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Jeffrey Lieber

Jeffrey Lieber

TV/film screenwriter/producer | ‘Lost’ co-creator | Class of 1991

His first bad review in the entertainment business was one Jeffrey Lieber still hasn’t forgotten, three decades later.

This was the late '80s, long before the Evanston native would become a household name in Hollywood for helping launch the ABC hit ‘Lost’ and serving as showrunner for CBS’ ‘NCIS: New Orleans’ and USA’s ‘Necessary Roughness.’

Tom Mitchell, who was one of my acting teachers during the time I was part of the undergraduate conservatory program at Krannert,” says Lieber (BFA '91, theatre). “I was a pretty intense, serious student. Overly intense, I think.

“I wanted desperately to be ‘done,’ to be anointed the next Lawrence Olivier. So, it was my freshman year, I was 19 and I played the part of the lawyer, Barnette Lloyd, in (fellow former Illini) Beth Henley’s ‘Crimes of the Heart.’

“He was a nervous character and I decided that the way to express that nervousness was to play with my tie. I grabbed it and gestured with it and used it a little like a security blanket. It got lots of laughs.

“After the performance, I sat with Tom and he clearly saw past all the laughter and told me it was not my best work. I was shocked — everyone seemed to love it — but he cut to the chase: It was basically a (BS) choice. It came from nothing real or primal, but just my desire to draw attention to myself.

“I looked at him with my overly intense eyes and insisted he tell me what I could’ve done to get better — more research ... more rehearsal ... different attack on things — and he just smiled and said, ‘You have to live a little; you have to grow up.’

“Shorter, he was the first person to look me in the eye and tell me that there was a process that didn’t have a shortcut. I had to do my time like everyone else.

“I’m 50 now. I’m still doing my time.”