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UCSD professor and actor takes on John Stamos in new Disney+ series

Actor and UC San Diego professor Richard Robichaux is featured in “Big Shot,” a new series on the Disney+ streaming service.
(Getty Images)

Acting teacher Richard Robichaux plays a territorial high school counselor in ‘Big Shot.’

The character Richard Robichaux plays on the new Disney+ series “Big Shot” is not the most important guy in the room. He is not as smart as he thinks he is or as powerful as he wants to be.

But for the actor and UC San Diego professor, the role of high-maintenance high school counselor George Pappas is perfect because George is a job. And in his years of combining teaching with acting, Robichaux has discovered that one of the best teaching tools he can bring to the classroom is his own resumé.

“For me to be an example of a working actor in the classroom is a great responsibility,” Robichaux said over Zoom from his home in North County. “So many teachers and family members, when they talk about acting, they talk about how impossible it is. But if I’m teaching it, I am the physical example of its possibility. Here is this family man, he’s got a house and a couple of kids, but he is on television. I love that part of it.”

Now in his fourth year at UCSD, where he is a member of the master of fine arts acting faculty, Robichaux has been working in films, stage and television for more than two decades. He was in one episode of “Spin City” in 2000 and 80 episodes of “All My Children” in 2004. He has done four films with “Boyhood” writer-director Richard Linklater and performed in plays at the Yale Repertory Theatre and the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles.

And while he has been acting, Robichaux has been a teacher and an advocate for theater education. He is the former head of the acting department at Penn State University and has delivered the keynote address at multiple education events, including the Southeastern Theatre Conference in North Carolina and the Florida Association for Theatre Education conference.

For a kid growing up in the small town of Channelview, Texas, theater was the way out he did not see coming. And education was the light that pointed him in the direction of a future he could never have dreamed up on his own.

“I had a single mom who was a teenager when she had me, and there is no way we could have afforded theater tickets. That wasn’t even on the radar,” Robichaux recalled. “Then I started a drama class in high school and it changed the whole course of my life. It is education that introduced me to the theater, and I have a debt to pay back. That’s why I will always be in the classroom. Learning acting isn’t just about performing. It has everything to do with being a human in the world.”

In summer 2019, Robichaux was shooting a film in Georgia when he got a refresher course in the fine art of never saying never. His agent had been bugging him about a TV role that was right up his acting alley, but he wasn’t sure. Eventually, Robichaux drafted a fellow cast member to set up a camera, and at 6 a.m. in his hotel room kitchen, he shot an audition tape and sent it off.

His agent was right. The role of George in “Big Shot” was right up Robichaux’s alley in more ways than one. The Disney+ dramedy stars John Stamos as Marvyn Korn, a hot-headed men’s basketball coach who is tossed out of the NCAA after an on-court temper tantrum. When no college will hire him, he takes a job as a high school basketball coach. At a private girls school. In La Jolla.

The show is not shot in La Jolla, but Robichaux feels right at home in the role as the guy most likely to be threatened by Marvyn. And the guy perfectly positioned to be the thorn in Coach Korn’s side.

“What is so fun is, George is completely convinced he’s the alpha, but, of course, he is the beta everywhere he goes. We all know those people and we have all worked with those people,” Robichaux said with a chuckle.

“George has a lot of power at the school, and suddenly, here comes the shiny suit and shiny watch and shiny head of John Stamos. And what is so good about that is John and I have such a great rapport, and the writers are really using this great sensibility between us.”

The “Big Shot” cast also includes Yvette Nicole Brown (“Community”) as the school’s long-suffering principal, and Jessalyn Gilsig (“Glee” and “Vikings”) as Marvyn’s empathetic assistant coach. And if Robichaux has any say in it, a future episode could include a field trip to a certain La Jolla landmark, where George could school Coach Korn and Robichaux could indulge in a little recreational character development.

Because for Robichaux, it’s all about the work. Even if the scene is currently happening only in his imagination.

“I love to play golf, so why can’t John and I have a scene at Torrey Pines [Golf Course]? And maybe Phil Mickelson could be there!” Robichaux said. “I think George is probably secretly excellent at golf, and I want him to surprise John’s character. He is so used to winning everything, and then I just crush the ball. Wouldn’t that be great?” ◆