Ruggedly handsome, Tom Skerritt, has carved out the kind of Hollywood career you might expect from a native Michigander. He studied his craft, worked hard, and has turned in decades full of stellar performances brimming with heart and soul. His resume includes a wide variety of characters in a seemingly endless array of motion pictures and television shows. Film fans will likely recognize him from big hits like Mash, Alien, The Dead Zone, Top Gun, and Steel Magnolias, and yet, his face may be even more familiar to television viewers who have seen him in recurring roles in Cheers, Picket Fences, Huff, those famous Gap ads, and most recently, reunited with Steel Magnolias’ co-star, Sally Field in ABC’s hit drama, Brothers & Sisters.
Born in Detroit in 1933, Tom Skerritt graduated from Mackenzie High School before continuing his education at Wayne State University. He describes a very different Detroit, but with many of the same great foods, sports, and traditions residents and visitors still enjoy today.
BMN: Looking back, what are some of your favorite Michigan memories?
TOM: Cider mills in apple season, family stories, the air after a summer rain,
the streetcars to everywhere, especially to Briggs Stadium to watch the Tigers or Lions play ball. Sanders for a hot fudge Sunday, Vernor’s Ginger Ale plant for a Boston cooler and the first girl I ever loved and have never forgotten.
BMN: What are some other things that make the state special in your opinion?
TOM: Its lush beauty. Its work ethic and underlying pride in Workmanship.
BMN: How do you think growing up in Michigan impacted your life and career?
TOM: One never loses the basic trust and work ethic of the mid-west upbringing. How it impacted my life and career is ongoing.
BMN: What advice do you have for Michigan kids, dreaming of a career in the arts?
TOM: Go to college! Work at and for your dream. Set your standards high and go for it. Ignore the odds. No one’s waiting for the next great artist. You have to make it happen by pushing the limits. Success in the Arts, leads culture, molds society and attracts economy.
BMN: What was your Wayne State University experience like?
TOM: It defined the course I followed in life and what I’ve become.
BMN: What are your thoughts on the Buy Michigan Now campaign?
TOM: A just and noble cause. But, Michigan is competing with other states who are also in survival mode. How can Michigan set itself apart from other state economic campaigns? How does Michigan avoid the perception of asking and looking for economic aid? Asking Michiganders and others to Buy Michigan, is, in some ways, like asking Americans to buy American. Although it’s sure a start, I just don’t think it works that way anymore. With a recession underway in the face of unemployment, many people are looking, first, to help themselves and spend to satisfy their own needs, not thinking to help support the state.
BMN: We agree that a huge part of our undertaking is creating an awareness of what can be accomplished by buying locally, yet affordably, even in a global economy, and yet that truly is only one step in a complex economic evolution. What other ideas are top of mind to you?
TOM: A couple of thoughts: Over thirty years ago it was said, ‘…wars of the future will be fought over water’…That time is approaching. A beautiful state, Michigan now has some of the best and most attractive real estate values in the country, made more so by the presence of The Great Lakes. Michigan has to take a lead in water consciousness and conservation, and encourage related green industries of the future.
Michigan has great universities, but, the imagination it takes to get there, is sparked in early, formative public education. In many Michigan communities, this education is gravely under-funded, especially in the Arts where self-esteem begins and imagination ignites, from whence, products of the future emerge. As your (BMN news release) suggests, the state has to look to its local talent and re-invent itself, glorifying its history, its talent, as well as its advantages….the place to be!
BMN: What Shout Out do you have for your friends and fans in Michigan?
TOM: Michigan…the Great Opportunity!