By August 4, 2017 Read More →

InterView – Robert J Ulrich

By Chris Murphy

Talent and Where to Find it

Robert J Ulrich

Modesto is a treasure trove of talent. From the elementary school theatres, to YES Company to the Modesto Performing Arts, Prospect Theatre, Gallo Repertory, Denair Gaslight and more, we have so many great options. Live theatre performances really make our cultural scene come alive and these shows take you to another place. Many famous people on the silver screen and TV got their start here in Modesto. One of our hometown heroes learned his craft on our local stages, and has gone on to Hollywood to cast some of the most popular shows on TV and in film. Robert Ulrich and is Ripon native actress wife, Kim Johnston Ulrich are comfortable both onstage and behind the scenes. The smash show Glee has been one of his most high profile casting gigs and this year, he has the honor of being nominated for an Emmy. He previously won an Emmy for Glee in 2011 and has been nominated 7 times.

I feel a special connection to this family as I was lucky to purchase their parents home in Modesto, and from everything I have seen in the house, they were raised by creative fun parents and this has been passed on to Robert, Kim and their two kids. Robert was recently back in Modesto for the 50th Anniversary of Modesto Performing Arts, and he will be back in town for the Valley Talent Project, where is advice and direction are like magic dust then sprinkled on these local up and coming talents. Let’s get to know Robert.

What first attracted you to live stage performance as a youth?
Robert Ulrich: I was always obsessed with show business from the time I can remember. When I was a child, I would go to shows at the Modesto Jr. College. When I was in high school, I attended Modesto Youth Theatre’s production of OLIVER. I was blown away. I vividly remember Richard Tierce and Jennifer Davis being incredible – I was forever hooked.

MV: What actors really inspired you?
Robert: Too many to mention. I grew up loving Jack Lemon, Marlon Brando, Jimmy Stewart, Bette Davis, Marilyn Monroe and my favorite, Steve McQueen – in college Robert DeNiro was the all time greatest – I had his picture on my wall in my NY apartment. There are too many ones now to list – I love Denzel Washington, Leonardo DiCaprio, Emma Stone, Mahershala Ali, Ryan Gosling, Octavia Spencer and on and on and on, but obviously Meryl Streep is the queen.

MV: How did your parents encourage your career choice?
Robert:My parents supported whatever I wanted to do always. They would’ve preferred me stay in Modesto, but they wanted me happy. I owe them everything.

MV: What was your favorite moment during the Modesto Performing Arts years?
Robert:Every show was special – I think that The Sound of Music was wonderful because it was my first MYT show and I was playing opposite one of my dearest friends Debbie Meyers Wait and the show starred my biggest crush, Margaret Grimaldi. On the Town was so fun – I was acting with two of my best friends Terry James and Brian Beltran and I got to hear Karen Lotko sing every night which is the biggest treat anyone could ever hope for. And West Side Story was my dream role – my Maria was a talented 15 year old, Alison Williams and I was best friends with Riff, Tony Varab.

MV: Why did you turn to casting as a profession?
Robert: I fell into it. I was an unsuccessful actor.

MV: Describe the most surprising roles you got to cast.
Robert: I am not sure how to answer this. Every role is surprising and unique.

MV: What does it feel like to win an Emmy?
Robert: It is the best. I have been fortunate to be nominated many times and that is always incredible, however, there is nothing like winning.

MV: Was there a time when you thought you had a tough cast, but it turned out to be a winner?
Robert: No not really – I have been proud of all my casts even the ones that haven’t gone further.

MV: If you and Kim could work on a film or TV project together, what would it be?
Robert: Anything Kim and I could work on together would be a treat. I’ve been fortunate to cast her many times in my career.

MV: Your son Cooper is beginning to make his mark in the industry, are you excited for that?
Robert: I couldn’t be more excited or proud of Cooper. He is a real talent and he takes his work extremely seriously. I produced a movie that will be coming out soon, Billy Boy (now Juvenile), and Cooper did a day of reshoots on that and the work is stunning. I just visited him in Kentucky shooting another film which I produced, Mail Order Monster.

MV: What is that special something that you look for when you see a new talent?
Robert: It is just that special something that is indescribable. The IT factor.

MV: Any advice for the performers in the upcoming Valley Talent Project at the Gallo Center on Aug 25th an 26th?
Robert: Just to be themselves. Not to be anything more than they are. I always tell actors “you are enough”

MV: Describe your perfect day.
Robert: With my family and friends, seeing a movie, and working on a project. I am the ultimate work-a-holic.
MV: Our signature question – Beatles or Stones?

Don’t miss the amazing local talent at the Valley Talent Project at the Gallo Center for the Arts, Aug 25-26 at 7 pm. Tix at



Posted in: news, stage & art

About the Author:

Chris Murphy is the President and CEO of Sierra Pacific Warehouse Group and Publisher and Founder of ModestoView Inc. Chris worked globally in the cycling industry returning to Modesto in 1996. He is also the founder of the Modesto Historic Graffiti Cruise Route, Legends of the Cruise Walk of Fame, Modesto Rockin’ Holiday, the Modesto Music History Organization and co-founder of the Modesto Area Music Association. Chris is married to his artist wife Rebecca since 1985 and has two daughters Madison and Abigail, both graduating from Modesto High and UC Berkeley. He is lead singer and guitarist for his band, Third Party that donates their performances to non-profits.