Herndon teen John Gluck takes his star turn on NBC’s “Ordinary Joe”

John Gluck on NBC’s “Ordinary Joe” (Photo courtesy of Sandy Morris/NBC)

When Herndon resident John Gluck heard that he had gotten the part on NBC’s new drama “Ordinary Joe,” he freaked out.

The local-student-turned-television-star had never auditioned for a role like this, but he had always been a singer, a piano player, and a movie-lover. So, when NBC put out a casting call in early 2020 looking for a young actor with muscular dystrophy, then-11-year-old Gluck knew he had to go for it.

“The [casting call] is perfect for me and I’m probably not going to get another opportunity like this,” now 13-year-old Gluck tells Reston Now, reminiscing about the moment that changed his life. “Well, I guess I’ll give it a shot.”

He sent an audition tape and got a call a few weeks later to do another audition via Zoom with producers, writers, and potential co-stars. Two days later, he was told he was officially casted on the NBC show.

“[The producers] really liked my energy, enthusiasm, and passion,” says Gluck, from Atlanta, Georgia, where he’s in the midst of production on the show. “I am very energetic.”

After a long COVID-related delay, “Ordinary Joe” finally premiered to big ratings last week on NBC and will have new episodes on Monday nights at 10 p.m. for at least the remainder of the year.

Gluck plays “Christopher,” a co-starring role though to reveal the specifics of the character would be a bit of a spoiler.

“It was very surreal to see my name in the credits [last week].” he says. “I screamed. I’ve been waiting like two years to actually see that. So, the fact that [the show] is out there for the world to see is really awesome.”

Gluck was in second grade, at Crossfield Elementary School, when he caught the acting bug, making short films that “really helped me come out of my shell.”

He started taking classes at Lopez Studios, a 25-year-old performing arts school in Reston.

“John is great talent, great voice, overall personality, and has been in several of our mainstage performances,”  Victor Lopez, the owner and founder of the school, tells Reston Now. “John is a model student, does his homework, and now we are seeing it pay off.”

Gluck is a lifelong musician, singing and playing the piano. Performing is nothing new for him, but auditioning for an acting role was.

“My acting coach had to explain how to do an [acting] audition. I didn’t know all of the vocabulary,” Gluck says.

However, in another stroke of destiny, he saw the sides (portion of script used for auditions) and it included belting out “New York State of Mind” by Billy Joel. He sang a rendition of the song for his audition and the producers were very impressed.

“They told me the second they heard that, they thought ‘Oh my goodness, we need to keep him,'” he says. “Now, I’m singing in every other episode, which is incredible.”

Over the summer, he drove with his family from his Herndon home to Atlanta, where he’ll be staying until December as the show wraps up production. While he’s living his dream, he admittingly misses home and knows this wasn’t an opportunity he could ever pass up.

Gluck has muscular dystrophy and understands that this is a special chance to be a role model.

“There’s not a ton of representation for muscular dystrophy on screen. The few movies and shows that I’ve seen where they do have a character with muscular dystrophy, they aren’t actually played by somebody with muscular dystrophy,” Gluck says. “I know I’m representing lots of people that are just like me and they’re going to see someone like themselves on TV.”

As a newbie to television acting, he was surprised about a few things on set. For one, how many camera angles and takes they do for every single scene. Also, there are television monitors everywhere, showing producers and actors scenes as they will look to the viewer at home. For Gluck, it kinda feels like getting sucked into the television.

“There’s a lot of monitors everywhere and I’m watching what’s going on… like I’m watching on TV,” he says. “Then, I literally roll right into the scene, which is a very crazy feeling.”

Gluck explains his acting style as one that fully understands the context of the scene, realizing that what’s written in the script isn’t always the only things that need to be communicated.

“If a character is asking a question, I’ve got to realize what they are actually saying? They are not just asking this one question, I have to know what they are truly meaning to say. This has to come not just through my words, but the way I act.”

All of this is truly impressive for any actor, much less one who’s 13 and new to the business. But Gluck certainly has the “it” factor, that special something that makes it clear someone is a star. He hasn’t thought specifically about what’s coming next for him, other than he wants to continue to work in the television business, perhaps behind the cameras as well.

For young actors like him, who are thinking of auditioning for a role that they may think is out of their reach, Gluck’s advice is simple.

“Go for it. It never hurts to try,” he says. “[If you don’t], you could be missing out on something really big. With your acting, just leave it all out there. Give it all you got.”

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