Alumnus stars in biggest role of his life

August 17, 2016

Joe Coots, C98, performs in Lisle, Illinois ~ As a student-athlete at Benedictine University, some of Joe Coots’ biggest performances occurred on Saturdays while playing football.

Today, they come in the form of acting roles on popular commercials, TV shows, movies and Broadway musicals.

This past fall, the Winnebago, Ill., native starred in his biggest role to date as a lead character in the first national tour of “Kinky Boots,” the Cyndi Lauper musical that has won six Tony Awards including Best Musical, Best Score and Best Choreography.

Coots performed in 463 renditions of the production in cities all over the United States, Canada and Australia.

“It was a wonderful experience,” said Coots, C98, Sociology. “It was the biggest thing I’ve done in my career and the biggest thing I’ve done in my life.”

“Kinky Boots” focuses on the story of Charlie Price, who takes over his family’s struggling shoe business in England. The business is near failure when Price becomes inspired to produce and market women’s footwear for men.

Initially, the idea is not embraced by his workers, especially Don (played by Coots), the factory foreman. Don is a pivotal character because he epitomizes people who have difficulties embracing something new or different.

“It’s a beautiful story about inclusion and accepting people for who they are,” Coots said.

Coots’ foray into acting was by no means traditional. He caught the acting bug after graduating from Benedictine while working as an advancement officer and football coach at the University. A co-worker began staging plays at Benedictine and encouraged Coots to participate.

After Benedictine, Coots worked in development and marketing at the college level. In 2005, he quit his job and moved to New York City to pursue a career in acting. He landed his first big break with the national tour of the musical “The Full Monty.”

Today, he resides in Los Angeles.

In addition to his work on “Kinky Boots,” Coots has appeared in “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” “Nurse Jackie,” “30 Rock,” “Bones,” “Royal Pains,” Blue Bloods,” “Castle,” “Person of Interest,” the series finale of “Rescue Me,” and several episodes of Comedy Central’s “Inside Amy Schumer.”

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 Benedictine University is located in Lisle, Illinois, just 25 miles west of Chicago, and has branch campuses in Springfield, Illinois, and Mesa, Arizona. Founded as a Catholic university in 1887, Benedictine enrolls nearly 10,000 students in 56 undergraduate and 19 graduate programs. Forbes magazine named Benedictine among "America's Top Colleges" for the sixth consecutive year in 2016. A 2016 PayScale Inc. report ranked BenU one of the top 10 colleges in Illinois for return on investment and in the top 20 percent nationally. Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (hlcommission.org). For more information, contact (630) 829-6300, admissions@ben.edu or visit ben.edu.

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