Arts & Entertainment

From US Marine Corps to the Movie Screen

Alumnus John K. Moeslein landed his biggest movie role so far in “Blindspotting”

By Erasmo Guerra

John K. Moeslein, Academy of Art University alumnus (MPT ’13) and an actor who appeared in the critically acclaimed summer movie “Blindspotting,” once thought a career in the arts was a long shot. Or, as he said in a recent phone interview, “Pursuing an artistic career was just something far away that other people do—that people in California do.”

Blindspotting Premier at Sundance
John K. Moeslein on the red carpet at the premiere of “Blindspotting” at the Sundance Film Festival. Photo courtesy of John K. Moeslein.

Speaking by phone from Los Angeles, where he now lives, the 37-year-old Pittsburgh native recalled the limbo he felt in his early 20s. Like that moment, two and a half years into his studies at Ohio State University, taking the basic undergraduate core curriculum, when he said he didn’t know what he was doing. “Why am I taking this math class if I’m not going into accounting?” He also knew he wasn’t going back home to Pittsburgh to take over the family business remodeling homes. The 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center had already happened and, caught up by the spirit to serve the country, Moeslein decided at the age of 22 to enlist in the U.S. Marines.

A former high school four-year letterman starter on the wrestling team, and varsity baseball player, Moeslein wasn’t concerned about the physical challenge. Looking back, he said the experience of having drill sergeants scream into his face during basic training, preparing him for the stress of combat, also prepared him for the future when he’d need to remain present as an actor.

Moeslein did two tours in Iraq and upon his return, he said, the whole experience spurred him into action. He jumped into his SUV with his rescue dog Sadie and drove across the country for four months, camping where he could (or sleeping in the back of his SUV if the weather was bad or if he’d arrived at a campsite too late), writing and trying to clear his head about what he wanted to do next. Knowing he wanted a life in the entertainment industry, but not ready for the overwhelming sprawl of Los Angeles, Moeslein landed in San Francisco and googled “San Francisco film schools,” which is how he found Academy of Art University.

John Moeslein Basic Training
John K. Moeslein at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island in South Carolina, where he attended boot camp training. Photo courtesy of John K. Moeslein.

Through the GI Bill, he enrolled at the Academy’s School of Motion Pictures & Television (MPT). While a student in the screenwriting program, he was also working professionally as an actor, and after a few meetings with Diane Baker, executive director of the School of Acting, Moeslein was able to substitute some of his film production coursework with acting classes. After receiving his bachelor’s in 2013, Moeslein finally made that move to Los Angeles, only to return to San Francisco to audition for—and land—his biggest role to date as Sid in “Blindspotting.” “I drove up a number of times for auditions and callbacks.”

Ultimately, he credits the directors at the Academy’s School of Acting for nurturing the idea of working in film. Specifically, he mentioned the encouragement he received from Associate Director Damon K. Sperber. “He was a mentor without realizing it,” Moeslein said, explaining, “I’d have coffee with him occasionally and he gave me a lot of good advice. I felt confident just talking to him. He never gave off that pessimistic it’s-a-tough-industry vibe. His message was ‘go do it.’ And that helped me feel [like] there are people out there who succeed at this. Why not me?”

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