the new film Acting Like Nothing Is Wrong.

It’s a fitting title, because whatever acting success Hoffmaster has enjoyed has been in spite of a very troubled life. He bounced from family to family as a foster child, and suffered sexual and verbal abuse. To this day, he struggles with anger issues and self-harm.

Why did Hoffmaster agree to a movie telling his story?

“I had seen that first documentary, which has a certain sweetness and a warmth to it, and I thought this seems like the right combination, you know?” Hoffmaster explained. “It’s not like it’s gonna be a hit piece, though I don’t know why anyone would want to do a hit piece on me of all people.”

Hoffmaster says he didn’t want his story to have some fake uplifting message that might hint at big success in Hollywood. He describes his acting career as good-paying part-time work. There are auditions, call-backs, and there’s lots of waiting between jobs.

“I haven’t gone from rags to riches. I’ve gone from rags to nicer rags,” Hoffmaster said. “As I joke, I say I came out to L.A. to claw my way to the middle.”

Hoffmaster’s message is to just keep moving.

Could Acting Like Nothing Is Wrong somehow boost his career? Hoffmaster would like that, but he isn’t sure what the pathway is from this film to getting work.

“Maybe you look at this film and think a little more of this guy that you’ve only seen do little bits on TV or whatever. Who knows? Maybe,” he states. “I’ve watched the film and tried to go, ‘Look at this character of Jim Hoffmaster. He’s kind of screwed up and everything, but he’s funny, he’s personable.’”

It took Rosemont two years to make Pie Lady of Pie Town. Acting Like Nothing Is Wrong has taken four. That patience and work ethic shows.

“If a director or filmmaker ends up not having chemistry or the intimacy that you can have with your subject, it reflects in the film,” Rosemont said. “You can see that coolness or that distance, and I think we’re successful in coming up with a pretty intimate film.”

Jim Hoffmaster and Jane Rosemont plan to attend the screenings of Acting Like Nothing Is Wrong on Thursday. They’ll answer questions, and greet friends and fans, old and new, to close out this year’s East Lansing Film Festival.

Scott Pohl is a general assignment news reporter and produces news features and interviews. He is also an alternate local host on NPR's "Morning Edition."
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